"You're doing your flamboyant, happy, casual act," I said. "Cut the act, and tell us what's up."
"You do realize, ma petite, that Richard has become almost as blunt at times as you are."
"And I'm starting to have moments when I sound like you, Jean-Claude. Let me guess, the closer binding last night has had some interesting side effects."
"Not just us being closer, ma petite, but your binding of a new triumvirate to you. That has upped the side effects, I believe." His face was still lovely, but the nearly pretentious movements were fading, changing to a seriousness that I didn't like seeing. He wasn't happy about something. I didn't know what it was, but it had to be something that he either thought both, or at least one of us, really wouldn't like.
He started by confessing that my being willing to do Byron and feed Requiem was probably his less-finicky tastes coming out through me. I stopped him before he got through it. "If I hadn't fed on Byron and Requiem, you wouldn't have had enough energy to control Primo. He would have slaughtered the audience. My virtue versus the lives of dozens of people, hmm, let me think." I shrugged. "It's okay, though I'd rather not make a habit of it."
"You surprise me, ma petite." But he relaxed against the bed. His posture was still perfect, a lot of the old vamps had good posture, but it was more relaxed all the same.
"I've learned that a little sex isn't a fate worse than death, Jean-Claude."
"Is that all?" Richard said. "Or is there more that you'd rather we don't know, but feel that we need to know?"
"See, see, he is like you now. Two of you, I do not know if I can--"
"Just tell us," I said.
He gave me a small frown. "You seem to have figured out that we are mixing and mingling our abilities in more than just a metaphysical way. I do not know all we will gain, or lose, depending on how one looks at it, only that it is happening."
"I think that Nathaniel and I traded a little dominance and submission." I saw the look on Richard's face, and added, "I mean that ever since we became a triumvirate, Nathaniel seems a little more dominant, and I seem to enjoy being a little more submissive. Admittedly, Nathaniel was trying to be more dominant before, but he really seems to be taking to it." Saying it made me want to squirm with discomfort, but I fought it off. I'd be damned if I'd apologize even by a gesture. I'm nothing if not defiant, especially if I'm uncomfortable.
"Then, apparently, we can expect a mingling of our basic personalities, as well," Jean-Claude said, and he tried for casual and failed.
"This could get really strange," I said, and it was my turn to draw my knees up to my chest, though for Richard, I think it had been comfortable, for me it was comforting myself.
"Is that all the bad news?" Richard asked, and looked directly at him.
"I do not see it as bad news, mon ami, but the two of you might."
"Spill it," I said, knees hugged to my chest.
"You have turned my pomme de sang into his animal form, one of them anyway. I, like you until recently, prefer my food without fur."
I did my best not to look at Richard. "Who did you have in mind?"
"Requiem told me of the amount of blood you lost last night, ma petite. I think it is wiser if you do not donate more quite so soon."
I heard Richard's sigh from where I was sitting, and he wasn't sitting that close to me. "I would say it's always me, but it's usually not. I know that Anita isn't your regular feed, but I know she lets you feed." He put his face against his knees and sighed again. "Fine, but only if Anita is here, too. No just you and me."
"Define Anita being with us?"
"That's not what I said," Richard said.
"Is that not what you meant?" Jean-Claude asked.
Richard seemed to think about it for a second, then gave a small nod. "I guess it is, but hearing you say it, it seems--"
"I'll second Jean-Claude's question, define me being with you guys."
Richard blushed. He didn't blush often, and this was two in one conversation. "I don't mean it the way you make it sound."
"Then tell us how you do mean it, mon ami."
"I don't want. I mean..." he made that sound again, wordless, frustrated. "Why is it that every time I do anything that includes both of you, I always end up feeling like I'm wrong?"
I made one of those mental leaps, because I was remembering Richard's problem with everyone thinking he was, or had been, doing Jean-Claude. I decided to rescue him. He was, after all, going to open a vein for Jean-Claude. That deserved some consideration, considering that his rules about feeding vamps used to be the same as mine. Richard was still trying to explain, and failing.
"Look, I understand what Richard is trying to say."
They both looked at me. Richard doubtful, and Jean-Claude amused, as if he, too, understood Richard's discomfort, but couldn't afford to let the other man see that he saw it. Or maybe something else amused him, you never can tell with Jean-Claude.
"You don't want it to be just the two of you when Jean-Claude feeds," I said.
Richard looked relieved, and nodded.
I did not say out loud, no you're not homophobic, because if Richard wasn't as comfortable with having another man touch him, then he was entitled. I'd never fed a female vamp voluntarily, so who was I to bitch?
Jean-Claude's smile deepened just a touch. "And why is it such a problem for it to be just the two of us?"
I gave Jean-Claude a dirty look, and Richard was back to not knowing how to explain. "Jean-Claude, you know the old American saying, about not looking a gift horse in the mouth?"
"You're checking this one's teeth."
He laughed, that touchable laugh, which, even through the hardest shielding I had, made me shiver, and not from fear. I caught Richard's movement out of the corner of my eye. He'd shivered, too. For the first time, I wondered how much of Jean-Claude's abilities worked on Richard. I was terribly heterosexual, and sometimes I just didn't think outside that box. Richard didn't like boys, so Jean-Claude didn't affect him the way he did me. That's what I'd believed, now I wondered if Richard had more problems with Jean-Claude than I'd thought. If you were terribly hetero, but Jean-Claude's powers could affect you, you had a problem if you were a man. The fact that it had never occurred to me before, proved beyond a doubt that sometimes I just wasn't bright about the men around me.
"But before we get up close, I've got to get this stuff off of me. It's flaking, and I just don't feel clean."
"That would give us time to have the sheets changed, perhaps," Jean-Claude said. He touched the drying, caked sheets. "I have never seen a bed where more than one lycanthrope has shifted. It is, how do you say, a mess."
His English was better than that, even for slang. He was back to being pleased with himself, and I didn't know why. If I dropped shields enough for him to talk inside my head, I'd also have more of Richard in my head. I didn't want that, so I'd have to ask him later, or I'd figure it out. Whatever.
"I'll make the shower quick," I said, and started for the far door.
"If it was him going into the shower," Richard jerked a thumb at Jean-Claude, "I wouldn't believe quick, but you I'll believe."
That one comment made me wonder how much time Richard had spent with Jean-Claude when I wasn't around. I didn't say it out loud, though, I am getting smarter. Richard was uncomfortable enough with Jean-Claude. I didn't need to add to it.
"We will be here when you are finished, ma petite. Hopefully with the bed in better order." He was standing looking down at it, as if he wasn't sure it could really be fixed.
"Why not use your room?" Richard asked.
"Asher is in my bed. Now he is dead, and ma petite finds that disturbing. If he woke in the middle of the feeding, I think you, Richard, would find it disturbing."
Richard stood and just huddled in his jean jacket. "Disturbing. You could call it that." He didn't sound happy, and I wondered if there was some incident between him and Asher I should know about. Probably not. None of my business.
I had to walk back to the bed and hunt for my holstered gun underneath the pillows. I sort of waved it at them both. "I wouldn't want this thrown down the laundry chute."
Jean-Claude waved me toward the bathroom. "Go, shower, ma petite, we will be ready if you are not too quick."