"No, of course not," he said.
"Then why is it less rape for a man who likes men to be raped by another man?"
Richard looked away at that.
I was left sitting on the floor not knowing what to say, or who to comfort, or even how to start comforting. "I didn't know any of this."
"My bargain with Raina was based on it not being known. It would have undermined my authority, which would have defeated the purpose of the bargain."
I got up off the ground and went to Jean-Claude. I reached out to him, half-afraid he'd move away. No one's good with this kind of pain, but men seem especially bad at it. I think it's because they have a hard time thinking of themselves as potential victims. Women are raised with the possibility. Most of us understand from an early age that we are not the biggest or strongest. It's why when women fight, they fight dirty; something's got to make up for the lack of upper body strength.
I touched his face, and he gave me that blank beautiful look. As if he were a painting that held color and line, and beauty, but not life, as if telling the secret sucked something precious away from him. "I'm sorry," I said, softly.
He smiled, and some tension left him, and something of him began to seep back into his eyes. "I thought you might be upset, find me sullied goods."
I raised eyebrows at that. "You never blame the victim, Jean-Claude. Don't you know that by now?"
He smiled a little wider and laid his face against my hand. "I have never thanked you for killing them both."
"They were trying to kill me at the time, and film it for a snuff flick. Trust me, it was my pleasure to whack them both."
Richard got to his feet and came to stand near us, just out of comfortable reach. "That night was why I broke up with Raina." He laughed, and it sounded bitter, as if he would choke on it. "Broke up, God, that sounds so high school. Gabriel and I nearly beat each other to death, while she watched." He was shaking his head, and even with his hair barely grown out, it was already longer than it had been in the memory. I wondered if that was one of the reasons that he grew it long, so it would help him feel different.
"I can find other food," Jean-Claude said. "You do not have to do anything you are not comfortable with."
Richard looked at us, my hand still on Jean-Claude's face. "What I said earlier is still true. We need the three of us to be as close as the two of you are."
"I do not believe you are ready to do what is necessary for such a binding," Jean-Claude said.
"What is necessary, exactly?" he asked.
Jean-Claude licked his lips. "This is magic, not science. In truth I am not sure. We could do the fourth mark, that I know how to do, but what happened at the club last night was not the fourth mark. It was as if ma petite slipped into me. We were joined as never before, and it made us unbelievably powerful."
"How did it work?"
"We were in the middle of a crisis of police proportions," I said.
"Oui, but I think it will work with touching. We are of Belle's line, and most of her magic can be reached through physical closeness."
"Physical closeness," Richard said, and he shook his head. "Define physical closeness."
Jean-Claude smiled. "Tell me what you would have of me, Richard. What rules and restrictions would make you feel safe?"
"If I said, don't touch me?"
"Then I say we are wasting our time. Ma petite and I were touching when it happened, not intimately, but the contact was important. Physical contact makes most of my powers easier."
"Define not intimate."
"I think he was holding my hand," I said.
Richard smiled, a quick flash in his tanned face, "Hand-holding I can manage."
Jean-Claude smiled, and it was nice to see them smiling at each other for once. "I would ask that if I need to touch you for balance that that be allowed."
Richard narrowed his eyes a little. "Depends on where you're touching me, but okay."
Jean-Claude shook his head. "That is not Richard's look, that is your look, ma petite. Your look from our Richard's face."
"Well, you know what they say, couples start looking like each other after awhile."
Richard looked at me. "Couple?"
I shrugged. "If I'm going to be lupa to your Ulfric, then yeah. That's how your pack will see it."
He nodded, then smiled again. "Just like that, you agree to it all."
I reached out my hand, and after a moment's hesitation, he took it. There was no flash of munin or Raina, it was just his hand so warm in mine. "We'll try it, see if it works, depends on what I have to do as your lupa. I just want you to know that you can walk out the door right now, and I'll still try to play lupanar with you."
He squeezed my hand. "You won't force me?"
"Not my kick."
"Nor mine," Jean-Claude said. "I have been victim too many times over the centuries. It has given me no taste for it."
Richard took in a big breath, which moved his chest and shoulders, and raised his stomach up and down, as if he'd drawn air all the way down to his toes. He let it out slowly, then nodded. "Let's try. If I can't do it, then I can't do it, but I'll try."
I kept my hand in Jean-Claude's, but stepped away from him, until I was standing in front of Richard. I went up on tiptoes, and he bent down so I could kiss him, gently, on the mouth. "Have I told you recently that I think you are very brave?"
His eyes filled with something warm and good. "Never."
"Then I'm saying it now."
"Thank you," he said, and his arm slid around my waist, the warmth of his skin pulsing even through the silk. No, not his warmth, his power.
Jean-Claude stood up, and I drew him into the back of my body. Richard tensed when Jean-Claude's body pinned his arm, but he fought it. Fought to relax. He wasn't entirely successful, but he tried. A for effort.
"Now, let's get naked," I said.
I actually made them both choke and laugh at the same time. "Ma petite, what has made you so bold?"
"It takes the three of us forever to do anything. We discuss it, we argue it, we fight, we make up, we fight. I don't want to discuss anymore. If we're going to do this, let's do it."
"Just like that," Richard said, "off with the clothes, no sweet talk first."
I leaned into the circle of his arm, and the weight of Jean-Claude behind my back. I looked up Richard's face, and said, "I want to see if I can deep throat you."
He blinked at me, then started to laugh, then stopped, and finally said in a strained voice, "You couldn't before. It was great, but you never quite--"
"I've been practicing," I said. I smiled up at him.
"That smile," he said.
"What smile?" I said.
Jean-Claude answered, "The knowing smile."
"The one that says you're thinking dirty thoughts, and you want to do them all with me. You're the only woman I know that can put innocence and evil into the same look."
"Evil," I said. "Am I supposed to be offended?"
"I just never expected to see that smile directed at me again." He kissed me on the forehead. "For that smile, I'd do a lot."
"I still don't get the idea of innocence and evil in the same smile."
"You have the look of a fallen angel, ma petite. An angel does not stop being an angel merely because they fall from grace; their wings are not so easily taken."
I remembered thinking almost the same thing about Richard earlier. Like a fallen angel. Should it have bothered me that Jean-Claude and I were using the same analogy? Yeah, but out loud all I said was, "I thought you were the dark angel here?" I turned so I could see his face.
He smiled and whispered, "Nothing I could have offered would have gotten him out of his pants."
"I heard that," Richard said.
Jean-Claude laughed. "And will you refuse her offer?"
He looked from Jean-Claude to me, then back to Jean-Claude. Richard laughed, a very masculine laugh. "No."
I was suddenly very aware of the two of them pressed on either side of me. Enough foreplay, off with the clothes.
The clothes came off, then Richard argued with me on what position I'd be better able to deep throat him. Like I said, the three of us together have to argue about everything. Jean-Claude settled the argument by simply saying, "Let ma petite try her way, and if it does not work, we can try yours." I began to realize that Richard and I as a couple was truly impossible, but as a threesome, if the third was our diplomat, it might work. What does it say when you need another adult in the bed to referee? Nothing I wanted to think about too deeply, not at that moment. At that moment, I let all the doubts go, all of them. I knew Richard and I too well not to suspect that we would wreck this later. But for now, right now, we had this moment. I tried to get out of my way and enjoy it, and had to trust the men to do the same.