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FIC: The Body of a Man (A Time to Every Purpose 5/10)

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  • Mo
    I thought I could just let it go. It had been a great night, after a lousy start. The sex had been so hot. The kind where you close your eyes and you can feel
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2005
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      I thought I could just let it go. It had been a great
      night, after a lousy start. The sex had been so hot.
      The kind where you close your eyes and you can feel it
      all over again the next day. And it hadn�t just been
      sex. We�d talked, we�d held each other. He�d told me
      he wouldn�t call Jake Patterson and I�d believed him.
      He�d told me he�d had nothing to do with him all this
      time. I�d believed that, too. I�d felt loved and
      secure. I�d felt like we were getting over this.

      I�d started to get up with Ezra in the morning, but
      Adam had stopped me. �Go back to sleep,� he�d said.
      �You were up late. I�ll deal with him.�

      �I wasn�t up late by myself. It seems to me you were
      the guy I was fucking half the night.� He laughed at
      that. �You�ve got to be tired, too. And you�re
      working. I�ve got nothing on today.�

      �All the more reason. I�ll get him ready, and take the
      babies to day care on my way to the office.�

      �It�s my day.�

      �Take a day off.�

      �You�re so good to me.�

      �I�m in love with you. Good to you comes with the
      territory.� And I�d gone back to sleep.

      When I woke, I was alone in the apartment. At loose
      ends. I couldn�t settle on doing anything. I found
      myself pacing back and forth, picking up a book but
      not reading it, starting to make the bed and then
      stopping with the covers half-way up. I thought of
      going out, but I couldn�t settle on where to go or
      what to do.

      And no matter how hard I tried not to, I found myself
      thinking of Jake Patterson. Why hadn�t Adam told me
      Jake was trying to contact him? Why would he hide
      that? And what would Jake be so insistent on calling
      Adam about all this time later? After a one-night
      stand? A year ago? No further contact? It seemed so
      unlikely. So, then I�d ask myself again if I really
      believed there had been no further contact. And that
      took me right back to where I was months ago, driving
      myself half crazy with speculation. Was Adam lying to
      me?

      So there I was, traveling the old familiar territory,
      and kicking myself for caring so much about this.
      Really, most of the gay couples we know would think it
      was absurd to even object to your lover doing it with
      someone else when you�re separated. Someone he was
      never going to see again. Well, the bare backing part
      anybody would be mad about, I�m sure. After all, that
      could endanger my health as well as his own. And in
      order to not endanger my health, we had to go back to
      safer sex until we could be sure he wasn�t infected.
      That was a pain.

      Although, vraiment, we had to play safe anyway,
      because of my own exposure. But Adam didn�t know that
      was going to happen when he let Jake Patterson fuck
      him bareback.

      Maybe Walter�s death is part of why this whole thing
      bothered me so much. I had enough to worry about right
      then without dealing with this complication, bien sur!
      My best friend killed, his blood all over me. I
      couldn�t save him. And then I find out he was HIV+ and
      never told me. So I�m dealing with the grief and with
      the regret and second-guessing myself. If only I�d
      managed to get them before they got Walter. I had
      spent so many sleepless nights going over that battle
      again and again in my head, beating myself up over how
      it came out, trying to think what I could have done
      differently. I was consumed with self-doubt.

      That wasn�t all, though. There was anger, too. How
      could Walter keep something like that from me? And I
      felt shame, as well, since I knew he had good reason
      to think I couldn�t handle that information. All of
      that emotional turmoil at once and happening in the
      middle of a war. A war on my kind, not Adam�s. This is
      when I should have been able to count on Adam to
      support me emotionally. Not the time for him to decide
      he�d like to see what it�s like to get fucked by some
      keen bean junior reporter.

