The first time, Cosette thinks it's only normal—they're both virgins, and they're both overeager, and they've been making out for hours, giggly and sloppy. The second time, it's frustrating, for both of them, and leaves them both awkward and fidgety afterwards.
The third time it happens, Cosette clears her throat after a few minutes, when Marius is still curled into a ball of miserable embarrassment on the other side of her bed, and feels awful instantly when he twitches at the sound. Still, one of them has to say something. She skips over “It's okay” and goes right for “Maybe we should talk to someone?”
Marius mumbles something into the pillow that she's pretty sure involves the words “cock ring,” which is promising. Maybe. She reaches out and puts her palm against his back and he relaxes enough to say something intelligible. “Who?”
Cosette considers that question. She talks with her father about almost everything, but sex is where they draw the line. And Marius's family isn't really the talking-about-sex kind, so that leaves their friends, or his friends, since Cosette still doesn't know them that well. “Courfeyrac?” she hazards. She likes Courfeyrac, he's sweet and he gives her cough drops after difficult rehearsals, and he's Marius's best friend and roommate. “Look, you don't have to talk to anyone, we'll … we'll figure it out, or we just won't have sex, or we'll have phone sex? Or something? I love you, I don't want you doing anything you're uncomfortable with, and oh, fuck, I'm really sorry, the aftermath of embarrassing sex is possibly not the time to tell you I'm in love with you.”
Maybe it's the right time, though, because he brightens enough to turn over, and he's got the scrub-faced look of a five-year-old trying really hard to pretend he hasn't been crying and Cosette loves him more than most things, even if she's only known him since September. “Any time is the right time,” he says, so earnest and so sweet. “And I'm so sorry, I'm going to make this good for you, I'm going to make this great for you, I just … really love you.” He buries his face in his hands this time and she kisses his fingers until he puts them down and kisses her properly. “I want to be able to do this.”
“I don't care, Marius, I really don't. I've got a vibrator, and you're learning to use that with me, and that's fine, that's good.” She cuddles into him. He's still, ridiculously, wearing a shirt, and she wonders if maybe she stayed more covered up he wouldn't come so fast. “But if you want to be better, there's the internet or there's your friends, and I'm not sure how well I trust the internet.”
“I think Courfeyrac has lots of sex. And he's good at advice.” He actually squares his shoulders, and Cosette kisses his nose because she can't help herself. “I'll ask him soon. Like, in a few days? I think he's pretty busy with voice lessons right now, trying to figure something out for the spring showcase, and I really don't want to bother him even though I know he'd be fine being bothered. But in the meantime we can take your vibrator out? I don't want to feel like I'm leaving you unsatisfied, and I'd try something else but we know that works.”
“You aren't leaving me unsatisfied, it's not like I can't do orgasms for myself, it's just that doing them with someone else would be nice, when we're ready.” He turns pink, and Cosette feels the blood rush to her face in sympathy. “I don't want an orgasm just because you feel guilty for yours coming so soon,” she adds. Honesty is good, if they can't be honest they shouldn't be having sex, and that's advice from a nun.
Marius doesn't push, and there are so many reasons she loves him, and she can even say them out loud now if she wants to. It's a nice thought. “We can cuddle, though?” he asks, still unsure even though they've been dating since before winter break and it's a month into spring semester now.
In answer, Cosette wraps herself around him as well as she can, and she's relieved when the last of the embarrassment relaxes out of him, leaving them to chat and fall asleep, which really, is almost as good as sex, she imagines.
This morning, she walks into the middle of a battle, which isn't unusual, because Joly and Bossuet and Grantaire are all taking Stage Combat this semester. Bahorel is sitting on a desk laughing and clapping whenever any of them does something ridiculous, Feuilly and Combeferre seem to be engaged in a hot debate about parallel fifths (again), Musichetta is fixing Jehan's eyeliner, which is possibly yesterday's judging by the smudge, Éponine is in the back with her head tipped against the wall and her headphones on, and Marius is—talking to Courfeyrac.
They probably aren't talking about the sex thing. They're in a classroom, Marius has some idea of when not to talk about things and he wouldn't want anyone to overhear, so they probably aren't talking about the sex thing, but when they turn in tandem to smile and wave, she still ducks her head and hopes her embarrassment isn't obvious.
“I have it on good authority that Joly and Bossuet spent most of last night attempting to break into the Union so they could have a pool tournament after hours, I don't know how they have this much energy,” Enjolras says from behind her, and Cosette jumps a little because Enjolras seems like the sort of person who should march everywhere but he's actually quiet on his feet. He's also adorably fond of his friends, and when she spins to face him she catches the edge of him smiling.
“Whose authority?” she asks, curious.
“Facebook's. And Courfeyrac's, he was the one they called when campus security picked them up.”
“If you were them, would you call Musichetta?” He raises his eyebrows and then waves at Musichetta when she looks up at the sound of her name. Really, if Cosette were Musichetta she would have picked literally any other major, but it would have been a waste of an amazing coloratura.
“You, sir,” Joly says loudly, “are a blackguard and a scoundrel.”
Cosette turns around to check who he's talking to. It turns out to be, unsurprisingly, Grantaire, who has stolen Joly's glasses and is standing on a desk holding them away. Something confusing happens involving Grantaire's knees and someone's conducting baton (the only combat tool close to hand, thank goodness) and Enjolras getting involved, and Cosette feels like she should mediate, but that's when Marius waves her over, and going over to Marius is far less likely to end up with her in the line of people to be scolded by Combeferre after class.
Courfeyrac grins at her when she comes over, all open honesty, and kisses her hand. “I was hoping to get to talk to you, and it looks like Dr. Myriel is running late.”
She sits down at the desk next to Marius and kisses his cheek before she leans around him to talk to Courfeyrac. “Talk to me about what?”
“The showcase. You're stealing Marius to be your accompanist when he's been mine for years, so I'm proposing a duet, then he can be both of our accompanist.” He beams at her. “I like your voice, I think we could do something fun.”
“We aren't theater majors,” he says with an exaggerated sniff, like he doesn't have the complete works of Sondheim on his iPod. “We can brainstorm. It will be good. Fantine will help us, she's your voice teacher too, right?”
“Right.” And it's a little uncomfortable, because her dad and Fantine sat her down when they came to the university to admit that Fantine is actually her birth mother, but Fantine is sort of wonderful as well, and they like each other and they're coming to be more than just awkward not-quite-strangers to each other. They aren't telling most people about that, though.
“You and I should do lunch soon,” he adds, and she wonders if she's the only one who notices that it's a change of subject instead of a continuation. Though maybe everyone else would be concentrating on the fact that only Courfeyrac can get away with saying “do lunch” without sounding like an aging socialite. “Marius too. Since he's playing the piano and all.”
Marius jumps a little and turns pink. “I'll play pretty much whatever.”
He really will, it's sort of disgusting. He'll never be a concert pianist but he's the best accompanist Cosette has ever worked with. She holds his hand and smiles at him and waits for Enjolras to finish shouting something at Grantaire (possibly about how he isn't even a music major, he's doing philosophy and dance, why is he even taking music theory) before she speaks. “Absolutely, lunch sounds great. What about Wednesday after this class? You two could come over to my place, Dad has class and office hours in the middle of the day so we won't be interrupting him, and we'll cook something up.”
Courfeyrac grins at her. Marius is stiff with embarrassment in between them, but there isn't very much to be done about that. “That sounds great, it's been a while since I had food off-campus. Do you want me to bring anything?”
She shrugs. “Music, maybe? You have your lesson on Tuesdays, right? I'm on Thursdays so you'll be able to run the idea by her first.”
Dr. Myriel chooses that moment to come in, with his bag of scores to analyze, and instantly everyone falls silent, Grantaire hopping off his desk to take a seat in the back, the batons-cum-rapiers stowed back in bags, conversations and arguments instantly stifling. The only other person Cosette knows who can instantly quiet a room like Dr. Myriel is her dad, which makes sense, since Myriel was the one who encouraged him into graduate programs and was his unofficial mentor even though they have different disciplines.
He smiles around at all of them like they're perfect angels instead of brats, and on reflection, Cosette thinks that's probably how he's managed to wrangle the egos of university music students for so long. “Well, then, students, shall we begin?”
When she comes out of the bathroom, Marius has already started in on a batch of omelets, his one culinary number (but it's a delicious culinary number), and Courfeyrac is chopping vegetables. “Anything I can do to help?” she asks.
“Set the table?” says Marius, and then makes a face. “Is it weird to ask you to set the table? I mean, it's your house. You don't have to set the table if you don't want to.”
Cosette laughs and interrupts his egg-mixing long enough to give him a kiss. “I'll set the table, it isn't too far away so I'll still be able to chat with you both.”
She has her hands full of plates before Courfeyrac speaks. “So, boundaries,” he says, and Cosette only stays relaxed because she has to think very hard about not dropping anything. “You can tell me to stop talking any time you want, or to butt out, or anything. This isn't my relationship, and this is a delicate subject, and I really want you both to feel comfortable. Just because you asked my advice doesn't mean I'm entitled to know everything or anything.”
Cosette knows that sometimes when Courfeyrac says these things he gets teased that he must have asked Combeferre for advice on what to say (most of their friends do, it isn't as though he's completely singled out, but it happens a little more because he's the one who seems to do the widest switches from silly to entirely serious in under a second), but she knows better. He might have spent the last two days thinking of how to say it, but these are definitely his words, because she doesn't think Combeferre's words in Courfeyrac's mouth would make Marius relax instantly like these ones do. Marius is a little scared of Combeferre. “Obviously we're willing to tell you some things,” she says, grabbing forks out of the cutlery drawer.
“And Marius did tell me some, I should say that at the beginning too. He's coming too fast? And then he has trouble getting you off without a vibrator?”
Cosette bites her lip. “That makes it sound like it's all him and it isn't. Because I know how to get myself off, and I can obviously help with him, but I don't really know how to help him get me off because the angles are all different and … I don't care if he never gets me off, but he wants to, and I'd like him to if he wants to.”
The sound of the knife chopping onions pauses, and Cosette pauses in the kitchen door, on her way to the dining room to start setting things on the table, and turns around to face him. Much as she'd like to have this whole conversation while her hands are busy and she has an excuse to be facing away from him, she really can't. “I can give you verbal advice, if that's what you're looking for,” he says after a contemplative pause. “Like, Marius mentioned cock rings and that's absolutely an option, but it makes it hard to have spontaneous encounters unless you want to stash them everywhere.”
“Where else do you think we'd be having sex?” Marius asks, sounding scandalized, at the same time Cosette bites her lip and then says “That's a good point.” They take a moment and stare at each other, and Cosette laughs nervously before going on, since Marius seems to have frozen with all the possibilities she's been considering in the back of her head for weeks. “Verbal advice is good. It's hard to find sources to trust on the internet.”
“I'm not, like, Dr. Love or anything, but I've had my fair share of sex, so I'll hopefully be able to help some, anyway.”
Cosette goes to the dining room when Marius starts speaking, taking a second to wipe her sweaty palms on her sweater. “What other kinds of advice would there be, if not verbal?”
“I know some more reputable places on the internet, and some porn sites and companies that aren't weird or exploitative or really unrealistic, so you could watch people, I'll bet there are some pretty good videos on how to do sex out there.” She hears Courfeyrac take a deep breath, and stops on her way back into the kitchen to get glasses and a pitcher of orange juice, which is what she's got around that tastes good with omelets. “Cosette, would you mind coming in here again?”
She comes in, because that sounds ominous. “I was just on my way back anyway.” She doesn't go for the cabinet with the glasses in it, because Courfeyrac is facing both of them and looking unwontedly serious, and he is doing them a massive favor. “Are you going to advise us to go to a sex therapist or something? Because I really can't imagine my dad's reaction to seeing that on the health insurance billing.”
Courfeyrac's mouth twitches, because he's got a history minor and he took a class with her father so he knows exactly why that would be both funny and horrifying. He goes serious again afterward, though, and that says a lot. “Reminder again that you can set whatever boundaries you want to set, and I am not going to question them, and I am not going to get offended no matter what you say, but I'm sort of advising sex therapy. I could do it. Be in the room with you guys, give you advice, be hands-on as much or as little as you want. If you're worried about my consent, you definitely have it fully and enthusiastically or I wouldn't have brought it up, and you two can talk it over with or without me here.”
“Marius?” says Cosette, because she can't begin to parse her reaction to that.
Marius is frowning thoughtfully, and she'd thought he would have been saying no immediately with a blush and a duck of his head, and it either say a lot about how much he trusts Courfeyrac or about how desperate he is to make their sex life better that he's considering it at all. “I don't know,” he finally says. “What kind of thing could you do like that that you couldn't do just giving us advice?”
“I'd have a little better idea about what exactly the problems are, and how to fix them, and I'd be able to give advice in the moment. But seriously, Combeferre and Enjolras have told me that my boundaries aren't always the same as other people's, and I know that just because I'm fine and happy watching you guys having sex and giving advice that doesn't mean that you're comfortable with it, and this is all about making sex a positive experience for you.” He looks between them. “Maybe talk about this? I'll finish setting the table, Cosette, your glasses are up there, right?”
“We can talk with you here, if we're thinking about having sex while you're here, and it's silly to have you set the table when you'll need to ask where things are every two seconds,” Cosette says, surprising herself with her own firmness, and then belatedly looks at Marius. “Is this something you even want to consider? I don't want you to be uncomfortable or embarrassed, and obviously I don't want to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, but I'm still figuring out whether I would be or not. Do you have any ideas?”
Marius turns to the stove and pours the eggs into the warmed pan, taking some of Courfeyrac's chopped onion and pepper to put in as well. The kitchen smells immediately and deliciously of cooking eggs, and the sizzling keeps it from being dead silent while Cosette carefully takes glasses out of the cabinet and a pitcher out of another, pouring the remainder of a carton of orange juice into it. “It could either be really good or really embarrassing,” he finally says. “Or both, I guess. I trust you, that's a big piece of it. I know you won't, I don't know, judge me if I do something wrong or anything.”
“Absolutely not,” says Courfeyrac, who still has garlic to chop but isn't doing it. “Nobody would be judging anybody else, I hope.”
“You said you'd be as hands-on or hands-off as we wanted,” Cosette says. “What do you mean by that?”
“I'm not a licensed sex therapist or anything, but it could be anything from me sitting in the room and occasionally giving you advice, to guiding you around, or, okay.” He takes a deep breath. “I could demonstrate, with you guys, but you'd both have to be really, really comfortable with that for me to be okay with it. Again, consider my consent a given.”
“Like a sort of … instructional threesome?” Marius says, wrinkling his nose in thought as he pokes at the omelet, and Cosette has to bite down on a hysterical giggle.
“If that's what you want.”
“That's above and beyond the call of duty,” Cosette says, gathering up the glasses, and shakes her head when he turns to her with a worried frown. “I'm not saying that you're being pushy, or that it's a bad idea, or that even right at this moment in time I don't want to, but I am saying that you're a great friend, and you're being wonderful about our boundaries, but I really can't take your consent as a given with everything you're offering us.”
“Yes, that!” says Marius, waving his wooden spoon and getting egg on the floor. She stifles her smile. “I should have thought to say that, thank you, Cosette. Courfeyrac, you're my best friend and I love you and I don't want you to feel like you have to do anything just because Cosette and I have trouble with sex.”
Courfeyrac smiles. “I figured my limits out last night, sat down with a piece of paper in the dorm and made sure I knew exactly how far I would go, and in the end, I figured—it's you two. You're not going to ask me for anything I wouldn't give without a second thought. There aren't many people I can say that about, much as I love all my friends.” He fidgets for a second, his hands twisting together before he puts them back down at his sides, and Cosette recognizes the signs of someone who's used to having to keep his stage fright from actually showing up on stage. “Also, reminder that just because this is the aspect of things we're talking about right now, it doesn't suddenly mean it's the only option. Offering to just talk to you or give you resources wasn't just a build-up to watching you have sex, they're real options and you can ask for them at any time.”
Cosette goes back to the dining room, glasses in one hand and pitcher in the other, a little overburdened but managing not to spill. It's easier to think without both of them in the room with her, and she does need to think. Does she want to have sex with Courfeyrac? Because sex in the same room as Courfeyrac is the same as sex with Courfeyrac, to some extent, in ways that wouldn't be true if they did end up going to a professional sex therapist. And she's even the less complicated part of the equation, because the other part is Marius and Courfeyrac, and Courfeyrac is Marius's best friend, his only one for a while, and would it make things strange?
“You could get the cream cheese out of the fridge,” Marius is saying in the kitchen, in the slightly-too-high voice he uses when he's overwhelmed and needs a break to think, the same one he used when she asked, in November, if all the coffee they kept having and practice they kept doing together meant he'd like to be her boyfriend.
“Absolutely,” says Courfeyrac, and of course he knows that tone too, because he doesn't ask any more questions about sex. “Cheese drawer?”
“Cream cheese isn't cheese,” Cosette calls, finding clean napkins from the stack in the drawer of the side table. “The place where the butter goes.”
