Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm having a hard trouble controlling my expression when Gareth staggers over to our table. Holy shit, he looks deader than I do! He sits with an inaudible groan; you can feel it, but you can't hear it.

I keep my voice low - his head has to be feeling like a jack-o-lantern that's been introduced to a Black Cat firecracker. It would be cruel to make it worse. "Glad you could join us."

He looks up and his eyes meet mine - red-rimmed and bleary, with dark circles beneath them. Conal was no mere toy, that's clear. He makes a sickly attempt at a smile, then gives up. "You rested well?" His voice is thin as newspaper.

"Better than either of you, I bet." I'm not smiling when I say it. "We've never had a formal introduction, have we? My name is Nick, as you know, and this is Raina. Before the food arrives, there's something I want to do."

Gareth looks panicked. I move over to where he's sitting and help him to his feet. He's wobbly, but stabilizes.

I pull him close, wrap my arms around him and just hold him. He stiffens at first, but then goes almost limp against me. I hold him like that for a minute or two while Raina sits watching us with a small smile at the corner of her mouth.

His eyes are wet when I step back, and then Raina moves in to embrace him, holding him in the same way, but with a couple of added bonuses....

Raina helps him back into his chair while I sit, then she joins me.

"That was meant to be symbolic," I say. "We're all friends here. Raina and I want you to know that we feel for you in your loss, but that's something anyone might say. Raina and I have both lost people we loved; we know how you're feeling, and we'll help if we can - and if you'll let us."

About that time Monty shows up with a tray of toast and two bottled waters. He sets a small tub of pseudo-butter next to it, and a jar of honey next to that. He almost suppresses a smile as he heads back to the common room.

Gareth turns slightly green at the sight of food, but nerves himself to sip some water. Raina takes a piece of toast and starts to butter it into submission with a grim look on her face. She drizzles some honey on it, spreads it out, then squeezes her eyes shut and takes a bite.

A moment later, the toast is gone and she's working on another slice. Gareth watches, horrified yet fascinated.

She passes the toast over to him. "Eat. It'll help." He flickers green again, but closes his eyes tight and bites.

Half an hour later, there's nothing left but toast crumbs in the butter and dregs of honey in the jar. Gareth is beginning to look as if he might possibly survive, and Raina looks gorgeous - as usual.

Raina looks over at Gareth with a smile. "Hope you're feeling better than you were this morning."

Gareth almost manages a smile this time. "Much better, thank you."

"You'll learn as time goes by that Nick and I are pretty blunt - saves time. I have a question for you. Don't feel like you have to answer it, but I hope you will."

He looks a little worried, but - "Ask. I shall answer if I can."

"Are you into women at all? I don't include the Wicked Bitch of the West in that definition."

He looks across the table to me in mute appeal. "Just tell the truth. Like she says, it saves time."

He takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. "I enjoy both men and women if there is true respect and affection there. I don't care for anonymous encounters that last only for the moment, though."

Raina smiles at me and I give it right back to her.

"Do you tell him, or should I?", she says teasingly.

Gareth looks from one to the other. "Tell me what?"

I lean back and stretch. "What my lady-love is trying to say, ever so subtly" - she sticks her tongue out at me, making me grin - "is that Raina and I have a bit of reputation. We sometimes like to add a third person to our nightly festivities."

I lean over the table at him. "If it's too soon, I apologize - but Gareth, I have to say that I find you very attractive."

Gareth looks to Raina. "Are you proposing a threesome, then?"

"How would that make you feel?", Raina counters. "If it's something you feel you can't do, or shouldn't do, then you should refuse, of course. But" - she smiles - "it would please me - us - to give you some real, genuine affection, not just to fuck you."

Gareth looks utterly taken aback. "It's your call, Gareth," I say gently.

He stands, still a bit shaky. I go over and put an hand on his shoulder to steady him. He turns into me, moving into my arms, his own going around me. I hold him close, looking over his shoulder at Raina. Are you sure? I mouth at her.

She only smiles and nods.

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