Florian felt ridiculous. He couldn't seem to stop blushing every time someone looked at him, which seemed to be happening constantly since he and Ray had first walked into the ballroom. Ray had his own little circle of attention, off on the other side of the room, but that was fine for him considering Ray wasn't the one who had been forced to wear a dress.

He really hated it when Ray did this, which is probably why it happened so damn often.

The dress swished around his feet as he crossed the room towards the refreshments tables, the skirt filled with far more hoops and layers than he liked, but at least it kept people from staring at his ass like when Ray had made him wear the skin-tight red number on their last heist. He mentally groaned at the fact that he was actually willingly helping Noir steal something, but a quarter of the value of the item would be subtracted from his debt, which was really all the incentive he needed to put on women's clothing.

It didn't, however, make him complain or protest any less.

He blamed Laila for the fact that he could not-quite-stalk across the crowded dance floor in high heels with perfect balance. He blamed both Laila and Ray for the number of heads that turned as he slipped between dancers and clusters of people talking. Logically, he knew that the pair had conspired to turn him into a rather fetching imitation of a women, but he couldn't quite mentally connect himself in drag with something that men would want to lust after. Well, men other than Ray, but he was a special case that lusted after Florian no matter what he wore. He wondered how another man could look at Florian and not realize that he wasn't a woman.

"Pardon, milady." Florian blushed as an arm encircled his waist, halting his progress across the room and forcing him to turn.

Shock ran through him as he turned to face Count Laurien, the host of tonight's ball and owner of the Taviere Collection, Noir's current target. A piece from the collection currently hung from the count's neck. The blue jewel set in the center of the necklace complemented the count's suit, seeming as if it had been made specifically for the man to wear this night.

"H-hello," Florian offered nervously, almost certain that the count would notice the masculine timbre to his voice.

If the count thought anything was off with Florian's demeanor, he didn't show it. He smiled widely and raked his eyes over Florian's form in a less than subtle move. Florian felt his face heat further at the intimate attention. Laurien's eyes seemed to linger on his corset-enhanced waist before travelling up over fake breasts to finally reach his eyes once more.

"I don't believe we've met."

He smiled slightly, hoping the man would mistake his nerves for shyness. "Lady Amelia d'Meria." He extended a gloved hand.

The count bowed over his hand and pressed his lips to the top of Florian's glove. The arm around his waist slid as the count moved, brushing low over Florian's hips, barely on the good side of propriety. Laurien's lips lingered longer than necessary.

"Don't tell me a beauty such as yourself is here alone?"

He shook his head and glanced in Ray's direction. The thief wasn't even looking in Florian's direction. He had his back half-turned as he spoke to a man in a brown suit.

"I came with my cousin, Count Ray Balzac Courland. He's been kind enough to show me around town during my brief visit."

The count's expression soured briefly when Florian mentioned Ray, though the expression passed quick enough that he wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't been looking for it. Apparently Ray's reputation had preceded them here. The count pasted a smile on his face.

"Are you in town for long?"

He glanced again towards Ray but the man was oblivious to the fact that he should be rescuing Florian. "Only until tomorrow." He smiled back at Laurien, trying his best to look pretty and daft and not at all like someone who was helping a notorious thief steal the count's prized jewel collection.

"Pity." Laurien's hand pressed against his hip, his fingers curling almost possessively. It was the kind of touch that Florian usually associated with Ray. "Well, then I suppose we should make the best of the time while you're here. Tell me, are you a fan of art?"

Florian smiled weakly. He had a bad feeling about this but it would be impolite to try to leave. "I am."

Laurien's smile widened. "I have quite the collection. May I show you?"

His eyes wandered back to where Ray was still talking, still oblivious. "I'd love to," he lied.

The count's arm settled like a chain around his waist, leading him from the ballroom and down a long hall lined with framed pieces of art. True to his word, Laurien did have a rather impressive collection of art. Absently, he wondered if Noir knew about it. If he didn't, Florian wasn't going to mention it. The last thing he wanted was to give Noir an excuse to come back.

They moved slowly. Every so often the count would stop before a particular piece and explain its significance. Florian would normally find such talk fascinating, but he was distracted, trying to think of ways to get away from the count. His presence was starting to unnerve Florian, made worse by the empty halls and their constant progress deeper into the mansion.

After a flight of stairs and another hall lined with art, Florian was starting to get suspicious. The wing that they'd wandered into was silent, the sound of the party faded beyond hearing.