      Even as I thought it, though, I knew I wasn�t being
      fair to him. It had been a hard time for Adam, too. As
      hard as it was for me, maybe. He was as affected by
      the war as any of us. And he felt powerless to do
      anything about it. And incompetent and inferior as
      well. Spending all his time among mutants, feeling
      like a member of a less evolved subspecies. He�d
      chosen to share my fate � our fate � and we�d moved to
      the Outpost looking for peace and quiet. Suddenly we
      have war instead, and everyone around Adam was in the
      resistance, while he was a non-combatant. So, of
      course he seizes on the first chance he has to do
      something for the underground, when Charles Xavier
      gives him a mission. And of course he�s disappointed
      when I refuse to go with him.

      I�ve heard that everyone will cheat on his lover if
      the circumstances are right. I don�t know if it�s
      true, but I know the circumstances were as right � or
      as wrong � as they could have been for Adam. Mad at
      me, alone, in circumstances where he had to lie about
      our life together. Feeling insecure about himself. And
      this young guy who really admires him comes on to him.
      Someone from his world, someone not like me. If ever
      he was going to cheat, that was the time. I knew that.
      I knew, as well, that he�d taken responsibility for
      what he did. He had really worked at understanding how
      it had happened so that he could ensure he wouldn�t do
      it again.

      He had been so sorry, and had tried so hard to make
      amends. He tried to learn from what happened. He swore
      he�d never do it again. I�d been really tough on him,
      I know, and he took it. He never once told me I was
      going overboard, putting too much importance on a
      one-night stand. I think few men would have shown such
      restraint. He accepted my anger at him. He listened
      and supported me and grieved with me over Walter.
      Vraiment, what could Adam have done that he didn�t do?


      Well, he could have not done it in the first place.
      But, given that he did, what more could I ask of him?
      Isn�t everyone allowed one mistake? Wouldn�t I have
      wanted him to forgive me if our positions had been
      reversed? Yet perhaps that was part of the problem. I
      couldn�t imagine our positions reversed. I was sure I
      wouldn�t cheat on Adam and had been equally sure he
      wouldn�t cheat on me. Was I angry because of what he�d
      done, or because it demonstrated that there is no
      certainty?

      I�d pretty much convinced myself that I just needed to
      get over this and stop obsessing about Jake
      Patterson�s call and what it might mean. Adam had
      earned my love and my trust. We couldn�t spend the
      rest of our lives together with me still resenting
      what was clearly a meaningless sexual exploit. Adam
      said he wasn�t calling him and I believed that. It was
      time to just stop thinking about it.

      So, that�s what I decided to do. I needed something to
      occupy myself, to focus my mind. I figured I�d call
      Scott Summers and talk to him more about this
      townhouse idea. I picked up a pad of paper and a pen
      from off the kitchen counter, so I could take notes
      while I talked to Cyclops. Before I called him,
      though, out of the pad fell a scrap. A little piece of
      paper. Written on it, in Anjuli�s messy handwriting,
      was �Jake Patterson 415 555-2619.� I put it in my
      pocket. I didn�t call. Not then. I called Scott, just
      like I�d planned.

      Adam was working late that night, out interviewing
      someone somewhere. Anjuli and Hank were at Anjuli�s
      sister�s place, so it was just Ezra and me. He was
      playing after dinner and I�d sat down to read. And
      that paper was still in my pocket. I didn�t have to
      look at it again. I knew the number. He won�t even be
      there, I thought. So why am I thinking of calling him?
      Just to hear what his voicemail sounds like? What do I
      think it�s going to say? �This is Jake Patterson. I�m
      fucking Adam Greenfield behind his lover�s back and he
      doesn�t suspect a thing.� I laughed at myself for
      that. But a minute later I was dialing the phone.

      It�s three hours earlier in San Francisco. I�d
      forgotten that. He answered the phone. �Patterson.�

      I almost hung up but I didn�t. �Jake Patterson? From
      the Chronicle?�

      �Yes, this is Jake. Who�s speaking?�

      �Jean-Paul Beaubier.�

      �Jean-Paul Beaubier?� He repeated my name. I thought
      at first he would ask who I am and why I was calling.
      I didn�t know what I was going to say. But then he
      said, �I�ve been looking for you everywhere! I�m so
      glad you called. Who told you I wanted to speak to
      you?�

      �Adam Greenfield.� I don�t know why I said that. Why
      would Adam have told me to call Jake Patterson?