The rest of lunch prep goes quickly and quieter. Marius talks, too quickly and still too high, about classes and what they're all using for the score analysis project for Myriel. Cosette drifts in between the kitchen and the dining room, even though after the fourth trip she's just adjusting the angles of their knives next to their plates and refolding their napkins and wondering if the way she suddenly is getting distracted by Courfeyrac's mouth means that she should say yes or no. Courfeyrac answers Marius's questions and laughs at his awkward jokes and is a great kitchen assistant, but he watches them with a worried wrinkle on his forehead. Cosette thinks she's probably watching him the same way.
Lunch is almost on the table when Courfeyrac finally bursts out into speech in the middle of Cosette trying to remember the name of the song Marius is humming. “You two really should have a chance to discuss this in private.”
Cosette squeezes his shoulder. “It's really okay. And shouldn't we make the decision as individuals? We aren't the same person, our boundaries won't be in the same places, so we shouldn't have to set limits as one unit.”
“Okay. Right.” He frowns. “Limit for me is probably having sex with one of you but not the other, that would feel really weird for me even if I have heard Marius masturbating.”
“Isn't nice, isn't it?” says Cosette, and grins at Marius's blush, because he's embarrassed but he's smiling, and that makes things instantly less awkward. “But yes, of course, we'll take that into account,” she adds.
“Lunch is served,” says Marius, and his voice has leveled out, like maybe he's made a decision. She'll be interested to see what it is.
It's comfortable, sitting all three of them around the table. Sometimes Marius comes for dinner, but her dad is always there to look disapproving. And sometimes Fantine comes for dinner, but that's terribly, awfully, heart-wrenchingly awkward in ways voice lessons aren't. Having just Marius and Courfeyrac is relaxing and lovely, even with the elephant in the room.
“Okay,” Courfeyrac says after they've all made the requisite appreciative noises over the omelets. “I don't want you two to feel like I'm pressuring you to make a decision faster than you want, but you seem to not want a lot of time to think. Plus, I'm driving myself up a wall here.”
Cosette takes one more minute to think it carefully through, about how it would feel to watch Courfeyrac touching Marius, or Marius watching Courfeyrac touching her. Or, for that matter, to be touched by him. Courfeyrac touches everyone, anyone who's in his vicinity has a hand on their shoulder, their leg, an ankle twisted around theirs, but that's not sex. She thinks he'd be good at sex. Well, he probably is, or he wouldn't be offering to help with it. “I'm willing to have sex with you there, and touching us and showing us what to do,” she says, and she's only completely sure it's true once the words are out of her mouth. “Willing and comfortable, I should say.”
Marius takes a few more bites of his omelet, but he's looking between them, wide-eyed, and she wonders if he's imagining how it would be, how he thinks it would be. Is he imagining Courfeyrac touching her, positioning her? Or Courfeyrac's hand on his back, teaching him the right angle to get inside her? Or the weight of someone's eyes on them while they kiss? “I'll do it,” he finally says, voice wrecked like he's been kissing her for half an hour.
Courfeyrac, thankfully, takes them at their word, and he beams between them. “Great, shall we set up a time for this weekend, then? Cosette and I have chamber choir tonight, and I'm having dinner with Combeferre and Enjolras tomorrow, but Friday or Saturday could work.”
Cosette relaxes and smiles across the table at Marius, and she's glad when he smiles back, not a hint of reservation in his face.
“The Junior Showcase is in five weeks, and one of those weeks is spring break,” Fantine says reprovingly when Cosette has dropped her bag on the floor and taken a few deep breaths to fill her lungs after sprinting the last staircase up to Fantine's office.
“Yes, I know, I definitely know, but I was being informed about the trials and tribulations of the man who invented the saxophone and apparently Joly and Bossuet are going to write a novel about it? There's possibly time travel involved, they talk really fast. Did Courfeyrac talk to you?”
Fantine smiles, lateness forgiven. Cosette is very glad that Fantine is her adviser instead of Dr. Lamarque, who is amazing but terrifying. He and Enjolras get along like a house on fire. Possibly a literal one. Not being under his care is worth a little awkwardness due to the family connection. “Courfeyrac did, and I think it's a wonderful idea even if it means the two of you are going to have to work very hard to get up to snuff. Since you're new to the program, it's important that you network, both with the alumni and donors at the showcase and with your fellow students. Between Courfeyrac and Marius, it will make your showcase and your recital next year both much easier.”
“Do you have any ideas for a song, then? I was wondering if we should do Tosca—”
“No, not that, both of your voices are much too light for that.” Fantine pulls out her stack of scores. “Mozart, definitely, people are so afraid his operas are overdone these days that you hardly hear him at all. My vote, from what I've been looking at since Courfeyrac talked to me, is going to be for the Papgeno-Papagena duet. It's difficult, and fast, but it's short and it fits well in both of your ranges and I've been meaning to work with you on quicker songs anyway.”
“That sounds like it could be fun. Have you got a piano reduction for Marius? I mean, obviously I'll need to talk to Courfeyrac about it.” She and Courfeyrac are going to have sex, she realizes abruptly. In two days. If it goes wrong (she doesn't think it will, she thinks his friendship with Marius will keep things from being awful in ways that wouldn't be true if it were just her), it's going to be awkward to sing duets with him. “But I think he likes Mozart.”
Fantine smiles and hands the score over. “I know he likes Mozart. And his German is good. How's yours?”
“Passable. My Italian is better.”
“Then we'll work on that first. After,” Fantine says, standing up and going over to the piano, giving her the expectant look of voice teachers everywhere, “we do some warm-ups. Start with breathing.”
Cosette does, and lets herself forget about any potential awkwardness with Courfeyrac for the moment.
Cosette goes to sit at the piano. She's not very good, not with patchy lessons from growing up moving from university town to university town, but all music majors are required to have at least some proficiency, so she isn't terrible either. And more than that, despite how she stumbles over big chord changes and despairs when there are more than three flats or sharps in the key signature, she finds it relaxing, and she could use some relaxing tonight.
Marius and Courfeyrac arrive together in a tumble of laughter and dramatic singing. She can hear them coming up the path, and she leaves off with her attempts at Satie and meets them at the door before they can knock. They've both got backpacks slung over their shoulders, a change of clothes for tomorrow, and Courfeyrac is mid-gesture when she opens the door. Marius is holding a bouquet of flowers.
“Hi,” she says after a too-long moment of silence, rushing the syllable out. “Come in. Did you eat?”
“We ate,” Marius says, smiling at her and giving her a kiss as he crosses the threshold. “I brought you flowers.”
“Thank you.” She takes them from him and leads them to the kitchen, where there aren't really vases but there are old jam jars, which do just as well for flowers. “I ate too. Does that mean we're having sex now?”
She looks at Courfeyrac, because Courfeyrac seems to know what he's doing, and he's watching with a little frown, less upset and more thoughtful. “Do you want to have sex right now?” he asks.
It feels a bit like a trick question. “Not in a physical sense, no,” she finally says, because both of them deserve better than her consent being that they scheduled the sex and she doesn't want to back out.
“Your dad's out pretty much all night on Saturdays, though, right?” says Marius, and she nods. “Then we can watch a movie or something, get comfortable.”
That is both more sensible and more of a relief than she was expecting, so she nods. “We can go upstairs? That way when we get in the mood we won't have far to go. Plus my laptop is up there, which has all my movies on it.”
“Then upstairs we go,” says Courfeyrac, smiling when she leaves the flowers on the kitchen counter and letting her lead the way up, though the stairs are clearly visible from the front hall and he could have found his way there on his own. He does make himself comfortable on her bed when they get in, though, dropping his bag next to it and sprawling across the mattress, a queen-sized from the last resident. Her father hates sleeping on too-big beds, so even though she offered to let him have it she ended up with it in her room, big enough that it feels like it's its own little world. Big enough for three people, definitely. “This okay?” he asks when Marius puts his bag down too and lingers with his face tucked against Cosette's shoulder, tactile as always. “I don't want to touch anyone more than they want to be touched.”
“I'm perfectly fine with cuddling during movie nights,” Cosette says firmly, and leads Marius to her bed. “What do you want to watch?”
“Something short,” Marius blurts, and looks like he wants the floor to swallow him right up.
“Something with music?” Courfeyrac offers.
“You are a cliché,” she tells him, and climbs on the bed, grabbing her laptop from on top of the pillows where she left it earlier, listening to every version of the Papageno-Papagena duet she could find on YouTube. “And I should talk to you before you leave about Fantine's idea for our duet, I like it, but this probably isn't the time.” She eyes her laptop. “Dr. Horrible? Evening Primrose?”
“Much as I like Sondheim, horror pieces about getting turned into mannequins are probably not going to get us in the mood,” says Courfeyrac. “And she e-mailed me, I am always in favor of Mozart, we should meet up and run through it soon.”
“Mannequins?” Marius asks, alarmed, and then frowns. “Are supervillains going to get us in the mood either?”
“Someone needs to write a happy, short musical,” Cosette says, considering. “It's a problem.”
“There should be a porn musical,” Courfeyrac says in much the same tone, and then snorts when she and Marius both give him scandalized looks. “I mean, there probably is, but a good one. It would get us in the mood and give us something catchy to sing along with.” He takes a deep breath and sings, with impressive tone and a melody that sounds vaguely familiar, “Yeah, that's it, baby, suck it!”
Marius collapses laughing and Cosette sings back, managing a recitative “Oh my God, it's so big, oh baby, I want it so bad” before she's laughing too, the three of them relaxing into a pile of limbs and warmth.
“We should commission Combeferre,” Courfeyrac says, on the edge of a laugh himself. “I'm sure he'd be more than willing to drop his great masterpiece in order to make billions in the musical porn industry.”
“There's a wealth of innuendo to be had with music,” Marius muses thoughtfully, because he's every bit as good as wordplay as any of their friends, just quieter with it, and Courfeyrac knows it, because he's watching just as expectantly as she is. “For instance, I could say Courfeyrac is over here tonight to correct my fingering.”
Cosette giggles, high-pitched, and rolls far enough to bury her face in the pillows, the edge of her laptop digging painfully into her side. “We're really working our way toward a crescendo,” she says, when she can raise her head.
“We certainly know how to conduct ourselves.” That's Courfeyrac, and he sounds warm and so, so sure when he says “Can I see the two of you kiss?”
She's practically on top of Marius, so it's easy to shift against him until she can catch his mouth with hers, and they're good at kissing. She knows how to move her mouth against his mouth, how it feels when they catch each other off-center and his breath shudders out against her cheek, and the gentle beat of his pulse against her fingertips. He knows how to wrap her up so she feels safe and secure, how to nudge her mouth open.
By the time they pull apart, naturally, without Courfeyrac telling them to or saying anything at all, Cosette has a suspicion that they aren't going to need to watch a movie to relax at all. Marius is already glassy-eyed, and she wants to squirm, and normally one kiss isn't enough to do that, but she looks over Marius to meet Courfeyrac's eyes, and he's the difference in it all, smiling like watching them kiss is the best thing he's seen all week. “Well?” she asks, and Marius startles slightly, like he forgot Courfeyrac was even there, although Courfeyrac's hand is resting easily on Marius's hip.
“It's good, you're good, you obviously listen to each other and teach each other, and that's great, because it means it's going to be easier to apply to sex.” His smile shrinks a little, and it instantly makes Cosette feel awful, even though he doesn't look upset, or sad, or anything, just serious. “I'm going to remind you again that you can tell me to stop touching you, or talking, or just to leave the room, any time you want.”
Marius turns over after one last brief smile at Cosette, and she knows he can sound reassuring, she always calls Marius on her bad nights, but it's still a bit of a surprise when he says “You're great, Courfeyrac,” steady and like he says it often, when Courfeyrac needs it.
“Should we keep kissing?” she asks after a moment, reaching across Marius to rest her fingers on Courfeyrac's shoulder.
“You should do whatever you want to do.” He reaches too, and suddenly all three of them are sort of hugging, Marius in the middle with Cosette spooned up against him, Courfeyrac facing them both, their hands and arms and feet tangled up, Cosette's laptop still being awkwardly crushed against her.
Cosette moves the laptop first, and makes sure it's settled gently on the ground instead of just dropped there, and by the time she's back, Marius is facing her again, and it's easy to kiss him. This time, she puts her arms around his neck and holds him close, wiggles until one of his legs is between hers, which is a dangerous game but worth it for now. He's breathing hard in between kisses, one hand fisted tight in the fabric of her shirt and the other stroking her hair. He's hardening against her thigh, too, and Cosette smiles against his mouth, gives him a gentle nip.
They can kiss for hours, have kissed for hours even if a few times it's ended with Marius coming, or even with Cosette gasping against her own hand. This time, she feels senselessly urgent, fumbling with the buttons of Marius's shirt, her own riding up until just a little bit of skin is touching. “Can I take your shirt off?” she asks, and has to ask it again because she was mumbling into his mouth and he couldn't hear.
“Sure, right,” he says, pulling far enough away to shrug it off himself, and she takes the opportunity to pull her own shirt off.
“I like your bra,” Courfeyrac says, less like it's sex talk and more like a genuine compliment.
Cosette smiles down at her chest and then up at him. “Musichetta made me get a bra fitting for my birthday and bought this one for me afterward, isn't it great? The panties match.”
“I'll look forward to seeing them.”
“They're great,” says Marius, with breathless reverence, and kisses her again, and she loves kissing skin-against-skin, whether it goes farther or not. There's something about it, the intimacy or the warmth (maybe she'll hate it in the summer, when they'll stick together, instead of now in the winter under her blankets, but she doesn't think she will) or something indefinable, that makes it an end in and of itself, as far as she's concerned.
“You're great,” she replies when he pulls away, and kisses his neck because it's there, because there's a little scar she always comes back to right above his collarbone.
Marius fumbles with her bra clasp, but she thinks that's more because he isn't bothering to look than because he's got stage fright at all. When she looks to Courfeyrac, he's smiling at them, looking like it's just dinner on campus or rehearsal or Theory Five. “No commentary so far,” he says when he catches her looking. “I figure everyone does foreplay their own way. What do you like? Hands? Mouths? Breasts?”
Cosette shrugs her bra free while she answers, smiling half-apologetically at Courfeyrac, who's doing an impressively good job of maintaining eye contact. “My breasts aren't actually that sensitive. We've tried.” Until she went to class chafing under the lace of her bra with hickeys all over her, but she isn't going to say that right now.
He smiles, unconcerned with it. “Not everyone's are. You don't mind being touched there, right? I want to know where to keep my hands off.”
“Nowhere is particularly off-limits for me,” she says, considering it. “My sides are a little ticklish, and the soles of my feet, and I kick when tickled. Marius?”
“Well, I mean, not my penis, or I'll come,” he says, shame-faced, and she loves that he still calls it his penis in bed, she has no idea why it seems faintly ridiculous and Marius all over, but it does. “But both of you have touched me pretty much everywhere else and I'm fine with that.” He twists around to look at Courfeyrac. “You should answer too. You might be here to give advice, but this is a sexual encounter between all three of us and I don't want to do anything you don't want.”
Courfeyrac's grin is inexpressibly fond, and Cosette surprises herself with her desire to kiss him. “Nothing with the feet, should it come up, and don't pull too hard on the hair.”
“So noted,” says Cosette, and goes back to kissing her boyfriend. She maneuvers him on top of her after a few minutes, and she wriggles around until she can get to the fastening on her pants and start shimmying them off without dislodging him. It makes him gasp and clutch her shoulder, but she doesn't mind that. She's surprised, a second later, to feel a gentle touch on her knee, not Marius's hand, and when she looks up, Courfeyrac has his eyebrows raised in query. She nods, mostly to see what he intends, and he helps her with her pants, getting them down much more easily than she would have on her own. Marius gasps and rocks against her when he notices what's happening, but he doesn't come.
“What do you want to try?” Marius asks into her mouth between kisses, smiling and more comfortable than she would have expected, but she forgets sometimes that Courfeyrac and she are the only people who don't really count as “in public” to Marius, much as he adores the rest of Theory Five.
“Maybe try getting her off first?” Courfeyrac says quietly, and they pull apart to look at him. “Since that seems to be a lot of the problem. Nothing complicated. Fingering?”
“The angle is hard to get right,” Cosette says, pushing at Marius's shoulders until he gives her more space to breathe.
“Okay, suggestion?” Courfeyrac smiles when they both nod. “Can I move you around a little?”
Marius rolls off Cosette, and she misses the warmth, and feels a little embarrassed when Courfeyrac's eyes drop to her body. She's still wearing her underpants, but they're just a little scrap of cream lace standing out against her skin, and she knows she looks good but she was nervous the first time Marius saw her naked, too. “Move us if you like,” she says.
“Marius, sit up?” Marius does, and Courfeyrac shoves him until he's sitting against the wall, legs splayed. He's still wearing his pants, but apparently they're concentrating on Cosette first. “Cosette, take your underpants off? It will be easier now than later, I think.”
Cosette takes them off, feeling curiously less naked, and she can already see how this fits, just how it will work, and she's surprised she never thought of it before. She's used to one angle, from masturbating, and this way Marius will be able to do it how she's used to it, until they're figure out new things together. She doesn't wait for Courfeyrac to gesture her over to settle herself between Marius's legs, her back pressed against his chest. His hand comes down to clutch at her thigh and they breathe there for a second.
Like this, she feels cradled and safe and exposed all at once, with Courfeyrac crouching next to them, concentrating and still, somehow, fully dressed. “Would you mind taking something off?” she asks him without really meaning too, and he looks up to meet her eyes, a little startled. “It's a little weird being naked and him half naked and you still wearing everything. Are you comfortable with that?”
