i must here be confined by you - faerywhimsy (2024)

Chapter 1

Notes:

For themasterletters whose writing convinced me I could do a modern au with these clowns.

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now ‘tis true
I must here be confined by you

But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.

As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free

- ‘Prospero’s Speech’ by Loreena McKennitt, but also The Tempest by William Shakespeare (Epilogue 1-4, 9-10 & 19-20).

That was the only real S & M in Queen: The ten-year relationship between Armand and Daniel is the epitome of the fluctuations of dominance and submission.

Rice was delighted with the erotic anguish she had created between them. “That part of QD is transparently sadomasoch*stic in theme. Armand dominates Daniel entirely: tormenting him, choosing his clothes, showering him in wealth.”

- The Vampire Companion by Katherine Ramsland (full passage here)

Chapter Text

Prologue - Future

Putting things in writing helps to clarify one’s thoughts. Unfortunately, it also makes those thoughts appear as if they are in concrete.

Daniel’s pen stuttered and he stopped writing. Yup, he was the kind of guy who still wrote with a physical pen and page, where most guys his age had well and truly abandoned such analog tools for their digital equivalents. Daniel didn’t care. Typing things out just didn’t help him process things in the same way.

But he didn’t want to be writing this. It didn’t matter that Armand had shared with Daniel the habit that his former Master—Marius de Romanus, and someone Daniel had never met in person—had instilled in Armand during his own time training as a slave.

Writing out events in a journal helped order one’s thoughts, no matter who they were. Daniel knew that.

But for him who’d consented to the alternative sexuality of a life called ‘slavery’, it’d become a pre-negotiated place for Daniel to vent his fears, frustrations but also elations on things that had worked for him, made his heart soar.

It was also the way Armand had told Daniel now preferred to receive his boy’s thoughts, rather than the heated taunts, rants or—worst of all—Daniel’s all too regular decisions to take off, away from Armand and their dynamic, sometimes for months at a time. Before coming back. Because he always came back. It was like there was something inside of Daniel that couldn’t help himself.

“This will help us both,” Armand had told him the last time he’d decided to accept Daniel back into his home and his life. “I do not like it when you leave me, Daniel. I do not think you like it either.”

Daniel’s head had been bowed, the crown of it pressed against Armand’s thigh from where he was kneeled on the hard tile floor. Armand hadn’t taken him into the softer carpet of the second living room they’d allocated as the dungeon in the estate.

“I don’t like it, Boss,” Daniel had replied.

‘Boss’ was the honorific that had been agreed on, another thing Armand had picked up from his previous Master. The use of an honorific over a given name was intended as a constant reminder of station; the power exchange that underpinned their entire relationship.

Daniel hadn’t dared look up when he’d spoken. He knew he hadn’t been wholly forgiven, not yet, hadn’t been accepted back into Armand’s service and he knew it. There had been one time where Armand had kept him in suspense for days at a time, waiting for Daniel to find the exact words unassisted Armand wished to hear from him. Another time, a certain number of times Daniel begged to be allowed to return.

None of that was what had so frustrated Daniel on this instance, however.

There was a knotted ball of emotion in his chest that only threatened to grow worse if he wrote down the actions that had preceded these feelings. He didn’t want to write them; he’d intentionally not written them down in his journal previously because he’d been still thinking through the situation. He was trying so hard not to run this time.

But Boss had insisted on it. In fact, he’d informed Daniel there would be no conversation between them until Daniel sat down and properly wrote out the events that had so infuriated him.

As they had both agreed he would.

“Hate being held to my own stupid agreements,” Daniel muttered under his breath, even as he tapped the end of the pen hard against the paper.

“What was that?”

It wasn’t his Boss who was in the room with Daniel, but Louis.

Louis, who was so often a ray of light to the sour moods that so often flooded Daniel’s mind. Louis, whose gentle tones were often a balm against Daniel’s scorched pride.

Where Armand refused to coddle Daniel, Louis held no such compunctions.

There was no dynamic between the two of them. No relationship—despite occasional sex—beyond a friendship of five years that ran deep. Daniel sometimes had no f*cking idea what it was he brought to the friendship that Louis seemed to highly value. Every time he asked, Louis simply smiled and answered something back along the lines of, “You are just you, Daniel. That’s all that’s needed.”

Sure didn’t feel like that was all that was needed on days like this.

The two of them were currently in the sun room overlooking the currently covered pool in this portion of the backyard. Daniel was in a high backed chair, hunched over the wooden table where his spiral notebook lay open.

Louis, on the other hand, had an open paperback in hand and was elegantly draped across a plush recliner closer to one of the walls, while Daniel was closer to the floor to ceiling windows. Louis didn’t have to worry about writing in a stupid journal because, while Daniel was Armand’s most cherished possession—and Armand certainly wasn’t hurting for possessions—Louis was Armand’s long term and beloved companion.

In other words, there was no power exchange dynamic between them.

“Why can’t I just be like Louis to you?” Daniel had demanded of Armand once, as he’d been stubbornly trying to push himself away from the compulsion he had to just run when things weren’t going right.

Armand had reached out, had taken Daniel’s dark curls into a fist and dragged Daniel a mere breath away from his lips. “I don’t think you want that, do you?”

Daniel had been panting with want before Armand had even finished his sentence. He had wanted to push forward and press his open mouth against Armand’s, but his Boss’ grip on his hair had been strong and held him exactly where Armand wanted to keep him.

“Answer me, Daniel.”

“No.” Daniel hadn’t been certain whether it had been his eyes watering, or a tear, that was guilty for the sudden moisture in his eyes.

In the end, he’d supposed it didn’t matter when Armand tightened his grip yet further around his curls. Daniel’s eyes had definitely been watering then.

“‘No’, what?” Armand had demanded almost lightly. His voice was never heated, despite the implied violence of his touch.

“No… Boss,” Daniel had whispered in reply.

“Good boy,” Armand had answered in the moment before his mouth had finally crashed against Daniel’s – giving them both exactly what they wanted, needed.

At Daniel’s heart, he knew he was a sorely conflicted man; torn between the daily ease of the marriage he’d left behind from boredom and a lack of love and the daily devotion and intensity he’d always craved but now struggled to maintain in the face of it being his real life.

“Daniel?” Louis asked curiously, bringing him back into the present again.

Daniel looked down at his near blank piece of paper with the two lines scrawled up the top, as though more journal writing might have magically appeared in front of him while he was lost in his own thoughts.

He put his pen down. Pushed the notebook aside. This was useless. What Boss had asked him to do was useless. Daniel sighed loudly.

“Surely it can’t be that bad?” There was mirth in Louis’ voice even as he lowered his paperback to give Daniel his attention.

“I just…” Daniel started, before abruptly stopping again. He could say anything to Louis, but even he drew the line at speaking ill to him against their mutual partner. Again, Daniel glared down towards the two lines of his writing, mute.

The recliner creaked as Louis sat forward in it, and Daniel could feel the weight of his dear friend’s attention even if he wasn’t glancing back to him.

“What happened?” Louis asked softly, gently. “Armand’s been in a sore mood since whatever it was as well.”

“He has no reason—!” Daniel exploded, almost breaking his own vow to himself before cutting himself off. Once more, he pressed his lips against each other. Sighed. Then, “I’m frustrated. I feel like I’m always frustrated. And, if Boss is also frustrated with me, then… What are we even trying to do here?”

When Daniel raised his eyes to look at Louis, he found there was only sympathy in there. Not judgement that Daniel was sounding as though he was going to run. Again.

But then, had Daniel even thought there would be otherwise? He took in a breath, then held it, forced himself not to sigh it out a third time in such quick succession.

“You both love each other,” Louis observed, then, when Daniel would have tried to interject, “You know you do. Leaving never fixes it. Nor does trying to have a vanilla relationship with each other.”

“Then why do I fight so much against him?” Daniel groused, as though Louis, wise Louis, had a glimpse at answers he couldn’t quite parse.

Louis’ lips quirked in an easy smile. “You’re stubborn.”

Daniel snorted. “Even I know that one.”

“But you’ve missed the point,” Louis added. “You’ve missed the part where the fantasy you created over this kind of relationship isn’t matching up to the reality because, in the reality, you’re no longer in control of it. You consented to give that up with your words, but your stubbornness…”

Louis drifted off, allowed Daniel to do at least some of the work in figuring this all out.

“My stubbornness is holding on,” Daniel murmured, gazing past Louis now. He slumped slightly more in the chair he was sitting in. “Like I was during that last five years of my marriage.”

“You don’t need to hold on anymore,” Louis told him from his side of the room. “That’s all Armand’s been trying to tell you.”

Daniel bit at the corner of his lip. Then he sat up straighter, made his lips firm. Nodded his head once, then turned back towards the wooden table and the discarded notebook with its irritating two lines up the top.

He didn’t read them again. He just picked up his pen and began to write.

Chapter 2

Chapter Text

It had taken Daniel ten long f*cking years to realise that, not only was he not straight, but he was also into very kinky sex that was just… not in his ex-wife’s wheelhouse. Nor something he would ever have considered asking from her.

In Daniel’s fantasies, it had always been a man, someone he’d openly called ‘Sir’, who had been in charge of when or whether Daniel could come, or even how he was supposed to come. They had been in playrooms where Daniel had only ever been allowed to walk on his knees from one piece of equipment to the next, unless his ‘Sir’ lifted him up on his feet for him to end up strung against something like a St Andrews cross.

There had been so many times in the last five years of that marriage, where Daniel had still been holding onto a growing quickly flaccid dick and the guilt and shame of the things he’d been imagining leading up to his org*sm had flowed over him. Like a f*cking river.

How many times in that last five years had Daniel promised himself he’d put his dick back in his pants and never think of that faceless guy telling him the dirty, often embarrassing, things he was gonna do for him next? He was never unfaithful to her, but the dirty secret he’d been holding from her over years began to feel even worse than that. No, no more. Daniel was gonna be a good husband and honour the vows he had made. Cause he had meant them. When he made them, he had meant every word of them.

He'd just thought… somehow… those small fantasies living in the back of his mind even back then were gonna stay small. Not things he’d come to crave. Certainly nothing Daniel needed to go and search out one day.

The problem was, Daniel had no idea if something like that was even real, outside of the pages of books by Jack Rinella, John Preston or A.N. Roquelaure. What if it was all just fantasy? What if he’d blown up his marriage for the idea of a fantasy he would never end up finding? The idea of that was even worse than the idea of being made a fool of by wannabes on the internet who were capable of writing a good story.

And then there were the questions that popped into Daniel’s mind while he was living in his post divorce, one bedroom apartment, insecure and lonely at 2am: Was he that afraid of taking real responsibility over his own life that he craved someone to take it over for him?

What would that even look like? More importantly, what kind of a guy would even want that?

Certainly no guy Daniel had ever met on any of his gay hook ups had been interested in taking such consuming charge. Tops, yeah, plenty of them. Daniel could hardly wave his dick around without knocking into one of them.

But the interest in control after they’d both ejacul*ted ended right then and there, along with any wish to be called ‘Sir’.

Daniel had so many ideas of the lifestyle he wanted to lead outside of those sex crazed moments but, without someone to actually play that fantasy up against, it was no more than smoke and mirrors inside of his head.

He’d been not so newly divorced anymore when he first came across Armand in a gay bar.

Strangely, Daniel hadn’t even been looking for it anymore. He was disheartened, unfulfilled after months of hopes followed by hopes dashed. No, he hadn’t been expecting anymore to find the fantasy in his real life.

But needs still wanted to be met, and Daniel was feeling horny along with frustrated. He knew he was still pretty good looking, even with the few grey hairs that were starting to wind around his dark curls. It wouldn’t be hard to pick someone up at this bar.

Armand was the dark man sitting at the bar, eyes first moving over the newly appointed dance floor—grind floor—when they moved over to meet with Daniel’s shortly after Daniel strode in.

Later, Daniel couldn’t articulate what it was that made him lower his eyes from the immediate intensity he found burning in those brown eyes. It didn’t make sense. For all of Daniel’s cravings at submitting himself to another, in his social life he wasn’t easily cowed by others. He wasn’t the type to avoid eye contact really ever.

And yet, not even knowing Armand, Daniel lowered his eyes. He kinda stopped walking forward into the bar, which caused him to be jostled from behind by someone else coming in after him.

“Watch it, mate,” the guy said sarcastically before shoving the rest of the way past him.

Daniel didn’t even remember what that guy looked or sounded like anymore.

His whole attention had been taken by the brown stranger at the bar with the only half drunk pot of beer beside him.

What would it have felt like if, when he’d looked up again, Armand’s gaze had already moved past him, back towards the area where the young guys were already grinding up against each other to the backdrop of music?

Daniel never had to find out. Armand’s steady gaze hadn’t strayed from Daniel when he finally brought himself to seeking him out again. It felt like, despite all the bodies already filling the place, Daniel knew exactly where Armand was. Had his chin lifted ever so slightly since the first time he’d caught sight of Daniel?

Daniel’s throat felt dry. Unconsciously, he almost tried to shake himself out of this strange stupor that had taken him over. He really didn’t wanna come across as some weirdo to this guy. f*ck, he had least wanted the chance to have sex with this dude before they both went their separate ways.

He thought he’d actually come in his pants just at the idea of getting to call this guy ‘Sir’, even if only for a little while.

His breath was definitely unsteady as he took the first few steps towards the bar, Armand’s eyes on him the whole way. Definitely not thinking of calling Armand ‘Sir’.

“Hey,” Daniel said, as casually as he could manage, once he reached near enough that Armand would actually be able to hear him over the rest. “Haven’t seen you here before.”

Armand didn’t answer immediately. Given what Daniel soon learned about him, he quickly understood he’d come at Armand all wrong. He never needed to worry he was about to be viewed as ‘some weirdo’. Coming across as ‘too casual’ was more what almost screwed him over when it came to Armand’s first impression of him.

“Hello,” Armand said, not engaging with any particular word from Daniel’s initial overture.

There was something interesting about Armand’s accent. Not European; something sharper yet softer at the same time. Arabic or Greek perhaps. He sounded like he was speaking slowly, even in those two short syllables.

And, once again, Daniel found himself completely flustered, completely unlike his otherwise confident self.

“Hey,” Daniel uttered again.

His voice sounded completely different to himself this time, despite speaking the exact same greeting the second time. His tone was softer around the edges, and yet at the same time less distant. Like he was greeting someone he already knew, rather than trying to protect himself from potential for hurt or embarrassment.

It was… incredibly different from the way Daniel usually held himself when meeting someone new. He wore a particular protective layer that he’d learned was just smart practice.

But this guy… somehow Armand was just stripping all that away. He hadn’t even stood up from the stood he casually perched on. They hadn’t talked about anything serious. Daniel had no idea what he was into. And yet, he was bringing all of this difference out in Daniel, just because of who he was.

In front of him, Armand nodded, as though he had answered something for himself in just that short transaction. Daniel just… wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. And he had no idea how to ask.

Before he could think to, though, Armand was speaking again.

“My name is Armand,” he said, giving Daniel his name finally.

Except, not finally. They’d spoken two sentences to each other so far. Daniel was definitely getting ahead of himself.

“And your name, boy?” Armand prompted with a slight lift of his eyebrow, when Daniel didn’t immediately speak.

Had that been deliberate on Daniel’s part? Waiting, waiting on permission from Armand to offer his name in return? Waiting on the say so from Armand just like he liked to imagine with his fist around his co*ck imagining that faceless guy called ‘Sir’?

Armand was certainly not faceless.

“Daniel.” He didn’t offer anything else, because Armand hadn’t asked for anything else. Yup, Daniel was definitely waiting. Kinky. Or, wait, was it a bad thing he was doing, cause they hadn’t negotiated anything yet, and enthusiastic consent sure was a thing these days with the younger crowd.

At the same time, Daniel now knew he didn’t want to perform his usual confidence in front of this near stranger, Armand. Instead, he kind of wanted to wait and see if he could find out if there was anything Armand wanted to take from him.

How the hell was he supposed to figure out a way to ask something like that in a crowded bar like this?

“Hm.” Armand seemed to be evaluating him for a moment then too. Daniel hoped to God Armand liked what he saw.

The sudden and unexpectedness of this feeling happening in real time was incredibly strange. All of this—from the time he’d first walked into the gay bar and met Armand’s eyes—felt really strange, to the point where Daniel started to wonder if he might be going a bit mad. A bit too much blood going to his dick, and away from his head. It had been too long since he’d found a casual f*ck.

Armand wasn’t saying anything else. Which probably meant it was Daniel’s turn to talk. Stunning conversationalist he was not being, stripped of his usual bravado and stuck in his own head as he was.

Daniel cleared his throat. “Can I, uh…” His gaze fell to the half full pot of beer still beside Armand, still untouched. Well, there went the easy idea of offering to buy him a drink. “Can I get you anything?”

“Would you like to get me something, Daniel?”

Daniel gulped. God, yes. Yes he would. Anything Armand asked him to get. Daniel would run out of this bar right now and bring it back to him if he thought it would earn him Armand’s approval.

He swallowed those clumsy words. It occurred to him that, with Armand’s smooth, brown skin and seemingly perfect grooming, Armand was probably used to guys fawning all over him. It probably wasn’t something he either wanted or found attractive. Especially from an older man. Daniel would be 40 later this year, while he would’ve been surprised if Armand was any older than 32.

“Yeah,” Daniel said, not trying to sound smooth, not trying to fawn. Just answering the way he genuinely wanted Armand to hear. “Yes. If there’s something you want, I would get it.”

Was that a slight curve that moved over Armand’s mouth before his lips parted and he whet them just slightly with the tip of his tongue. Oh Christ, now Daniel was looking at his mouth and his tongue.

“I don’t want for anything just now, Daniel.” Daniel watched as Armand’s mouth formed those words, before abruptly forcing his gaze to move back up to Armand’s eyes. “Just your company.”

“That I can give,” Daniel said. Before abruptly realising he was still standing awkwardly in front of Armand. There was a vacant stool there next to Armand. Was Armand expecting him to take it so they could talk a bit more normally? Was talking a bit more normally what Daniel wanted here?

His gaze dipped to the stool and back to Armand again. Armand was watching him almost expectantly.

“Is there something you wish to ask, Daniel?” Armand asked, when Daniel still hadn’t found the words himself.

“Yes,” Daniel said. He liked the way that Armand put his name at the end of every sentence he spoke. And yet, the idea of using Armand’s name the same way felt beyond strange to Daniel. “Um, do you mind if I sit on the stool next to you…?”

There was a gap there at the end of the sentence, where Armand’s name or else something else felt like it should have gone. Daniel just didn’t know what to put there. Or, rather, he did. He just wasn’t sure that Armand would like it if Daniel uttered the word ‘Sir’.

“Of course not, Daniel.” Armand touched his hand to the wood of the stood seat invitingly. “How polite of you to ask.”

There was humour twinkling in Armand’s eyes, Daniel saw, but he didn’t think it was directed at him. Or, at least, not at his expense. It looked more as though Armand was enjoying this interaction. Damn, Daniel really hoped so. Cause he was enjoying it enough that he could feel his co*ck pressing hard against the inside of his jeans and thank god he’d decided to wear those instead of something looser tonight. Otherwise his current aroused state would have been a secret to no one.

“I try to be polite where I can,” Daniel murmured, ducking his head. But he was smiling too. He didn’t care if Armand saw it. In fact, he hoped he did.

“Politeness is a very attractive quality,” Armand answered, before picking up his pot of beer for the first time Daniel had seen and taking a mouthful of it. Daniel was helpless to do anything but watch the way Armand’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed the drink before putting the glass back down again.

Oh yeah, he was thirsty as f*ck for this guy and those brown eyes that kept arresting and keeping Daniel held in place. This wasn’t madness. Could it be this was the very thing Daniel had been so desperately looking for before having given up on finding?

“I, um, I’m glad you think so. Real glad.”

Armand smiled, a real smile this time, almost fond as he gazed across at Daniel. They weren’t even touching, but Daniel felt as if his whole body was on fire. Like, if Armand touched him at all, he would both burst into flames and come on the spot.

“So what are you here looking for tonight, Daniel?” Armand asked the question lightly, but Daniel felt them crash down on him as though his answer might be the be all and end all to all this anticipation that seemed as though it had been building between them ever since their eyes had met. “A casual dalliance? Something… more?”

Daniel’s mouth went dry. God, was Armand reading his mind or something, or was Daniel just that transparent about what he was looking for?

“Something more,” Daniel said heatedly, grateful that Armand had supplied him with the kind of answer he might accept. Daniel was already too far gone with this to try to play it coy. “Definitely something more.”

“Mm,” Armand murmured, eyes quite obvious as they looked him over, all the way up and down. Daniel couldn’t help but sit up straighter at this. “And what does something more look like to you, Daniel?”

“Can I speak plainly?” Daniel asked, perhaps a little more sharply than he should have. But how the hell was he supposed to know how to answer if he didn’t ask the question.

“I would very much like it if you did.”

Here it was. Armand had directly invited him to answer the question, and now every single one of Daniel’s deepest wants were crowding around in the back of his throat, waiting for their opportunity to be spoken out loud. He couldn’t think of things like, ‘what if he’d read this wrong?’ or ‘What if Armand was simply hot as f*ck but any sort of lifestyle outside this moment was asking too much?’ If he allowed himself to think those thoughts, he’d lose his nerve entirely.

Daniel’s heart was pounding hard. He could feel it in his ears, his chest, his temples. It felt like his whole body was vibrating with the sensation of a simple heartbeat.

“Have you heard of a Master/slave relationship dynamic?”

He’d thought his heart was pounding before, in the lead up to saying those words aloud. But now it felt like there was a drum inside his ears—inside his head—growing louder and louder, as if some enormous creature were coming through a dark and alien forest. As soon as Daniel spoke the words, it felt like time slowed right down and it was just the drum and the interminable wait before Armand responded.

Because Daniel and Armand had been flirting in code up till this point. But now Daniel had spoken his deepest want out loud. And it was up to Armand to respond to it. Daniel didn’t have any say or power or control over how that was about to go.

It was torturous.

“Daniel.” The tone and the expression Armand offered him told him before his words that he might have wondered if Daniel thought Armand had lived under a rock before this night. “Of course I have heard of that.”

“Oh. Good.” Daniel felt out of breath despite the fact he hadn’t moved from the stool. He didn’t wanna chance any further words right then. Armand had answered, but it hadn’t really given Daniel any indication of what he thought of that relationship type.

To be fair, he realised then, Daniel hadn’t really given Armand any indication of where he stood on the dynamic either.

But he had brought it up! a part of him railed back. Why would Daniel have brought it up if he didn’t want it, crave it, long for it as he had never longed for anything else?

Perhaps Armand recognised the same thing, for he didn’t wait for Daniel to speak again before continuing himself. “Is that what you came here looking for tonight, Daniel?”

Daniel’s lips parted. Honesty was the first thing that came to his lips. “No,” he said with a small chuckle. “Not really. I’d sorta given up on finding the whole thing, actually.”

“But it is something you do wish to find?” Armand pressed.

That small chuckle he’d just allowed himself had been a short relief before Daniel felt his heart kick off again now.

“Desperately,” he answered.

And then, some belated sense of preservation got into him then, like Daniel had reached some point where he’d allowed himself to be vulnerable enough in front of someone for long enough now, and his mouth wouldn’t let it go on any longer.

“I mean, if something happens, you know, I'm cool, but, yeah.”

Daniel clamped his mouth shut. Damn. He needed to stop talking right the f*ck now because he was bumbling around sounding like a kid ten years his junior at least. And that was beyond embarrassing, especially when Armand was still looking at him in that way that said he was missing nothing.

Then, all of a sudden, Armand broke eye contact with him. Lifted his glass of beer and took another mouthful.

Daniel felt it as though it had been a touch that had been all too suddenly withdrawn.

“I’m not going to take you home tonight,” Armand told him then, and the words felt like they shattered over what Daniel had previously thought of as thick skin.

And Daniel had thought this had been going so well. He’d known better than to get his hopes up. He’d thought he’d gotten over getting his hopes up only to have them dashed when guys looked at him as though he wanted something that was too kinky to even talk about.

Daniel couldn’t make himself think of a single sentence to speak in the face of this rejection.

And yet, somehow, it was like Armand read his mind, read the disappointment Daniel was feeling.

“I want to invite you out to dinner. With some friends of mine. I want to see what you do.” Armand’s eyes didn’t move from Daniel’s, and Daniel hardly breathed or looked away.

Wait. Was Armand saying what he thought he was saying?

And then this black guy came up out of nowhere and joined them. Daniel’s flickered towards him in irritation at first, before recognising him. It was Louis, some guy Daniel had hooked up with a couple of times over the last couple of years. But also, someone Daniel could grab a beer with occasionally. He was cool. But why was he here? Couldn’t he see Daniel was in the middle of something with Armand?

“Ah, I see you guys have met,” Louis said airily. He gave a chin jerk towards Armand. “Didn’t I say you’d like Daniel?”

“Louis is my partner,” Armand inserted smoothly, for Daniel’s benefit.

The benefit was definitely dubious. Daniel abruptly felt queasy at this new information. This guy Daniel had occasionally slept with was already involved. Not just this, but he was involved with the new guy Daniel had just proposed sleeping with tonight. This was turning out to be the worst roller coaster of emotions Daniel had ever experienced all in one night.

“Your partner,” Daniel responded, flatly. What the hell else was he supposed to say? Both Louis and Armand knew what had already passed between Daniel and each of them.

That had been where Armand’s eyes had been when Daniel first saw him sitting here, he realised now. The dance floor had been the direction Louis had come from. Armand clearly hadn’t been in the mood to dance, but that hadn’t bothered Louis. Apparently, Armand liked watching his partner grind with, or be grinded on by, others.

Or at least he had, until Daniel interrupted him.

The whole interaction between himself and Armand up till now suddenly took on a completely different light to the one he’d been steadily building up in his mind. Daniel ought to bow the f*ck out right now. Cut his losses with both of them. Which bummed him out with Louis especially. He’d actually considered him a pretty decent friend over the years since his divorce.

He wouldn’t allow himself to think of what potential he might have lost with Armand.

For some reason, Louis was grinning in the face of Daniel’s mild mental break down. “We’re polyamorous,” he said. “Seriously, you gotta stop freaking out there, friend.”

Daniel felt like he could let out a breath he felt like he’d been holding too f*cking long.

“Polyamorous,” he repeated again, though, as though he was quite stupid.

Armand tipped his head to the side, gazing at Daniel. “Do you not know what that means?” he asked. Not unkindly. Just like he would enlighten him to the meaning of the relationship type if Daniel needed him to.

Daniel didn’t need him to.

“No,” Daniel said quietly to Armand. He needed to sit down. No, wait, he was already sitting. What he needed was some air, to clear his head. The whiplash of the conversation he’d been having with Armand, followed by the sudden appearance of Louis, and now this revelation as well?

It was too much. The hard on Daniel had been sporting had long since gone and he was feeling tired, emotionally wrung out.

All the same, he managed to summon a smile for Louis. “I’m not freaking out. Just… looked at the time and, f*ck. I’m spent.”

Louis’ lips quirked as if he wanted to say something about the double entendre of that line. Especially here, in a gay bar, where guys were probably f*cking in the toilet stalls even as they spoke.

But not Daniel. Old Danny here wasn’t f*cking anyone tonight. Not anymore.

Louis seemed to take pity on him, glancing quickly between Daniel and Armand before saying, “Want someone to walk you to your car? If you’re leaving already, that is?”

“Nah.” Honestly, Daniel couldn’t think of anything worse right then than having one of the two of them walk him to his car. And then him getting into his car, and leaving whichever one of them on the sidewalk. Knowing they were about to go back to the bar and their partner.

Yeah, he wasn’t freaking out anymore. He was just disappointed. And, hell, that disappointment felt heavy tonight.

And then Armand spoke. “Are you still interested in coming out to dinner? You know Louis already, but not his other partner, Lestat, I believe.”

Louis shook his head while Daniel struggled not to widen his eyes comically. Damn, Louis had two partners already? And was sometimes f*cking Daniel on the side?

Louis sure was a busy guy. How did he find the time? The stamina?

But all that wit disappeared when Daniel looked at Armand again. He found he didn’t have it in him to tell the younger man to forget his offer, forget this whole conversation. None of them had been doing anything wrong, after all. Not if this was all polyamorous and agreed to and all that. Daniel just needed some space and a bit of time to think about where, and how, he thought he could fit into all this.

Daniel was a bit less polished, feeling a little less deferential towards Armand when he said, “Sure. Yeah. I’ll give you my number.”

Thankfully, Armand didn’t seem to hold it against him. “Of course, Daniel.”

Chapter 3

Chapter Text

The next day after some sleep—yeah, after a lot of lying awake thinking—Daniel felt a little bleary eyed, but also like he’d overreacted the night before.

To everything.

Sure, okay, Louis hadn’t told him he was polyamorous. But it also wasn’t like the two of them had ever been seeing each other more than casually. And Armand… Armand, Daniel had only just met last night. He didn’t have any claim on him at all. What the hell had Daniel been thinking, that there was some deep connection between them based on one short meeting?

He was old enough and jaded enough to know better.

Still, when he found an unread text by a number not already saved in his phone, Daniel couldn’t help it when his heart jolted slightly.

Hello Daniel,
It was a pleasure meeting you last night. I was very interested in what you had to say and am looking forward to dinner.
Our weekly family dinner is on Sunday nights. I appreciate it may be too short notice for your presence this Sunday night, but you would be welcome. Let me know which week best suits you and I will send you further instructions.
Armand.

Daniel knew people older than him that wrote texts less formal than the one he’d just received. Armand wrote the text as though it were a letter, or an email. There were no emojis, no shortened words or slang.

Not that Daniel was a huge one for slang in his texts either. But he was a little bit less a stickler on the perfect grammar it looked as though Armand had used.

He saved the number quickly into his phone and then went about his day, picking up a piece of writing he’d been working on, then putting it down again, deciding on research instead, then putting that also aside when he couldn’t think of anything other than the unanswered text that had taken up residence in his brain.

‘Further instructions’, Armand had written. Not ‘further information’, which he could as easily have sent. The distinction seemed deliberate, and Daniel didn’t think it was only because of the conversation they had had the night before.

Friday night. Today was Saturday. Armand had invited him to join the rest of them for dinner the following night.

Was Daniel even up to that?

He could plead prior arrangements. Armand’s message had made that much clear. Except, Daniel didn’t have any prior arrangements. He didn’t have a large circle of friends. The majority of the people he regularly talked to were work colleagues and a lot of them were still married.

So much of Daniel’s existing social life had dissipated along with his marriage.

The only question that remained, then, was whether Daniel was ready to see Armand, and Louis, again so soon as in 36 odd hours?

At around 1pm, once it was abundantly clear Daniel wasn’t getting any writing or research done today—and it was the weekend, his ex-wife had always complained when he tried to bring home work on the weekend anyway, so this was almost progress!—Daniel went to the fridge and took out a cold bottle of beer.

Cracking it open, he swigged half of it in the first gulp, swishing just that last mouthful around contemplatively as he glanced towards his cell on the dining table. That cell phone with its still unanswered message. Sitting there, like Daniel had even been capable of not thinking about Armand’s words once he had read them.

He shook his head, went into another room, turned on the television and saw quickly that he’d tuned in on time for the second half of a game of rugby. The teams didn’t much matter to Daniel—he wasn’t a huge sports fan—but the fact of it being second half meant the stakes were higher for the players, and that just made for better television.

Daniel finished the bottle of beer and was in the kitchen for the next one before he even sat in front of the TV.

He made it around ten minutes before he was glancing off the back of the couch, over his shoulder, towards the dining room table he’d so defiantly not looked at on his trek back to the fridge last time.

Who was he even trying to kid? Of course he was gonna write back, and of course he was gonna push for this Sunday. He’d thought this through already. He’d overreacted. He had overreacted to basically everything last night. And none of that was going to happen again the next time he caught up with these young clowns.

At least the second time around, Daniel would have a better idea what he was about to walk into. And he would have his friend Louis by his side. Even if Louis would have his two partners, Armand and apparently Lestat by his.

It wasn’t until the start of the third beer that Daniel picked up the cell and started making his reply.

Dear Armand,
Are you always so very formal in your texts?
I’m free actually. Tomorrow, yeah. I’m in.
Be very interested in receiving further instructions from you

He wasn’t drunk. Daniel had abused far too many spirits over the decades of his youth for a meagre few beers to even start to blur his vision now.

But they did bolster his confidence. And, when Armand’s reply came back almost immediately—had he been looking at his phone, waiting for Daniel’s answer, or was it just that good timing?—Daniel smirked at reading it.

Is this you, Daniel? I don’t believe I saw a sign off in your message.
But then, maybe I’m being *too very formal* in my text expectations.
Armand

He snorted, with his fingers already moving lightning quick over the screen as he made his reply.

Waiting for a reply from me, were you Armand? That’s pretty keen.
Flattering, actually. I like being flattered

He took another swig of his beer, chuckling a little under his breath. He’d see what the confident younger man thought of that!

It was a welcome relief for this more light hearted conversation between them. To find that Armand both had a sense of humour, and was willing to indulge with Daniel in his own.

Perhaps I just know I liked what I saw last night.
I see no point in being standoffish when that’s the case.
Do you?
Armand.

And then, strangely, Daniel found himself feeling disappointed. Yeah, quipping back and forth could be fun. It was his favourite and primary method of conversing.

But something had seemed like it was different between he and Armand the night before. Even if Daniel was determined not to overreact to him in their future catch ups, that didn’t mean that sure intensity needed to be gone completely. Did it?

Daniel chewed on the inside of his lip before deciding not to answer that question in the first way his mind tossed up. Instead, he started to write back, I think you said something about ‘further instructions’… didn’t you?

Before sending it, Daniel looked it over. It didn’t read right to him. Too abrupt, too… something that Daniel didn’t like about it.

His right thumb stayed pressed on the backspace button of his phone screen until the reply to Armand was gone and there was just a blank space in which he had to write a text staring back at him. One might have thought that, as a writer, Daniel would have been more accomplished than most when it came to staring at a blank space where he was expected to make words appear.

But, nope. A blank page was just as daunting to Daniel as it was to any other f*cker. If anything, he just had to stare at them more often.

Okay, what was he thinking of here? He did he want to try to steer the conversation back in the direction Armand had been heading before Daniel distracted them both with his minor amusem*nts?

I liked what I saw too.
So, chief—

Daniel screwed up his nose. Yeah, nah, that wasn’t working for him. He immediately deleted the word ‘chief’ from the message and thought about what other words he might put in there that sounded less like he was someone from his parents’ generation and more like a casual deference.

So, boss

Boss. Daniel liked that. He was back to grinning again as the rest of the message just seemed to flow easily from his fingers and he could hardly wait to see what Armand’s next reply would be to it.

I liked what I saw too.
So, boss, I think you said something about further instructions?
If it suits you, I reckon I’d definitely like to hear them.

Daniel’s hip was perched against the side of the couch; he was too restless to sit back down again and the game on the TV was already completely forgotten. His cell phone now held his entire attention, as well as those three dancing dots that let Daniel know that Armand was already in the middle of making another reply. He hadn’t f*cked it up. He wasn’t overreacting. This was all a bit of fun wordplay and foreplay, near to his favourite kind.

Another swig from his beer did nothing to calm Daniel even as his leg began to bounce against the floor.

Then, there, a reply!

So I did.
Very good, Daniel. I am pleased you remembered amidst our merriments.

Just those three words, I am pleased, seemed to light Daniel up from the inside. Don’t overreact, he told himself sternly.

But also, who wrote like that?

Again, that strange and amazing sense of teasing madness seemed to flow through Daniel until his expression was probably contorted into this strange mix of pleasure and confusion. Smiling and squinting.

Thankfully, this time, Armand wasn’t standing directly in front of him to see it.

Daniel reached for his beer only to realise he’d already finished it. Did he want a fourth one already?

For the first time, Armand hadn’t signed off the text message with his name at the end, and Daniel saw a reason for that a moment later when a link came through for a fancy ass looking restaurant. Daniel recognised the location as soon as he clicked on it. Though he’d never gone to this particular place before, it looked to be a short ten minute drive further up the road than the gay bar they’d been at the previous night.

Was this the usual place Armand, Louis and Lestat had their ‘family dinners’, or had Armand made the decision of this place to ensure Daniel would know how to get there? To make it easier on him for some reason?

Daniel couldn’t ask, though, because Armand wasn’t done. Those three bouncing dots were back and Daniel’s whole world seemed to narrow down to them.

You will be here at 6pm tomorrow evening.
You will wear a black or a grey button up shirt to dinner.
I trust you have of these garments in your wardrobe, Daniel?
Armand.

All right, where was that beer?

Daniel’s fingers were shaking when he started writing out the next message, and he stopped typing after the first several typos ended up with autocorrections that didn’t come close to articulating his feelings.

Christ, Armand instructions started with the fairly normal letting Daniel know when they’d be meeting for dinner, but followed up with picking his outfit for the night? The part of the outfit, at least, Armand would see from his side of the table?

Don’t overreact, he closed his eyes and told himself sternly.

But yet, was there a way of not f*cking overreacting to a message like this?

Daniel looked at it again, his gaze zeroing onto the command again. He didn’t want to leave Armand on read or anything like that. So he stumbled past his nerves and forced himself to write back a brief answer.

Yeah, I’ve got both.
What would you prefer?

Well, that had gone and made things worse, hadn’t it? Or was it better? Daniel sure as hell didn’t know anymore. What would you prefer???

Daniel shifted himself in his briefs. f*ck, f*ck, he was hard over just a handful of texts. What was this Armand managing to do to him?

Was there gonna be anything left of Daniel if they kept going on this way? Down this particular road where, f*ck, what if Daniel wasn’t overreacting and what he thought he saw with Armand was actually what was happening?

Were any of those questions enough to stop Daniel walking down the path?

f*ck no. He didn’t think his dick would ever forgive him if he even tried.

Well then, Daniel thought, definitely deciding to go in for that fourth bottle of beer. What the heck? After all, he’d grabbed a six pack there to take him through the weekend. But now it looked like he was gonna be busy tomorrow night. So what if he drank through the beers tonight instead?

More importantly: What the heck if he’d made the decision he wasn’t gonna course correct where Armand was concerned? Looked like he was about to be damned either way. The least he could do was enjoy it while it lasted. In for a penny, in for a f*cking pounding, Daniel thought to himself. Then paused.

Was that even a f*cking option after dinner with Louis and Lestat? Armand hadn’t said anything about Daniel coming back with him afterwards, but he hadn’t been as forthright as to say he wouldn’t be taking Daniel home tomorrow night, not like he had the night before.

Maybe it was worth asking?

While he’d been getting his next beer, Daniel missed it when Armand’s reply came through. He saw it as soon as he picked the cell up again though.

I appreciate your asking, Daniel. How very accommodating.
The black button up, Daniel. That is what you will wear.

Daniel’s dick twitched almost painfully. If he wasn’t going back home with Armand tomorrow night after dinner—or bringing Armand back here—Daniel was definitely gonna have to do something about ‘little Daniel’ beforehand. Would probably pay to get around to it anyway cause since when had Daniel ever been any good at denying himself what he wanted?

Emptying his load would make sure he had a clear head when he saw Armand again. Clearer anyway.

Daniel headed into his bedroom even as the commentators for the forgotten game on the TV cried something about a good play behind him.

On the bed, his briefs were down and his hand covered his co*ck almost before he kicked the blankets over him.

“You can only come when I say you can come,” the ‘Sir’ of his imagination told him. And Daniel wouldn’t argue, he wouldn’t try to joke or cajole himself into an org*sm that his ‘Sir’ didn’t yet wish him to have. It would happen on ‘Sir’s’ time, not Daniel’s. Everything would happen on ‘Sir’s’ time.

Daniel panted, clutching his dick and jerking harder. He didn’t have it in him to edge himself this afternoon. Not when the image of the ‘Sir’ that flooded his imagination tonight wore Armand’s brown face and penetrating eyes. That it was Armand’s arm and a leg draped over him in Daniel’s shaking aftermath; Armand who was the first guy Daniel had ever met who wanted to stick around and maintain the control between them after they both ejacul*ted.

Only afterwards, when Daniel re-read over the last message Armand had sent him, did Daniel realise Armand hadn’t left his usual signature at the bottom.

Was it a small sign, Daniel wondered, that Daniel was managing to unmoor Armand in their interactions just as much as Armand had already managed to do to him?

Chapter 4

Chapter Text

Daniel didn’t send a text message asking Armand if he'd be heading back to his after dinner. That would have been too f*cking forward, too desperate. Daniel hadn’t been able to think of a single way to ask the question without sounding needy as f*ck.

And so he hadn’t brought an overnight back into his car tonight. That would have been presumptuous.

He had, however, shoved a spare pair of briefs into his glove box on the incredibly slim chance things went well tonight as Daniel hoped.

The clock on the dashboard of his car read ‘5.44pm’ before he turned off the key in the ignition. He was precisely 16 minutes early. Traffic hadn’t been good, hadn’t been bad; Daniel had just left his place early, with plenty of time.

But the thing is: Daniel was not a ‘chronically on time’ kinda person. He wasn’t even a ‘usually on time’ type person. Being on time was a happy coincidence of things coming together well for Daniel. 16 minutes early was not something Daniel often saw.

And yet, it had been Armand’s first order to him. He hadn’t been able to chance the possibility that he wouldn’t be able to obey.

You will be here at 6pm tomorrow evening.

The f*cking number of times Daniel had scrolled past those text messages between them in the last 24 hours.

And so, 16 minutes early. And yet now? Now he was struggling to open the door and get out of his car.

It wasn’t overly cold tonight, no more than a brisk spring evening with no more cause than a light jacket for warmth. But under that jacket?

The black button up shirt. Daniel had been able to feel the light fabric twisting against his skin ever since he’d put it on. There hadn’t been a single experience in his life before now that had prepared him for the way he’d feel to be first told what to dress in, and then to actually comply to the letter. And now, Daniel was feeling twitchy as f*ck.

“Get a hold of yourself, Molloy. Get a damn hold of yourself.”

He was about half a second away from slapping himself up the side of the face to see if that made any difference, when there was two light taps against the window of the door beside his head.

Slowly, Daniel turned to look out of that window that thankfully hadn’t misted up with the amount of time he'd been here breathing yet.

Oh. Great. Here was Louis, standing on the other side of it, a small curve to his lips even as he straightened up from the half bend down to look in on Daniel.

All right. Daniel guessed he was doing this then.

“Thought that was your car,” Louis said as Daniel cracked open the door and unfolded him from it.

“You caught me,” Daniel quipped, trying to hide in those words just how very much Daniel felt the truth of them.

He couldn’t bring himself to look directly towards the building where they were all going to eat. Was Armand up there already? He wasn’t standing here next to Louis, so the two of them obviously hadn’t arrived together.

Instead of Armand, here was a lanky, blond man several steps behind Louis. He seemed to be eying the exchange between Louis and Daniel with some interest before Daniel looked up and met Lestat’s eyes. Because who else could this be? Unless Louis had a third partner now?

“Ah, yeah, this is Lestat,” Louis said, confirming it for him as Daniel pressed down the button to lock the car, before shoving the keys in his pocket and drawing level to where Lestat and Louis were now standing.

“Lestat de Lioncourt,” Lestat corrected Louis, giving to Daniel his whole name.

Daniel raised his eyebrows, though he kept from shooting Louis a mocking glance as he stuck out his own hand in introduction.

“Daniel Molloy,” he said, following suit. Of course, his own full name was anywhere near as pretentious or showy as Lestat’s.

“Mm.” Lestat gave a short inclination of his head before turning on his heel, any interest he’d had in Daniel before he gave his name now surely passed. “Shall we go inside?”

Daniel attempted not to shrug his shoulders or give any outward indication that he was still very much distracted by the fact of wearing this black button up shirt. It was actually one of his favourites; worn in enough to be soft, went with basically everything else in his wardrobe. He’d already gotten a second one like it so he wouldn’t be caught without when the wears and washes finally rendered the fabric too thin to keep on wearing.

It was just, tonight, this shirt didn’t feel like his old, familiar shirt. It felt like something Armand had touched before Daniel put it on. It felt like every touch of the shirt against Daniel’s skin was a touch from Armand. He wasn’t sure if he was ever going to be able to wear his favourite shirt again without thinking about Armand. And he honestly wasn’t sure if Armand had intended any of it to be read this way or if Daniel was reading into it things that needn’t be there. It was just a simple command, after all. One Daniel had expressly invited.

Daniel was a journalist, though, and he hated not knowing.

Armand hadn’t messaged him again today. Daniel hadn’t exactly expected him to, really. The two of them, had said everything they needed to the day before and had plans to catch up for dinner that night.

What more was there to say?

Could there have been anything Armand might have said by phone call or message that would have made Daniel feel more prepared than he currently felt for this dinner?

A clock on the wall in the reception area just inside the front door told Daniel it was still five minutes before 6pm. He was still early, then, despite his having delayed in the carpark. Without the tap on the window from Louis, would Daniel have still been out there now, or would he have looked at his phone and scampered inside in about three minutes from now?

The idea of ‘scampering’ into a place as nice as this made Daniel wince and look away from either Louis or Lestat.

Louis said something to the server that Daniel didn’t hear, but then the three of them were being led towards a table that could have easily fit six, but was only set for four. They were in a corner just under some lights and a window.

Armand stood up from where he had been seating in the chair with its back facing the wall.

And Daniel had to fight his feet to keep from stopping right then and there. Because Armand was not looking at his partner, Louis, or his metamour—yeah, Daniel the journalist had set some time aside to investigate words in common polyamorous use today—but at Daniel.

Breathe, Molloy, Daniel told himself then. If you have to choose, breathe instead of talking.

Louis embracing Armand drew Armand’s attention from Daniel finally and Daniel felt like he could finally breathe again. An unfamiliar hand patted him once on the shoulder then.

“Very suave,” Lestat told him, with a knowing lift of his perfectly shaven chin. “Very not like a deer in the headlights.”

He moved around Daniel to greet Armand next and Daniel snorted out a breath. Oh yeah, so far it looked like he was making a great impression on this weekly family dinner of theirs.

They were sitting with Louis sitting next to Daniel on one side, which Daniel was grateful for, and Armand sitting directly across from Daniel on the other side of Louis. It was either that, or he would have been the one on the other side of him. That pleasure had instead been given to Lestat and his alternating digs and witticisms. He was on fire tonight, which was actually okay because otherwise it might have been noticeable just how quiet Daniel was for the first half of the dinner on his side of the table.

The thing about having his back to the rest of the room was that Armand—and, to a lesser extent, the other two—took up his whole attention, becoming his whole room before him. Another thing for Daniel to sit and stew over, guessing back and forth whether this too was something Daniel was reading into, or whether Armand had subtly orchestrated the seating to be as it was.

Daniel realised he was quietly starting to build Armand up into some kind of Machiavellian sad*st.

Which… wasn’t doing anything to help keep him calm.

Armand had invited Daniel to a family dinner, which meant that both Louis and Lestat were the ones expected to be here and Daniel was the interloper. There weren’t any rules for how he was supposed to behave—yet—around Armand, so Daniel just had to wing it.

And Daniel was actually incredibly good when it came to the casual small talk and banter that got people to like him.

“So, Lestat,” Daniel said, diving in during a break in the conversation shortly after entrees had been removed from the table. “What do you do for a living?”

“I am in the music industry,” Lestat answered, with that soft French accent and a similar absence of contractions Daniel had already noticed in Armand’s speech patterns.

Daniel raised his eyebrows. “Really?” he asked, when Lestat didn’t supply anything else. “That must be interesting stuff. What do you do?”

Lestat’s lips twisted as though he had waited for that very question so he could brag. “I own multiple labels that do very well for themselves.”

Well, damn. Daniel had been closely in the running for a Pulitzer award the other year, but even with that he didn’t think the kinda stuff he worked on was anywhere near the same arena as owning not one, but multiple successful music labels in this economy.

“Don’t mind Lestat,” Louis said, reaching out his hand to touch Daniel’s arm lightly and gain his attention. Daniel’s shock must have been evident on his face. He’d never had too much of a poker face. “He does so like to brag.”

“Do not,” Lestat said shortly, adjusting his napkin over his waist and not looking the least bit embarrassed at having been called out. “Daniel asked me a question. I simply answered it.”

“Yeah, I’m not offended,” Daniel said, speaking to Louis.

Louis removed his hand and reached instead for his glass of red. “I’m glad,” he said. “Lestat can be… a lot.”

Daniel had to school his features hard, then, because all he was thinking was that dealing with Lestat—and with Louis playing gentle interference—was actually the easiest thing Daniel had done tonight.

He already knew what Louis did, of course; he taught drama to school aged kids that he’d more than once told to Daniel were the true passion of his life. Which meant that the only person he actually didn’t know the vocation of at this table was Armand.

Daniel lifted his gaze to the other man only to find Armand already staring back at him. His breath caught, and it was that which gave Armand the opportunity to slide in and ask it first.

“And Daniel? What is it you do? I don’t believe I have asked.”

“I’m just a journalist,” Daniel said with a shrug. He was used to playing it down. There were people all around who didn’t know the exact nature of what he did and only knew they didn’t like paparazzi. Or just figured he was no different to the boring newscasters who were on his television screen night after night.

“Yeah, only a journalist who almost won that big award last year or so ago,” Louis chimed in. Oh yeah, just like Louis had mentioned his passion for teaching, Daniel may have mentioned being in the running for that Pulitzer. “What was it called again?”

“The Pulitzer,” Daniel said, though he was surprised to hear the echo of the very same words coming out of Armand’s mouth at the very same time.

“Ah,” Armand continued, a small smile crinkling the corners of his eyes. “So you are that Daniel Molloy.”

Daniel could have fallen out of his chair with the surprise he felt in that moment. “You’ve… looked me up?”

“Of course I have,” Armand said, as though the idea of not doing so was ridiculous.

The f*cking enigma of this man.

And now, both Louis and Lestat were just looking interestedly at the two of them while Daniel tried and failed not to splutter in any way in the face of this news.

He lowered his head. Reminded himself to breathe. Then faced Armand again. Armand, who was still smiling just that little bit in that way that indicated he was ever so slightly entertained by every single thing Daniel did.

Daniel’s throat went dry. He felt the press of his favourite black button up shirt against his torso. Armand hadn’t made a comment about it, neither that nor the fact that he’d arrived on time. Daniel had put it down to him arriving side by side with both Louis and Lestat at the time, but now he wished Armand would say something. Just so he could stop reading Armand’s pleasure into every smile and crease across his dark skin.

I am pleased you remembered

Yes, he wanted to be told those words again by Armand. Needed it.

Daniel choked that need down again for the sake of a reasonable, civilised dinner.

The conversation had moved on again anyway by the time Daniel tuned back in. He was exceedingly grateful to Louis for that. Louis had moved to asking how things were going in Armand’s company right then. As Daniel listened, he caught on that Armand worked with something to do with stock market, and trades? It sounded, from this limited conversation, as though Armand made a decent wage from moving other peoples’ riches around and into plain sight of new investors.

Daniel had been asked to write exactly one time on stocks. The parts he had understood about them had nearly bored him to tears, so thoroughly that he had promised himself he would never accept another job on the topic. Was that really what Armand did in his work life?

“I’m afraid your expression says everything I feel whenever this comes up,” Lestat said to him while Louis and Armand were still talking. “Not everyone can have a creative job like myself, Louis. And, I suppose, now, you.”

He shot a quick wink across at Daniel, as though he had just been invited by Lestat into a very exclusive club of three.

At any other time, Daniel’s mind, his dick, or both might have wondered towards whether this potential club meant that Lestat was flirting with him. The promise of a night with not just Louis but also Lestat would have been incredibly enticing at just about any other point of Daniel’s life post-divorce. And, actually pre-divorce as well, if he was being completely honest with himself.

Lestat shook his blond hair as he turned away from Daniel and went back to paying attention to what Armand and Louis were saying. Daniel gazed at him for another moment longer. Nope. That wasn’t even the slightest twinge in his dick telling him to go after that. It would have been the easiest thing in the world, Daniel thought. The groundwork already set with his past times with Louis.

But Daniel didn’t want it.

His gaze moved back, as it had been doing this whole dinner, towards Armand. As though Armand felt his gaze, he glanced back at him even as he finished speaking to Louis. Those brown eyes completely entranced him. There was no other word for it.

And then their mains arrived, and Daniel had to struggle not to watch it each time Armand brought the fork up to his mouth, knowingly gazing as he did across at Daniel.

There was a sharp clatter as, out of seemingly nowhere, Lestat pushed his knife and fork back against the linen covered table. Then, with a seeming second thought, he picked his knife back up again and shook it once in Armand’s bland, unassuming face.

“Oh my god, would you like this knife to assist you in cutting through this sensual tension you have insisted in creating all night, f*cking Daniel as you have been with your very eyes?” Lestat demanded.

“Lestat…” Louis started, glancing around to the table a little way behind him.

Daniel’s lips twitched with humour, though, and he was glad that Lestat didn’t cow to Louis’ attempts at returning to their relentless, continued civility.

“And you! A fine, submissive subject you appear to us all tonight. Yes, yes. Very patient despite it all. Exactly what our Armand has been looking for.”

Lestat’s voice was coated in the same disgust Daniel had only ever heard before for complaints about newly formed couples who were so saccharine sweet, even their friends couldn’t bear to look at them.

Much less than causing Daniel any measure of shame with his words, something about Lestat actually speaking out so much of what Daniel had been thinking made Daniel actually laugh out loud. The pressure on his chest had already eased a f*ckton, so that he could just gesture back idly towards Lestat’s knife with his own fork.

“Do I need to worry about you brandishing that thing about in my face?” he asked mildly.

“Of course not,” Lestat said impatiently, putting the knife back down against the linen. “It is merely a prop.”

“I think he knows it’s a prop, my love,” Louis said, also grinning his amusem*nt, at least now that the knife was back down on the table. “But I’m sure the staff around us are also happy you’re no longer brandishing it around.”

Lestat made a couple of disgruntled noises under his breath that made Daniel burst into laughter all over again. Lestat rolled his eyes and filled his mouth with risotto as though more laughter was the most appalling thing Daniel could have done.

“He doesn’t like it when he’s not the centre of attention.” Louis leaned over to say the words to Daniel, soft enough that he didn’t think Lestat would hear it.

“Would you like to share that with the whole class?” Armand asked, finally breaking his silence from his side of the table.

Louis widened his big brown eyes all innocently, blinking them only twice before he spoke.

“Why, Sir.” Louis adopted a sudden breathy and over the top accent straight out of the heart of New Orleans, “I don’t believe I’m currently in engaged in a state of service to your masterful self. So…” His accent returned to normal, only slightly influenced by the Southern drawl, where Daniel now wondered if Louis had grown up. “Nah, I think I might keep it to myself.”

To punctuate this decision, Louis stuffed a whole forkful of his own dinner into his mouth.

“Well. Daniel,” Armand said, once he removed his gaze from Louis with nothing more than a mocking stare. “You see now that I am thoroughly disrespected by both my nearest and dearest. I’m sure this isn’t at all what you were expecting when I asked you to join us for dinner.”

Daniel shook his head. “I had no idea what to expect,” he told them all honestly. “Just happy to be here.”

“I am very glad of that,” Armand told him, meeting Daniel's eyes as he said it.

Lestat could have mimed gagging right then, and Daniel wouldn't have noticed it. Because that… That was everything Daniel had been needing to hear this whole night.

He ate the rest of his main with a big damn smile on his face and even ordered, and encouraged the others to order, dessert afterwards to draw the last of the evening out. They were all well-off gentlemen here. It wasn't as though they couldn't afford these prices.

There was a single text on the lock screen of his phone already at the end of the night, after Daniel got back into his car.

I think there were parts of tonight you found very difficult.
Would you like to tell me exactly what those difficulties were?
Armand.

That f*cker.

Chapter 5

Chapter Text

I think there were parts of tonight you found very difficult.
Would you like to tell me exactly what those difficulties were?
Armand.

That f*cker.

Daniel scoffed as he held his cell in his hands.

You were just with me for two and a half hours.
You couldn’t have asked this then?

Daniel wondered if Armand was still sitting in the carpark just like him to send out these messages as soon as he saw the dancing three dots. He must have been. For a second, he had the completely irrational thought of getting out of his car, and walking up and down the whole carpark until he found where Armand was parked and actually having this conversation out in person, rather than over mere messages.

I thought you might be uncomfortable by the nature of the topic in public.
Was that an incorrect assumption, Daniel?
Armand.

Daniel shook his head, typing fast.

Well, boss, you know what they say about assumptions

It definitely felt comfortable again to use that nickname for Armand. Armand still signed each and every one of his texts to Daniel—except that one, that single one Daniel only had to scroll up to see—but Daniel refused to use his name back in return as Armand clearly felt no such problems doing to Daniel.

No. What do they say, Daniel?
Armand.

Well sh*t. The f*cker had certainly caught him there, now, hadn’t he?