      �Great, great. I didn�t even know you and Adam know
      each other. Tell him to call me, if he gets a chance.
      I�m having trouble getting hold of him, too. Anyway, I
      really want to talk to you. It�s for a story I�m
      working on. Do you have some time now?�

      At that moment Ezra came in with his wind up train.
      �Une minute, mon petit,� I said in response to his
      request to play. �Maybe not right now,� I added to
      Jake.

      �Fine. Can we make an appointment?� We agreed to meet
      at his office the next day. He said he�d be glad to
      interview me over the phone, but I told him I wanted
      to meet him. �Is he yours?� he asked before we hung
      up.

      �Yes, he is.�

      �How old?�

      �Eighteen months. Why?�

      �Just interested. I like kids. He sounds adorable.
      What�s his name?�

      �Ezra.�

      "Nice name. See you tomorrow.�

      ***************************************

      We met at the Chronicle�s offices on Mission Street,
      at noon. Jake Patterson was tall, loose-limbed, with
      dark hair, bright eyes, and a warm and friendly
      manner. �Thanks for coming here,� he said, after
      introducing himself. �Do you live in San Francisco?�

      �No, I haven�t been here for years,� I replied. �I
      live on the East Coast.� He looked surprised. �Travel
      isn�t a problem,� I added.

      �Yes, of course. I forgot.�

      He�d made reservations for lunch at The Slanted Door,
      a Vietnamese restaurant on the water. All post-modern
      and sleek, with very attractive sleek-looking waiters
      to match. Jake Patterson was certainly keeping my
      attention, and that of a few of the waiters it seemed,
      as well.

      So this was the man Adam had cheated on me with. I�d
      expected him to be predatory, sexually aggressive. If
      he was, I wasn�t seeing it. He was attracting
      attention, bien sur, from both men and women, but he
      seemed totally oblivious to it. He was charming, with
      an open and comfortable way about him. And remarkably
      attractive. Body of an athlete, classic face.
      Beautiful luminous eyes. That smile. I found myself
      trying to amuse him, just to see it more often.

      As it turned out, he was writing about mutants in
      sports and wanted to interview me about skiing, and
      particularly about my having been a closeted mutant at
      the Olympics. I told him I didn�t feel like an athlete
      at all anymore, but I answered his questions. And told
      him a few amusing anecdotes about international
      skiing, just to see that electric smile again.

      He asked to see pictures of Ezra and I showed them to
      him. He seemed genuinely interested in him and asked a
      lot of questions, seeming to speak with knowledge and
      understanding. �Do you have kids?� I asked.

      �No, but I hope to some day.�

      �You seem to know a lot for a childless guy.�

      �I�m the eldest of five. I�ve had a lot of experience
      with babies.�

      He�d known about Joanne, and asked � tentatively,
      respectfully � what it was like to try again. He
      assumed I was a single parent again this time and I
      didn�t correct him on that score, but talked about
      other ways it was a different experience this time
      around. I was impressed by how well he listened, by
      how he didn�t push me to say more than I wanted to. I
      found that his restraint made me want to say more.

      I was prepared to hate him. Bien sur, I wanted to hate
      him. Jake Patterson. The name had been this ominous
      presence interfering with my relationship with Adam.
      But Jake Patterson the man didn�t seem ominous at all.
      I was enjoying being with him, found myself wanting to
      spend more time with him. And I was aware �
      uncomfortably aware � that I was very attracted to
      him. He reminded me of Kolya a little � beautiful,
      athletic, confident. And somehow not even aware of his
      own attractiveness. Not an ounce of vanity.

      �I know what you mean about it feeling like so long
      ago,� he said. �I used to be a runner.�

      �You don�t run anymore?�

      He shook his head. �Not competitively. I train when I
      can, but I�m in no shape for it.�

      �You look like you�re in pretty good shape.�

      �Well, you can�t tell in clothes.� He said it without
      any trace of seductiveness, but it made me imagine him
      naked, imagine taking those clothes off of him. And
      what I�d like to do after I did.