“No shoes, no shirt, no problem,” he says agreeably, and has his shirt off in under five seconds. “I do operas, I change in front of people all the time. And also I have had sexual congress before.” Cosette giggles, and he smiles at her. “Do you want to teach him what to do? Show him first, or guide his hands, whatever works for you.”
Cosette takes Marius's hand and leans more of her weight into him, letting him move his other arm until he's idly cupping her breast as well, teasing at the nipple. Courfeyrac watches them sharp-eyed, his head tilted a little, and she takes a moment to place it as the same expression he uses in Theory Five when he's trying to decide the answer to an interesting question. “Like this,” she says, guiding him between her legs, rubbing two of her own fingers against her clit for a second before encouraging him to do the same.
“You're wet,” he says, and it would sound like stupid porn dialogue only he sounds so triumphant, and she bites her lip and Courfeyrac's mouth twitches because neither of them wants to laugh at him.
“Yes, come on, I want to come sometime, just start nice and easy, stay right there, don't press too hard or anything yet, don't try to put anything in me yet, we'll just do it like—a little higher? Yes, there.”
“This is great,” Courfeyrac says, resting his hand on Cosette's ankle like he knows it's a little easier with contact. “Keep communicating, that's the most important thing about helping each other with this.”
“Touching me is good,” she tells him with a smile, and then gasps when Marius fumbles and manages something good by accident. “Makes it feel less impersonal.”
“I can touch. Marius?”
“I never mind when you touch me,” Marius says, and when she presses on his hand he replicates his fumble, and then does it again, and with a little direction, it turns out Marius is really good with his fingers, which shouldn't be a shock given he's a pianist.
“You could try one inside me if you can get the angle right,” she tells him, tipping her head back against his shoulder, and Courfeyrac's hand tightens on her leg for a moment before he goes back to stroking it.
Marius has it now, she thinks. It could be the change in angle, it could be Courfeyrac here to meet his eyes over her shoulder and nod, honestly pleased to be here watching them have sex (it's hard to see, his knee is in the way and he's still wearing his jeans, but she thinks he's possibly really pleased to be watching them have sex, and that's a comforting thought too), it could just be that they've messed it up enough times that they're improving. No matter the reason, he's got it, he moves her until he can reach more easily and slides a finger inside her, makes sure he's touching her clit while he does. “Like that?”
“Yes, that's great, a little further in if you can? And forward—no, the other way—there.” She sighs and closes her eyes, and it's so strange, feeling three hands on her instead of two when she can't see why anymore. Courfeyrac is still touching her leg, gently stroking like he's gentling her, and she wonders if he's touching Marius too. “This is sex for you too,” she remembers to say, opening her eyes again. “Let us know if there's anything we can do for you.”
His smile is fond and warm. “Believe me, watching him get you off is not a hardship. Can he try two? It looks like you want more.”
Something clicks. It's not like Courfeyrac said it as though it was cheesy porn dialogue or anything, so it shouldn't be so hot, that simple sentence. She wasn't thinking about it before, but now she is, God, and Marius, usually so hesitant, doesn't check verbally after she squeezes his thigh tight, just puts another finger inside her, drops his other hand from her breast so they can both work between her legs, and Cosette's leg twitches in Courfeyrac's grip, she's overwhelmed and suddenly hurtling towards orgasm, and she thinks she's babbling, telling him he's doing great, because Courfeyrac said communication is good.
And Courfeyrac is talking too, a quiet “Marius, try kissing her neck” that results in a sloppy kiss, more Mariius tasting the salt of her sweat than trying to seduce her. He likes it, though, moaning into her skin.
“I'm going to make you come,” he says, wondering and turned on and so happy, and just like that, Cosette goes over, clenching on his fingers inside her, all of her tensing and then relaxing, back arching against his chest. Marius makes a punched-out sound, and his hips move against her.
“Hey, don't come yet,” Courfeyrac is suddenly saying, and she doesn't have his hand on her anymore because he's leaning over her to put his hands on Marius's shoulders, her breasts pressing up against his skin. “Marius, come on, I have faith in your refractory period but not that much, if you don't want to fuck her tonight that's fine, non-penetrative sex is a completely valid choice, but make the choice.”
“Cosette?” Marius asks.
She feels a little dazed and a lot pleased, but the orgasm hasn't left her too lazy, so she blinks her eyes open and twists her head until she can meet his eyes at an uncomfortable angle, catching Courfeyrac by the arm before he can back off. “I'm great, and not too tired or sensitive. I'd like to try, if you'd like to.”
“Then I definitely do,” he says.
“Where do you keep your condoms?” Courfeyrac asks, backing off and searching around like he'll find them in the folds of her sheets. “The two of you should find a more comfortable position. Have you tried multiple positions? Maybe that's part of your problem.”
“We didn't want to do anything too complicated,” Marius says apologetically while she gently disengages herself from him, empty and keyed up, ready to try the next step. “And condoms are under the bed on your side of it, do you mind?”
“Not at all,” says Courfeyrac, disappearing to lean over the bed (there's a tattoo on his back, right between his shoulder blades, that she didn't notice before, and Cosette decides she likes that), his voice muffled a little when he keeps talking. “Other positions aren't too complicated, actually, it's not like we're born knowing missionary position is a thing. How do you two feel about Cosette on top? If she's in charge, she can get off if it seems like you're about to come.”
“I'd like that,” she says, smiling over at Marius, whose mind looks a little blown at the prospect. “Let's get your pants and your briefs off, and then—flat on his back, Courfeyrac? Should he bend his legs or have his head on a pillow or anything?”
Courfeyrac comes back up with two condoms in hand, keeping hold of both of them while Marius struggles his way out of his pants and briefs. He's hard and he blushes a little when he glances over at Courfeyrac, and all of them pause, but he just smiles a second later and waits for Courfeyrac's answer, which doesn't take long to come. “Yes to a pillow, probably. The legs depend on whether you might want something to lean back against at any point, but you can figure that out as you go, and depending on how you position yourself it won't be too hard to figure out.”
“Right,” says Marius, putting himself in between them again, his head on her pillow and his legs flat, and then he turns to the side to frown thoughtfully at Courfeyrac. “There's you, too.”
Courfeyrac frowns right back. “There's me what?”
“This is sex for you too,” he says, firm, and Cosette stays to the side because this is important. “I know you're helping us, but you're hard, and I don't want anything uncomfortable to happen for you but if you want to come I want you to come, I'll help you whatever way I can, if you want, or—Cosette?”
“I'd help as well,” she assures them, resting her hand on Marius's stomach while she waits to climb over him.
Courfeyrac looks like he's biting down on about six things, probably about not making them uncomfortable and their monogamy or lack thereof, but then he huffs out a laugh. “You two do this, for now. I may masturbate, if you don't mind.”
“Be my guest,” Cosette says, laughing because she can't help it, and taps Marius's stomach. “Put the condom on, Marius, would you?” She looks up at Courfeyrac. “Unless you want to do it?”
He shrugs. “I'm holding them. Marius?” Marius nods, tilting his head to watch, suddenly serious, and Courfeyrac opens up the first packet, slides it on Marius in an efficient and well-practiced motion before tossing the trash off to the side. He keeps the other in his hand, smiling when he catches them both looking. “For safety's sake, I get tested regularly but being sure is good, especially considering I'm not part of the relationship.”
Cosette smiles at him and climbs over Marius, straddling his hips and holding herself up. He's biting his lip now, looking up at her, nervous, because this is where it goes wrong. “Okay?” she asks quietly, though Courfeyrac is close enough to hear them at volume.
“This is really hot,” he says, a little despairing. “Courfeyrac?”
Courfeyrac is at his side in an instant, his hand in Marius's hair, stroking it back away from his face, and he puts a hand on Cosette's knee as well. “It's absolutely hot, she's amazingly beautiful, we have known this since the first week of Theory Five when you actually thought the string ensemble practicing next door was the soundtrack in your head when she came in.” He grins up at Cosette, who hasn't heard this story before and is stupidly charmed by it. “But think about this, Marius: if you don't come, you get to do it for longer.”
Marius's eyes roll back in his head a little and Cosette thinks that's probably as good a pep talk as any of them is going to manage, so she does her best to line herself up right when she can't really see what she's doing without twisting awkwardly and when Marius seems to be in no state to help. A few seconds later, she's surprised by Courfeyrac's hand sliding up her thigh to her ass, gently guiding her until she can sink down on top of Marius, taking him easier than she has before, still relaxed from her orgasm.
When she's settled, she stays there, Marius arching and making a pained noise, but he doesn't come, even though his hands flex and clench into fists and he closes his eyes and turns his head like if he looks at her he'll go over the edge. Courfeyrac is right there, his hands on Marius, smiling at Cosette as he speaks. “Great, that's great—Cosette, can you wait a minute? Let everyone get used to it?”
“Absolutely. Marius, are you okay?”
“Great,” he says, his voice high, and he's trembling with the need to move, but he settles a little when a second passes and she does her very best not to move, and a little more when Courfeyrac strokes his hair again. Courfeyrac is breathing a little hard, but he's still steady, an anchor, and Cosette is so grateful for him she doesn't think she'll ever be able to say it.
“Let us know when you're ready,” says Cosette, resting her hands on his chest. His heart is pounding, and his breathing is still shaky, but as the seconds pass it seems to be getting easier. “I'm not going anywhere. Yet.” The stretch isn't uncomfortable, but holding herself tense is.
“Marius,” says Courfeyrac, “don't focus on not coming.” Marius opens his eyes long enough to give him a horrified look and squeezes them shut again. “Seriously, that just means you're still thinking about it. And don't think of unappealing things either, it's a whole don't-think-about-elephants kind of thing. Think about making this good for Cosette. You love Cosette.”
It's still new hearing it out of Marius's mouth. Hearing it out of Courfeyrac's like it's some kind of incontrovertible fact makes her gasp and shift, and Marius shivers, looking up at her again. “I do,” he says, and he sounds determined. “You can move if you like, Cosette. It's not … I don't think it's going to be long, but it won't be immediate?”
Cosette interrupts before his blush can grow or he can start apologizing. “I don't need marathon sex, we can work up to that. Whatever makes you comfortable.” She looks over at Courfeyrac. “You too. Did you want to masturbate, or do you want to wait till he's done and let us help you?”
Courfeyrac grins, bright and sudden, and he seems to relax, though she didn't notice him being tense in the first place. “I'll try some masturbation, and if he comes before I do, we'll see. I can see where it would be kind of awkward having me getting off in your bed while you two are all blissfully post-coital.”
“Nobody is post-coital until everyone who wants an orgasm has had one,” Cosette says firmly, and starts moving, slowly, little rocks of her hips.
Marius's hands fly up, and she catches one and Courfeyrac the other, even while he's in the middle of changing positions, sitting up next to Marius, fumbling the second condom packet open one-handed and rolling it easily on. Cosette concentrates on moving, on figuring out how to ride Marius without expecting the muscles in her thighs to be a wreck in the morning. She feels a little silly, bouncing around, but he likes it, she can tell he does, and he isn't coming yet, though he's moving constantly, restlessly, biting down on his lip and gasping in between.
“Find a good angle for yourself, Cosette,” Courfeyrac says, his voice a little strained now that he has his hand around himself, slowly pumping his fist. “I can pretty much guarantee that any angle is going to feel good to him right now.”
Cosette feels a little silly wiggling around, leaning forward and back and side to side, until she finds an angle, leaned halfway forward, her hands braced on the bed on either side of Marius, that works. She doesn't think she'll come again, Marius is too close for that and she's concentrating too hard, but it feels good, and it settles into a perfect rhythm, Courfeyrac just off-beat in the corner of her eye, all of them gasping out half-syllables as they work their way through it together.
Marius is the first one to come, gasping out a desperate warning after she dares to pick up speed and then coming moments later, hips bucking, hand clutching tight on her ass, probably because he doesn't realize that's where he landed when he reached out for her. Cosette gasps and stills, and both of them turn to face Courfeyrac, who's smiling, his hand speeding up, his head tipped back. “Do you want help?” Marius asks, surprisingly the first to recover himself, and he shakes his head when Courfeyrac opens his mouth, undoubtedly to refuse. “Don't think about us. Do you want help?”
“Yes,” says Courfeyrac, and Cosette gets off Marius, takes care of the condom while Marius rolls toward Courfeyrac and gives him his hand, much more at home with Courfeyrac's cock than he is with her clit (but then again, he's got one, of course he would know his way around it). Courfeyrac lets out a soft, high noise, and the second Cosette is finished with the condom she reaches across Marius and puts a hand on Courfeyrac's chest, catching on a nipple. He gasps, and that's interesting, so she does it again, and he makes a gorgeous noise.
“May I kiss you?” she says, before she can think too hard about it, and she belatedly twists to meet Marius's eyes. All he does is nod and smile, so she looks back to Courfeyrac. There's a little notch between his brows, but after a second he nods, and Cosette leans into the mess of limbs, nearly knees Marius in the back, and kisses him.
It's strange, kissing someone who isn't Marius. Marius isn't the only person she's ever kissed, but he's been the only one for months, and it's odd having the start of stubble pressing her cheek, a differently-shaped nose to work around, differently-shaped lips pressed against hers. And maybe if Marius weren't here, if she didn't feel the bit of soreness from him having been inside her just minutes ago, she would feel uncomfortable, but as it is, the change is just exciting, and Courfeyrac is good, gentle and easy and making noises against her mouth whenever he or Marius does something right.
It isn't long until he comes, mouth falling open against hers, all of him tensing, Marius letting out a curious noise, and Cosette pulls back when he doesn't seem inclined to start kissing her again. He's pink-cheeked and breathing hard and he's smiling, completely genuine, and that makes Cosette breathe, glad. “You two are going to be great,” he says after a minute, coming back to them, eyes opening.
“You helped,” Marius says, and he's taking care of the condom this time, tossing it and getting it perfectly in the trashcan because it's one of his strange little talents. He must be great at basketball, if he ever plays. “You helped so much, and it feels stupid to thank you when we're all in bed together so I, um, won't.”
Cosette lays down, smiling into Marius's shoulder, the three of them getting straightened out until they're sprawled on her bed, tired. Her father might ask about the sleepover in the morning, but he won't suspect the truth, which is good, because she doesn't think she could begin to explain. “We'll go out for breakfast in the morning,” she decides, catching the comforter with her foot and drawing it up over them. “My treat. Okay?”
“Breakfast sounds great,” Courfeyrac says, voice scratchy and tired, like he's been at a choral rehearsal instead of teaching them how to have sex.
Marius's breath is evening and deepening already, but he says “Yes, breakfast.” And then, singing it, hilariously profundo, like they're in the musical porn they were talking about earlier, “I made her come.”
“And you'll get to do it again soon,” Cosette promises, kissing him, and then, because it seems strange not to, she leans across him and kisses Courfeyrac too, gently on the side of his mouth. “Now, let's get some sleep,” she says, and turns over so she can turn off the light.
It's a little weird, taking their coats off together in Fantine's office while Fantine talks about the duet, and when they can meet with Marius (who refused to skip German to come play for them, the spoilsport), for about thirty seconds. Then, Courfeyrac says, with all his usual charm and cheer, “Ready to pretend you love me in German?”
Maybe that should make it more weird, considering they've had sex, but instead it just makes her smile. “Ready,” she says firmly, and turns to Fantine and lets her warm them up. Courfeyrac has a lovely warm voice that she doesn't get to hear enough solo, and even in warmups she can tell they'll blend well, with a little effort. He smiles at her when she shows off a little as Fantine takes them through their upper registers, so perhaps he's thinking the same thing.
The first run-through, with Fantine sketching the piano part more than really playing it, isn't bad for their first read-through together, since they've both seen and heard it before. The second is a disaster, which is only to be expected, and Cosette lets Fantine take the song apart for both of them, scolding Cosette for moving her jaw too much on the quick syllables and Courfeyrac for enjoying the notes too much and staying on them too long.
They run over Courfeyrac's hour and it's brutal in the best kind of way, the kind that leaves Cosette a little oxygen high and giddy and with her throat just a little sore, the kind of sore easily alleviated by tea. Courfeyrac seems pleased too, pleased enough to put his arm around her shoulders afterward and squeeze tight. “Coffee?” he asks once they're in the stairwell.
“Tea,” she corrects, “but yes. I have a few hours free, I promised Dad I would cook dinner but we eat late on Tuesdays because he has office hours after his seminar and people actually go to his office hours.”
Courfeyrac leaves a companionable arm around her as they walk, and only drops it when they run into Feuilly outside the music building, on his way in for orchestra practice. “Have you been practicing for the showcase?” he asks, and doesn't ask about Courfeyrac's arm around her either because Courfeyrac is physical with all his friends or because he knows there's something going on and doesn't want to poke his nose in their business. If he thought they were going behind Marius's back, he would say something, but she thinks he knows them better than that.
“We were,” says Courfeyrac. “And now we're going to drink tea, apparently. Well, she's going to drink tea. I'm going to drink something that tastes good.”
“You are trying the wrong teas,” she tells him, and smiles at Feuilly, who bonded with her over tea last semester when a sore throat went around the music students and they were two of the few who weren't complaining about mainlining tea instead of coffee. “Are you doing something for the showcase?”