"The best of the collection is in here." Count Laurien opened half of a set of double doors. The room inside was too dark to make out much beyond the faint outlines of furniture.

Florian smiled nervously and stepped inside. The count followed, shutting the door behind them and briefly dropping them both into complete darkness. There was a faint click, then another and suddenly the room brightened. A small wick lantern sat on a table by the door, casting the room in amber hues. The light didn't reach the opposite walls but it covered enough for Florian to realize that they weren't in a gallery.

He turned towards the door and reached for the handle. "I think-"

Laurien's lips cut him off. He squeaked in surprise and tensed as two arms came around his waist, pulling his body tight against the count's. Blindly, he groped behind him for the door handle. His fingers found it and twisted but the handle didn't give. After a moment, the count pulled away.

"I'm afraid that's locked." His smile turned somewhat predatory and then he was leaning in again to kiss a path down Florian's neck.

Fear coursed through Florian's body, freezing him in place, too terrified to even try to run.


Laurien laughed against his neck. His teeth bit down lightly on the side of Florian's neck. A hand slid down to spread over Florian's ass, groping him through his skirts. He gasped slightly and shivered. Memories of Azura and his opium flashed through Florian's mind. Fear and desperation mixed, giving him the strength to finally move.

He lifted one shaky hand up to Count Laurien's chest and tried to push them apart. The count's grip was stronger, keeping them together despite Florian's increasing struggles. Laurien made an annoyed sound against Florian's neck and finally stopped. He pulled back slightly and glared. His hands caught both of Florian's, holding them tightly.

"I suggest you play nicely or I will be forced to act in accordance with your disobedience." All pretence of civility dropped from Laurien's voice, leaving a hard edge of annoyance.

Florian spat in his face.

The answering slap was almost expected. Florian fell, landing on one of the couches scattered around the room. His ears rung. Distantly, he heard the sounds of a belt buckle being loosened and then the count was grapping Florian's hands, first one, then the other, wrapping his leather belt around and between them. He fastened the buckle over Florian's joined wrists, pulling the leather painfully tight.

Florian screamed. Maybe, if he was lucky, one of the servants or patrons would be able to hear him and come rescue him. That was, of course, assuming that rape wasn't a regular occurrence at the Laurien household and that the servants wouldn't just turn a blind eye towards it. He was also assuming that there was actually someone within hearing distance.

"Stop that," Laurien commanded angrily.

Florian didn't and tried to push off of the couch but Laurien held him down with one hand on the small of Florian's back. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Laurien loosening his tie and then the fabric was being slid between his lips and tied behind his head, muffling his screams. The count pulled him to his feet and moved them until Florian was draped over the arm of the couch, his face pressed against the cushions, his legs dangling in the air. He tried to kick at the man but his legs moved feebly and Laurien caught his legs each time before he could connect.

His skirts were flipped up to fall heavily against his back. There were hands on his legs, tracing up and down his smooth thighs and pushing them slightly apart. Fingers hooked under the edges of the panties Ray had insisted he wear, pulling the fabric down. He blushed in embarrassment as he heard the count gasp in surprise.

"Well, that is certainly unexpected."

Curious fingers ran underneath his balls and pressed against his entrance. He felt tears form at the edge of his eyes and tried desperately to shift away, but Laurien gripped him tightly by the hips, keeping him from moving.

"What a rare find indeed," Laurien murmured. "Does your cousin know he's hosting a cross-dresser?"

Florian whimpered against the gag and squeezed his eyes tightly shut as tears started to fall. Not again. This was like Azura all over again. Ray wasn't going to be able to save him, not until it was too late. Fingers pressed against his entrance, slowly sliding inside. It hurt. It was too much, too fast and there was no lube, nothing to ease the relentless slide of flesh against flesh. He screamed into the gag, the sound slowly dissolving into a series of sobs.

He wanted Ray. He needed Ray to come save him. Ray didn't hurt him, not anymore. Ray was safe. Ray protected him, except this time, like with Azura, he failed. Laurien was going to rape him and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

One of the inner doors opened suddenly. Laurien froze, his fingers still inside of Florian. They both looked up at the masked man who stepped into the room. He had a gun in his hand which he kept pointed straight at Laurien.

"You will let him go now," Noir commanded.

Florian winced as Laurien's fingers slid out of him. The count took a step back.

"Untie him."

He felt fingers in his hair and then the gag fell away, exposing the sound of his sobs to the room. Tears still ran down his cheeks but he couldn't stop them. Laurien stepped around the couch and unbuckled the belt around his arms. It hit the floor with a loud thunk.