Can’t chat. Gotta drive home now. Sorry

Daniel turned the key in the ignition, definitely not listening out for the buzz of his phone that would indicate a reply from Armand. He supposed he’d just gone and given himself away if Armand was standing around in the carpark, trying to find out which car was Daniel’s.

Of course, Armand could have just told him he was walking Daniel to his car when Louis and Lestat left to find their own. Armand had not done that, so that was that. It wasn’t like, with the way things were starting between them, Daniel felt like he could have done the same.

Or… could he have?

The car was still idling, still in neutral, as Daniel stopped to consider the way he might have gone about it if his mind hadn’t been muddled with how pleased he was by how well he thought the night had gone, combined with the disappointed it was over.

“Can I walk you to your car, boss?” he might’ve said. Armand still could’ve said no, but at least Daniel could have tried.

Damn. f*ck. It was too late for that now. Boy, but wouldn’t Daniel be the best person to call on in the aftermath of an actual crisis? He had plenty of ideas that came straight to mind after it actually mattered.

He shook his head, impatient with himself as he shoved the gear into reverse. Just like he’d shoved those briefs into his glove box. What a waste of time that had been; they hadn’t even come close to the subject of whether or not Armand was down to f*ck. And maybe he was asexual or something. f*ck if Daniel knew. No reason why someone who was kinky would automatically be down for sex, he supposed. Maybe that was why it didn’t feel like he was getting any closer to an invitation into Armand’s bed.

Especially now when Armand was messaging him again. There was the first buzz, followed by a second one. Which should have made Daniel feel… something happy, he was pretty sure. But it only stressed to him how much he was going home to an empty apartment that, while furnished well enough, was still empty.

And he hadn’t even been interested in the possibility of a threesome with Louis and Lestat as an alternative.

What kind of a f*cking idiot was he?

He was still thinking these thoughts when he pulled into his parking space back home.

My mistake.
I had no idea you were so eager to leave our conversation.
Armand.

Was that… censure… in Armand’s tone?

Hard to tell for certain over text. But, oh, Daniel liked that. He liked the idea that he could get a rise out of Armand, getting under his skin, just as Armand had been getting continual rises out of Daniel, one after the other, for the whole 48 hours since they first met.

Pun definitely intended.

The second message definitely cleared some things up for him.

Shall I *assume* I should no longer impose upon you?

Yup, that was f*cking snippy. More than Daniel had ever seen him. Armand was pissed and he didn’t seem to care if Daniel knew about it. All the good feelings from the success of the family dinner and his second night spent with Armand went down the toilet.

Daniel’s mouth flattened into a line. Fine. That was good, even. Daniel was feeling more than a little pissed off as well. If Armand could vent some of his frustration, so the f*ck could he.

I’m sorry, I think you’re confusing me for the one who keeps not taking me home

Was that too much? A little too much? Daniel thought it wasn’t exactly untrue, but it certainly wasn’t the type of thing that was gonna help smooth over an invitation into Armand’s bed, even if he wasn’t asexual.

“Jerk move, Molloy,” he muttered to himself, as he opened the front door and stepped over the threshold into his house.

Didn’t matter, it was sent now. No use in having second thoughts. No use counting down the minutes on how long it was taking for Armand to reply to him. Especially when Armand usually responded so quickly. So it became a case of if Armand was gonna reply this time. Or whether Daniel had just f*cked up the most promising thing he thought he’d found.

Maybe this was as far as he got because he couldn’t keep his own jerk mouth shut.

Daniel slowly unbuttoned the black shirt and pulled it off his shoulders more heavily than the weight of the material had earned. It only smelled like him. Of course it did. Armand hadn’t even hugged him in greeting or goodbye as he had done with Louis, and even Lestat.

Even that hadn’t bothered Daniel at the time. But now…

Lestat’s words over dinner came back to him.

“Would you like this knife to assist you in cutting through this sensual tension you have insisted in creating all night, f*cking Daniel as you have been with your very eyes?”

f*ck him with his eyes, yeah, but god forbid Armand ever f*cking touch Daniel with his hands.

Ugh, Daniel shouldn’t be allowed near his cell when he felt like this. How many arguments with his ex-wife could have been avoided if he’d ever had the good sense to keep to himself until he chilled the f*ck out?

Well, he was keeping to himself now. Not even looking at his phone, nor seeking out those stupid dancing dots. Better he got it late than not at all.

He stripped down to his briefs, ready to get into bed and face the long night of restlessness that no doubt awaited him now.

Only then did his cell buzz with a message. When it came, it was a short essay for Daniel to read, and also a reason as to why it had taken so long to come through.

Daniel.
I had thought we had made ourselves clear on what nature of relationship we were entertaining at present.
But perhaps I have misunderstood.
If this is not the case, or you are no longer seeking of a dynamic, you should make yourself plain now.
Because I will not tolerate any further passive aggression where you think you are the one wounded because of things for which you have not properly asked.
Say what you wish to say, or say nothing at all.
That is your choice from here on.
Armand.

Daniel felt all his breath leave him in a rush as he sat down heavily on the edge of the bed.

He had told Armand that he’d be down for anything. Yeah, he knew he’d made a bumbling hash of it at the time, but Armand had to have known what he was talking about. He had responded afterwards with saying he wasn’t gonna take Daniel home after all.

But then… that wasn’t what Armand had written. He hadn’t said he didn’t know what Daniel wanted.

He said he hadn’t properly asked.

sh*t.

sh*t.

Expletives were the only thing that crossed his mind for several minutes as he read and re-read that message until he had the blasted thing memorised. At some point, he moved on from sh*t to f*ck, though he felt no better for it.

A couple of times, he considered making a start to a reply, but even his mind was blank enough that nothing he could formulate seemed at all useful to him, let alone reasonable to send back to Armand.

f*cking text messages. Why had everyone ended up so reliant on text messaging when they all had perfectly functional dial tones in their hands at all times?

Armand,
Can I call you?
I think I made some grave errors.
Daniel.

The relatively short message he sent in reply to Armand’s took him thirty goddamned minutes to compose. He even went so far as to compose it in an email draft so it wouldn’t show to Armand how much trouble he was having with so few words.

When Daniel’s cell started to ring, he jumped.

Then, seeing it was Armand, he took a deep breath, and answered.

“Hey,” he said softly. There was so much shame in that single word that Daniel didn’t know how to stomach it. How had this all gotten so turned around? How was it only now, in the aftermath, that it seemed at all clear what he should have done?

Armand didn’t answer Daniel immediately. Daniel wondered whether Armand was examining Daniel’s tone of voice first, was seeing in it the horror and shame that Daniel felt suffused by.

“Hello Daniel,” Armand said eventually. His tone was severe, even though it was soft.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel burst out as soon as Armand had spoken. “For everything.”

Again, there was a pause from Armand rather than an immediate reply. It seemed strange to Daniel, who jumped in hot and emotional when the alternative Armand was clearly displaying right now was careful and considered.

“What are you sorry for, Daniel?” Armand asked him. He sounded so detached, as though none of this was affecting him at all. “What do you think you are apologising for?”

Daniel blinked. “Not asking you,” he blurted out. “For what I want. For assuming you knew.”

“I do know, Daniel.” This time, there was no pause from Armand’s side of the phoneline, as though the answer Daniel had made was the exact answer Armand had expected.

“You… do?”

“Do you think you have a good poker face, Daniel?”

Daniel gave a reflexive, and bitter, laugh at that. He knew he didn’t. He’d thought as much only a little more than an hour ago.

“Nah. I don’t,” he acceded.

“So you see I am incredibly aware of your wants after our two catch ups and messages from yesterday afternoon.”

“Then…” Daniel’s brow furrowed. He didn’t understand “Why—?”

“Why do I wish you to state them, Daniel?” Armand asked, cutting him off. He sounded almost impatient. “Or why do I wish you to ask properly?”

Daniel swallowed. Okay, that one was on him. “I suppose I thought… It’d be a bit desperate if I asked if I could come over. I figured, if you wanted me, you’d offer.”

For the first time, Armand’s voice seemed to gentle with his eventual reply. “Should I have to offer anything to the one who says he wishes to become my slave?”

Oh. Oh f*cking god. Daniel had been the first one to make mention of the Master/slave alternate lifestyle before now. He didn’t think either of the words had slipped from Armand’s mouth after, and he definitely hadn’t written anything so explicit in the text message Daniel had just received.

Was this the first time he’d heard Armand speak so? He didn’t think Armand had used the word lightly now. Hearing it from him now… it both took Daniel’s breath away and tugged at his gut like the word was something physical between them, rather than just breath. Daniel felt almost woozy from it, like he wasn’t quite in his body; like this conversation, and its possible consequences, couldn’t quite be real.

Armand was not finished, or perhaps he took the rare pause from Daniel to make a further point of his own. “I will demand things of you when I want them. But if you want something before that, you will need to ask.”

It was Daniel’s dick that replied while the rest of Daniel still felt rather incapacitated. “So, if I asked to come over to your place tonight…?”

“Daniel, I did not say I would agree if you had asked. I like the control that’s to be found in the knowing.” There was something almost indulgent in Armand’s voice as he voiced this reply. Like he was gradually allowing something to spool out of him that he’d kept to himself up till now, even from Daniel. Damn, but Daniel wished he could see Armand’s face right now. “But you asking, the habit of asking for what you want from me, that is important.”

Okay, that was important. Daniel could work with that.

“Okay,” he started shakily. “Can I… can I come over to your place? Doesn’t have to be tonight. Maybe one night this week?”

“Good, Daniel. That was very nice,” Armand said, with something of the humour Daniel had seen at his expense from Armand up till now. “You will not be coming here tonight, but I will take your request and I will consider it. How does that sound to you?”

“Yes,” Daniel got out hoarsely. “That sounds… really good. Boss.”

“Mm.” Armand sounded almost approving in that note, before he spoke again. “You have used that word in messages before. Why?”

“Because…” Daniel searched around in his mind for the thought that had come first, before the simplistic realisation that it just made him feel good to call Armand something else. “It… doesn’t feel right to call you by your name.”

“Not… ‘Sir’?” Armand asked him, sounding mildly curious.

Daniel thought of how that had been the title Louis had given Armand in that brief moment of mockery between them. He shook his head, before remembering Armand couldn’t see him, and he would have to speak the words out loud.

“‘Sir’ seemed too generic,” Daniel said slowly, still thinking it through. “Like it could be anybody. ‘Boss’ seemed like… you.

“That is very good to hear, Daniel.” Armand’s voice was a warm purr, almost causing Daniel to melt. “And I believe what you are feeling is normal.”

Daniel felt a little bit curious at that because he hadn’t considered there were enough people out there living lives like this that there could be a normal, or not normal.

“When you see someone as being placed above you in station, it feels strange to casually use their given name.” And, in just one single sentence, Armand had somehow managed to articulate exactly what it was Daniel had found so difficult to put into words.

“Yeah,” he said, a little bit in wonder. “Yeah, that’s it.”

“Very well. Daniel, I am giving you permission to call me ‘Boss’ in all our interactions from now on. Does that sound good?”

“Yes,” Daniel said fervently. It seemed as though he’d somehow lost access to his wider, extensive, vocabulary. For the first time in his life, he really couldn’t have given less of a sh*t.

“Good.” It seemed as though Armand wasn’t gonna say anything else for a moment, but then, “I very much like to hear you this way, Daniel.”

“What way?” Daniel asked, roughly. Hardly speaking? Completely in Armand’s thrall?

“Obedient,” Armand answered, and Daniel shivered, though he wasn’t cold despite his state of undress. Yeah, obedient was what he wanted to be as well. That was how he wanted Armand to see him.

He thought back to the first message he’d received from Armand after they’d gone in their own separate directions after their meal.

“I’m struggling a bit,” Daniel said. “To know how I’m meant to act around you. Like, at dinner tonight. You said I could tell you what my difficulties were.”

There was another long quiet from Armand, but Daniel wasn’t too worried. He knew by now that only meant Armand was considering what he might say next.

“I can see how that would be difficult. Has our conversation tonight begun to clear some of that up, Daniel?”

“Yeah Boss,” Daniel answered, immediately relishing in the opportunity to take the permission Armand had granted him in their interactions from now on.

He could hear the soft chuckle from Armand on the other end of the line.

“But you wish for more parameters,” Armand said, reading Daniel’s lack of a poker face with ease even with nothing more to go on than Daniel’s tone. “More clear boundaries while we are working through this consideration period.”

“I don’t wanna go all passive aggressive because I didn’t understand something,” Daniel agreed. “I know that’s something I do.”

“Nor do I, then.” Armand went silent for a moment, before seeming to come to some kind of a decision. “All right, Daniel. You have convinced me of the wisdom in it. The next time the two of us see each other, it will be the two of us alone. Does that suit you?”

“Oh, yeah Boss,” Daniel breathed. And then remembered to ask, “Could I ask… to stay the night? Or you here, if that’s what you wanna do?”

“I will think about the benefits,” Armand said, lingering on the word so that even Daniel could have no doubt what particular benefits Armand was talking about, “versus distractions to one of us staying the night at the others’, and message you during the week with a date and time. Is there anything else you wish to ask me tonight, Daniel?”

“Uh, the guys hugged you tonight. Louis, and Lestat?”

“Yes Daniel?”

Damn, Armand really was gonna make him ask for everything, wasn’t he? “Can I ask, I mean, is it okay for me to…” God, he felt like such a puss* asking this. f*cking was easier. Usually it was the woman who asked about this stuff.

But Armand was silent on his end of the line, absolutely no help at all.

And then Daniel felt a little embarrassed for his momentary micro misogyny. Even if Armand thankfully hadn’t been aware of it.

“Can I hug you, Boss?” Daniel just got out and asked.

“You may, Daniel.” From anyone else, that mild tone of amusem*nt after Daniel felt stupidly vulnerable over his question would have pissed him right off. But from Armand, Daniel’s dick just twitched, and there was nothing else. “In fact, I would very much like it if you would.”

“Then why didn’t you…” Daniel drifted off.

“Demand it?” Armand asked silkily, because of course he finished this sentence off for him.

“Yeah.”

“Daniel,” Armand said, sounding almost disappointed, as though he would have expected Daniel to know the answer to this question already. “How would that have looked? You are not the only one feeling unsure without the parameters we have not yet gotten around to making between us.”

Unsure. Maybe the hint of a little bit unmoored. Here was the confirmation of what Daniel had wondered. And yet, Daniel didn’t feel the sense of satisfaction he’d expected to at the admission. Just a quiet sense of wellness, like the two of them really were in this thing together.

“I’m sorry, Boss.”

“You have no reason to be sorry for that one, Daniel.”

Okay. Which meant there was only one more thing Daniel really needed to ask before they ended this phone call. A really important thing.

“Are you still mad, Boss? At me?”

He held his breath waiting for Armand’s response. Thankfully, Armand didn’t make him wait too long.

“No, Daniel. I believe you can be my very good boy. And that makes me very happy.”

Daniel didn’t jack off that night under the covers before he went to sleep. Nobody but him would have known. But he hadn’t asked Armand before hanging up the phone, and so it didn’t feel right. So he just didn’t.

Chapter 6

Notes:

Yeah, I know this is a shorter chapter, but Louis' sass only took me so far. Next chapter will be longer to make up for it.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“You have a type.”

Daniel had reached out to Louis by text first thing on Monday morning. Louis, thankfully, had been by his phone on one of his rarer breaks at work and responded quickly to Daniel, agreeing to meet up with him for drinks after work that night

Because Louis worked with kids in school, and Daniel tended towards his work more in the midnight oil kinda hours, the two of them were easily able to rock up and get an early start on Happy Hour.

“A type?” Louis squinted over the pint of cider Daniel had bought for Louis at his request over beer.

“A type,” Daniel confirmed with a confident nod. “You like forceful, opinionated and tall men.”

Louis scrunched up his nose to hear his taste in men he chose to date described this way. “Lestat isn’t…”

Daniel raised both of his eyebrows, just daring him to say it.

Louis’ lips twisted, as though he was trying to find a way to argue the point that Lestat at least wasn’t every single one of those things.

“Okay, you may have a point,” he conceded eventually, and Daniel took a swig of his beer with a feeling of small victory. “What of it? Looks to me you have a similar taste.”

“I do,” Daniel agreed without qualms. Which was funny, because neither Daniel nor Louis strictly fit into the description of the type Daniel had given, yet they’d fallen into bed.

He supposed falling into bed was different than dating.

“Okay, but I gotta ask.” Daniel put his beer down on the table, immediately creating a ring of condensation around it. His was noticeably closer to empty than was Louis’. “Why didn’t you ever tell me about Lestat or Armand?”

“Ah.” Louis bobbed his head twice in a nod. “Yeah, I can see why that looks a bit strange now.”

Daniel waited at least somewhat patiently for the rest of Louis’ reply.

It came on the heels of a sigh. “I guess I know some guys are weird about that. They don’t wanna hear about other guys you’re dicking while their co*ck is in your mouth.”

Daniel had to appreciate the clarity of that. “Yeah, sure. But when we’ve caught up, it’s not always with your dick in my mouth,” he said, officially not caring if the wait staff milling around and doing various points of set up that hadn’t managed to get done over the more busy weekend rushes.

Louis coughed into his cider. He blinked, long black lashes moving briefly over the soft skin of his cheekbones. “I never quite get used to how crass you are.”

Daniel shrugged. “No time like the present to try.” His ex-wife hadn’t liked his tendency for crass either, but if he hadn’t managed to change it for her, chances were slim he was ever gonna change. He was an old dog, and new tricks were tiring.

Louis shook his head, but there was a definite grin forming on his lips. “You’re like nobody else, Daniel. Anybody ever told you that before?”

“Sure.” Daniel lifted his pint and took another swig. “People will tell you anything when you’ve got their dick in your mouth.”

This time, Louis seemed to take the call back with far more style. It didn’t even seem like he blushed, or maybe that was because he was still flushed from the last time Daniel had just said it.

“Okay,” he said, “enough with the dick jokes for now. I promise.”

Louis just smiled gently, taking his own smaller swig of cider. It was that exact expression across the room that had first gotten Daniel’s attention and led him to approach Louis to ask if he could buy him a drink that first time. There was a sort of quiet bemusem*nt with which Louis could look at a guy, or watch over the rest of the room. He could have taken anyone home that night, and they would have been happy to have him. Instead, Louis had kept himself slightly separate, apart.

Not at all like the other night when he’d been dancing and grinding for Armand to watch. Maybe it was just Louis was more shy when he wasn’t out with either Armand or Lestat.

Daniel cleared his throat. “Those other times we caught up here. You didn’t trust me enough, yeah? You didn’t trust I’d be cool if you told me you were polyamorous?”

That quiet bemusem*nt vanished from Louis’ face in an instant as he gazed back at Daniel.

“Daniel, no. That’s not it,” he said forcefully.

“All right then,” Daniel accepted this answer on face value. “So, what was it?”

Louis ran a hand over his head and his short, dark curls. “I guess… I guess, I wanted to keep you to myself for a little. Before introducing you to the whole damned circus.”

Daniel shook his head. The whole damned circus hadn’t been all that much on its own. That didn’t quite make sense.

“But you told Armand about me, didn’t you?” he said, trying to remember if there’d been any indication of it that he'd picked up before now. But, yeah, there was. Not at the dinner, but at the gay bar before that.

“I told both Armand and Lestat both there was a guy I was seeing casually. Very casually,” Louis specified, looking up at Daniel over his glass. “I believe that was your request, that you didn’t wanna get tied down to anyone again so quickly after your wife.”

“Ex-wife,” Daniel corrected, feeling slightly mollified by Louis’ answer.

“Ex-wife,” Louis agreed gracefully. “So I didn’t think there needed to be anything more said than that.”

“Yeah, all right.” Daniel nodded once to himself, before downing the rest of his beer.

“Well…” Louis said after a minute, and the way he was deliberately not looking at Daniel.

“Louis…?” Daniel answered warningly.

“I maybe told Armand a bit more’n that about you.”

Daniel narrowed his eyes. “Just how much?”

Louis shrugged as if it wasn’t any big thing.

“Didn’t I say you’d like Daniel?”

Daniel’s empty glass in the table hard as Daniel leaned in to stare at Louis. He’d downed the rest of it too soon. “What exactly did you tell Armand about me?”

“Mm?” Louis asked, as though he was all innocence.

He was not innocent, Daniel decided, right then and there. He stayed there, determined to bore a hole into Louis with his eyes until Louis came clean with him.

“All right, you ain’t no fun,” Louis said. “I just, maybe, noted you were, I dunno, more submissive in bed than me?”

Daniel pressed his lips together and nodded his head a couple of times. Across from him, Louis was doing his best to laugh silently at the expression Daniel’s face had no doubt pulled.

“Yeah, all right, funny man,” Daniel said sourly. “This is you getting me back for all those dick in my mouth jokes before. I get it.” He picked up his empty glass again, all of a sudden not quite wanting to talk about what Louis had said about him to Armand.

Or whatever Armand had said back.

“Another one?” he asked gruffly.

Only to look and see that Louis’ pint was still half full.

There was a wry twist of Louis’ lips, before he said, “Is it me that has you so on edge tonight, or is that the delightful Armand?”

“The delightful Armand,” Daniel muttered under his breath, both a confirmation and almost a curse.

Louis laughed out loud at this. “Yes. He does seem to have that effect on people. Like when he said he might like to meet you so he could finally have a good time without having to gag me first. That sure enough made my toes curl.”

Daniel didn’t point out that he hadn’t asked, he just took it on board. Armand didn’t like being mouthed at in bed. Daniel could work with that. He almost certainly could work with that.

“It’s not just me, then?” Daniel demanded, sitting forward in his chair once more. “You… and he…?”

Daniel thought back to the sass Louis had so easily saddled Armand with last night over dinner.

“Why, Sir. I don’t believe I’m currently in engaged in a state of service to your masterful self.”

He’d straight up assumed by that—at the same time as he was hurriedly picking his jaw up off the dining room floor—that there wasn’t any kind of power exchange relationship between Armand and Louis. Hadn’t Louis just explicitly said as much?

“He is not my Master, nor I am not his servant,” Louis answered succinctly. “I really doubt I’d be able to find fun in any of that.”

Daniel just bobbed his head along with Louis’ statement, not sure there was anything he could reply right then that wouldn’t be offensive or downright racist.

“But in the bedroom,” Louis continued, and Daniel watched as a smile that could only be described as a cat what got the cream spread across his features. “He has a playroom, if that’s of any interest to you. A ‘dungeon’, if we aren’t being so politically correct.”

Daniel’s eyebrows damned near disappeared into his curling hair. “A…?”

Louis gave a sweet little nod of his head. “Why don’t you go get that second pint of beer? I’ll wait.”

Daniel had honestly never been sassed quite so thoroughly by Louis as he was being tonight. “Where is all this coming from?” he asked, still leaning forward towards Louis, because this was a side of Louis that he absolutely wanted to know and keep around.

“Daniel, don’t you know?” Louis made him wait as he took a long, slow drink from his cider, and Daniel was helpless but to watch the bob of his Adam’s apple under the skin as he swallowed. “You’re part of the family now. If you wanna be.”

For some reason, a part of Daniel had considered that starting up something with Armand would mean it had to be the end of whatever he’d had going with Louis. But this, if Daniel was understanding him correctly, was Louis explicitly telling him that didn't have to be the case.

“Damn,” Daniel murmured, testing out the thought as he fell back into his seat. “If I’d known entry into your family would mean an instant increase of your sass, I would have booked this in months ago.”

Louis grinned, and Daniel grinned back, at once comfortable in his company – even if he was doing his damned best not to think of the dungeon Louis had barely even described.

He did get a second pint and, while he was waiting for the girl to finish polishing glasses and come over to serve, he felt his phone buzzing in his pocket with a message.

Daniel,
I hope you are enjoying your night out with Louis.
He was very happy for the opportunity to see you again so soon.
I would like to invite you to my house on Wednesday at 6.30pm this week.
Are you available?
Armand.

Daniel glanced over his shoulder at Louis, but Louis wasn’t giving him the same kind of intent attention he was starting to get used to from Armand. Instead, he was on his phone too. Daniel briefly wondered whether Louis had received a message from Armand as well and was replying to it now.

He set about replying to his own message eagerly.

I’m available, Boss. Looking forward to seeing you then.

Before he paid for his beer, there was another message on his phone, this time only with an address maybe two suburbs away. Daniel honestly couldn’t believe his luck with how close they all were. How had Daniel and Armand not managed to cross paths before?

“So how does this work?” Daniel asked, coming back to the table with Louis, along with his new pint of beer.

“How does what work?” Louis asked casually. He was only sipping at his cider, Daniel determined. That was the only way Louis was managing to drink it and it was still only just under halfway gone.

“This,” Daniel waved around between the two of them, and then a little wider to voicelessly indicate Armand and Lestat as well. He may have read up on polyamory vocab, but that didn’t mean he knew how to use them all competently in the appropriate sentences yet. “You and me. You and Armand. Me and Armand. You and Lestat. How do we figure who’s got who on any given night? Is there a Whatsapp group I’m not a part of? An email group? I know you already told Armand I was catching up with you tonight.”

Louis’ gaze flashed to Daniel’s phone which was still in his hand before he shoved it back in his pocket.

“Yes,” Louis confirmed. “I did tell Armand we were catching up tonight. But there’s no email group. Many polyamorous people prefer organising themselves through shared Google calendars anyway.”

Of course this new smartass version of Louis had an answer for everything. Daniel was just glad he hadn’t had the first mouthful of beer in his mouth, or else Louis might have been unlucky enough to be wearing it now.

“Okay…” Daniel started. “So you put up on Google calendars that we were catching up tonight—”

“For drinks,” Louis clarified.

Daniel looked back at him blankly.

Louis spread his hands. “I wouldn’t want to mislead either Lestat or Armand into thinking we were falling into bed with each other immediately after last night. What kind of impression do you think that would give, Daniel?”

“Oh, my mistake,” Daniel said with an easy grin. “I suppose they both believe you’re a gentleman that never puts out?”

Louis gestured towards Daniel with the remainder of his pint of cider. “That would be going a bit too far.”

“Little bit, yeah.”

“Jealousy is always one of the first question people ask me when it comes to polyamory,” Louis said after another swig—sip—of cider. “Which, I suppose, is also why I’m quite clear when updating something to Google calendar. Communication’s pretty important too.”

“Probably helps stave off the jealousy if you know what’s going on.”

“You’d think so,” Louis said, a sudden spark of amusem*nt in his eyes.

That got Daniel’s attention. “Armand’s a jealous one, is he?” He could see it, actually. Pretty easily, if he was being honest.

Armand had a particular possessive way about him. Daniel could see it betraying the hints of a jealous monster poised to strike.

“Lestat’s the jealous one, actually,” Louis answered him.

“Lestat?” That managed to surprise Daniel. “But he’s so…” Daniel actually had no idea how to mime what he was trying to indicate about Lestat’s flouncy arrogance that had been incredibly clear to him over a two and a half hour dinner. His implied offer for a threesome notwithstanding.

“Confident?” Louis guessed after a moment, seeming otherwise at a loss over Daniel’s attempt at mime. Good thing he wasn’t giving up his day job. “He is. But there’s also this… rivalry, I suppose you’d call it, between he and Armand that extends longer than I’ve known them both.”

“Dude,” Daniel said. “Appreciate the game, but what on earth made you think of dating both of them if that was the case?”

“Neither Lestat nor Armand were unaware of my attraction to Armand after we met. I probably wouldn’t have dated them both at the same time.” Here, though, Louis’ lips twisted as if in a fond sort of memory. “But then Armand seemed to insinuate something about Lestat’s manhood if, after years of saying the two of us were polyamorous, Lestat was too insecure to allow me to try things out with Armand.” Louis’ eyes twinkled. “I think it was the word ‘insecure’ that was the sincher. Lestat really doesn’t like proving Armand right.”

“I’ll bet,” Daniel said. This was great stuff. Like watching a soap opera unfolding in front of him.

“Armand…” Louis hummed under his breath after he took another drink from his cider. It was almost gone now. Daniel wondered if Louis was that much of a light weight that one single pint of cider had caused him to loosen up and share all this stuff with him. “No, I’ve never really seen him jealous. Maybe it’s because I haven’t really seen anyone else seriously since I started seeing him. Armand doesn’t really date much.”

“He doesn’t?” Daniel asked. Looking like that? Setting Daniel alight as he did all the time?

Louis lifted a single eyebrow to him. “You tell me. Would you call what he’s started doing with you ‘dating’?”

“Uh, that’s a no from me,” Daniel answered mildly into his beer.

“Exactly. And he doesn’t even do what he’s doing with you very often. I think he figures, if he can’t get it right, he’d just prefer his own damn company.”

Daniel mulled that over after he got Louis into the cab he was taking home and then slid into his own truck.

He thought about it as he shoved the key into the ignition, then let it sit there idling for a moment.

Then he gave a short huff and smirked to himself. Decided he was absolutely f*cking grateful for whatever reason that, from some no one in a club, Armand had decided to take a chance on him.

Notes:

If anyone *ever* wants to write a oneshot in this universe about that conversation between Lestat/Armand/Lestat's manhood, please consider this my express permission for any and all submissions <3

Chapter 7

Chapter Text

Daniel pulled his truck up outside of the address Armand had given him. He took a deep breath in as he looked down to pull up the hand break. Oh yeah, he didn’t need to look down to know where the hand break of his own car was, but seeing the familiar black vinyl of the middle of his car was grounding and reassuring in a way he hadn’t considered he might need.

They’d been two and a half hours in the neutral location of a restaurant the last time he’d seen Armand, and a public bar where Daniel hadn’t even expected to meet Armand before that.

This time, Daniel would be stepping into a space that was explicitly Armand’s, without any familiarity Daniel could cling onto.

He was ready.

He thought he was ready.

He was definitely ready!

The time on Daniel’s dashboard before he turned off the car said ‘6.25pm’. At least he was getting closer to the actual time he’d been told to arrive this time. Even with the weekday traffic!

And then Daniel looked up to the decking out front of the house and everything in his body stopped dead still.

Armand was standing there, leaning against one of the pillars at the top of the three short steps. His arms were crossed and, even though it was dark in the cabin of Daniel’s truck, Daniel couldn’t help but feel Armand was staring directly at him.

Daniel clicked open his car door and stood out. The sudden appearance of Armand wasn’t quite as alarming as Louis’ sudden tapping on his window had been, but Armand’s presence before Daniel even got to the doorstep still felt shocking in a completely different way. A deeper way.

He was being watched the entire time he walked up the path, towards those steps. Seeing him there, waiting for him, something about it made Daniel kneel down in front of Armand when he got there, right on the step before him.

“Good evening, Daniel.” There was a light hand stroking through Daniel’s curls. “What is this for?”

“I…” Daniel swallowed, feeling his own Adam’s apple bobbing up and down even as he closed his eyes and leaned into Armand’s touch. “It felt right.”

He could both feel and hear the unusual huskiness to his tone of voice when he spoke, wondered if Armand heard it as well.

“Well.” Did Armand sound pleased? There wasn’t a whole lot to go on.

Daniel craned his neck up to look at Armand, his kneel only more exaggerated by the step between them.

Armand extended his hand to help Daniel back to his feet. The pleasure then was as clear in Armand’s eyes as it was in the small, half moon divots on his cheeks around a smile.

“Come in,” Armand said, his voice as soft as Daniel had ever heard it.

Of course. Because they were in a house, his house. A personal residence rather than a bar or a restaurant.

Daniel was glad Armand had offered him his hand, cause then all he had to think of was following Armand into the house.

And what a freaking house.

Armand looked over his shoulder as if to see the way Daniel was gazing at the high vaulted ceilings and open plan living space that stretched out as soon as Daniel entered the front door.

“Welcome to Trinity Gate,” Armand said, before offering a little bit of a self deprecating smirk. “Well, maybe you’re not the target audience of ‘Trinity Gate’. That’s more for work colleagues, or other things more vanilla in nature.” Armand was eying Daniel as he spoke, perhaps to judge if he knew the meaning behind the word ‘vanilla’ in this context. Daniel didn’t say anything, so Armand went on. “For those I invite over from the lifestyle, I welcome them to ‘Night Island’.”

“Night Island,” Daniel echoed. He went back to trying not to gape. The house he’d once owned with his ex-wife had never been this large. Not even close. True, Daniel had never been the sort to flaunt his money in obvious displays, but this was…

Daniel couldn’t help a low whistle, no matter how tacky that might have made him appear.

The name suited the space. It definitely suited the vibe Louis had insinuated by randomly mentioning Armand had a dungeon somewhere in this house. He would have thought, if Louis could warn him about that, he could have warned him about this house.

Estate was more like it! The beginnings of what Daniel could only assume was a butler’s pantry appeared as Daniel walked further into the room, closer to a darkened hallway—wing?—that Daniel guessed led towards some bedrooms. The pantry looked like it was larger than the bedroom in his current apartment! The outside really didn’t show from the front how far back this place really went.

“It’s a good name,” Daniel uttered only, forcing his attention back to Armand.

“Thank you, Daniel. I quite like it.”

Armand looked down to where he was still holding Daniel’s hand, and Daniel looked down too. All of a sudden, all of the overwhelm Daniel had been feeling about being in this house—estate!—for the first time melted a little further away. He had been invited here to spend a night with Armand. He wasn’t here to cast judgement on where Armand lived, or how.

“Thanks for inviting me, Boss,” Daniel said, and the words seemed to come easy to him then, like being here alone with Armand cleared out some of the confusion and overwhelm that had clouded his mind during previous times.

Knowing Armand didn’t mind this little pet name Daniel had decided on helped as well.

Armand inclined his head. “Come into the lounge room with me, Daniel.”

The designated lounge room was a smaller, though still high ceilinged room, large enough that the rich crimson colour of the walls didn’t make the space seem small. There was a three seater couch as well as two arm chairs, a banked but unlit fire and one floor to ceiling bookshelf on either side of it. The shelves were filled with books, of course.

Daniel’s attention went to them immediately.

“Oh, sh*t, some of these look old. Like, really old…” Daniel said, turning around to face Armand with a question about editions on his lips that vanished as soon as he saw the way Armand was looking at him from where he’d sat himself down on the three seater couch.

Armand lifted his eyebrows in expectation as Daniel stood there silent. “Do go on, Daniel. I would love to hear what you think.”

Daniel couldn’t think of a single thing relating to books he even wanted to say.

There was space for him on the couch; Armand hadn’t chosen one of the arm chairs. But there was also a plush, comfy looking, suede ottoman right beside Armand’s feet. Like Daniel could have used it to kick his feet up if he’d taken the seat on the couch beside Armand.

And there was also Armand still staring at him, interested to see what he would do.

He didn’t say a single thing as Daniel took one step and then another, not wholly making a decision on where he would sit until he found himself lowering onto the ottoman at Armand’s feet.

Daniel settled there with a long, almost relieved sigh, as though doing so had taken some great weight off his mind or body.

“Can I… rest my head against your leg, Boss?” Daniel asked.

“We agreed you could embrace me when you wish, Daniel. Yes, that is allowed to extend towards incidental or affectionate physical contact.”

But not sexual contact. Daniel noted Armand left that out. He didn’t question it. Not then, too busy sinking into the physical contact he was allowed.

Once again, Armand’s found seemed to find its way into Daniel’s hair. God, he was glad he’d washed this morning before coming over. He thought he could get used to this, about as content as any housecat.

“I want you to speak freely tonight, Daniel. Without fear of any repercussions or disappointment I may feel towards your responses.” Daniel shifted his head, but he couldn’t get a clear view of Armand’s face from where he was sitting without dislodging Armand’s hand in his hair, which he wasn’t yet ready to do. Still, he would have loved to see the expression on Armand’s face when he uttered, “I want to know you, Daniel.”

“All right,” Daniel certainly had no problems with that, especially not when it was said in such a f*cking seductive tone of voice. “What do you want to know?”

“Why does a prosperous, intelligent and, to all external appearances, successful person like yourself wish to willing enter into an M/s relationship?”

Armand really wasn’t f*cking around tonight with getting what he wanted, was he?

Daniel allowed his eyes to move to the bookshelves in front of them. Of course Shakespeare was one of the titles he’d seen there, though it had been the old editions of Marlowe and Jonson that had gotten his attention. Any asshole knew to buy Shakespeare if they wanted to come across as worldly. Most people had never even heard Ben Jonson’s name.

Daniel wasn’t allowing himself to get distracted from Armand’s question by the shelved books. It was a f*cking good question, and Daniel felt safe in the hands of the man who had thought to ask it. He wanted to give a good answer to Armand, something that was worthy, that showed that even though Daniel was pretty much inexperienced with everything to do with this lifestyle, he wanted to learn. He wanted to dive head first into it and, hopefully, thrive.

“There was a sonnet I read once,” Daniel answered slowly, never lifting his head up from Armand’s thigh. “By Shakespeare.”

His eyes trailed across the worn covered spines to see if he could find a book on Shakespeare’s sonnets, though there were some ‘Completed Works’ that included the sonnets as well. He cleared his throat before he spoke the next bit, the part that had during university burned into his mind and never left.

“‘Being your slave, what should I do but tend / Upon the hours and times of your desire?’”

They were only two lines spoken out loud. Daniel could have recited more of them—perhaps not all of them in exact anymore—but those first two lines were the ones that stood out to him. The ones that left him breathless even now. He wondered if he'd said enough that Armand knew what he was trying to get at. That he wanted to enter into this kind of relationship because of how much words like those had pulled at him ever since his youth for no other reason he'd ever been able to explain.

In his mind alone, he held the final two lines of that same sonnet:

So true a fool is love that in your will
Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

It was too soon. He wasn’t ready to talk about any feelings of love yet, and he was pretty much sure Armand was in the exact same boat. It hadn’t even been a week yet. Let Armand find it in his book if he remembered Daniel’s words later.

“One of the first things I’ve sometimes said to anyone wanting to enter into a dynamic of service,” Armand murmured after a full moment had passed. “Is how much time a slave spends waiting on their Master.”

There was that word again. Daniel had spoken it himself, and then found himself at a loss of breath. To hear Armand say it now so soon after left Daniel’s head spinning.

“‘The hours and times of my desire’, indeed,” Armand murmured, his voice low. "I suppose, in your case, I don't need to mention such to you."

Daniel didn’t say anything. True, he’d been told to speak freely, and he had done. Now he was just listening to the beat of his heart, waiting for it to go back to somewhere close to normal.

“Do you understand, Daniel,” Armand asked, his fingers never stilling in Daniel’s hair. “That M/s relationships exist in more places than the dungeon or the bedroom?”

This time, Daniel found himself really glad for Louis’ playful warning around the dungeon. The word didn’t have the impact it would have had otherwise if it had come up for the first time now. And that allowed Daniel to concentrate more firmly on the rest of the sentence.

“I…” Only, he didn’t know quite how to answer that. “I understand, by the definition of 24/7 that it must,” Daniel said. “Only… I guess I don’t really know what that’s meant to look like.”

“Would you like to hear some thoughts from me on the topic?” Armand asked.

“Yes Boss,” Daniel breathed.

“Very well, Daniel. It would be my expectation that any slave in a relationship with me as his Master would place our relationship first, even if that would not necessarily exclude any other relationships.”

Daniel almost choked on his apparent good luck at what Armand had just offered him. Talk about having his cake and eating it too. Looked like Louis had been completely right that Armand had no tendency towards jealousy with his lovers. Not only was Daniel about to get to f*ck Armand whenever and however Armand told him to, but he’d also have explicit permission to go out and seek that with other people, so long as he thought of Armand first.

“Like, with Louis?” Daniel asked softly, trying to play down his incredulity at the turn this conversation had taken.

“If you like.” A pause, then, “Would you like that, Daniel?”

“Well,” Daniel said, as though he was thinking it over idly. “It has become something of a convenient pastime.”

“You jest to shield your feelings,” Armand told him knowingly.

“Yeah,” Daniel answered a moment later. “Yeah, I guess I do.”

“I would hope you not jest to belittle our relationship were we to enter into one, Daniel,” Armand said, his voice suddenly turning ever so slightly stricter.

And Daniel responded to that immediately, “No Boss.”

“Very good, Daniel,” Armand said approvingly, all hints of censure removed from his tone.

Daniel closed his eyes and enjoyed the combined feel of Armand’s soft thigh against the side of his head, and Armand’s fingers against his scalp, as though the two of those things were the entire of his world.

While Daniel was basking, Armand meandered on into a little story.

“I currently employ a woman to routinely see to the cleaning and tidying of such places as bathrooms and kitchen. To dust surfaces. Occasional laundry. To check to see if I’ve remembered to take out meat from the freezer for my meal at night and, if not, she’ll select something suitable for me. I am a wealthy man, Daniel. It does not strain my finances to have such a woman come into my house several times a week and make sense of the things I do not have time to see to myself.”

Daniel frowned. He was sure this woman did a perfectly good job at everything Armand employed her to do, but he couldn’t see how any of that really related to him.

“Were I to consider you as my slave, I would think I had no further continued use of her services. Were I to consider you my slave, Daniel, these would be services I would wish to be done for me by you.”

There was a silence after Armand’s words. Daniel was grateful for the fact that he’d taken some time to reply after the last time Armand had spoken, because maybe it wouldn’t stick out so much now that Daniel was mentally flailing.

What did Armand mean he would expect Daniel to do those domestic chores for him instead of this woman he paid? Did he mean he’d pay Daniel instead? What was the point of that? Daniel only managed to keep his own house clean at a very passable level. He was sure this woman, whoever she was, did a much better job of cleaning than anything Daniel could do.

He might have been too quiet for long, because suddenly he noticed that Armand’s fingers stopped moving in his hair, against his scalp, and Armand spoke again.

That is what I mean when I said M/s relationships need to live outside of the bedroom and the dungeon. I do not seek someone I can merely dominate sexually. I have Louis already for that. I am looking for someone who will serve me at all times, in all ways. Who wishes for that themselves, in the very centre of their being.”

When Armand put it like that, it seemed far more clear. He could feel himself leaning into the words that Armand wrapped around him. Leaning into them in place of the caress Armand had been offering.

He just… didn’t know if he was someone who craved… that stuff as well, in the very centre of his being. How could he? When he’d been married, he’d done such a small share of the domestics, it had actually been a struggle for him to pick them all up after he was on his own. There were so many little things and they constantly needed doing. Every time he ate, there was something that needed to be washed. Every time he got dressed, there too was something that needed to be washed. That wasn’t even counting the overgrown courtyard he’d done his best not to look at since the beginning of winter.

“You’re very quiet, Daniel,” Armand said, finally prompting him out of his own head. “Have I scared you off already?”

“Not… scared,” Daniel said honestly. “More, just thinking.”

“About what, Daniel?” Armand asked. “I promised you could be unworried over the repercussions of speaking freely tonight.”

Daniel swallowed. He lifted his head up to look Armand dead in the eye, even though he wasn’t sure this was the time he wanted to actually see what might be looking there back at him anymore.

But Armand’s expression looking back at him was carefully bland, no hint of affront or censure. And so Daniel’s confidence grew, just a little bit.

“You’re going to think me no better than some kid,” Daniel started with no small amount of embarrassed self loathing, before he went on to detail just what he’d just thought about his subpar abilities with regards to cleaning, especially after his divorce.

“Daniel.” There was the faintest twist of amusem*nt around Armand’s mouth, not that Daniel could believe it. “Did you think I would judge you for that? I am a grown man who readily employs someone to see to my cleaning needs so I do not have to do them. Did you not hear that already?”

“Well, yeah,” Daniel said, confused.

“I do not tell you my wishes for domestic service because I wish for the opportunity to point and laugh at your abilities, or lack thereof.” In fact, Armand sounded almost affronted at the idea of it. “I tell you of my wishes because I want to show you where I wish to make room for you in my life, in my home. Not just in my bed.”

Daniel’s dick jumped up at that last bit, and he sternly told it to f*ck right off.

“I tell you,” Armand continued, “because it excites me to think of the opportunities of training you in all of these small, intimate details that I have only till now had a stranger complete. Can you understand that, Daniel? See the intimacy in what I am describing to you?”

Again, Armand’s words seduced him, but the ideas behind them were too foreign for Daniel to be able to immediately jump on into.

“I think so…” he said, definitely sounding as uncertain as he felt.

Armand’s silence after that definitely felt to Daniel as though he had disappointed him with this ill thought out answer. He sighed. Tonight, here with Armand, had really taken a turn Daniel hadn’t expected it would.

“How did you think, or perhaps hope, tonight’s conversation was going to go, Daniel?” Armand asked then, almost seeming to read Daniel’s mind.

Daniel blinked at him. Besides an embrace on greeting, followed definitely by f*cking, had Daniel actually had any clear ideas on how a conversation between them would go?

“I just… I guess I…” Daniel shut his mouth as soon as it became apparent his brain wasn’t gonna magically jump in with some kind of smooth answer to this question. He felt incredibly deflated. “I guess I just sort of thought I’d be your good, submissive boy, and you’d be happy.”

“I am happy,” Armand said. “Your kneeling on the front step was sublime. Your wonder at my residence here was gratifying. And the way you chose the ottoman instead of the couch to sit on tells me your mind is exactly where I wish it to be.”

“Then why…?” Daniel asked, unable to think of a way to finish the sentence. But if Armand was so happy with everything Daniel had done so far, what was with the rest of this conversation?

“Because these are small moments, Daniel. You will not look with such wonder at this home every time you step inside it, and I could not expect you to. It will become almost routine to you, should you enter through its doors enough times. Similarly, a dynamic without structure is doomed to routine without appreciation. We did speak about this over the phone with our conversation about parameters and the difficulties each of us was having without knowing where they were.”

It was true, Daniel thought. They had done exactly that.

“But there wasn’t talk about me doing…” Daniel’s lip curled. “Your laundry.”

To Daniel’s surprise, Armand burst out with a short laugh at this. “Is that what so offends you? The very idea of you washing my drawers?”

“No,” Daniel huffed, hating to be laughed at, hating to be made fun of because he suddenly didn’t understand what was going on in here. When had he became the bad guy because he didn’t want to do someone else’s laundry for them? Unpaid, at that!

“Ahh,” Armand said, reading something in Daniel’s face that Daniel might have wished to keep to himself right in that moment. “What offends you is that you don’t find the idea of washing my drawers arousing.”

Daniel opened his mouth to object to that, because it sounded so… so… dammit, it sounded like he was a great big louse, is what it was. Like he hadn’t been a good husband because he’d left her to do the laundry all those years they’d been together. As though Daniel only expected to do anything at all because it left him feeling aroused.

That wasn’t it, though!

“Don’t be upset, Daniel,” Armand said, before Daniel managed to get to the end of that thought. All mirth was gone from his expression, and Daniel did actually find it more easy not to be upset when he didn’t feel like he was being laughed at anymore. “I shouldn’t have teased. What you’ve told me so far is that you’ve discovered within yourself that you’re happiest at the idea of someone else being in control of your life. Of you. That’s why you came to me with a discussion about a Master/slave relationship, was it not?”

“Yeah,” Daniel choked out. Just like that first night in the bar, Daniel felt as though he was suffering from the whiplash of too many emotions all over the top of each other.

Armand inclined his head. “M/s wants to eat the world,” he uttered gently. “It’s like new relationship energy on a huge growth spurt. It will take up all the space it’s allowed and then strain at the edges. Does any of that feel like it describes the week you’ve had since meeting me, Daniel?”

Feeling a little but like crying for no reason he could entertain, Daniel nodded his head quietly.

“If we want to achieve any sort of balance in it,” Armand continued softly, “we need to carefully and deliberately carve them out. They won’t happen on their own. Louis’ told me you’ve divorced, but the idea of negotiating what works in a relationship should not be so foreign to you in any case.”

Armand was right. He must have been. But negotiating had been so very long ago, right at the start of that relationship, well before he’d ever gotten married. There’d been no need for much in the way of negotiations with Louis or the other men he’d slept around with since. Apart from Louis, there weren’t even any other guys he’d really kept in contact beyond the one night stands.

Daniel was still trying to escape from being seen by Armand, without moving from the ottoman, when Armand reached out and lifted Daniel’s chin lightly with just one finger under his jaw.

“Kink attraction is like this,” he murmured, brown eyes boring into Daniel’s green until he felt like he could not look away. “It has a timetable of its own because being seen—really being seen—by another person speeds it up. And I see you, Daniel. I see the part of you that’s scared of desires you don’t even know you have yet. I see the part of you that’s fighting back tears even as we speak, even if you don’t know why they’re there. I see you. And I want the man I see terribly.”

Armand kept his forefinger trained there under Daniel’s jaw a moment longer, as if to really make sure those words sank in.

“I want the man I see terribly.” Yup, those words weren’t leaving Daniel’s subconscious any time soon, no matter the rest of what they'd talked about tonight.

Daniel felt it keenly when Armand took that hand away from him and he wasn’t being touched by Armand any longer. “But want isn’t all that M/s is. There has to be time for work, sleep, chores, exercise. There has to be time for the rest of your life as well, Daniel.”

He stood up, and Daniel startled, sitting as he was still on the ottoman. In that moment, Armand loomed over him.

“I’m going to walk you to your car now, Daniel,” Armand told him abruptly. It was as though a switch had been flipped, but only Armand knew about it, which left Daniel scrabbling to keep up. “But I want you to think about what we’ve talked about here tonight. And I encourage you to call or message me whenever you would like with any questions you would like to ask.”

Belatedly, Daniel stood too. “Yeah, um.”

He frowned as Armand turned and lead them out of the lounge room, nowhere near to holding onto Daniel’s hand anymore as he had on the way in.

Chapter 8

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Daniel had returned home from Armand’s early the night before. That didn’t mean he’d slept. He’d been awake till 4am, just tossing and turning in bed, before he decided he could at least get up and do something useful in his work life.

8am was around the time he eventually passed out.

When he woke again a little bit before 11am, Daniel knew this was gonna be a running on fumes and caffeine kinda day.

With a short sigh, Daniel had put on a pot of coffee and tried to begin to make sense of the mess of work he’d ended up in the middle of. Three different projects, all with different deadlines, and all in different stages of editing.

One of the only things he truly missed about spending time with his ex-wife was having someone to drink a morning coffee with. Not just because it was an enjoyable pastime for him, but also because it meant it didn’t look up and realise it was after 2pm and he’d completely forgotten to drink any of it.

“Cold coffee it is, then,” Daniel muttered to himself as he pulled a mug from the top cabinet. He didn’t even have any milk to put in it. Too bad. Though that would have diluted the strength of the caffeine anyway.

He stirred a couple of sugar cubes into the first cup and went back to his at home work desk. A work desk that had gone and spread out most of the way across the dining room table. He thought, if he kept up the current pace, he could have one of these into his editor by dinner time. Another perhaps two hours after that.

He was getting into some kind of a rhythm, now. He could feel it, the way that the rest of the world kinda faded away, and he knew the shape of the work now, knew how to chip away at the thing until it took on the final form that he wanted it to. He knew he could do it. It was just about finding the right sources, working the information the way he knew it would best be read.

There was nothing like being in the midst of a writer’s flow state. He’d talked to friends outside of the industry a couple of times, and every single one of them looked at him as though he was describing being in some kind of cult, instead of merely being a journalist.

No, they inevitably all said. Their work didn’t tend to give them moments of euphoria, nor moments when none of the rest of the world mattered and it was only the goal of getting to the end of this perfectly finished peace that mattered.

Daniel wondered whether he should have been friends with some athletes. He was willing to bet that one or two of them would have described getting across that finish line in a similar way to the way he felt about a polished piece of writing.

A polished piece of writing, or... simply Armand looking at him with those bottomless brown eyes. The way that everything seemed to stop during a certain way Armand looked at him, in the very moment before everything then sped back up again and Daniel felt like he could do—

Nope, not thinking about that.

He downed half his cup of coffee, wincing sourly at the taste of not particularly well stirred in sugar that was a consequence of him forgetting to zap the whole thing in the microwave first. Whatever. Back to that flow work state.

It was 8pm by the time Daniel sent the second thing back to his manuscript. He was buzzing now. He’d put on Spotify a little while ago, but it had gone onto playing something he didn’t recognise some while ago. That didn’t matter. He did a little shimmy between the dining room table—mostly clear now—and his original work station. Just one more piece to go. One more piece and he’d be open to picking up a brand new project.

Except… no. Looking over what he had here at home, he realised pretty immediately there were missing bits that he was gonna have to go into the office to find. Maybe they were on Marlene’s desk. Otherwise he was gonna have to go to Charlie to ask if he could help him out with the archives. Either way… Daniel chewed on his lip. It was after 8pm and even the most keenest of his colleagues tended to begin to wrap up by now. Even if he got in his truck and drove down there now, the place would be locked, janitors already doing their jobs. He couldn't go into the office now and hope to get work done.

f*ck. That had been sh*tty planning. He really needed this. He really needed… something to keep his brain busy right now.

Armand had told Daniel he should go away and think on how he saw things happening between them, but Daniel couldn’t actually let himself think of it. Thinking about the utter failure of that night, the first night Armand had ever invited him over to his house, and about how Daniel had co*cked the whole thing up with his reactions, had been what almost sent him to a catatonic state this morning that only work had been able to bring him out of today. Work, and perhaps a little of the mania that sometimes came with not enough sleep.

sh*t, he hoped that mania didn’t show up in the pages he’d sent Sharon today.

Daniel could feel that flow state beginning to escape him, already beginning to get clawed down by the edges of the things he wasn’t thinking about, the things he was too scared to think about. The things he was starting to think of anyway.

He got it all from Armand’s perspective, of course. Nobody wanted to give time to someone who was just gonna waste it. There’d been a growing list of people who'd disappointed Daniel before he happened upon Armand. He remembered it well. That was half the reason why he’d latch so hard, Daniel reckoned.

Had there been other guys before Daniel who’d disappointed Armand? Guys Armand didn’t wanna see a repeat of in Daniel? That was a great question, and something Daniel had utterly forgotten to ask when he’d been there.

It was almost as though the thought of it had Daniel’s cell phone immediately in his hand. His mind was composing messages before he stopped to think. Armand wanted him to think about what they talked about last night. He’d said Daniel could reach out to him anytime with any questions he had to ask, but Daniel felt abruptly guilty at the idea of reaching out right then, because he really hadn’t spent any time constructively thinking about what they’d talked about last night.

Fear just kept on reminding Daniel he didn't really know Armand all that well yet.

“M/s wants to eat the world,” Armand had said, and Daniel believed it. He’d also said that Daniel needed to carve out time for work, among other things, and that was what Daniel had been trying to do today.

As if hyperfixating on work could properly distract him from the fact that all he really wanted was his whole world to be devoured by Armand in a single bite.

Because, when faced with that as an actual potential freaking reality, Armand had made him question it. With his talk of laundry. Of house chores. Daniel hadn't been able to help but think that surely there were other ways, better ways for Armand to devour his world?

Daniel shook his head once, and then again when the act didn’t seem to dislodge Armand from his mind. The man had told him he wanted Daniel to do his laundry, and Daniel still couldn’t get him out of his mind.

What kind of a f*cked up…?

He breathed out a long unsteady breath. Daniel wasn’t gonna be able to get more writing done here tonight, that was already a nonstarter. He’d gotten as much work done as he could reasonably do today, and he really ought to be proud of what he’d gotten done. Still, if he didn’t have any work to distract him, he knew he was about to drive himself right up the wall crazy, unable to stop himself thinking of Armand. And that wasn’t ideal either.

Daniel shoved a hand through his hair and sorely wished there was beer in the house that he hadn’t bought because he hadn’t been to the store yet this week.

“But want isn’t all M/s is. There has to be time for the rest of life as well,” Armand had finished, and the words took on new meaning now.

It had been less than a week and, actually, a fair amount of his life did feel as though it'd been swallowed by Armand. Timewise, at least. Now that Daniel was alone in his apartment—without the distraction of Armand directly in front of him, looking at him, touching him—Daniel thought he could begin to think more clearly in a way he hadn’t been able to while basking in Armand’s attention.

How much writing had he even managed to do before today? Nobody actually expected him to work through the weekends like he usually did, but how much work had Daniel completed in the last three working days?

The answer was woefully inadequate, leaving Daniel feeling just the slightest sting of shame.

He had to do better than this. No, he didn’t need to win this year’s Pulitzer to be with Armand, but he had to be able to maintain a roof over his head, to be a functional adult while in a relationship.

Even while in an M/s relationship.

Daniel sighed heavily, realising with a dry mouth and an empty fridge that there was so much more to the fantasy he’d imagined in his head than whether he would or would not be allowed to come without asking.

And so Daniel spent the next several hours doing what he did best. He researched.

He found terms like sub frenzy, and slave frenzy, that seemed to eventuate towards the same thing but with somewhat different intensity. He located words like ‘s-type’ which was easier given the terms on both sides of that slash began with the same letter, but more difficult was it to find a consensus on ‘m-type’ or ‘d-type’, that seemed to be used more or less interchangeably. He came to understand the differences in ‘top’ and ‘bottom’, particularly in comparison to more 24/7 lifestyle activities, but also in contrast to the ways he was more commonly used to seeing them in gay sex.