“Who isn't?” He hitches his violin case up on his shoulder. “String quartet, Jehan's doing viola for it, Bahorel is trying to convince us that the piece needs timpani, which it might.”
“We'll look forward to hearing it,” says Courfeyrac. “You shouldn't be late, though.”
Feuilly grimaces. “No, I shouldn't. It was good to see you two, I'll see you in Theory Five tomorrow.”
They wave him off and start towards the Union, and Cosette only lets a minute pass in silence before she speaks. “I sort of feel like everyone knows. Which is stupid, they're our friends, it's not like they'd judge if they knew. I mean, there's Musichetta and Joly and Bossuet, it isn't unprecedented. But it still feels like it's written in the sky every time I see any of them.”
“They definitely wouldn't judge. I guess we should have thought about the discomfort in the aftermath beforehand—I mean, not relationship-wise, I want to make it clear I'm still completely comfortable with you and Marius, but in navigating things.”
“Aftermath?” Cosette's surprised, and she doesn't know why she's surprised. They never discussed doing it again, and she'd assumed they could use another lesson or two, had wanted more, isn't ready to give Courfeyrac up in a selfish way she's worried about bringing up to Marius, but it seems Courfeyrac has assumed the opposite. “I didn't know we weren't doing it again,” she finally says, because she could just let the assumption take over, but they all deserve more than that.
Courfeyrac frowns, but he seems more thoughtful than upset. “You seemed to do pretty well, with a little bit of direction. Do you think you need the help, still?”
Cosette considers that. They probably could stumble along fine, more than fine, now that they have a few tricks between them. They wouldn't have the most experimental sex life ever, she and Marius, but he's made her come once, they both know it can happen, and happen again, and he'll get better over time at keeping from coming. “Need? No. Want, maybe. I haven't had time to sit Marius down and ask him explicitly, so I don't want to make any commitments on that front, but I'd rather have the training wheels a little longer. And shit, you aren't training wheels, that was badly phrased, but hopefully you know what I mean?”
They get to the Union and he opens the door for her and the five people behind her, so she stands a few feet down the hall and waits to let him catch up to her. “Talk to Marius,” he says, when he catches up, and he doesn't look happy, but Cosette doesn't know what to do about that. “I'm willing to help out again if we're all on the same page, but I don't ever want things to be weird with us.”
Cosette puts her arm through his, because Courfeyrac likes physical contact and she can do that for him. “If I thought it would be weird, I would never have mentioned doing it again. But you helped so much last time, and I hope you liked it too?”
“Believe me, I really did.” She wishes she knew Courfeyrac better, knew if he were really biting something down or if she's just projecting. Marius would know, but Marius isn't here. “But this is less about pleasure and more about what's best for your relationship, I think.”
“It can't be both? But I know that, Courfeyrac, I really do. And yes, we could probably be fine from here on out, and we thank you, and you can send us links to … um, those videos you mentioned, and that would help too.” Cosette has to stop and think about how to phrase things considering they're in public. It's not like she's never heard people talk about sex in the Union before, but she'd rather keep this as private as she can. “I think it would be better if we tried at least one more time, but I don't want to pressure you, that is the opposite of what I want.”
“You aren't pressuring, Cosette. Like I said, you talk to Marius, and then all three of us will have a conversation, and we'll decide from there, okay?”
“Okay,” she says, and gives as decisive a nod as she can.
Courfeyrac squeezes her arm. “Now, let's talk about Mozart, since you skipping class weekly to come to my lesson isn't a tenable solution. When are you free for rehearsals?”
Cosette isn't sure if she's relieved or disappointed at the change in topics, but she follows the conversation and lets him pay for her tea and talks about safe things until she has to go home.
“Talk to Marius,” Courfeyrac says when she leaves him at the Union entrance, and she nods and wonders how she's ever going to bring it up.
“Are we doing it again?” Marius blurts approximately two seconds after her comment on what Combeferre expects of his vocalists and how they should have a sing-through of what he's got before summer.
Cosette doesn't pretend to misunderstand, because it's been weighing on her mind, and it hasn't even been twenty-four hours since her conversation with Courfeyrac, so she hasn't had time to bring it up with Marius. “I talked to Courfeyrac. He's willing for once more, and I'm willing for once more—I asked for once more. Are you going to be okay with it? Do you want it, feel like we need it?”
Marius pulls his feet up onto the bench and rests his chin on his knees, because he may be all arms and legs but he's got a habit of folding himself up when he's thinking. “Yes,” he says after a few moments' thought, and then pauses again before he elaborates. “I'd like more help. And I felt comfortable with Courfeyrac. It was good sex. Right?”
“It was great sex,” she assures him.
“The three of us work,” he says, like he's testing the sentence out. “That worked, I don't think anyone was being exploited or felt awkward, and that's all good. It could be good again.”
“It absolutely could.” She fidgets with the hem of her sweater. “That's it? We both want to? Maybe we should make a list of goals, I don't know, advanced techniques or whatever, that might make him feel more comfortable with the prospect, he consented but I don't want him to feel like he can't back out, or like we're leaning on him too much.”
“You don't think we are, right?” he asks, suddenly anxious. “Obviously Courfeyrac wouldn't say yes unless he wanted to, he doesn't do that, but, I mean … other people figure this out. It's a lot easier when he's there, and better, but we might have figured it out given time.”
“I think most people would be lucky to have a Courfeyrac.” She leans into him and kisses his cheek when he turns towards her. “We've got to trust him to set boundaries, but it sounds like you aren't sure of yours. Which is fine! It's completely fine, we don't have to be in a hurry if you don't want to be. We've just got to be sure before we go to Courfeyrac.”
“I'm sure,” Marius says, too loud, and then quiets when someone walking by raises her eyebrows at them. “I just don't know if I should be sure. I don't want anyone to get hurt. I love you, and I love Courfeyrac, and the other night all felt kind of too good to be true, but I don't want it to be.”
“Hey.” She puts an arm around him. “Courfeyrac and I will never let it get weird, because we both love you too. And I like him so much, so we all have a vested interest in this being the best of all possible worlds where this is concerned. There is no possible outcome to this that I can think of that involves you losing either one of us for pushing or jealousy or anything.”
Marius frowns and taps his fingers against his legs for a few moments. She thinks he's playing a bit of a piece, she's never met an instrumentalist who doesn't do that at least occasionally and Marius does it all the time, on desks and pillows and his own legs and sometimes her skin. “Then I want to,” he finally says, and she didn't know how relieved she would be to hear that. “And I think I'd like to learn, um.” He lowers his voice. “Oral? If that's a thing you'd like?”
Cosette takes one beautiful second to imagine Marius with his head between her legs, to imagine how it would feel, and then another to imagine Courfeyrac there too, telling Marius how to go about it, or God, maybe showing him, though she can't ask that of him unless he offers. She knows her voice sounds choked when she answers. “I'd like that, definitely. And to learn to return the favor, maybe?”
“I'd probably be pretty fast.”
“We'll learn, Marius. And hopefully one more time we'll learn with Courfeyrac. Do you want to talk to him when you get back to your dorm tonight? And then maybe we can do it before he leaves for spring break?”
Marius finally puts his feet back down on the ground and starts picking up all the detritus from their lunch. “I'll talk to him,” he says, strong and resolved all at once. “Also, before he leaves for spring break we should all get together and run through your duet. Maybe we can do that Friday afternoon and then go to your place for dinner and … the rest of it? Unless your dad is home on Friday night?”
Her father is really good about making himself scarce when he suspects she and Marius might have sex, even if she thinks he's still lukewarm at best on Marius himself. “He and Dr. Myriel usually do dinner the night a break starts. I can ask if he wants to stay out, he probably won't mind too much. Maybe he'll do drinks with Fantine afterward or something, they try to connect without me sometimes and do progress reports or whatever.”
Marius stands up and brushes the crumbs off his jeans, and she trusts that the break in their classes is over because Marius always seems to know exactly what time it is without looking at his watch. “I'll talk to Courfeyrac, and you can talk to your father, and we'll figure it out,” he says, and if he sounds more hopeful than confident, Cosette decides to ignore it.
All three of them tiptoe ridiculously through the halls to the practice rooms, and then proceed to ruin any possible benefit of the tiptoeing by breaking into giggles when Courfeyrac accidentally slams the door behind them, echoing around the floor. “Excuse my sightreading,” Marius says as he puts the score on the piano, still grinning.
“Oh, shut up,” Courfeyrac says, rearranging the music stand and score to his satisfaction so he and Cosette are standing shoulder to shoulder where they and Marius can all see one another. “You've been saying that since freshman year and then I'm always the one who fucks up first. You'll see, Cosette.”
“I already know, I've sung with him before.” She smooths down her shirt. “Shall we start? I warmed up at home while I was putting dinner in the crockpot.”
“And I warmed up while I was packing for break,” says Courfeyrac. “Go ahead when you're ready, Marius, but have mercy and don't take it too fast.”
Marius begins the introduction, stumbling over a chord before settling into it, and they sing it through once, a sketch of the piece more than anything else. Cosette messes up the German at least four times, Courfeyrac and she both miss at least one in a series of quick notes, and Marius makes one crashingly bad chord in the middle, though that may have had something to do with Cosette's German.
“Fantine is trying to kill us,” Cosette decides when they stop singing. “Let's do it again.”
“Let's correct your German first,” Marius says, surprisingly firmly, and takes them all the way through it word by word before he lets them sing again.
It's fun, workshopping the piece with just the three of them. She and Courfeyrac trade fumbles on the quick notes, curse Fantine, try them again, and by the end of an hour Cosette feels much better about how they're going to do at the showcase. She's the one to call it off at the end, sighing and leaning back against the door. “Dinner's probably going to be ready by the time we make it back to my house, and too much more and I'm going to start feeling strained. Shall we get started?”
That starts a bustle of the three of them getting their jackets and their scores before they head out of the building, which is somehow even more silent than it was on their way in. Cosette lets the two of them talk while they walk, mostly, Courfeyrac complaining about the Junior Showcase being too close to finals and Marius nodding along in the well-worn way that shows how close they are.
Her father is gone by the time they get there, off to dinner with Myriel and Fantine and possibly Lamarque, since he spends more time with the music staff than with his own. He left a note for her (Back late, if I don't sleep at Fantine's, lock up, love you in his messy scrawl with a smiley face with a nose by way of signature) on the fridge, and she takes longer reading it than she needs to while Courfeyrac finishes up his rant in grand fashion.
“I am going to schedule my senior recital so early,” he concludes.
“I have a feeling that everyone's senior recital is going to be Combeferre's opera, so that might be up to him,” Cosette says, going over to the crockpot, which smells delicious enough to make her stomach rumble. “Do you think they'd let it count for all of us?”
“Anyone with enough solos, I would say,” says Marius. “So it might be inconvenient for instrumentalists. Not that I wouldn't do it. But.”
“Combeferre is going to be so happy that he already has half a cast,” Courfeyrac says, taking out his phone, probably to text Combeferre just that. “And the professors and higher-ups are going to be really happy when they realize that he's not a shitty composer and they're going to have the opportunity for a huge fundraiser next year.”
“I haven't actually heard any of his compositions,” says Cosette, turning off the pot and smiling at Marius when he appears at her side with dishes.
Courfeyrac is filling a pitcher with water at the sink, but he turns around to blink at her while he does. “Yes you have,” he says, pulling it away before it overflows. “One of his songs is on that mix I gave you for Christmas, the choral setting of Newton's Laws of Motion?”
“That's what that is? The track information didn't show up and you only gave the initials on the list you wrote out, but that's amazing, I can't wait to hear more of the opera if that's his quality of work.”
That conversation lasts them until they get dinner on the table, and for the first few minutes of that the silence is comfortable, normal—they're all hungry, after all, so they're paying more attention to their food than each other. After the urgency has faded away a little, though, the silence gets awkward, and Cosette lets that go on for about three minutes before she sighs and says, between bites, “Should we maybe talk about what we're doing tonight?”
“Do you have something specific in mind?” Courfeyrac asks, putting his fork down to take a drink.
“Oral,” says Marius, too loud, and then blushes harder than she's ever seen him blush before when Courfeyrac splutters and drips water on the front of his shirt. “For both of us. We thought it would be a good thing to know how to do. If you don't mind?”
“Not at all. Cosette, I assume you're on board?”
“Definitely. I'd love to learn how, and I think I'll really like having it done to me. And … okay, either of you can say you're uncomfortable with this, and that's fine, but given Marius is usually sort of, um, fast, maybe I should learn by practicing on Courfeyrac?”
Both of them say “Oh my God” at pretty much the same time in pretty much the same tone, but Courfeyrac is the one who answers first. “I'm willing, but only if Marius is comfortable with that.”
“I'm definitely comfortable,” Marius says, no trace of hesitation. “And you've got advance permission to demonstrate what I should be doing with Cosette or with me, with Cosette's permission.”
“Permission definitely granted, for either one.” That's an image she wants to cherish for a little while, Courfeyrac leaning forward to suck Marius's cock before pulling off and telling her how to do it the same way. Judging by Marius's expression, he's cherishing images of his own. Courfeyrac is looking a little glassy-eyed too, and Cosette is gladder than she wants to admit about that.
“Okay, then, oral,” Courfeyrac finally says, his voice a little higher in his register than she's used to hearing it.
Marius looks down at his dinner. “I think I'm going to eat faster,” he says, and does.
When that's done, Courfeyrac and Marius grab their bags from the front hallway and they go upstairs, arguing about dynamic markings and how loud piano should be, Courfeyrac, and it's good, it's relaxing, but Cosette is still thinking about having both of them in her mouth, having both of their mouths on her.
“Marius,” says Courfeyrac, once her bedroom door is safely shut and locked and they've both had the time to take in the condoms she left sitting next to a pillow this morning when she left her room. “You don't fall asleep after you come, right?”
Marius shakes his head, his eyes wide. “Not really, I got too used to cleaning up right after and I do it in the mornings sometimes so I don't really fall asleep. Why?”
“Not to take over your sex for the night, but I thought maybe we'd do you first—or, well, me and then you, if Cosette wants to practice—but anyway, her last so we've got lots of time.” Courfeyrac holds his hands out and shrugs when they both look at him. “It's fun. I mean, oral sex in general is fun, but I really like doing it for women and I haven't in while. So I thought we could take our time with it, Marius.”
“Oh my God,” says Cosette, and has to lean back against her door. “Marius, I'm completely in favor of gentlemen first this time if you're up for that.” He nods so rapidly he looks like a bobblehead and she smiles because she can't help it. “Clothes off?”
“Clothes off,” he agrees, and usually he's careful with his button-up shirts, but today he just pulls it off over his head, after a few false starts and finally remembering to undo the top button, undershirt going with it. When she looks over at Courfeyrac, he's out of his shirt too, somewhere between businesslike and eager, and belatedly she follows their example, standing upright and tugging her shirt over her head, unhooking her bra and letting it fall to the floor.
Within a minute, her floor is a mess of clothing, her socks on Courfeyrac's underwear, Courfeyrac's jeans on Marius's shirt, Marius's underwear somewhere across the room because Courfeyrac was taking his off at the time and Courfeyrac is hard and he got distracted, and Marius distracted with something elastic in his hands tends to end in that kind of thing.
“Okay,” says Cosette when they're all naked, trying to look them in their faces instead of anywhere else, which is hard because they're both hard now and it's like some kind of feedback loop, she thinks, all of them only getting more turned on the more they see how turned on the others are. “Where should he be, Courfeyrac? Or where should you be?”
“If we sit on the edge of the bed, I think,” he says, sounding thoughtful. “Makes it harder for anyone to buck up by accident and go farther than you want. I don't recommend that singers deep-throat with any frequency, though it's spring break now so you won't have to explain being hoarse to Fantine.”
Cosette laughs, embarrassed at the very thought, and Marius has to blink a few times before he can move, going to sit on the edge of the bed and gesturing Courfeyrac over, until they're sitting side by side on her mattress, naked and hard. Courfeyrac is the one closer to the pillows, so he's the one to reach for the condoms, and puts his on first. Marius keeps clutching his in his fist, and Cosette takes that as her cue to step closer. “On my knees, right?”
“In this position, yeah,” says Courfeyrac, spreading his legs, voice a little shaky.
Cosette kneels between his legs, and she's glad when Marius reaches out immediately to rest a hand on top of hers when she braces her hands on Courfeyrac's thighs. “What should I do?”
“Experiment a little,” he says, very quietly and very gently. “I'll tell you if there's anything I'd rather have you do, though obligatory disclaimer for all cocks being different, what works for me won't always work for Marius and vice versa, so experiment a little every time you have sex with a new person, especially oral. Just avoid teeth and you're pretty much golden.”
Marius squeezes her hand, and Cosette takes a deep breath before she starts, just a slow exploration, sloppy licks and kisses while she tries not to wrinkle her nose at the taste of latex and lube. Courfeyrac is quiet; the loudest noise in the room is Marius's harsh breathing, and it sounds stupidly loud when she makes a noise when she does something good and Courfeyrac's whole body tenses under her hands. “I'm pretty sure sucking is supposed to be involved,” she whispers, and she knows it's loud enough for both of them to hear.
“Just around the head at first,” Courfeyrac says. “Cover your teeth with your lips, don't strain yourself, and don't feel like you have to yet. You can explore as long as you like.”