      He picked up a piece of Shaking Beef with his
      chopsticks and held it out to me. �You have to try
      this,� he said. �They�re famous for it.� I touched his
      hand briefly as I took it from him.

      �How do you know Adam Greenfield?� he asked and I
      nearly choked on it.

      �We met through the mutant cleansing crisis in
      Belarus,� I replied, after I swallowed. �You know
      Adam�s role in that?�

      �Yes, yes. Brilliant stories. And getting Cherevko out
      � he was so brave. Some say journalists err when we go
      from reporting news to being news, that we have to
      stay out of the story. But how could you stay out when
      you have a chance like that? A chance to save someone?
      I think that whole episode shows you can be a
      journalist and be *human* too, you know?�

      I nodded. �Sasha Cherevko is an old friend of mine,� I
      told him. �I contacted Adam to find Sasha, when Adam
      first brought him to America. I wanted to do what I
      could for him.�

      �Are you still in contact? Cherevko�s why I was trying
      to get hold of Adam. I wanted to interview him for
      this story. Is he okay? What is he doing?�

      I filled him in on Sasha�s life of late. I told Jake
      I�d seen Sasha just last week, and that he was well
      and very much recovered. �He�s getting married next
      month,� I added. �We�ll be in Westchester for the
      wedding.� Saying �we� is such a habit I didn�t notice
      until I�d said it, but Jake seemed to assume I meant
      Ezra and myself. I told him I�d ask Sasha to call him.

      �How do you know Adam?� I asked him later.

      �Oh we dated for a while.� My suspicions were aroused
      by that. But then he thought better of what he�d said.
      �No we didn�t, not really.�

      �What a strange thing to say.�

      �I was just rewriting history,� he said, shrugging in
      a self-deprecating manner. �It�s what I wish happened.
      Well, you know him � you know what he�s like.
      Brilliant, hot, funny. I met him last year at a
      convention here, during the war. We spent one night
      together.�

      �And?�

      �And I got drunk and acted like a complete jerk and he
      made clear he never wanted to see me again.� He shook
      his head ruefully. �That�s probably why he won�t
      return my calls. Can�t stand talking to me. Even about
      business. I was such an asshole to him, you can�t
      imagine.�

      �One night stands don�t generally lead to anything.�

      �No, I know that. I�ve had my share.� He smiled, then
      shook his head again. �I know. I�m being pathetic,
      ridiculous. And indiscreet, too, considering I have no
      idea how well you know Adam or whether you�ll tell him
      I was crying in my beer over him. Stupid to get so
      worked up over this. You�re right. It was nothing but
      a one-night stand and it was a long time ago. It�s
      stupid to go on like this, particularly to someone I
      just met.� Jake shrugged and took another swig of his
      beer. He was really very good-looking. He gazed at me,
      those beautiful eyes locked on mine. �It�s a common
      story, no more interesting, I�m sure, in my case than
      anyone else�s. I had one night with him � one chance �
      and I blew it. Maybe he wouldn�t have wanted to see me
      again, anyway. Like you said, it doesn�t usually lead
      to anything. But if I hadn�t been a drunken oaf, I
      feel like I might have had a chance with him. A guy
      like Adam Greenfield doesn�t come into your life very
      often. I fucked up. I�m not living like a monk or
      anything because of it, but I think of him. A lot. I
      guess he�s sort of the one who got away.�

      I reached out and took his hand. �Copain,� I said, �I
      have a word of advice for you.�

      �What?�

      �Don�t talk so much about the one who got away. Not to
      the one who�s right in front of you. He might lose
      interest.�

      He looked astonished, then like he was trying to make
      sure he�d understood me correctly. He didn�t say
      anything for a while. �Do you want to come back to my
      place?� he finally said.

      �Tr�s bien. You�re a quick study.�


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