Nathaniel nodded. Jean-Claude just looked at me. It was one of the downsides to being polyamorous: You could get the same looks from more than one person at the same time when you fucked up.
"I'm sorry, Jean-Claude, Nathaniel, but Anita knows how much this has been bothering me," Micah said, coming up to hug me. I think he needed the same reassurance I did, that not everyone in the tub was angry with him.
"And we don't know how much it's been bothering you?" Nathaniel asked, arms crossing over his chest so that I noticed the swell in his biceps, but the attitude that went with it made it less sexy and more You don't get to play with this.
"Of course you both know. You went with me to Florida and they were so protective of their secret that I had to keep sending you off by yourself with just a bodyguard," he said, and then looked at Jean-Claude. "And you've just spent time helping me climb out of the darkness in my head from this case."
"And yet, it is Anita that knows how much it is bothering you?" Jean-Claude said, and it was that girlfriend/boyfriend accusatory voice.
Micah hugged me a little closer and I hugged him back. I didn't want this to turn into a fight, but I wasn't always good at avoiding them. I finally decided to be very honest. "I don't want this to turn into a full-fledged fight. I'm sorry that I just blurted out the idea of talking to Melanie about the other shapeshifters, but I was just excited that I might have a clue that would help Micah."
"More excited than being with us?" Nathaniel said.
"Have we become less exciting than your cases, ma petite?"
Oh shit. "No, of course not."
Micah tried to help me dig myself out of the hole that our evening was rapidly disappearing into. "Please, Jean-Claude, Nathaniel, we were both thoughtless and careless of your feelings, but no one is as important to us as the two of you."
"Please," I said, "it's the first time the four of us have been together in weeks. Don't let this ruin the evening."
"And that is exactly why it hurts so much, ma petite."
I looked at Micah. "You try. I can't seem to keep my foot out of my mouth."
"I am sorry that we started talking business in that moment, but Anita is the only one who has seen the pictures of what is happening to the family down in Florida. It's awful enough that it's haunting us both."
"They wouldn't let me see them in animal form," Nathaniel said.
"And perhaps if you had shown me the same pictures you showed to Anita, I would have thought of sending you to Melanie, as well."
"You're right, you're both right, but I know that Anita sees worse on her job than I do on mine, so I knew she would see it as part of the job. I didn't want to burden the two of you with things that give me nightmares."
I hugged him tighter.
Nathaniel's face softened and Jean-Claude stopped looking so still and statue-like, as if he'd finally allowed himself to start breathing again. "We are not children to be protected against the harshness of your job, Micah," Jean-Claude said.
"I didn't mean it that way . . ."
Jean-Claude waved him to silence. "It is a noble sentiment, Micah, but it is not necessary for me. I have seen more blood spilled and lives lost than you have. I would say that all four of us have seen horrors that haunt us. We are none of us sheep that need to be tended and watched over; we are wolves to hunt together. I do not know when you decided that you and Anita were wolves to our sheep, but it is not true. We must be equals, or at least the power must not be so uneven as this."
Micah opened his mouth, closed it, and didn't seem to know what to say. I hugged him, rubbing one hand along the smoothness of his back. I finally said, "What can we do to fix the mood?"
"I did not realize that the three of you would be home and unoccupied tonight, or I would have not agreed to the regular business meeting being moved to tonight, so my time here is limited. I will have to start over with my hair, and that will take more time."
"So, we've ruined the mood and spoiled the evening," Micah said.
I shook my head. "Wait, I know I fucked up the way I said it, but if Melanie does have information that could help the other shapeshifters, then that's important. It's not more important than the two of you, or the four of us, but moments like this are what make Micah and me not talk about work with the two of you. You're complaining that Micah shares more information with me than with you, but in the same breath you're saying you don't want us to talk about work."
"No, ma petite, we are complaining that you thought to speak of work in the middle of foreplay."
I didn't have a comeback for that, because there really wasn't one. Not a good one, anyway.
"That's fair," Micah said, "and I apologize for my part in it. I am obsessed with this case."
"As we discussed, mon chat, you must find someone trustworthy enough to send out on some Coalition business without you, for there is too much for you to oversee everything personally."
"It was a great idea, Jean-Claude. I am thinking about people I could send."
"Is this business, or can I offer a suggestion?" I asked.
"It is," Jean-Claude said, "but make your suggestion, ma petite."
"Socrates was really good with the marshal that got lycanthropy on the job with me. He talked to her family and everything."
"I remember you telling me about that," Micah said. "He might be able to take some of the survivor interventions."
"I would trust him to handle survivors," I said.
"So would I," Nathaniel said.
"Now that we have settled some of our worries, I must wash my hair and begin to get ready for the business meeting."
Nathaniel hugged him, put
ting his face on his shoulder. "No, I just got here."
I half walked, half swam through the water to him and took Jean-Claude's arm. "We haven't been here that long; do you really have to go now?"
Jean-Claude looked down at the two of us and smiled. "Such faces, you really do not want me to go."
"Of course not," we said together.
"I can feel your sorrow at the thought of me leaving, ma petite." He kissed the top of Nathaniel's head. "And you, but not so loudly, our pussycat."
"Can you read my feelings?" Micah asked.
"Only as one person knows another; you are not tied to ma petite in a way that allows me access to your inner thoughts and feelings."
"Sometimes I'm happy about that and sometimes it makes me feel left out."
"I'm sorry for the latter, mon chat."
"This wouldn't have been enough time for the four of us to have sex, even without the misunderstanding. You don't really have to leave for your meeting yet, do you?" Micah asked.
Nathaniel and I went still beside Jean-Claude. "It will take longer to get ready now that my hair is wet. I had put it up for a reason."
"That doesn't answer Micah's question," I said, studying his face.
"No, it does not. I wanted to see if you truly would be sorry that I had to leave before I had joined you for sex, or if you did not care."
I looked at him, and even with his wet hair clumped around his face, in probably the worst hairdo that I'd ever seen on him, he was still so beautiful that I felt like, what was he doing with me, but then who could equal him? When you're a twenty-one on a ten scale of beauty, you have to date someone. When he first started trying to date me, I was so insecure about it. It took me a long time to realize that no matter how beautiful or handsome or graceful or smart you are, you still have insecurities. We all have them--even kings, even Jean-Claude.
"It was childish to need the reassurance, ma petite."
I touched his face, moving closer so I could kiss him. "I love you all the more for needing the reassurance, but I'm sorry that I caused the need."