Cosette tries a gentle suck, wonders how horrified all her voice teachers would be if they realized their student was using their techniques to make sure her jaw was loose not to sing but for a blowjob. It isn't as overwhelming as she thought it would be, and it doesn't feel gross or too-much or like she's under someone else's control, all the stereotypes she's heard a hundred times or more. When she looks up, both of them are watching her, Marius's mouth jarred open and Courfeyrac's stare intense, and she pulls off to look back without feeling ridiculous for a second. “You could kiss,” she offers. “If you like. I'm just occupying myself down here.”
“But it's really nice to look at,” says Courfeyrac, smiling, and he startles a little when Marius leans into him and kisses the side of his mouth before pulling quickly away, like he was testing the waters. “Or kissing,” he adds, voice a little higher, and turns to kiss Marius in return.
Cosette hides her smile by going back to what she was doing, testing Courfeyrac's reactions through the condom. It's easier to tell, now that he's kissing Marius—he makes sounds when he kisses, little noises and breathless gasps, and she can tell when one of them is timed for something she's doing by the way his cock sometimes jumps a little against or in her mouth. She tries taking him a little deeper after a few minutes. Not deep enough that she worries she'll gag, but deep enough that he fills all of her mouth, making her breathe hard through her nose, and she forgets about the taste then, because it's good, and it's even better when he pulls away from Marius's mouth and one of his hands flies to rest on her hair like he's trying not to tug.
When she looks up, he's watching her wide-eyed and unblinking, and she tries to smile without letting him go and closes her eyes to suck, lifting one hand to massage the join of her own jaw like she does when she's been singing too long. A second later, Courfeyrac's hand moves from her hair to the side of her jaw and starts taking over the job, his other coming to the other side a second later, rubbing gentle circles that leave her free to brace herself on his legs again, and she doesn't know how long it's been, but he's making gorgeous, gasp-y little noises.
“Are you going to come?” Marius asks, and he sounds dazed, amazed, and when she looks up he's looking between her and Courfeyrac quickly, like he's not sure which of them he wants to watch.
“Pretty soon, yeah.” Courfeyrac's voice cracks on the last syllable, and when he stops stroking her jaw she looks up to find him looking at her. “I'm wearing a condom so you won't have to swallow or anything, but do you want me to give you warning to pull off anyway? It can feel a little weird.”
“I want to see,” she says, coming up for air, and it's surprising how her voice sounds, breathless and lower than usual. “Feel, I guess. Don't worry about it.”
And then she's back on him, not pushing herself too hard but pushing him as well as she's able, sucking hard, moving a hand to wrap around the part of his cock she can't reach with her mouth and squeezing, holding there, moving it when Courfeyrac drops a hand from her jaw and shows her how to twist her wrist, how to make it better. She can tell when Marius kisses him again, from the noises and from the way she loses one of Courfeyrac's hands—not that she minds, when she knows it's just that he wants to touch Marius too.
When Courfeyrac comes, he comes with a sharp noise (a nice solid F, she thinks, and almost has to pull off to giggle at the ridiculousness of the thought), and he's right. It feels odd, though it might feel less so without the condom, she thinks, but it's good too. It's tangible proof, felt in the twitch of his cock and the condom filling, that she made him come, and when she pulls back she finds herself grinning giddily up at them.
Courfeyrac's chest is heaving and he's wide-eyed, and Marius has an arm around him and he's staring down at Cosette, eyes fixed on her mouth. “Give me one minute to breathe,” she says, squeezing his knee, and sits back, laughs breathlessly because she can't think of anything else to do.
“As much time as you want.” Marius's voice is up half an octave from his usual, and he's holding on to Courfeyrac for dear life, and he's as red as Enjolras's favorite shirt when he adds “To be honest, if you started right now, I would probably come in about two seconds flat.”
Cosette smiles. “As much time as both of us need, then.” She turns to look at Courfeyrac, who seems to be recovering his breath. “Any feedback I should take on board?”
“You're great,” he says fervently, and then straightens up, coughing, his cheeks a little pink. “You did exactly what you should, which is to pay attention to what I like and then do it. So no, no feedback, you are great and Marius is lucky.”
“I am so lucky,” Marius says, still sounding a little dazed. “Do you need to get up and stretch, Cosette?” He looks at Courfeyrac. “Or is there a different position?”
“There are a lot of different positions, but like I said, this is the one that allows her to have the most control. There are others that will be great for you two to try in the future, but for now I'd say you should stick with this.”
Cosette doesn't get up, but she does take a few moments to arch her back, to stretch her arms and neck. It's hard not to smile or to cover herself when she sees both of their eyes riveted on her breasts when she moves, but she just does it as quickly as she can, businesslike, and then moves over to kneel in front of Marius while Courfeyrac belatedly takes care of his condom. “Can I put the condom on?” she asks Marius, since she's already there.
Marius surrenders the packet wordlessly, and Cosette rips it open, rolls the condom on with painfully perfect technique (she bought a cucumber and a twelve-pack of condoms over winter break, which she is never going to tell anyone else, and watched five different internet tutorials before she practiced, and she's sure eventually she'll be fluid about it but for now she's still careful, methodical, just like an internet tutorial), and holds on to his legs while he breathes hard through his nose, getting used to the pressure of the condom and her presence between his legs. “Wow,” he says quietly, and for a second it's just the two of them in the room.
“You can come whenever you need,” she says, smiling up at him and finding his hand so she can squeeze it, and then she turns to look at Courfeyrac and smiles at him too, while he watches them thoughtfully. “I already got my practice. Thank you, by the way.”
“Thank you,” says Courfeyrac.
“I think I'm ready,” says Marius. “Just … have mercy and take it a little slow at first? Nobody's ever done this for me before.”
Cosette kisses his thigh, and then, because it feels like the right thing to do, starts by kissing the head of his cock as well, a light, lingering press of lips. He makes a quiet sound, and she does it again, moving her lips, exploring the shape of him without doing so much as opening her mouth, just testing the places that make him gasp and the place that makes Courfeyrac grab for his hips to hold him still when he jolts. That ends with all of them holding still, Marius sitting where he is, Cosette kneeling between his legs, Courfeyrac slung half across both of them, pinning Marius where he is. “Everyone good?” he asks after a few seconds.
“Maybe stay there?” says Marius. “Or in a similar but more comfortable position?”
Courfeyrac resettles himself, half in Marius's lap but somehow not in the way, sideways so he can see both of them. “That good?” They both nod. “You're doing great, both of you.”
“I think I'm ready again, Cosette.”
Cosette takes Marius at his word, trying again, a little wetter, a little smoother. Courfeyrac was right, it's very different, but not different enough that she can't find a pattern between the two. She's gentler with Marius, hoping for a little time, and she waits a little while before she takes him into her mouth, listening for the punched-out noise he makes and pleased and proud when she gets it. Courfeyrac, above her, is murmuring soothing nonsense to both of them, one hand down in Cosette's hair again, and Marius seems to be holding on for dear life, the noises he makes almost panicky, enough so that she looks up for reassurance that he's okay.
The second she makes eye contact, he smiles at her, blindingly bright, and Cosette, relieved, goes back to what she was doing, sucking gently, getting him used to the sensation. She thinks, after a minute or two, that Marius and Courfeyrac go back to kissing, and she's glad. It leaves her free to keep her eyes on what she's doing, when she doesn't have them closed, and she remembers to do what Courfeyrac showed her, brings up a hand to cover the length of him she can't take into her mouth.
“Cosette,” he finally gasps, and he really must have been kissing Courfeyrac because there's a soft wet sound before that and she knows that sound, and she knows what her name means, just gives an especially hard suck and tries to make an encouraging noise at the same time, and then he's coming, and Cosette is pulling back for a deep breath.
She made them both come, just with her mouth, and that's a heady feeling, which she wasn't expecting. Even better, however, is the feeling when Courfeyrac looks down at her, his hand on Marius's shoulder, and says “I think we'd better get you on the bed. Do you want to?”
“Yes. So much.” She sounds even more hoarse, and she's going to need a drink and a really good gargle with some salt water and some mouthwash before she goes to sleep. The taste of latex sticks. “Where do you want me? At the edge of the bed like you were?” Marius helps her up, letting her lean on him. Her knees are a little sore, but not too badly. She'll just have to put in a yoga video tomorrow and stretch out all her soreness.
Courfeyrac smiles at them. “On your back, I think, easier for us both to have access that way, and you aren't going to choke us if you move your hips a little. How do you feel about manhandling?”
“Positive, I think? I haven't really been manhandled a lot, but I trust both of you not to do anything to make me uncomfortable and to stop if it turns out I don't like it.”
“Okay.” Courfeyrac helps Marius settle her in the middle of the bed, flat on her back. “Marius, do you mind if I go first? Give you some idea of positioning? This is maybe a little advanced-level, but it tends to feel really good for women, so I thought we'd give it a try. Let me know if your neck hurts or anything, Cosette,” he says, and then he's hefting her up, her legs over his shoulders as he bends so she has a little more contact with the bed.
She gasps, feeling a little like she's on a roller coaster, but a second later his mouth is on the insides of her thighs, soft and wet, and she forgets about the inevitable headrush and the inevitable stiffness in her neck. “Oh my God. Courfeyrac, oh my God.”
“I'm just going to get your warmed up for Marius,” he says, like he needs to reassure her of anything when she feels like this, and then he stops talking.
She dizzily thinks he must be a great kisser even though she hasn't really kissed him yet (and that seems like a stupid oversight). He's tentative at first, exploring her the same way she explored him, and then he does everything again, with more confidence, taking her apart with lips and tongue and the very occasional scrape of teeth until she's gasping, noisy, loud enough that she's triply glad her father isn't here, because she's saying both of their names, about half of what she can say at all, and Marius is holding her hand and she squeezes it to keep from bucking.
Normally, Cosette likes taking her time with orgasm, stretching it out with her fingers or her vibrator, teasing herself until she finally comes with a rush. Now, all she wants is faster, harder, more, and she's twitching her hips uselessly against Courfeyrac's face, babbling, and he gives it to her without her ever managing the words, going harder until she arches, all of her straining, and comes, only a few minutes after he started.
Her chest is heaving when he lowers her to the ground, and his face is wet, and Cosette only gives Marius a quick look before she pulls Courfeyrac up the bed to kiss him, because she can't imagine doing anything but kissing someone who just made her feel like that. It's only a minute before he gently disengages, though, brushing her hair out of her face. “You good? Ready for another?”
“Yes.” She winces a little moving her head from side to side. “But maybe if I can be in a different position this time? That was great, but I could use about five massages.”
“Sorry.” He kisses her affectionately on the cheek and then helps her into a sitting position, legs apart, back against the headboard. Marius is hovering next to them, looking ready to jump out of his skin, his hand on her leg like he wants to slip it inside her, see what Courfeyrac did to her. “Marius, if you don't mind being on your stomach, you should be able to get to her fine from here, prop yourself up a little so you don't strain your neck, and it's easier for you to use your fingers, too, I couldn't do that.”
“You're sure you want to?” says Marius, and she loves him, she loves both of them right now, feeling the afterglow of one of the better orgasms she's ever had, and she'll think about that later, how easy it is to look at Courfeyrac and include him easily with Marius, like he'll be here forever when she logically knows he won't.
“I want you so much,” she says, and moves an uncoordinated hand up to his face. He kisses her palm briefly, eyes closing, and then he moves, settling down between her legs, smiling nervously up at her.
Courfeyrac puts his palm on Marius's back, attention all on him for the moment. “Just like I told Cosette, okay? Just experiment, see what makes her react. Make sure you breathe occasionally. Don't focus all your attention in one spot.”
Marius is shy, but he's shockingly good with his mouth. He's slower than Courfeyrac, more thorough. He maps the space from her navel to her thighs, dares to leave his first hickey on the inside of her thigh, licks into her, and around. If Courfeyrac had her almost immediately on the edge and begging for more, Marius brings her up to the peak slowly, sometimes pulling away to gasp like he's desperate for air before going right back, determined and steady and wonderful.
Cosette isn't making words this time, just little noises climbing in pitch and intensity, sighs in between. Her legs twitch when he sucks gently on her clit and Courfeyrac smiles at her, guides her hands down to Marius's hair and then says everything she wishes she could manage to say out loud, that Marius is doing so well, that it feels so good.
When she comes again, it feels like it washes over her, wringing her out, and Marius pulls away almost at once, looking up at her with a startled, bright grin. “I did it?”
“You did,” she says, when she can breathe again, and she's glad he knows what it means when she holds her arms out, because he's at her side in an instant, arms going around her, and he must do something over his head because Courfeyrac is there a few seconds later, and she's in the middle of a wonderful hug, Courfeyrac telling them both quietly that they're great. “We can watch a movie in a little while, when I've had a nap and a snack and brushed my teeth,” she says, since the clock next to her bed says it isn't even nine yet and she knows Marius at least can rarely get to sleep before midnight.
“A nap sounds great,” says Courfeyrac, and Cosette settles into their arms, hoping Marius doesn't mind a brief breather. If he gets bored, he can pick a book off her shelves.
Cosette wakes at quarter to ten to find Marius sprawled next to her, asleep, and Courfeyrac on her other side, awake and looking over at him like he's trying to figure them out. “Up for a movie?” she asks, because she doesn't know what else to say. “I can still taste plastic, I need to wash out my mouth first, but then a movie?”
“A movie sounds great,” he says, suddenly all bright smiles again. “I'll wake Marius up while you're gone and we'll pick something from your collection.”
Cosette extracts herself from bed with a minimum of fuss and indulges herself for one minute in smiling at them, Courfeyrac shaking Marius's shoulder to wake him, before she goes to clean herself up and find them all some snacks.
“We could take a walk around the neighborhood,” Marius says when the breakfast dishes are finished and none of them know what to do with themselves.
“There's a little park around the corner, it's usually pretty deserted this time of day,” says Cosette, and they all shrug on their jackets and walk there without talking much. Cosette keeps hold of Marius's hand, and he squeezes tight like he feels like something's wrong too.
The three of them end up sitting on the swings, Marius and Cosette mostly staying stationary so they can keep holding hands, and Courfeyrac swinging higher and higher, shaking the whole swingset, until he finally comes down again, pink-cheeked and looking resolved, like he had time to think while he was in the air. “I can't do this again,” he says, and Cosette wishes she were surprised.
“Of course,” Marius says, instantly leaning towards Courfeyrac, clutching her hand tight but his voice smoother than she's expecting, like he was preparing himself for this too. “Thank you again, so much, for helping us. You made it wonderful.”
His voice wobbles a little on the last word, and Courfeyrac is a singer, he knows how to recognize that, and Cosette isn't surprised when he stops the last of the rocking motion of his swing and grabs out for Marius's hand, taking it in his own so Marius is caught between them. “I don't want you to think that it wasn't good for me, because it was, or that this means I want anything but to keep being your best friend and a friend of Cosette's and both of your partner in the Junior Showcase. I just thought I'd be better at crossing this particular boundary than I have been and I don't want anything to get tangled up or messy because I love you both too much for that. Okay?”
Cosette knows how to control her voice, and she knew to swallow away the tightness in her throat a few times before he finished speaking, so she can answer immediately and sound steady. “We love you too,” she says, and almost loses control because that's too easy to say and she hasn't talked about it with Marius, but she knows it could work if all three of them wanted it to. She only has to see the way Joly and Bossuet and Musichetta smile at each other to know that. “And I never want you to be anything but comfortable with us. So, like Marius, I'll thank you for everything you've done, because you were amazing, and we can go back to normal. Meet up after break and practice the piece again, and all.”
“I'll look forward to it,” says Courfeyrac, and starts swinging again.
Marius's smile seems frozen on, and Cosette can't do anything about that, because she knows Courfeyrac well enough to know he'll feel guilty if they show they're upset at all, and Courfeyrac doesn't deserve to feel guilty for setting boundaries that he needs. She tugs on his hand instead, and she's glad when he turns around to look at her. “Push me?”
Marius stands up immediately, coming around behind her swing. “Let me know if you want to go higher,” he says, and gives her a push, then another, sending her up higher and higher until she and Courfeyrac are going in concert, pumping their legs, as high as they can go, both of them laughing, Marius backing away to take pictures with his phone.
And it isn't quite everything Cosette is coming to realize she might want, when they walk back to her house afterward and Courfeyrac takes his bag and heads toward Enjolras and Combeferre's apartment, where he's staying for spring break, instead of staying with she and Marius, but she thinks it's something she can live with.
When Marius gets back Saturday night, she invites him to her place and he and her father miraculously have a whole conversation without being overcome by nerves or glaring respectively, and then they go upstairs.
“We're going to see him Monday,” Cosette says, her head propped on his shoulder while he combs his fingers through her hair and breathes like it's the first time he's been able to do it freely all week. “And we haven't really talked about it. Do we need to?”
“We probably do,” he says, and sounds like he hates it. “We shouldn't be upset, right?”
“I don't think there's anything we should be, not really. I don't think there's a handbook for this. Maybe we should have just let him find us some porn and been done with it, but I don't regret doing any of it, and it doesn't seem like he regrets doing any of it, so I'm not sure where that leaves us. I don't know why I'm upset.”
