“Yes,” I said, voice a little thick and almost sleepy sounding. I cleared my throat and tried again. “I hear you, Envy.”
“If Richard put his hand back there and pulled your hair, would you enjoy it?”
I blinked at her, studying the intelligence in her gaze, the force of will that was in there. Those were the things that made Envy work for Jean-Claude and for Richard; passive wasn’t something either of them enjoyed.
“Under the right circumstances, yes,” I said.
She shook her head, raised her tea as if to drink it, and then put it back down untouched. “It just hurts when he does it to me.”
“Then he shouldn’t do it,” I said.
“It’s like he needs to do it to someone, or with someone.”
“Why?” she asked.
That made me frown and have to straighten up from the extreme cuddle position I was in, as if I couldn’t think as deeply sitting like that. I patted Domino’s thigh, letting him know that I wasn’t mad, just needed to sit up. I took Nathaniel’s hand off my thigh and into my hand, letting him know, too, that I was all right, and that I wasn’t going to let my discomfort get out of hand and make me lash out again; that was childish, and I wasn’t a child anymore.
“Can I take this one?” Jason asked.
“Be my guest,” I said.
“Enjoying pain with your pleasure is something either you get, or you don’t. If you get it, then you don’t really need it explained, because you know how good it feels, and if you don’t get it, then no amount of talking is going to convince you it makes sense.”
“Sounds like you’ve practiced that speech,” I said.
He frowned, and it seemed to dim his light all the way through. “I’ve been trying to explain it to J.J.”
“Not going well, I take it?”
“Don’t tell me you can’t explain it to me, that is not an answer,” Envy said.
“It’s like trying to explain the color red to someone who’s color-blind. You can tell them red is hot, bright, use any word you want, but it won’t really explain to them what the color looks like, it’ll still look sort of gray to them,” I said.
“That’s not an answer either,” she said.
Nathaniel said, “You see bondage as an extra, something to add spice in the bedroom, right?”
“For some of us it’s not spice, it’s the vegetables and fruit.”
“What?” she asked.
He sat forward in his chair, using his free hand to gesture as he spoke, the other hand still in mine. “Think of sex, intercourse, as the meat, but if you eat just meat you’ll get sick and eventually die from complications of a severely imbalanced diet.”
“Okay, I knew that, but I still don’t see the analogy.”
“We can all have sex without bondage and enjoy the hell out of it, but if we don’t have the bondage and submission with it, after a while we get sick and depressed. Sex on its own isn’t a complete sex life for us; we need the kink to be happy and healthy, and without it eventually part of us would sort of die inside.”
She blinked those big blue eyes at him, and then turned to Jason. “Is that how you feel?”
“I won’t ask Anita; the little demonstration said yes for her.” She looked at Domino. “Is this how you feel, too?”
“I think I would be okay without the BDSM. I mean, it’s not a burning need for me, but Anita is almost never satisfied with straight vanilla in the bedroom.”
“I do straight vanilla intercourse sometimes,” I said.
He hugged me one-armed and said, “No, you don’t; you think you do, but even your vanilla is more like fudge ripple.”
I started to get mad about that, and then fought off the urge. My therapist said that the anger had been a coping mechanism since about the time my mother died. The rage had protected me and helped me survive; now I just needed to use it appropriately, and not let it tear my relationships apart like I had for most of my adult life. Old habits are hard to break, but I was trying, and the people I cared about were helping me try harder.
Nathaniel squeezed my hand; he’d noticed my effort, and my success. I looked at him and he smiled at me, that happy, I’m-proud-of-you smile. It made me smile back.
“Okay, what was that just now? I felt Anita’s energy, her beast flare, and then it was gone, and now we’ve got some kind of happy moment going on,” Envy asked.
“I’m learning to control my emotions and my inner beast; you know how that works.”
She cocked her head to one side just slightly. “This felt different than controlling our other halves. Maybe the anger is what you were controlling, not the beast?”
See, Envy was smart and insightful, and she learned fast. That was also true of her cousin Dev, and it was one of the reasons they were our lovers. Smart isn’t just sexy; it’s necessary for something this complicated to work.
“Yeah, exactly,” I said.
She nodded, more to herself, I think, and then raised her tea and sipped it. She was thinking, you could watch it in her eyes; I liked that.
“Why didn’t you like Domino telling you that you don’t do straight vanilla?”
“Honestly, because I still don’t believe it. I occasionally do straight missionary position with the guys, and I consider that about as vanilla as it gets.”
“Not the way you do it,” Jason said.
I looked at him and knew it wasn’t an entirely friendly look.
He laughed. “Hey, it’s the truth.”
“What would be straight vanilla missionary then?” I asked.
He looked at the other men, and Envy and I got to see them exchange a series of looks that were suddenly very male, like some arcane handshake that we didn’t understand because we didn’t have penises.
“What?” I asked.
“Yes, what?” Envy asked.
“Well, you can’t try to gnaw your way to freedom with bite marks and fingernails when the guy is on top, that’s definitely not vanilla,” Jason said.
“I don’t mark you up all the time, not if you tell me you have to go on stage that night.”
“You forget sometimes,” Nathaniel said.
I sighed, felt my shoulders begin to slump. Domino hugged me. “It’s okay, we’re not complaining, but we’re all glad you like angles for intercourse that put you farther away from our skin, or I am. I don’t really like pain during sex.”
“Is it a buzzkill?”
“No, but I won’t put myself in a position where you can really sink your teeth in like Nathaniel will, that’s all.” He kissed my forehead and hugged me again. “Don’t make more of it than there is, Anita, it’s just differences in what people like. I love that you get so into the sex that you forget and give up your control like that, it’s sexy as hell. I love it even more that you forget just as much with me as you do with Nathaniel, or Jean-Claude, or Dev, or Nicky. I love that I can do things to you that you enjoy so much you lose yourself in the sex.”
“That’s what Jade needs,” Envy said.
The topic change was too abrupt for me. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Envy,” Domino said.
“No, Domino, we agreed to talk on Jade’s behalf, so let’s talk about it.”
“Talk about what?” I asked.
“Jade is your lover, your only female lover.”
“I’m aware of that.” I tried not to hunch my shoulders or get embarrassed; I still wasn’t completely comfortable with having a woman in my life like a man. Yes, I had metaphysical powers that I didn’t have complete control over, and the power that had attracted Jade to me, and me to her, had been a great icebreaker, but it didn’t help me deal with the fact that I’d never been attracted to women before, or that when I was most into the sex with her, I kept forgetting I wasn’t male. I had centuries of memories in my head from Jean-Claude of the women and men he’d seduced, or who had seduced him, but I didn’t have the equipment to act on those memories.
“She needs sex so good she forgets everything.”
“She hasn’t complained to me,” I said, and tried not to sound as grumpy as I felt.