Toddy was looking at himself in a full-length mirror when Victoria emerged from the bath. They both wore silver-gray silk pajamas.
"Tomorrow, my dear," he said, "let's order the most dreadfully expensive thing room service can haul up here, and talk about how terribly awful and pretentious it is, just so we stay humble?"
"Umm, okay. Deal." She crossed her arms, and watched him curiously.
"I was joking! Who the hell wants to be humble?" He tilted the mirror forward a little, then back. He turned sideways and smoothed the material over his rear-end, then turned back and smoothed it over his stomach. "These make me look like the Alps. I had no idea I was quite so . . . lumpy."
"You're not lumpy. Curvy here and there," Victoria said as she stepped up next to him.
"I'm not supposed to be curvy, am I?"
"Everyone's curvy somewhere, Toddy."
"But I'm curvy in places I'm reasonably sure I should not be. And every curve, without my blessing or even grudging consent, seems to have begun a slow journey south."
"Oh, stop fretting," she said with a laugh. She slapped a hand on each of Toddy's buttocks and squeezed. "See, delightfully curvy and still respectably north."
"Stop flirting with me, or I'll be scandalized. What's the matter?"
Victoria was rolling her shoulders and rubbing a hand across her chest. "It's just uncomfortable to spend so much time strapped in so tightly."
"Have I ever told you about your knack for saying incredibly profound things? Being strapped in too tightly is a plague on society--oh, the evils of underwear, corsets and large crowds that follow the status quo. And underwear, did I mention that? Things that grow wild should be allowed to roam free."
Victoria laughed. "Yes, I . . . I think I agree, with all of that. Not that I have bulging bosoms to strap down, mind you, but it's still not terribly pleasant."
"So I'm bemoaning my visible curves and you're complaining about having yours mashed into invisibility. That calls for cognac."
"Oh, Toddy, since I've met you I can't imagine a situation could arise that doesn't call for cognac."
"I knew you were a smart girl," he said with a wink, and went to pour them both a drink.
Victoria was still looking at herself in the mirror when he came back with her glass. She took it, took a sip, and put it down. Toddy did the same. "What's wrong now?" he asked.
"Do I make a handsome man, Toddy?" She smoothed her hair back with her hands, looking at herself now without the makeup she wore when performing, or the makeup she wore as Victoria.
"Yes, you do."
"Well, you're not ruggedly handsome, there's no square jaw or delightful little moustache that tickles . . . sorry, I lost my train of thought. You make an attractive and elegant man, I think. Surely that's obvious to you by the way people react when you walk into a room."
"I don't know," she said, smoothing the silk pajama top over the curve of her breast. "I think it's still all so new to me . . . I do like the way people react when I walk into a room. I think . . . I like being a man, Toddy. No one looks at my bosoms or my behind, and--"
"Oh, not no one, my darling, just a different type of person that you probably haven't been trained to notice yet. They look, believe me." He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and rested his chin on her shoulder, looking at her reflection in the mirror.
"Perhaps," she said with a laugh. "But people listen when I talk, and treat me with respect almost immediately. It's . . . different. I feel powerful as a man."
"You don't feel powerful as a woman?"
"No, no, I do. But no one else seems to believe it so easily."
Toddy smiled. "You're the toast of Paris, dear. A talented Polish Count female impersonator. You get a bit more respect and attention than an ordinary man. But I know what you're trying to say."
"You know, Toddy, I like me as a man, when I'm in public, when I'm alone, and when I'm with King Marchand. I like suits. I like the way they make me feel. But I like him, too . . . ."
"I think I understand. There was this woman I dated when I was very young. She was so feminine, so beautiful, all the men's heads turned when she walked past them . . . and I couldn't get enough of her."
"You loved her?"
"Yes. And I wanted to be her."
Victoria laughed softly. "Oh, it's so . . . confusing."
"Oh, no, my dear." Toddy started swaying them back and forth while he held her and they did a little two-step in a circle. "Are you sure it's not just very simple, and it's the simplicity of it that's confusing? You like the way you feel when you appear and behave as a man. Sounds pretty damn simple to me."
He twirled them quickly and then did the step a little more enthusiastically before spinning Victoria so that she faced him and they could dance properly.
"But," he said, "what other people might think of you feeling that way can get just a wee bit complicated?"
"I don't know . . . I think so."
"It doesn't bother you that people think you're a gay man, because you're really a woman, but to be a woman who likes pretending to be a man, when nobody even really knows it, that's what's making you frown?" He took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead between her eyebrows. "Better stop thinking about it or your face will stick like that, and you'll have to learn to like being an old man."
"Toddy . . . I guess . . . it doesn't matter what people think. It's what I think, and I think . . . it's just taking time to get used to."
"You'll get there," he said. "Time fixes everything they say. Gives you perspective, heals all wounds. Of course, sometimes it does so by killing the wounded. Good thing you're a survivor." He dipped her. "Oh God, my back is a wound that time hasn't yet seen fit to fix," he groaned. "Needs cognac."
They both giggled and crawled into bed, each with a snifter in hand.
Toddy yelped. "Oh my God, if I weren't a lady I'd kick you and your cold feet right out of bed!"
Victoria finished her drink and snuggled down in the bed. "And if I were a gentleman I'd probably offer to sleep in a chair and let you have the warm bed to yourself."
He laughed and pulled her into his arms. "I think you're the finest gentleman I've ever known."
She put her chin on his chest and smiled up at him. "Likewise." Then she pulled herself up and kissed him. "I love you to complete bits."
"Same to you, sir. And when we're old and gray . . . wait, I'm three minutes from old and gray, so when you're old and gray, and I'm petrified enough that you can carry me around in a steamer trunk, I'll still love you, mashed bosoms, suits, and confusion, and everything. Whether you're Victor, Victoria . . . or both. Or whether you insist on being called Her Highness Raoul Percival Merriwinkle the Third."
She laughed and put her head on his chest. "I've never liked the name Raoul. And you're not old, Toddy."
"No? Then everyone else must keep getting younger."
She slapped his stomach playfully, told him to get some rest, and then laughed when he sleepily mumbled, "If you'd done that just a little lower, my good sir, I'd expect you to buy me dinner."