“Because it feels like he should still be here,” says Marius, very quietly, and she's so glad he was the one to say it, because she knew they'd both been thinking it, but it's different to have him say it without her prompting, to know she isn't alone in it. “And that's on us, because I still value him as a friend and I don't want him to do anything he doesn't want, but it still feels like he should be here.”
“Yes.” She sighs. “We're going to have to get over it, though, right?”
“Probably.” Marius tips her face up to kiss her, and they both pretend his eyes aren't glittering when he pulls away. It's been a long week, and she knows everything with Courfeyrac isn't the only stress he's been under. “We texted a lot over break, everything was normal and fine, I think that none of us is going to let the friendship get weird, but … I love you. I love you so much, and I am completely happy in our relationship, it's complete on its own, but—”
“But it feels good with him too. Or right, or one of those other words people use about this kind of thing,” she finishes for him. “I love you, I don't want anyone instead of you, but I think I could want someone with you. Courfeyrac, specifically.”
“Exactly, exactly that,” he says, and kisses her again, both of them turning until they're facing each other, wrapped around each other, his hand at the small of her back and hers on the back of his head, pulling him closer. “But I'm happy with you,” he adds fiercely when he pulls away. “Don't ever think I'm not.”
“Of course, me too, I could never be anything but.” She kisses him again, lingering and then pulls away. “Is it going to be weird if we have sex now, when we've been talking about him? Because I want to, it's been a week and I missed you and I bought a new box of condoms, but I don't want our sex life to get too tied up in him when he's not in it anymore.”
“I'd like to,” he says, smile wiping away the seriousness of a moment before, and Cosette smiles back because she can never resist it when Marius does and gets out the box of condoms, opening one up and handing it to him. He holds it in his hand and sits up to take off his shirt, and then starts unbuttoning her shirt, his mouth following his fingers, a trail of kisses down to her stomach, and then he leaves her to shrug out of her shirt and take off her bra while he watches, toying with the hem of her skirt, since it's finally warm enough to wear them. “Can I use my mouth again?” he asks when he notices her watching. “I've been thinking about it.”
“Absolutely, of course. Like last time?”
“Can I try something?”
“Just let me know what to do.”
She's surprised when he reaches up under her skirt to slide her panties down while leaving the skirt on, and then she goes abruptly from a little bit excited to incredibly turned on at the thought. “Okay,” he says when he's thrown her underwear to the floor. “Like last time now, I think. I'm not ready to move you around like Courfeyrac did.”
Cosette obligingly slides up the bed, back to the headboard, and holds on to it while Marius grabs a pillow and props himself up just enough between her legs. “I'm ready when you are,” she says when he looks up at her, and then he's gently pushing her skirt out of the way to get under it and put his mouth between her legs, kissing the spot where he left a hickey last week, which faded days ago.
It's strange and exciting, having him under her skirt, his hands always on her like he's reassuring her it's him there in the absence of eye contact. Cosette keeps her hands clenched on the headboard because she can't easily reach for him, and tries not to wish for Courfeyrac's presence so she could hold on to him. She can feel and hear him coming up to gasp for air sometimes and she wonders what it would be like, down there with nothing to focus on but someone else's pleasure, the world reduced to space inside the cloth. She might have to try giving him a blowjob under the blanket to see what it's like sometime.
“You're wonderful,” she finds herself saying even though the sound must be muffled. “Oh, Marius, I love you.”
He must know it's something good because he tries harder, and she can hear the sloppy sounds he makes as he tries to put his tongue inside her before he lets out something that sounds like a laugh and uses his fingers instead, sliding one and then two inside her easily, pressing the shape of his smile into her thigh when he feels how wet she is.
Once, his other hand twitches away from her leg like he's reaching out for someone else, but it returns a second later and Cosette forces herself not to react, because he could have just needed to move, and she refuses to let Courfeyrac be a ghost haunting their sex life. All of them deserve much better than that.
Cosette comes when Marius dares to put a third finger inside her, and it shocks them both with its suddenness, leaving Cosette gasping and making Marius pull away and out from under her skirt in order to beam at her, red-cheeked and with mussed hair. Part of the triumph in his expression might be the knowledge that he can get her off when Courfeyrac isn't there, but she won't think that either, not right now.
Instead, she draws him up the bed insistently, undoing the button of his jeans and pushing at them until he finally moves aside to take them off until he's naked. Cosette is still wearing her skirt, but that's fine. It crumples up to her hips when she slides down the bed anyway, and doesn't get in the way when Marius comes back and settles between her legs, encouraging her to lift her hips so he can put the pillow he was propping himself on under them and taking the condom when she offers it.
“Are you ready?”
Cosette puts her arms around his neck to pull him down for a kiss, and he sprawls across her, not quite prepared. She laughs, the wind only a little bit knocked out of her, and shoves him back up a second later, so he can actually put the condom on. “Yes, I'm ready,” she says.
Marius nods, looking very serious and very nervous all of a sudden, and then he actually crosses his fingers before his first thrust, which is more endearing than it really ought to be. He gasps and clutches her hips and holds still, but he doesn't come, and he heaves a sigh of relief when he tries a few tentative thrusts. “It isn't going to be very long, still,” he says apologetically when he catches her smiling.
“We're getting good at this,” she says instead of assuring him that it doesn't matter, that she isn't expecting sex marathons, that it's fine that they aren't experts, because that will bring everything full circle to Courfeyrac again, and she doesn't want that right now. He starts moving a little faster, a little more confident, maybe, and Cosette reaches up to clutch his shoulders. “This is a great angle, we need to remember this.”
He beams down at her and pauses to kiss her before he starts thrusting again. “We will. Do you think you'll come again?”
“Not quite, but sometimes that's just about as good, and I can always masturbate afterward if I need to.”
“You could masturbate during,” he says, lighting up with the bright idea, catching one of her hands and putting it down between her legs, where there's enough space for her to get herself off while he's inside her.
“No promises,” she says, as seriously as she can, because she doesn't want him feeling bad if she only comes once, or doesn't come from him fucking her.
She doesn't, in the end, just finds a plateau and stays there, but it's good, and Marius lasts longer than he has before, grinning as time goes on like he's timing it, and they never look away from each other, and Cosette hopes that only a little bit of the reason is that if they look away it's going to be a reminder that Courfeyrac isn't with them. When Marius comes, he says her name, and he bites his lip afterward, and Cosette knows they have to do something about this, even if it's just to agree to try to get over it.
After, they curl up together, wrapped up tight, Marius's head tucked against her neck, and Cosette looks over the messy top of his hair to all the empty space that is the rest of her bed. “That was lovely, thank you,” she says, because that's the most important thing right now.
Marius tightens his arms around her. “You're amazing.”
She strokes his hair. “It's a little weird without him now, isn't it?”
“I kept waiting for him to say something about my technique.” He turns his face into her shoulder, and his next words come out muffled. “I don't want things to be weird now.”
“They aren't going to be. We'll … give it some time, I guess, and if we keep wanting him, then all we can do is ask again. He said he wanted to be friends still, no matter what, right? He would forgive us for asking as long as we were very sure what we were offering. But I don't think we can ask him until we're very sure.”
“Then we'll wait until we're very sure,” Marius mumbles, and lifts his head. “I love you.”
“That's more than enough,” she promises, and kisses him, and decides it's probably wisest to ignore the problem for at least a little while.
Thursday, though, Fantine summons all three of them for the hour after Cosette's regular lesson, a time that all of them can make (though Marius comes breathless from running halfway across campus), and the second Courfeyrac walks in the door Cosette is struck by the fact that the last time she saw him he was telling them he didn't want to have sex with them anymore.
Courfeyrac, though, doesn't seem to care, or if he does he's good at hiding it, because he puts an arm around each of them the second he walks in and kisses Cosette on the cheek. “Ready to sing?”
“Are you? I'm warmed up.” She steps out from under his arm, because boundaries, they all need those right now.
Fantine raises her eyebrows at the three of them. “He'd better be warmed up,” she says after a moment, though Cosette has the paranoid suspicion she was thinking about saying something else. “I told him to take at least fifteen minutes before the lesson to get in good shape.”
“I managed twelve,” he says with a sheepish shrug. “I ran into Enjolras on my way and he wanted to talk.”
“I suppose twelve is acceptable.” She turns to Marius and smiles at him, because she likes him much better than Cosette's father likes him. Maybe because she and Cosette weren't in contact when Cosette was sixteen and Jimmy Mayhew broke her heart. “You've been working on this with Dr. Mabeuf?”
“Yes, a lot, and I'm playing for another group as well but he says I'm in good shape.” Marius clears his throat. “We practiced some at the start of break, but we haven't had time since.”
“Twice a week at least from here on in,” she says. “Sit down with your planners and find times that you're free after we're done here. I want you to sound as good as possible.” She gestures over to the piano bench. “I want you to run it through for me once, and then we'll start critiquing.”
Cosette smiles at Courfeyrac and wonders if they're standing too close or too far or if it's completely normal, and he smiles back like it is completely normal. She edges a little closer, since he's closer to Marius and the piano, and all three of them adjust their posture, ready to go through the piece, before Marius begins at Courfeyrac's nod.
It's good—all of them practiced over break, obviously, Cosette in between running the rest of her repertoire, Marius probably with a keyboard and headphones in his room at his grandfather's place, Courfeyrac probably cheerfully singing in Enjolras's apartment until Enjolras retaliated with Wagner or something, because she doesn't know his tastes but she suspects he's the sort to spite-sing Wagner. They all hit the notes, Cosette and Courfeyrac manage the words, and even most of the fast syllables happen without either of them losing one or going flat. It's a little flat, not the notes but the music itself, but Cosette puts that down to a week of not singing it together, and by the time they finish, she's fairly confident in their ability to get it together by the showcase.
Fantine looks thoughtful when they finish. “It's not bad,” she allows. “It's not quite connecting yet, but that will come.” She claps her hands together. “Okay, Marius, let's look at the score, you aren't doing the same dynamics in the middle that they are and it's reading like they're singing with a recording. Cosette, Courfeyrac, come over here, can we try from 'unsrer Liebe Kinder schenken' please?”
They work the middle section, over and over, for the rest of the hour, when Courfeyrac, after carefully and quietly checking the clock to make sure they're actually supposed to be finished, dramatically puts his hand on his forehead and declares he can go on no longer. “When do you want us again?” Cosette asks. Something is different, she's not just imagining this, because before break Courfeyrac would have been leaning all over Marius if he were acting this tired, making Marius drag him upright and stagger toward the door until both of them were laughing, and now he's lounging against the wall with great drama.
“This time works for me for the next two weeks, and it will mean that we meet the day before the showcase, which is good. The three of you should find at least one other time a week that you can meet, and I'll keep working with both of you during your lessons, especially on those fast runs toward the end, I know those Gs are hard on both of you but they've got to come out clean. And Marius, I'll send an e-mail to Dr. Mabeuf about things to watch out for, you're still lagging a little when you can tell they want to sing slower.”
“Yes, chief,” says Courfeyrac, with a sudden sharp salute that makes her roll her eyes. “You two, do you want to go out to the hall and figure out our schedules?”
“Absolutely,” says Marius. “We were going to do dinner in the Union, too, you can join us if you want.”
And there's another difference, their cracks showing after rehearsal, because Courfeyrac's smile doesn't change at all, but he says “No, I've got to meet Combeferre and Enjolras, we're volunteering at the elementary school tomorrow and we want to figure out a plan of action first.”
“Of course,” says Cosette. “Hallway, then?”
Fantine waves them all out, but Cosette catches her frowning as the door shuts behind them, Marius already pulling out his planner (a real, physical planner, everyone else uses their phones but he prefers paper, which actually turns out to be more convenient about half the time) and Courfeyrac already listing off his dizzying social schedule. He seems determined to attend every single senior recital, though Cosette is pretty sure they don't know half the seniors.
They finish arranging their schedules within a few minutes (Mondays after Theory Five, Fridays at four if they can't do that for some reason), and before any of them can excuse themselves, Cosette grabs Courfeyrac's sleeve. “I just want to double check that things are okay with all of us,” she says quietly, because they're close to the practice rooms and Fantine still hasn't left her office and it's a conversation they need to have.
“Things could never be not okay with us,” Courfeyrac says, and her voice sounds fierce enough that she even believes it's the truth. “I'm still getting back to redefining normal for myself, but you can tell me I'm being weird and I promise it's never going to be on purpose.”
“And in retrospect you don't feel like we pressured you or anything?” says Marius, head ducked like he's expecting the worst, and that's the first time Cosette regrets doing any of it at all, because she hates it when Marius looks like that.
Courfeyrac seems to hate it just as much, because it's less than a second until he's got Marius wrapped up in a hug. “You did not pressure me at all, don't even start thinking that, because it's definitely not true. I just didn't want any lines to get blurred past recognition. It wasn't anything any of us did while it was happening, it was just deciding that the future could get too blurry, and nobody ever wants to be Robin Thicke. If Robin Thicke has any sense at all he doesn't want to be Robin Thicke.” That makes Marius laugh, and she can see the way that makes Courfeyrac relax, even as he lets Marius go. “So we're fine. You are both wonderful and I am never going to stop thinking that.”
“That's good, because we think you're wonderful too,” says Cosette, putting her arm through his, glad when Marius picks up the cue to do the same on the other side. “Walk us to the Union? I know where their apartment is, I know it's on the way.”
Courfeyrac looks between them for a second like he's thinking of saying no (not quite back to normal, but as long as they keep acknowledging it they may get there soon), but then he gives in and grins. “Fine, how can I say no? Tell me about your break, Cosette, I've heard all about Marius's but I haven't heard about yours.”
Cosette takes that as the peace offering it is and starts talking about it as they walk out of the building, squeezing to the side to fit through doors and laughing their way down the stairs.
“I hope he doesn't move to Bali, my passport is out of date.” She sits down in the seat next to Courfeyrac, one away from the aisle so if Marius does make it in he won't have to climb over them. “I literally just saw both of you five hours ago, why is he late?”
“He's tutoring Éponine because Lamarque has her singing in French for the showcase and her accent is apparently far too Quebecois.”
Cosette looks around, but sure enough, there's Éponine, one row down and listening seriously to something Enjolras is saying, her kid brother jittering in his seat like he's there under protest. “She's here,” she says, because she may as well state the obvious.
“A very Mariusian series of events involving a strawberry smoothie, his pants, and his score for Dr. Myriel, I didn't follow all of it, I was on my way out the door when he got back to the room.”
“If he doesn't make it, I'll call him and let him talk about it.”
“The roaming charges for Bali probably suck.”
“He sunburns under florescent lamps, I really hope he doesn't pick Bali.”
Courfeyrac laughs. “We need to advise him on runaway destinations. Where's the place with all the vampires?”
Cosette considers at least four different answers before she gives the one he probably means, which is “Forks.”
“No,” says Jehan, on Courfeyrac's other side, very firm considering Cosette thought he was absorbed in something on his headphones and not listening in. “I will make you watch Der Vampyr. I will make you sing Der Vampyr. You've got the range for Lord Ruthven.”
“That would be badass,” says Courfeyrac, who either has no sense that he's being chastened or doesn't care. “Do you have a recording? Is it like Lestat the Musical? Because I hear that was fairly disappointing.”
“Don't test me,” says Jehan, but he's smiling, and he leans across Courfeyrac to include Cosette in the smile as well. “And don't encourage him.”
“Is it the vampire blasphemy, or the general nonsense? Because the former, yeah, I haven't read Twilight since high school, but I wouldn't want to stop the latter.”
“See?” Courfeyrac elbows her gently in the side. “Cosette understands me.”
Bahorel appears at the end of the row before Cosette has to think of anything to say to that. His dreadlocks aren't pulled back like usual and he's wearing a bowtie and a vest with all the aplomb that he usually wears angry political t-shirts. He's carrying a messy stack of music, and he frowns at the empty seat next to Cosette. “Where's Marius?”
“He'll be here,” she says, and hopes she's right, because Bahorel looks unhappy that one of his friends is missing. Even Grantaire is there, though Cosette is pretty sure he has Monday night dance rehearsals, sitting in the back with a little dark-haired girl Cosette vaguely remembers from the winter dance showcase.
“He'd better be here soon,” says Bahorel in tones that he probably means to be intimidating but which are mostly nervous.
“Shouldn't you be backstage keeping Joy from having stage fright?”
Bahorel snorts, his worry dissipating immediately. “Joy says she hasn't had stage fright since age six, which is probably a dirty lie, but she made me go away for pacing too much.” He starts fussing with the music, putting it into neat piles that he'll have to disarrange. “I'm turning her pages.” He says it like it's a great honor and like he didn't tell them all in Theory Five in the morning.
Courfeyrac beams at him anyway. “We'll cheer you on. It could be your true vocation in life.”
“Fuck you, it isn't my fault most piano concertos don't involve timpani.” Bahorel grins while he says it, and transfers the grin to Éponine when she turns around to glare at him, probably for swearing in front of her little brother.
Marius picks that moment to come stumbling down to their row, stopping short at the sight of Bahorel and holding out what appears to be a fake flower, though Cosette has no idea how or where he found it. “For being late,” he explains. “You probably have better flowers for her, but I figured ...”
Bahorel, apparently in a forgiving mood, claps him on the shoulder and hands the flower back to him. “Don't worry about it, man, give it to someone without three dozen daisies in her dressing room. Speaking of whom, she told me five minutes, it's definitely been that long.” It definitely has not, but Cosette wants to say hello to Marius, so she doesn't mention that. Bahorel beams around at all of his friends. “Thanks for showing up, guys, it's going to be a great show.”