Then there were the articles and blog posts on slavery, the columns on mastery. Daniel bought himself several ebooks by authors he’d previously heard of before in this genre, as well as some he hadn’t. Basically anyone who's preview made Daniel feel something to read it.

Several different places all seemed to agree on one simple thing: The prospective Master was just as much applying for their position as was the slave applicant. Any question that was asked of a Master, therefore, it was reasonable for Daniel to ask right back.

If nothing else, questions like the ones Armand had asked him would help Daniel get to know Armand. At best, it might help him gain insight that would fill in some of the gaps made by Daniel and Armand not having known each other all that long yet. At worst, he’d get the clarity that would help him decide—maybe even give him the strength—he needed to walk away.

Daniel began to open his own mind to the question of: What if he did open up to the idea of allowing Armand to create significance in so many of the daily life chores Daniel had always struggled with? They always been so boring, ultimately forgettable until they were suddenly urgent. The shame Daniel had expressed in Armand's presence hadn't been feigned.

He'd never been good at keeping a good sleep schedule. There was often just a little bit too much uncontrolled mania in and around him whenever he wrote. His sheets were always about a month overdue for a wash and a decent grocery shop only ever got done when Daniel became thoroughly sick of takeout.

What would it be like to be in the habit of going to the grocery store often enough that there was routinely milk in his fridge when he wanted it for coffee? Maybe even... not to lean on drinking so much when he was left to his own company?

Daniel hadn't been able to conceive of things like this showing up in an M/s because he hadn't had the experience to be able to see them.

Technically, Armand was offering Daniel far more than what he'd asked for. What if... what if he asked for these things as well?

Armand had already told him his thoughts on Daniel asking for things.

"Daniel, I did not say I would agree if you asked. I like the control that's to be found in the knowing."

But, if these were other ways for Armand to exert his control, over areas of Daniel's life even when Armand wasn't around him, wouldn't Armand be interested in taking those up?

Everything he'd seen of Armand so far screamed at Daniel yes.

This was beyond the realm of just getting his dick wet now. Daniel was self aware enough to know that. Not that his dick didn't jerk at the idea of giving over this much control of his life—of Armand taking that much control over his life—it was more that that wasn't the only point. Yeah, it got his dick hot and hard. But the idea wasn't there in the sole pursuit of getting off. And that was definitely new.

As Armand had said, this was about making space for Daniel in his life—and vice versa—not just in each others' beds.

The only question worth asking, then, was: Was all of this something Daniel actually wanted to try committing to with Armand? Or was he now the one who was in over his head, the one who was wasting the other person's time?

A part of Daniel knew that 4am in the freaking morning, as he was finally taking his glasses off, realistically wasn't the best time for anyone to make those sorts of decisions. He was even aware he couldn't have put his mind to a coherent decision even if he had tried.

4am was, however, the perfect time to reach out and shoot his first text to Armand since the previous night.

What could Daniel say? Apparently Armand was right about just another thing, and kink attraction really did have a timetable of its own. Daniel had never been good at self restraint.

Trust, but verify, one of his favourite college professors had told him way back when. It had always stuck in his mind, even after everything else that had jumbled in there over the span of the last 20 odd years. 'Truth' was easy enough to fabricate, so it was always worth whatever time it took to verify one's facts.

You asked me a question last night.
I wanna ask it back to you now:
Why does a prosperous, intelligent and successful person like you wanna go into an M/s relationship?

He held the cell in front of his face, giving it one last search through for any typos or errors, before clicking send on the damned thing. It was the last thing he did for the night before unconsciousness finally took him.

Daniel woke up Friday morning with his stomach already tight with excitement before he even grabbed his glasses back from his nightstand.

The first thing his cell told him was that it was almost 8.30am. Damn, Daniel was gonna really have to at least try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight. Several nights of only 4 or 5 hours sleep these days were harder to recover from than they used to be.

The second thing his cell told him was… there wasn’t actually a reply from Armand waiting for him when he woke up.

In fact, while was holding it, only a message from Louis came in. A simple, how’s it goin?

Daniel swiped that away for now.

But, even when Daniel checked the messages between he and Armand directly, there wasn’t anything waiting for him that his cell had failed to pick up for notification.

Hey Boss… did you get my last message?

Even still waking up, even without coffee, he was aware and able to send that.

Somehow, he was surprised when he quickly got a response this time.

I did, Daniel.
I am only considering how to reply.
Armand.

Yeah, well, okay, that was fair enough.

Anything I can do to help?

A pause then, and Daniel was aware it was probably entering into working hours for Armand.

I’m not sure, Daniel.
Was it work that had you up so late last night?
Armand.

Daniel pushed himself up in the bed. He was stuck there because, although he’d been working late, he’d well and truly finished with it some eight hours before sending that message.

No Boss. I was researching stuff for personal interest.
Like, what we were talking about. Lost track of time.

There was no immediate response back then. Daniel went out of the messages between him and Armand, and over to the still unread one from Louis.

It’s been a damned big week. TGIF

Daniel received no further messages, from either Armand or Louis, not until after he’d showered and gone into the office like he’d planned the night before. One of the girls had just dropped a coffee into his office desk when the first message came through.

From Louis.

you’re not kidding. I plan on sleeping all the way through till monday.

Then, in separate message,

ok, I’m not sleeping till monday. the trials of having two partners.

This followed by a mocking skull emoji.

Daniel smirked at it. He liked Louis. He’d always liked Louis. But this reminder that the guy he was currently negotiating with was already one of Louis’ two partners came back into Daniel mind with Louis’ last message. He knew that made things complicated.

If things didn’t work out with Daniel and Armand—if Armand just decided to go and leave him on read forever—was that going to be it? Not just the end of things with Armand, but with Louis as well? How comfortable would it be if Daniel kept things going with Louis, however casual, knowing that Louis then went on to go back to Armand’s place some nights?

Daniel left the messages unanswered.

Left them unanswered till around 3pm that day, by which point he told himself Louis was surely finishing off work and Armand could just go screw himself (again) if he was done with replying to Daniel’s messages.

It was childish. He could hear his own thoughts in his head, he knew he was sounding childish. But, dammit, Armand had also told him he could—and should—call or message him if there were any questions he’d like to ask.

If you think you’re gonna have me feeling sorry for you, you’ve got another think coming, bud

Perhaps, Daniel thought, after he sent off the message to Louis, he ought to remind Armand of that.

Is something wrong?
You said I could reach out if I had questions?

Daniel stared at his cell a bit longer then, in annoyance, shoved it into the top drawer of his desk and went back to making sure he had everything he needed this time to finish this piece. All he had to do now was make sure the back up between desk computer and his laptop was completed.

While that was going on, he idly stepped out of his office. There were plenty of people in here he was on pretty good terms with. No one close, but plenty of people who would have gone for a drink with him if he asked. No need for any of them to know he just wanted to be distracted.

It didn’t take Daniel very long to find out there were after work drinks already organised with a small group of the team tonight. Perfect. Since Daniel wasn’t actually in a position of direct seniority above any of them, he didn’t even have to feel weird about socialising with the group outside of work hours.

Maybe it’d be good for him.

It would definitely have been better for him if he didn’t forget his cell in his office desk.

Notes:

Yup, Charlie in this chapter was a deliberately tongue in cheek Easter egg for anyone who's also reading good to love.

Chapter 9

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The soonest Daniel had been able to pick up his cell from his office had been Saturday morning, and even then it had required the dubious willingness of building security to let him inside.

“Thanks, man. I really appreciate it. I know you don’t have to…”

Daniel was distracted from babbling his thanks at the uniformed gentleman who had accompanied him to his office when he pulled out the drawer, picked up his cell and saw just how many notifications, missed calls, messages, were waiting for him.

Had he ever in his life been this popular before? This was hardly the first time he’d forgotten his phone somewhere or other.

He opened the first message chain, the one from Armand of course.

Daniel,
I firstly wish to apologise.
I disappeared into my own head, and then into work, too busy wondering whether what I offer is something that’s actually good for you.
Too distracted by my own thoughts to answer your messages with the attention they deserve.
I am only human, and I do hope you accept these apologies.
Armand.

That had come in not too long after Daniel had accidentally abandoned his phone in the top drawer. Another message, not a full half an hour later.

In answer to your question, Daniel,
I am a very controlling, possessive man.
I know this about myself, and I take great care to mitigate this in areas of my life where it would not be welcomed.
One of the ways I do this is to give myself mutually consented to outlets where I can be as controlling and demanding as I feel the urge for.
At the moment, that outlet regularly exists only in the bedroom, with Louis.
It is my hope that what you and I both hope for will come to pass, and I will have another such mutually negotiated outlet for my inner self.
I hope this answer is to your satisfaction.
Armand.

This was followed an hour later by,

Are you there, Daniel?
I did apologise for my tardiness in response.
Do you not wish to accept my apology?
Do you need more time in which to formulate a reply?
Or is it the honesty of my answer that has left you feeling uncomfortable?
Armand.

The security guard, still standing in the doorway to his office, cleared his throat, loudly.

Daniel was too enthralled in both the content of Armand’s messages as well as the little blue number 5 that hung in the top left corner; informing him that not all his missed messages had come from Armand.

As Daniel flicked back, he saw there were some from Louis too. And from an unknown number that Daniel could tell even from the short preview of the message was from Lestat.

Hello Daniel. This is Lestat. Louis has asked…

“All right, you’ve got your cell. I’m gonna need to take you back now. Let’s go,” the security guard said, clearly having gotten to the end of his patience in watching Daniel scroll through all his missed messages.

“Mm, what? Oh! Yeah, sorry.” Daniel’s brow was furrowed even as he quickly stepped through the doorway of the office and led the other guy back down to the elevator that led to the ground floor.

Instead of going to Lestat’s message from the number he didn’t yet have saved to his cell, Daniel moved next to Louis’.

naw I don’t need you feelin sorry for me. don't I know it already, I’m lucky as f*ck.

Had Daniel received that before he’d gone for after work drinks last night, he wouldn’t necessarily have had anything he felt like he needed to reply to that. Apparently Louis had felt the same, because the next message he’d received from Louis didn’t come through for another couple of hours, and didn’t have anything to do with their former conversation.

you all right? Armand… sh*t, I shouldn’t say nothin
but Armand just asked if I’d heard anything from you. should I have heard anything from you? is everything ok?

Another hour had passed, Daniel could see it by the time stamp. Then,

you ain’t annoyed with me, are you?

And finally,

if I shouldn’t have said nothin, please at least reply to let me know, yeah?

With just the one last unread message showing in that top left corner, Daniel set about hurriedly replying to both Armand and Louis before he’d even left the building. The elevator down only gave Daniel time to compose his first message, being as how he couldn’t actually send anything from the zero reception of the big metal box.

Boss, I’m *incredibly* sorry. This is definitely gonna sound like an excuse, but I swear to you it’s not: I forgot my cell in the top drawer of my desk in the office. Please Boss, tell me off for being an moron as much as you think is appropriate, only please just also believe I didn’t do it on purpose.

The elevator doors opened, and Daniel was more eager even than the security guy to step out of it and into reception again. He pressed the send button immediately, then waited impatiently to make sure it went.

Great, now he only had to hope Armand wasn’t cluey enough to think to ask why Daniel had put his cell in that top drawer. And that he’d take Daniel’s story at face value rather than reading anything more into it.

Again it came into his mind, he and Armand didn’t really know each other all that well yet.

Before he could obsess about it, he moved onto texting Louis back.

Sorry, man. I’m an idiot. Nothing’s wrong and I’m not annoyed. I’m just the dumbass who locked his cell in his office desk and had to wait till this morning to be able to go in and get it back.

Only after both those two messages were sent did Daniel finally get around to looking at Lestat’s full message. By that time, he was in the lobby of the building, back by the glass sliding doors. He lifted his head up to thank the security guard one last time for escorting him up.

The guard looked bored and was already done with Daniel as far as he was concerned, so Daniel just made a quick exit and hoped the rest of the guys in the office didn’t end up hearing about this on Monday.

Hello Daniel. This is Lestat. Louis has asked if I would mind calling you, as you do not seem to be answering either his or Armand’s calls at present. If Armand has done something to upset you, please rest assured that you could have no more willing and discrete individual than I to talk it over with.

That message immediately reminded Daniel again of the other notifications that had filled up his lock screen as soon as he’d picked up the cell. Missed phone calls from Armand and Louis both, just as Lestat had said. And, of course, from Lestat’s unsaved number. Obviously before he had followed it up with that little text.

Christ. Daniel couldn’t have picked a dumber actual time to leave his phone behind, could he? It had never occurred to him that he would worry the entire of the polycule like this.

In his hands—Daniel was never letting his cell phone go again!—it buzzed with a message.

Daniel,
I am glad to hear you are well.
I am also quite glad to hear from you again.
I look forward to hearing any answers you have to my messages from last night.
Armand.

Daniel heaved out a sigh of the biggest relief he thought he’d ever felt. Armand’s message wasn’t warm or gushy, they never were. But they it didn’t seem to hold a note of censure in it either. For that, Daniel was grateful.

And then he found a park bench to sit on because he sure as hell didn’t feel steady enough to drive back to his place right then.

Okay. Okay, Armand had sent him some more of those essays more suited to email than text format, but Daniel didn’t care. He didn’t care at all. Armand had written back to him just now. He’d written to tell Daniel he’d been in his own head, before that, in a way that had nothing to do with Daniel, and now he believed Daniel when he said he hadn’t left his phone behind deliberately.

Boss, the first thing I want you to know is that I don’t wanna waste your time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and it’s really important to me.
I know we haven’t known each other long and so we haven’t talked about this, but I’ve had a bunch of people I thought were offering what I wanted in the past.
Then, as soon as we were getting dressed again, everything was off the table.
If something like that’s what’s been keeping us from f*cking so far, I just wanna say I understand, Boss.
I also wanna say: I don’t want to do that to you.
I’m not interested in wasting your time.
I’m not interested in running away.
Just… sometimes walking away so I can figure out my own head from time to time, same as you.
We’re all human here, Boss

If Armand could write long ass text messages, Daniel was gonna remind Armand he was a writer and could also make out long ass diatribes with the best of them.

Secondly, your answer to my question was very much ‘to my satisfaction’, thank you very much.
I’m only sorry it took me so long to respond, Boss.
I *may* have noticed you have a tendency towards controlling, and possessive.
I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to negotiate with you on more ways that can happen.
In fact, your suggestions of household chores gave me a few ideas and I’d love to run them by you.
When you have time.
Presuming you don’t follow my terrible example and suddenly lose your phone.
Daniel

He was smiling again by the time he sent that second message to Armand. Not even thinking of the interaction in terms of a competition or how he could get one over Armand with his cheekiness anymore. Daniel meant every word he’d said. To top it off, he’d even signed his message off with his name in the way that Armand did, and seemed to prefer.

Yeah, he’d gotten to bed early the night before, just like he’d intended to. But before that, he’d thought again about the idea of those mundane life activities being given a greater purpose of offering service to his Boss.

He’d ended up growing very distracted by the end of the work drinks, just giving a nod or a smile here or there when it became evident someone was talking to him. It had therefore become pretty obvious when it was time for Daniel to leave.

The kids from work had started cajoling him, trying to get him to stick around for longer drinks. He never went out with them. That had been one of the arguments made. This was an inaugural situation!

Daniel had known right then some of them were just trying to show off their large vocabularies in front of him. It had made him feel old. He may not be senior over any of the rest of them, but so many of them were still wearing their training wheels, trying to prove themselves in this industry, where Daniel hadn’t needed to prove himself anymore for years.

It had been time for him to go, and so he’d begged off further drinks as well as their whining.

Only then had Daniel realised he’d left the office without his phone.

Perhaps I should make it a standing protocol that you should have your phone on you at all times when you are not by my side.
Is that something you would like, Daniel?
Armand.

Protocol, that was another word Daniel had come across the other night during his BDSM inspired hyperfixated research marathon. M/s relationships were governed by a variety of rules; behaviour expected at all times from the s-type within the dynamic. They mustn’t come without permission, that kind of thing.

Where protocols differed from this, Daniel was now fairly sure, was more of a ‘when’ kind of situation. When Daniel was not in Armand’s presence, he should have his phone on him at all times.

Yes Boss, Daniel moved swiftly to write. I would like that very much.

He sat on the park bench a while longer, just smiling off absently into nowhere and probably getting a few strange looks for his trouble, being as he was the strange guy in the middle of town who was smiling at nothing and for no good reason.

Daniel didn’t even care. Life was good to him right now.

I do not think you are wasting my time, Daniel, and thank you for taking the time to confirm it is not your intension to do so.
There are a number of reasons we have not ‘f*cked’ as you so elegantly put it.
But I also take your attempt at clearing things up there.
How does my tendency towards controlling, possessive behaviour make you feel, Daniel?
Armand.

As usual with Armand’s longer messages, it took longer for this one to came through.

How did it make him feel. Daniel tugged uselessly at the neck of his shirt. Like he shouldn’t be writing a reply to Armand on this park bench, that’s how it made Daniel feel. He cleared his throat, the idea of people looking at him while he sat exposed on this park bench making his face and neck hot.

It makes me feel like I’m glad we’re doing this negotiating thing slowly, Boss.
Because if we weren’t, I think I’d be getting myself in trouble a lot more often.

Daniel realised, only belatedly, that he’d never replied to Lestat’s message. And that, given the arrogance on that man, it could possibly become a problem for him if there ended up being too long a space of time in between when he’d replied to Louis and then Lestat.

Seems my phone decided to go and blow up last night when I left my phone back up at the office. Sorry you got dragged into it, I already reassured Louis that everything’s all right and (at this point at least) there’s no reason for me to take up your discrete and willing services to talk anything over with.

Daniel smirked, and then he added,

Though I reserve the right to change my mind in the future. Discretely, you understand.

Daniel was still chuckling a little to himself when Armand’s reply came in. Dear god, was this what being in a polycule was like? His phone blowing up constantly from conversations with multiple men all at the same time?

Why do you think you’d be getting into trouble more often, Daniel?
Armand.

How to answer that, Daniel wondered, pausing briefly before beginning to type.

Boss… you gotta know it makes me *want* more than I can remember wanting anything before.
But a pretty wise guy said to me that *want* isn’t all M/s is.
So I’m trying to respect that, keep it in mind, you know?
Seems like a good first step to staying out of trouble.
Daniel

What the hell, Daniel thought, sending it. He figured that the vulnerability and honesty Armand had shared first deserved the same in kind.

Lestat’s reply had come in while Daniel was still replying to Armand.

I am the very dictionary definition for the word ‘discrete’. I am glad, however, there are no current reasons for my generous services. Will we be seeing you at dinner again tomorrow?

Well, Lestat had asked him a very good question. Armand hadn’t actually invited him again. It wasn’t exactly like Daniel could assume the invitation was there just because he’d rocked up one time.

We’ll see, was all he had time to type, though not send, before he saw messages from Louis’ come in, followed by Armand’s.

haha no worries, it happens to the best of us. just glad to know nothin was wrong.

Then,

at least you didn’t have to go the whole weekend without your phone.

Small mercies indeed.

A very good answer, Daniel. I am well pleased, once again.
As it is Sunday tomorrow, we will again have our family dinner, Louis, Lestat and I.
It is late notice again, but perhaps you will forgive that given I had mentioned this also last weekend.
We would be overjoyed were you to join us in the same restaurant, at the same time, again.
Armand.

Daniel smirked. Was he meant to guess from that ‘we’ that Armand and Lestat were messaging each other at the same time? Armand and Louis? It was pretty clear all four of them were on their phones right now. The question of that even being in his mind was enough for Daniel to decide that Lestat was likely full of sh*t when he said he could be discrete, where Armand was concerned at least.

If he doubted it, he had only to remember the apparent rivalry between Lestat and Armand that Louis had so helpfully mentioned. It would be good for Daniel to remember that.

He really needed to go out to drinks with Louis again some time soon. But, in the meantime, another family dinner made his cheeks start to hurt with grinning. He supposed, if it was at the same restaurant at the same time, there had been no concessions for his convenience made after all. It just happened that Daniel was incredibly lucky he just happened to be living in the exact right place in the exact right time that he seemed able to fit so seamlessly in with the rest of these guys.

At the end, before Daniel jumped into his truck and finally headed back to his place, he saved Lestat’s phone number into his cell. He had a feeling it might be useful to have that number on hand as much as anyone else’s in the coming weeks.

Daniel hoped so, at least.

Notes:

Phew! I've spent the chapters till now trying to create distinctive differences between texting styles of our main four characters, and now I guess here is the trial by fire where I find out whether it's worked out or not.

😬

Chapter 10

Chapter Text

Daniel couldn’t quite get over how different it felt pulling into this same carpark one week on. How much more confident, certain he felt.

Armand hadn’t told him what clothing to wear this time. He’d gone with the grey version of the button up Armand suggested for him the week prior, but it didn’t fill him with the exact same feeling of awareness with every move and shift of the fabric against his skin.

Didn’t matter. He had a bunch of other stuff in his arsenal that hadn’t been there a week ago.

Like the permission he had been granted to call Armand ‘Boss’ in all their interactions from now on. That meant in front of Armand’s chosen family, the rest of his polycule.

If that wasn’t enough on its own, he knew he was permitted to embrace Armand just as did Louis and Lestat on arrival tonight.

Obviously he had also kept his phone on him at all times since that protocol had been set the day before. It hadn’t been out of the same room as him at any time. Daniel thrilled at just knowing how that would please Armand as soon as he asked.

There had been no pretention of briefs put into his glove box tonight – although, on getting on the road to come here tonight, Daniel realised that he had never taken out the ones from the weekend before. It didn’t matter, though. Daniel had his head on right now. He didn’t assume he would be going back to Armand’s place after dinner tonight, because Armand would tell him where he wanted him to be, and he had not told Daniel that.

It became a lot easier all of a sudden, just being able to accept that if he needed to know something, Armand would tell it to him. Daniel could already see it saving him a bunch of time guessing and wondering and looking around for clues.

Even if looking around for clues was pretty much in his job description. It didn’t need to be there anymore in his personal life.

While this upscale restaurant still wasn’t the kind Daniel would have frequented if left to his own devices, he definitely did feel more comfortable stepping inside its doors this second time around.

Without sitting in the cab of his truck until Louis came to knock on the window, and after leaving his house at the same time, Daniel had hoped to arrive at the same time as, or earlier than, Armand did.

Being as he’d been the first to arrive last week.

Daniel wanted that moment where it was just the two of them, one on one, before the others arrived.

“Party of four, under Armand,” Daniel said, just offering up the same information Louis had spoken the weekend before. Then he added, “Is anyone else here yet?”

“You’re the first of your party to arrive,” the waitress said with a smile. “I can seat you now if you’d like?”

“Ahh, no. I think I’ll wait in here for a moment,” Daniel said. There were chairs and small tables in the reception area, and a few people he could see who had ordered drinks while waiting for the rest of the party.

The waitress nodded to him before turning towards the next person to arrive.

“Daniel. What a lovely surprise.”

Daniel recognised Armand’s voice from the sound of the first soft syllable of his name. He turned around to face Armand with an eager smile already relaxing into his features.

“Hey Boss,” Daniel said. He wouldn’t have thought it had only been half a week since he last saw him from the way his body already leaned towards Armand. “May I hug you?”

“Please do,” Armand answered, and Daniel stepped into Armand’s arms, feeling the heavy weight of them settle around his shoulders.

He could have stayed there far longer than a quick greeting embrace allowed for.

Pulling back, he shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged as he prepared his explanation for what he was already doing here standing in the reception area, fifteen minutes before 6pm.

“I figured, since you were early last week, you might want someone to keep you company this week.”

Armand inclined his head. “How very considerate for you to think about.” He gazed at Daniel a long moment, before turning his attention to the same waitress who had already offered to seat Daniel on his own.

“Would you like to wait for the rest of your party?” she asked him now.

Daniel turned to look at Armand, not wanting to answer for him now that he was here.

“You may seat us now,” Armand said to her, and the two of them were led back to the same table they had sat at in the alcove below the same intricate lights, by the window.

There Daniel realised that he didn’t have the same ease of picking where to sit based on elimination of what Louis and Lestat got to first.

“Boss?” he said, trying out the word in a public space for the very first time.

Armand’s head snapped up to give him attention immediately.

“Uh,” Daniel gestured to the back of the three chairs that were not the same one Armand had chosen with his back to the wall the previous weekend. “Do you have a preference of where you want me to sit?”

“Did you have any problems with where you were sitting last week?” Armand asked, instead of answering.

Daniel thought about it. “Not especially,” he shrugged. It had been relatively easy sitting between Louis and Lestat, in comparison to what he’d imagined it would be like sitting between Louis and Armand.

“You may sit there again,” Armand said after a moment, before pulling out his own chair. “I may decide at a later time I wish to have you sit by my side.”

Was that what he was supposed to have asked for tonight?

No, he told himself forcefully. This was a relationship where Armand would tell him where he wanted him to be, and Daniel did not need to spend any time guessing.

“As you wish, Boss,” Daniel forced himself to say with easy lightness, before pulling out his own chair.

“So,” Armand opened. “A very interesting week, has it not been?”

“It has, Boss,” Daniel said with a smile, even as he fussed with his napkin over his lap. No idea why he did that. He was gonna be standing up again soon, as soon as Louis and Lestat got here.

“And you are… happy with the way we have been negotiating so far?” Armand asked.

Daniel looked up, meeting Armand’s eyes again. He didn’t understand where the question was coming from for a minute, before he remembered part of Armand’s missed messages from the day before.

I disappeared into my own head, and then into work, too busy wondering whether what I offer is something that’s actually good for you.

“Ah, Boss, this isn’t bad for me. In any way. I promise.” He reached his hand across the table, hoping against hope that Armand would reach back. “Do you believe me?”

Armand reached back. “I believe you, Daniel. Thank you.”

Louis and Lestat arrived.

Daniel shoved his napkin haphazard onto the linen covered table. Like last time, Louis went up to Armand first, even though Daniel was the one sitting closer to him. But that was what Armand had said to him the day before, hadn’t he? That Louis gave him a few outlets where Armand could be more controlling, even if it wasn’t as much as what Daniel and Armand were talking about.

If hugging him first when Louis arrived somewhere was what was agreed between the two of them, and Lestat didn't kick up a fuss, who was Daniel to mind?

He hugged Louis as well this week. If Louis was surprised by Daniel's open affection in mixed company, he didn’t show it. The ice had already been broken for Daniel when he embraced Armand, so what was another now?

What did take him by surprise was when Lestat then reached for him and pulled him into an almost violent hug of his own.

Daniel was half at a loss as he almost lost his balance and then patted Lestat mildly on the back, once and then again before pulling himself away.

“Remember, Lestat, you need to allow the person to breathe when you hug them,” Armand called from where he stood by Louis.

“Really?” Lestat lifted one blond eyebrow in open challenge. “That’s not how I hear you do it.”

Armand refused to rise to the bait, settling himself back down in his chair across from Daniel. “I assure you, you’ve heard nothing at all about how I do it.”

Au contraire,” Lestat murmured. “Louis’ experiences have been very illuminating.”

Daniel’s head turned across to Louis—like he was watching the most interesting tennis game in history—just in time to see Louis shake his the back of his head just once at Armand. A contented smirk swept over Armand’s features as he saw it.

“No,” Armand answered, with significant satisfaction. “They have not.”

Merde,” Lestat muttered to himself, though he didn’t try to argue the point with Armand any further. “One day, Armand. One day I will see what is behind the door of that playroom of yours.”

“You have been invited to many parties now, Lestat,” Armand said, as mild as Lestat was incensed. “You could have walked into ‘that playroom’ at any time.”

Daniel really had to get himself an invitation to one of these parties. If he was lucky, he might manage to be top of the guest list next time Armand took it into his mind to throw another one.

Unaware of the direction of Daniel’s thoughts, Lestat only narrowed his eyes. “I have,” he told him with a sniff. “But I’m afraid even a playroom as decadent as that is just like any other room, without the attention of its primary architect.”

Armand steepled his fingers on the table. His gaze flashed for a moment towards Daniel, almost seeming to ask his permission to continue the conversation in this vein.

Daniel was riveted. He would have been ashamed if Armand had been forced to stop because of him. The nod he gave was very similar to, and quick as, Louis’ from before.

With that understood between the two of them, Armand’s eyes bored down Lestat, who also showed no signs of backing down.

“If that is the case,” Armand started slowly, delicately.

Even Daniel already knew that this tone of voice was a warning unto itself. Surely Lestat knew it too!

“I have several evenings open this week where my… attention will not already be taken up.” Before Lestat could sputter out a proper answer, Armand’s attention flickered again back to Daniel. “Wednesday is already given as yours, Daniel. If you want it.”

“Yeah, Boss. I want it,” Daniel said quickly, without thinking.

He noticed Louis’ brows raise a bit at this but, once he swallowed, all he said out loud was, “Oh boy.”

Daniel gave him a quizzical look, but it seemed as though this particular outburst was already reserved for Lestat as well.

Mon dieu! What is this? Boss? Boss? Boss of who, I wonder? I hope this already does not go to your head, Armand.

Armand just took a sip of his water and looked away from both Louis and Lestat. Perhaps it was his intent to disguise the incredibly smug expression he wore as he brought the glass to his lips. While he didn’t engage with a single word spoken by Lestat, he still looked very pleased with himself by the time his dancing eyes found Daniel’s across the table.

Daniel felt a faint flush touching his cheekbones before his lip quirked up to the side, like he'd been invited in on a very exclusive joke by Armand.

Garçon?” Lestat had half turned his torso away from the rest of the table, lifting his hand to signal a waiter over to them. “I am going to need another knife. Quickly, now.” He turned back to the table. “So, Daniel. What were you doing here so early this week?”

“Early?” Daniel asked, as though he didn’t know what Lestat was talking about. Lestat wasn’t buying it. Daniel could immediately tell from the way his stare didn’t lessen in the slightest. So he shrugged, attempting a self deprecating air next. “It’s not early. I just didn’t sit inside my truck for ten minutes this time around.”

“Why were you sitting in your car for ten minutes last weekend, Daniel?” Louis asked, openly mocking.

“Quiet, Louis,” Daniel said comfortably enough. “Or I’ll start on the dick jokes again.”

“You couldn’t,” Louis said, sounding scandalised. “This is a classy place!”

Lestat’s hand slammed down on the table, causing Daniel to jump, though he noticed the other two remained composed.

“Next weekend,” Lestat told Armand, his eyes boring into Armand’s despite having cut directly over Louis and Daniel’s banter. “Saturday night. What are you doing then?”

Armand blinked slowly to Lestat. The way he made Lestat wait made it very clear that he thought Lestat’s interruption rude.

Then, all of a sudden, his expression brightened as he turned his gaze onto both Daniel and Louis.

“It seems we are all having ourselves a Night Island party this coming Saturday night.”

“Can I walk you to your car, Boss?” Daniel asked, proud of himself for not just remembering the words he wished he’d said to Armand at the close of the previous weekend, but managing to utter them now with the appropriate amount of deference.

The smile Armand graced him with made it immediately worth it.

“You may, Daniel,” he said, and then Daniel was lifting his hand in a quick wave to Louis and Lestat. Louis responded in the same manner, before tugging on Lestat’s arm to encourage him to turn around and go back with him to their own car.

Daniel had been going to leave it alone, but he found that curiosity pushed him too much for him to be able to keep silent.

“What was with Lestat tonight?” Daniel asked.

“Hm?” Armand asked, as though he had not noticed that Lestat seemed… was it jealous of Daniel tonight?

That couldn’t be right.

“It was like he wanted all your attention,” Daniel asked, as neither one of them hurried back to Armand’s car. “He wasn’t like that last weekend, I don’t think.”

To that, Armand gave a little secretive smile, as though in answer. “He wasn’t, was he?”

All right, if Armand was gonna be coy, Daniel just had to ask the question. “He isn’t jealous, is he?”

“Daniel.” Armand turned to give him his full attention. That full attention that required Daniel to take a quick, steadying breath. “You do not need to worry about your place in my world, if that is what you are questioning. It is quite secure.”

Daniel’s heart fluttered just a little bit at that confirmation. But he was also an adult, and knew better than to think that, just because that was Armand’s stance, everyone else was on the exact same page.

“I don’t wanna cause any problems, though,” he said. “Like, if you and Lestat have things you need to work through…”

He stopped talking when Armand reached out to take both of his hands. “Lestat and I have had a decade to work through any and all such things. And we will continue to do so. But right now, this time, it is for you and me. Do you understand?”

Between the physical contact and Armand’s gaze really not letting him shrink away, Daniel didn’t think he had any chance but to understand it.

“Yeah Boss,” he said, his voice sounding husky to his own ears.

And then Armand did something that was quite surprising and unexpected. After another moment of holding Daniel’s gaze, he leaned forward, one hand grabbing the dark curls at the back of Daniel’s head, and kissed him.

Armand kissed Daniel as though it had been all he could do to keep himself from doing so all through dinner, but now that restraint had worn out. That was okay, because Daniel felt as though he'd been waiting for Armand to touch him like this his whole damn life, and he was only waking up to realising it now. Hard and thorough, open mouthed and tongue invading Daniel’s mouth, that was the way Armand kissed. Daniel had the absolutely opposite experience of having everything in his mind go quiet.

Instead, it felt like everything ramped up to eleven, everything in his mind was screaming at him that this was happening—this was happening!!—and Daniel was left clawing at Armand blindly with his hands, gripping to Armand to try to keep him close. Their teeth clicked together and Daniel didn’t care. He pressed himself even closer to Armand, as close as Armand and physics would allow, no matter that Armand was only holding Daniel’s head immobile.

He had no ability to think about the fact that they were in an open, reasonably well lit, carpark. He had no ability to think beyond the thrill of the pain of his hair being pulled just above the nape of his neck. That there was something hard and firm and Armand pressing against him.

Anyone could have walked by at any time. This was a classy place, Louis had said. But Daniel couldn't care about any of it. Not while he was touching Armand. Not while Armand was holding him.

They were both breathing heavily by the time Armand let him go. Too soon in Daniel’s opinion.

“I very much hope you will be available next Saturday night,” he said, in the moment his forehead still pressed against Daniel’s, before he pushed himself a half step back.

“I think… I can move some things around,” Daniel quipped.

Armand eyed him. “You are… joking.”

“I’m joking,” Daniel confirmed for him. “I have some questions, though.”

“Ask them,” Armand told him.

“I guess… I mean, this is gonna be a play party, obviously. Between you and Lestat.”

Armand gave a little huff of laughter under his breath. “As to that, we will see,” he explained. “This is hardly the first time Lestat has demanded such advances from me.”

“It’s not?” Daniel’s eyebrows were raised in shock. “Then how come…?”

“How come it is not a triad between Louis, Lestat and I?” Armand asked. Pretty much exactly what Daniel had been thinking of a way to ask. “Lestat and I would kill each other in a matter of hours, if Louis did not do the deed for us. I chased him for a time, shortly after we met. I did not know then how ill suited we were. He liked the attention of my interest, even though he never did return it. And now, every so often, Lestat gets it into his head that he must know such a thing could still come to pass if he wanted it.”

“And you…?” Daniel asked. He couldn’t imagine Armand putting up with such behaviour if he didn’t get anything out if it.

Armand’s lips twisted in a dark sort of amusem*nt. “If I ever do get him up on a St Andrews Cross,” he said, “I will very much enjoy beating the sh*t out of him.”

Ah.

Well that was incredibly distracting imagery. And—no matter where Daniel looked in the carpark—he couldn’t quite manage to get the images out of his mind. Heck, he hadn’t even been in front of the St Andrews Cross in Armand’s dungeon. His imagination was filling it out for him anyway.

“Okay then,” Daniel said eventually. “What role would you like me to take on for the night?”

Armand looked him up and down, considering him closely, no hint of that dark humour in his gaze anymore now that he was thinking about Daniel, not Lestat.

“You will attend me,” Armand told him, in the same low, level tones of their other negotiations. “If play does occur, I may lay out toys and ask you to hand them to me, or take them from me, as required. Should you arrive early like you did tonight, I will show you where the drinks and cups are kept. Perhaps I shall even set up a drinks trolley, and you will be expected to keep my cup filled for the entire night. Does any of this appeal to you, Daniel?”

That was when Daniel realised that they hadn’t had any time yet to talk about the other thoughts Daniel had had for protocols and rules within their dynamic. The thoughts he’d had that ran directly counter to the reactions he’d had sitting at Armand’s feet only half a week before. Wednesday, he promised himself. There would be plenty of time for them to continue the discussions of last Wednesday this coming Wednesday with Daniel’s brand new invitation to Armand’s place.

“It all sounds good, Boss,” Daniel croaked out, and was rewarded by seeing the brief doubt that had clouded Armand’s eyes lifting. “But it won’t upset Louis if he’s not the one doing any of this stuff for you?” He just had to make sure. After Lestat’s unexpected responses tonight, Daniel had to make sure all was gonna be right with Louis.

“I expect,” Armand said to Daniel, bringing up his hand and caressing along the line of Daniel’s jaw as though it was the only thing that currently held his attention. “That Louis will have his hands full attending to Lestat.”

The thing Daniel didn't know, couldn't have known, and certainly didn't find out until a couple of days later when he and Louis next caught up for drinks, was the reason behind Lestat's odd behaviour.

"Armand was worried when you didn't answer any of our messages Friday night. Not worried about your wellbeing. Just..." Louis shook his head, still nursing a cider as he tended to do. "Lestat was ribbing him about it to begin with but, after a while, it wasn't that funny. I told Lestat to leave it alone, but I think he would have anyway."

"Okay..." Daniel said. He'd apologised to all of them already for leaving his phone behind at work, so he didn't exactly feel bad about it again in the bar with Louis. More confused.

Louis shrugged and sat back as though this wasn't such a big deal. "Lestat was comforting Armand, which doesn't happen a whole lot, as you might have already guessed. Armand was accepting the comfort, if the number of times I heard Lestat's phone go off that night was any indication. Which... is even more rare." Louis inclined his head towards Daniel. "And then you recovered your cell. Messaged us all. Lestat last, I'm guessing."

"Well yeah, but..." Daniel started.

Louis put his hand up to forestall what Daniel had been about to say. "No shade. None. Just, see it from Lestat's point of view. He was the last to find out everything's okay between you and Armand. And then, I think Armand messaged him maybe one time between then and dinner on Sunday night."

Chapter 11

Notes:

Content note: It's time for this fic to start earning its Explicit rating.

Chapter Text

There were no distractions for Daniel when Armand led him into the lounge room this time. He already knew the books were there, the fireplace between them. He wasn’t here to visit with the books. He was here to be present with Armand.

Like the first time, there was space left on the couch beside Armand. And there was a suede ottoman by Armand’s feet.

Also like the first time Daniel had been here, Daniel chose to position himself on the ottoman beside Armand’s feet.

“My good boy,” Armand murmured, and a part of Daniel immediately felt self conscious at just how good an almost 40 year old man felt at hearing those words directed to him.

Daniel shoved those feeling away. He didn’t wanna think like that right now.

“Thanks Boss,” he said. “Am I allowed to talk freely tonight, Boss?”

“Yes, Daniel. I would prefer that. There’s still much for me to learn about you.”

“And me about you, Boss.” Daniel made sure he was looking up into Armand’s eyes when he said that. He was gratified with a faint crinkling around the eyes as Armand looked down at him.

“It will be a mutual learning,” Armand said indulgently.

It had felt like a long first half of the week, with Daniel doing his very best each day to maintain his healthiest work ethic, writing something every day at whatever time, just so long as he was doing some work and could therefore prove to both he and Armand that none of this was bad for him.

“I’ve been thinking a lot this last week,” Daniel said, speaking freely as he’d been told to do. “I didn’t have a great reaction to what you said here last week. You don’t need to say it.”

Armand’s lip quirked at that. “Very well, Daniel. I shall not.”

Daniel nodded. “But it got me thinking, like I said. I haven’t been very good at domestic stuff, laundry, groceries, hell, even a decent sleep schedule. It was hell a couple of years ago when I realised if I tried to keep pulling all nighters, I’d be paying for it the next day.”

He ran a hand through his hair. It made him uncomfortable talking about stuff like this, but he thought it was important too. That alone made him persevere.

“So I was thinking.” Daniel blanched. That was the third time he’d mentioned he’d been thinking.

“Take your time, Daniel,” Armand offered, seeming to notice he was growing flustered, and reaching out to more gently stroke Daniel’s hair than the more savage pull Daniel had committed against it.

“Yeah.” Daniel took in a breath, then another one. Tried to let himself go back to being soothed by Armand like he had felt only a few minutes before. When he’d just been Armand’s good boy, before he’d opened his big stupid mouth. “You asked me last week… you talked about M/s existing in more places than the bedroom.”

“I did,” Armand said, his hand still stroking soothingly in Daniel’s curls.

And Daniel felt just that little bit more like Armand’s good boy again. A little less flustered, a little more able to find his words. And then he said, “I’ve had some time to think on that… now…” and proved he was still more flustered than he’d thought because apparently his thinking needed mentioning a fourth time. He ploughed on, almost defiant against himself. “I have some ideas now, on what that could look like? For me?”

“I would be very interested in hearing those ideas, Daniel,” Armand said. If he had any less than favourable thoughts to do with Daniel’s stumbling over his words, it was not evident.

“Okay.” Daniel took a deep breath. Tried to find that sense of calm from that place far within him that he’d first found in the middle of the night. It helped, actually, for him to close his eyes and just lean into Armand’s touch while he spoke. “I’ve never been much good at keeping any sort of sleep hygiene. It’s only one of the ways I could better look after myself, honestly. But, if I was yours? Maybe that would give me incentive to take better care of myself. I bet I could think of a whole bunch of things I could do in protocols for you when we’re not here together.”

“All of this is very good, Daniel.”

Armand’s hand disappeared from his hair as he stood up. Daniel opened his eyes and watched as he crossed the room to a desk by the far window that Daniel hadn’t honestly paid much attention to. He took from the desk a single printed sheet of paper, and brought it back to where Daniel was sitting.

“I want to ask you if you would like me to put in place a sleeping protocol for you, to help manage good sleep hygiene. But I would also like to ensure that we both have a list of the current working protocols we have created between us. It is wise to start this early on, so they don’t get forgotten, or confused.”

“Done this a lot, have you, Boss?” Daniel couldn’t help but quip, attempting to defuse or just push aside any nervousness with the joke.

Armand’s only response was to reach past Daniel’s shoulder to a spot on the page he had just handed Daniel. “You will see there I have already listed my preference that you do not jest to belittle our relationship or shield your feelings. Not where I am concerned. I believe you agreed to that while you were here last week.”

“I… did,” he said, remembering it only when Armand reminded him. It had gone from his mind before then. He skimmed the rest of the items on there, all of which he remembered: calling Armand ‘Boss’, being allowed and encouraged to seek physical contact.

None of the stuff Armand had mentioned about laundry or the rest was on there.

Daniel frowned, before looking up at Armand. “You… you didn’t put anything about laundry? Cleaning or tidying, and stuff?”

“You did not agree to any of that, Daniel.”

“Yeah, but…” I thought you wanted it, seemed like a really weird way to end that sentence. Because Armand was right. Daniel hadn’t agreed. And that was the very point of their negotiating.

When Daniel didn’t say anything more, Armand turned his attention back to the paper. “Would you like to write down an appropriate sleep schedule is to be negotiated?”

Yeah he did. He’d been thinking about it all week. And the idea that it was this easy to have Armand agree to it, pending negotiation on how it would look…

It put Daniel to shame, if he was being honest.

“Armand,” he said, before he’d written more than the first word.

“Mm?”

“I wanna ask… is the option of… helping out that lady who does your laundry… of maybe trying to start learning how to do those services for you… Is that still on the table?”

“It is, Daniel.” It was impossible to tell what Armand was thinking or feeling from his tone. He was completely closed to Daniel, keeping to himself all of his thoughts on the topic for now.

“Would you mind, then, if I also put on here a load of laundry each week? Maybe… it could happen while I’m here on the Wednesdays… if you keep wanting to have me over that often?”

“I would have you here much more often than that,” Armand murmured, his words warming more with each word he spoke, and Daniel couldn’t help but wonder how often Armand would have him over here in his home already. “But, to start, a service of that sort each Wednesday night would be delightful, Daniel.”

“Thank you, Boss,” Daniel said, ducking his head before writing both the sleep protocol and the laundry one down in writing he slowed down to make as neat and readable as possible.

“It occurs to me,” Armand said with equanimity, after Daniel put down the pen with a soft, satisfied sound. “That I have not asked for relevant information regarding your sexual habits.”

Daniel stared at Armand. They were… they were finally gonna talk about this, were they?

“You haven’t asked,” Daniel said. Just like that, his throat was as husky as it had ever been, all thoughts of the pen and the new protocols he'd just written out long gone.

Armand inclined his head. “I have not. What have you been doing in that area, Daniel? Since we started talking like this?”

“I…” Daniel’s mouth was dry. After all this lead up, all this build up, Daniel could hardly manage to push words out for the thickness in his throat. “I haven’t… touched myself… since our phone call Sunday night a week ago.”

Armand hummed, a low, seemingly sympathetic sound in the back of his throat. “Is that a long time for you, beautiful boy?” he asked, slipping his fingers through Daniel’s hair.

Daniel almost moaned out loud because, yes, that was a long time, dammit. And after the kiss in the carpark that had almost set him on fire on Sunday night, Daniel was steadily heading towards desperate. Now that they were acknowledging it—even if in a slightly teasing manner—rather than quietly negotiating, Daniel could suddenly focus on nothing else.

“Yes,” he whispered, when he was sure he could utter the single word without his voice breaking.

“You are a very good boy, then,” Armand observed. “I did not even have to ask you to withhold from yourself. Did you do it to please me?”

“I did.” Again, that shaky whisper that hardly sounded to Daniel like himself.

Armand gave another short hum, before his hand withdrew from Daniel’s curls.

“Unbutton your pants.”

Daniel hadn’t given any thought to the slacks he’d come over in, beyond that they were nice, because Armand seemed to like to see him dressed up nice. He didn’t give any thought to them at all as his right hand deftly undid his belt and then the button fastening.

His eyes couldn’t move away from Armand, who held him perfectly in place just like he had on Sunday night, only now it was without touching him at all. Only looking at him, and Daniel was frozen. He didn’t dare do anything more than Armand had told him without permission first.

“Lower your briefs,” Armand said, after making Daniel wait in a frozen silence for a minute, two; forever.

Daniel did so, needing to keep a hand in place there so the elastic didn’t spring back up. He knew the sight that was before Armand now; dark curls with the beginning of grey shot through them, barely hiding a thick, hard and leaking tip of a co*ck pointed upward towards Daniel’s navel.

Armand’s quick eyes noticed the problem before Daniel without hesitation. “Push both of them down over your thighs,” Armand said, and even his voice seemed more husky than it had sounded only moments before.

“Yes Boss.” Maybe it was a little weird that Daniel felt that little bit more confident at hearing Armand become slightly more unsteady. Either way, he was quick to do what he’d been told.

His pants and briefs were almost pushed down to his knees when Daniel sat back down on the ottoman. The rest of him was fully clothed. All of Armand was still fully clothed.

“Do you want me to undress you too, Boss?” Daniel asked, shifting on the suede that felt like an entirely different texture now it was against his bared skin.

“No,” Armand said shortly. “Touch yourself.”

“Boss?”

“I want you to put on a show for me,” Armand told him, enunciating each word very clearly. “Are you going to argue?”

“No Boss,” Daniel said quickly.

“Good,” Armand said, drawing the word out as the tips of Daniel’s fingers curled around himself, and he began the slow up down motion of jerking off.

It didn’t remain slow for very long. A week and a half was a horridly long time to go without. And yet, the pleasure now of doing it, in front of Armand’s eager eyes on him… Daniel was glad he hadn’t come, like, that morning or something. Glad that this was something that had pressure and yearning behind it.

“Close—” Daniel gasped out, before very long at all.

“Slow down,” Armand ordered, his eyes never moving from Daniel's dick, and there wasn’t any softness to that tone at all.

At the same time as Daniel’s dick jumped and threatened to overtake Armand’s command, Daniel’s loosened his fist and immediately slowed down. He was whimpering already, a stark sound in the otherwise quiet of Armand's house.

“Armand, please,” Daniel bit out, forgetting himself in the moment before hastily correcting himself. “Boss, I need…”

All right, now he was begging.

Just add that to the list of things Armand so easily caused him to do.

While he was at it, Daniel figured he may as well fully commit. “Won’t you let me suck you, Boss? Please? I’m a really good co*ck sucker, I promise.”

“I know you are,” Armand told him, unforgiving of Daniel’s begging. “But you will not be practicing those skills with me until you are mine.”

“Until…?” Daniel gasped out. He felt like his face must be going already the red hot colour of the end of his dick. He had to take a lot of care not to clench his hand around his co*ck, had to really try not to speed up when it came to jerking.

“Until you are mine, sweet thing,” Armand said again, gently, almost kindly as he leaned forward until Daniel could feel the hot breath of Armand’s words on his face when he spoke. “Until there's a collar locked around your neck that tells anyone who looks: I own you.”

“Oh god,” Daniel gasped out, nearly coming over his hand and all over himself right then and there and needing to really lighten his own hold on himself. To slow right the f*ck down.

Close as he was, it was nothing for Armand to reach out and curve his long, brown fingers around Daniel's pale ones. Did he feel it when that contact—not even touching his damn co*ck, for Christ's sake—made Daniel's whole body shake. Not like he was about to come, but like something else was responding to Armand's hand touching him, like Armand touching him at all, anywhere, registered as incredibly intimate.

Daniel's breath shuddered through him as Armand's hand followed Daniel's up and down over his own shaft. He couldn't see any part of it other than the head peaking out from the hole made at the top of his fist but, f*ck, the sensation of it. It didn't matter that there was a layer of his own hand and fingers between Armand and his dick. To Daniel's brain, it was almost as though Armand was touching him.

His whole body started shuddering, and this time it was with the effort of keeping his impending org*sm at bay.

Armand uncurled his hand from around Daniel's and leaned back into the couch again, looking incredibly satisfied with himself. He must have jerked off before Daniel had come over tonight. He freaking must have. There was no other way he could seem so cool and collected while Daniel was desperate and hard and just needing Armand so goddamned much.

“I need, Boss… I need…” Daniel said, panting now.

“You may come, Daniel,” Armand said, and then all that pressure, all that intensity, all of it went into what was possibly the most spectacularly explosive release of his entire adult life. Teen life too, if he was being honest because—although there had been the thrill of discovery in those years—Daniel had lacked any practical experience to lead to something as devout and profound as what he experienced sitting on an ottoman swivelled to face Armand and at his feet that night.

In the aftermath, he leaned forward, falling until his forehead rested against the couch beside where Armand was seated. Rested against the couch until Armand quietly murmured to him, and lifted his head until it was rested against Armand’s thighs.

“Can you stand?” Armand asked him quietly.

“Not yet… I don’t think,” he murmured, his mouth feeling full, swollen. Like there was no part of him that wasn’t completely expanded by the experience he'd just had.

“Tell me when you can,” Armand said, gentle.

And so Daniel allowed himself to just drift. Closed his eyes and felt the room seem to move around him. Felt the steadying touch of Armand’s hand against his head, keeping him from spinning away too far. He wanted to stay in this moment forever, endorphins utterly flooding his endocrine system, leaving him feeling more calm and relaxed and less moody than he had ever before felt in his life.

Okay, so that wasn’t exactly how an endocrine system worked, but Daniel was having a stream of consciousness here, and he didn’t want to interrupt it with anything so much resembling sense.

He had himself, and he had Armand, and he had a late start at work tomorrow. And there was nothing that made so much sense to him as this moment being able to span on forever. The rest of their lives was not too far to think.

“I want to be yours,” Daniel murmured, with the broken voice of a man who had just ruined his throat through gasping, groaning and shuddering through his release.

“What was that, Daniel?”

“I wanna be yours,” Daniel said, relaxing even more into the words the second time he said them.

“You are mine, beautiful boy,” Armand said, and Daniel’s heart seemed to fly up above his head. “But,” Armand added, bringing Daniel sharply back down to the ground again. “But I don’t think tonight, just after you have org*smed, is a fantastic time to try to negotiate the specifics of that. Do you?”

Daniel had to acknowledge that, yeah, that made sense. He could hold off.

At least until tomorrow.

His body still felt heavy when he lifted it up on the couch to sit, for the first time, next to Armand. Curled underneath his arm, Daniel realised he'd never really understood before the real purpose behind aftercare. In this case, there hadn't even been any pain play. But he still could have fallen asleep there, if Armand had let him. But, of course, he did not.

"I, um, I should probably ask if there's anything you want me to know for the party on Saturday night?" Daniel said, while they were standing by the door, long after Daniel first felt safe to drive back to his place. It was a blatant stalling tactic against leaving Armand, but it was needed information too, if Armand had come to any decisions since they'd last talked about it on Sunday night.

"It will not be a party with any large amount of alcohol consumption. I do not allow people in the dungeon who have had more than one standard drink to them served."

Daniel thought back to the first time he'd met Armand, with the single beer he'd slowly been nursing. To the way that Louis similarly nursed his ciders over a similar period of time.

"Yeah," Daniel said slowly. "Because you wouldn't wanna be under the influence when you're 'beating the sh*t' out of Lestat."

Armand's eyes flashed. "Exactly."

Daniel eyed Armand. "Consensually, of course."

"Of course." Armand paused. "I hope I have shown you by now I am interested in nothing that is not absolutely consensual."

Daniel opened his mouth, then closed it again. "Yeah Boss," he said, realising as he said it how absolutely true that was. "You have."

Armand tipped his head to the side, looking at Daniel as though something new had just occurred to him. "You said you want to be mine," Armand murmured. "Do you still stand by that now the afterglow has faded?"

"Yes Boss," Daniel said quickly, nodding to further confirm.

"How would you like to wear a collar on Saturday evening? Not a permanent one, but something to help you experience for the night how it feels to belong to me."

Armand had a particular tone of voice that, when he used it, gutted every thought in Daniel's head and left him just wanting to kneel. Any iteration of the words 'belong to me' brought out that tone in Armand. But now was really not the time for Daniel to start kneeling. Not right after Armand had told him it was time to go.

Daniel swallowed. Tried to hold himself in a way that seemed deferential without him physically lowering himself. Thank god Armand was a tall man. "I would feel... really great about that. Really great."

Armand gave a brilliant smile then, his face softening and looking younger than even was usual. 32, he'd said when Daniel asked him. Daniel had guessed his age pretty much exactly accurate.

"I believe you will do well on Saturday, Daniel," Armand said, reaching a hand out to caress his jaw again, just like Sunday night. "But if you change your mind or feel uncertain, like any of it is too soon, all you need do is let me know."

But he did not move to kiss him this time. Probably Armand felt the same tension thrumming between them and knew if he kissed Daniel now, it would be very hard for either one of them to make Daniel go home tonight.

"I won't, Boss," Daniel said, so so sure of himself. "Thank you, Boss, for the opportunity."

Armand was the one to take a step back, clasped his hands in front of him, then said mild as ever, "Drive home safely, Daniel, and message me when you are there."

By the time he got home, there was a message from Armand on his cell with a photo of the protocols they had written down together, 'just for his reference'.

Chapter 12

Chapter Text

It was Saturday night. The night of the play party.

Daniel was kneeling on the floor of the lounge room within which he had spent the last two Wednesday evenings. Armand walked towards him from the desk by the window. There was an open silver collar in his hands, with a padlock hanging from one of the open ends. He lowered it to Daniel’s eye line, even though Daniel’s eyes never left Armand’s.

“Second thoughts?” he asked.

Daniel had actually thought there would be. He had thought something in his chest, or stomach, or somewhere else would, at the last minute, rebel against servitude that Armand had suggested for tonight.

"But if you change your mind or feel uncertain, like any of it is too soon, all you need do is let me know."

Those soft words spoken in Armand’s voice, evidence of the gentle care Armand had shown, and continued to show him, stayed in Daniel’s mind and gave him the strength and surety to walk through this door in his mind. To see if the fantasy stood up when faced with the reality of a night like this.

“None,” Daniel said.

One corner of Armand’s mouth quirked at this. Daniel remained kneeling with his back straight. Proud.

The silver metal collar, when Armand drew it around the back of his neck, felt like a shock of cold against Daniel’s skin before it adjusted to Daniel’s body heat. The feeling of it had the exact opposite response to the kisses Armand had savaged him with last Sunday night.

Where that had made all the noise in his head increase, this felt like it silenced everything. It made everything feel quiet and simple. Daniel had only to obey Armand tonight.

He could do that.

There was the stark click of the padlock, and Armand pressed it down against Daniel’s clavicle so he could feel the weight of it. The weight to which Daniel had agreed tonight. He heard himself releasing a sigh, as though it was the last of the tension that had been in his body.