Florian stood quickly. He kept his eyes down, not looking at either of them as he pulled the panties back into place and resettled his skirts.

"You." He knew Noir was addressing him. He didn't look up. "Take the jewel from around the count's throat."

He froze in terror and wanted to shake his head, to tell Noir that he couldn't do it, that he couldn't go near the man that had been seconds away from raping him. Somehow he forced his body to move. He trembled uncontrollably as he stepped around the count. It took three tries to undo the clasp of the necklace. As soon as the jewel settled in his hand, he backed away, towards Noir.

"Give that to me."

He handed the jewel to Noir without looking.

"You can leave now."

Florian glanced over uncertainly but Noir just nodded towards the door. The hand holding the gun trained on Laurien never wavered.

"I-" His voice broke. He tried again. "It's locked."

Noir lifted an eyebrow and stared at Laurien. "The key?"

Laurien reached in his pocket and pulled a large metal key from his pocket. He held it out, his eyes focused angrily on Florian.

"No. Throw it towards the door."

It landed on the carpet two feet from the door. Florian edged slowly around the room, keeping as far from Laurien as possible. As soon as he was near the doors, he scrambled for the key. His hands shook as he tried to unlock the doors, rattling the key against the lock until it finally clicked open. He pulled the door open and ran.

Florian only vaguely remembered the way back. He let the sounds of revelry guide him until he was back in the hall full of art. It was once more thankfully empty. He stopped by an ornate mirror to check his reflection. He twisted his dress back into place, smoothing out the wrinkles as best he could and then running a hand through his hair. There was still an edge of dishevelment to his appearance but there was little he could do about that.

He froze with his hand on the door handle. On the other side of the wood, he could hear the musicians playing, people chatting happily, oblivious of what had happened. Fear made his stomach clench and he suddenly wondered if any of them would know when they looked at him. Would he see pity in the servants' eyes because they knew what their master did to pretty ladies behind locked doors? Would the women frown at him, thinking him at fault for letting himself get caught? Would the men snicker and eye him, hoping that they would be the next to despoil him?

Minutes passed while he stood, so close to freedom but too scared to cross the crowded hall of people to get there.

"Aren't you going?"

Florian jumped and turned in surprise to stare at Ray. He felt himself start to shake once more, tears threatening. "I can't."

Ray's fingers brushed the tears away before they could fall. He looked at Florian with open sympathy and let his hand slide down Florian's back to rest against his waist. "It'll be okay," he said softly. "I'm here. Just hold yourself together a little longer and we can leave."

He nodded but didn't move. Ray's fingers closed over his own, pulling his hand away from the door. He positioned himself securely against Florian's side, wrapping his arm around Florian. Ray opened the door. The sounds of the ballroom flooded Florian's senses, leaving him momentarily disoriented.

Florian knew they were moving but he was barely conscious of where they were going. A few times they stopped and he heard Ray murmur excuses but his voice sounded far away. He told them that Florian was sick, that all the excitement and the rich food had gone to her head and that he was taking her home to rest.

Cool air washed over him and he realized belatedly that they were outside. There was a carriage waiting at the bottom of the steps. Laila's smile disappeared as she saw them but she said nothing as Ray helped Florian into the carriage. The door shut behind them, cutting off the outside world. The carriage jerked into movement, jarring Florian out of his haze and releasing all the emotion he'd kept bottled up.

He turned to Ray, twisting his hands into the fabric of the thief's coat as he started to sob once more. There was a brief pause before Ray's hands came around him, running soothingly along his back. Ray pressed his head against Florian's and whispered nonsense at him, speaking low and softly in an effort to calm him.

His sobs had wound down by the time the carriage finally came to a stop. The door was flung open before Ray even had a chance to move.

"What the hell happened in there?" Laila demanded, her face twisted in anger.

A shudder ran through Florian and he started to cry again.

Ray sighed but didn't let go. "I'll explain later. Have someone run a hot bath in my chambers." He pulled a small sack from underneath his coat and tossed it at Laila. "Find a secure place for these."

He heard Laila move away. Ray's hand stilled on his back.

"Think you can make it inside?"

He swallowed another sob and nodded shakily. Reluctantly, he started to pull away.

Ray stayed by his side the entire time. He helped Florian out of the carriage and kept his arm around him as they walked. He could feel the servants of the household watching him as they moved towards Ray's bedroom, but they were all sensitive enough to know not to ask questions. He briefly heard Noel's voice before one of the others distracted the boy, leading him away.