“Of course, with you turning the pages,” Cosette says, and everyone sends him off with shooing motions and wishes of luck and a blown kiss from Joly.
Marius collapses in the seat next to her the second Bahorel disappears backstage, putting the flower in her lap and giving her a kiss, and then leaning across her to grab Courfeyrac's arm. “The RA says we had a noise complaint yesterday afternoon, something about opera, and I wasn't in, so I'm assuming that was you.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about,” says Courfeyrac with great innocence, and darts a guilty look toward Enjolras and Combeferre a second later, which answers a lot of what was going on there. Though not why they couldn't workshop one of Combeferre's arias in Enjolras and Combeferre's apartment, where they saved up and put soundproofing tile on as many walls as they could. “Where did you find the flower?”
Marius turns abruptly and completely pink. “I might have kind of stolen it? On my way here, I thought Bahorel was probably really mad, and there are always fake flowers in the library during spring semester so I asked the librarian where to find a book and stole one while her back was turned.”
Cosette hides her grin behind her hand. “What a delinquent you are,” she says, because she can't help it. “I'll treasure it.”
“I've never been called a delinquent before.” He sounds far too pleased about it.
“Apparently a teacher tried to give him detention once and relented because he looked too sad,” says Courfeyrac on her other side, leaning into her space with a bright grin. “He's not much of a bad boy.”
“That's fine, I don't really want one. Unless it involves leather jackets.”
Courfeyrac reaches around her to clap Marius on the shoulder. “Well then, Marius, you can borrow mine, and we'll find you a motorcycle somewhere, and you can steal her more fake flowers.”
“Or you could keep it, you'd do just as well,” she says, blatantly flirtatious, and that's too obvious, she knows it's too obvious, but she's saved from having to do anything about Courfeyrac's widening eyes by Joy sweeping out from backstage, wearing an absolutely gorgeous dress that Bahorel's tie matches, Bahorel following a few paces behind her and beaming when the audience applauds her entrance.
The lights go down, and everyone hushes to listen to her play, and Cosette ignores how stiff Courfeyrac is next to her for most of the first piece, until he relaxes enough to lean in to Jehan, unable to resist contact with someone given the opportunity.
Joy is wonderful, maybe the best pianist in the program (Cosette loves Marius, and he's amazing, but he plays with people, Joy is a soloist if Cosette has ever heard one), and Bahorel sits on her right, away from the audience, turning every page exactly on time, which is a highly underestimated skill, in Cosette's experience. Cosette doesn't enjoy the concert as much as she should, though, because she's holding Marius's hand and thinking about how easy it would be to hold Courfeyrac's hand too, if this were a date, which it kind of feels like. Or it would feel like that if she hadn't misstepped, gotten ahead of herself, before she and Marius have even confirmed that this is what they want to do.
Marius walks her home afterward, even though he has classes on Tuesday mornings and tries not to stay at her house when he has to get up for class, and they're both in a glum mood, holding hands but not talking very much. “Do we want to?” she asks, because it seems like a relevant question. “With some space after the events, do we want to?”
“I haven't changed my mind,” he says, so quietly she almost can't hear him.
“Neither have I.” She pulls him a little closer, until they almost trip over each other as they walk. “I guess that means the real question is if he would want it. If we should even bring it up. He said no, shouldn't we respect that?”
“I don't know, it's kind of a different thing and kind of not, and he encouraged Joly and Bossuet when they were seducing Musichetta so it's not that he doesn't think polyamorous relationships can work, he just wanted to stop with us.”
“And I don't want to ask him why he stopped consenting to sex, isn't that a sort of terrible thing to ask a person?”
Marius frowns. “Maybe, but I don't know what else there is to do.”
Cosette stops them walking so she can kiss him on the cheek. “We have a few more weeks before the semester is over, and all of us are spending at least most of summer in town, so we've got time to figure it out if we need it.”
Marius doesn't look comforted, and Cosette doesn't feel that way, but he still smiles and she holds on tighter to his flower while they walk the rest of the way back to her house.
The song goes well, Cosette isn't too modest to think that at the end of their hour together. She and Courfeyrac have all the notes, with good tone and blend, Marius follows and leads them perfectly, and while Fantine corrects their phrasing a few times and scolds Courfeyrac for breathing in the wrong place and Cosette for mispronouncing the same word a few times, it goes well.
Fantine, though, frowns more than she smiles, and doesn't correct anything based off the frowns, which is unnerving at the very least. At the end of the hour, when they're all packing up, she taps Cosette on the shoulder. “Do you mind staying for a few minutes?”
“Is something wrong?” she asks, and tries not to look at Marius and Courfeyrac, because she doesn't know why she's the only one who would be asked to stay if all of them are doing badly.
“I just want a chat with you.”
Cosette squeezes Marius's arm. “You two go do dinner, I'll just go home after, I'll let you know anything you need to know. Good?” They both nod, although Courfeyrac is frowning and Marius looks nervous, and when they pack up and leave they do it much more quietly than they were coming in. Cosette lets the sound of Courfeyrac's voice fade down the hall before she speaks again. “Something is wrong. With the song?”
“With the three of you, I suspect, and thus with the song.” Fantine gestures towards the piano bench, which is one of the two places to sit in her office, since her students always have to stand to sing. “Technically, it's good. You've all come in leaps and bounds, and you'll be a credit to yourselves at the showcase.”
“It isn't connecting, and I think it's that the three of you aren't connecting. The very first time I heard you do it was better than how I hear you do it now, and it's sounded this way since break.” Fantine sighs. “Expression is the hardest part of a piece, I didn't want to harangue the three of you about it when technically you're doing well, and I didn't want to make anyone feel awkward so I thought I would ask you.”
Cosette knows her hands are clenched in her lap and what a tell it is, but she doesn't know how to stop doing it either. “Are you asking as my voice teacher or as my mother?”
“As someone who cares about you, either way. You don't have to confide if you don't want to, which it seems you don't, given that question.”
Cosette looks down. “I shouldn't have said that, it was unfair.”
“I think I pushed too hard.” Fantine stands up and puts a hand on her shoulder. “But know that you can always talk to me, either as your voice teacher or as your mother, if there's something you don't want to discuss with your father or Marius or any of your friends.”
Any of her friends who are Courfeyrac's friends and were his friends first. She adores them all, but she doesn't want to put any of them in the position of feeling like they're caught between, which makes it difficult to say anything to any of them. “It's not really a normal relationship problem,” she finds herself saying after a few beats of silence, because she likes Fantine, and she trusts Fantine, and she thinks she may need to tell someone.
“I'm a musician,” Fantine says, gentle and amused. “And I had you when I was eighteen. I've seen a few things over the years since. And I have an educated guess.” Cosette looks up, alarmed, and Fantine is looking at her, smiling very slightly. She steps back when Cosette looks up, giving her space to think when she speaks again. “One of my voice teachers told me once that if you're doing a performance in a small group, chamber music, singing with an accompanist, anything like that, you all have to be a little bit in love.”
Cosette has to fight to keep her voice from wobbling. “This started outside the singing, but it's leaked into it.”
“I'm not going to ask for details. I don't know if it's that he doesn't want to be with you and Marius at all, or if he asked and it went wrong, or something else, but it seems like something needs to be fixed.”
“We don't know how to fix it, or if we should fix it.”
“Of course you should fix it. The question is how you should fix it.”
“Okay, it's that … we were, the three of us, we did some things, though it was explicitly non-romantic with Courfeyrac. And then we stopped. And Marius and I are feeling romantic toward Courfeyrac, and it isn't just because of what we were doing, but he said no once, we don't want to make him do anything he doesn't want to.”
“If he said no once, he has the option to do it again.” Fantine looks worried, her eyebrows pinched together, and Cosette doesn't know what to do about that. “The best thing you can do, really the only thing you can do, is be honest with him. He deserves that, and you and Marius deserve that.”
“And if it ruins everything? The showcase?”
“Do you really think it will?”
Courfeyrac has said that no matter what he's still their friend, and maybe he will be, but something could change, if they push too hard, and she doesn't want to risk the change being one for the worse. This is bad, though, if it's impacting their music, if Fantine feels the need to bring it up. “Maybe not. I don't know. It's a big risk.”
“Do what you think is best. But for what my opinion is worth, I think the risk could pay off, if you explain everything to him carefully, and if all of you try.”
Cosette stands up and hugs her, even though she and Fantine aren't usually affectionate, everything too awkward with all the weight of history. It's good to hear someone saying that it might work out, though, after too long of she and Marius worrying that there's no way to get their best possible outcome. “Thank you,” she says when she trusts her voice. “I'll talk to Marius. And we'll see if we can get everything worked out before the showcase.”
Fantine hugs her back, fierce enough to squeeze her breath out even though Cosette is taller. “You'd better,” she says, and Cosette thinks if she were anyone else she would be choked up. Instead, her voice is light when she continues with “I've been telling everyone you and Courfeyrac are my best juniors, I don't want anyone proving me wrong.”
“We won't,” she says, and she is choked up, no denying it now. When Fantine lets her go, she turns away, brushes imaginary wrinkles out of her skirt, glad that Fantine gives her the time. “Maybe after the showcase we should do coffee,” she says, because she doesn't think Fantine will accept thanks. “Just the two of us? I mostly see you in voice lessons or with Dad there and I think it would be good to try to talk on our own a little.”
“I'd be glad to. You can tell me how things go with Marius and Courfeyrac.” Fantine looks out the window, stepping back from her a little more. They don't hug often, and it tends to end in one or both of them crying. “Do you want me to drive you home? The forecast said it might rain later.”
Cosette shakes her head. “I could use the walk so I have space to think. There's a lot to think about, and I need to talk about it with Marius soon too.” She takes out her phone and frowns down at the time. “I could probably still catch them at dinner, but maybe I'd better wait until I've had the chance to think about things a little more.”
“That sounds very wise indeed. I'll be wishing you well this weekend, if it's not too weird to say.”
“It's a little weird.” Cosette picks up her jacket and bag off the floor in the corner, getting herself ready to go. “But probably less weird than if Dad had said it.”
“Less weird is something.” Fantine opens the door for her. “I'll see you soon, Cosette. Next week on Thursday if not before. Make sure you keep practicing those fast runs, you're still a little stiff on them.”
“I'll be sure to stretch my jaw out a little better,” Cosette assures her, and ducks out. She has more than enough to think about.
“Was that weird?” he says, looking horrified either on her behalf or his own.
“A little. But I needed to talk to someone outside the problem about it. I thought about asking Musichetta, but she has Joly and Bossuet and I don't think she's an unbiased source, and I thought about asking Jehan but he and Courfeyrac are such good friends.” Marius strokes a hand through her hair and she sighs, rolling into him. “Sometimes it's inconvenient, having such a close group of friends and not too many people outside it. But Fantine helped.”
“What did she say we should do?”
“Talk to him.” Cosette looks up so she can meet his eyes for the next part of the conversation. “I think we both knew that was going to have to happen eventually. We don't have to ask him for anything, we can just explain ourselves and see if he offers us anything.”
“What are we going to explain? We need to know what we want.”
Cosette sits up. “I want to be with both of you,” she says, and she's never said it in so many words, even inside her own head, but it feels true nonetheless. “All three of us together, as an equal, all-the-time thing. Not lessons, not a friend helping friends. Like Musichetta and Joly and Bossuet. You?”
“Yeah, yes.” He grabs her hand and holds it tight. “Exactly that. You two are my favorite people in the world and it never occurred to me to want this before we all had sex, but now I do, I really do, I think we could be good.”
“I think we could be great. And if it doesn't work, it won't be because all of us didn't try.” She looks away. “So what do we tell him? How do we tell him? I think he must be a little wary of spending time with us at my house at this point, but it's the most convenient place to be.”
“We could try our dorm room,” says Marius, frowning. “It isn't the most romantic place, though, and we don't have a place where all of us could … I mean, if it goes well.”
Cosette sighs. “We just need to be honest from the start. Say we need to have a private conversation, that we'd like it at my house, that he can suggest an alternate location if he wants to. And then we tell him that we want to be with him but not like before.” She lays back down beside him. “What if he says no? I never even got to kiss him.”
“He cares about us, and he's attracted to us. That's a good start, right?” Marius kisses her. “I'll text him right now, and then he can say yes or no and we won't be waiting. What about tomorrow? It's Saturday, your father will be out, so we'll be able to talk about it as long as we need to.”
“Okay. Soon is good. Soon gives us time to recover before the showcase.” She swallows and lets herself bury her face in Marius's shoulder for a second. “Tell me it's going to be okay.”
“It's going to be okay,” he says, though it doesn't really sound like he believes it, and reaches for his phone. “I'll text him right now.”
By the time Marius gets a reply, her father is asleep and they're kissing, in a slow build-up to sex, trying not to look at his phone whenever it buzzes even though he's getting group texts from Theory Five about Joly's upcoming birthday and it's buzzing a lot. When he sees Courfeyrac's name, he stops kissing her long enough to check, and the two of them look at the message together.
All it says is okay, but it's a start.
Her father leaves at five, kissing her on the cheek and taking a spoonful of mousse before he goes, and Cosette bustles around the kitchen keeping everything warm until Marius shows up with Courfeyrac at his heels half an hour later.
“Come in, dinner is ready.” Marius has his overnight bag, but Courfeyrac doesn't. Which is fine, they didn't explicitly extend that invitation, after all. “We can talk while we eat.”
“It smells great in here.” Courfeyrac is smiling, but Cosette doesn't think she's imagining that he's nervous. It must be weird for him to be back here, and she wishes there was some kind of neutral ground they could be on, but there really isn't. “Thank you.”
Cosette keeps the conversation light while they dish their plates out, because her stage fright for this conversation is worse than her stage fright ever has been for a concert. Marius hovers at her side, in her space but not quite touching her, speaking in short bursts and letting her and Courfeyrac have most of the conversation to themselves. “When we start dinner?” he asks when Courfeyrac precedes them into the dining room.
“I don't think we can wait much longer than that.” She kisses him. “It's going to be okay. We're going to make sure it's okay. Right?”
When they go into the dining room, Courfeyrac is sitting with his plate untouched in front of him, and he isn't smiling anymore, and he's probably trying to look serious and maybe stern but mostly all Cosette can think is that he must be just as scared as they are, only he doesn't know what they want, and she puts her plate down and has to stand behind her chair for a minute while Marius gets himself settled to keep from going over and holding his hands and telling him it's fine, because that isn't her job yet. When she sits down, Courfeyrac takes a swallow of his water, and then he's the one to begin the conversation. “It seems like the two of you have something to say to me, or something to ask me. Right? And I suspect it has to do with sex.”
“It's related,” says Marius, to Cosette's surprise. They hadn't discussed who would say what, but she'd assumed she would end up being the one to do most of the talking. For all they both care for Courfeyrac, she's very aware that Marius is the one with the most to lose if Courfeyrac doesn't want them, if he says no and things can't go back to how they were this time. “This is … we're not asking for help with our relationship, and we don't want you to say anything because of us. I mean, obviously it's related to us so it would have something to do with us, but … Cosette?”
“You can say no.” Cosette knows the food is going to get cold, wonders why she even bothered with it at all instead of calling in a pizza order for two or for three after they finished with the conversation. “Don't let our thoughts or desires have too much sway, make any decisions for you.”
Courfeyrac nods. “I can promise that. I'd like to know what I would be deciding on, though.” Both of them hesitate, and he looks between them, and Cosette feels horrible for making him reassure them when he speaks again. “I'm going to say what I said before, that you two are my friends no matter what you say.”
“Right. The thing is, it isn't ...” Cosette sighs, frustrated. “We miss you,” she begins again, because maybe that's a better way to start. “You specifically, not as an instructor, but just as a person. So we're really honored to be your friends, that's a wonderful thing to be, but we'd also like to be something else.”
“We want to date you,” Marius says before Courfeyrac can ask any questions, like ripping off a band-aid, and there's silence for a few seconds, Courfeyrac blinking, not showing anything but pure shock. “Both of us. And you,” he adds before the silence gets unbearable. “And sex when you feel comfortable with that again, but not because we're grateful, or because you taught us, but because it's better with you just because you're you.”
This time, the silence does get unbearable, a long torturous pause while Courfeyrac sits frozen and Cosette doesn't know what to say. It takes a full minute (she counts) for him to say “Wow,” and then he doesn't continue.
“We are very, very sure,” she says in something just barely over a whisper, because that would be her first question, she thinks, if she were in his position. “We're happy together, the two of us, but we think we could be happier with you. And we'd like to try. If you have feelings for us.”
“That's why I said no,” says Courfeyrac, and Cosette feels abruptly like she can breathe again when she didn't even realize she was keeping her breath shallow like anything could tip the balance in the wrong direction. “Why I stopped having sex with the two of you. It was because I thought I could keep feelings separate, since I'm such good friends with Marius and to some extent with you, Cosette, but I couldn't, and it wasn't fair to continue under false pretenses.” He breaks out into a grin and it's the best thing Cosette has seen all week. “But now there aren't false pretenses. So yes. I want to date you. Both of you.”