“From this point tonight,” Armand told him in a gentle, weighty tone, “you will no longer speak freely. You answer questions and otherwise speak with only deference and in accordance to the protocols we have already agreed on. I will be your Boss, and you my boy. Do you understand?”

“Yes Boss,” Daniel said, still never looking away from Armand.

Armand’s fingers lifted from the padlock and, though it was no longer pressed into him, the unfamiliar weight of the metal against his skin—around his neck—was more than enough to keep him aware of it.

“Stand,” Armand said. And, after Daniel did so, “Strip. Down to only your trousers. Usually, I have a preference for naked house slaves, but trousers only will do for your first night.”

Daniel bobbed his head to say that he acquiesced. Then bent to take off one sock from his foot, then the other. Next he began to unbutton his shirt strangely aware that, while Armand had already seen his dick, had all but held it in his hand, he had yet to see Daniel shirtless.

“Something funny, boy?” Armand asked him, and Daniel realised he must have smirked or something at the strangeness of the order things seemed to go in this house.

“Nothing Boss,” Daniel answered smoothly. He was down to the last button now, shrugging it off his shoulders as he spoke.

Armand took from him both shirt and socks, depositing them on the couch before giving his whole attention to Daniel. To the expanse of skin that had been revealed when Daniel had taken off his shirt.

Oh, Armand had seemed to enjoy it when he made Daniel come the other night plenty, but this inspection, it seemed, was just for Armand.

Not just a visual inspection, either. Armand touched him too, trailing a single forefinger slowly down the length of Daniel’s arm, then gazing up into Daniel’s eyes as though curious to see what his reaction was to this kind of nonerogenous touch.

It wasn’t the touch itself that was setting Daniel on fire, but the way Armand looked at him while he did it. The kind of attention Armand was giving made it seem as though, with the stripping of his shirt, he had moved from person to plaything. And, that Daniel was a plaything Armand wasn’t going to waste time before playing with.

That was all very good, up till the point where Armand tweaked one of his nipples between his thumb and forefinger. Daniel jumped and immediately wanted to cover his whole chest with both arms.

“Sensitive nipples, Daniel?” Armand asked, his eyes too wide, too innocent, for Daniel to believe that snap of pain had been done at all by accident.

Thing was, Daniel didn’t mind pain. He quite liked it. He’d been spanked and flogged and caned, among other things. He knew what it was like to feel the combination of pain and pleasure together, each one of them pushing the other one further along.

But that had not been the experience he had just gotten with his tweaked nipple. It still stung a bit!

“Very Boss,” Daniel groaned.

“Poor, sweet boy. Here, let me make that better.”

And then Armand, damn him, lowered his head and took Daniel’s sore nipple into his mouth. Daniel almost moaned aloud. It was such a different sensation, all warm and wet, and even when Armand bit around the areola, Daniel didn’t yelp that time. He actually did let out a moan.

“That’s what I wanted to hear. Good boy,” Armand murmured, before beginning to flick at Daniel’s other nipple while lavishing the same one with tender administrations from his mouth.

Daniel was going wild. He hardly knew what to feel. In fact, it felt as though Armand wanted him to feel two conflicting things, both at the same time! He groaned, and he grunted, and he cried out, “Boss!” several times before Armand lifted his head to behold Daniel, whilst his thumb and forefinger still clamped down on the other nipple.

God help him, that felt delicious.

He was panting and Armand was only still holding him by his nipple, in a hold that had made him startle the first time.

And Daniel had never felt so completely owned by another human being in his life.

“What do you want to say, Daniel?” Armand asked him.

Daniel could only think of one thing to say. “Thank you, Boss.”

“You are very welcome, boy.” Slowly, he lessened the pressure of his fingers against Daniel’s nipple, and Daniel let out a shuddering breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. He blinked several times, surprised to find they were watering a little from the pain.

That had been amazing. How was the night hardly even started yet?

“Bring your clothing,” Armand said, leading him towards the door out of the lounge room. “I will show you to the room that will be yours for the night.”

Yours for the night? Daniel wanted to ask a question, like, whether it was his room to sleep in for the night, was he sleeping over here? Or did Armand only mean for his clothes to be put in there while the party went on?

In the end, he decided against asking, given he was not to speak as freely as usual tonight. And he wanted to please Armand, so much.

In any case, the answer to that question didn’t matter overly. Either Daniel would be staying or he wouldn’t. He was getting quite used to being sent home at the end of his nights here; it would simply be a bonus if he wasn’t this evening. Either way, the answer would come clear soon enough.

Daniel followed Armand through the open plan area and into the wing he had first noticed with a hallway across from the front door.

Armand opened the first door on the right and ushered Daniel in. There was a single bed in the middle of the room and not much else. It was, in a glance, incredibly clear this was not Armand’s bedroom.

“You may keep your possessions in this room,” Armand explained him when Daniel looked to him. “No one will disturb them.”

Daniel moved to bunch up his socks and then fold his shirt as neat as he could without a hanger. Only once he was done with that did he notice Armand gazing to him keenly.

“Daniel,” Armand murmured. “Kneel for me please, boy.”

Only a step into the room that apparently would be ‘his for the night’, Daniel lowered himself down to his knees. Immediately, Armand’s hands moved through his hair.

“Do you still want to be my slave for the night, Daniel?”

Armand’s voice was soft, and Daniel couldn’t hear any judgement in it. Still, he thought back to only moments ago, the utter thrall he’d been in to this man. The way he’d made Daniel’s entire body thrum with just attention to his nipples.

What could he do if he paid attention to the rest of him? Could Daniel really walk away without knowing? Just because of this reminder that things with them, and within this house, went on Armand’s time, not Daniel’s?

No.

“Yes Boss,” he answered Armand’s question. He looked directly at Armand as he said this, though he was saying it to both of them.

Armand’s eyes crinkled around the edges at the surety of Daniel’s response. “Then will you tell me what is wrong, boy?” he asked. “Do you not like that your personal items will be away safely?”

Daniel tried to figure out how to answer this question from a place of deference. “I would prefer… if they were stored safely in your bedroom.”

Armand’s lips quirked. “I will duly note that. They will, for now however, stay in here. Will that be a problem, beautiful boy?”

His hand moved from Daniel’s hair down the side of his face before he ran his thumb slowly over Daniel’s lower lip.

“No fair,” Daniel murmured, moving his lips as little as possible so as not to dislodge Armand’s thumb. “I see what you’re doing, Boss.”

“I should hope so,” Armand said. “I should think it rather obvious.”

“Boss,” Daniel started, trying to keep his tone level instead of reaching for levity, “I thought we weren’t going to jest or belittle our relationship.”

“Do I belittle our relationship with my jest, Daniel?” Armand asked this with one eyebrow lifting. “Or do I merely confirm what you have already seen?”

To that, Daniel offered only a glare.

And Armand’s answering smirk was far too pleased for this early in the evening.

Next, Armand led Daniel, barefoot and shirtless, into the kitchen.

“I told you already that there will be no more than one alcoholic beverage served per person. I will have those ready when Louis and Lestat arrive so you need not worry about that. What I do want you to remember, however, are their preferences, and my own.”

Daniel nodded, looking down to the little drinks trolley Armand had standing beside his double doored refrigerator. Damn, he actually had a drinks trolley like he’d promised. Daniel honestly didn’t know why he was surprised. This place, all the rooms he hadn’t yet seen, probably housed a multitude of items most people never thought about populating their own spaces with anymore.

“While playing, I drink nothing other than sparkling water,” Armand said. Daniel was astounded he managed to say those words with a completely straight face; it sounded that pretentious. “For Louis, co*ke is his preferred beverage. And I also have some of the lemon and lime mineral water that Lestat favours.”

co*ke, sparkling water and mineral water, all in different containers and colours.

“Yes Boss,” Daniel answered, starting to feel acutely confident about this evening.

“Very good, boy.” Armand came near to him then, and fixed him with another searing kiss. He gripped both of Daniel’s upper arms hard as he did this. Maybe it was the night ahead of them both, perhaps the fact that they were in Armand’s house and neither of them were soon to leave. Maybe it was as simple as Daniel opened his whole self up to him and let Armand take however much he wanted from him.

Daniel soon understood the reason why Armand held him so firmly, because he began to move Daniel backwards. Backwards, until Daniel’s back felt a wall behind him, and he was pressed between that and Armand’s body.

Armand hadn’t stopped kissing him. Didn’t stop pressing against him.

Daniel could feel that dark length of him that he refused to let out to play, until Armand owned Daniel, he’d said.

Maybe that would happen sooner rather than later, if this moment was any indication of Armand’s needs. Daniel could almost feel his eyes rolling back into his head at the headiness of the thought.

Owned. Owned by Armand. Here in this house with him. For Armand to do anything he liked with, at any time.

Armand’s mouth left Daniel’s and trailed down Daniel’s neck until he bit, hard, but Daniel was already awash with too much pleasure to buck against Armand for that reason, though he bucked against him for other reasons, until Armand lowered his hands to Daniel’s hips, before seeming to force himself to pull himself away.

Daniel stood, an utter f*cking mess, leaning against the wall for another couple of months. He had no idea how Armand was standing up straight so swiftly, nor how he schooled his features into something that looked almost unaffected. Daniel knew the truth of him. He had felt the truth of him.

“Will you bring it in with us?” Armand asked, his voice almost dispassionate. “The drinks trolley. I wish to show you the dungeon.”

Was that why he’d pulled himself away from Daniel like that? So they could f*ck somewhere more appropriate before Louis and Lestat arrived?

But, no. Daniel had seen already that Armand was more than capable when it came to self restraint. He had said they would not f*ck until they properly established their M/s relationship, and Daniel believed that would be the way it would go.

They walked into the dungeon on the far end of the house and Daniel felt his breath leave him as Armand opened the door in front of him and flicked on the dim lighting. He had to remember that the drinks trolley wasn’t exactly strong enough to hold him up, and to lock his legs.

Only in his wildest dreams had he imagined something like this existing in the real world.

It was fully carpeted, which was important to anyone who would be spending a fair amount of time there on their knees. And Armand had already shown he did so like it when Daniel knelt for him. The central focus of the room was a twin-sized bed with four posters around and a canopy so it could have hooks, bondage equipment and eyebolts affixed to it. Daniel wasn’t sure he recognised everything that bed would be able to facilitate, though he did recognise the sling by the head of the bed.

There was, of course, the St Andrew’s cross on the far side of the dungeon, against one wall, and on the other was what looked like a cage, with wrought iron bars wide enough to be able to see through, though not wide enough for a person to reach more than their arm through. There was a padlock holding it closed, and Daniel’s mind immediately came up with many ideas upon seeing it.

Of course, the bed wasn’t the only place where there were hooks and eyebolts. They were peppered across the ceiling and some of the walls. Daniel even thought he saw the metal of a set glinting at the floor of the foot of the bed, that were bound to tie a person securely to the floor.

Oh god, how many people had been chained to that spot, and forced to watch, though not participate, in any and all activities going on in the bed directly in front of them. Was it a punishment for the exhibitionist, or a reward for the voyeur?

Still looking around the room, on the wall beside where the door had opened, there was a both a storage cupboard and a display with as many floggers, canes, paddles and other toys as Daniel had ever seen outside of a sex shop.

“Tell me what you are thinking, boy?” Armand asked, but Daniel was sure he had to know. This place was a freaking wonderland for anyone who was anything like them.

“This is amazing, Boss,” Daniel said, and he’d never meant anything more. “This must have taken you forever to put together.”

He was still taking it all in, noticing details that had escaped him in his first look around the room. A spanking bench that was half hidden behind the cage. A small bar fridge. An old style, vintage stereo, which almost made Daniel laugh, because if he was thinking it was old, then what the hell was Armand doing with a relic such as that?

It was as he’d thought before though – this house was certainly large enough to have all kinds of furniture strewn throughout it, old and new.

“Please put the drink trolley by the refrigerator, Daniel,” Armand said, and Daniel moved to do exactly what Armand said without hesitation.

Still, despite his eagerness, Armand still watched him every inch of that time they had together before Louis and Lestat arrived, shooting glances at Daniel every now and then, as though to make certain he was still on board with all that was going on around him. That was how Armand had so quickly noticed Daniel’s change of mood when he realised the bedroom he’d been given wasn’t the same one as Armand’s, he knew.

But each time Daniel caught that particular glance from Armand, he answered with a quick smile and a bob of his head. It seemed to reassure Armand at least until the next time.

And then, Daniel heard a car pulling up in the driveway.

“Come to me, boy,” Armand murmured, bringing his attention back to him rather than outside. “By my side, and half a step behind me.”

Daniel moved to do exactly as he’d been summoned, something that would likely establish clear station between himself and Armand by Louis and Lestat the moment the two of them walked in. Louis especially, since he was already involved in a kinky relationship with Armand.

He was gratified when Armand shot him a pleased gaze. He’d done well. He knew he’d done well so far. And he would continue to do well throughout the rest of the night.

Chapter 13

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Louis and Lestat walked in, Louis letting them both inside with his own set of keys.

Lestat, it seemed, was the first one to recognise Daniel was standing there without a shirt.

“Are we late to the party?” he asked, making a show of peering at what looked like a very expensive watch on his wrist. “Non, we are exactly on time. Louis knows how you prefer that, Armand. So, why does it look as though we’ve missed out on some of the party, hm?”

Louis gave Lestat a gentle prod in the ribs as he passed him.

“Good evening, Armand,” he said to Armand, taking both of his hands in his own, then kissing him on the mouth. “Thank you for inviting us. May I?”

Those last words were accompanied with a lift of the chin in Daniel’s direction, something that was quickly followed by slow nod from Armand. The two of them knew what they were talking about, but it only occurred to Daniel a moment later when Louis stood in front of him.

“May I?” he asked again, to him this time, before opening his arms for a hug that had been natural between them for months now.

Natural between Louis and Daniel however, tonight, Louis had just showed Armand deference in asking his permission to hug Daniel in greeting, before asking Daniel himself.

As though he was owned by Armand. All because Daniel had been standing half a step behind Armand. Or, more likely, because he was shirtless and the collar Armand had placed around his neck likely stood out like bling from Elizabeth Hurley’s collection.

And that… that shocked Daniel. It hadn’t even occurred to him that such a thing might transpire, and Daniel mentally kicked himself for the oversight. Was this like the laundry again? Another thing where he simply hadn’t considered the ramifications of an M/s relationship outside of the bedroom. Laundry all over again.

He didn’t mind this one anywhere near so much, despite its surprising nature. Daniel found, by the end of it, he was smiling at the thought of anyone who wanted to engage with him socially needing to go by Armand first. There was… something about it. Maybe Armand could help articulate it with him later, like he had with the whole instinct to call Armand by something other than his given name.

It had been just two tiny movements between Louis and Armand, over in all of a second. But it stayed with him a long while after he nodded to Louis that of course they could hug, and then did the same again with Lestat a moment later.

He hadn’t been paying enough attention to Lestat and Armand’s interaction right then to see if the same permission had been sought a second time, and was sorry for it.

As promised, the drinks Armand had prepared in advance of Louis and Lestat’s arrival were sitting together on the kitchen island. Armand grabbed the first two to hand to his guests but, before Armand could return to the island, Daniel had picked up the remaining ones, offering them out to Armand.

Armand seemed pleased by this, if not surprised, as he took one glass for himself from Daniel, and extended a hand to him to let him know he was fine to keep hold of the second. Daniel found upon tasting was like a sweet though half strength Pina Colada by taste.

“Shall we to the lounge room?” Armand asked them all.

Daniel took care to stay by Armand’s side, that half a step behind him as he’d been told before. No, it wasn’t an official protocol as yet, but Armand had asked it of him tonight and that was enough to make Daniel want to continue doing it.

Armand, of course, folded himself in his usual spot on the three seater couch across from the empty fire place. He could see from the way Louis looked at the couch that it was likely he usually sat beside Armand there. And he would still be able to do so.

After three visits into this room—two of them in the last week—it already felt quite natural to Daniel to find his way to the ottoman by Armand’s feet. It didn’t even occur to him, once there, to feel self conscious for his bared feet or topless state while everyone else was still fully dressed. God, Lestat was even wearing a waistcoat under his blazer, for reasons best known only to him.

For Daniel, his state of undress as well as his position nearer the floor than anyone else, all seemed simply to speak out to his own unique place in Armand’s world.

Louis watched him nearly as closely as Armand so often did, and Daniel flashed him a quick smile as Louis lowered himself to the other side of the couch.

For all that Lestat had offered his willing discretion should Daniel ever wish to talk to him about Armand, Lestat seemed the least mindful of Daniel. His attention was only for Louis, and for Armand. Still, he seemed more calm tonight than Daniel had seen him the previous weekend. Shortly after he sat, one leg was crossed over the other gracefully on the air chair he’d chosen on Louis’ side of the couch. His arm draped between the arm chair and the couch, holding lightly to Louis’ hand. It was near to the most innocent of touches, and yet it belied the closeness between them despite their other partnerships.

The corner of Daniel’s mouth twitched. He was happy to see it. Hopefully, that ease in Lestat’s manner boded for a smoother night this evening.

“I’m just gonna go ahead and mention the elephant in the room,” Louis opened, with a short gesture with his free hand towards Daniel down on the ottoman. “I just wanna know, are Daniel and I gonna to be allowed to keep going with our catch ups after tonight? Cause you know it’s important, even for slaves, to be allowed to maintain friendships.” His gaze pinned Armand’s on the other side of the couch.

Armand’s expression was bland as he gazed over to Louis. Whether Louis’ seeming protectiveness of Daniel affected him was unclear from where Daniel was sitting.

“I have absolutely no intension of disallowing Daniel from seeing you. Quite the opposite, in fact.” This was added with a slight smile down in Daniel’s direction.

Daniel returned Armand’s indulgent smile without thinking of it. Then he glanced back across the room to find Louis’ eyebrows slightly raised, eyes looking directly at him, as if in question.

However, he didn’t actually voice any question, and Armand didn’t deign to extrapolate further. Nor did Daniel, though for different reasons. After waiting a beat, and having drunk as much as half of the Pina Colada imitation, Armand turned his attention to Lestat.

“Are you still intent on joining me in the dungeon tonight?” Armand asked silkily. It was as though the answer did not matter to Armand, while Daniel just knew from their conversations that Armand doubted whatever had driven Lestat to that dare the weekend before was unlikely to have held during the week.

Daniel, however, did not know Lestat nearly so well. And he was incredibly interested to see what he answered now. Even Louis turned to look towards his partner. He had already downed the drink he’d gathered for himself, then started at Armand’s say so, before Lestat offered his response.

“Armand,” Lestat said, his voice just as much of a purr as Armand’s. It was very clear very quickly that he was not about to back down on the gauntlet of challenge Armand had thrown his way. “I hope you did not expect me to disappoint you on that matter?”

Daniel flashed a quick look towards Louis to see how he was feeling about this development which… probably wasn’t so much a development, so much as a continuation of what had begun between them the previous Sunday night. Daniel could only guess that Lestat and Louis had talked between themselves about what was likely to happen this evening.

So it made sense that Louis’ expression remained congenial as he sipped from the drink Armand had handed him, before offering a quick wink down to Daniel.

Oh yeah, that warmed something in his chest.

“It is so hard to guess where you are concerned,” Armand murmured.

“Guess no further,” Lestat rejoined immediately. “I will be delighted to enter into your dungeon by your side.” His gaze flickered down to Daniel and, Daniel was happy to see, there was only a glint of humour behind those blue eyes. “Just do not expect for me to call you ‘Boss’.”

“No,” Armand said, sounding more serious for the first time. “There is only one person who may call me that.”

Again, Daniel felt like he was glowing. He hadn’t really been a part of the banter between the three of them tonight so far, which was a strange thing for him, who always found his way in the middle of a social gathering. And yet, he was surprised by how completely a part of the whole conversation he felt, despite his quiet at Armand’s feet.

It was interesting to have the opportunity to learn the lesson that one didn’t need to be the centre of attention to have attention in a room.

“Just so,” Lestat murmured, eying both he and Armand. He looked up a second later, to see Louis gazing his way. He had likely tightened his hold on Lestat’s hand to get his attention. The idea that soft, taciturn Louis could tame someone like Lestat with a look or a touch had Daniel’s lips quirking.

Armand’s fingers moved into Daniel’s hair, and then Daniel was struggling to think of, or appreciate, anything outside of the touch of his would-be Master for the night. It was a struggle just to keep his eyes from rolling back in his head in some sort of pseudo swoon. Had to remind himself to keep his breath steady and not to let his body run away with too much excitement, because it was Lestat that Armand’s attention was about to be on. Not Daniel.

But, damn, he was just still so worked up from earlier, before Louis and Lestat had arrived.

Armand’s hand disappeared from Daniel’s curls. His shin pressed against Daniel’s back, and that was all the indication Daniel needed in order to lean forward and make way for him.

“Well, I see no reason to delay all our gratification,” Armand said, standing above Daniel, before pausing to offer Daniel a single hand to help lift him to his feet. That was new. Normally Daniel got up on his own. Why was it different this time? Did Armand enjoy the theatricality of it?

His hand moved from Daniel’s to the small of his back and the bared skin there, causing Daniel to drag in a breath. Louis was still in the process of standing, though Lestat had already taken a couple of steps towards the door back into the open entry area.

“No reason at all,” he said, leading the way towards Armand’s dungeon.

Daniel couldn’t help a slightly disbelieving smile. Lestat was… leading Armand into his own dungeon as part of his plan to have Armand play with him.

Did Lestat know Armand at all?

Of course, Daniel knew from both Armand and Louis that he did. For quite some time, in fact. But that only deepened Daniel’s confusion over the way Lestat was handling himself. Because, after only two weeks, even Daniel was more than aware that was not the way to Armand’s interest.

At least, not the sort of interest he was paying Daniel.

Armand’s hand was still at the small of Daniel’s back. Even Louis was walking ahead, between them and Lestat now, after a quick glance and a nod from Armand.

Daniel didn’t know if Lestat was just being bratty, or whether this bravado hid a deeper wish to submit to Armand that it wasn’t as easy for him to betray after as long as they’d known each other. A decade, Armand had said.

Well, Daniel supposed he was about to find out.

By the time they all reached the dungeon, Louis was the only one still nursing his drink. Daniel was not at all surprised. Without Armand needing to ask or remind him, Daniel left Armand’s side for the drink trolley. He poured a sparkling water for Armand, pausing before automatically pouring one for Lestat. He was about to be on the cross, after all.

Armand brushed a thumb over Daniel’s cheekbone before he took the glass of water Daniel held out for him. Only after he tore his eyes away from Armand did Daniel ask Lestat, “Would you like your mineral water before play starts?”

Lestat’s gaze curved around to Armand, who was sipping his water and silently eying Lestat back over the lip of it.

“How kind of you, Daniel, to have my preferred drink on hand.” Though he said Daniel’s name, all of them there in the room were abundantly clear that Lestat was speaking to Armand of his thoughtfulness, if the direct stare he was pinning on Armand wasn’t clear enough. “Half a glass only. I wouldn’t wish to overfill my bladder before Armand has his wicked way with me.”

Armand still had plenty of sparkling water in his glass that he put on a side table against the wall when he lowered it at the same time as Daniel turned to return to the drink trolley.

“Strip,” Armand said behind him, not so different to the way he’d said to Daniel only a little over an hour before.

Daniel was too busy pouring Lestat’s mineral water to see if even this instruction generated another power play between the two men. By the time Daniel turned around again, Lestat had removed his blazer, which Louis now held in his possession. Lestat was, meanwhile, beginning to unbutton his waistcoat.

Was that, then, the reason why Lestat had worn so many layers to what he’d known was a play party? Was it in order to draw out this striptease for Armand? And Louis, Daniel supposed.

Merci, dear Daniel,” Lestat said to him when he approached, pausing in undressing in order to take the glass Daniel offered.

And then his fingers twisted the top buttons of his shirt open so that his upper chest was on display even as he lifted his head. Daniel didn’t know how he did it, but Lestat even seemed to drink in slow motion.

Was it just Daniel, or was Lestat growing more pretentious as this night went on?

The glass was empty when Lestat returned it to Daniel. Daniel did his best to keep neutral. Maybe it was that he was older than these guys, but behaviour like Lestat was displaying tonight just weren’t of any interest to him. He’d tired of such games years ago.

Again, he reminded him that his opinions didn’t matter tonight, given this was primarily an event designed for Armand and Lestat to play. Daniel took his place at Louis’ side, murmuring to him only to let him know when he wanted a glass of cola.

“I will,” Louis murmured, his eyes crinkling in a smile before his attention returned to Lestat.

Lestat who was, finally, now topless. And looking at Armand expectantly.

Armand was unphased. “Did I tell you to stop?” he asked idly.

Lestat’s jaw worked. He looked to Daniel, who knew he was still wearing pants.

“Don’t look to him,” Armand continued, this time before Lestat could utter a word. He’d obviously seen the direction of Lestat’s eye just as quickly. “I am not about to play with him. And I want complete access. Back, ass and legs.”

It occurred to Daniel that this was revelation worthy. For all the discussions and negotiations he and Armand had entered into, Armand had yet to lift any toy in play with Daniel. Daniel had no idea what Armand’s style was like, nor how sad*stic he could be physically. He honestly couldn’t wait to find out.

Daniel realised that he was already breathing heavily just from watching, and was glad for the low music Armand had left playing in this room to mask the sound of it. Armand and Lestat hadn’t even started yet.

Finally, Lestat bent to begin to take off his pants. This was a far shorter strip tease, given there were only those slacks and his under things – socks and briefs. As soon as he was completely bare, Daniel realised he’d been looking towards the fly of Lestat’s pants, where the other man’s hands had been. Without cover of the fabric, Daniel was abruptly looking at something else when Lestat stood straight again. He didn’t wanna ogle. But, also, damn Lestat was fit and trim.

Maybe this was the reason why both Louis and Armand put up with his bratty behaviour.

As though he wasn’t naked, Lestat lifted one eyebrow imperiously at Armand.

“I trust this suits you?” he said, daringly.

Armand’s lips twisted. “It does.”

“Well then. There is only one thing left to do.” And he turned on his heel, revealing that his ass was just as tight as Daniel had expected given his front.

Lestat draped himself up against the St Andrews cross with the dramatic flair of Spike draping him across a different sort of cross in the last season of Buffy.

Daniel had to subtly look away to keep himself from laughing. As his eyes touched on Armand, he saw that none of this was working any better for him,

“Lestat,” Armand said. But Lestat didn’t move.

Mon cher,” Louis interjected, and at least Lestat moved his head to that, looking to the side to where Louis was now standing. He held a hand out to Lestat. “Come on.”

Lestat huffed, removing himself from the cross. “Well, if you didn’t want to do it—!” Lestat started, glaring across at Armand.

Cher, look, look at me,” Louis said, bringing Lestat’s attention back to him, at least for a little while. “Will you let me show you how Armand prefers things?”

Suddenly, Daniel was incredibly interested in whatever it was that Louis was about to show them all. His back went ramrod straight, and it was all he could do not to call out eagerly before Lestat had his chance to reply.

“If you wish,” Lestat told him, with a sour roll of his eyes. Once again, he didn't seem at all self conscious by his nude state as he stood there petulantly.

Louis nodded to Lestat once, then turned around to face Armand. He took one step towards him then, with the other step, he turned it to a kneel in front of Armand, with both of his arms raised.

Daniel watched even as Armand’s eyes softened, looking as they did on Louis.

“Sir, I offer myself as yours to do with as you please,” he murmured, and Armand smiled.

Daniel already knew exactly what that smile and the attention from Armand did to his insides. It was muted as he watched that attention go to Louis, but he couldn’t quite feel jealousy over it either.

The tableaux Louis created was just too beautiful. Something for Daniel to aspire to, perhaps.

“Very good, caro,” Armand said. “You always know how to please.” And then, around the wrists Louis had offered to him, Armand began to affix silver metal cuffs with tiny padlocks that were probably now warm from him pulling them from a pocket.

It seemed to Daniel that Lestat was at least as mesmerised by this show of subservience by his own partner. Had he not seen Armand and Louis together like this before? He must have, Daniel thought. Armand had mentioned Lestat having been to parties here before. He couldn’t imagine Armand had never played with Louis in here in a party he was hosting.

But maybe it was the fact that there were only the four of them here tonight. There was no one to hide behind, barely a noise in the dungeon that was louder than the music Armand had set to playing before they all came in.

Louis showed no sign of discomfort as he waited for Armand to finish tying the cuffs around his wrists and even then seemed reluctant to allow him to stand. He lowered himself, instead, to press his lips against Louis', and Daniel could see how Louis leaned up without his knee ever leaving the floor yet still showing just how eager he was for Armand's attention.

The dungeon felt at least five degrees warmer by the time Armand stood up again.

"You may rise," he said. "Sit with Daniel on the bed. I find I like the look of the two of you together in matching collar and cuffs."

Louis inclined his head, but his eyes were already twinkling by the time he turned to return to Daniel's side. Daniel met his eyes with a smile, but he couldn't keep his gaze long from what was about to happen next between Armand and Lestat.

It seemed like it was different the next time Lestat looked at Armand. At least half of his swagger was gone. And there was just this young, blond god of a man, lowering himself to one knee and lifting his wrists, exactly as Louis had just done before him.

"Do you really want this tonight?" Armand asked, where he had not asked Louis before. Perhaps because Lestat did not say anything as Louis had done, and this was to prompt him.

"Do not make me beg, Armand." It was unmistakably Lestat's usual attitude, but the heat in the tone that usually accompanied such words wasn't there.

Maybe that was why Armand allowed it to pass. He just nodded his head. "Daniel. There are a pair of black leather cuffs in the top drawer of that cupboard against the wall. Would you bring them to me?"

Why yes he would! Daniel was happy to be a part of this game in whatever way Armand saw fit. Even in the dim light, he saw immediately the pair Armand meant. They were right at the front of the drawer and Daniel almost tripped in his haste to get them to Armand. Thankfully, he righted himself before Armand looked over his shoulder to gaze on him.

"Thank you, boy."

"You're welcome, Boss," Daniel breathed. And, only when Armand turned his full attention to Lestat once more did Daniel return to the end of the bed to watch what was about to transpire.

Notes:

The reference in this chapter is Buffy S07E02 “Beneath You” – End Scene [3:33]

Chapter 14

Notes:

Here end-eth the cliffhangers :)

Chapter Text

The second time, Lestat allowed Armand to lead him towards the cross by the wrists he held in one hand. Daniel had never seen the two of them standing side by side before that moment, and he was surprised to notice that Armand was taller. With Lestat nude and Armand fully clothed, it also gave the illusion of Armand being the bulkier of the two also.

It was with the same meticulous precision that Armand affixed the black cuffs around Lestat’s wrists to the D-rings someone had screwed into the apex of the St Andrews cross. No more was Lestat simply draped across the painted wood of his own volition. Armand had put him there. Daniel could feel the difference in the energy in the play room, just from that one thing. There was utter silence around them, but for the music that still played.

Armand made Lestat wait on his pleasure after that.

“Boy,” he said again to Daniel, pointing to his feet and Daniel realised he'd just left Armand's side without being given permission to leave it.

Daniel was on his feet and moving to that place before he stopped to think about it, his heart in his throat. “Yes Boss?”

Thankfully, Armand did not censure him for his thoughtlessness in that moment.

“Bring that table over and put it here,” Armand said, pointing again to a spot just to the right of where he was standing. It was the table he had previously placed his glass on top of. Thankfully, it was small enough that Daniel could lift it one handed so his other hand could pick up the glass, preventing it from spilling over.

Instead of supervising what he had set Daniel to doing, Armand went to the wall where Daniel had previously noted his collection of toys hung up. After placing the table with its sparkling water reset atop it, Daniel stood by to watch Armand, unsure if there was about to be any further instruction for him. He watched as Armand pulled down a selection of toys, some of them clearly softer, gentler, than others.

“Thank you, boy,” Armand said upon his return, after having laid out his selection on the side table next to the glass. Again, this was said with that suffocatingly sweet caress of Armand’s thumb pad against his cheek. "You may go back to Louis now."

It made Daniel yearn, like everything else Armand decided on seemed to do.

“You’re welcome, Boss.” His voice was a rasp as he inclined his head, before stepping back towards the end of the bed where Louis had remained seated throughout.

He wanted to ask Louis how he was feeling, seeing Lestat strung up like that, not even protesting the wait and the actions that were happening behind him. He seemed, in a word, submissive to whatever might yet happen around him.

Daniel was sure this was not Lestat’s natural state.

And yet, he didn’t feel he could ask it of Louis. Not right that. It felt like it would have been disrespectful to the scene Armand was in the process of weaving around Lestat. Even around Daniel and Louis, by voyeuristic proxy.

No matter. Armand had already said he had no intention of curbing his and Louis’ drinks. He could ask him all his opinions on tonight then.

The first sound of a flogger hitting Lestat’s back was a stark and heavy thud in the room. It was followed immediately by a second, and then from there the rhythm of it just did not stop.

Armand had started Lestat on a set of light suede floggers. Red suede. Dual hand. Daniel couldn’t help but imagine the feeling of the strips of suede thudding against his own bare back; he’d even jumped at the sound of the first few impacts, before Louis covered Daniel’s hand with his own, as though silently aiming to soothe him. Daniel hadn’t been soothed. From that point, he’d only started thinking of both Armand and Louis’ hands on him at the same time.

His back was to Daniel, instead of the other way around, but Daniel found he could quite easily imagine the heat between them brushed aside by the wind of the toy whipping through the air.

Armand stood almost completely still behind apart from his hands and arms that moved like it was a dance, taking no more than a step forward or back every now and again as if to correct his aim.

Daniel had been around public dungeons now and then. He’d been in a play room or two, as well as a couple of workshops where one could actually get taught how to do the stuff he was watching Armand do to Lestat right now. He hadn’t even known if that was something he wanted to do to someone else but, hell, he’d been curious and it seemed better to be versatile and with some skills than none at all. Who had even known who he might end up with after his ex-wife?

In any case, Daniel had seen enough to know he couldn’t find fault in Armand’s aim, or the movements with the floggers in both hands at once were near to artistry. He hit the same area on Lestat’s upper back and shoulder blades perfectly with each stroke, avoiding the line of his spine, dipping around the muscles to either side, and there was never any wrap around Lestat’s neck or ribs.

From what Daniel had seen in the workshops he’d attended, he’d kinda thought there was always wrap around, even if it was accidental and far from recommended.

“Do you like it rough, Lestat?” Armand asked in a low voice, drawing Daniel out of his thoughts. He’d been doing nothing but warming Lestat up till that point, Daniel only realised then.

“If you can dish it out, I assure you I can take it,” Lestat answered. Did he sound a little breathless as he said that? Forcing bravado where Armand was beginning to break through it?

But, oh, but Daniel would have loved to see Armand’s expression after Lestat said that.

Instead of looking at Daniel or Louis, Armand turned his attention to the side table he’d moved closer to him. Daniel could only see him in profile. The straight line of his nose, the relaxed line of his jaw. There was nothing of Armand’s eyes, no particular shape of his mouth that Daniel could fixate on.

He placed both of the floggers across the table, handle and ends hanging to either side. However, he didn’t pick up the next toy straight away. Instead, he strode up right behind Lestat, leaning into him and
touching the reddened marks across his back with seemingly featherlight touches.

If anything was said by Armand right then, it stayed only between the two of them. Daniel didn’t know about Louis, but Daniel certainly couldn’t hear what they said from where the two of them were sitting over the end of the four poster bed in here.

What he did hear was Lestat’s following sigh. “Harder,” he said, his tone sounding very certain.

Armand had been negotiating then. Just like he was certain to do with Daniel. Even though Armand had admitted frankly to Daniel that he was looking forward to beating the sh*t out of Lestat, he still took the time to maintain negotiations that hadn’t necessarily had time to take place before this play started.

Daniel found his estimation of Armand rising with every moment he spent time with him.

He was breathless as Armand started lightly with a bamboo cane against Lestat’s bared ass. He even thought he saw Lestat shuddering, all pretense of aloof and bratty behaviour far behind him now. Daniel would have liked the opportunity to see the front of him then. He expected Lestat was hard and pulsating against the wood of the St Andrew’s cross, leaking and wanting for Armand’s touch just as Daniel had been on the Wednesday night just gone.

It wasn’t actually voyeurism that made Daniel wanna see that sight, although it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Daniel wanted to see it because it would prove, once and for all, that he wasn’t the only one here who Armand managed to reduce to a quivering thing charged with erotic need and not much else.

Louis had been far smarter than Daniel in his choice of pants for the night. It wasn’t as obvious, in the denim he wore, whether Louis was straining at the seams like Daniel was. Tented and clear for anyone to see.

Not that he particularly needed to hide it from Louis. Or Armand, which was why he had chosen these pants instead of his more casual denim. He’d wanted to be able to show off to Armand just how much the other man effected him throughout the course of the night.

Was it warm in here?

Armand clearly thought so, for he paused the caning of Lestat’s ass even before he’d truly begun to go to town on it, in Daniel’s estimation. He removed his shirt, dropping it on the floor rather than trying to find space for it on the table he’d had Daniel move to his side. Daniel’s eyes gravitated to hard, brown nipples and a trail of black hair disappearing into his pants, before Armand turned back to Lestat.

Daniel was gonna need dental work after this, he was clenching his jaw so hard.

Once again, Armand pressed close to Lestat, although this time it was with skin to skin contact, which elicited a gasp of surprise from Lestat, followed by a full body shudder as Armand ran the pads of fingertips from both hands up his sides, before grabbing, and pulling, Lestat’s blond hair at the nape.

Lestat’s head arched back, attached as it was to the hair Armand pulled. The way his body moved, it seemed as though he was in ecstasy. Daniel wondered if Armand was having the same thought Daniel was; about how far he could possibly push this. This wasn’t the usual dynamic between them.

And yet, Lestat like that was beautiful. Even Daniel—recent connoisseur of beautiful men—couldn’t deny it.

With his free hand, Armand ran fingertips down the line of Lestat’s throat. It was hard to clearly see from where Armand was standing, halfway to between Lestat and both Daniel and Louis. Was he using nails? Part of Daniel thrilled at the idea of it, toes curling against the carpeted floor. He would have to take care to note if Armand kept his fingernails long the next time he looked at Armand’s hands. In hindsight, it seemed like a ridiculous oversight on his part.

He decided, from Lestat’s hiss of breath, that there were nails involved. Again, it looked as though Armand was saying something to Lestat, again for Lestat’s ears only. They were in their own little world now, and he and Louis were only invited into certain parts of it.

“More,” Lestat half whimpered, half gasped.

Daniel felt a clench of Louis’ fingers, which he noted were still around his. Louis was not at all unaffected by all of this, he noticed then. Even in the relatively dim light of the dungeon, he could see Louis’ cheeks were flushed. His lips looked full, as though Louis had been biting them to keep his own words or noises to himself.

Louis saw Daniel looking at him, and gave him a short, ambivalent shrug, before taking his hand away. Daniel saw though, even after Louis brought his hand back to himself, that he clenched the fingers in and out of a fist.

Neither of their gazes were able to stray from the show going on in front of them for long. Daniel found himself drawn back in before Armand reached again for the bamboo cane of the same width he’d used before, but he drew it down harder against Lestat’s backside this time around.

God, Daniel thought he would have given anything to be the one on that cross right now.

Lestat's ass was now as red as his upper back, yet he wasn't straining against the cuffs that held him to the cross and Daniel could see that he was starting to play more rough after Lestat's last whimpered request.

"You are taking this well," Armand said, loud enough for Daniel and Louis to hear this time, as he ran a soft hand over Lestat's rump, the cane still held in the other. "I should have been doing this to you all along."

"All you had to do was ask," Lestat said, the words sounding bitten off at the end as Armand's cane stung him again.

"Come now," Armand murmured, giving him another moment between these harder strikes. "We both know you wouldn't have said yes."

"I would," Lestat murmured, his voice sounding muffled while his forehead was pressed against the wood. "I just would have made you ask nicely."

Another strike of the cane, this time eliciting a distinct grunt from Lestat.

"Beg, do you mean?" Armand asked lightly, as light as his fingers touched the line between Lestat's ass cheeks.

Lestat didn't seem able to stop himself from rutting against that touch, despite his audience. "Perhaps," he uttered, sounding almost sulky to have been caught out.

"Brat," Armand told him, striking him once more.

"Don't tell me you do not love it that way," Lestat muttered, only half lifting his head from the wood of the cross.

But the fact that Lestat was even able to speak such daring sentences after four solid strikes was actually impressive. He earned a fifth one right then for his troubles.

"Have you had enough?" Armand asked, fingers winding into Lestat's blond hair and pulling it again, denying him the touch he had rut against. "Do you remember the traffic light colours?"

"Green," Lestat hissed, proving in fact that he did. Green was full steam ahead, while red was its opposite.

"Very well, Lestat. I wish you to start counting them for me," Armand replied.

"How many?" Lestat asked.

"As many as I care to give," Armand said. "Or, until you call red. Whichever is first."

And that was when Armand truly began to beat the sh*t out of Lestat. It seemed to Daniel as though he used the strained tone speaking the number of strikes to judge where Lestat was, for not all strikes were equal. However, a fair share of them hit hard enough to leave Lestat shuddering, nails raking against the top of the St Andrew's cross as if for purchase.

"How many?" Armand asked, when Lestat had failed to count one out. He drifted closer, as though Lestat might whisper the number low enough that Armand would not hear it.

Daniel hardly dared to breathe. The music went quiet between one song and the next, and all he could hear were Lestat's ragged, heavy breaths.

"Treize," he said eventually, and Daniel exhaled harshly.

"Thirteen," Louis murmured for Daniel, either recognising the French number himself, or else, like Daniel, he had also been counting alongside Lestat.

Even Armand seemed to pause. His fingers curled around the back of Lestat's neck, though the touch seemed gentler than any of his previous holds.

"I want you to count to fifteen," he said after a moment of consideration. As though he was newly answering the question Lestat had asked before. "Do you think you can do that for me, boy?"

"Oui." It looked as though Lestat hardly had any energy left, not even to snark. He all but hung from the points of his wrists that were attached to the cross.

Armand struck him low on the buttock, close to the beginning of the thigh, where it was most fleshy. Perhaps he did this to soften the blow and help Lestat reach the count of fifteen as he had asked. Either way, Lestat jolted. And then there was a moment, before finally, the count of fourteen.

"Very good, boy. Just one more now."

For the first time, Daniel felt the faintest touch of jealousy threaten. Had Armand forgot who it was he had on the cross? It would be difficult to do so. If the disparity in age between Daniel and Lestat didn't immediately make it obvious, their colouring was also quite different. And yet, till now, had Armand called Lestat 'boy' the way he had been with Daniel so far tonight?

He chewed on his lower lip, determined that he wouldn't ruin the moment. They were almost to the end of the scene now in any case. And then Lestat would return to his former self.

Not 'boy' to Armand any longer.

Daniel watched as Armand inhaled, exhaled, seemed to test the weight of the cane against his other hand, before expertly swinging it against Lestat's ass one final time. The sound of it rang through the room. Armand had not held back that final time, Daniel thought. And Lestat gave one single, loud cry, before sagging against the cross.

"Fifteen," he said, voice broken and at the same time heavily accented.

Armand dropped the cane against the table and pressed himself against Lestat's back, as though his warmth and presence could soothe the pain he'd inflicted. And it could. Daniel knew that from his own experiences, if not with Armand directly. There was an interesting thing where one in Lestat's current state might feel they could gain the most comfort out of the individual who had just whaled on them.

Reaching up, Armand unclasped the cuffs from the cross and, one by one, they fell to Lestat's sides until it looked from his lean as though the only thing holding him up was the cross itself.

"Come on, sweetling," Armand said, his voice as gentle as his touch seemed to promise to be. "Can you walk? Here, I'll assist you."

His gaze crossed to the bed, settling on Louis who stood up without having been asked. Daniel shifted, now alone on the edge of the bed.

Lestat threw an arm around Louis as soon as he reached his side.

"Mon amour," Lestat said, his head quickly coming to lean against Louis'.

Armand very quickly ceded him to Louis completely, watching with fond eyes as his partner and metamour made the rest of their way to the head of the bed. Lestat lay sprawled almost diagonally across it, with his feet hanging off the side, while his head was in Louis' lap, hair being stroked by Louis' dark, slender fingers.

"Did you like that, Daniel?"

Daniel breathed out unsteadily, not at all ready to recount any kind of well thought out response to what he had just seen transpire between Armand and Lestat. The kinds of skill Armand had brought to the table. The way he had so successfully managed to string Lestat out from a bossy bottom to a puddle in Louis' arms.

"I..." As words failed him, Daniel nodded his head, hoping that Armand got the message.

Reaching behind him, Armand grasped and downed the remainder of the all but forgotten sparkling water Daniel had handed him forever ago. It seemed like everything had changed between then and now. But, really, nothing had, had it? Daniel was still determined to continue walking forward on this path he and Armand had started. All he really had after this recent display was a more accurate idea on where Armand stood as a player.

A desperate curiosity that he wished might be recreated between he and Armand some time very soon.

"Sir." It was Louis' soft voice that pulled Armand's attention from Daniel before Daniel could utter more than that single word. "Would it be okay for your boy to bring me that cola now?"

"Yes," Armand said, returning his attention to Daniel. Lifting his hand, he extended the empty glass he held in Daniel's direction. "A cola for Louis, and another sparkling water for me, please Daniel. Perhaps also ready another mineral water for Lestat for when he returns to himself."

Daniel half expected to hear sass from Lestat in response to that, but it appeared he had not yet returned to himself, as Armand put it. He nodded, then jumped from the foot of the bed, eager for something to do. He had to slow himself down so he didn't pour sticky cola all over Armand's nice side table. And he made sure to be careful where he planted his feet on the way back so he didn't trip over them again on the way back.

Armand didn't immediately take his sparkling water from Daniel, though, when he returned to him.

"Boss?" Daniel said, lifting his brows in question.

"Be very careful," was the only warning he had from Armand, before he reached forward and shamelessly rubbed the front of Daniel's pants.

And found exactly what he was looking for. Because of course Daniel was still hard. It took a shorter time these days for him to shrink back down to size, but it still took longer than what time had passed. And then he had to remember Armand's warning to him, because he was still holding onto two filled glasses while Armand was fondling him through his pants, and all Daniel wanted to do was fall to his knees before him.

But he couldn't. Not just because of the drinks, but because that would put his dick far too low for Armand to fondle.

"It suits me very well you are such a good voyeur, Daniel." Armand leaned close enough to speak those words directly into Daniel's ear. Close enough too that Daniel was helpless but to feel the warmth radiating off his bare skin, onto his own bared chest. Helpless, because both of his hands were full and he had no hope of reaching out to Armand.

"Boss..." Daniel uttered brokenly, hardly caring if Louis or Lestat were watching. Apparently the theme of the night was one big ass show where Armand was the star.

"So eager to please," Armand said, still with his mouth so close to the shell of Daniel's ear. And then, somehow unexpected, Armand's teeth found the lobe of that ear and worried back and forth against it.

Daniel almost dropped both the drinks then. Armand's hand was still at his crotch and now he was adding the very slightest hint of pain to this predicament play he'd taken it into his head to start? Daniel would have loved to make a comment about how fast Armand seemed to recharge between one play and the next, but his mouth was dry and he honestly didn't want Armand to make it any more difficult than it already was to keep hold of the drinks he'd fetched for Armand and Louis.

"I cannot wait to test your pain threshold properly," Armand said, before leaning back from Daniel and, regretfully, pulling his hand away from Daniel's dick. Daniel was still standing before him stunned quite speechless when Armand plucked the sparkling water from his hand, then said only, "Louis asked so very politely for his cola. See that you don't make him wait any longer."

Daniel's mouth slammed shut then, clenching his jaw against something very not polite that he would have loved to respond with right in that minute.

And yet, he wasn't annoyed. Not really. In fact, that very opposite.

He did, however, allow himself a small eye roll at Louis when no one else was watching and the glass of cola passed between the two of them.

Chapter 15

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There was no seeming expectation from Louis or Lestat over staying the night in Armand’s home after play. There would have been plenty of room but, perhaps, they wished to give Daniel and Armand some time in the night for themselves.

If that was the case, Daniel was definitely gonna have to thank Louis for it during the week when they next caught up. Just the two of them. He didn’t think it would go over super well to mention it at their family dinner the following night.

And then Daniel was off and wondering how many dinners they had spent in that very classy restaurant the night after a play party held here in Armand’s Night Island.

At least, that was what he was thinking until after Armand closed the door behind Louis and Lestat then stepped in front of Daniel to give him his whole attention.

He hadn’t been hard. Not a moment ago. But one look from Armand and he was already at half mast all over again.

“Boss, can I ask…?” Daniel stated, his expression open and transparent. He needed a release right now like he needed air.

“Daniel, you may always ask.” Armand’s fingers drifted featherlight over the line of his jaw, already having started to grow the beginnings of stubble in the early hours of morning. It didn’t seem as though that bothered Armand.

Daniel licked his lips. “I need…” He shook his head, hardly able to think straight through the height of horniness this night had brought him to. “You’ve had me on edge all night.”

“Yes, boy,” Armand murmured, gazing down at Daniel’s mouth and jaw as though it was the most fascinating thing in this open room. “And you’ve done so beautifully.”

“But now… Come on, Boss, please?”

Armand blinked innocent brown eyes up to Daniel, as though for all the word he had no idea what Daniel was stumbling around about. “What, Daniel? You know you can say it.”

Daniel pressed his lips together. And then just committed to it. “I know you said you wanted to wait till you own me, but you do. You do. I promise you, Boss. You own me full body and soul. And I… I just want to offer myself to you. All of me. For you to take.”

It seemed that, as soon as he started going, Daniel could be almost poetic in his needing of Armand.

Armand swayed ever so slightly towards him, his tongue darting out to touch his lower lip, and Daniel couldn’t keep his eyes off it. Imagining it in his mouth. On his co*ck. And maybe, if he was lucky, in another very private place.

“No.”

Daniel blinked. Armand’s voice had been clear, the single word simple. And yet, Daniel must have misunderstood.

“… What?”

“I meant what I said, Daniel. You paint a very alluring picture, and I am aware you are mine… for tonight.”

Daniel shook his head. “What do you freaking want? A stamp on my ass? Something to say this is more than just tonight?”

“A commitment of more than one night would be nice. As we have both agreed. And, as well as that, far less pushiness on your part. I’ve had my fill of that tonight from Lestat.” Armand walked around Daniel and into the kitchen, to the edge of which Daniel had previously brought out the drinks trolley from the dungeon.

No, no. This was going all wrong.

Daniel’s erection wilted as fast as it had come. How were they having this argument now after the night they’d just had? At the sink, Armand began washing dishes. And that felt wrong for multiple reasons. None the least because Armand had expressed a wish for that to be Daniel’s role in this house and he was supposed to be Armand’s tonight.

“I can do that, Boss,” Daniel murmured, coming up to stand beside him.

Armand turned to look at him from under his dark lashes. “Can you?”

Oh, he sounded annoyed. Daniel winced. “I can, Boss. I promise.”

“Very well.” It was not gracious at all, but Daniel would take it. Any way to get this evening back on track.

It might have been that it was early in the morning and they were both starting to get tired and more snippy than usual. But Daniel was already coming to learn that, whenever there was any sort of argument between them, and where Armand was concerned, what they had both agreed to was incredibly important. And it was important to Daniel as well. Just… easier to forget when he was so desperate to come.

He'd figured there’d be a little more wiggle room.

The two of them were silent while Daniel washed the few remaining glasses then set them on the side of the sink to dry. That was probably for the best rather than continuing on with the same heat they’d started going in with.

After he’d drained the sink, he reached for the tea towel to dry his hands and turned towards Armand, head bowed.

“I’m sorry I pushed, Boss.”

Armand was quiet for a while. Not long enough that Daniel worried, just long enough he knew Armand was thinking over his response.

“I’m sorry too, boy,” he murmured eventually. Reaching out, he drew Daniel to looking up at him once more with a single finger until his jaw before letting go. “For your information, I was not planning to let you go to bed without having been satisfied.”

Daniel’s eyebrows both rose. “You weren’t?”

“Such little faith. Of course not. I have been working you up throughout the night. I want you to come thinking of me. Desiring me. Only me.”

“Oh Boss,” Daniel gasped.

Armand’s eyes glinted. “I had a taste for your co*ck in my hand this week, Daniel. A taste that very much left me wanting for the latter half of the week.”

Daniel paused, tilting his head to the side as he parsed Armand’s words.

“May I ask you something, Boss?” Daniel asked then, his tone sounding to himself stilted and different from the breathy way he’d spoken just a moment before.

Armand inclined his head.

Daniel took a deep breath and committed to asking the question he’d been wondering for some time now.

“Are you asexual, Boss?” he asked. “Is that why you’re keeping this parameter of owning me in place? Because you don’t have to f*ck me if you don’t want to. I just want you to know. Cause, I mean, you know, I’m usually f*cking someone by this point. Or being f*cked.”

“Have you had many sexual relationships with Masters, have you?” Armand asked archly. “Because I was rather under the impression you had struggled to find many.”

Daniel’s lips twisted in annoyance. “You know what I mean,” he groused. “It really is okay if—”

“Do you really think the only reason you’re not having sex right now is because I am asexual?”

Armand asked the question but, before Daniel could answer it, Armand was standing right in the middle of Daniel’s personal space. His hand had reached out to take Daniel’s chin again but, this time, it wasn’t what Daniel would have called a gentle hold. Daniel could barely move or shift to either side.

“Did you think I would choose to f*ck you on your timetable?”

That expletive on Armand’s mouth made Daniel’s knees suddenly weaken and there was a whole moment there where it felt like only Armand’s hold on his chin was keeping him upright. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be horny and aroused with the way Armand was talking to him. He probably wasn’t supposed to be horny or aroused anyway.

But Daniel couldn’t help the way he was made, cause he was apparently feeling both.

“No Boss,” Daniel gasped out.

Armand let go of his jaw abruptly, but then his glowering brown eyes held him in place. “Who is in charge in this room, Daniel?”

“You are,” Daniel said quickly.

“Really?” Armand tipped his head to the side, studying Daniel. “Does that extend to the time and place I decide to let you rut against me? Or take my pleasure in you?”

Daniel’s mouth was dry. He couldn’t maintain Armand’s eye contact anymore, so he stared down hard at the floor, but the images from Armand’s words wouldn’t leave his mind.

“Is that…?” Daniel moved his tongue around in his mouth to whet it. “Is that how you would want it to happen?”

“Is that what you’re demanding, Daniel?” Armand emphasised, and Daniel understood then he’d walked into a trap Armand had laid out. “Both the answer and the action?”

It was a very clear reminder in Armand’s tone that Daniel was not meant to be demanding anything. f*ck, yeah, f*ck he’d known that. Agreed to it even.

“No Boss,” Daniel whispered again, still staring at the carpet.

“That’s right,” Armand said.

Daniel didn’t dare to say anything else for a while then. Not for as long until Armand chose to speak again. He’d really f*cked up here, and he’d thought he was being so reasonable too. Considerate, even, to consider Armand’s potential sexuality.

“I am not asexual,” Armand said then, answering the question that had been burning in Daniel’s mind with increasing frequency. “And that might have been something you were very understanding over had you addressed it in the right way. As it stands, I no longer find myself wishing to f*ck you tonight.”

That word again, and Daniel wanted to whimper at the sound of it; at the knowledge it was being taken away, at the way it had been on the table in the first place and he hadn’t even known. Had he gone and spoken before Armand had finished outlining his plans for them tonight?

“What would have been the correct way?” Daniel dared to ask softly.

And the smile on Armand’s face, after such sternness, seemed to bloom. “Ah, Daniel. Now that is the right question. You know to ask for what you want, do you not?”

Daniel thought back to what he'd said. He'd thought he had been asking, but what he found in his recent memory was a selection of statements uttered from his own lips.

"I promise you, Boss. You own me full body and soul. And I… I just want to offer myself to you. All of me. For you to take."

He swallowed. Bobbed his head another time. "I understand, Boss."

"I hope you do," Armand said, gaze piercing. "Because when we f*ck, it will be on my timetable, not yours. I do not want to have this conversation come up another time."

"Yes Boss," Daniel agreed, thoroughly chastised.

He released an unsteady breath when Armand nodded at him once, hoping this would be the end of it.

Instead, Armand said, "You know where your bedroom for the night is. The mattress is new and comfortable, the bedding warm. I will see you in the morning and take your collar off then, unless you wish to head home now? In which case I can remove the collar from your neck right now."

Daniel took a step back at the very threat of having even the collar stripped from him before Armand had originally intended.

"No Boss. I'll be fine in the room you've given me."

"Good, Daniel." Armand's face softened then, and he offered Daniel a small smile in consolation, almost as though it was as difficult for him to place down these hard lines as it was for Daniel to swallow them. "I will see you in the morning."

Daniel lay on his back with the sun rising outside and his gaze latched to the ceiling.

He'd been awake since before the sun began to rise, long before the light started to reveal itself around the sides of the closed curtains in the single window in this room.