Some of the tension left him as they stepped into Ray's bedroom. The suite was comforting, familiar, an extension of the safety Ray offered. They were alone in the rooms, and thus there was no one but Ray to see his tears as the thief gently stripped the dress off of Florian. The clothing was discarded in a pile by the door, along with Ray's own.

Ray stepped into the tub first, holding Florian steady while he shakily lifted his legs over the edge of the tub. They sank down until the water lapped at their chests. He half turned, wrapping his arms around Ray's shoulders and burying his face in Ray's neck.

A warm, wet cloth ran over his body, starting with his chest and shoulders and then working its way down. Ray pulled Florian's legs forward, one at a time, until he could wash both, cleaning away Laurien's touch. Florian whimpered but didn't move away as fingers pressed against his entrance. Unlike when Laurien had touched him, they were wet and slick, sliding easily into his body. Ray cleaned him there too, touching softly, too light to arouse but enough to take the edge off his fear and make him melt against Ray's chest.

His legs felt weak when Ray finally moved them out of the tub. He leaned limply against Ray as the other man dried them off, never straying far from Ray's touch. Ray helped him under the covers and slid in to join him.

They were both naked still and he didn't mind when Ray's hands moved against his skin, touching him with familiarity, pressing against all the points that Ray knew would drive him wild. His fear receded but didn't vanish entirely under the pleasant haze of lust that Ray was purposefully inducing in him. He spread his legs eagerly, suddenly needing Ray inside of him, removing the last remnants of Laurien's touch. Gentle fingers pressed into him, moving slowly, carefully, first one, then a second, then a third. All the while, Ray watched him, his eyes sharp, looking for any sign that Laurien had injured him.

He knew where Laurien had injured him, and it wasn't a place that Ray could touch. The new wound settled beside the ones Azura had left and he knew the nightmares would be coming back.

"I'm sorry," Ray whispered. His lips brushed over Florian's lips in a caste kiss and then moved away to press against his chin, his cheeks, his eyelids, his forehead.

The kisses unwound the last of his tension and he relaxed against the bed. He raised his arms to hold onto Ray, pulling the thief close while he lifted his legs, crossing his ankles behind Ray's back in obvious invitation. Ray's hand pulled away, sliding up to hold his hips steady as he pressed forward. Florian moaned as Ray entered him. Sex with Ray had been weird at first, uncomfortable and vaguely painful, but those times had faded away until he wanted it as much as Ray did. He arched his back, pushing himself up against Ray and forcing the thief a little bit deeper inside of him.

Ray's mouth moved back to his lips and he kissed him for real this time, sliding his tongue into Florian's mouth to kiss him deeply while his hips started to move. He moaned as Ray pushed inside of him, rolling his hips with each thrust, constantly shifting his angle until he found the spot he was looking for. Florian gasped, bucking his hips as Ray thrust against his prostate.

He was wound too tight to last long. He came in an embarrassingly short amount of time, moaning Ray's name as he came onto both of their chests. Ray didn't stop and Florian didn't want to. He held on, wrapping himself tighter around Ray's naked body and shivering with pleasure as Ray continued to fuck him. Ray's lips had moved on to wander over Florian's neck. He bit down suddenly, right over the spot where Laurien had bit him earlier, but harder than the count had. Ray's bite was going to leave a mark. It felt somehow right that way.

Ray pulled back slowly, still within the loose grip of Florian's arms, but far enough back that he could look down into Florian's flushed face. Florian's mouth was open, letting lose a lurid stream of moans and whimpers as Ray continued to run his hands over Florian's over-sensitized body, driving him to distraction with pleasure. He kept his eyes on Ray, knowing that the thief liked to watch him while he came. Two more hard thrusts and then Ray was spilling his seed inside of Florian.

They stayed entangled on the sheets for a long time, until Ray reluctantly pulled away so that he could clean the come off of their bodies. Florian shivered and felt a momentary pang of loss as Ray pulled out of him. He debated asking Ray if they could go again, but his body was already starting to drift. He barely noticed as Ray's hands moved his limbs enough for a cool cloth to wipe the seed from his skin.

Then Ray was back and turning off the lights. Florian closed his eyes before the last of the lights went off, waiting until he felt Ray settle beside him and then rolling until he lay half on top of the younger man. Ray's arms came around him, holding him close. Florian drifted to sleep, hoping that Ray's presence and the safety of his arms would be enough to keep the nightmares at bay.