Cosette thinks she's beaming but doesn't think she can stop, and when she looks over at Marius he's looking between them wide-eyed, like he's not sure it can possibly be this easy. “You're really sure?” he asks.
“It's pretty much the best-case scenario I could have hoped for when I came tonight,” says Courfeyrac, and his smile is only getting brighter, and Cosette reaches out, glad her table is so small, and takes his hand, because she can now, she can take his hand and she can finally kiss him and they can have sex again, and have lunches and tell their friends, and she knows exactly what he means about the best-case scenario.
Within a second, Marius has reached out for both of them, all of them connecting in a rough circle and beaming around, and Marius's elbow landed in his rice when he moved, but she doesn't think he cares so she isn't going to mention it. “We should … something,” says Marius, trailing off on the last word, frowning. Maybe he can't think of anything momentous enough. Cosette certainly can't, though she has a few ideas that will certainly help. “Celebrate, anyway.”
“I think maybe I should put dinner in the fridge to warm up later,” says Cosette, because she knows where this is going, and it was silly to think they'd get around to food anytime soon if things went well. “Should I?”
Courfeyrac looks down at his plate like he forgot it was there, and Marius finally removes his elbow from his side dish, making a face and letting go of her hand to pick up his napkin and wipe it off. “I think we should,” says Courfeyrac, and Cosette wants to scream with relief, but she stands up instead, dropping their hands and grabbing her plate. It's only a second before he's standing as well, and Marius scrambles to his feet a moment after that, and then they're all standing there, still grinning and not doing anything.
Cosette is the one to start moving first, leading the other two to the kitchen, and she puts her plate in the fridge and covers over all the food on the counter, and that will have to do for an hour or two until they get downstairs again to actually eat. They both stay close, putting their own food away, Courfeyrac grabbing a piece of tomato out of his salad to pop in his mouth before he closes the fridge door, and then he's the one to nod toward the hallway and the stairs beyond. “Shall we?”
“Yes.” That's Marius, and he grabs both of their hands even though it's impractical to get up the stairs that way. Cosette follows anyway, face hurting with how wide her smile is, and manages to get ahead of Marius to start up the stairs, tugging them both behind her.
When they're inside her bedroom, door safely shut and light on even though sunset isn't for a while, they all pause, hands dropping, and Cosette looks between them, not sure what to do first, or if she needs to say anything (because there will be talking to do after this, about how to make sure they can keep going as long as possible).
“Cosette,” says Courfeyrac, and she looks at him immediately. “I've kissed Marius. Can I kiss you?”
It seems like a miracle that he mentions it when she's been thinking about it, and Cosette only looks at Marius long enough to catch his nod before she throws her arms around Courfeyrac's neck and kisses him, clumsy at first until she gets the angle right, stops pressing too hard. The shape of his mouth is different than Marius's, and there's a patch of stubble he missed pressing into her cheek, and when Marius's hand lands on her back it's one of the best things she's ever felt, being caught between them.
“What else do you want to do?” she asks the second he pulls away, keeping a tight hold on his shirt because otherwise she'll start taking it off and she can't be impatient, not when this is so important. “Before, it was all about us. Was there anything you wanted to try that you never got the chance to? I want to try that.”
“Lots of things. Everything.” He kisses her again, pulling her in by the hips, and leans his forehead against hers when he finishes, one of his hands leaving her, reaching out for Marius. “I ended it when I started thinking too much about what to try next time, and the time after that.”
“What do you want to try first, then?” says Marius.
Courfeyrac pulls away from her until they can all see each other again, but he focuses his attention on Marius. “There's a thought I had, and it was kind of selfish, and I want to stress that if you don't feel comfortable with it that I won't bring it up until you are, but I may as well ask. It occurred to me that a lot of guys don't come as fast if they focus more on other erogenous zones. Which would have been hard with Cosette, which is why I didn't bring it up before, but if it's all three of us ...”
“You want to fuck me,” says Marius, and it's a breathless tone she recognizes from his stammered-out “You want to have sex?” months ago now. Courfeyrac must realize it's a good thing as well, because he breaks out into a grin, and it only grows wider when Marius says “Yes, yes, I'm definitely comfortable with that” so quickly that Cosette wonders if she should have tried it with him before, offered to buy a dildo and a harness. It will be better with Courfeyrac, but it would have been worth an offer.
“Cosette?” says Courfeyrac. “You don't mind?”
“Not at all. I can use my vibrator, or if he doesn't come while you fuck him, maybe he could do me afterward, or … well, there are a lot of options.” She smiles, a little giddy. “We can do all of them. Maybe after we eat dinner and the strawberry mousse I made us, but we can do any of it.”
“We could try advanced threesome logistics and see if he can fuck you the same time I fuck him,” says Courfeyrac, “but I think that might be a little more coordination than we want to do tonight.”
“That would be great to do sometime, though,” she says, and steps back from him. “But we'll figure me out along the way. Should we do this on the bed?”
“The bed is great,” Marius says, his voice high, and staggers his way out of his socks and his shirt at the same time, Cosette and Courfeyrac both reaching for him at once to keep him steady. He's halfway out of his jeans too before Cosette remembers to start moving, and she seems to cue Courfeyrac, and he helps her with her clothes, tugging on her shirt when it gets stuck, undoing the zipper on her skirt.
Marius watches them from the bed, and she kisses Courfeyrac again, putting on a show because he seems to want one. When she looks at him again, he's scrabbling for condoms and her almost-full bottle of lube by her bed without looking away, and she has mercy and takes off the rest of her clothes herself while Courfeyrac does the same and Marius finishes finding their supplies.
“Okay,” Courfeyrac says when they're all on the bed, taking over with ease, a smile still pulling at his mouth. “Marius, have you ever done anything like this before?” Marius shakes his head, wide-eyed. “Then we'll just have to be really careful, and you can tell me to stop or to wait whenever you need. And we don't have to start yet, I'd like to kiss both of you some more, but—”
Cosette takes the opportunity to pull him down between she and Marius, because it's his turn in the middle, she has some idea that they should take turns as much as they can, and to kiss his neck, leaving Marius to kiss him properly, all of them pressing as much skin together as they possibly can. Touching Courfeyrac is different to touching Marius, different spots making him shudder his breath in, or make a noise, his reactions to something good different. She wants to do everything, and she does it as much as she can until Marius pulls away with a gasp.
“Can we, now?”
“Cosette?” says Courfeyrac.
“Just tell me where you want me.”
Courfeyrac takes Marius's face in his hands and gives him a long, lingering kiss that makes Cosette hiss, painfully turned on. “On your hands and knees? It's easier that way at first and you'll be able to look at Cosette to have an anchor.”
“I've got an idea,” says Cosette, wiggling toward the middle of the bed and taking Marius's shoulders and encourages him over her, between her spread legs, like he's going to fuck her. “Like this? You can look at me and you're in a good position for Courfeyrac.” She looks over Marius's shoulder at Courfeyrac. “Right?”
“Our legs might get a little tangled, but that's a hazard of sex with three people, and I bet we can get it figured out. Have you got the lube?”
Cosette can reach it, half shoved under a pillow, and passes it over to him. “Kiss me,” she tells Marius, because he's starting to look nervous, and he does, gentle and sweet, mouth opening against hers when she tries to slip her tongue in. He must be bent at a strange angle, mouth on hers and ass up far enough for good access for Courfeyrac, but he doesn't seem to mind, and when he gasps against her mouth and almost bites her lip, she knows what's going on. “How is it?” she asks when she can pull away from him a little.
Marius's eyes are closed, and when she looks over his shoulder Courfeyrac is paused, a hand braced on Marius's back, his cheeks pink. “Good,” Marius says after a long second, opening his eyes long enough to give Cosette a hazy smile before shutting them again when Courfeyrac moves his finger.
“He seems happy,” says Cosette, and clears her throat and says it louder because she knows she just breathed it and Courfeyrac really does need audible feedback.
“I'm definitely happy,” says Courfeyrac, looking down at her with a smile, and goes back to what he was doing.
Cosette kisses Marius, smiling whenever he gasps against her, whenever he shudders or makes a noise. It's almost unbearable, after a few minutes, how much she wants them, and she slips a hand down from Marius's shoulder between her legs, touching herself. She arches against Marius, glad when it makes his breath hitch and his eyes open, and then his weight is shifting, one of his hands joining hers, fingers moving awkwardly until she puts them in the right place. They haven't tried this angle before, but Cosette doesn't think it will take too much work to make her come, once or twice or however many times, not if Courfeyrac is going to be fucking Marius like this.
She loses time, a little, in the tangle of their fingers together and the way Marius jolts against her, and Courfeyrac's occasional murmurs telling them how good they look. She comes once before Courfeyrac can get more than one finger inside Marius, a sharp orgasm that only leaves her wanting more, and she slows down after that, letting Marius explore her as much as he wants, looking over his shoulder to watch Courfeyrac as he uses more lube, puts a second finger inside Marius, then a third, Marius's responses getting a little wilder every time, his fingers clumsy but still good inside her.
“Marius,” Courfeyrac finally says, a little louder than the quiet encouragement and explanation of what he's been doing that Cosette has mostly let slip past her, and she and Marius both pause, Cosette looking up at Courfeyrac and Marius just freezing, his only movement his chest heaving. “Do you think you're ready? I think you are, but it's up to you.”
“I'm ready,” says Marius almost before Courfeyrac has finished speaking. “I'm definitely ready.” Cosette reaches up to stroke his face and he opens his eyes. “Definitely,” he says again, still looking dazed and a little disconnected but happy, and that's what's important, as far as Cosette is concerned.
Cosette watches Courfeyrac pull back, searching until he finds a condom and puts it on, Marius shifting restlessly while all three of them wait, all of them silent except for their breathing. “Okay,” Courfeyrac finally says, and his voice is tight like he's trying to keep it from shaking. “Tell me to stop if you want, or to wait, and Cosette, if he looks too uncomfortable let me know.”
“I will,” she says, because Marius seems to be beyond words for now. She never looks away from his eyes as Courfeyrac presses in, watches him go wide-eyed, but he never flinches. His breath is ragged and Courfeyrac is breathing in, a long, long inhale, while he slides inside. “He's okay,” she says, when Courfeyrac finally seems to be settled and Marius drops his head so she can't meet his eyes anymore. “Right, Marius?”
Marius nods, and then seems to dredge his words up. “You can do it.”
Cosette watches what's happening in Marius's eyes, when he picks his head up again. She can feel them rocking against her, but it's most interesting to watch his face, how his eyes close when Courfeyrac finds the right spot, how his mouth hangs a little bit open, obviously liking it, loving it. His hand is still between her legs but he isn't moving it, and she gently moves it away so he can brace himself better, smiling when his eyes snap open so he can start mouthing an apology. She touches herself again, loving being able to watch the two of them from beneath, so close that Marius's cock brushes against her stomach sometimes, on hard thrusts. “Do you think you're going to come from this?” she asks him.
“Then we need the other condom.” She flails out a hand, not really expecting to grab on to it, and above them, Courfeyrac pauses, and a second later, he's pressing it into her hand. She grins up at him. “Thank you.”
“I figured we would need it, so I kept it close.”
“I'll put it on you, Marius.” She opens the packet, reluctantly using both hands to find the right angle and put it on, enjoying the noise he makes when she touches him. Courfeyrac is paused above them, and when she finishes, she looks first at Marius, then at him. “Whenever you're ready.”
Courfeyrac starts again, a gentle rhythm that speeds up quickly when Marius, either intentionally or instinctively, starts rocking back against him on every thrust. Cosette goes faster, wishing she'd thought to get her vibrator out of her drawer before they'd begun, because she doesn't want to move, now or possibly ever.
Cosette keeps her eyes open as much as she can, watching them, catching glimpses because she can't see all of either of them like this: Marius's face, of course, and Courfeyrac's beyond if she focuses, the grip of his hand on Marius's hip, Marius's cock, jumping with each thrust now. Courfeyrac isn't talking, and she feels like the silence is too much, so she finds herself filling it, telling them how good it looks, how good it feels, how she wants them both and loves them both and it's too soon for Courfeyrac, probably, but she means it, her voice going high as she gets closer to coming again.
“I'm going to come soon,” Courfeyrac finally gasps, interrupting her, and Cosette snaps to look up at him, to blink and refocus until she can see his face, how tense it is. Both of them reach for Marius's cock at once, making him gasp and buck forward and then back, shocked at the sudden sensation, and then it's like an avalanche, Courfeyrac making a punched-out noise and Marius giving a ragged inhale, both of them coming at almost the same time, Cosette pushing herself over the edge seconds later, while they're both still shaking, recovering.
Cosette turns her head to the side while she tries to bring her breathing back down to normal, too overwhelmed to look at them. They're both moving, slowly, off to the side, Marius wincing when Courfeyrac pulls out of him, Courfeyrac taking care of their condoms. Marius is the one who touches her first, a gentle stroke on her neck. “Cosette? Are you okay?”
“I'm okay.” She turns back toward them. Courfeyrac looks concerned, and she thinks Marius would as well, except that he's fighting a wide smile, sinking down into the pillow next to her. “It was a lot, that's all. It's so much better when it's all three of us.”
“It's amazing,” says Courfeyrac, reaching across Marius for her. “And you said ...”
“I said I love you.” She can't take it back now that she's said it, even if it's too soon. He deserves more than to have it written off as something she said because they were having sex, especially when it's true. “I did mean it, but I'm sorry if it made you uncomfortable.”
“No, I'm … I can't believe it, but I'm glad.”
“I love you both,” says Marius, and turns away from her to kiss Courfeyrac. They cling to each other, and she wonders if it was even more intense for them, being in constant contact like that and not watching. She thinks she'd like to find out what it's like to be caught between them, one or both of them somehow in her.
“Next time,” she says when they pull apart, “Courfeyrac should fuck me. It only seems fair.”
Courfeyrac grins at her. “I'm more than willing. Well, the spirit is willing. The flesh could probably use some of that dinner we left downstairs before round two.”
“I don't think I can stand yet,” says Marius, very seriously.
Cosette curls into him. “We'll get up and warm it up in a few minutes, and we'll have lots of dinner, and then we'll have round two. And maybe round three. And then we'll talk to my dad in the morning and let him know what's going on because I'm really bad at keeping secrets from him.”
Anyone else would probably ask if her dad would be okay with it (and it will take some accepting, but her dad loves her, and he wants her to be loved and to love as much as she can, so she knows it will be fine soon, even if it's weird at first). Courfeyrac just nods seriously. “And we'll tell our friends soon? Because I don't want to make you feel guilty at all but Enjolras and Combeferre have been kind of worried about me.”
“Before Theory Five on Monday,” says Marius. “I don't really want to talk to anyone else all weekend.”
Cosette smiles and kisses him, and then leans over him to kiss Courfeyrac as well. “I think that can be arranged.”
They aren't last, she and Marius and Courfeyrac, there are some instrumentalists after them, including Bahorel and a percussion ensemble, but they're far enough into the night that Cosette lets herself relax into them and finds herself surprised when Fantine taps her into the shoulder and jerks her head back toward the green room.
All of them follow her there, and she turns to look at them when she shuts the door behind them. “You can do this,” she begins, and it's good to hear, even if Cosette knows it already. Their rehearsals have only been getting better for the past week. “This is a big crowd, but they're willing to be pleased, and forget about who might have their eye on you, what auditions you might get invited to, because I can promise it will occur to one of you at some point during the performance, but it doesn't matter. Just think about each other, and whoever you care that's listening, and you'll be fine.” She looks at Cosette and Courfeyrac. “As long as you two are sure to keep your jaws relaxed.”
“We will,” says Cosette. “Thank you. I think we're going to be fine.”
“I know we're going to be fine,” says Courfeyrac, putting an arm around her shoulders.
Fantine looks between the three of them, and she hasn't mentioned it, and Cosette hasn't mentioned it, but she must know, given the advice she gave Cosette. She seems glad about it, without reservations, and maybe Cosette will ask when they finally have coffee, but for now she's happy to bask in her smile. “Then go be fine on stage, the string quartet is probably finishing by now.”
“We'll do you proud,” says Courfeyrac, and he's the one to open the door and shepherd them out into the wings, where sure enough they can hear the last few notes of the string quartet finishing before the applause breaks out.
Marius takes her hand during the applause. His palm is a little sweaty, but when she looks at him he looks determined, his music folded under his other arm, all ready to set out. “Let's go out,” he says when the quartet is finished taking their bows and have walked off into the other wing with their instruments, a member of the stage crew running off to put their chairs to the side.
“Okay,” she agrees, and squeezes his hand for a second before dropping it and letting him go on stage first so he can start setting up his music while she and Courfeyrac come out, shoulder to shoulder and trying not to squint past the stage lights into the audience.
Their friends are in the other wing, watching, probably exchanging money over whether any of them would come out on stage holding hands (as if they would, they're professionals, or nearly so), since they're all taking the news of their relationship with a little surprise but a lot of happiness. Her father is somewhere in the audience, probably in the third row on the left, because he's a creature of habit. Fantine is watching, though Cosette doesn't dare look back to confirm that. She can sing for people she loves.
She can sing with people she loves, she amends, looking at Marius and then Courfeyrac to confirm that they're both ready before giving Marius the nod, because they agreed she would be in charge of that.
Marius gives them the introduction, just a few short measures, and Cosette takes a deep breath in and begins to sing.