This... wasn't the way he'd imagined spending his first night in Armand's home.

Armand came to the doorway of the room he’d given Daniel at around 7.30am that morning. Daniel blinked, before grabbing his glasses off the nightstand and only then being able to focus properly on him. His eyes were the slowest part of him to wake up some mornings.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d be awake yet,” Armand murmured.

“Yup,” Daniel answered, his lips popping on the last consonant of the word.

Armand gaze grazed over Daniel’s face. He didn’t seem annoyed this morning. His tone of voice had been soft, almost indulgent, while he leaned against the door frame just looking at him.

“I know there were some unexpected hiccups that came up towards the end of last night,” Armand said. “I don’t want to gloss over them. I do, however, wish to begin with how much you pleased me with the way you held yourself last night overall.”

After the way the night had ended, Daniel hadn’t expected that. He'd been lying here counting the ways he'd disappointed Armand, not the ways he'd pleased him. “You… were?”

Armand tipped his head, and there was definitely indulgence shining out of his eyes now. “Yes, Daniel. One stumble does not ruin an entire night.”

“But…” Daniel gestured to the room he was in. The bed he had slept in. The fact that they still hadn’t had sex yet.

Well, he couldn’t really gesture to that last bit, but he was pretty sure it was heavily implied given the rest of it.

“Yes,” Armand said. “I was strict, because I told you it would be an accurate representation of what was to come. I do not like being demanded of, Daniel. You saw that last night.”

Daniel’s mind flashed back again to the dramatic flair with which Lestat had draped himself over the St Andrews cross that first time.

“Yes Boss.” Daniel winced. He hadn’t come across like that after Lestat had Louis had left, had he? “I remember.”

“You weren’t anywhere near so poorly behaved,” Armand was kind enough to reassure him. “However, it is not Lestat I am planning on entering into an M/s relationship with either.”

Daniel nodded his head. It was a fair comment, he and Lestat being held to different standards in this case.

“Before you say anything on the topic, I have had several hours to consider what you said to me about your expectation of f*cking this early on, before everything between us has been properly negotiated,” Armand said, surprising him again.

“You… have? Hang on. Hours?” Daniel took a closer look at Armand, realising only then that he seemed, yeah, more tired than usual, standing there in just pyjama bottoms, same as what Daniel was wearing. If Daniel had noticed evidence of sleeplessness before now, he’d only put it down to it being so early in the morning and, since Daniel couldn’t smell any coffee, it was before that for both of them. He narrowed his eyes. “When did you have hours to think on this, Boss?”

Armand dipped his head and looked at Daniel directly, as though he was very much aware that Daniel was fishing for information.

“How much sleep did you get last night, Daniel?”

Daniel smirked. “Probably about the same as you, Boss. Sounds like it, anyway.”

“Exactly. And so I’ve come to consider that I may be holding too close to ideals that don’t necessarily suit our situation.” He took a step into the room he’d assigned for Daniel the previous night. “Would you be willing to have a cup of coffee with me in my bedroom, and discuss this further?”

Would he ever?

“Yes Boss,” Daniel answered fervently. He almost thought he couldn’t have been more excited over the offer had it contained sex.

He forced himself to be patient, however. While Armand was already reconsidering some of the preliminary rules he’d put in place between them was not the time for Daniel to fall back on pushy behaviour. God, it was exactly the opposite.

Armand turned on what looked like a terribly intricate and expensive machine before making coffee for the both of them.

Daniel paid attention to where he kept his mugs, then tried to follow what Armand was doing, for the future. But, after the fourth setting Armand fiddled with, Daniel had to admit defeat. He would need to ask Armand how to use the contraption if he wished to make Armand’s coffee in the way he liked it.

“You may come up onto the bed with me, Daniel,” Armand told him after he stepped over the threshold of Armand’s bedroom for the very first time. The heavy curtains were not yet drawn. The bed covers were dishevelled from use. Restless use, rather than anything more interesting.

Daniel did so, quietly appreciating that this was one of what he hoped were many more firsts between them.

“I’m listening, Boss…” Daniel said.

He took a sip of the coffee Armand had made for him. Hope strangled his throat, preventing Daniel from saying anything more. But then the taste of the coffee woke up his taste buds. What the hell was he drinking? In comparison to this, he’d been drinking swill at his own place!

“I wish to thank you for being patient with me, Daniel,” Armand started, resting a hand high up on Daniel’s thigh and making it slightly more difficult for him to concentrate on what Armand was saying. “It has been foolish, I think, of me to hope to iron out every single thing between us before offering you a collar for more than one night.”

Daniel had wondered, while they’d been in the kitchen, why Armand hadn’t removed the collar first thing. That had been the impression he’d been left with the night before. Although, to be fair, he had only talked about taking the collar off in the ‘morning’. And they had another four hours of that left.

“I cannot learn everything there is to know about you, nor you about me, and expect for you to wait patiently for that to take place. You obviously have a very high sexual drive,” Armand added, flicking a mocking look his way.

Obviously, Boss,” Daniel said, using the exact same emphasis Armand had done. “I will say… um. Can I say something, Boss?”

“You may, Daniel.”

Daniel grinned. “I thought my days of being this randy all the time were well and truly behind me. I haven’t felt this way since back when I was in my 20s!”

Armand chuckled at that, and Daniel couldn’t help but appreciate at the way his whole face softened in his enjoyment of Daniel’s wit. “I will take it as the compliment I expect it is.”

Daniel felt his eyes light up, then looked instead to his coffee mug, taking another sip of the hot liquid until he was no longer thinking about jumping Armand.

Armand looked his way. “I do not want you think I’m unaffected by you. You arouse me powerfully, Daniel. Touching you the way I did in the dungeon last night, in front of Louis and Lestat? Knowing you were mine to do with however I pleased? That you had given me that?”

Daniel worked hard to try to keep his breathing steady, but Armand sure wasn’t making it easy on him.

“Yeah Boss?”

Instead of answering with words, Armand placed the remainder of his coffee on his bedside table. Holding Armand’s gaze, Daniel tried to do the same. But then he couldn’t find the bedside table behind him, and it was necessary for him to turn away just for a second to do what Armand had already done.

And then Armand was kissing him, and Daniel was kissing him back, and there was pent up sexual frustration but then there was this sensation running like electricity under his skin from the crown of his head to the tips of his toes.

“Boss…” Daniel panted, his hands still roving all over Armand’s body—his topless body, that firm, hard, young muscle—that Daniel seemed now allowed to touch. “Does this mean what I think you’re saying?”

“Yes, Daniel,” Armand breathed against him. “I am going to bend you over this bed and f*ck you so thoroughly you won’t be able to walk through the doors steadily at family dinner tonight.”

f*ck Boss,” Daniel said, and those were the last words Daniel was able to get out before Armand’s mouth crashed against his once more, hands already moving under Daniel’s pyjama pants and squeezing Daniel at the base of his co*ck.

Notes:

This fic is now officially on hiatus as the muse is gone and now I've gotta wait for it to come on back again :)

Chapter 16

Notes:

Excited to come back and see you all again!! We're jumping forward in time again briefly in this chapter, which I figured was pretty much par for the course after there being a couple of week break on my end 😊

If any of you are interested in seeing what I’ve been working on while taking the hiatus over here, please feel free to drink in the 35k words over at this fandom's Devil’s Minion sandpit I’ve been playing in: The Forgotten Years, with more still to come!

I’ll be updating this more or less weekly this time around so I can also keep up with the other fics I’ve got on serial here.

Chapter Text

Interlude - Future

The first time Daniel ran away, it was technically a work trip to Paris that Daniel respectfully asked Armand permission to go on. A work trip Daniel had, unbeknownst to Armand, leaped to put his hat in the ring for in order to have such a convenient excuse for some time away.

“For work? Of course you may go, Daniel.” That had been Armand’s immediate reply, as Daniel had known it would be. Although it was included in the things Daniel did in service to Armand—“You must maintain a wage, Daniel, and of course I know you enjoy your job”—Armand had never made any attempt to curb that work.

Daniel had rushed out across to Europe and had hardly remembered to think of his Boss until he was several hours into the ten hour flight and with no ability to reach out to him even by phone whilst in the air.

He had called Armand near tears on his second night in Paris, desperate to hear his voice and reassure himself that his place at his Boss’ feet was still assured as soon as he got home. It was a terrible feeling, and the longest Daniel had been away from Armand since they had moved in together. Even work couldn’t distract Daniel from the hollow feeling he had in his gut from being an entire half a world away.

When he returned home, he determined he would never make a decision to travel so far for work again, let alone volunteer for it! He resented every moment of writing up the piece that came from his Paris trip. The reminder of it put him off so badly that he ended up putting it off until it was a week overdue and Charlie needed to step in.

For a month or so after that, service came easily to Daniel. Whenever it didn’t, Daniel would remind himself of that tug in his gut that was now more visceral a reminder to him now of the ownership he craved Armand to have over his life than the collar he wore.

But, of course, memory faded over time and, because he and Armand never spoke again of the real reason Daniel had taken that job in Paris, it had no opportunity to be properly resolved.

The second time Daniel ran, there was no such convenient excuse. Daniel was feeling claustrophobic and couldn’t think of a single way to actually bring up the conversation without sounding desperately ungrateful.

It all came to a head when Armand asked whether Daniel was happy one night, and Daniel opened his mouth. Nothing came out.

The next morning, as soon as Armand left for work, Daniel ran.

He lasted a little longer away from Armand that time than the one in Paris. Needing to make sure that work was aware of the personal leave he was taking for the first time and without any notice took a bunch of his attention. The surprise from his mother seeing him unexpectedly for the first time since their argument where he’d told her she wasn’t going to have grandkids from him and to stop asking took a fair amount more of their conversation. She was still angry with him, which made sense, because she was the one who had taught Daniel how to hold a grudge.

But, for some reason Daniel couldn’t quite define, he wanted comfort from her in a way that he hadn’t felt he needed when his marriage broke down. And so he heard his mother out, listening to the long held onto gripes she had to share on the disrespectful way he’d spoken to her all those years ago.

Not once did Daniel stop to remind her it was no longer relevant since his divorce had been settled long ago, and he and his ex-wife had stopped actually having sex a long time after that. Sex wasn’t a word he wanted in any sentence he spoke to his mother anyway.

It was, therefore, six full days until he started thinking about the life he’d left behind with Armand. He’d kept his old, post divorce apartment, at Armand’s behest. He’d known he intended to return back to the city he worked, if only to return to normalcy again.

When he left his childhood home, it was with a better relationship with his mother, but no true intension to see Armand again.

It was a day after he returned to the city that he was on Armand’s doorstep, arriving less than half an hour after the time he knew Armand returned home.

“God, I’m sorry.” Those were the first words out of Daniel’s mouth.

“We obviously moved in together too quickly.” That was Armand’s reply.

He hadn’t opened the door to welcome Daniel back inside. In fact, it was nothing like the first time when Daniel had gone to Paris.

Instead, he’d been told succinctly to message Louis and let him know he’d returned so Louis would no longer have cause to worry, and also that Daniel would be returning to his own apartment until Armand could trust Daniel wouldn’t leave again.

The third time Daniel ran, Daniel was determined he would have a sit down conversation with Armand, actually explaining the reasons why he felt compelled towards some space this time.

Armand eyed him with a completely indifferent expression, as though this hardly affected him at all. Perhaps he had been braced for it since the last time Daniel had come back. Perhaps not.

“I will not allow you to simply come back into service after this,” Armand had said.

“I know.” Daniel was miserable. The truth was, as much as he craved this lifestyle, for some reason he couldn’t manage to live the reality of it.

He wondered what would happen when it came to a week’s time when he began craving Armand like an itch he couldn’t scratch. It was a question he didn’t currently have an answer to. He wouldn’t be able to come back here, though. Armand made that abundantly clear.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel said, trying to reach through Armand’s removed façade one last time. He didn’t have all of his possessions, of course. There were two rooms in the house that had his stuff. He’d organised removalists to pick up his boxed stuff and take it back to his old apartment. They already had his key to Armand’s Trinity Gate / Night Island, with instructions to leave it on the kitchen bench when they left.

The only things Daniel carried on his shoulder were the immediately important laptop and his overnight bag, filled almost to bursting.

Despite Daniel’s attempt to reach him, Armand said nothing in return. His lip twitched just slightly, but Armand didn’t open his mouth to say another word.

Only when Daniel continuing to stand on his doorstep grew awkward did Daniel lower his gaze down from Armand’s. Even in this, he couldn’t help but express his submission to Armand. Which was such a crock, just as he was leaving. Daniel’s eyes chose that moment to water. Ridiculous timing. It meant, though, that Daniel had an explicit reason to evade Armand’s gaze from that point.

Daniel knew now he couldn’t make Armand happy. He would always disappoint him. And, as much as Daniel had thought otherwise to begin with, it seemed as though Armand couldn’t make him happy either.

He had privately given himself six months to get over Armand. Six months seemed a reasonable amount of time to grieve and get over a relationship that had only lasted four times that long. He allowed himself to wallow in the beginning of that. Then he pushed that aside and got on with the job of living a normal, middle aged life.

By the time four months rolled around, and Daniel was still regularly thinking of Armand and the life he’d walked away from, he’d started asking himself, ‘why?’ Why hadn’t he been able to make it work?

At six months, after what had been supposed to be for good, and also after a great deal of soul searching, Daniel had first reached out to Louis – the only one out of he, Lestat and Armand that Daniel had bothered to keep in contact with, intermittently at least, the entire time. His lover had as much reason as Armand to be annoyed with him. Daniel hadn't intended on it, but his leaving the way he did had certainly made the statement that his continuing relationship with Louis depended on his continuing relationship with Armand.

It wasn’t because Daniel thought something bad was going to happen that he considered walking back to Armand now. It wasn’t out of jealousy that Armand might find someone else to replace him. It wasn’t because he was at his wits end or struggling for money or even because his old apartment was plain and spartan in comparison to the luxury he’d started to become used to in Armand’s home.

It was because that apartment no longer felt like home. Not after six whole months, long enough really for Daniel to have forgotten about Armand completely.

It was because Daniel had begun to love doing his laundry, because it was a reminder of Armand.

It was because, in so many ways, life just didn’t feel complete now that Daniel actually knew the details of what he was missing out on. Staring at his phone of a night and knowing he couldn’t message Armand to tell him, ‘Good night, Boss,’ anymore than he could go into the next room to say the same thing was such a small part of it.

Would he ever consider taking me back, do you reckon?

There was a while, several hours, before Louis’ reply came in, and it was about as unhelpful as anything.

i dunno. why don’t you ask?

Why? Because he was terrified Armand would say, ‘no.’

Chapter 17

Notes:

Aaand back to the main timeline again after that brief jump forward.

Chapter Text

Daniel was staring at the basket of laundry in front of him. It was the first command Armand had given him, directly after pulling him inside of his house by the shirt lapels and kissing him like the first thing that was about to happen was being dragged into the bedroom.

But, no. This. Instead of sex, play, or attention, Daniel got dirty laundry.

Well, he also got the collar that had been a staple to all visits into Armand's home since the night of the play party. He had knelt to accept it and would, at the end of the weekend, kneel to have Armand take it off. It had become one of their little rituals each weekend and Wednesday night he had been here. The act of it steadied and grounded Daniel. The traffic could have been terrible on the way here. Work could have been a nightmare. But, once that door closed behind him and Armand was placing that cold though quickly warming metal around his neck, all of that could have been in another world.

At least, that had been the way it was for the first couple of weekends. Tonight, he felt restless, almost like the way it had been when he'd been waiting for Armand to decide he wished to f*ck Daniel that first time, all over again.

He blinked, slowly refocusing his eyes on the basket and, from there, to the machine Armand had taught him how to use the week before. He had to remind himself why he was doing this. More importantly, that he had agreed to this. Those agreements were important to Armand. More than that, this was the lifestyle Daniel craved.

So, yeah, okay, so he didn’t love all of it, but Armand worked full time too. If Daniel didn’t do this for him, the job would fall to Armand, who'd already let go the woman who used to do such chores for him. And that would mean Armand would need to push back the time they could catch up.

If Daniel did this stuff, it meant he got to spend more time here and with Armand. In service to Armand. Which made all the rest of what they did together that much more heightened.

He lifted a hand to touch against the metal of the collar, now well and truly warmed to the temperature of his skin. What was Armand doing right now while Daniel looked at the laundry detergent? Was he in the dungeon, grabbing a handful of toys to lose the afternoon to? What was he doing while Daniel dropped his hand from the collar Armand placed on him, before shoving clothes unceremoniously into the front loader? Was he in the bedroom, maybe setting up a drop sheet and lighting candles for wax play?

Thoughts like these made the subjugation to a chore he really didn’t enjoy more bearable to Daniel. He even managed to open the dryer after the load was on and check the filter had been emptied of lint the last time it had been used. It had.

Daniel stood up straight, lifted his chin and took in a deep inhale then exhale. He wanted this, he reminded himself. He wanted every part of what Armand offered him.

Two hours later, Armand had Daniel’s curls in a tight grasp and Daniel was bent over the bed being spanked unhurriedly with Armand’s other hand. It wasn’t any of what Daniel had imaged, but, god. When the f*cking came later, and the front of Armand’s hips rammed back and forth into the flesh of Daniel’s buttocks, Daniel saw stars as he came.

It went like that sometimes. A war that was waged only within Daniel’s mind where he both did and didn’t want what he’d fought so hard to have here. Where he wanted only parts of it, before berating himself and remembering the conversation where he’d felt like a selfish churl for wanting to take everything Armand offered but not give anything back. He could well imagine the kind of response he’d get if he dared to voice any of his less charitable thoughts. Daniel couldn’t stand the idea of Armand’s disappointed expression.

Still, there were some weekends, at the end of a couple of sleepless nights, or an urgent deadline, where all Daniel wanted to do was crack open a couple of beers and watch the sports on his couch at home. But Armand wasn’t of a mind to share time at Daniel’s house. And the services Daniel had agreed to couldn’t be completed from Daniel’s home. On those days, his feet would drag as he pulled together enough clothes to last him a weekend and walked out to his truck.

Perhaps, once this all became routine, Daniel wouldn’t think of it anymore, wouldn’t get so stuck in the way he used to use the time he wasn’t working or, worse, the way at he could randomly jump from that back into his work whenever inspiration struck him, even in his off time.

Some weekends, Armand did seem to look at him, with what Daniel wondered might be a questioning look. But Armand never demanded he volunteer the thoughts Daniel kept to himself in those early days.

They were still figuring each other out. Figuring out themselves in the newness of the dynamic just made. And that, as well, made it easier for Daniel to hold his tongue.

“Would it be easier for you,” Armand asked, about a month into their arrangement, almost two months after they first met, and in the room with the fireplace that was fast becoming Daniel's favourite. Of course Daniel was on the floor, while Armand was on the couch. Daniel barely thought of it anymore; it was just so commonplace, the way they both sat when they were together in this room. “If you no longer lived in a separate location?”

“You trying to U-Haul me, Boss?” Daniel asked, unable to keep from making the quip that belonged better to the fairer sex of the queer spectrum. It was an older stereotype, and very possible Armand wouldn’t get it.

Armand frowned at him, and Daniel realised he’d broken that rule again where he wouldn’t use flippant humour to hide from a meaningful interaction within their relationship. When Armand did not reply, Daniel took a breath and better considered his answer.

“Why do you think this is hard for me?” Daniel asked. Because that was a genuine question, and a far easier part of Armand’s question to respond to than the other. Was Armand… was Armand really asking him to move in with him?

Armand gave Daniel a look as though he had asked something particularly stupid.

Daniel dropped his gaze. Yeah, that was fair enough. “I mean, I’m sorry, Boss. I didn’t mean you to think this was onerous for me.”

“I understand you had a life before this, habits that are difficult to break,” Armand said calmly. “What I mean to ask is: Are we moving too fast for you, or too slow?”

There it was. The way that Armand always seemed to cut right to the point. Daniel valued these conversations almost as much as he valued the f*cking and the play they now very regularly indulged in. Armand constantly managed to surprise him with the astuteness he possessed for someone almost a decade younger than Daniel.

How much had he seen and experienced of the world while Daniel had just been shuttered down in the marriage he’d thought was expected of him?

Daniel squinted up at him. "Are you asking me this like you're trying to gauge if I'm feeling the same kind of thing as I did when we didn't have sex for basically a month?"

"I'm asking you this, Daniel," Armand said flatly, his voice making the beginnings of a stern warning, "because I wish to know the answer."

Daniel straightened out his expression immediately, realising this wasn't the time for his joking around. It was a far easier change to make than it had been earlier in their relationship. He also didn't feel like quite such a failure when he slipped and misjudged the tone Armand wished to take their conversation down.

Two months together, and one month of regular collaring, had left Daniel feeling a fair amount more secure about where his place was and where he stood in this dynamic with his Boss. Yeah, of course he stuffed up, didn't communicate correctly, or stewed in his own frustrations on occasion, no different to any other kind of relationship. The main difference, he'd found out thus far, was the way in which those things were resolved in a power exchange relationship.

“I don’t know,” Daniel began to answer softly, though more than loud enough for Armand to hear.

He thought of it, turning his quick mind to it in consideration. It didn’t take him too long to come up with an answer. Armand had given him a room in this house, but this room where they spent quiet time together was his favourite one?

Maybe too slow? I know you gave me that room, Boss. But it’s not like I spend any real downtime there. It doesn’t really feel like I have anywhere to rest when I’m here. Apart from here.” Daniel gestured around them both from his place on the floor. "Maybe it would be easier if I didn't live somewhere else most of the time. Wouldn't that just give both of us more time to... be?"

Armand nodded. Took a moment for himself to think in the wake of Daniel’s response.

“My next question to you is: Do you trust me, Daniel?”

Well, that answer was easy. Daniel smiled from where he looked up to Armand from his feet. “Yeah Boss. I trust you.”

It was amazing that he did, so completely and so soon. It had taken that much longer before Daniel had felt like he'd trusted the woman who'd ultimately ended up becoming his wife. Daniel had only come to trusting Louis recently, and he'd known Louis how many months longer than Armand? There were people in his life, long term friends, that Daniel knew he'd probably never come to trust as much as he already did Armand. Would even that trust come to deepen over time, if they both allowed it to?

And, had Daniel really examined the answer to this question before now? No, it had snuck up on him, knowledge that Daniel held, but didn't really think about until Armand asked his question. But that didn't really seem to matter now. How else, he supposed, was this kind of relationship supposed to work without a leap of faith and trust given early? Whenever Daniel held any reserves over doing this or that chore, it was never due to a lack in trust. The fact that he went through with it all despite lingering reservations was because, above those, he wished to go wherever Armand led them both. And the simple reason for that was: He trusted Armand.

Armand was insightful, and he was freely communicative. He could be kind in the same moment as delightfully sad*stic. He'd brought Daniel to weeping many times, and Daniel had thanked him for it after each occasion. Daniel wondered how long into their relationship this younger man would still manage to surprise him, but he also knew that the base of what they were already building here would spark interest and desire in him even after surprise was long gone. Daniel had had one long term relationship before, and knew well how hard desire was to maintain over the years.

He believed that this thing between them... that he and Armand could do it.

Daniel did want to live here with Armand, he realised, at the same time as Armand opened his mouth and said, “There will be one room in this house that belongs to you. A sanctuary and a safe space you can go to. In time, I may give you another to do with as you see fit. An at home office, perhaps.” Armand's lips twisted in a smirk as he paused momentarily.

Daniel caught his breath there. There was almost a taste of teasing amusem*nt in Armand's expression.

“If you’re a good boy and please me very well.”

Daniel’s Adam’s apple suddenly felt too big for his throat.

“Yes Boss,” he managed to gasp out. Yes, to all of what Armand was suggesting.

“Do you own the apartment you currently live in?” Armand asked, changing the topic like it was nothing to him.

“Uh, yeah Boss,” Daniel said, nodding a moment later. His own quick mind did nothing for him when Armand was of a mind to turn his whole world upside down as he so regularly seemed to enjoy doing.

“You will keep it,” Armand told him. “If anything ever goes wrong between us, you will have somewhere you can go back to. Always remember you have consented to everything between us, Daniel. I will have no problems if you wish to rent the apartment out while you are here, for added both income and security for your property.”

Daniel blinked. Okay, Armand had considered so much more than Daniel had managed to. It was both hot and comforting at the same time. And it made sense, because Daniel was only starting to think of this now. How long had Armand been thinking of it? Since that first time they f*cked? Before?

But he couldn't seem to gather his thoughts well enough to figure out the correct way to probe for such information without potentially being too pushy or accidentally ruining this amazing moment between them. It was enough to Daniel that it was happening at all.

“Thank you Boss,” he said with feeling.

“You are welcome, Daniel,” Armand answered with a small smile. He knew exactly how this conversation and the thought behind it was causing Daniel's mind to whirl. He moved topics again anyway. “Do you have necessary possessions enough that you do not think will fit into this room?”

Did he have…? Daniel blinked at that. He was a 40 year old man, and had a 40 year old man’s list of possessions.

“My books alone, Boss,” he started plaintively, yet also glad Armand had thought to ask cause Daniel certainly hadn't thought to supply the information, and Armand hadn't seen his library of books before.

Armand gave to him a fond smile before Daniel could really begin to worry about this step in the negotiation. “I would never suggest one live without their books, or give them away. We will store them, for now, in one of the other rooms, but only with the understanding that, should you wish to seek one of them, you will ask permission first.”

"Daniel, I did not say I would agree if you asked. I like the control that's to be found in the knowing."

So many things came right down back to that. Daniel wondered if Armand realised how much of himself he had given away the day he had told that to Daniel? He would have to remember it always, this key to Armand that Daniel had been gifted with.

Probably, as with so many of the things Armand did, it had been entirely intentional. He would expect Daniel to remember it, then.

“Yes Boss,” Daniel said, relishing in the rules of living here with Armand being so easily laid out that even he couldn’t possibly manage to misstep.

"So. You will ask to have 'downtime', as you call it, as often as you need," Armand told him then. "It will be granted at least until I have a grasp on your existing home habits, and work from home habits as well."

That was good. That was more than he had right now of a weekend. Although, that did also beg the question, "Do you mean I'll be able to ask for that on weekends?"

Armand's lips flattened and he paused a moment, before asking, "Do you wish there to be less dedicated time between us during a weekend, Daniel?"

This man never needed to raise his voice. The more delicate his voice became, the more enunciated the words, the more clear it was that he had heard something that didn't please him. Even without the flattened lips, it would have been instantly obvious to Daniel.

"No!" he said, back pedalling quickly. "Just, I mean, if an idea comes to me, could I jot it down?"

Armand eyed Daniel a moment longer. "Jotting down an idea will be fine, for the time being," he said eventually. "Over time, I may choose to deny such a thing."

Daniel nodded his head before bowing it gratefully. By this point, he expected nothing less.

"There is one other thing."

Daniel lifted his gaze again to Armand, whose brown eyes were once more serious as he gazed back down into Daniel's green ones. But he didn't say anything else immediately, seeming to wait for Daniel to ask to know what this on additional thing was.

"What is it, Boss?" Daniel asked eventually.

Armand lifted his chin, tightening his jaw. His eyes seemed to blaze, and it seemed as though there was some kind of internal war now being waged in Armand's mind. As though there was something he wanted to say to Daniel but, like Daniel, wasn't sure how it would be received once it came out of his mouth.

Which, was strange. Armand didn't usually come across as the sort who censored himself. When there was something he wanted, especially when it was something Daniel could give him, he was always eager to inform Daniel of it.

The tip of Armand's tongue moved out of his mouth to slip briefly between his lips, and Daniel couldn't help but follow the movement. For some reason, as he watched, his heart began to beat faster. He knew, whatever this was, it was going to be something deeper to do with the control Armand would hold over him. Something that Armand sorely wanted but, maybe, was worried Daniel might balk at.

"You can tell me, Boss," Daniel said quietly, as though his reassurance might help Armand out here.

He inclined his head. "I've told you already: I intend to own you, boy," Armand murmured, leading slowly into it.

Again, Daniel nodded, his expression—he hoped—remaining neutral. He hardly fancied he was as good at holding a blank expression as Armand had demonstrated himself to be. Especially not when Armand said things like that. God.

"But I want to make sure you understand what that means," he continued, watching Daniel carefully as he spoke. "That it will also include your possessions. When you move into this house, it will still remain my house. Not our house. You will be collared at all times, not just when you are in the house with me. You will belong to me. And so will your car keys, your cell, your credit cards, your wallet, from the moment you walk into that door each night. I would give you a contract, stipulating what we have both agreed to, as well as a period of time when we can step back and re-evaluate. Longer than a night," Armand said, this with a smile. "But shorter than, say, a year."

A year. Daniel's mouth felt dry without him hardly even seeming to notice. His heart was beating now fit to burst out of his chest. Keenly, Armand still watched him. What did he see when he looked into Daniel's face? All Daniel thought was that he was waiting for whatever Armand would say next. Did Armand know that from the expression on Daniel's face, without Daniel needing to say anything at all? Was that why he had smiled? Daniel was so painfully hard he'd needed to shift where he sat on the ground so his jeans didn't constrict blood flow. He was undeniably excited by the idea of being so thoroughly, so unarguably owned, and hearing it so explicitly laid out. There would be no room for misunderstanding between them if Armand did as he said.

"How does this sound to you, boy?"

It went far beyond what they did in the bedroom, in the dungeon. And, of course, Armand had promised that from the start.

Daniel went to take a breath, and only then realised he had been holding it. How long had he been holding his breath? Was that why he felt short of it?

Armand's eyes blinked slowly, before he prompted gently, "Daniel? Do you trust me that much?"

If he was feeling uncertain, there was no hint of it in his tone of voice.

"I..." Daniel cleared his throat. Moved his own tongue inside his mouth in order to wet it again. Then tried speaking again. "May I think about it?"

What was there to think about? his body felt like it demanded. But Daniel had learned in his youth that decisions were best not made from a place of horniness. Especially if he wanted whatever decision he made to work out.

God, but he hadn't been lying when he'd told Armand he hadn't felt this way since back in his 20s! And, was 40 years old enough he needed to worry about having a heart attack if his heart beat kept on like this?

"Of course, Daniel," Armand answered, more easily than the intensity of both gaze and tone from before would have insinuated. "Take as long as you wish."

But they would not take any steps further forward in the conversation about Daniel's moving in until Armand had his answer. This went unspoken, but just as understood despite that. It was the line in the sand Armand drew between them, no matter how fast or slow Daniel might wish move.

Then Armand's fingers wound their way into Daniel's curls, and Daniel couldn't help but feel himself relax into the touch he'd already learned to find so soothing. A breath made the rest of its way out of him. His back even leaned against the bottom of the couch behind him. And slowly, his head just sort of found its way to the side of Armand's thigh.

Would it be so bad handing those every day items into Armand's possession as soon as he stepped into this house? To not think about, or constantly be checking emails into the evening. Not scrolling through news stories. Not easily be able to reach for his truck and take a drive, not even have to think about it, because he was already where he belonged.

Oh yeah.

Armand's question from earlier in the night came upon him again.

"Are we moving too fast for you, or too slow?"

Was the problem he'd been experiencing that he didn't feel owned enough of the time, hence the dissatisfaction at the chores he was expected to carry out? It sounded right in his mind as Daniel tested the thought. But he thought he would sleep on it just the same. He had asked Armand for time already. Best take it to think it as properly through as he could before making the next leap of faith and trust.

Chapter 18

Notes:

Hey, look, this whole fic belongs in VC Kink Week 2023, honestly. But this (July 28th - Voyeurism & Exhibitionism) is the only chapter actually posted during it lol.

Chapter Text

“A consideration collar.” Armand held the loose, silver chain collar he had chosen clearly in both his hands.

Instead of the room with only one window and the fireplace, Armand stood with his back to the near floor to ceiling windows in the sun room that overlooked the pool. Louis and Lestat sat on the twin recliners in the room.

None of them were looking at the pool outside, despite the fine weather on this Sunday afternoon. Certainly Daniel wasn’t!

Armand had chosen a Sunday so that the collaring ceremony could lead comfortably into their usual Sunday dinner. Louis and Lestat had been the only others given an invitation, even though Lestat had bristled briefly when told his other partner Antoinette would not be asked to attend.

I have been seeing her for a while now, Lestat had groused via the group chat Daniel had been included in on some weeks before. I do not understand why she should continue to be excluded from such events.

you've gone and picked a new partner who's more vanilla even than you, Louis had counselled him gently.

Daniel had been able to imagine the sight of Lestat’s blond hair bouncing about flamboyantly as he shook his head in annoyance at his primary partner not backing him up within the group of the four of them. I don’t see what that has to do with anything!

He could not say that he and Lestat had grown close over the past several weeks. But Lestat had seemed to settle down, as though the night of the play party had made it clear Lestat was in no way being replaced and he was not in competition with Daniel. There was no reason to continue staking his claim there. But Daniel also couldn’t help but wonder how much Lestat taking on a new partner around the same time had had to do with it all.

Daniel had been wary of doing any more with Louis than continuing their weekly drinks when they were one on one, however. It was one thing for Lestat to feel a certain way where it came to Daniel being with Armand – whom only Louis was in a relationship with, not Lestat. Daniel didn’t like to think of the jealousy that would likely be unleashed on all of them if Daniel resumed his sexual relationship with Louis now that he was no longer just one of many faceless f*ck buddies Louis hooked up with on occasion.

It certainly hadn’t altered the relationship between he and Louis for the worse, taking sex off the table. Things were as comfortable with them as they had ever been. No one made him laugh like Louis, with his quiet, unapologetic humour that came up whenever it was least expected. He was still one of Daniel’s favourite people, plain and simple.

This will be a collaring ceremony between a Master and his new slave, Armand had sent in reply to Lestat’s most recent group chat message. Louis’ gentler words hadn’t worked, and Armand didn’t shy from voicing his opinion. The words had come across even more cold than they would have in person, through only the text based medium. If you do not see why a new and vanilla partner of yours is not invited, then perhaps you should not be invited.

Interestingly enough, Armand did not sign his name to the end of group messages as he did in messages between himself and Daniel only. And, even in them, Daniel had noticed Armand had changed from signing his name, to signing, ‘Boss’ at the end of such messages.

Daniel smiled every time he saw it. Which would be less, he realised, once the two of them lived in the same house. And there would be even less opportunity for Armand to message him if he held his phone in his possession. He took a sharp breath at the thought of it, coming home to him in an entirely new way as he knelt on the hardwood floors of the sun room, facing Armand, head bowed.

Because Daniel had said yes to Armand’s terms. Of course he had. Had that ever been in question?

They had talked about this aspect of the ceremony prior, in the planning stages. Where of course it was completely appropriate that Daniel should kneel in front of Armand before being granted the collar he would wear for the next six months.

It would be a longer time spent kneeling than Daniel had become used to kneeling at the door when arriving or leaving Armand’s house up till now. And Daniel was not a young man anymore. Kneeling for long periods of time was just not something his knees were capable of doing.

So that was the reason there was a cushion on the floor between Daniel’s knees and the shining hardwood. It didn’t solve the problem of Daniel’s difficulty kneeling for long periods of time—and Armand would likely need to reach out a hand to assist him to standing again—but it gave them a bit longer than they would have had without the cushioning.

“I know you’re not a younger man, Daniel,” Armand had told him when Daniel had worried they were placing his needs above what Armand would have wanted in an ideal situation. Armand had held Daniel’s jaw in his hand, ensuring Daniel would look at Armand and hear the words he was saying, “I would not have you any other way.”

The ceremony was set for the weekend before Daniel made the move into his own personal Night Island. This had been decided because Armand did not wish to feel rushed when Daniel moved in, and he also did not wish Daniel to live in his house without belonging to him as they had outlined.

Daniel took a couple of steadying breaths.

There was a smile in Armand’s voice – this was a thrilling thing they were embarking on and Daniel could hear the way it moved his Boss just from his tone of voice.

“For a period six months, to be renewed at my discretion. Is this what you have agreed to, my beautiful boy?”

“Yes Boss.” Shirtless and shoeless again in front of both Louis and Lestat. But, this time, unlike last, Daniel was at least part of the focus that drew the four of them here today.

“During this consideration period, you will happily go where I lead. You will respect those in my chosen family as you respect me. Is this what you have agreed to, boy?”

“Yes Boss,” Daniel answered again. He had not known the words that would make up the ceremony ahead of time, but they were no more than what they had discussed privately. It was not difficult for him to agree to in front of Armand’s chosen family.

“I will train you in both pleasure and service as suits my needs, and wants. I will control your schedule, outside of times you must be at work. I will own your possessions as I own you, for this period of six months. Is this what you have agreed to?”

“Yes Boss.” The words this third time came both easier and harder through the thickening of Daniel’s throat. It felt different, somehow, knowing these agreements were being witnessed by others. It wasn’t just between Armand and Daniel anymore, such private agreements.

Was there even privacy in this lifestyle? Even Lestat, arguably the most vanilla of the four of them assembled here, even he had gladly allowed himself to be whipped and beaten in front of all of them.

Daniel felt proud of what he was committing to here. The ceremony of it made it feel almost akin to wedding vows, despite the six month expiry date Armand had placed on it in advance. It deepened the sense of seriousness Daniel felt in the moment that there were witnesses.

As he closed his eyes briefly, he felt like his mind had never been more still. His whole world narrowed down almost to Armand’s voice and, more distantly, to Louis and Lestat’s joint presence behind him.

“Do you still wish to stand and sign the agreement as I wrote up and had you check earlier, boy?”

Yes Boss,” Daniel said fervently.

Armand’s hand dropped into his line of vision. Daniel took it, allowing himself to put some of his weight on Armand in order to lever himself back up to his bare feet. He’d brought the small table from the dungeon out into this room earlier. There was a pen and a printed out document on it now.

As Armand had said, Daniel already knew what was written there. His gaze flicked over it anyway. There was no change to the words and rules laid out. Daniel hadn’t expected there to be.

And so he signed the contract, freely and without shame.

The last free action I take, Daniel thought with wonder. Then watched as Armand did the same. The collar he still held in the left hand he didn’t use to write with.

And then Armand turned to Daniel.

This would be the first time Daniel stood while Armand locked a collar of any sort around his neck. This would be his first time wearing this. It was loose enough it would not show when Daniel wore a shirt, and so it was also not a choking hazard. So Armand had not seen a need to fit it to him beforehand.

“The ceremony should be the first time you wear this,” Armand had told him, and Daniel had agreed.

He saw the smile in both Armand’s lips and eyes as he reached to bring the chain around Daniel’s neck, two ends hanging over his collarbones before Armand drew them together with a padlock. They’d already arranged that Armand would keep one of the keys on him, while the other would be with the rest of Daniel’s keys, in case he ever needed to remove the collar when Armand was not around.

Daniel didn’t want to think of removing the collar, not in the moment when it was being affixed for the very first time around his neck. His heart almost felt that it was pressing against the frame of his collarbone. He felt lightheaded in a way he hadn’t expected.

“Is this what you have agreed to?” Armand asked one last time, before adding, “slave?”

“Yes Boss,” Daniel said, closing his eyes against the wave of emotion that took him then.

There was more than that to the evening. Lestat would have had a riot otherwise.

Maybe that was uncharitable to Lestat, who had been nothing but kind towards him in the past month. He even thought he’d recognised overtures of friendship from the man who was the primary partner of his one time lover, as well as long term friend-among-other-things to his new Master.

It would definitely behoove Daniel to start to be more charitable when it came to Lestat. Neither one of them seemed to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Armand had dinner organised to be delivered to his place at 6pm, which was the normal time they would have arrived at their restaurant were this a normal night.

It was not a normal night.

Daniel was on his ottoman—thankfully now seated on his ass than his knees—in the space next to Armand’s seat, the usual chair having been moved from the dining table back against a wall before Louis and Lestat had even arrived. There was no dining conversation that Daniel could be a part of for this meal. Armand had decided that, for tonight, he preferred to feed Daniel from his plate, and at his feet.

Before it had come up, Daniel hadn’t felt much either way about the decision Armand had made, other than understanding it was a decision based on Armand’s wishes, and Daniel would of course accede to them.

When it came to it, however? Lestat and Louis sitting on their side of the dining table, Armand eying him deliberately as they came around to the other side, as though Armand was curious to see whether Daniel would balk at the last minute—he would not, thank you very much. Especially not tonight of all nights!—Daniel bowed his head slightly, before sitting down on the ottoman.

Beside him, Armand’s wood chair scraped only slightly on the hardwood floor that flowed from the sun room back to the dining room.

“Good boy,” Armand murmured, almost low enough not to hear, although it was accompanied by a gentle touch against the back of Daniel’s head. Daniel leaned into the touch without thinking.

Neither Louis nor Lestat said anything, not about that. Maybe there had been an arch expression shared between them, though Daniel couldn’t see it from his lowered position nearer to the floor.

But Armand was right. A vanilla woman Daniel had never even met yet wouldn’t have fit in tonight at all. Armand had a mind of how he wanted tonight to go, and he’d never been going to accommodate someone else who didn’t understand their lifestyle he chose to live to be present.

For Daniel, his mind was quiet as Armand invited the others to ‘dig in’. It was casual language for him, and belied the intimate nature of only the top of Daniel’s head likely being visible to the others across the table, and what this signified. Had it not been for the lead up to this moment, Daniel might have been embarrassed. But there was no room for embarrassment in his head.

Or, rather, no place for it in amongst the quiet contentment that came with the surety Daniel held within him that he had pleased Armand with everything he had done thus far this evening.

Thus far in their relationship. Bar a few hitches.

After a short pause in the beginning, Louis began a conversation that ended up being easily picked up between the three of them, likely as easily as all conversations had gone before Daniel had been brought into the mix. And Daniel smiled at that too, to have the experience of being almost a fly on the wall, able to listen in to what the dynamic had been before him.

And then Armand half turned and reached the first morsel would feed Daniel from his own plate, and all other idle thoughts stopped. Utterly.

Daniel opened his mouth, more of a parting of the lips really, gazing into Armand’s gaze and immediately captured there by those brown eyes. Armand was very gentle as he ushered the fork forward, making sure the prongs of the fork did not dig into the soft flesh of his tongue accidentally when Daniel widened his mouth to accept it. Daniel couldn’t have told what it was Armand gave to him, or what it tasted like. When Armand pulled the fork back empty from his mouth, Daniel closed his mouth to chew, still wholly unable to look away from Armand.

The corner of Armand’s mouth lifted in a subtle smirk. He nodded once. Then turned back to Louis and Lestat, having spoken nothing out loud to Daniel.

Daniel, meanwhile, had broken out in a hot sweat. How the f*ck had that been so hot? Holy f*ck.

He stared down a moment, trying to calm his thoughts and his suddenly racing heart. It wasn't shame he felt. Not in front of these three. Hell, he had seen Lestat strung up on a cross and beaten. Who even knew what Armand and Louis got up to. Daniel was safe from judgement around the three men here in the room with him, bending to Armand's will in such a basic way as to take food needed for nourishment from Armand's hand. No, it wasn't shame he felt, so much as shock at how much he'd already enjoyed this. How much he craved to have Armand do this with him again. Daniel was anticipating it already. If this kind of pseudo-sexual stuff was the kind of thing Daniel was yet to discover in Armand's repertoire, no wonder he hadn't thought immediately of sex.

That calm from the moment before was completely lost to him now. Daniel couldn’t think of anything other than the next mouthful, even as he could feel the heat of the flush in his cheeks. For that physical giveaway at the very least, Daniel was kinda glad he was down here and out of site of the others. Even if he wasn't embarrassed, there was reason to be embarrassed in doing something like this. In letting Armand feed him in such a way, and getting off on it. For some reason, Daniel didn't want the others to think he was actually embarrassed, or humiliated even.

It was far from the most filling meal he had ever had. Armand didn’t turn from the conversation he was having often enough to really break it. Some of the time, he didn’t even look at Daniel after that first time, only lowering the fork, still talking and facing forward, and leaving Daniel to lean forward, wrap his lips around the fork and take the mouthful if he wished for it.

And he did. God, he did. Over and over again, Daniel never hesitated. He had never before in his life eaten such an erotically charged meal. He felt as though all of his movements were happening in slow motion, and his thoughts were equally as slow. On the occasions when Armand did look at him, the meeting of their eyes was almost an electric thing, and Daniel wanted nothing more than to lay his head on Armand's knee as he would have if they'd been in the reading nook with the fire place.

Whether or not he was full, whether or not it had been a good meal, such questions remained unanswered by the time Armand’s chair next scraped on the hardwood.

“Daniel,” Armand said, again lowering his hand to assist Daniel in standing up. There was a look in his eyes, a look that said he didn't need to ask if Daniel had surprised himself by enjoying this little charged time between them. Armand knew he had; had probably known he would well before the understanding of that had dawned on Daniel!

He took a deep breath, then took that hand, knowing he was about to be lead to the next part of their evening, to what Armand had promised would be the main event. They'd hardly even begun. Being fed tonight had hardly been more than an entrée.

Beyond that, Daniel had no idea what it would entail. Just that it would be in the dungeon.

Chapter 19

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The first time Armand brought Daniel into the dungeon to play, he was strung up with the same precision that Lestat had been tied to the cross with.

Only later did Daniel find out that Armand had orchestrated that scene with Lestat to look very much like what Armand intended to do with Daniel later. Gauging his interest and comfort levels even as he whaled on Lestat.

First flogging with the dual handed, red suede. The regular check ins, with Armand’s body so close to his that he could feel the body heat coming from it.

And yet, like so many of their plans, it didn’t go exactly as intended.

Of all things, Daniel huffed out a laugh in the middle of that scene.

Armand stopped what he was doing completely.

“Come on, Boss,” Daniel murmured gently, trying to make up for the fact that he had laughed in the face of Armand’s prowess. “I know you don’t think my pain threshold is that low.”

The pause ran longer.

Finally, Armand said only, “Very well.”

He changed over the flogger out for a dragon’s tail whip. Suede still, though Daniel knew it by the touch rather than the sight of it. It was a toy that could break the skin if not used well. Daniel did not doubt that, if it was in Armand’s collection, he knew how to use it well.

And he was proved exactly right in the moments that followed. He gasped at the loud noise it made as it struck each one of his shoulder blades in turn, before going for the crack between his butt cheeks, all with perfect accuracy.

Armand waited after those three strikes, clearly gauging anew Daniel’s responses.

There was no laughter in him that time. The pain licked against his skin, teasing Daniel with aftershocks even though there was no contact between he and Armand currently, not even by proxy of the toy. The skin remembered.

Daniel rested his head against the wool wood of the St Andrew’s cross, eyes half lidded, gazing at nothing. There was a drowsy smile spreading across his features, subspace definitely taking hold of him now that the work up was done and the pain play had begun in earnest. He wasn’t sure he could have laughed anymore. He wasn’t sure he could have spoken.

After that, Armand learned quickly that there was little need to work up his new boy so extensively. Daniel could take whatever pain Armand wanted to dish out. Oh, he really could.

“I was beginning to think I was alone in my love of such pain,” Armand murmured one night on the bed in the dungeon, his light fingers tracing patterns along the skin of Daniel’s back.

Daniel was still floating, letting the aftermath of their play take him wherever it would lead while Armand tethered his body here in aftercare. The thought had crossed his mind as to whether he had a higher pain threshold than Lestat. Was that why he had started so slow? Lestat had asked for ‘more’ and ‘harder’ as well, but it was hard to tell the strength of one beating from the other when only one of them left marks against one’s own skin. Daniel hadn’t been able to find the words to ask without it sounding like he wanted to make it some kind of competition.

But, with Armand’s words, Daniel was curious. Armand didn’t talk in details about his past a whole lot. And, if he had decided to do it now, Daniel wanted to follow that now to see where it would lead.

“You love pain, Boss?” His voice was slurred, he could hear it as soon as the words came out.

“Oh, Daniel.” Another trace of Armand’s quick fingers across his skin. “You have no idea.”

“Mm.” Daniel’s lips curved in a small smile. “So, we’re a little bit the same.”

Armand’s fingers paused, before moving again as though what Daniel had unwittingly said hadn’t startled him. “I suppose we are. A little.”

But pain wasn’t a thing Armand was interested in receiving from Daniel. He made that chillingly clear on the one and only morning Daniel asked stiltedly whether Armand wanted him to return the favour, and Armand told him to remember his place.

The night of his collaring, of his becoming Armand’s slave once and for all was completely different to those early play scenes. For one, Armand knew exactly where Daniel’s pain threshold was.

But, for two, it wasn’t Armand who picked up the first toy in the dungeon.

That pleasure went to Lestat. Daniel stared at Armand in confusion, while Armand merely stood in front of Daniel, eying him firmly.

“You are mine,” Armand told him, just loud enough for all four of them in the dungeon to hear. “And that means you’ll be used how I see fit.”

And that meant in full view of everyone here. Cause there certainly weren’t any hidden corners in this dungeon. Even if there had been, the St Andrew’s cross and its pride of place within the room wasn’t one of them.

His earlier thought regarding privacy in this lifestyle had more thoroughly been answered in that one sentence than had Armand spent several minutes on it.

Maybe there was privacy. But that too would be given at Armand’s discretion.

Yet still Daniel just sagged to hear Armand’s words because, yes, that was what he wanted too. How had he not seen it until Armand explicitly spelled it out for him? His head bobbed just slightly, but he nodded a clear accent to Armand first.

Seeming pleased with that, Armand lifted his gaze to Lestat, and it was as though just that alone was enough to get Lestat to start.

He started harder than Daniel would have expected him to, and yet not with so much skill as Armand possessed. Still, the toy he’d chosen was a bamboo cane, which meant little to no wrap around and was about as easy a toy to wield so long as the top didn’t surpass

No chance of that tonight.

Whenever Daniel felt untethered, he brought his attention back to the new collar around his neck, hanging lower than he was used to feeling it, though the metal had warmed considerably to match his body temperature since Armand had first placed it around his neck and the heavy sound of the lock had fallen into place.

Just the memory of that sound…

On particularly rough strikes, Daniel’s eyes flashed open, always to find Armand standing there, watching him as though there was no one else in the room for him but Daniel.

If Lestat had ever gone too far, Armand would have put a stop to it. Daniel knew it, was sure of it. Armand had earned that sureness from him.

That knowledge allowed Daniel to relaxed wholly into what was being done to him. So much so, he was almost saddened when Lestat’s strikes came to a sudden stop.

Daniel gasped, the body’s attempt and determination to catch its breath. But he didn’t pull at his restraints. He didn’t so much as attempt to lift or move any part of him that wasn’t where Armand had put him.

The next to strike him was Louis. Having guessed this would be next already, Daniel had been looking forward to the touch of his old lover in this new scenario. His body almost seemed to vibrate with anticipation, jumping to attention when his brown hand rested firmly on Daniel’s side, having not first caused him any pain at all.

“You are beautiful like this. Do you know that?” Louis whispered the words into Daniel’s ear, and Daniel’s toes were curling against the floor. Not that he thought anyone was looking towards the floor. No, they were probably all looking towards his dick, and seeing the effect that Louis’ words had just had on him.

Daniel’s whole body shuddered. He couldn’t find a single word to say out loud, which was bizarre for him. But this whole night was bizarre.

Louis seemed to understand, and did not wait overly long for a reply that wasn’t coming. There was just a brief hesitation, that might have been Louis looking to Armand for permission, or looking to Lestat for the same.

And then Daniel’s knees wanted to buckle because Louis followed the light touch of his hand with the light touch of the leather of a riding crop across his shoulders. Lower, to the small of his back. Drifting across his buttocks. And then, when Daniel thought he might whimper, might actually beg to be struck, Louis landed his first blow.

It wasn’t the pain of the strike that got him. Both Armand and Lestat had hit him harder. No, with Louis it was the build up of anticipation that slayed him. That had him sagging against the wood of the cross, as though that alone could keep him up.

He felt Armand’s fingers, suddenly, against his chin, lifting it from the wood. Daniel felt like he travelled from very far away to open his eyes and use them to look back at his new Master.

Armand’s gaze was searching, like he wanted to know what it was that had completely taken Daniel as it just had. He was near enough to know that the blow had nowhere near touched Daniel’s upper limits of pain threshold. Maybe it was also that he’d played with Louis before and knew him to be gentle. Whatever it was, Daniel stared numbly back at Armand, already near to overwhelm with the whole of what this night had been so far.

And then, after a moment, a small smile lifted the corners of Armand’s lips. That same amusem*nt entered into his eyes, and he nodded once, before lifting his gaze up to Louis.

Louis had stopped after that first strike, Daniel realised only then. Pinned as he’d still felt between Armand and Louis, he hadn’t even realised it was Armand’s hand alone that had held him in place.

And then Louis’ second strike hit. While Daniel was still looking across at Armand. While Armand was looking across at him.

f*ck. He mouthed the word, no actual sound coming out along with it.

That contented smile was still on Armand’s features.

Daniel would have loved to also be able to see Louis’ face right then.

He had no idea whether Armand gave to him the same amount of time as Lestat had had, or whether it was more, or whether it was less. Time seemed to cease to even be a thing while he was on that cross, with the short number of men Armand had assembled to bring home to Daniel tonight what he had done when he’d willingly entered into Armand’s ownership.

Armand’s ownership.

By the time Armand touched Daniel’s cheek lightly before moving to take his turn behind Daniel, Daniel had no idea how he was gonna stay standing. This wasn’t a case of his age or any sort of frailty—though he sure as hell knew he’d be feeling this tomorrow—it was a case of stamina.

Three different men in the same night. Daniel had never experienced anything like it in his whole life.

If this was what life as Armand’s slave was gonna be about from now on, Daniel thought he might be the luckiest man ever to have lived.

“All that you are,” Armand murmured low, though not so close to his ear as Louis had been. “All that you experience? It belongs to me now.”

And that was the last warning Daniel had before the first strike of an approximately oval shaped paddle hit against his left butt cheek. Then again, on the very same spot. It was beyond different to the toys both Lestat and Louis had chosen to play with. Daniel thought Armand did that deliberately, to ensure that the marks he left on Daniel stood out.

It was his right buttock next. Same treatment, two sharp hits before Daniel had his chance to breathe in between them. He was already gasping, quivering, not sure if he was hoping Armand would return to the left buttock next, or aim for somewhere else that would radiate such deep and sudden pain.

He yelped when it was his left buttock again. Squirmed when Armand returned to his right. Panted because he couldn’t catch enough breath to breathe properly. His whole world narrowed down to his ass and the way Armand was pounding against it like he didn’t remember how to stop.

Like he’d found how high Daniel’s pain threshold sat and he was racing to find it.

The first prickles of tears stung Daniel’s eyes even as his ass began to find a jerking rhythm to meet against the thrashing it received. His co*ck was so f*cking hard, and leaking, at the immediate idea of what this motion resembled.

And then, as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped. The paddle was gone, replaced by Armand’s hand, and then Armand’s hand against his inflamed skin became the whole of Daniel’s world. He couldn’t concentrate on anything other than leaning into that possessive touch and knowing that, whatever came next, he would take that too. He would take all of it.

Daniel was shocked when deep, gasping breaths became sobs even as Armand released him from the cross and lowered those arms before bringing him into his embrace. He didn’t think he could walk, not even the short distance from there to the bed. And Armand didn’t make him. Didn’t hush him. Just held him tight as though he would eclipse Daniel’s whole body with his own.

It was catharsis. It was something holier than what his family used to take him to on Sundays. It was him and Armand and the family Armand had chosen. There was no shame here, there was only release of a kind Daniel was still learning.

Armand leaned back at some point to gaze into Daniel’s face, see what he was feeling since words still hadn’t come back to him. In that moment, with Armand’s arms and embrace no longer around him, there was only one thing that felt as natural to Daniel as breathing.

Slowly, carefully—because if he couldn’t walk for sure, he wasn’t certain how this would go—Daniel went down to one knee in front of Armand, then another. He kneeled, bowing his head, and almost gasping when Armand’s hand came ever so soft against his curls.

“I’m yours,” Daniel said, maybe in answer to what Armand had said at the beginning of his play, maybe reaffirming the contract they’d agreed to earlier that night. And his voice was husky, but the moment was perfect.

“I thought of forcing you to come tonight,” Armand mused afterwards, when Louis and Lestat had gone and it was just the two of them alone once more.

“Boss?” They were together in Armand’s bedroom, because Armand had told him this first night as an owned slave was a celebration they both deserved to share.

“While Louis and Lestat were still here.” Armand said the words idly, as though they ought not to have any sort of an effect on Daniel.

It was a game, because both of them knew very well that Armand’s words always had an effect on Daniel.

“You, of course, I judged far too overwhelmed already by the spectacle of the evening. But if I hadn’t …”

Armand made a low hum in the back of his throat, as though relishing the images that his own mind brought up for him. One arm tightened around Daniel even as Daniel’s heart began to pound, and when Armand spoke again, his voice had lowered to almost a growl.

“I would have grabbed your co*ck, Daniel. I would have stroked it in front of both Louis and Lestat, no matter how you shied away, no matter how you pleaded that it was too much on top of everything else. I would have stroked and forced that juice from your co*ck until you surrendered, shuddering afterwards in relief and shame.”

Daniel had to clear his throat a couple of times after that vivid description was in his mind now as well as Armand’s. When he thought he could speak without his voice cracking, he offered, “Only one problem with that I think, Boss.”

“And what is that?”

“I wouldn’t have shied away, wouldn’t have pleaded for you to stop at all.”

Armand’s free hand rose, his fingers closing around Daniel’s throat and forcing away any other words Daniel might have made to puncture the little fantasy he had woven.

“You would have had I told you to.”

His Boss was utterly right. Daniel would have done exactly as asked if Armand would have told him too.

Notes:

Might set this as completed at this point in time, because I've figured out that the struggle I'm having with writing (and therefore updating) this regularly is that I've established too much consent and communication between them, which is... just not as interesting to me personally ^.^

This is as good a place as any to leave them with their happily ever after <3

I've got an idea for a Blood Promise inspired AU (cause I don't *think* I've seen anyone pick that one up yet??) in the pipelines next, so watch this space. I'll update this note with the link as soon as the first chapter is live.

Chapter 20

Notes:

Well and so, here I am in your inboxes again... this is the fault of Nanowrimo, really. For the few of you who knew I was working on a Sekrit Project, this was it! I wanted to see if it stuck before saying anything <3

And also, I really couldn't post another chapter of this without explicitly mentioning the beautiful fanart I recieved from @fofoqueirah in the intervening time between chapters, based around Chapter 12.

i must here be confined by you - faerywhimsy (1)

Chapter Text

When Daniel woke up, still on the bed in the dungeon, there was no sign of Louis or Lestat. The two of them must have stirred after Daniel was well into unconsciousness and made their ways back home.

Only Armand was beside him, watching him.

"I didn't want to wake you," he murmured.

"What time is it?" Daniel didn't quite feel his limbs properly again yet. There weren't any windows in this room. It could have been any time. And it was Monday.

But then, his work had never exactly expected him to be an early riser. He certainly had never given them cause for that impression.

"Just a little before 7am."

Daniel would have groaned. But it was hard to feel sh*tty about the earliness of the morning when he'd woken up with Armand beside him.

So instead of groaning, his lips quirked. "That so. Morning Boss."

Armand leaned closer to him, pressing his lips against Daniel's. "I regret very much to say I must shortly begin to get ready for work."

"Stupid Mondays," Daniel groused, his voice still light.

"Very stupid," Armand responded. "How are you feeling this morning?"

It wasn't the first time they'd played, but it was the first time he'd had three men taking to him with whatever toys they could find in Armand's play room. Yet, for all that...

Daniel's smile broadened. "Euphoric."

"Very good, Daniel." Armand seemed quite pleased with this answer. "You will have your phone on you all day. If at any time you need anything at all..."

"You will supply the aftercare," Daniel said. Because it wasn't the first time they'd had this talk either. Armand was very firm about the fact that he alone would deliver all the aftercare Daniel could possibly need. "I've been fine up till now."

"You had a different experience last night. It pays to make certain." Again, Armand kissed Daniel, this time more deeply, unabashedly pushing his tongue into Daniel's mouth to assure that there would be no backchat from Daniel this time.

Instead of arguing, Daniel simply let Armand have his way with him.

It was with a great deal more regret when Armand finally stood up from the bed.

By the time Daniel finally made it to work, he'd decided it was best to go into the office rather than the disaster zone of unpacked boxes and dust bunnies that seemed to have appeared from everywhere as soon as Daniel had started moving things around back at his apartment. He had an appointment later in the week for an estate agent and their photographer to come to the apartment in order to take the photos that would appear on their website along with the rental listing, and he would need to deal with it sooner rather than later.

But that morning? Daniel didn't want the haze of the night before to leave him.

There was no way around it, however.

As soon as he reached the familiar building his office was housed in, the night and the weekend before started to feel slightly surreal. By the time he stepped into his office and behind his desk, it felt like it was any other day, like he must have dreamed what had happened. Or like it must have happened to someone else.

He couldn't actually be collared property to someone like Armand!

Daniel picked up his phone to message Louis, determined to bring back that feeling of reality to the new form of his life. With his other hand, he stroked the loose chain under his shirt, letting that ground him before he began to message.

You guys get home okay last night?

"Didn't expect you in today," Charlie told him when he came by the doorway of his office at around 11.30 that morning.

"Moving hell," Daniel said by way of answer.

Charlie chuckled in his own knowing way before continuing down the line of offices to wherever he'd been heading before stopping for that brief quip.

Some of the shame that had been so absent in the middle of being fed by Armand the night before had begun to stir up within him in the past few hours. He'd been so absolutely brazen. What must Louis think of him? Was that, rather than work obligations, what kept him from replying back to Daniel? Had he made an utter fool of himself the night before, and he was the only one who didn't know it?

But then, no. By lunch, he finally got a reply from Louis.

no troubles at all. how're you feelin today?

How was Daniel feeling?

Like I need to pinch myself, I think, he ended up with replying.

haha. i felt like that the first time Armand went to town on me.

Just that, nothing more. Nothing to indicate the way he was meant to be feeling.

Daniel placed his phone face down on his desk. No. This wasn't going to happen. He wasn't going to overthink this. He'd been working towards this since before he'd even known Armand, and he was damned if he was going to ruin things now. He'd consented to this, along every step of the way, he had consented to this.

He didn't need Louis to tell him the way he was meant to be feeling. Just because he let Armand top him, didn't mean Daniel should look to Louis. If he needed to ask anyone how he should be feeling, that person should be Armand.

And Armand had left him alone in his house that morning with another searing kiss and no reason, none at all, to think anything was amiss.

Sub drop. The words dropped into his mind as though Armand had somehow put them there. Because Armand had warned him something like this might come. Daniel had thought he was lucky before, because he'd never experienced anything of the sort. Like, he was exempt, or something.

Again, Daniel lifted a hand to touch that collar that hid under his shirt. Allowed himself to close his eyes for just a moment and actually bask in the knowledge that he was owned. How good it had felt the night before.

How good it would feel that night, once he got back from his apartment with the car load he'd committed to bringing over after work tonight.

Nah, he was fine. It was all fine. There was nothing at all he needed to worry about.

I haven’t heard from you today.
I need to work late tonight night.
Armand

Just that. Maybe there was meant to be censure in the text message but, then again, probably not. It wasn’t that Armand had made it a protocol that Daniel was to message him during work hours or anything.

Armand message came in at about 3pm, though, and just about sunk Daniel’s entire mood.

He put his phone down without replying.

Another hour later, and a second message came through from Armand.

I have spoken to Louis. He says Lestat is on a date tonight
You will be most welcome there after today’s packing.
Armand

Daniel stared at his phone for a long moment. Then, before he had time to second guess himself,

That sounds like it’s already been decided, Boss

Yes, Daniel. Because it has.

It wasn’t that Daniel couldn’t be aware of the way in which Armand could sometimes come across as a little careless of his feelings. At the beginning, Daniel had dismissed it as his own being needy. God, he really couldn’t stand to be that one in their relationship.

If Armand wanted them to keep separate beds when Daniel was over, fine. Daniel wouldn’t be the one to make a big deal of it. Especially since, well, given his whole role in the relationship, there wasn’t a lot of place where he could do.

This seemed a bit different, though. On what would have been Daniel’s first night in the house—ostensibly moving in—Armand wasn’t even gonna be there?

More than that, Daniel was being sent away?

Louis had messaged him not too long after Armand’s last message had come through. Daniel hadn’t read it in full. Oh, he was sure it would be perfectly conciliatory. Not only that, he was sure catching up with Louis tonight would be no less fun than every other time they’d caught up.

The difference was in the premise.

Should Daniel have felt hot over the idea of Armand ordering this and organising it? As it was, Daniel felt left like he was nothing more than a small child who needed to be babysat as soon as he was away from his daddy’s presence.

And Armand wasn’t his daddy. Hell, the whole idea was absurd given their ages!

Daniel glanced at his phone, half wondering what Armand would have said to that if he’d sent the thought by text in that moment.

He already knew it was best if he didn’t pick up that phone right then. Not even to look at the full message from Louis.

But when he was at his more than half empty apartment that night, and it came time for him to start planning to make his way to Louis’ again, Daniel felt annoyed all over again.

Am I staying at Louis’ tonight?

Daniel carefully pressed send on the message to Armand there, before he allowed his thumbs to type out anything further.

No Daniel. Why would you think that?
Armand.

Well… you organised me going over there. Never said when I’d be back. If I’d be back.

Is that why I haven’t heard from you, Daniel?
Are you annoyed with me?
Armand.

How in hell was Daniel meant to answer that? Of course he was annoyed with Armand! For a minute, he considered just going right back to not replying to Armand.

But also, Daniel was an almost 40 year old man. He knew well enough that such petulance wasn’t a good look for him.

With a sigh, Daniel just wrote back, You think?

Why would that be, Daniel?
Surely not because I ordered you to do something?
Armand.

Well damn. If that didn’t just put Daniel in his place. He jutted his jaw. There wasn’t a lot he liked less than being put in a place where he was angry, but had no reasonable outlet for the feeling.

Yeah, well. See you after Louis’ I guess.

So much for not being petulant.

Daniel shot off a quick message to Louis, letting him know he was on his way without actually ever otherwise replying to the other man’s earlier message. And then he grabbed the last of the boxes he’d packed tonight to bring out to his truck, which was already running in the assigned parking lot.

It wasn’t a long drive over to where Louis and Lestat lived, although it was the first time Daniel had had cause to go over there.

Although Lestat was supposed to have been out on a date that night, it was still Lestat who somehow opened the door. His blond hair looked windblown, despite him standing inside, and Daniel strongly suspected the use of a blow dryer. He wore tight black pants that had too plastic a look for leather but definitely did their job of showing off Lestat’s assets to their best.

“Come in, come in!” Lestat said, waving Daniel in as though his words of encouragement weren’t enough on their own.

Daniel had his hands shoved deep into his pockets. He felt a combination of end of day sweaty, and dusty from packing. Sure, Lestat was about to go on a date and had clearly groomed himself for the occasion. But Daniel felt old and slightly gross by direct comparison. It was quite a different feeling than the last time the two of them had been in the room.

If Lestat noticed anything amiss, he didn’t say anything.

“Louis is in the library.”

Daniel’s eyes widened as he looked at Lestat. This wasn’t a large place he’d just walked into. Certainly not as big as Armand’s. Yes, bigger than Daniel’s old apartment, but it would need to be with two adult men living in it.

That said, Daniel wouldn’t have thought it big enough to hold a library as one of the main rooms.

This time, Lestat correctly read Daniel’s expression.

“Some people would call it a ‘lounge’, I suppose,” Lestat murmured. “And yet, I live with Louis.”

“Ah,” Daniel said quietly, the first sound he’d made since stepping into their house.

At his hip pocket, his phone buzzed. Given he was already here, Daniel had more than a good idea of who that message was likely from. He still didn’t pull it out from his pocket.

“Is that Daniel?” he could hear Louis’ voice call out of the lounge room—library—as he approached.

“It is.” Daniel couldn’t quite help it. He knew he was coming across as more severe than was his usual. Especially his usual around Louis. But this all still felt weird as hell to him.

Louis hadn’t stood up from the chair he’d been reading in, but his brown gaze flashed over him quickly and Daniel wondered how much he saw.

Behind him, Lestat said, “Well I must be off. Antoinette will not wait forever. Have fun, kids!”

After a quick salute, Lestat went back out to the hallway, and from there Daniel heard the front door open and then close purposefully. He was also sure that he saw a minute rolling of Louis’ eyes, though not so much that he was willing to call him on it.

Finally, he dropped into an armchair across from Louis.

“Rough day?” Louis asked him mildly.

“You could say that,” Daniel said, not quite looking at him and not extrapolating.

“You wanna drink?”

“God, yes.”

Louis did get up then. Daniel couldn’t help it when he felt his lips curve up as Louis pulled out a whole old man style drink service, all the way to a decanted spirit into a glass bottle.

“Something your grandpa passed down to you?” Daniel asked because, in his twenties, Louis was far too young for that to be something normal in his age group.

“No, actually,” Louis answered.

“Huh.” Daniel accepted and then downed what he soon discovered was whiskey in one motion.

Louis lifted an eyebrow. “Another?”

“How drunk do you reckon it’s wise to get?”

A touch of sympathy entered Louis’ expression. “This was meant to be your first night living with Armand.”

“Got it in one,” Daniel said, wiggling his glass slightly for Louis to give it the attention and top up it deserved.

Louis poured, then turned away to place the rest of the tray minus his own glass back on its shelf. Taking the hint, Daniel took a slower sip of this second pour.

By the time Louis sat back down, his words from before were still ringing in Daniel’s mind. As were all the uncounted responses Daniel didn’t wanna say. Couldn’t make himself say.

This went beyond needy, in terms of feelings. But it convinced him that he just… wanted… to be around Armand more than Armand wanted to be around him.

After his marriage, it wasn’t a feeling Daniel was expressly used to.

“It is work keeping him away,” Louis murmured, breaking the silence eventually.

Daniel lifted one shoulder and let it drop. “Does it matter?”

“Perhaps,” Louis murmured. “Your work has probably, on occasion, had its own out of hours obligations.”

Of course it did. All the time, in fact. And not remotely helped by Daniel’s weird hours.

But it wasn’t Daniel who had put work on what would have been their first night in the house together. What would Armand had even have said if it had been his work, instead of Armand’s, that had been in the way of tonight.

For the first time since standing in the doorway, Daniel remembered the unread message sitting in his pocket.

He wanted to look at it.

He sincerely did not want to look at it.

He finished his second glass of whiskey.

As with any of the other times they’d gone out together, Louis was still there nursing his own drink long after Daniel’s was already gone. Cause why would he behave any different in his own home than he did while out?

When he caught Daniel glancing his way, Louis offered him a rueful stare. “I am sorry you’ve been stuck with my insufficient company tonight.”

Daniel huffed out a breath. “You’re not insufficient anything,” he groused. “I’m just an old grouch.”

“Not that old,” Louis quipped.

Daniel inclined his head. “Maybe not,” he said, though he still thought a shower would have been welcome right about then.

“For whatever it’s worth? When Armand texted me, my first question back to him was whether whatever it was tonight couldn’t wait. At least until tomorrow.”

That did make Daniel felt better, actually. About Louis, obviously. But about Armand as well. Almost as though, knowing he’d been prompted by Louis, Armand couldn’t possibly have made the decision lightly.

While Louis slowly made his way through the remainder of his own whiskey, Daniel shifted in the armchair to pull out his phone from his pocket. Swiped immediately on the message waiting there for him from Armand.

For whatever it’s worth, I’m sorry that work came up tonight.
I very much look forward to coming home to you at the end of it.
I look forward to you very much.
Armand.

Well, damn. How could Daniel possibly be annoyed at that?

Thanks Boss. I appreciate that. I’ll see you later tonight.

He turned to Louis. “Any chance I can get a shower while I’m here?”

Chapter 21

Notes:

Happy birthday to Lestat!

Sadly, you and your beautiful hair do not feature in this chapter XD

Chapter Text

About a week later, Daniel was feeling much better about the move.

Nothing else that required his out of hours attention had happened in Armand’s job since that first Monday night. The last thing Armand had seemed to want to talk about once he came home shortly after Daniel returned from Louis and Lestat’s had been anything to do with the stock market.

His nimble fingers had quickly found their way into Daniel’s dark curls, and pulled. Daniel had found himself immediately dropping to his knees, without even a thought of counter.

This was what he’d needed. All day. This was exactly what he’d needed; to be on his knees in front of his master.

A breath had sighed out of him. He’d been glad he’d troubled Louis for that shower.

There was no moment where everything was quieter in his mind than when Armand demonstrated his mastery over Daniel.

It couldn’t always be like that, of course. Armand still had to work each day, even if there were no more events that kept him into the evening. It seemed like that had been a one off. But Daniel also had his own career to consider.

He’d been given a table in the sun room facing the expansive back yard of Armand’s property, and the pool between the house and the fence line. It was a room more filled with sunlight than any room in Daniel’s old apartment had been.

“I believe it is the nicest space in my home for you to work in,” Armand had said, surveying the room he must have looked at and appreciated many times without Daniel’s presence ever being there. “It should be easier for you to work in here than, say, the lounge room, or even the dining room that have… explicit memories of your place in my life and this home.”

Well, that was certainly true.

Daniel bobbed his head once. “Good pick, Boss,” he muttered, taking his own moment to gaze around the room and all of its floor to ceiling windows. Would just the view outside end up being a different kind of distraction? He’d rarely worked in a room where he didn’t have to turn on a light.

And yet, at the same time, he felt some sort of inner glow at the proof of the consideration Armand had given to him and his work.

“Thanks, Boss,” Daniel added.

“You are quite welcome, Daniel. I do want you to be happy here.”

Daniel believed it. So much so he didn’t even throw a fuss when he spent at least half that first week sleeping in his own room within Armand’s house, rather than sharing the bedroom with him.

When Louis next came to visit, he arrived before Armand got home and on a day where Daniel was working from home. He had a stack of books and newspapers cluttering the large table that would have been a dining room table in any other room, except Armand already had a dining room elsewhere, and a table in it. So Daniel just guessed this was a ‘table’, and one he had about 90 minutes before he had to think about neatening it in order to return the room to how Armand had left it.

Of course, Louis let himself in through the front door with his own key, so the first thing Daniel really knew about it was when Louis entered the sun room.

“Oh!” Daniel cried out, half standing in his shock. He relaxed only marginally when he registered it was Louis, not Armand, here early.

“Armand said I might beat him here,” Louis said. “But that you might still be working, and not to interrupt you.”

“Think that ship might’ve sailed,” Daniel said under his breath.

“Don’t worry, I carry a book with me,” Louis said, already reaching into his knapsack before Daniel had a chance to respond. “I won’t bother you anymore.”

Daniel ran a hand through his hair. “You’re not bothering me. I was surprised, is all.”

“Mm?”

“Not used to living with anyone else yet,” Daniel admitted eventually. And then, because it was also true, “Not used to visitors just dropping by either.”

“Ah.” Louis’ fingers lightly rubbed against the cover of the book he’d brought out of his bag. “So, should I pretend I’m not here? This is the chair I usually sit in when I’m here early. It’ll be no bother to me.”

Daniel shrugged. “Sure. If you want.”

He watched as Louis made his way to the chair he’d indicated, sat down and opened his paperback, exactly as he’d described he would do. Unwatched by Louis, Daniel sat back down heavily on the chair he’d been using just before. Louis didn’t look up at the movement. To all intents and purposes, he really did seem to be reading.

So Daniel went back to what he’d been writing. Or, at least he intended to.

He’d been halfway through a thought and, thankfully, it was easy for him to get back and finish that off in a way he was pleased with. But then he’d been planning on making more notes from a series of editorials over several different newspapers.

He reached to unfold the first one. His gaze moved, on its own account, to the back of Louis’ head. Louis wasn’t paying attention to him.

Taking a deep breath in, Daniel cleared his throat as though there were something stuck in it, then set about to reading himself.

Only, he knew by the time he’d read two paragraphs that he hadn’t taken any of it in. His gaze again moved to Louis, still unbothered. Daniel cleared his throat again, this time deliberately, as though it would call Louis into a response.

It did not.

“Dammit,” Daniel uttered under his breath.

“Something wrong?” Louis asked mildly.

Daniel sighed. He supposed it was time for him to start packing up. It was closer to an hour before he needed to anyway. And, apparently, being startled by Louis’ arrival—and then him sitting obnoxiously quiet and self content in the same room—was too much to allow Daniel to get back to what he’d been working on.

Tomorrow was another day. At least this article wasn’t overdue.

Yet.

“Do you want help with that?” Louis asked, his voice solicitous.

“Not even a bit,” Daniel told him, as though the very idea of it horrified him. “I’ll never find anything tomorrow if you do that.”

Louis snorted a gentle laugh in the back of his nose. “You sound like Lestat with his music stuff.”

“Music stuff?” Daniel queried, piling the four different newspapers he’d go through the next day on top of each other, and the books in another pile.

“He says he has a sorting system that means he can find everything he wants easily,” Louis mused. “Don’t ask me what that sorting system is. It ain’t alphabetical, that’s for sure.”

Daniel couldn’t help but laugh a bit at that. “Lestat is… quite a character, isn’t he?”

“Oh yes,” Louis agreed emphatically. “Quite.”

“You guys have been together a long time, haven’t you?” Daniel said, eying the sun room to see if there was a convenient or out of the way place for him to put his belongings, or whether they would need to be stored overnight in the second room Armand had already given him for many of his books as well as anything that didn’t fit into his own bedroom here.

“Sometimes it seems like forever,” Louis answered.

“You seem pretty different is the thing,” Daniel said, gaze moving back to Louis to find that Louis had turned around in the chair and was now looking back at Daniel. Daniel had called Lestat forceful, opinionated and tall based on a first impression only.

Maybe he didn’t seem quite so tall after subsequent meetings, but the other two descriptors definitely still applied far as Daniel was concerned. Just as much for Lestat as they did for Armand.

Both Louis and Daniel had a type.

“They do say opposites attract,” Louis said, humour dancing in his eyes.

“That they do.” Another final sweep, and Daniel realised there was nothing for it but to take his stuff out and bring it back the next day. “Sorry, excuse me just a second.”

He could have explained to Louis what he was doing, Daniel considered after he left the sun room for the open plan dining area and from there down the hall that led to both his room and the spare one beside it. He could have explained it with words, as though filling his arms with the work he’d been in the middle of when Louis had walked in didn’t explain it for them both.

Daniel took a moment in the open doorway of the spare room, just to marvel at just how much he just already accepted being totally different for him in this house rather than his own apartment. And in such a short period of time!

This room still did need its light turned on, given that Daniel had set bookcases of differing heights across parts of both the two windows in it. It was more homey, or at least more the familiar chaos Daniel was used to being part of his life.

There was no chaos in any other room of Armand’s home.

Every item his new master owned had a place, or it simply wasn’t there. Daniel was pretty sure that Armand had the expectation that this room would be neatened up once he’d finished with his unpacking. It was a reason for him to dissuade Armand doing an inspection of the space he’d given Daniel for as long as was possible.

Maybe it was more alphabetical than Lestat tended to organise himself—if Louis was correct in his assessment of it—but there were still definite differences between the way Daniel chose to sort his belongings, and how Armand did the same.

It was still probably a good half hour before Armand was expected home by the time Daniel returned to the sunroom, having shut the door to the spare room of his belongings firmly behind him. Louis had long since gone back to his book. Nothing else in the room had changed in between Daniel leaving it and coming back again.

“So,” Daniel said, sitting on one of the chairs in front of Louis, rather than at the table behind him, so Louis wouldn’t need to crane his head around to look at him. As he formulated the question in his head, he tried not to feel too much like a father asking the very same question. “What have you and Armand got on tonight?”

He was feeling cool, quite chill, even, about it. Armand and Louis were dating. It’s not like Daniel didn’t know it. They had been dating well before Daniel had met either of them. During the time Daniel had been casually sleeping with Louis. And certainly still now that Daniel was living with Armand.

Armand and Louis were still dating. That much was certain. The only thing of question in Daniel’s mind was whether or not Louis was still interested in sleeping with Daniel now that his status was somewhat… changed within the number of their small group.

So far, despite having the explicit permission to do so from Armand, Daniel still hadn’t had the guts to pull up his big boy pants and actually ask the other man, despite having ample opportunity.

So, yeah, this was the first time Armand and Louis had organised one of their date nights here in the house since Daniel moved in. He had a strong suspicion, actually, that one of them had cancelled the one that should have happened the week before, being content enough with the usual Sunday night family dinner that had just passed at their usual restaurant.

Daniel didn’t know it for certain, of course, because he hadn’t been able to get an admission or confirmation either way out of Armand. And, of course, he hadn’t broached that topic—yet—with Louis either.

Louis blinked up at Daniel. “Would you like to join us?” he asked.

“No!” Daniel answered too quickly. “No,” he said again, far more mildly.

Louis was still looking at him. “Are you sure?” he asked again, not unkindly. “I know you were quite upset last week…”

Did you cancel your date night with Armand because of that?” Daniel asked, throwing caution to the winds all of a sudden.

Louis’ dark eyebrows lifted. But he didn’t answer immediately. And that made Daniel flush.

“It would have been fine,” he muttered, “if you had kept the night, is all I’m saying.”

“I didn’t cancel it,” Louis answered him. Finally. He was still peering closely at Daniel. “But... since you don’t know anything more from Armand, I don't mind sayin' it's cause it's coming up to marking time at work. I thought I might take a night for myself while the getting's good.”

“Right, yup. Yes,” Daniel said, nodding as though he was some sort of a demented bobble head doll. Okay, so that mollified him somewhat. Just not the whole way. “But you’re not interested in sleeping with me anymore either, are you? I mean, clearly, that’s done now, yeah?”

If anything, Louis only looked more incredulous looking at him now.

“Daniel,” Louis said, sounding remarkably patient in contrast to Daniel. “What are you talking about?”

But Daniel was on a roll now. He huffed out a breath. “You don’t need to worry about hurting my feelings.” He looked away from Louis, feeling slightly silly for having brought it up at all.

“I wasn’t aware that was a possibility…” Louis answered slowly.

“Good. Good then.” Daniel pinned a smile back across his lips before he gazed back in Louis’ direction. “Armand should be here any moment now.” Boss, he corrected in his head. Still, it felt straight to call him that when talking to Louis.

But it also felt weird not to call him that.

Something for Daniel to linger over later.

In the meantime, Louis had stood from his own armchair, and had come to step closer towards Daniel, so that he once again he held all of Daniel’s attention. “Daniel, could you tell me what you’re talking about?”

As he watched, Daniel’s eyes widened slightly as Louis began to lower himself down onto his haunches in front of the chair Daniel still sat in.

Daniel’s mouth opened, but no words came out. Not immediately. His jaw felt ever so slightly slack, and wasn’t that an odd sensation?

But Louis was patient. He didn’t hurry Daniel. Just waited, gaze never moving away from him.

“Well,” Daniel said eventually, his voice cracking from the dryness at the back of his throat. He persevered, with only a clearing of his throat. “Okay so I didn’t know you were in a relationship with Armand when you and I started seeing each other. Of course. And obviously I wasn’t in a relationship with him either, back then.”

Louis tipped his head slightly to the side. It was the slightest of movement, something he might have picked up from Armand, except his face was that much softer, more gentle. Daniel could see his eyes aching to understand Daniel in a way that had Armand had never shown.

Daniel gave a heavy sigh. There was no reason not to be blunt, right? They’d already gone this far into the conversation. It would only be belabouring it if he continued talking around it. “I asked Armand if he minded if we kept sleeping together.”

This surprised Louis. Daniel knew that, because Louis’ eyebrows abruptly raised towards his short curls.

“You… huh,” Louis said. “Armand didn’t tell me that.”

“Not surprising,” Daniel huffed, attempting to make light of it.

“Why did you ask him that?” Louis asked, still on his haunches, still with eyes that seared into Daniel with that want to understand.

Daniel shrugged. “We had fun together, didn’t we?” he asked, though he was pretty sure he already knew the answer. Sometimes it was nice to get the confirmation.

“Of course!” Louis said, his own brown eyes also widening this time.

So Daniel took that confirmation and inclined his head. “So that’s why.”

Louis was silent a moment. Then, slowly, a smile moved over his features.

But, before he could speak, Armand came into the room with them, home from work.

Daniel was a whole lot less surprised by Armand’s sudden appearance than he had been by Louis’. Armand, after all, he had expected. After a week of living together, it was as though a sixth sense had formed in him that pinged every time either Armand entered his vicinity, or his gaze had fallen upon him.

It was a heady experience each time.

“Welcome home, Boss,” Daniel said. He would have stood, but there was no way for him to do that while Louis remained crouched before his chair. And, though Louis’ gaze also lifted to see Armand in the room, he hadn’t moved himself.

Armand’s quick gaze took in the tableaux before him.

“My,” he said, drawing the single sound out. “What have I stumbled into between my slave and my beloved?”

This drew an easy laugh from Louis. “Maybe I just like kneeling in front of anyone.”

This brought out a similar snort from Armand. “Anyone except for Lestat, perhaps.”

“Hey,” Louis rejoined, still a jovial tone to his voice, though he finally did press his palms to his thighs to push himself back to standing. “Be nice.”

“Good afternoon, Daniel,” Armand said, lightly touching his fingertips against the skin of Daniel’s neck before taking his mouth in a kiss. He didn’t mind, then, that Daniel hadn’t stood to greet him. This time, at least.

“Afternoon, Boss,” Daniel answered when he could finally speak. “I should probably head out then, yeah? Let you guys have your time together.” He hadn’t finished his conversation with Louis, but it wasn’t exactly like Louis was a stranger. He was catching up with his old f*ck buddy these days more often than he ever used to.

“You may make use of the lounge and its fireplace if you find your own rooms are not enough for you tonight,” Armand told him, as Daniel finally pushed himself out of his armchair.

“Thanks Boss,” Daniel said with a bob of his head. He glanced once at Louis, even as Armand slid closer to him. There was an expression on Louis’ face, as though he would have liked to say something more to Daniel, before he closed his mouth and smiled at Armand.

“Hello lover,” he murmured.

Daniel would have lingered if he hadn’t already been dismissed. It was certainly no hardship watching Armand and Louis together. In all the pairings they’d managed publicly in the past couple of months, this was one Daniel had barely been witness to.

A pity. With twisted lips, Daniel started back towards the door and the open plan dining room outside.

“Oh, and Daniel? We will have visitors tomorrow night. I will expect you in attendance with as good a job of removing your work from this room as you have managed tonight.” Armand’s expression warmed as he delivered this compliment to Daniel.

Tomorrow? But that was Wednesday. Hadn't that been the night agreed to belong to just Armand and Daniel?

And yet, Daniel couldn’t help but feel warmed by Armand's noticing how he'd ensured this room was clear of his work stuff before Armand had come home. He liked being so noticed. It seemed like a small thing, to give just one Wednesday up if Armand wanted to have friends over.

“Yes Boss,” Daniel said, inclining his head once more, before turning on his heel and deliberately not looking at Louis again; leaving the room before he could selfishly utter the words to beg to stay.

Chapter 22

Notes:

I'm honestly surprised nobody clocked me inventing the Claudia / Madeleine / Santiago tag for this chapter of our fic in the here and now. I know, it's such a strikingly ridiculous idea... in any universe apart from this one (until 2024, let's see, let's see...)

As always, all your views, comments, subscriptions and general love of this story is so damn appreciated I can't even <3

Chapter Text

The visitors Armand wanted to have over the following night were a couple of young women and an older, taller man. Not older than Daniel, but certainly older than the women he arrived with. It might have been he was a smoker and was in reality no older than Armand. Every year Daniel grew older, he found it more difficult to keep an accurate idea of those younger than him.

His name was Santiago, Daniel learned. He had combed back, bleached blond hair. Not the same exact colour of yellow, nor natural, as Lestat’s. That colour didn’t come out of a bottle, as his ex-wife had commented bitterly more than once during their marriage.

The first girl was almost as tall as him, a pale, red headed woman, who seemed the shiest of the three of them. Submissive? Daniel wondered for the first time, with a quick glance to Armand. But he wasn’t looking at Daniel. His eyes, as well, were on the younger woman with the long, red hair.

“Madeleine.” It wasn’t the girl who introduced her, but a shorter black woman who gazed up at her companion. “Armand, this is Madeleine.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” Armand said.

If they’d all been in a previous time, Daniel thought Armand might have bowed over Madeleine’s hand, or kissed it. He had to hold his face carefully neutral as the thought entered his head. He didn’t think Armand would have been amused by his own slave tittering in the background.

“Claudia, Santiago, Madeleine, I would like you also to meet Daniel. He is almost as new as Madeleine here,” Armand continued. Though he mentioned Santiago and Claudia by name, his gaze stayed on Madeleine as he said the next part, as though testing for some sort of reaction to any of his next perfectly enunciated words. “Daniel is my slave.”

Perhaps predictably, Madeleine’s head immediately swivelled directly towards Daniel. And for him, too, this was the first time Armand had introduced him in such a way as that in front of anyone who wasn’t Louis and Lestat. Even Antoinette had not been allowed to see them in such a way.

And that told Daniel several things all at once.

If they had been out at the restaurant, or perhaps even anywhere other than the club where they met, Armand’s home, or that shared by Louis and Lestat, Daniel would have bristled at this introduction.

But also, these guests were not like Antoinette. Nor were they Armand’s workmates. Armand had told Daniel he invited people in the lifestyle to this house—‘Night Island’ he’d called it—where there were play parties and the like, but Daniel hadn’t considered Armand might have other friends in this lifestyle outside of Louis and Lestat.

What a stupid oversight! Of course there were other people he knew.

Instead of shaking his head at himself, Daniel schooled his expression to something pleasantly neutral, but with a smile he hoped would ease any of the shock Madeleine was feeling. Had she been dropped into this tonight, or had at least Claudia mentioned to her something of the lifestyle before they’d walked into these doors?

Or had Madeleine, like Daniel, been aware this world of kink existed, but meeting other people in it was still new to her?

“Hi,” Daniel said, after a quick flick of his gaze towards Armand, noting the nod of his head before advancing any further towards Madeleine. Daniel would give him space to be able to catch up with Claudia and Santiago, while Daniel put Madeleine at her ease.

“Are you really… a slave?” She whispered the words between them, almost as though they were something scandalous and she didn’t want Claudia to hear them. At least, that was what Daniel was guessing. Santiago didn’t really seem the type to be scandalised.

Nevermind that Armand had made the word ‘slave’ perfectly clear in Claudia’s earshot only moments before.

“In consideration,” was the only correction Daniel allowed to soften it.

This made Madeleine frown. “Consideration? Whose? Yours, or…?”

“Both of us, actually,” Daniel said, warming to the topic. This was the first time he’d been granted the opportunity to talk to someone about this who was even more a novice than him. The smile on his features wasn’t entirely adopted. He was already enjoying this. Educating others on topics he was knowledgeable of, and others were interested in, was somewhat of a passion for him.

He watched as Madeleine mulled this information over, before giving her something more to chew on.

“Either one of us could change our mind, could back out at any time,” Daniel offered. “Just like in any other relationship.”

Madeleine’s lips pressed together for a moment as she considered this. “Will you, do you think?” Her words sounded almost childlike, curious.

Daniel gave a little bit of laughter. The idea of backing out right now was as far from Daniel’s thoughts as anything. Since that first night of moving in—when Daniel had been sent to Louis’—there had been very little amiss between them.

“Are you gonna back away from… your relationship with Claudia, I’m guessing?”

Again, Madeleine’s gaze moved towards where Claudia was standing, talking animatedly to Armand as though they were two friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while. Santiago, on the other hand, was entirely still. Almost strangely so.

Daniel’s gaze followed Madeleine’s. He was also standing half a step behind her and to her left. Was that him… attending Claudia without making a big show of it? Daniel wondered. It was interesting the small things Daniel noticed since Armand had opened his eyes to the details various dynamics could hold within them. Things people outside their world would never think to look or object at.

It just wasn’t… Daniel hadn’t really seen Santiago being the submissive sort. Anymore than Lestat wanted to be, really. Unless it was Armand wielding the toy, Daniel reflected.

“Huh,” Madeleine huffed out, smiling in her eyes as well as her mouth when his attention came back to Daniel’s again. “My relationship with Claudia, you’re right.”

“How long have you been together?” Daniel asked, going for a question that was just a bit lighter this time.

“Almost two years,” Madeleine said easily.

“And are you…?” Daniel cut himself off once he remembered he barely knew this woman and the question he was asking might be considered far too personal already. Even if she already did know that Daniel was Armand’s slave.

Madeleine’s red eyebrows lifted high all the same. “Am I her slave, are you asking?”

“What? No, I wouldn’t…” Daniel stumbled out, but he noticed she didn’t have trouble saying the word ‘slave’ that time at least.

“I’m not,” she said. “Submissive, yes. Claudia… she likes to be in charge.”

“Think I might know a bit about that,” Daniel murmured, deliberately letting his gaze move back to Armand.

“Oh, I bet you do,” he heard Madeleine say, just a bit saucily.

He liked that hint of sass in her voice. He wondered how often it came out. When he turned his gaze to her again, Daniel made sure to smile, to encourage it out of the shier woman.

Madeleine just shrugged, and looked down to her shoes.

Daniel was willing to guess he’d seen about as much sass from her as he was likely to tonight.

“So, you and Santiago…?” he asked the leading question, his own curiosity at what he’d noted in the other man unable to stay dormant any longer.

“Armand didn’t tell you why we came tonight?” Madeleine’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Shockingly, no,” Daniel kept his voice incredibly droll. He couldn’t be droll like that directly to Armand, but nothing stopped him from taking that tone when talking to someone else.

And, shockingly, it got a little laugh from Madeleine, before her expression straightened again.

“Okay, so, maybe this is strange, but Claudia wants to take Santiago on in our relationship to be beneath me in the…” She cast a hand around. “Power structure.”

“And she’s come to Armand for advice,” Daniel said, seeing it now.

“Armand has known Santiago longer. It was because of Armand that the two of them first met.”

Daniel hummed a wordless sound to encourage her to keep talking.

“He’s…” Once again, Madeleine’s voice lowered, and her gaze sort of moved sideways to look at Santiago, rather than direct on. “I’m not sure how much of a relationship Santiago and I will end up in…”

Certainly probably not one that was very close given that side eyeing she was engaged with.

Daniel mulled over how to put his next words. “How do you feel about it?” he asked eventually, not feeling able to ask as directly as he might have had Santiago not actually been in the room with them.

He hadn’t looked their way yet, his gaze pinned between Armand and Claudia as though waiting for something, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t listening. Daniel himself had honed an ability to seem to be paying half attention at best while in the room with some of the people who had given him his best stories over the years.

Madeleine opened her mouth, but before she could make any sort of answer, Armand brought all their attentions back to him by lifting his voice to say, “Why don’t we move this into a more comfortable room where we can all sit down. Daniel, if you would bring the drinks into the small lounge?”

Daniel quickly nodded to Madeleine, but he moved immediately to do as Armand commanded him. He felt for her, but he was here to serve Armand.

And another thing had taken over his mind right then. Because, that particular room of the house, and on a Wednesday night. Suddenly Daniel’s entire body was thrumming. Had Armand chosen it deliberately to get some kind of reaction from Daniel? Was it so that Daniel wouldn’t feel like their Wednesday together had been taken from him completely?

Or was it something else, that this was simply Armand’s chosen room to invite anyone in for a new conversation surrounding kink? Somehow, that had been fine when it had been Louis and Lestat in here the night of the play party. Though, that hadn’t been on a Wednesday night either.

The last thought that slithered into Daniel’s mind wasn’t very pleasant at all: What if he wasn’t actually special?

Daniel lifted his hand up to the silver metal collar neatly closed around his neck. He was special to Armand.

Don’t be more stupid than you can help, Molloy, he chastised himself in his head, even as he took care not to allow himself to linger too long on his thoughts in case it drew out his bringing the drink service to the lounge room.

As it turned out, the other four were still in the process of getting settled when Daniel arrived in the room. Armand was standing by his usual chair. There was an old time chivalry in Armand that Daniel had noticed before. He had claimed his chair in the room, yes, but Daniel was fairly certain he wouldn’t sit until Claudia and Madeleine at least were comfortable.

Claudia was the only one already sitting. She had a curious smile on her features, having taken the seat on the far side of the three seater couch Armand had already claimed.

The seat that, while Daniel was still comparing this time to last time, was the seat in which Louis had last time claimed.

“Daniel.” Armand’s voice was a sharp snap back to the present moment. He realised that he’d stopped near the doorway, and hadn’t even started seeing if anyone wanted something to drink.

Armand hadn’t given him specific instructions about which drinks should go to whom. Only a full bottle of cola, and another of sparkling water, from which the guests could choose. That alone showed how much less often he entertained Claudia and Santiago than, say, Louis and Lestat.

Nope, Daniel had to get his mind in the game, to stay here rather than back there.

“Sorry Boss.” Daniel went about what was expected of him.

By the time he got to Madeleine, still standing, he found she was watching him curiously, almost as though she was learning something from his bearing alone. Daniel’s back straightened, just a little bit, at the idea of being so watched, and by someone who might be absorbing something of what he did. He wanted to do Armand proud in all ways, even if that was incidentally teaching by example.

He allowed his lips to relax into a smile before he moved from her to Santiago.

To him, Daniel gave only a respectful nod. He had chosen Santiago to serve last, after Madeleine, based only on the conversation had with Madeleine, where the plan seemed to be about a relationship where Santiago was the second submissive—or, dare he think it since Madeleine had never said it, ‘slave’?—beneath Madeleine. Armand didn’t correct him by the time he set the tray on the table by Armand’s side of the couch, before crouching at his usual spot in front of it.

“Thank you, Daniel,” Madeleine said, only sitting after he did. And on the floor. By Claudia’s feet.

He hadn’t been wrong in thinking she was looking to see how he’d act before acting herself. Nor had he been wrong in thinking Armand would sit down afterwards. Soon, only Santiago was standing, across the room from the rest of them, in front of the fireplace.

Because he hadn’t been told where to sit? Possibly.

“So,” Armand said comfortably, expanding his arms to invite them all into the one conversation where they’d been previously split into two near the front door. “How are the three of you going?”

“Armand,” Claudia said, almost chidingly. “There’s no reason to be coy. Both Madeleine and Santiago know I’ve been talking to you.”

“That’s good,” Armand said, as his gaze moved over both Madeleine and Santiago. “What do they think about what we’ve been talking about?”

Madeleine, not surprisingly, didn’t open her mouth to answer. Santiago, on the other hand, looked now only to Claudia. Daniel could see him do it clearly, sitting in front of him as he was. He daresay they all could.

Nonetheless, Claudia made him wait a long moment, before she said, “You have permission to speak freely tonight, Santiago.”

Daniel didn’t do at all well at hiding his smile then. Somehow, he found that he didn’t mind at all sharing his Wednesday with this group of people, if it was a group that saw the rest of them exactly they were in this space. Daniel as Armand’s slave, and Santiago very much appearing to want to be something similar to Claudia.

“You know I’ve struggled, since…” Santiago had been looking at Armand as he spoke, but now his gaze dipped down to meet Daniel’s. When it stayed there more than a moment, Daniel’s brow furrowed in confusion. Santiago blinked, before lifting his chin and returning his gaze to Armand. “Since things didn’t work out between us two.”

“I know,” Armand said, even as Daniel’s mind started to reel.

Hang on. Daniel peered at Santiago more intently. This was an ex… what? … of Armand’s? And Armand hadn’t even thought it might be polite to let Daniel know beforehand?

Also, how small was this damned world he’d fallen into?

“But if you’ve found someone you’d like to follow in Claudia,” Armand continued, as if wholly unaware of Daniel’s thoughts. “I’m very happy for you both.”

“I know you’ve never wanted anything but the best for me,” Claudia murmured with a smooth playfulness that spoke of the history between them.

“Of course. There are few dominants in the scene I would trust as young as you were when you came in.”

Claudia smiled, clearly pleased enough with the compliment she didn’t see a need to belabour it. “But, obviously, I’ve been seeing Madeleine for most of the time since I left the scene. And we’re very happy together. This isn’t about that.”

Her fingers moved to twine in Madeleine’s hair, and Daniel watched the redheaded woman lean into the touch. For the first time since they’d walked in, Daniel felt as though the connection between them was clear to see.

And yet, across the room from them, Santiago didn’t seem to wilt from jealousy or any other emotion. Daniel knew that, because he still watched him keenly, if a little bitterly. Why would Santiago be jealous, Daniel thought uncharitably. At least he knew about all the relationships that existed, or had existed, in front of him.

If Santiago felt Daniel’s attention on him, he didn’t show it by glancing Daniel’s way again. His eyes remained on the Claudia and Madeleine both, and never departed.

“So, what has me concerned,” Claudia continued, bringing her attention back to Armand, even if her hand still lightly stroked into Madeleine’s hair. “Is that I’ve never had two submissives before at the same time. Pardon,” Claudia said, with a quick glance towards Santiago. “One submissive, and one slave, at the same time. I want to make sure I do a good job for them.”

Armand’s gaze was quick to move back to Santiago before Claudia had even finished talking.

“Is that what you are?” Armand asked, his voice level for all that it was slightly deeper than it had been just a moment ago. Would anyone else in this room other than Daniel have noticed that?

Oh. Oh, was this it? Was this the reason why Armand and Santiago weren’t actually together anymore? Why Daniel had gotten his chance here? Like this?

Had Santiago not been willing to be a slave before? Had Armand offered it, and been refused?

“I believe I am, yes,” Santiago said.

“Mm.” Impossible to tell exactly what Armand thought behind that single sound. Not without any knowledge of their history together. Daniel only had more questions. Questions he couldn’t ask. Not yet.

Armand abruptly turned his gaze away from Santiago. “Well,” he said, sounding easier with Claudia than he’d been moments before. “You know I am, as always, willing to teach you whatever you wish to know.”

Chapter 23

Chapter Text

The rest of that evening went by uneventfully.

Madeleine was the only one who hugged Daniel goodbye when they’d stood by the door again, and Daniel offered her his details if she wanted to keep in touch. He was willing to face Armand’s wrath for the offer, though he’d been pretty sure it wasn’t likely given Louis had already ensured Daniel how Armand valued the importance of maintaining friendships, even if he was a slave.

There had been no wrath.

In an acknowledgement that Wednesday had been taken by Armand’s friends—Daniel did not point out ‘and ex’ at that point—Armand offered Thursday as their night that week.

So Daniel also didn’t point it out on Thursday night, either before the flogging in the dungeon, or after Armand suggested Daniel stay the night in his bed after f*cking. The sheets were wet with spunk and sweat, and Daniel fell asleep unable to care less that he’d be expected to find time to wash them and remake the bed before Armand turned in the following night.

Friday, work went unavoidably late for Daniel. Which also meant that he was unable to do the sheets as Armand expected. Armand was so reasonable about both these things that Daniel didn’t quite feel he could bring it up even on Saturday morning, when Armand mused, “It is sometimes the nature of your job, Daniel. I did not enter into this dynamic with you unaware of that.”

Which meant the conversation was still unacknowledged by Sunday, during lunch in Armand’s spacious dining room before what had already become the usual Sunday night family dinner. Daniel was sitting on a chair at the table, which was more normal than not at this point. It definitely helped to keep at least a little separate the way he’d sat that time at Armand’s feet under this table, waiting for whatever food Armand would give him, the night of his collaring.

“Uh, can I talk to you about something, Boss?” Daniel asked.

“Of course, Daniel. Anything you’d like.” Armand had been reading a newspaper, but he put it aside to give Daniel his full attention.

Having held onto it for so long, Daniel found he wasn’t ready all of a sudden to just jump into it.

“Um.” He blinked, looked away from that piercing, brown stare. “Okay. So. You might not remember this, but, on Wednesday night…”

Daniel wondered whether Armand already knew where Daniel was going with this but, when Daniel drifted off, Armand didn’t move to fill in the rest of the sentence for him.

Fine. Guess that meant Daniel was on his own to use his own words then.

“Santiago mentioned… things not working out between the two of you.”

“Ah,” Armand said, nodding his head once. “That.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said softly. Then tried to navigate from there on the fly since Armand didn’t immediately supply anything else. “Should I… is it reasonable to be upset you didn’t mention it?”

Armand’s gaze was no less piecing for the fact that Daniel wasn’t pleased. “What exactly are you upset about, Daniel?”

“Well, I don’t know, do I?” Daniel said. “I don’t really have any details. Other than that Santiago struggled for some reason and, well, you didn’t seem to believe he was a slave?”

“Mm.” The sound escaped Armand again and damned if it wasn’t the exact same noise he’d made the first time he’d address the topic of Santiago being a slave half a week ago.

“You gonna give me anything more than that, Boss? Now that it’s just us?” Daniel asked plaintively. He didn’t like the sound of that in his voice. It sounded entirely too much like he wasn’t annoyed by this whole thing anymore. And he was! The fact that he didn’t have enough information to know exactly what he was upset about was just one of the reasons he currently felt upset!

“Yes, Daniel, Santiago was the one who was mine before you were,” Armand answered eventually.

“This while you and Louis were together too?” Daniel asked flatly.

Armand seemed to cast his mind back at that. “The two relationships did overlap for a time,” Armand murmured. “Not very long.”

“Was it because of Louis that things ended with you and Santiago?” Daniel pressed. Then, “Was it because Santiago didn’t do it for you for some reason?”

“It wasn’t because of Louis that things ended,” Armand said, as though the very idea of it being so simple offended him. “More that Louis made me realise I wasn’t getting what I wanted from Santiago.”

What does that even mean?” Daniel demanded, perhaps pushing too far too fast but, surely, Armand couldn’t fault him. Getting this information out of him felt a bit like pulling teeth! “Boss,” he gritted out a moment later.

Armand looked away from Daniel, and Daniel noticed that Armand’s jaw was tight. “Santiago always wanted things a certain way. His way, if I’m being honest. It didn’t matter how many conversations we had on the topic. How many times I reminded him of his place. The place he too had chosen. If his opinion differed to mine, he would simply move to do things his way. I had to let him go.”

Well, that certainly shut Daniel down. Armand may not have intended it, but he’d certainly managed to draw a parallel between things with Santiago, and what might happen if Daniel continued to push.

“Got it, Boss,” Daniel said, standing. And then belatedly adding, “May I be excused?”

Armand nodded once more, but he didn’t say another word. Apparently he’d already said everything he intended to.

Great. Fine. Maybe Daniel could get more work done before they headed out for dinner.

Dinner that night with Louis and Lestat was certainly ready to be a time. In Daniel’s head, at least, if not in fact.

Armand, of course, was acting as though nothing was going wrong. As though he hadn’t just dropped a bombshell on Daniel—yes, yes, answers to questions he’d asked—and then let Daniel stew about it in his own rooms for the rest of the afternoon.

If he really cared about his reaction, wouldn’t Armand have come to make sure Daniel was fine? At some point?

Probably not, though. Daniel saw Armand turn his head to look at him on the way here, just once. But he still hadn’t said anything. Maybe Armand was waiting for if Daniel wanted to say something, rather than prying first.

And here Daniel was, being a big baby because Armand didn’t ask.

It wasn’t his best look.

And so, when Louis’ greeting embrace to Daniel was more familiar than it had become of late, Daniel hugged him back just as warmly.

“Now, now,” Lestat said, coming in between them in a way that in no stretch could be called ‘subtly’. “Let us not forget who is going home with who tonight.”

And then Daniel was hugging Lestat, leaving Louis to greet Armand next. Lestat was chuckling in Daniel’s ear, seeming intent on convincing Daniel he’d been making a joke. A jest. Of course, of course.

On their way to their usual table, though, Daniel was reminded by Louis that there was still a conversation between them to be had.

“I haven’t forgotten about our conversation on Tuesday. I’m sorry I haven’t called or messaged. It’s still marking week, and I’m neck deep in it.”

“Even I have hardly had a moment alone with him,” Lestat added over his shoulder from where he strode beside Armand, sounding very much the aggrieved party.

“Heh,” Daniel answered, ducking his head in something like commiseration to Lestat. But something in his chest felt like it was loosening for the first time since the conversation that afternoon at Louis’ words. “You don’t need to worry about that. I know all about busy work situations.” He waved Louis off preemptively when Louis might’ve asked more. “It’s politics. Even I’m more polite than to bring that into the start of a dinner.”

“My Daniel is far from uncouth,” Armand interjected affectionately.

It was exactly the kind of thing that, at any other time, Daniel would have loved to hear from his Boss. He might have leaned into Armand once they reached the table, or else looked across and basked in both the attention and affection that this dynamic always gave Daniel such a boost of. He’d been on Cloud Nine virtually since this all started nearing three months before. Such a short amount of time. Not even three months yet.

Yet, what would it be like to go without it, even now?

Because that was the issue, wasn’t it? That had been what had been going around in Daniel’s mind while he’d been in his rooms, waiting to see if Armand would come down the hall to talk to him, or whether he’d simply respect his privacy and leave him be.

The fact was that the conversation about Santiago had shown Daniel some of the details that proved he wasn’t the only one. And, also, that Armand could be easy enough to disappoint that he would just… let someone go if they didn’t conform to Armand’s idea of them.

Yeah, of course it wouldn’t be something that simple. Nothing in life ever was. But Daniel couldn’t deny that the thought of it made him feel a certain way. And that was the reason he hadn’t left his room and gone looking for Armand again himself. He hadn’t wanted to start any kind of argument he knew he’d regret later. And look like an ass in the meantime.

But none of that meant Daniel was no longer still distracted. Not throughout the afternoon. And not during dinner.

Louis tried more than once to engage Daniel in conversation. Armand’s mouth was thinner than usual a couple of the times Daniel looked his way before glancing towards someone else at the table again. But it turned out that neither he, nor Armand, nor Louis were very subtle at all, because by the end, even Lestat knew something off was happening.

“Have you all had a threesome this week, and not invited me?” Lestat had to, of course, suggest the most appalling thing possible at the dinner table as his way of addressing the discomfort being felt at that table.

Thankfully, the ambient noise around them was enough that Daniel didn’t think anyone else outside of the three of them had heard. He couldn’t be certain, however, which was why a moment later his head was turning in all directions to see if anyone was looking at the middle aged Pulitzer Prize winner with greying hair craning his head around strangely at the dinner table.

Lestat’s blue eyes widened the longer none of the rest of them spoke. “You have!” he hissed, before punching Louis stoutly in one of his arms. “How could you not tell me!”

“Ouch,” Louis told him, matter of factly. “You’re gonna feel real bad about that now when I tell you no, that did not happen.”

“Oh!” Lestat’s fair brows drew down over his nose, ostensibly believing what his partner told him, though not without another look around to first Daniel and then Armand. “Then why are you all acting so strangely?”

Daniel knew he did not imagine the way Lestat’s eyes narrowed suspiciously as they met Armand’s. Just like he didn’t imagine the childish answering way Armand rolled his eyes.

“What is going on?” Lestat demanded. “Tell me. I must know.”

Armand turned his head ever so slightly in Daniel’s direction when Daniel was still looking at him having just rolled his eyes. One of his dark brows lifted, as though he was inviting Daniel to tell all. That, or he was asking Daniel’s permission to share their private business.

What did Armand need to ask Daniel’s permission for? Daniel thought bitterly. He was the Master between them. It wasn’t even Daniel’s private business. Just Armand’s.

Again, a thought underneath the bitterness and insecure roiling feelings within him reminded Daniel that Armand was just as entitled to have lived a life before Daniel came along. No different to how Daniel had lived with a wife.

Except it was different. Daniel had seen Santiago now. Couldn’t unsee him, in fact. And he could see a direct comparison between himself and Santiago where Daniel was the one definitely lacking. Armand had never seen Daniel’s wife. And nor had they indulged in the kind of dynamic relationship Armand and Daniel were now living. There was nothing for Armand to be jealous or insecure over there.

Daniel shrugged a shoulder and looked away, as though he did not care either way what Armand chose to say to his friends.

Still, nobody from any of the surrounding tables was looking in their direction, and thankfully Lestat had not taken to indiscriminately saying the word ‘threesome’ again. He was just waiting, not too patiently, with his narrowed gaze pinned on Armand.

“Daniel met Santiago this week just gone. Along with Claudia. You remember Claudia, don’t you, Lestat?” Armand blinked long lashed eyes.

“Of course I do,” Lestat said, his voice turning fond and saccharine in the blink of an eye. “How is ma petite?”

“I’m pretty sure she she’d argue against being your anything these days,” Armand answered briefly.

“Only because you—!”

“Is this really the time to rehash old history?” Louis interjected mildly and for the first time. Then, with a pointed glance towards Daniel, “Again?”

Daniel lifted both his hands. “Oh no, don’t mind me. I’m here for, what do they call it now? The ‘tea’? As much as anyone else here.”

Maybe it was the hesitation with which he spoke. Perhaps he did not use the right inflection. Was it more like the 'tea' one drank, or more like 'T' the capital letter? He never had asked. Daniel really needed to give up adopting the lingo of the younger guys he worked with.

“The…” Louis’ lip twitched and he blinked twice. “The tea, Daniel?”

“Yeah,” Daniel nodded his head emphatically. In for a penny, he thought to himself. “The drama. You know what I'm talking about! The tea. Dammit! We all know it’s not just me who’s heard it used!”

The first sound of laughter at the table was a tiny little noise that came from behind Armand’s fist that was suddenly covering his mouth. It was possible the first noise hadn't come from there, but somehow Daniel thought it unlikely. Lestat’s guffaw was only a moment behind in any case. And Louis’ lips were no longer even pretending they weren’t twitching into a proper smile.

“Dammit, I know I’m old,” Daniel said, crossing his arms over his chest and looking at all three of them sourly. “But I’m not ancient!”

“Of course you aren’t, Daniel,” Armand said, reaching out to touch Daniel lightly on the arm. “Of course you aren’t.”

And damned if Daniel hadn’t just melted with that first piece of physical contact between them since the afternoon.

It sobered him, but the levity he’d unwittingly brought to the rest of the table managed to pull them all through the rough period for a dinner Daniel enjoyed more than he’d thought he would.

Chapter 24

Chapter Text

There had been an email in Daniel’s inbox on Sunday night just after dinner. One looking for expressions of interest for someone willing to travel short notice for a story. To Paris.

The expressions of interest closed on Wednesday.

If picked, Daniel would be on a plane on Friday.

“May I speak with you about something, Boss?” Daniel asked on Monday evening over dinner after they were both home from work.

“Of course, Daniel.” Was Armand’s voice cooler towards him than it had been before they spoke about Santiago? Was that just Daniel’s imagination? Daniel wasn’t sure now, and he couldn’t ask.

“You know how work’s been kinda insane over the past couple of days,” he started.

“Yes, Daniel.” Armand nodded once but didn’t make any other expression.

“Well. I got an email today. An invitation. It would be a work trip, but to Paris. There are other people who could go if it’s too short notice, or if I’m unable to go for any other reason…” Armand didn’t need to know that Daniel had originally volunteered for this work trip, did he?

Armand looked at Daniel closely and Daniel wondered what he saw. “Do you want to go, Daniel?”

Was this a trick question? Like, if Daniel answered that he did want to go, would it be seen as him shirking his slave duties? Would he be seen like Santiago, simply moving to do things his way? If Daniel answered that he didn’t want to go, would that be the expected response for any future conferences or interviews he was invited to? Would he ever be able to reach out and say he wanted to be part of a trip like this again?

“I’d like to, yeah,” Daniel answered, not quite looking across the table at Armand as he said it. There were so many layers to this conversation, and Daniel wasn’t sure how much he could hide.

“Then of course you may go, Daniel.” Armand at least sounded gracious with his immediate reply. Daniel was almost sure there was nothing in his tone to indicate displeasure at Daniel or anything he had done. “You must maintain a wage, Daniel, and of course I know you enjoy your job.”

He did. That was true, whatever else surrounded this moment. Daniel bobbed his head, knowing that was exactly the case, and willing this fact to remove some of the guilt he was feeling at deliberately choosing to pull away from the dynamic.

From Armand.

Daniel knew he needed to prove to himself that he could still go on without this dynamic being the central point in his life that it had already become. That he could still go on without Armand being that central point. If that were ever to happen. Daniel didn’t think he’d ever felt for anyone else what he did for Armand.

And that scared the f*ck out of him.

It was just going to be for a little while. Just long enough for Daniel to take a breath. Just so he could have some clear thoughts again. He’d come back. Of course he’d come back. And he’d come back here again, to Armand’s place! Armand would be none the wiser that anything had gone on between now and then.

It wasn’t as though Daniel had arranged to kick his tenant out and move back to the apartment when he returned. Nothing so Machiavellian than that. It would be fine. Everything would be fine.

Maybe by the time he was on the plane on Friday, Daniel would have convinced himself of that too.

After Armand gave his approval, Daniel knew he wouldn’t receive the ‘official’ advice he’d be on that plane on Friday until near to the end of business Wednesday. But, unofficially, Pulitzer Prize recipient Daniel Molloy was told what he could expect first thing Tuesday, the very next afternoon.

It was weird preparing himself to go on a Friday flight near midday, but Daniel persevered and the time flew.

He only had a couple of messages from Louis in that time.

The first one on Monday was simply an emoji of tea, and it made Daniel laugh out loud before he replied, something along the line of asking if this was where Daniel should ask the kids to get off his lawn.

The second one, late Wednesday afternoon, Daniel cut short on account of a single thought that had occurred to him: If he was already lying to Armand, he could hardly tell the truth behind this trip to Louis.

And Louis’ message read,

its getting close now, the big work trip. you must be excited for paris!

And Daniel just stared, until someone came into his office asking if he shouldn’t have left yet.

His night with Armand that night was a wash.

“Daniel, are you quite all right?” Armand asked, when Daniel forgot to offer Armand a drink before helping himself to something first.

“Yeah, Boss. Fine.” Daniel’s brow was furrowed, and he wasn’t fine, but what else was he supposed to say?

He carefully continued looking away until he couldn’t feel Armand’s gaze on him any longer.

“Don’t suppose you want something to drink now?” he asked, trying and failing for levity.

“Not now,” Armand said, before leaving him for the direction of the lounge room.

Daniel tried to take a deep and steadying breath. He could do this. He just had to get through tonight, and then the following night, and then he’d be on a plane before the weekend.

He could do this.

He couldn’t do this.

Daniel had almost sat on the couch beside Armand for what was the first time ever since his first time arriving in this house. Even when distracted by the splendour, he had not managed to miss his place in this room or in Armand’s house.

The look of shock Armand that had widened his eyes had quelled Daniel quite utterly. He tried to laugh it off in the moment, but he’d already been breathing heavily by the time he sat down on the floor by Armand’s feet.

He almost leaned his head against Armand’s knee then, looking for that tacit comfort, before deciding for himself that he didn’t deserve the comfort that could be gained from him. Not right now. Not when Armand didn’t even know.

“What’s going on in your head tonight, Daniel? Was it something at work?” Armand’s voice was kind. Mild. Exactly the kind of tone of voice Armand would still have wanted to speak to him with on a night when he was getting it all wrong.

Daniel didn’t have a lot of time to run much through his mind, but it was alarming how many ideas ran through in such a brief breath. Sickness. A coworker’s bad news. A coworker’s good news. Something wholly unrelated about the Paris trip.

No. He couldn’t mention the Paris trip. Not at all.

Not unless it was to come clean about all his fears and the way he’d engineered himself to go so he could get some space from Armand. And Daniel just… couldn’t hurt Armand like that.

“Just a busy day,” Daniel said eventually. “You know what that can be like.”

Daniel deliberately tilted his head back towards where Armand was sitting above him, looking to make the eye contact that would inspire trust in his retelling.

God. He could be such a sh*tty person.

It took Armand a lot shorter than it had ever taken his ex wife to notice when something was not right between them; a double edged sword, really. There was no television in the lounge room. Nothing but the silence between Armand’s commands, and Daniel’s half a step behind responses.

Daniel was excruciatingly aware of every second of it. He couldn’t imagine it was any different for Armand. In the moment of trying to keep something like this to himself, he found he didn’t like suddenly being as transparent to someone else as the people he interviewed so often became to him.

They were standing right outside of the lounge room the last time Armand spoke to him for the night.

“Are you… sure there’s nothing you wish to tell me, Daniel?”

Daniel’s mouth dried. He knew tonight hadn’t gone well. But there was something about the pointedness of the question that made Daniel wonder if Armand already knew what he’d been trying not to say, and was waiting for Daniel to admit to it.

He shook his head, again half a step behind the speed of his usual reactions where Armand was concerned.

“Nah, Boss,” he said, casual enough that he next had to hide his own self loathing. “Just tired tonight.”

Armand’s dark gaze lingered on Daniel a moment longer before he looked away.

“Goodnight then, Daniel,” Armand said, and he definitely did sound more distant now than he’d been at any point in the rest of the night. “I won’t keep you up any later.”

Daniel opened his mouth, almost about to ask Armand if he could follow after all. But then, what would he say when Armand demanded to know whatever it was Daniel was keeping from him?

He couldn’t elongate this evening any longer if he wanted to end on this mostly civil note.

Daniel swore softly under his breath, before turning to walk with a heavy step down towards his own bedroom. Where he spent a restless night. And then, of course, slept in past the time when Armand left for the morning.

Thursday night, predictably, Daniel stayed late in the office. He didn’t need to be in the office that night, but he was there anyway.

And then it was Friday morning.

Armand’s gaze searched him as they both headed for the door. “I wish you a safe trip and a speedy return, Daniel.”

The sincerity in his words was more, far more, than Daniel deserved. He nodded, all choked up all of a sudden.

Armand wouldn’t be driving him to the airport. Daniel had already booked a car to do that. Just as he’d booked one to take him to work this morning with all his luggage, leaving his truck in its usual park out the front here.

“I’ll call,” Daniel said stiltedly. “When I’m in Paris.”

“I very much hope you do.” Armand nodded curtly, then turned away and left while Daniel was still waiting for his car.

He sniffed, unaccountably emotional at watching Armand walk away from him. Knowing he wouldn’t see him again for almost a week. He almost called out to him then and there. Would Armand have walked back to give him a proper goodbye if Daniel had asked.

If he had begged?

Daniel closed his eyes tightly, thereby only watching Armand’s car turn to leave the driveway and the street in his mind’s eye. Only when he was sure Armand would be gone did Daniel open his eyes again.

Sniffed once more. What a f*cking wuss he was.

Then lifted his chin in acknowledgement as he saw the hire car he’d booked pulling up out front. Thank god. He didn’t think he could stand here on his own another second.

The plane got off late, of course. These things never seemed to run on time.

Daniel was used to it after all these years hopping off and on flights. Soothed by the irregular rhythm of it, if he was being honest.

When the car pulled to a stop in the one minute drop off/pick up bay, he felt his shoulders immediately loosen. When he pushed open the door and stood just outside before going to the trunk for his luggage, he breathed that full inhale of air that, yes, was flavoured heavily with the fuel of planes, buses and cars.

All over the world, airports shared vaguely the same kind of smell. It was one way to feel at home wherever in the world one travelled.

Inside the building, it wasn’t so busy approaching midday as it would have been earlier, yet not so dead as it would have been at red eye o’clock. Daniel managed a comfortable pace through the others walking in cross directions to him, only needing to stop once for an older woman with a walker, accompanied with a carer. The airport specific radio filled with a combination of music and sponsored ads was the base line above which every conversation Daniel heard around him was competing.

And yet, he had a bright and ready smile when he came to the front of the line, supplying his ticket and his passport to gain his boarding pass.

“Wait, are you… Daniel Molloy?”

It wasn’t the agent serving him who asked the question, but the one in the next window, who ostensibly should have been serving someone else.

This happened sometimes. Daniel had the practiced smile on his lips before he even thought. “It is.” His gaze dipped down to her name tag. “Caroline. Nice to meet you.”

His own agent had a polite, if confused, expression. Plainly, she didn’t recognise him, and was already wondering where she ought to have known his face or name from.

“Writer, Pulitzer winner,” Daniel said shortly to her, accompanying the words with a humble shrug as if to say, Someone has to win it, am I right?

Caroline was already going on to tell him how much one of his early books had meant to her. She’d just gotten as far as to say she was someone with ties to Palestine when the customer who had, until then at least, been patiently waiting for her to return her attention to him cleared his throat.

Daniel acknowledged him—a man a good ten years younger, and a couple of inches taller than him—with a quick and apologetic nod of his head.

“Thank you again,” he murmured to Caroline, before turning his full attention back to his own agent.

Boarding pass in hand, Daniel picked the café he remembered from last time had served him a good cup of coffee, and ordered an extra large because he sure as hell knew it would be his last with any sort of quality until after he reached the end of the long flight almost halfway across the world.

Paris was ahead of America by several hours, so he’d only arrive there with a handful of hours for a powernap if he wanted to step straight into the new time zone once he got there. Not to mention his 2pm meeting.

That was okay. Jet lag was a part of his life that wasn’t actually all that much worse than the jagged bouts of insomnia and the effects of a crappy sleep schedule that effected him more and more often the older he got.

Funny, he hadn’t really been plagued by them since he’d moved into Armand’s.

“I’ve never been much good at keeping any sort of sleep hygiene. It’s only one of the ways I could better look after myself, honestly. But, if I was yours? Maybe that would give me incentive to take better care of myself. I bet I could think of a whole bunch of things I could do in protocols for you when we’re not here together.”

Protocols for when they were not together.

Goddammit, was Daniel expected to do those while he was away? How was he supposed to manage them in a different time zone? At least that first night—!

“Daniel?”

His name was spoken with the impatience of someone who’d had to say it more than once to get his attention.

“Sorry,” Daniel muttered, embarrassed. He tipped the barista extra to make up for the inconvenience.

The warmth from the cup seeped into his skin and calmed Daniel in a way. The smoothness of the cardboard takeaway cup was familiar, just like the upcoming flight. He tried to stay focused on those two things, rather than the looming knowledge of how he’d pulled away from Armand on his way to being here.

He meandered from one shop to another, taking note of the duty free stuff he’d likely grab on his way back into the country. And then it was time for him to make his way to the lounge where he could wait to be allowed to board his flight.

From there, he settled comfortably into his seat in business class. Turned his phone off. He always did that, out of habit more than anything else. It used to be the standard for flight. Now there was just airplane mode on any phone manufactured after those flip top models.

He turned to accept the wine when it was first offered. Drank it down probably too fast, but that didn’t stop him asking for another. He grinned a little self deprecatingly at the air hostess in the hopes she’d find him charming rather than a nuisance. It seemed to work, cause she actually brought over that next drink in a reasonable amount of time.

Daniel nursed that second glass for longer. It helped lubricate conversation with his seat mate. Over the years, Daniel had come to learn there were only a handful of likely seat mate personalities one was likely to encounter.

There was the silent, brooding one, of course. As well as its opposite: the Chatty Cathy. There were the ones who still didn’t like flying, no matter how much research had been done on the safety of these cabins, or how often they had to be stuck in them. There were also parents with seemingly endless photos or stories or both that they wanted to share with a complete stranger. They were, after all, going to be apart from their kid for a horridly long time.

As the years had gone on, Daniel had found there were more people on their laptops during flights. Many times, Daniel himself had been among them. Maybe it was just in business class, but he had noticed many times there weren’t a lot of people who actually looked happy to be on those laptops in midflight. Those were the people he offered to pull one of the air hostesses over to get a round of drinks just to get them to lighten up.

“Come on,” he’d say. “They’re free. Well, already paid for at any rate.”

The seat mate he had next to him that day was a combination of nervous flyer and mum. Daniel knew just how to talk with her.

And, if distracting her from it when they lifted off the ground also distracted him from any stray thoughts of Armand, then all the better.

Chapter 25

Chapter Text

They were about halfway through the flight. There hadn’t been much in the way of turbulence since they were set on their course or, if there had been, Daniel had dozed through it. He didn’t always sleep on flights, but he hadn’t exactly been sleeping well at home much of this week.

Apparently it had caught up with him.

Daniel looked around the cabin blearily. The lights were on, and a quick glance around told him that he was one of the few who had fallen asleep.

The mother sitting beside him saw his eyes were open again and she gave him a small smile.

“Welcome back.”

“Yeah,” Daniel said, not feeling coherent enough to offer her more charm than that.

He wanted something to drink.

Water, however, was probably a wiser choice.

And then he got up to go to the toilet in the back of the cabin.

Only after having relieved himself did he stare into the mirror bolted to the wall. He looked… sad. Noting this, Daniel tried to pull up his most practiced smile, but his eyes in the mirror still betrayed him. For the first time since getting on this flight, he let himself think of Armand. Even let himself mouth his name. Then more than mouth it.

“Armand,” he found himself saying aloud.

He sighed. Washed his hands. Made the mistake of looking up at himself in the mirror once more.

This was the point, he reminded himself right then and there. He was here to ensure he could keep going without Armand in his life. It didn’t matter how much he hurt himself over it. He needed to know the god damned answer.

It was scary how much trust he’d placed in Armand after such a short time. Surely no one else in the world—or even this style of relationship—had done so much and so fast.

And who was he supposed to ask that sort of advice from? Santiago?

Daniel scoffed to himself, looking away from the mirror as he pulled down paper towel to dry his hands. His lips firmed as he talked himself once again into maintaining his resolve but was still shaking his head as he tossed the now wet paper towel into the bin shoot.

He was briefly tempted to look one last time into the mirror, except that someone on the other side of the door was fiddling with it, clearly not seeing the occupied sign. Daniel had been in here long enough anyway.

The spell was broken by the time he got back to his chair. He’d thought of Armand once, and now he couldn’t make himself stop. He’d thought of Armand once, and now he’d brought him with him into this narrow cabin and another five odd hours of flight.

“What are…” Daniel cleared his throat once he had his seat mate’s attention again. “What are you heading to Paris for?”

She answered, her expression soft and generous, but Daniel hardly retained any of her answer. He nodded along every now and again in a pantomime of listening, but he had no follow up questions for her, and the conversation died shortly after that.

He ordered another drink. Beer, this time, cause it came in a larger quantity. Longer for him to nurse. To pretend he wasn’t imagining Armand standing in front of him.

Daniel could have called him at any time. People could and did make phone calls on planes these days. Many of them even had wi-fi these days. The power of progress. He wondered if any of the other people felt strange about the difference in rules, now to then.

But that wasn’t the real reason Daniel didn’t call Armand. Not really. There was no way of calling Armand without having the conversation on what had happened in the week leading up to this flight. And there was no way to have that conversation without him mentioning some unmentionables he had no particular wish for his seat mate—a working mother of two young children—to have to overhear.

Daniel rested his head heavily against the back of the seat. Took another swig of his beer. Realised too late that he was down to the bottom of it again. Ordered another one. With any luck, it would be enough to make him doze again.

There was a car and a man waiting for him when he stepped out of the Paris CDG international airport. At 5.30am Paris time. Because that was just how long it took to get through international customs. Even at that time in the morning.

God, but he was grateful the driver had waited.

“No problem, Mr. Molloy,” he’d said as he walked up to meet Daniel in order to take his luggage into the trunk of this new car. “It is what I’m paid for. Now, I assume you wish to go straight to the hotel?”

He sounded faintly like Lestat. Or, Daniel supposed, Lestat sounded faintly like the driver, since the driver was the one with the stronger French accent. Daniel knew he should just be grateful he was deigning to speak to him in English. He’d met his fair share prior to this who simply didn’t. And expected English speakers to just keep up.

Daniel knew a little bit of French. Enough to pass at any time when he’d had an adequate amount of sleep beforehand.

“God yes,” Daniel said. He wiped an exhausted hand over his face as he closed the passenger seat door. “A couple of unbroken hours’ sleep in a real bed is right now a requirement.”

“Feel free to close your eyes on the way,” the driver told him amiably as he pulled out from the bay. A bay, Daniel considered, he must have driven out of, done and loop and back into several times before Daniel had finally emerged. “No bad traffic at this time of morning, so we should be there in no time.”

Daniel nodded a couple of times, already doing as the driver suggested and feeling his head falling ever so slightly forward on the last nod.

That was the last he remembered until the driver gently woke him up on the other end.

“This is you,” he murmured. And Daniel tipped him in thanks, barely keeping bleary eyes on him long enough to see that he’d caught the money. He was mostly certain he had as they both stepped out to grab his luggage.

It almost seemed like too much to get from the front of the hotel to the bellman and his baggage trolley.

“Daniel Molloy,” he said to the night staff at the lobby. He’d had to pay extra for a check in at this time of morning.

“This way, Mr. Molloy,” came the easy reply. Things were always easy when one threw money at a thing. At almost six in the morning, Daniel couldn’t find it in himself to feel sorry about it.

When the bellhop was gone, and his luggage had been left behind, Daniel let out a long sigh, before beginning to undress himself and dump each garment on the floor before burying himself in the bed.

His midday alarm on his phone was the only thing that saved him with enough time to shower and properly get ready for the 2pm Saturday meeting that was his first appointment here in Paris. There really was no such thing as ‘off times’ when an investigative journalist was on the job.

Thankfully, his phone hadn’t seen fit to change the time of the alarm due to the time zone change.

Daniel started awake, only taking a moment to assess his surroundings and remember where it was he’d woken up.

Unfortunately, it was the same moment it took for the hollow feeling in his gut—the one Daniel was starting to associate with being away from Armand—began to make itself known.

He breathed through it, then got up.

While brushing his teeth, he did the maths of the time difference. Midday here meant 6am there. Not too terribly early on a weekday, but on a weekend?

Daniel continued to hold off calling him.

The meeting went well, he thought. More of a several hours long conversation, really. Daniel had slept enough to be able to pull up enough of the rudimentary French he knew to get on the good side of most of them early on. He’d learned it tended to be a convention that Americans weren’t highly looked upon internationally and that it always helped to make the effort to learn some of the language of the places he commonly travelled to.

All the while there, Daniel avoided looking at any mirrors that could give a lie to that thought, showing the sadness in his eyes through the charm and the schmooze he was giving off to his international peers.

The Pulitzer Prize didn’t actually mean a big deal internationally. This was particularly true in France. All countries had their own prizes, and their own prize winners. Daniel being a big name brought over from America only meant that the journalists over here wanted to make sure they had the measure of this interloper.

As a result, Daniel was tired both physically and mentally when he returned to his hotel at 7pm that night. There had been canapes all afternoon, and Daniel had partaken plentifully enough that he wasn’t overly hungry for dinner. It would have been all too easy for him to sink into the same bed that had given him solace for a precious few hours before the alarm.

It would be sensible to wait until the following day. Afternoon, on the following day. After Armand was likely to be awake. Sunday was one of the few days while here that he had nothing booked. He could go sight seeing in the morning, see some of the places he’d missed on his last visit, or perhaps go again to the same museums for their latest exhibitions.

And then call Armand.

If he wasn’t out early with Louis, Daniel thought to himself. Or Lestat. Or both. Damn, they’d be going out to Sunday night family dinner tomorrow. What was really to stop them from catching up earlier? They’d done it on the night Daniel had been collared.

He felt for the loose chain collar underneath his shirt, and pulled it over the shirt with an almost desperate grab. He needed to feel the heft of the metal against the back of his neck right then.

Even though being here was supposed to be for a completely different reason. He hadn’t touched his collar for days now. It felt like… it felt like coming home again in some ludicrously strange way. His eyes darted around the hotel room. Yup, still as generic and quiet as before. But with his fist around the loops of the chain, Daniel didn’t feel so alone anymore.

What if Armand wasn’t able to talk to Daniel tomorrow? Did Daniel really think he could wait till the following night to properly talk to him? God, what if Armand let his phone call go straight to voicemail instead of answering it? Was it possible Daniel had f*cked everything up that much?

Daniel knew better than to psych himself out by seriously considering something that had not even happened and, in all probability, wouldn’t. But reason had left with a proper night of sleep and Daniel wasn’t running on all cylinders anymore.

And still, he was no closer to convincing himself how well he would go on without Armand if that actually did become something he had to combat with.

Was this whole plan of his a complete failure? He was on the verge of convincing himself of the very opposite of what he’d hoped to find.

He needed Armand.

As wise as it would undoubtably be to wait until he was well rested and unemotional to call Armand, he couldn’t quite seem to make himself do it.

Where was his self control where Armand was concerned? Best look in the toilet, he thought to himself, for it certainly wasn’t here in the room with him.

He pulled Armand’s number up on his phone and made the call in a rush.

“Hello, Daniel.” That sensuous, mesmerising voice.

Armand had answered him on the first ring, almost as though he’d been waiting. Maybe he had been. And, oh, the relief that suffused his whole body at just the sound of those two words spoken in Armand’s voice.

Daniel felt immediate tears falling down both cheeks at just the sound of Armand's voice, and Daniel felt like the worst kind of idiot. It had been a ridiculous two nights. Well, it was coming on towards a third night now, but it was nearer to two in the time zone he had come from. He wiped his cheek impatiently as one of the tears escaped.

“Boss,” Daniel gasped out, because he couldn’t just sit here on the other side of the line, breathing heavily.

“Are you quite all right?” Armand asked, sounding curious, though not worried.

Daniel sniffed, surprised to find his nose was completely blocked already, and then laughed in relief that Armand was still curious as to his state of mind.

He hadn’t ruined everything with the way he left. Not completely!

“Yeah Boss, I think I might be. Now,” he added pointedly.

And then he focused on trying to calm his unsteady breathing while he waited on tenterhooks for Armand’s next reply.

“Ah. I wondered if you would need more to take with you than I gave you. You didn’t give me a lot of options, Daniel. I try to know, but I am not god.” The was the slightest hint of warmth in his voice now, enough that Daniel belated realised Armand had come across as more aloof than curious when he'd first spoken.

“No,” Daniel said, again with another near hysterical chuckle. “You seem to know a lot, though.”

“How are you right now, Daniel. Tell me truthfully.” Armand’s voice came from half a world away, directly into this receiver, and still it started to calm Daniel like nothing else had been able to. Not take away coffee. Not the familiarity of a long flight for work.

Daniel closed his eyes to focus better on the individual words Armand spoke. Another tear leaked out from beneath his lashes. He didn’t shove it away this time.

“You’re not angry?” They were the first words to come out of Daniel’s mouth, not actually answering Armand’s question but also making Daniel sound younger than he’d felt in at least two decades.

“Daniel…” Now Daniel thought Armand sounded disappointed. And he couldn't bear that, not the least because he knew he deserved it.

Daniel held his breath, knowing the response wasn’t exactly an immediate denial either. “You are,” he said flatly, gritting his teeth together so his voice wouldn’t shake. “I can’t blame you for it.”

“Hurt,” Armand answered, before Daniel could dig himself too far into his next reason for pulling away. “And confused. Wondering why you've acted as you have done. You've never deliberately hid something from me like this before, Daniel. I must admit, I’m at a loss to understand why.”

At just how clearly Armand had seen him, despite never picking him up on him, a new wave of tears trickled down Daniel's face. He was a mess without Armand, such a mess.

“Why I hid something, Boss?” Daniel asked. If he was about to have this conversation, he wanted to know exactly how much of his behaviour Armand had picked up on.

“Hid something, yes. But also pulled away from me,” Armand said simply. “Did I do something to deserve that from you, Daniel? Have I pushed you too far in our dynamic?”

Daniel’s lips parted. The answer wasn’t quite so simple as a yes or no, not even after this much time thinking—stewing—over it.

“Not exactly…” he started, trying to hedge his bets. “It was that thing you said about… about Santiago.”

Armand was silent on the line long enough to wait for Daniel to go on but, when he didn’t, he prompted, “What thing I said, Daniel?”

This part wasn’t difficult for Daniel to pull from his memory. It had been sitting there front and centre since their conversation the Saturday before. “Santiago always wanted things a certain way. You said you tried to remind him of his place, but then you had to let him go.”

Again, Armand was silent again, and Daniel could all too clearly imagine the neutral expression on his features as he thought through what he was about to say before he decided to speak the words.

It had become familiar to Daniel. Like so many things about Armand.

“I did,” Armand agreed. His voice went just this shy of dangerous, that silky tone that he only ever used when Daniel needed to be very careful about what he said next. And didn't Daniel already knew it. How close had he come, in his attempt to not remind Armand of Santiago, to doing almost the exact same damn thing? “Did you feel I was talking about you despite you asking me a question about Santiago?”

“Well, of course, when you put it that way it sounds dumb,” Daniel uttered.

“I take that as a yes, then?” Armand said, clearly not in the mood for more of Daniel’s evasions.

“Yes, Boss,” Daniel said, falling into line with what Armand’s tone seemed to expect with far less difficulty than he would have thought given the way they had left things. This whole conversation, it just felt like slipping back into the way things were always meant to be.

“I see.” Armand was quiet another moment. Daniel closed his eyes again, pressing the phone closer to his cheek as though he was pressing closer to Armand. At least for now the tears seemed to have dried away. “I don’t understand what goes through your head sometimes,” Armand said eventually. “You pushed aside the dynamic, then probably wondered why you’ve felt off this week. I know I certainly have.”

There seemed nothing immediately for Daniel to say to that.

“Yes, Boss,” he said, agreeing miserably even as he felt the threatening heat of tears once more. He opened his eyes, blinking them away until he could see the internal wall of the hotel clearly again. "I'm sorry, Boss."

Look at him, Daniel Molloy: Pulitzer Prize recipient and cry baby because he’d gone and f*cked up with his Master.

“Do you still want to serve, Daniel?” Armand asked the words so gently, far more gently and without judgement than Daniel deserved. “Are you still my slave?”

And then Daniel was crying in earnest. Just at this idea that Armand actually would take him back after this. He couldn’t make any words come out clearly, and he knew there was no chance that Armand wasn’t hearing the waterfall that had suddenly started from his eyes.

“Boss…” he managed to get out at one point, hoping that the honorific would say all of the things he couldn’t just yet say. The idea of being let go like Santiago had been plagued him, yes. It didn't matter how many times he told himself that he didn't care, that it didn't matter, that this was just some kinky f*ckery, nothing real.

But, the truth was, if he had been let go of after the week just gone, Daniel would have known he had no one else but himself to blame. And yet, it seemed like after everything, Armand was still considering keeping Daniel on.

“My Daniel, can you hear me?” Armand asked finally, and Daniel hiccupped to get his breathing under control enough to be able to hear and make sense of the words Armand was saying. “This is not a question where I am about to end your contract, or remove your collar from you. Do you hear and understand me, Daniel?”

How could he still seem to see so clearly into Daniel’s mind with only the telephone connecting them?

“Yes, Boss,” Daniel replied, and hearing both Armand’s words and then his own did calm him some.

“Good boy,” Armand replied, and Daniel felt himself relaxing still more. “Now, I ask you again: Do you still wish to serve?”

“I do, Boss,” Daniel answered, able to speak the words clearly this time, though his face was still wet from the recent storm of tears.

“I’m very glad, Daniel. And you won’t pull away again, once you’re back?” Some severity did enter into Armand's tone then, but Daniel couldn't fault him for it.

Probably. Definitely not. Maybe. Daniel shook his head. “No, Boss.”

“Good boy,” Armand said again. “Now that you’ve calmed, do you feel you are able to continue the work that took you away from me?”

Daniel almost said something then about the fact that he’d volunteered to come here. But, at the last minute, he swallowed back the words. It wasn’t the answer to the question Armand had asked. And he wanted to answer Armand’s question. To show he could be obedient again.

Once more, he glanced around the hotel room. It wasn’t significantly different to any other hotel he’d stayed in – they were all, these days, nicer than the ones he’d suffered through earlier in his career.

“Yes, Boss. I think so.”

“You think so?”

“If I… can I check in with you again tomorrow? So that I don’t… pull away? I know there’s a time difference—”

“Of course you may call me. Not in the middle of the night. And before dinner with Louis and Lestat. That is your window,” Armand commanded him.

And Daniel felt that order settle around his shoulders like an extra weight to the chain he wore around his neck. His free hand reached up to pull on it again, making that imagined weight real for a moment.

“You aren’t… planning on going out earlier than the usual time, Boss?” Daniel asked.

“No, I am not,” Armand answered. “And well done for asking.”

Thus, with the plan made, Daniel finally felt steady enough that he could get off the phone, and sleep off the remainder of his jet lag. His mind wasn’t restless after he put the phone on charge on the bedside table. He was unconscious almost as soon as he closed his eyes to sleep.

Chapter 26

Notes:

I can't believe not a one of you picked up the first single line I straight up ripped out of TDM in the last chapter - and here I was so damn proud of it (not to mention myself) ^.^

Chapter Text

They had had their conversations on the phone each night he’d been in France—close to midnight for Daniel, closer to work knocking off for Armand—but they had had them. Each night. As agreed.

They'd talked about so many things on those phone calls. Armand said he'd had plenty of time to think about and reconsider the way he'd just dropped Santiago in front of Daniel without so much as a warning.

"It wasn't the best way I could have handled it," Armand had said. "I suppose any feelings I once had for him pale in comparison for what you and I currently share. So it didn't occur to me that your seeing him unwarned could be upsetting."

"Does what we have already mean so much to you?" Daniel had asked, surprised. The words, the surprise, slipped out of his mouth before he could call them back. It was clear that there was emotion behind what he was saying. Armand didn't speak words like that lightly, and Daniel was beginning to learn to look beneath the level, neutral tone with which he spoke most of the time.

There were a lot of hints to be found in Armand's words. But sometimes, like this, he just flat out went and spoke things out so baldly and as though it didn't matter to him all at the same time. And it was almost always that Daniel hadn't seen it coming.

"Does that surprise you?" Armand hadn't sounded upset at the doubt in Daniel's voice, more curious over the opportunity to hear the way Daniel saw it. Saw him, perhaps.

All the same, the question had made Daniel chuckle under his breath. "Sometimes, you aren't the easiest person to read. This isn't a shock to you, Boss."

They'd had a conversation like this much earlier on in their relationship, Daniel remembered. There was an insecure part inside of Daniel that seemed to find it difficult to hold onto the idea that Armand really wanted him due to perceived reserve coming from Armand. Something for Daniel to ponder, because Armand obviously wasn't going to change.

What had Armand said the last time it had come up, in those first weeks?

"I see the part of you that’s scared of desires you don’t even know you have yet. I see the part of you that’s fighting back tears even as we speak, even if you don’t know why they’re there. I see you. And I want the man I see terribly.”

"Well now," Armand had said over the phone. "If I was easy for you to read all the time, where would the fun in that be?" There had been a pause, then, "Yes, Daniel. What we have together means a great deal to me."

Daniel's throat had gone over all husky pretty much immediately, his whole body flushing with heat. "It means a lot to me too, Boss."

"I'm very glad to hear that."

He'd also thanked Armand for giving him the Thursday after to make up for Santiago and the others being there for their usual Wednesday.

"Of course, Daniel. I never wished to hurt you."

Daniel believed him.

Later in the week, after having gone through old messages between himself and Armand, he'd gone ahead and asked why Armand still held himself back a bit from Daniel.

"What do you mean, Daniel?" Armand had asked.

"Just that level of reserve you still hold. Is it just that it's more fun for you to watch me struggle to read you sometimes? Or..." Daniel hesitated, trying to find a respectful way of wording his question. The last thing he wanted to do was offend Armand while there was still a whole ocean between them. "You gave me the impression early on that you hold back the worst of your possessive and controlling nature. Even with me."

Daniel had been able to hear the smile in Armand's voice as soon as he'd replied. "Going through our old text messages while you're away, Daniel?"

"Well," Daniel had rubbed a hand against the back of his neck. "It's not like I can be on the phone with you all the time. And I have it on me while I'm out here."

"You will be home again with me soon, Daniel. And those rules will resume, unless you wish to negotiate otherwise?"

"Yeah. I will. And they will too." He had no wish to renegotiate.

"Good, Daniel. To answer your question: I still hold myself back a little. Sometimes. Not so much as in our earliest days. I don't think you need or want that anymore," Armand said, though there was a little hint of a question in his tone.

"No," Daniel agreed, infusing his tone with as much reassurance as he could in the absence of being there in the room with him.

"Still. I try to judge how much of me you truly want to see." Was that... a small amount of uneasiness in Armand's voice? Had Daniel's leaving had such an effect on the confidence Armand usually exhibited?

"All of you, Boss," Daniel had answered honestly, and heatedly. "All of you." Maybe it wasn't the most convincing time for him to make this argument, halfway around the world and after having chosen to run from the dynamic.

But, ultimately, Daniel wasn't inclined to attempt or even think of shirking any more agreements for the rest of the time he was in Paris.

He’d ended up being more focused in his interviews because of it. Things had gone smoothly because he never had another thought outside the room tugging on his attention. No worries that he was shoving aside to be dealt with later.

Just a sureness in the knowledge that Armand would talk to him each night, that it would be the last thing he did every night of the rest of this trip before he went to sleep.

Daniel was, it turned out, a simple man. Someone who could be satisfied with very simple pleasures.

Armand was in the car that picked Daniel up from the airport, not content to wait and meet him at home. Although he hadn’t totally ruined the surprise by saying it explicitly, Daniel found he wasn’t surprised to walk through the gates and find Armand simply standing there. For him. It was all too Armand a thing to do.

It had been a 2pm Thursday flight out of Paris CDG, which meant this was the second time around Daniel was seeing 8pm flash before his eyes while he waited dimly for his luggage to arrive out of the carousel. He stifled a yawn, but knew more were coming. The florescent lights in the airport had a way of making him more rather than less tired.

Armand, of course, looked as perfectly made up as ever, but Daniel couldn’t bring himself to feel self conscious over the disparity in appearance and—likely—hygiene. He was here.

Daniel’s exhausted legs somehow woke up enough to manage to push him to Armand’s side at a speed Daniel would have previously considered impossible before a very long sleep. If he could have, Daniel would have knelt in front of him.

He couldn’t, obviously, for the same reasons he’d talked himself out of making that phone call to Armand originally on the flight over to Paris.

“Hey,” Daniel said to him instead, breathing into the word all of the weight of everything else Daniel wished to say and do in front of this man. This man who carried his heart and, quite possibly, his whole life in his hands.

That was what the France trip had really shown Daniel. It wasn’t what he’d been looking to find, but it was what he’d got anyway. And so Daniel’s plans had changed. Instead of trying to convince himself that he could do without Armand, he was going to attempt to make peace with the fears he held over how utterly central Armand had already become to his life. He was going to try to communicate it better when and if the thought overwhelmed him again. He was going to do his damnedest to remember how it did no good to either one of them when he pulled away from the agreements they’d made to each other, without communicating any of the reasons why to Armand.

Daniel just hoped that was enough to stop him from making a knee jerk repeat of this particular trip to Paris.

Armand’s eyes were warm when they looked back at his, without sign of any grudge being held. To Daniel’s eye, he looked just as happy to see Daniel as Daniel was to see him.

“Welcome back, my beautiful boy. I have missed you.”

welcome back international investigative reporter of renoun. now armand’s let us know you might still be suffering from jet lag this weekend but do you think you’d be up for catching up by monday? love to chat with you

Friday night, the two of them were in a larger lounge room, one that had a TV that was on and yet largely being ignored by both of them. Armand had been scrolling through memes on his iPad earlier. Daniel had been invited onto the couch beside Armand tonight because Armand ‘wanted him close’.

It felt strange at first, to be sitting level with Armand. Stranger still to be handed his cell phone after he was in Arman's house again and be given permission to use it for entertainment if he wished. Daniel supposed it was okay so long as it was him following an order that Armand had given, rather than expecting it himself, even if it did feel kinda strange.

Daniel's idea of entertainment, rather than phone games, was reading through recent news on a current politician and snorting to himself every so often.

It was while doing this that he'd received the message from Louis. Daniel turned to look at Armand, and said, “Did you tell them I’d still be dealing with jet lag this weekend?”

“Mm?” Armand’s fingers moved across the top of Daniel’s arm lightly, causing him to shiver, but he could tell he didn’t have Armand’s entire attention away from the device yet.

“Louis messaged me, about Sunday? And Monday too.” Daniel leaned up to look at Armand, waiting until he had his attention back.

Finally, Armand broke from his fascination with his electronic device. Daniel knew well enough by now that, after a particularly strenuous day at work, Armand had a tendency to zone out completely if it was just one of these nights where they had nothing in particular planned.

“Louis,” Armand repeated, catching up to the words that Daniel had spoken already. “And your jet lag. Yes. I realised I do not know how long it takes you to recover from that.” As he said this, he lifted a hand to brush against one of the curls at Daniel’s temple.

The gentleness of the touch immediately had Daniel leaning towards him. He’d grown to love these moments of softness between them just as much as the beatings during play. Best yet was the combination of light and rough touches that Armand quite enjoyed alternating between, leaving Daniel a melted puddle of pliable flesh.

Now it was Daniel’s turn to be distracted.

“Oh, not long,” he murmured. “A couple of good sleeps'll do me. I’ll be fine by Sunday.”

Armand smiled. “Louis will be happy.”

“Louis also asked if we could catch up on Monday.” Daniel searched his gaze as though there might be something there to warn him against it. “Is that okay with you, Boss?”

“Of course. It’s been a little while since you two got to spend some time together,” Armand answered reasonably. “I shall somehow amuse myself.”

“I don’t wanna leave you alone!” Daniel said quickly. “Not if you don’t wanna be, not so soon after—”

“Daniel. Relax,” Armand replied. “I assure you that I am still quite capable of entertaining myself without your presence.”

Daniel huffed, sitting back just slightly. “Well, now I feel superfluous. That put me in my place.”

Something flashed in Armand’s eyes, a moment before he reached out and took a handful of Daniel’s hair in his fist. “You know, I very much like putting you in your place.”

Daniel licked his lips, still looking back into Armand’s suddenly more intense gaze. “Yeah, Boss? I’m… pretty much completely fine and free from jet lag tonight, if you wanna… put me in my place properly.”

A smile curled its way around Armand’s features. “Is that so, boy?”

Daniel nodded, as much as he was able with Armand’s hand still in his hair.

“Stand,” Armand said, and Daniel stumbled to get off the couch as fast as was humanly possible. Fast enough that he stumbled and was caught by Armand. It didn’t halt their path towards play, however. Daniel didn’t think, that night, that anything could have halted that path.

Happy Hour at the same restaurant where they usually met up was the plan that Monday night. Daniel was currently in the process of avoiding the deadline for the print version of the interviews he’d taken over in Paris, so he actually running on time, and ahead of Louis for getting there. The deadline itself was still far enough ahead of him that Daniel wasn’t letting himself worry about it. He didn’t want to think about it at all, actually, especially not how crappy he felt about the time those interviews signified.

Avoidant behaviour, his old marriage counsellor would have—correctly—observed. Hardly the first time Daniel had been caught up in it.

Louis’ eyes widened when he saw Daniel already sitting there. “Well this isn’t right,” he said, sitting down.

“Hey hey,” Daniel said, only standing up briefly when he saw Louis, then sitting down sharply as soon as Louis let that piece of wit out. “No need for that.”

“What are you avoiding at work?” Louis said astutely, knowing at least his writing habits from their longer running friendship. “I know you ain’t working on nothing.”

“Why don’t you mind your own business or else you’re buying your own drinks tonight,” Daniel told him, the banter coming easier than thinking about the thing he didn’t wanna think on.

Truth was, there were always other projects to work on, and Daniel had given himself over to some of those that day instead of looking at the Paris interview.

He would get to it, he’d been telling himself at the end of each day. Just not yet.

Louis put his hands up in surrender. “Fine, fine. I’m just saying you, fancy big shot, only just got back from a week’s international work trip only to be early to drinks for the first time in… ever. Nothing to see here. Yeah, I’ll just go pay for my own cider.”

“Nah, don’t do that.” Daniel reached out to put a hand on Louis’ arm before he’d even half stood up again. He felt the crackle of chemistry in the way Louis looked back at him quickly at the sudden physical contact. He dropped his hand. There was no way out of pretending neither of them knew what they’d come here to talk about tonight after that. “I’ll get them,” he murmured.

“I’ll come with you,” Louis said easily.

And so they both did. It was early and quiet enough that Daniel wasn’t overly worried about getting back to their table after it’d been left unattended. And, if they didn’t, there were plenty of other tables to choose from.

Beer and cider and condendated glasses in hand, Daniel and Louis returned to the table they’d left.

“So,” Daniel said.

“So,” Louis repeated, after the first mouthful of his cider.

Daniel was deliberately holding off drinking, at least for the first part of this conversation. Because it would be so damn easy to just fall back into bed with Louis. They got along. He was certainly a looker. He even had permission given from Armand!

But Daniel had also been thinking. He had his sexual needs pretty much met these days. It wasn’t like the old times when he was chasing something and hoping the next lay would scratch that itch.

He liked Louis, but their physical relationship had only ever been casual.

“I feel like you’re looking for something, the way you’re staring at me,” Louis said, and Daniel realised he hadn’t talked in a while.

“No,” Daniel started, before backtracking. “Okay, yeah. Look, we both know what the elephant in the room is here.”

“The fact that you reckon I ain’t interested in sleeping with you anymore?” Louis lifted a brow at the same time as he spoke the question.

“That…” Daniel acknowledged with a tip of his drink. “But I’m also wondering…” His throat tightened. He couldn’t get the words out.

Louis’ brows lowered again, his face expressing concern. “What’s up?” he asked.

“I’ve just… been thinking…” Daniel started again, getting to the same point before realising he couldn’t have this conversation without at least some alcohol in his system. He took a long swig of the beer and swallowed, before letting out a sigh.

By this time, Louis was starting to look kinda worried. He didn’t say anything though. Letting Daniel take this at his own pace.

“So, I don’t know how much Armand told you about the Paris trip,” Daniel started.

“Just that…” Louis’ brow furrowed. “That you had work, you’d be gone for almost a week.”

“Okay yeah. So I realised, while I was away, that I don’t…” Again, the back of his throat closed up against the words he wanted to say. He wanted to talk about the control he wanted Armand to have over him. Not a return to the trap of monogamy he’d felt during his marriage to his ex wife. If he and Louis ended up in bed with Armand, Daniel would be more than okay with that.

But he just… didn’t think he wanted to f*ck around without Armand there. At least, not right now.

God, if he could have seen himself five years ago…

Louis’ hand came down to rest over Daniel’s. “Whatever it is,” he said softly. “I’m not gonna be upset. Promise.”

That did help. A bit.

“It’s not that you’re not attractive,” Daniel said to start with.

“Oh, I know that. I know what I bring,” Louis said with a definitely co*cky grin.

And it brought out an answering grin from Daniel.

“Okay, Mr. Hot Stuff,” he said mockingly, as Louis began preening and smoothing down hair he didn’t have.

They both had a good laugh and a drink before getting back to it.

“I said to you: I have permission from Armand,” Daniel continued.

“‘Boss’,” Louis corrected, eyes still glinting with left over humour.

“Yeah,” Daniel said softly. “Boss. He’s… f*ck, after coming back from Paris, I kinda want him to be everything, you know? I want to give him more of me than I was giving before I went. It’s what feels right, anyway, and I gotta stop hiding from it.”

“You know,” Louis said consideringly, staring into his glass of cider as he spoke. “I kinda thought this is what’d happen.”

“You… did?” Daniel was astonished.

Louis shrugged as though it wasn’t a big deal.

“I saw the connection there between you that very first night, don’t forget,” Louis said.

“Oh,” Daniel said softly, not sure how he felt about someone who wasn’t him being aware of what he’d choose to do before he even did. How well did Louis know him?

How transparent had he become?

“And it’s totally okay by me,” Louis continued quickly, lest his words could be misconstrued. “We never made no promises to each other. We’re friends.”

“Family,” Daniel corrected, reminding Louis of the word he had used the first time they’d come here together after Daniel met Armand. “And I… don’t need it to just be friends, yeah? You’re in a relationship with Armand, and some kinda thing with me. I’m just saying… we don’t need to keep it so separate all the time, do we?”

Realisation dawned in Louis’ gaze as Daniel watched. “Oh. It’s like that, is it?”

“It could be, couldn’t it?” Daniel asked.

Louis let out an amused snort. “You suggestin' this, like, a whole damn week after Lestat went on about us all having a threesome he wasn’t invited to?” He gave a little hoot. “Your timing… it could do with some work.”

But Louis was still grinning. He wasn’t turned off by the idea, Daniel noticed.

“I’ll need to talk to him,” Louis said. “I won’t do nothing behind his back.”

“Of course,” Daniel said quickly. “I wouldn’t want you to.”

Louis looked Daniel up and down. “You know, I reckon slavery looks good on you. You seem calm. At peace.”

Daniel inclined his head. He’d drunk a small enough amount of his beer that he knew what Louis was seeing wasn’t the calm that sometimes came from downing a depressant.

“Thanks,” Daniel said. “That means a lot, coming from you.”

Louis looked happy to receive that compliment.

But there was also something else on Daniel’s mind, that came up with Louis’ words.

“What did you know about Armand and Santiago together?”

Louis’ eyes widened in surprise at the question before he recovered himself. “What… makes you think I had any opinion on that?”

“Armand… Boss… told me you knew them together.”

“I did…” Louis said, reservation entering his voice where it hadn’t been there before.

Daniel moved his hand in a motion to indicate Louis should feel free to talk more.

“I don’t really wanna talk out of turn…” Louis admitted.

“What, you’re saying there’s stuff I shouldn’t know about with Santiago?” Daniel narrowed his eyes. “Santiago, who’s coming into Boss’ house, and who Boss is instructing on a D/s or M/s lifestyle?”

Louis sighed. “I’d reckon Armand’s doing it far more for Claudia than he is out of any loyalty to Santiago.”

“Ah, so Boss did mention something to you,” Daniel pressed, the cogs in his journalist’s mind turning. “And he also mentioned Lestat should remember Claudia. Why is that?”

“Now don’t go jumping to any conclusions,” Louis cautioned.

“Keep talking to me,” Daniel said, “and I won’t have to.”

Louis’ lips flattened. He didn’t like that, Daniel realised. He was being pushy. Getting in the way of the future of something happening between he and Armand and Louis all together, Daniel wondered? Did it matter? he asked himself. Would knowing that make him back down?

It should have, he knew. Daniel had never been able to turn aside from the scent of a story once he had his finger on it. Didn’t matter if it was his personal or professional life. Once he knew there was something he didn’t know, it was uniquely difficult for him to back off.

How personally Claudia and Santiago were in the lives of people he’d become quite attached to still remained to be seen.

“Claudia was something of a… combination best friend and little sister figure to Lestat,” Louis said. “Though, honestly, I feel like they both brought out the worst in each other more than not.”

“Because Claudia likes to be in charge…” Daniel gathered slowly. Then nodded to himself. “And so does Lestat.”

“More or less,” Louis agreed. “As Claudia grew into herself, she started resenting the ‘little sister’ type way Lestat looked at her. And, of course, everything exploded when she then decided to go to Armand for advice.”

“Because she wanted to be a Dominant. Like him,” Daniel pushed.

“Not to begin with. That came later. I think it something Lestat still blames Armand for but, just a little. Like he led Claudia down the wrong path or something.”

“And what do you think?” Daniel wondered.

“I think Claudia’s an adult who knows her own mind.” There was no subterfuge in his voice. Daniel believed him that it was as simple as that for Louis.

Daniel sat back in his chair, crossing his arms and considering all of this.

“So Santiago,” Daniel said, picking up that thread of the conversation again.

Louis gave a sigh. “You obviously know I was around when he and Armand were still together,” Louis said ungraciously.

“I do,” Daniel agreed.

“What else do you know?” Louis asked.

“That he wasn’t what Armand wanted. Kept doing things his own way. Armand let him go.”

Louis nodded along with this succinct overview. “I’d say that’s a pretty good summary of the events.”

“Because Santiago wasn’t the slave Armand wanted?”

“I think the relationship was a learning curve for both of them,” Louis admitted carefully. “That maybe… Santiago was as much a help for teaching Armand want he wanted to find eventually as Armand was for Santiago.

Chapter 27

Chapter Text

“Strip,” Armand said, the very moment they were both inside of the small lounge, before even he’d reached the three seater couch.

It was one of the first warmer day in early spring, and so the first time Daniel had been expected to strip in here without the fire having been laid for the extra warmth beforehand.

He began to strip as ordered without even a pause. Shoes, socks and jacket had already come off when he’d first come in from work, so it was a quick and easy strip of the shirt and trousers he had on. Armand liked knowing Daniel went out of the house and about his day without wearing any underpants.

Daniel liked knowing Armand liked it.

In less than thirty seconds, Daniel stood nude and waiting on Armand’s next instructions.

God he loved their Wednesday nights.

Often enough their Saturdays as well, if Daniel was being honest.

They f*cked more often nowadays, but Armand had been determined that their M/s dynamic would not dwindle into complacency once they were living together.

“I’ve done that before,” Armand had murmured the words in a low voice, though without any particular heat.

And, after having spoken to Louis about it, Daniel thought he’d started putting together his own version of what might have happened between Armand and Santiago before Daniel had ever come across either of them.

Since Daniel vehemently wished to not become complacent either, Armand’s decisions in this area suited him quite well.

He was so determined not to get complacent, in fact, that he wanted to have a discussion with Armand about it. Soon. Armand wouldn’t begin to play with him until he’d questioned whether there was anything Daniel wanted to discuss first.

“My darling boy.” Armand’s hand was a light touch that started along Daniel’s jawline, moved to his shoulder then down the centre of his back. Finally, his palm settled against Daniel’s ass.

Daniel’s breath hitched, before it smoothed out and his breathing became slower and more relaxed than it had been since Armand’s first touch.

Armand’s fingertips dug into the flesh of Daniel’s buttocks in a promise for later on, and then…

The hand was gone.

“Is there anything you’d like to discuss with me this evening, boy?”

“Yes, Boss,” Daniel croaked out.

“Speak,” Armand said, stepping around until he was standing in front of Daniel. Fully clothed, hands clasped loosely in front of him.

Daniel swallowed, his mouth suddenly feeling drier. However, his breathing hadn’t sped up. He knew what he wanted to say. He was ready to say it. He just… wanted to ensure it came out the right way now.

“I talked to Louis,” Daniel started.

“Mm, yes, I know.” Armand dark brown eyes deliberately looked all the way down and then back up Daniel’s body possessively.

Daniel swallowed, because damn if Armand wasn’t completely distracting when he looked at him like this.

He cleared his throat. He wouldn’t be allowed to stop now, not even if he claimed being distracted by Armand. Armand was a sad*stic little f*ck like that. Causing distractions left, right and centre, but never allowing Daniel to use them as excuses for anything.

“When I talked to him, I told him that I really wanna give everything to you,” Daniel said.

Armand’s lips curved up slightly as his gaze lifted to meet Daniel’s. “I do like the sound of that, Daniel.”

Daniel could feel himself flushing. Nearly 40 years old and it didn’t matter. Still flushing.

“Yeah, well,” he said, fighting down his own instinct to look away, or deflect. “That includes… sex, Boss. I know you gave me permission to sleep with Louis, when we were negotiating.”

Armand was looking very intently at him now. No teasing slide of his eyes over Daniel’s naked body. In some ways that was better. It some ways it made it that much worse.

“Go on, Daniel,” Armand prompted him when Daniel got stuck.

“Uh, yeah,” Daniel said, blinking, shaking his head slightly. Being the sole recipient of Armand’s attention was like that scene in Disney’s Jungle Book, where Mowgli was getting hypnotised by the snake. “I said to him, and now to you, that I don’t want that permission anymore.”

“Is that so?”

“It is, Boss,” Daniel answered firmly.

Armand just nodded once and tacitly allowed Daniel to continue.

“I’m open to sleeping with Louis again,” Daniel said, trying to think of how he’d said this next bit to Louis the first time around. “But, if I do, I’d want you to be there.”

Armand smirked at that, though he didn’t make the obvious reference as Louis had; how Lestat was bound to love that.

“Bottom line, Boss?” Daniel got out finally. “I want you to own that part of me, along with the rest of it. No exceptions.”

“Chastity,” Armand qualified.

“If that’s what you wanna call it,” Daniel agreed.

“Very well, Daniel,” Armand said, and he looked incredibly pleased. “I accept this renewed negotiation. Was there anything else you wanted to discuss?”

“No Boss,” Daniel replied, feeling the weight of Armand’s acceptance settle on him like a physical thing, almost an embrace. “Just that.”

“Well,” Armand said, reaching down to palm Daniel’s co*ck with no lead up or foreplay, “If I own this now, I had better take very good care of it.”

The next night, when Daniel saw Santiago again once more at Armand’s invitation, Daniel was ready.

Armand had been borderline hostile to Santiago the last time he’d been here. Daniel realised that only in hindsight. But he wasn’t this time. And even that didn’t bother Daniel. He felt himself to be in a completely different space than he had been the last time.

It helped that Armand hadn’t invited Claudia, Madeleine and Santiago to his home on Wednesday night again. But also, if he had, Daniel trusted he would again ensure another night that week was given to their time together instead. They lived together now. Their time together could technically now be any night Armand wished.

Daniel didn’t have to stew over the idea that he might not be special to Armand. No insecure touch to his collar was needed this time around. The stripes across his backside were reminder enough. He’d sent a message to Armand earlier that day complaining he’d been unable to sit comfortably on his ass and work, only to get a self satisfied emoji back in response.

The drinks were severed, and two plates of snacks laid out in addition this time around, at Armand’s command. Now was only for Daniel to sit at Armand’s feet.

Armand’s hand hadn’t left Daniel’s hair since he’d found his usual place. Once again, Armand was being so effortlessly distracting.

He hadn’t had as much of a chance to speak with Madeleine tonight. That was partly his fault—he was much more focused on Armand tonight than he’d been a fortnight before—but also because Armand had ushered them all into the small lounge more swiftly than last time.

“I see little point in small talk now that we are all familiar with each other,” Armand had said by way of explanation.

Not that any of them—perhaps except for Claudia—had seemed to require an explanation. But even Claudia had only inclined her head and accepted Armand’s thinking wordlessly.

“You said last time,” Armand murmured, getting Madeleine’s attention, “that you were Claudia’s submissive. That she likes to be in charge.” This with a flicker of a glance towards Claudia. “Which is certainly true.”

Claudia gave an amused huff of laughter. But Madeleine didn’t.

Her pale face looked back at Armand almost seriously as he picked up not just almost as though no time had passed since their last visit, but also making it clear that he’d been listening in on the conversation between Daniel and Madeleine last time.

“Yes,” she answered quietly. “That’s what I said.”

“Not a slave?” Armand asked curiously. “Even in light of Santiago appearing here?”

Madeleine’s brow furrowed. “I don’t see why Santiago’s presence should change the way I see myself.”

“Good,” Armand said, as though she had given a correct answer. Madeleine, Daniel noticed, still looked confused, so he was glad when Armand kept talking. “Have you given thought to how you’ll feel if Claudia should decide to take on a slave? She’ll have different needs fulfilled by him, you understand? That can be… difficult.”

Armand’s hand stilled in Daniel’s hair as he waited for Madeleine’s answer.

Slowly, Madeleine moved to give him a brief shrug. “Would that be any different to any other polyamorous scenario?”

Armand shifted, and seemed about to say something, when Madeleine surprised Daniel by continuing.

“Besides, it is not my place to tell Claudia what she should do.”

“That is true,” Armand agreed with equanimity. “Still, it behoves you to ensure your mistress has all the information she’ll require to make a good decision.”

“She has that,” Madeleine replied evenly.

Armand nodded, seeming to take this in at face value. His gaze lifted back to Claudia. “My dear,” he uttered, with genuine affection. “You know I’ve never been able to read your thoughts behind your brilliantly composed features.”

The expression Claudia gave in response was best described as sass being downplayed as innocence.

“Exactly,” Armand murmured. “How do you feel about embarking on this journey? Excited? Trepidatious? You have something very precious already with Madeleine here. Adding another element could disturb that.”

Daniel snuck a look towards Santiago as Armand spoke these words that seemed to indicate a subtle argument against Claudia deciding to bring him into their relationship. But Santiago’s face under that gelled back hair remained impassive.

“It could,” Claudia answered easily, even as she reached down to graze Madeleine’s temple in a caress. “I don’t think so though.”

“Why?” Armand pressed, not unkindly.

“Because I’m not about to go into this with either excitement or trepidation,” Claudia said. “I see a need in Santiago that calls to something in me.”

Claudia looked across the room at Santiago, who occupied the same space by the unlit fire that he had a fortnight past, and who was also looking back at her. The energy that seemed to crackle between them at just that look was something even Daniel thought he could feel.

Her hand still touched Madeleine’s skin. “No different to the need I feel for Madeleine, and which she has for me in return.”

Daniel could see Armand nodding slowly in some kind of satisfaction in this answer.

And then finally, finally, he gave his attention to Santiago, the final party in this trio. “You are incredibly lucky that Claudia is even considering giving this to you.”

“I know, Sir.” Santiago blinked, then froze as though hearing the word that had come out of his own mouth. The next words came out completely discombobulated, as though he would have preferred to be able to pull back that word, and couldn’t. “I mean, I’m sorry. I mean—”

“No need for that,” Armand said, waving away Santiago’s gaff with the hand that wasn’t touching Daniel. “I only want to know: What will make this time different from your last? You must have known when Claudia said she wished to come to me with this, I would have this question to ask.”

“I did. And I have learned,” Santiago said solemnly, having managed to regather himself while Armand spoke. “From serving you, Armand, and after.”

“After?” Armand asked silkily.

“Yes.” Santiago closed his mouth firmly after the word, as though another honorific might have slipped through otherwise. Daniel couldn’t take his eyes off Santiago. It was almost painful watching him struggle to stay in the present while Armand grilled him in a way that must have been at least partially reminiscent of their own past times in this room.

Armand’s hand never moved from Daniel’s curls. Daniel didn’t feel a need to interject, to be any part of this conversation apart from an observer. He’d noted that the honorific Santiago had had for Armand was different than the one Daniel had chosen early on, but he didn’t feel any particular thing about it.

The tension wasn’t on Daniel this week. The spotlight was wholly on Santiago.

Daniel didn’t envy that a single bit. Actually, he kind of admired the way Santiago held himself steady in the face of Armand’s hard stare.

“I’ve continued with the work you set me on. To examine myself. What I really wanted.” Santiago gave a grudging nod towards this thing he and Armand had previously discussed. “You were right, I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted before. I just wanted someone to tell me what to do so I didn’t have to think about it. About anything. I couldn’t do that at the same time as examine why that was while still serving you effectively.”

“No. You certainly couldn’t,” Armand said, soft but damningly.

Daniel watched Santiago’s Adam’s apple bob up and down as he swallowed; the only outward indication that he wasn’t as composed as he otherwise appeared. He just nodded once and averted his eyes.

“I don’t intend to repeat those same mistakes with Miss.” Santiago spoke gruffly.

“I’m very glad to hear that.” Finally, Armand lifted his attention from Santiago. “Well. It seems you all three are on the same page as each other.”

“Well, I could have told you that already,” Claudia added with a roll of her eyes.

Daniel snorted and quickly did his best to turn it into a cough.

Not well enough, it seemed. Armand’s hand immediately tightened in his hair causing Daniel to only just swallow a gasp on the end of that snort-cough.

“Something to add, slave?” Armand asked tauntingly.

“No, Boss,” Daniel got out very quickly.

And, just as quickly, damn if the public chastisem*nt didn’t make him stir in his pants. He very carefully didn’t look at anyone else in that room for a moment, so he missed the almost indulgent glance Claudia shot him from her side of the couch.

“Why isn’t he the dearest, most obedient slave. You must be pleased.”

Daniel certainly heard her words though, indulgent and almost charmed as they sounded.

He remembered the way Louis had described her and Lestat’s relationship before she’d met Armand. A ‘little sister’ figure. Daniel certainly didn’t see her that way in this room, despite the genuinely large age gap between them. That tone of voice was the kind of voice best found in a cat wishing to play with a mouse. There was no other way of interpreting it.

If he’d been at all interested in women at this stage of his life, he might even have been stirred by the further teasing. As it was, his mind helpfully and quickly conjured up a mental image of he and Santiago side by side with Armand and Claudia giving them both verbal humiliation in turn.

Where had that image come from?!

And why was he already hoping Claudia’s words would spur on something further from Armand now in the present?

“I am rather pleased. Apart from the occasionally, apparently uncontrollable, noise.”

Well, he didn’t clench his hand in Daniel’s hair this time, so Daniel was able to look up and see exactly what kind of expression was on Armand’s face as he said these words. He was surprised to find Armand looking down at him—rather than across at Claudia—with an arch expression, though no any real censure.

Daniel felt unaccountably relieved and disappointed at the sight. And then, as though Armand could look into his mind and see his thoughts—more likely into his expression, but whatever—Armand gave him two light slaps to the side of his face.

It was nothing that hurt. Certainly nothing at all in comparison to the strikes on his backside he could still feel faintly. But the shock of it, in addition to a surprising feeling of shame that accompanied being slapped even lightly against the face, gave Daniel that burn of humiliation he’d apparently been craving.

It was as surprising to him as the snort from Daniel had been to Armand.

Armand was still watching him carefully when Daniel came back to himself on a moment later.

“Thank you, Boss,” Daniel said, honestly feeling grateful in the moment.

Armand inclined his head, as though that was absolutely the right response for him to make, then turned his attention back to Claudia. Which left Daniel to just smiling dumbly at nothing as the conversation went on.

“I’m sure you’ll train that out of him,” Claudia said, in the same sweet tone.

Oh yeah, Daniel thought. He was sure too.

“Meanwhile,” Armand said, “I will teach you to do exactly the same.”

“I knew you would,” Claudia said, and Daniel could hear the smile in her voice around the Southern twang.

Chapter 28

Chapter Text

They made a plan to catch up all together like this ongoing every fortnight, on a Thursday. Until Claudia called a stop to it.

“But you also may call me more often,” Armand had told Claudia by the door as he’d brought her close for an almost European kiss of goodbye along with the embrace. “Call me more often if anything goes awry.”

“Oh, Armand. You’re like some kind of a worried uncle or something,” Claudia said affectionately, lifting a hand to touch his cheek lightly before stepping out the front door.

“You too,” Daniel had murmured to Madeleine at the same time. “I know there probably hasn’t been anything you needed to chat about yet, but you’ve still got my number,” he reminded her.

And this time, he wouldn’t even be running from Armand if she did decide to use it.

“I do,” Madeleine answered with a smile, before they were all gone.

Daniel had only had the thought briefly after Madeleine first walked in that night that he hadn’t heard from her. Not in the week he’d been away, and not since. It was lucky, that.

Daniel was still awake and reading in his own bed. He and Armand had said good night earlier, which had made it clear Armand wouldn’t instead be ordering Daniel into his bedroom.

Therefore, he was surprised when he caught a movement over his glasses and saw with a start that Armand stood in the doorway.

His hand was gripping the door frame, was already moving up and down against it in a way Daniel could only interpret as suggestive. He gulped, doing his best not to allow himself to get any hopes up. It was already late, and Armand didn’t like him being pushy when it came to when they did or didn’t have sex. Which left him with only one acceptable thing to say.

“Boss?” He reached up and took his glasses off, not needing them on any longer if he wasn’t reading.

“I keep thinking of that moment of degradation from tonight,” Armand said, taking a single step into the room. “About how much you obviously enjoyed it.”

Ah. If he was being honest, Daniel had been thinking much the same thing. It was why he’d picked up out one of the drier books in his collection and had begun reading it. It was absolutely impossible to get aroused when one was reading Noam Chomsky.

Or, at least, he thought it would be. It seemed all of a sudden as though it was very possible to feel quite aroused while at least holding a book penned by Noam Chomsky.

Dear god.

“It’s not part of anything we’ve ever negotiated before,” Armand murmured in that silky, seductive voice that would have managed to encourage Daniel into bed with him even if that wasn’t already a done deal.

Daniel cleared his throat, realising this was the time to speak, if he had anything worthwhile to say.

“No, Boss, it isn’t.”

“Why is that?”

Daniel took a breath to calm his pounding heart, then put his book very carefully down on the side table next to the bed.

“I suppose,” he started slowly. “That’s because I didn’t know about it. Till tonight.”

Armand tipped his head to the side at that, even as his bare feet silently slipped him just another step closer to Daniel and to the bed. “How did that happen?”

Daniel had been in fact contemplating the same thing himself. And, unable to come to a satisfying answer that wouldn’t keep him up the rest of the night, he’d picked up reading something completely unrelated.

Now, it seemed, being up for at least a bit more of the night was something actively sought after. “I reckon I’ve never been in front of two dominants playing with me quite like you and Claudia were, Boss,” Daniel said.

“Flippancy, Daniel,” Armand reminded him. “Please do not deflect.”

“Sorry,” Daniel said immediately. It was turning out to be a particularly hard habit of his to break.

But, also, the gentleness of Armand’s voice in that moment seemed almost… strange. He’d been stricter than this before, far more so. And now, it seemed, he had permission to go ahead and humiliate him. Yet, he was lighter than ever in his censure?

“Hang on. Why be so polite with that reminder? Now, of all times? When you just explicitly came in to talk about about degradation, and humiliation?”

Nevermind that Daniel was also having the complex feeling of disappointment at Armand’s having come across so gentle.

But Armand looked at him strangely. “Because we have still not negotiated anything of the sort.”

“But tonight…” Daniel started in question.

“Tonight was an interesting moment that brought to light a topic of discussion,” Armand said. “I corrected you with another dominant present, as you said. I did not set out to humiliate you, yet I noticed how it was received. And also, yes, I then saw how that was received.”

Daniel opened his mouth to make a comment about feeling so transparent, before realising he didn’t really need to be corrected for being flippant twice in as many minutes. He closed his mouth again.

But it was… hard, actually. To have a serious conversation about something like this—something so damningly personal—without being able to crack a joke about it.

“So, Daniel. Have you anything you wish to bring up for negotiation?” Armand’s gaze had never moved from him.

Daniel blinked up at Armand. “I mean, yeah, if we did more of it after tonight, I’d be okay with that.”

“More of what, Daniel?” Armand lifted a dark eyebrow, for all the world as though he had no actual idea what Daniel was talking about.

Daniel’s brow furrowed. “You know… What we’re just talking about …?” he said, strangely reticent to say those words out loud again now that he knew he couldn’t deflect with a joke or anything else. He felt too on display. Funny how he was fine being an exhibitionist when it was just his aging body on show. His mind, though. That felt like something else entirely.

Armand remained silent, and didn’t creep any closer to him either.

Daniel felt the beginnings of a sweat take him. “Boss?” he said again quietly.

“I’m listening, Daniel.”

And then Daniel realised what else Armand was doing. He lowered his gaze to the bedspread, then lifted it up again, wincing. “You’re doing that thing where you get me to admit out loud exactly what I want.”

Armand blinked, as though this was the most reasonable thing in the world, rather than something that could make Daniel feel small and exposed. Not quite humiliated, but something close.

Vulnerable.

“How else, Daniel,” Armand murmured drowsily, “am I to know what you truly desire? I am not a mind reader.”

Daniel closed his eyes, wrestling back words about being pretty damned fooled about that.

“Boss…” he started up slowly, eyes still closed. It was easier that way, looking only at the blackness of the inside of his eyelids, rather than at another person who might judge him for the taboo of which he was about to speak. “I really liked it tonight, when you told me off in front of Claudia. I imagined—”

“Eyes open, Daniel. I wish to see you properly while you speak.”

No hiding then. Dammit.

Daniel opened his eyes. Blinked several times as his head caught up to his mouth. Had he really been about to admit to Armand the fantasy that’d briefly flashed before his mind’s eye?

Something more came to mind at the thought. Santiago and Daniel both positioned in a form of predicament bondage. Meanwhile Armand and Claudia watching on without sympathy, denigrating them for every movement they were unable to keep their bodies from making. Armand humiliating Daniel in particular for his older body being unable to keep up with Santiago’s stiller, younger, fitter body.

It wasn’t a specific Daniel necessarily wanted to truly hear out of Armand’s mouth in real life, but he couldn’t deny it being a continuation of the same damned fantasy. How f*cking depraved was he? That was Armand’s ex!

“I’m waiting, Daniel,” Armand said. His voice sounded more impatient this time, nowhere near so polite as before.

“Sorry, Boss.” How much to say? “I trust you. That’s… it, really. I trust how you see me, and I trust however you’d choose to use humiliation or degradation in a scene between us. It’s new to me, and I don’t know where, or if, I’ve got limits there. But I trust you with it anyway.”

It was all true, Daniel realised as he was saying it. Despite never giving in to sharing the explicit fantasy. Everything he had said was truth.

“Thank you, Daniel. Now, you also said something about what you imagined?” Armand’s voice was silky again, but that didn’t take away the expectation, the demand, behind Armand’s tone.

“Ah.” f*ck. He should have known Armand wouldn’t forget or let Daniel get away with that.

“Are you trying to keep a fantasy from me, slave?” Armand asked, his voice becoming more crisp with each word.

“I imagined…” Armand’s brown eyes bored deep into him. “When Santiago was here…” Daniel continued, considering it was only fair that he give Armand that heads up of what the fantasy entailed before he gave any specifics.

Armand inclined his head once, never looking away from Daniel.

Well, here he went, then. “You asked me whether I had something to add, Boss.”

“I remember,” Armand said, his voice almost a low growl this time.

Daniel nodded a couple of times. He was stalling. He knew it. His Boss knew it too. “And, when Claudia joined in, after I bowed my head and capitulated, I imagined Santiago and… and I… with the two of you verbally humiliating us. Continuing to, I mean.”

“Good boy,” Armand crooned. He was almost right beside the bed now which, Daniel supposed, was his reward for finally confessing to at least the first fantasy he’d had back then. “And did I truly humiliate you so much in front of Claudia this evening?”

“No,” Daniel admitted honestly, pulling up the memory he had almost crystal clarity on. Just a taste that left Daniel wanting more.

“And would this still be something of interest with you… even without Claudia or Santiago present?”

Daniel frowned. “Of course, Boss. They were just there. It wasn’t about them—!”

Armand smiled. “All right, Daniel. I believe you.”

“Right. Good. It was more just the direction I saw it could go. I could see…”

“Yes, Daniel?”

Daniel gave himself permission, just allowed himself, to lean into the feeling for a whole minute. “Claudia being there just reminded me of my place. Santiago too. I couldn’t slip up without perhaps embarrassing you. I didn’t wanna do that. I think I would have let you say anything to me if I knew at the end I did well by you.”

“Mm,” Armand said, and it was a delicious sound right from the back of his throat. “I do like this depth of mindset you’ve found since you returned to me from Paris.”

“Me too, Boss.”

“It’s important to own the truths we find within us,” Armand murmured, and then he actually crouched beside the bed so that he was almost close enough that the breath from his words might touch Daniel’s face. Close enough, yet far enough still that Daniel ached.

“Yes, Boss,” Daniel uttered, the back of his own throat starting to feel a little bit strangled.

“Here’s what I expect,” Armand told him, and that time Daniel did feel his hot breath against him. “Tomorrow, you will formally ask for this kind of kink to be placed on the table between us. You will put it into my hands, to use from then on as I see fit.”

Daniel’s heart was pounding so hard right then, and his face felt hot enough he thought it went beyond a flush and into something else. Never even mind how hard he was in his pants right then.

He could only nod at what Armand commanded.

“If you do not do so,” Armand continued, still so quiet, yet just as intense for it. “I will be forced to assume this was just one evening’s aberration, and will forget all about it.”

Daniel’s breathing hitched. And then he nodded again, quickly, to indicate he understood.

He already could not imagine not doing exactly as Armand commanded the next day. The idea of getting this far, and no further? It was untenable.

And then Armand stood. Took a step away from him, then another, until he was standing closer to the doorway again than to Daniel.

“What…?” Daniel started, his head still fuzzy with lust.

“Tomorrow,” was all Armand reiterated. “Good night, Daniel.”

And then he was just… gone.

f*ck,” Daniel uttered with feeling. It took several moments until he felt any sort of control over himself again. Until the flush faded away and he felt as though every single part of his body wasn’t tingling with need.

Daniel’s gaze fell over the Noam Chomsky book again. No f*cking chance that was gonna manage to do the job this time.

Chapter 29

Notes:

*quietly sneaking into your inbox*

Hello this fic is back XD Sorry for the delay, I've been working on expanding this one into an original novel behind the scenes.

Chapter Text

By the time it was approaching lunch on Friday, Daniel could appreciate the wisdom behind Armand forcing the conversation to occur the following day, when they were both no longer so worked up.

Nobody could reasonably be expected to negotiate sensibly in such a state.

There was nothing from Madeleine during the day on Friday, although Daniel hadn’t explicitly expected it. Armand had begun allowing Daniel the use of his cell in the house more often since Paris and Daniel having chosen to offer Madeleine his number and support if she needed it. He couldn't use it without permission whilst Armand was in the house, but he used it as normal during his work hours and while Armand was out of the house.

And so Daniel saw it immediately when he received an interesting message from Lestat. It showed up directly after their last conversation about the elements of ‘discretion’ that Lestat possessed. Apparently, it had been nearly two months since they’d last exchanged messages. Little need, Daniel supposed. Lestat certainly managed to get across anything he wanted to say on a weekly basis each Sunday night.

When Daniel had forgotten his phone at the office, Daniel remembered.

He opened it.

Hello Daniel. This is Lestat again. I do not know if you saved my number last time or not. I have, however, spoken to Louis about your interesting little proposition. I think it would be a good idea if you and I were to talk about it before it becomes the main topic of conversation on Sunday night.

So much for being discrete, Daniel thought.

Oh yeah? he started writing back before he had a second thought. How would it become the main topic? I thought you were all about ‘discretion’?

Because he’d lived almost 40 years—and most of them with a mobile phone attached to his hand—Daniel had the wisdom not to actually send that reply to Lestat. If he was honest with himself, he didn’t even particularly want to. He had no real issue with Lestat. Yes, he could be occasionally, more than occasionally, pompous. But he made Louis happy. And he was Armand’s long term friend.

He had always been kind to Daniel. And Daniel had plenty of years behind him to say that sometimes an intention got mixed up when it came to conversations via text message.

Maybe it would be best to have the conversation on Sunday night together after all. At least they would be all there in person; everyone who had any stake in the situation in one place.

And so Daniel did what an adult did during business hours. Instead of getting into some kind of flame war over messages with someone ten years his junior, he got back to work.

It might have been as much as a couple of hours later when there was a hearty banging on the front door to Armand’s home.

“What the…?” Daniel asked to himself, already standing up. He’d not been in any particular flow, so at least the knocking hadn’t come at a bad time.

He noted the passage he’d been in the middle of then left the sunroom where he was all set up for the afternoon and answered the door.

Lestat was standing there on the other side of it.

“You left me on read!” Lestat informed him immediately, marching straight in through the door to the open entryway without giving Daniel so much as the opportunity to invite him in. Daniel supposed that, owning a record label as he did, Lestat didn’t have any more regular hours than Daniel maintained. Unlike Armand or Louis. “And I suppose you have not forgotten your mobile phone at work this time? I think I would have heard of that from Louis or Armand by now!”

“No…” Daniel said slowly. “I didn’t leave it at work.”

“As I thought! Well, what have you to say for yourself?” Lestat was staring imperiously at Daniel as though he believed an apology should be immediately forthcoming.

To be honest, the message he hadn’t replied to had quite left the front of Daniel’s mind until Lestat’s sudden appearance. And he had to admit he really didn’t love the younger blond man storming into the place where he both lived and worked with accusation and anger, and absolutely no notice.

He could feel an answering ire rising in him. Daniel opened his mouth, ready to give back as good as he’d already gotten. But then something from Armand froze Daniel as suddenly as Lestat had arrived.

“During this consideration period, you will happily go where I lead. You will respect those in my chosen family as you respect me.”

Daniel realised he couldn’t just open his mouth and let whatever he wanted to flood out of his mouth, not anymore than he was able to start flipping off at Armand. Well, he could, but it wasn’t what he’d agreed to, and he vehemently wanted to hold to those agreements.

“Why don’t we just sit down…” Daniel started, leading Lestat further into the house as it was sure that Lestat wasn’t about to leave now on his own.

“Fine,” Lestat said from between clenched teeth, though he was the one who led Daniel across to the dining table off from the kitchen.

Let him, Daniel thought to himself. He hadn’t thought he’d overstepped when he’d spoken to Louis earlier in the week, but clearly he’d been without all the facts.

“Can I get you a drink?” Daniel asked, more in an attempt to keep down the drama of the conversation than anything else.

Lestat glowered at him from behind the dining room chair he stood behind. “No you cannot,” he said with perfectly enunciated English. “You can however begin to explain yourself.”

“Look,” Daniel said, spreading his hands in front of him, “I just asked Louis a question. Louis told me he wouldn’t go behind your back about it—which I see he clearly didn’t—so I don’t see what the problem is. If the answer’s no, the answer’s no—”

“It certainly is!” Lestat blustered.

“See? There. That’s an end to it.” Daniel shrugged as though the result didn’t mean anything to him.

If anything, this only seemed to incense Lestat further. “That is not an end to it!”

“Oh?”

“You dare to come into our relationship, my relationship, out of practically nowhere, and then you just act as though you have the right to say what goes on there!”

Daniel’s calm voice cut through the puffed up rage Lestat was expressing. “I didn’t, and I won’t again. There has been a misunderstanding. That’s all.”

Lestat frowned at him. Then he tried again. “It is more than a misunderstanding!”

Daniel just stared back at Lestat, refusing to become engaged in the argument he clearly wanted to have.

Lestat cast a stunned look around. “Where is Armand? When he hears about this—!”

“Armand is at work,” Daniel said, knowing better than to invoke the term ‘Boss’ in front of Lestat, especially when he was already worked up like this. “But if you’d like to wait until he returns—”

“I would certainly like to do exactly that!”

“Very well then.” If Lestat didn’t want a drink for himself, then Daniel would just fix one for himself.

He felt Lestat’s intense blue eyes boring down on him as he pulled down a glass from the cabinet, then went to the fridge for a bottle of juice. Only then did he deign to look back up and meet Lestat’s eyes, before lifting the bottle between them as though that was the only reason Lestat would still be staring in his direction in such a way.

“Are you sure you don’t want some of this?” he asked mildly.

Lestat’s eyes immediately narrowed. “Why won’t you fight back at me?” he asked darkly.

A lot of it was that, as soon as Daniel had seen the direction this was going in, he’d realised there was little to no point in engaging. Lestat had come here and he’d brought enough rage for the both of them. It certainly didn’t need any fuel being laid on it by Daniel.

Not more than he had already dropped on top of it from simply asking Louis what he’d believed to be a simple question.

But the other answer was the reason Daniel had managed to find the calm within himself to be able to see that arguing with Lestat would do no good.

“You know why,” he muttered, not looking at Lestat as he began to pour his juice, but feeling keenly the chain collar that always hung around his neck as a reminder.

“I do not!” Lestat said, seeing fit to even argue with that.

Daniel sighed, finally looking back up at Lestat again. “You were there,” he reminded. And then, when Lestat still looked blankly back at him, he recited Armand’s words to him by memory. “‘You will respect those in my chosen family as you respect me’.”

Lestat hesitated, as though trying to place the origin of those words for a moment, as they clearly were nowhere near so embedded in his mind as they were in Daniel’s.

“Armand said this?” Lestat finally ventured.

Daniel gave a silent nod of accent.

Lestat just gave a derisive huff. “Well, he couldn’t have meant it in this instance!”

“Well I don’t know that for sure, do I?” Daniel could have said more, but to do so would have invited more out of Lestat, which he sure did not wanna do right then. Instead, Daniel silently brought his juice around to the table, pointedly sat down and began to drink his juice.

For a long moment, it seemed as though Lestat would deliberately continue to stand there behind the dining table across from Daniel. He sighed, and shifted and, in short, did everything he could think of to drag Daniel’s attention right back to him.

It didn’t work. The only thing it perhaps could have been said to garner for him was, after Daniel had calmly finished the spectacle of drinking his juice, he stood up, put the empty glass in the dishwasher, and then said, “I’m sorry, but I really need to get back to working now.”

And so it was that Lestat was restlessly pacing before the windows of the sunroom when Armand returned home from work. Daniel looked up at his arrival but, if Armand’s gaze had come to him immediately, it had now moved across to Lestat.

There was no mistaking that Lestat was in quite a state. His hair was dishevelled from dozens of thrusts of his hands through it. His eyes were wild. If it could have grown faster, Daniel was certain that the very stubble on Lestat’s jawline would have grown out to show just how labouring the waiting process had been on his fragile state of mind.

“Good afternoon, Lestat,” Armand said, his careful eyes having taken in the scene with deliberation. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

“Your slave,” Lestat announced, as though it was a dirty word, “has been putting ideas into my Louis’ head.”

Daniel bit back a sigh. It was incredibly obvious that words such as these had been running around in Lestat’s mind despite Daniel’s attempt to back off and make clear that he’d had no intention of doing anything of the sort.

Although this was the first time Armand was hearing any of it, his eyes flashed dangerously. “Daniel may be my slave, but Louis is very much shared, I believe. As are you, I would point out.”

“Pfft! You bring up the same points Louis has spoken. Has he talked to you already?”

“About this?” Armand asked, cool despite the anger still banking in his eyes. “No. But it’s not the first time we have thought similarly.”

“Oh yes,” Lestat said. “I have forgotten, no one takes care of Louis as you do. What on earth would he do without you? What on earth did he do without you? Well, I’ll tell you! He did me, and he was very happy about it!”

Daniel covered his mouth, also turning his head away. Unfortunately, both movements seemed to gain him Lestat’s attention and ire once more.

“Don’t you dare laugh!” Lestat told him.

“Lestat.” Armand’s voice cracked between them.

“You could have had me,” Lestat said to Armand, ignoring Armand’s warning utterly. “You could have had me as well as Louis. Instead, you kept my Louis with you. Even after Claudia, even after Santiago, you went with someone new.”

There were tears welling in Lestat’s eyes. Daniel could see them clearly, and couldn’t imagine Armand was unaware. Maybe that was why Armand didn’t correct Lestat on the veracity of whether or not Louis was Lestat’s as claimed.

“Oh, I don’t pretend to dislike you, Daniel,” Lestat said, drawing his attention back towards him. “Truly, you are perfectly inoffensive. Louis likes you. Armand even loves you, I think. Yet none of that is your fault.”

Whether Armand was stunned into silence for the length of this diatribe, or whether he just waited on Lestat to work himself through, the complete lack of any reply from Armand was stark.

Daniel eyed Armand briefly, before daring to make his own careful response to Lestat’s words. “I’m glad you think so.”

“I do.” Lestat nodded briefly to Daniel before turning his attention to Armand. “Say something, damn you. Why do you always choose the very worst moments to go silent?”

“And what would you have me say against this litany?” Armand asked, and it was only then Daniel realised how very angry Armand still was. That was what his silence had been hiding.

“Something!” Lestat repeated, almost desperately. “Anything!”

“Very well,” Armand said quellingly. “You say I could have had you. But you forget the long and painful past where that was the only thing I wanted. You told me no, Lestat. You told me so repeatedly until I could not help but be aware any further advances would be entirely unwelcome to you.”

“But—!” Lestat started, however Armand would not let him finish.

“You told me to say something, and you will hear it.” Armand’s clipped tone was the sort Daniel had heard only early on when Armand had been at his strictest in training him. Even then, it had lacked the heat it currently possessed, for Armand had never been angry with him in those times.

Lestat’s mouth shut, though his eyes widened.

“I’ll admit, the early fascination I had for you came from how you reminded me of Marius,” Armand said then, surprising Daniel, because ‘Marius’ was not a name he had heard in a long time, and he hadn’t expected it to come out now.

Daniel eyed Lestat anew, wondering what it was about him that had reminded Armand of his ex-Master. Not that he could ask. God, Daniel wouldn’t dare to say anything right now.

“I knew that!” Lestat blustered.

“But you very easily dissuaded me of that,” Armand finished bitterly. “You adeptly dissuaded me of many things I had belief in.”

Lestat had the grace to look abashed at that accusation, though Daniel had no idea as to the context. He was beginning to feel very much as though he should have been somewhere else, not witness to this history being played out in front of him.

“And so now you stand in front of me and tell me I could have had you, as though my lack of choosing you is something that has caused you great pain,” Armand told him. He shook his head, dark curls leaping around his head in a way that was more similar to the theatrical way Lestat performed than anything Daniel had seen from Armand thus far. “Well, to that, I say you have caused me great pain. And this is too little, far too late.”

Lestat opened his mouth. Seemed to be stunned into having no idea what to say to that. He just stood there, in front of Armand, mouth slightly ajar as though waiting for the words to drop down from his mind.

Daniel lowered his eyes before Lestat’s gaze came back to his, as though hoping he might find some source of inspiration there. But it seemed there was nothing even Lestat could find to say to that.

There was a very tense, very long silence that followed, in which even Daniel barely drew breath from his very tangential place in this discussion. His eyes remained trained to the floor. The only reason he was still standing here was that it would have drawn attention had he begun to walk off.

Finally, without saying another word, Lestat stalked away from Armand, towards the front door, opening it sharply and then slamming it just as abruptly behind him.

Silence continued despite it being just Armand and Daniel alone now.

It was a long time until curiosity—and some concern—brought Daniel’s gaze up from the tiles they’d been pinned to.

Armand took a deep breath and lifted his chin, gaze moving to the ceiling for just a moment even as his mouth moved silently in an utterance known only to him. And then he turned his brown gaze across to Daniel.

“I know I told you I wanted to hear certain things from you today,” Armand said. “But I find I can’t… I can’t.” He shook his head, closing his eyes briefly, not even able to make himself meet Daniel’s gaze for very long in the moment.

“Of course, Boss,” Daniel said, before he added, “whatever you need.” He knew it wouldn’t be taken off the table. Armand would tell him when he was able to revisit the subject.

Armand nodded curtly at Daniel’s understanding. Then he simply stalked towards his own bedroom, back ramrod straight.

Chapter 30

Chapter Text

Interlude – Monday Night

“Hello mon amour,” Lestat said with a flourish as he stepped into the townhouse he shared with Louis. His Louis. His precious Louis. Who was especially sweet for Lestat to come home to after his having spent a while in the company of Antoinette.

Chalk and cheese, they were. His Louis could sometimes be so cutting in his wit, so determined never to allow Lestat to rest easily unless he was being his very best self. Politeness and civility, yes, but also kindness. That was the part Lestat most struggled with. Especially on any occasions where his temper had been engaged. But Lestat did do his best to be the very best man he could be for Louis.

With Antoinette, life was more relaxing. She simpered and swooned over him, as though she could hardly believe she was lucky enough to have someone like him in her life. Never an unkind word came from those rosebud lips. Lestat felt himself to be a very different sort of man around her.

Almost the way he had been in the early days with one of his prior beloved, Nicki.

And that, too, was a balm to Lestat’s ego. He did not care that Armand didn’t seem to approve of the interlude he’d started with someone like Antoinette. Especially not now when he had Daniel involved and essentially doing the very same thing!

As he swung into the lounge room that doubled as a library, he found Louis with his nose in a book, as Lestat could have predicted of any night when he had neither Lestat nor Armand to entertain him. A tray empty of all but plate and cutlery told that he had first made his dinner then come into this room to finish it.

“You’re home,” Louis said mildly, though he offered to Lestat a smile that took out any sting from the otherwise cool greeting.

And invited Lestat to step towards him and brush his lips against his lover’s cheek. He knew very well that Louis didn’t appreciate Lestat kissing him full on the mouth when that mouth had been recently engaged in… other things Louis gained no enjoyment of. Kissing was fine, but there were certain traces of bodily fluids Louis preferred Lestat keep to himself.

Which was why the bathroom was Lestat’s very next stop. He would not allow such a small thing to keep him from Louis for long. He never did.

Louis happened to get up and follow him on his way to the bathroom. As Lestat started brushing his teeth, he reached his free left hand out to touch against Louis’.

“Actually, I have something to tell you,” Louis said, while Lestat could only murmur a wordless response in reply.

Nothing like a mouth filled with frothing toothpaste and a brush to muffle Lestat completely.

“I want you to remember after this that the very first thing I’ve done, after you came home, is let you know what happened.”

Okay, so now Lestat was getting worried. He frowned as he looked across at Louis’ serious features, too concerned to immediately remember to spit out everything in his mouth and demand explanations from his Louis.

It appeared he was going to get them either way.

“You remember I caught up with Daniel tonight for drinks after work.”

Ah yes, Lestat did recall that. Silly, really, for Louis to need to dedicate two nights out of most weeks now, one in which to catch up with Armand and another, now, for Daniel. It wasn’t even as though they had continued sleeping with one another since Armand had claimed Daniel!

But Lestat knew that Louis would have all sorts of objections had Lestat pointed this out, and so he’d kept silent on it. Till now at least.

“And he pointed out, rightly I think, that it’s perhaps not… entirely necessary for he and I to catch up just the two of us all the time. Especially since we’re both involved with Armand.”

Lestat nodded at this. Maybe Daniel wasn’t just an extension of Armand. That had been quite astute of Daniel, all things told. And Lestat had enjoyed his company at the play party they’d had. Daniel had been quite a good sport when Lestat had been the first one of the night to claim Armand’s attention. He’d also made quite alluring noises that time more recently on the night when he’d allowed Lestat to take a cane to him, while Armand watched.

Lestat’s wariness lowered.

“So,” Louis continued, drawing this whole thing out far more than Lestat thought it needed. “I told him firmly I’d talk to you about it first. Because I know you’d hate it if you found out me and Daniel and Armand messed about without you after the fact.”

At that last statement, Lestat only barely managed to remember to turn to the basin fast enough to spit!

“Louis! What!? What is this?”

“I asked you to remember I’m telling you this now,” Louis said calmly, lifting his hands as though in an entreaty for Lestat to find calm in himself too, and only then did Lestat realise he’d yanked his free hand from Louis’.

It seemed less important in the moment than getting to the bottom of all this.

“‘This’ what?” Lestat demanded to know. “What is this ‘something’ Daniel is proposing you and he and Armand will all get up to without me?!”

Any good will he’d felt towards Daniel had vanished entirely.

Louis waited under the harsh lights of the old fluorescents in the bathroom. Not saying anything, just allowing Lestat to huff and puff until he’d had the time to turn Louis’ words over in his mind a second time in order to hear what Louis had actually said, rather than what he’d only heard.

Lestat narrowed his eyes. “You have not… done anything of the sort as yet?”

“Correct,” Louis confirmed stoutly.

“But you wish to,” Lestat accused.

“I’d be a liar if I said the idea of sharing a bed with my partner and my lover at the same time didn’t appeal to me, yeah,” Louis said. The droll look on his face seemed to indicate Lestat was less than intelligent for pointing such a thing out. Then, Louis went even further still, “Just like it would to you, if I suggested you, me and Antoinette all got in bed at the same time.”

“That… that’s different!” Lestat insisted.

“Is it?” Louis said, with that same mild tone he’d had in his voice when Lestat had first walked into the townhouse.

“This is a set up!” Lestat declared.

Louis just stared back at Lestat.

And so Lestat felt compelled to explain to him exactly why and how he saw this as a set up. “You wait until I come home from an evening out with Antoinette—!”

“Until after you come home after Daniel raised the topic with me, yes,” Louis corrected.

Lestat ignored him. “To bring up something you know will upset me! And all the time you stand there believing I have no recourse to object!”

“Because of you stepping out with both me and Antoinette,” Louis suggested. “Just like I step out with both you and Armand.”

And Daniel, apparently!” Lestat added bitterly.

Louis frowned. “You didn’t seem to mind that at any point before now. You knew, when Armand first brought him to dinner, that he was the same Daniel I’d been seeing up till then.”

“That was different!”

“How?” Louis was making his own demands now.

Lestat huffed out a breath, unable to deal with this. He pushed past Louis, out of the little bathroom that now felt far too small and into the hall where he felt he could breathe again. “Because… because…!”

Louis had just turned around in the bathroom doorway so he was now facing Lestat again, this time with his arms crossed over his chest.

“Will you do this thing now, no matter what I say?” Lestat asked, hurt radiating out from a centre point inside of him.

“Oh for f*ck’s sake, of course not,” Louis exclaimed, his own voice raising now. “I told Daniel matter of fact that I won’t do no such thing.”

Lestat nodded slowly, beginning to feel like a petulant child hunched in on himself. He didn’t like the feeling very much.

“Glad to see you so open minded but,” Louis said.

Lestat saw a flash of hurt in Louis’ eyes, the first indication Lestat had that he was not alone in that particular feeling, and then it was Louis’ turn to walk past Lestat—carefully and without ever pushing him—before making his way not to the library, but up the stairs towards their bedroom.

And that was the first moment when Lestat started to feel bad.

Lestat glanced after the man he’d chosen to spend his life with, wondering how they’d come to the end of this particular conversation with him feeling like he was the bad guy.

Only after Lestat had managed to calm himself down—significantly—did Lestat begin to take the stairs to follow Louis.

In the earlier years of their relationship, Lestat would not have possessed such clarity of thought. If Louis had been sad or upset over a conversation they’d had, or if Lestat was feeling slighted, it did not matter. He would have stormed straight up those stairs after his beloved, and he would have earned himself a tongue lashing right back from Louis for the effort.

Thankfully, even Lestat had managed to learn some things in the duration of the relationship.

Louis had jokingly once said it was probably the entire reason they were still together. He had only said it the one time after seeing how appalled Lestat had become at the insinuation of them not being together.

This wasn’t about that, Lestat reassured himself as he took those stairs. Louis was not looking to walk out on him. There had always been a certain ‘flavour’ to their relationship. A variety. That Louis had been prepared to open their relationship was another likely reason for the longevity of this relationship. Lestat had never needed to go outside the relationship behind Louis’ back.

And, as Louis had started to spread his own wings in that area, Lestat had also come to learn to accept that.

It was true Lestat had found out he didn’t like sharing upon hearing about Louis’ first extramarital boyfriend, Jonah. Lestat first found out about him on a similar night to this one, with Louis’ voice soft and calm.

Of course, Lestat hadn’t just come home from a night out with one of his own paramours on that occasion. No, he and Louis had been out at a restaurant for dinner together when Louis had uttered there was something he really needed to tell Lestat.

And Lestat had proceeded to get roaringly and unapologetically drunk. He remembered little of the rest of the night. Just that he had told Louis something like now he finally knew Louis had a type and it wasn’t actually Lestat, before Louis had left this townhouse and found solace at Armand’s house, where Lestat had found him the day after.

It hadn’t been Lestat’s proudest moment.

When Louis had told him of the beginnings of affection beginning to form between himself and Armand, Lestat had done better. But, oh, it had been harder. So much harder. Because it was Armand, and everything between Lestat and Armand was so so much more charged. There was history there.

And maybe it was because of that history that Armand had ensured he too was there, standing comfortably by the chair Louis was seated in, the two of them very clearly already one unit across from where Lestat was frowning, still trying to figure out what they were about to say.

Daniel, that had been fine. Lestat hadn’t even known the other guy had a name for months, he was just one of the boys Louis casually liked to f*ck sometimes when he went out clubbing. Lestat had actually pictured Daniel being another of Louis’ ‘type’. It had shocked him to find out how much older Daniel was, and also that he was white as Lestat.

Maybe it was the fact that Armand hadn’t been here, reminding Lestat to keep his temper down on this occasion, that had caused Lestat to lose it as he had. Perhaps it was because, since Daniel’s arrival into not just Louis but also Armand’s lives, Lestat had begun to wonder if he would lose them both.

If he had thought the insinuation of he and Louis not being together was appalling, Lestat certainly didn’t have words for this thought.

“I am sorry, beloved,” Lestat said, emotion making his voice deeper than it might otherwise have been.

Louis was sitting up under the covers on his side of the bed, another damned book in his hands, not even looking up at Lestat as he lingered in the doorway, unsure how far to come. How far into the room Louis would allow him.

“I know I reacted with temper tonight. I’m not proud of it.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Louis rejoined softly.

Lestat’s pressed his lips together. He was better with restraining his temper these days, but that did not mean it was wholly gone.

“No,” he said sadly. “I have hurt you with this reaction, and I am sorry for that too.”

Finally, Louis’ delicious brown eyes lifted to meet Lestat’s beseeching ones. They were cold to begin with but, as the two men continued to gaze into one another, Lestat saw Louis begin to melt.

“I didn’t wanna upset you tonight,” Louis said.

“I know. I know that.”

“And we’ve had conversations like this before,” Louis reminded him. “If you’re allowed to, I’m allowed to.”

“I never said you weren’t. I have accepted everything you have with both Armand and Daniel, have I not? Even before I recently found Antoinette?”

“You have.” Louis admitted it grudgingly, but he did admit it. So Lestat pushed a little harder.

“Nor did I try to close our relationship when I was between other partners,” Lestat said, as if this should score him points.

Louis eyes narrowed. “Like you would be able to keep from bed hopping ongoing,” he said, and the hint of something scathing in his tone worked like a warning.

Lestat was not to try to find brownie points where there weren’t any. He swallowed.

“Of course, of course,” Lestat said quickly, appeasing.

Louis nodded once, as though that matter was sorted.

“You must understand…” Lestat started, before he pulled himself back. “No. You don’t have to understand, of course. But things to do with Armand will always be fraught for me.”

“That’s not a problem for you to put on me,” Louis told him, drawing that familiar line in the sand. Louis was prepared to be considerate of Lestat where Armand was concerned, but he wouldn’t be the one in the middle. His independent relationships with both of them were too important to him for that.

“I know,” Lestat agreed. “I am merely asking you to remember it. Daniel’s presence brings a new element to it, is all I am saying. Especially with your… connection to him.”

“My ‘connection’ with him is separate to my connection with Armand,” Louis said.

“That’s not what you said tonight.”

Louis paused, seemingly to consider this. He was intelligent, his Louis, and he knew Lestat well enough to be able to read between the lines, to see what Lestat didn’t necessarily say out loud.

“You thought…” Louis paused, to consider his words clearer while Lestat leaned into the room, hardly able to keep himself this far away from Louis. “When I asked about sleeping with both Armand and Daniel, you think the three of us will end up in one relationship.”

Lestat shrugged, aiming for nonchalance and knowing he failed. “Aren’t you?”

“No!” Louis said, his brows drawing down and his voice emphatic. “No, Lestat. Jeez, what are you thinking. I love you.”

“You love Armand also,” Lestat said. Even as Louis pushed aside the covers on his side of the bed and drew close to Lestat, framed his face between his two hands, Lestat kept looking at another part of the room past Louis’ shoulder.

“I do,” Louis admitted, and it was not the first time so it was not shocking for Lestat to hear.

“And what is to stop you from loving Daniel? The three of you will have a closed loop. There will be no room… no room for me.”

Louis was silent for a long moment, still holding Lestat’s face in his hands.

“No…” he whispered, and then his lips were on Lestat’s, and Lestat could feel the heat he’d brought from the bed, could feel Louis.

But he also felt separate from him, from the moment and the intimacy it implied.

“I won’t do it,” Louis said between kisses Lestat was barely participating in. “I won’t do it, okay? You don’t need to worry about nothing.”

Chapter 31

Chapter Text

"Lestat and I have had a decade to work through any and all such things. And we will continue to do so." Armand had said this to Daniel just after the second family dinner Daniel had attended. Somehow, he had not thought it would look like this.

There was no Sunday dinner that weekend following the big show down on Friday night. Whether there was a discussion about it or just Armand decided they weren’t attending, Daniel didn’t know. Only that, when he began to get ready at the usual time, Armand made no move to turn off the television in front of him, or to take his eyes off the iPad in his hands.

“Can I join you, Boss?” Daniel asked after he’d been standing behind the couch a moment and Armand hadn’t seemed to realise.

Yet Armand didn’t seem startled at the sound of Daniel’s voice, patting the couch beside him as he spoke. “Of course, Daniel. Please join me.”

Daniel felt tense as he rounded the couch and sat beside Armand as invited. Were they just… not gonna talk about it? He’d understood that on Friday. Even Saturday.

But now they were just sitting here, two full days after the altercation between Armand and Lestat. Sitting here while Daniel didn’t even know if Louis and Lestat were on their way to the restaurant. Was that how they were going to find that Armand and Daniel weren’t coming? By being stood up?

Should Daniel message Louis? In normal circ*mstances, he'd be expected to ask permission from Armand before doing so, but these weren't normal circ*mstances. Daniel wasn't even sure how much attention Armand was currently paying to any protocols he did or didn't manage correctly.

He’d held off even going near the topic after the door slammed after Lestat the other day. It seemed like the very worst thing he could do at the moment, given the topic of conversation that’d started it all was ostensibly Daniel talking to Louis.

But was it different if it was to tell Louis they weren’t coming? Not to bother getting in the car themselves tonight?

Daniel fidgeted with loose bits of skin around his finger nails, not able to relax despite the close proximity he’d been invited to with Armand.

At any other time, Armand would have called him out on his being restless, nervy. But he didn’t seem interested in even that this afternoon.

“Boss,” Daniel said heavily after another half hour passed like that. Louis and Lestat would definitely be at the restaurant now if nobody had reached out to officially cancel. Daniel had been keeping his phone close to him in case he received anything from Louis. Or Lestat. Let one of them make the first move, he’d thought.

“Yes Daniel,” Armand said, not looking up from the game he was playing on his iPad.

“How am I supposed to address this, Boss? Would you rather I just leave it alone?”

“Leave what alone?” Armand sounded disinterested at best.

“Lestat. Louis. Sunday family night dinner. You know, right now.”

“Cancelled, Daniel. Louis messaged me.”

“Oh,” Daniel said, rolling his eyes. “Well. Thanks for telling me that.”

He could have tossed the phone he’d kept so close onto the floor in his frustration. It was the first time he was just a little bit annoyed at Louis as well. Would it have killed him to send a message Daniel’s way as well?

“You’re welcome, Daniel,” Armand said quite casually, completely or wilfully missing the sarcasm that had been in Daniel’s voice.

Daniel was betting on the latter. Cue just a bit more frustration. He could tell Armand wasn’t as calm and at ease as his outward appearance seemed to indicate. He knew it was either a good performance or else Armand pretending towards how he wished to feel. Because, if he had truly been as at ease as he appeared, then there would have been no need for the stiltedness that Daniel still felt between the two of them.

The egg shells he felt like he was walking on. Or the strange but distant way of Armand’s replies to him. The very opposite of his usual intensity. It was like Armand only had two extreme settings.

Was their M/s dynamic even currently in play between them, in Armand’s mind? This was the first time Daniel had considered it wasn’t just him who could pull away from what the two of them had formed between them.

His phone chose that moment to go off. Daniel jumped in surprise, then his jaw tightened, ready to give Louis the piece of his mind he couldn’t give Armand without stepping out of his station. Was that fair? Probably not, but this wasn’t exactly what Daniel would call a normal situation. He resented the fact that both Louis and Armand had allowed him to believe Lestat was fine with anything he might say.

He resented Lestat storming in and making Daniel feel like he’d come in and encouraged Louis to break whatever agreements lay between him and Lestat.

And he resented the restraint he’d shown in holding his own tongue at the time. Armand had gotten to say his piece, after all. The last two nights had been filled with things Daniel full on should have said back to Lestat on Friday afternoon. Cause they certainly hadn’t been filled with Daniel doing any sort of kinky f*ckery over in Armand’s bedroom.

Except, it wasn’t a message from Louis on Daniel’s phone.

It was from Madeleine.

Daniel looked towards Armand, considering talking to him again, raising more than just the Sunday dinner that he now knew had been cancelled. Explicitly asking about Lestat, or whether he wanted to talk about what so clearly still bothered him from that conversation.

Except, he already had his answer to those questions, didn’t he? If Armand wanted to talk about any of it, he would have.

So Daniel opened the message from Madeleine.

This is a weird question, perhaps. But what would you do if Armand happened to be uncharacteristically silent with you after a visit with another partner?

Daniel deliberately didn’t allow his gaze to curve back towards Armand as he considered this. Didn’t let out the snort of disbelief that the question out of nowhere almost sprung from him. Lestat wasn’t one of Armand’s partners, but still…

Armand didn’t really seem to be aware Daniel was still there sitting beside him, though. He probably could have snorted it out.

Did Madeleine, or Claudia, have a camera set up into one of the corners of Armand’s living room? Daniel surreptitiously gave a glance up towards the ceiling, though at the same time he knew it was ludicrous.

“I have… it’s a message from Madeleine,” Daniel said, waving the darkened phone screen towards Armand.

Some interest returned for just a moment to Armand’s eyes. “Is everything all right?”

“That’s what I’m about to find out,” Daniel said, leaning closer to Armand in invitation for him to be a part of the conversation, if that’s what he wanted. A distraction could be positive, perhaps.

But Armand’s gaze closed off again and he just nodded silently before turning back to his iPad.

Damn. Armand had said he wasn’t a mind reader earlier that week, but Daniel thought he would have done a lot right then to be one! He exhaled, quietly enough that he was fairly sure it didn’t constitute an actual sigh.

“I’ll leave you to it,” he murmured, standing up from the couch and leaving the room. He didn’t allow himself to look back over his shoulder, instead starting the text message he would send back to Madeleine.

You have no idea how *not* weird that sounds. I’m guessing we’re talking about Santiago = the other partner on your end?

Yes, sorry, I should have said that, came Madeleine’s reply, almost immediately.

How long has it been since Claudia visited Santiago? Daniel sent back, thinking it couldn’t have been two full days like it had been over here.

Last night, Madeleine wrote back, confirming it. And then a second message, She says she’s fine, but there’s a furrow on her brow that worries me.

Give her another day, Daniel started, then added, maybe two. I’m sure it’ll come good. At least you know it’s about Santiago, not you.

And Daniel looked at that message after he’d sent it, reminding himself of the same. At least he knew it was about Lestat, not him, that had Armand in such a state. He just had to hold onto their life together continuing on in spite of what was happening around them.

By the middle of Monday, Daniel was starting to feel quite lost with the absence of overt guidance from his Master.

Yes, the adult part of his mind registered and acknowledged that Armand's distance and preoccupation was likely nothing more than him simply doing his best to process through what had happened on Friday afternoon. And, sure, Daniel would probably have been able to compartmentalise the occurrence of an argument like that at the same time as interacting more or less the same with Armand in the days that immediately followed, but he didn't reasonable expect every human mind either processed or compartmentalised at the same exact rate.

The reality was, Daniel could rationalise his way through everything as much as he wanted but, by Monday, Daniel was feeling pretty wretched.

'Try to hold to the dynamic', had become a regular refrain in his mind, but it was something that was actually pretty difficult to do once the feedback from the other side didn't feel as though it was coming back. Likewise, knowing how he was supposed to present himself and actually doing it were two very separate things.

A part of him had thought, late last night, that it would be easier when Armand was out of the house again. There wouldn't be, like, this looming presence within the house that was a constant reminder of what Daniel and Armand usually got up to on the weekends, and how different this one actually felt.

The reality, though, was that it wasn't better, it was just different.

They hadn't tended towards texting each other as often during their work days as they had before moving in together, but even that was an absence Daniel keenly felt during that first workday of this week.

His mind was absolutely nowhere, and it was impossible for him to concentrate on work that required him to actually retain information outside of his relationships.

Daniel kept looking towards his phone. When he wasn't hoping for a message from Armand, he was considering breaking the silence and messaging Louis first. If he'd been in the office today, the distraction of other people bustling around might have made a difference to his distraction levels. Ultimately, the same upside of working from home was also a downside: not having other people in his work space.

He made it all the way until he knew it was about to be Louis' lunch break before messaging him. Likely, knowing Louis didn't have ease of checking his phone at all times of his work day was the only thing that stopped Daniel from messaging him earlier.

Hey, what's up.

As far as messages went, it was hardly the most inventive he'd sent. And yet, it was sufficiently open ended and leading that Louis could reply back with as much or as little commentary as he felt comfortable sharing, even if Daniel had stared at that last full stop and whether to leave it in, remove it or replace it with a question mark for longer than he really wanted to admit to.

He had no doubt that all four of them by now knew exactly what had happened three days ago. It didn't occur to Daniel that Lestat had very much of a poker face.

But what he got back from Louis was one hell of a surprise, even for Daniel.

god danny, what a f*cking mess. i am so sorry about lestat. i had no idea he'd do that

The complete naked emotion of the response caused a feeling of protectiveness to rise up in Daniel that felt wholly unexpected. This whole time, he'd thought that Louis might be annoyed at him, or even that he wasn't talking to Daniel because Lestat wouldn't feel comfortable with it right now.

He hadn't even considered that Louis had been lying low from him because he felt anything like embarrassed!

Hey, no, none of that. Lestat's big enough and ugly enough that he can make his own decisions on whose houses he barges into like that.

Daniel wondered whether he would get another response from Louis over his lunch break but, if he was being honest with himself, he felt better already just from the tone of the response he'd gotten from Louis. He hadn't realised how much he'd been carrying something completely unrelated to his feelings to do with Armand's distance. If it was just distance with Armand while he processed, and not distance from both Armand and Louis at the same time, Daniel thought he could actually deal with that. Wait it out like something resembling a reasonable person.

big enough and ugly enoug? dare you to say that to his face sometime. actually no, no dares. what'd you get up to last night?

You mean, instead of going out to family dinner? Oh, ya know, just watched Armand mope on the couch like a lump.

Daniel looked over that text message for a long while before sending it. Was betraying something like that to Louis disrespectful to Armand? Or did Louis, being Armand's other partner, already know him well enough to be able to picture his broodiness even without being in front of him? Maybe Armand and Louis had been texting last night and Louis knew about where Armand was at already.

He thumbed the screen and the whoosh sound almost convinced him he wasn't sending something Louis didn't already have somewhat of a right to know.

But, yeah, okay, he probably could have worded it a bit better. Flippancy and also deflection were also very present in the words. But, what the hell, he'd been talking to Louis, not to Armand. Flippancy was just the way he naturally rolled.

Daniel didn't hear back from Louis for a while after that. He missed the dopamine hits that came with the ping on his phone, but thankfully didn't return to that place that was quite so low as it had been just before he'd given in and messaged Louis in the first place.

u home tonight?

The message didn’t come through until later, after Louis would have finished his own work day. Daniel looked at the clock, surprised to find so much time had passed. It really had done him well to reach out and then hear from Louis. He’d actually gotten work done in the end.

Of course, he still hadn’t touched the Paris interview. Charlie was gonna get good and pissed off with him if he didn’t at least attempt to make some progress on it soon.

That was a problem for future Daniel to worry about. For now, he leaned back and replied to Louis.

Out tonight, work thing.

ah. tomorrow?

Should be in. Why?

No response. Daniel didn’t think too much of it. Louis wasn’t one of these younger generation people who had their phone glued to their hands, that was all.

But the reminder of the time was welcome. There was a meet and greet Daniel had told Armand about a little over a week before where he was expected to attend on Monday night that week.

“You don’t have to come or anything,” Daniel had said at the time, privately hoping that Armand would be interested enough to attend with him despite that, but also knowing it was something that had bored his ex-wife to tears on the few occasions she’d made an appearance at his side.

“Of course I will attend,” Armand had said, as though he would have considered nothing different, but that had been before Lestat stormed into their house on Friday afternoon, before Armand had spent the entire weekend blank and detached.

Daniel honestly had no idea whether Armand was still intending on coming tonight, what face of Armand Daniel would end up seeing when his Master walked into the front door that night. But, ultimately, Daniel had to go. Which meant he had to start to look at getting ready.

i must here be confined by you - faerywhimsy (2024)
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