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Thy Straying Youth (A Time to Every Purpose 9/10) - Mo's Journal
May 2nd, 2005
02:00 pm

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Thy Straying Youth (A Time to Every Purpose 9/10)
“I don’t want to talk to you.” Jake Patterson stood in the doorway, looking like he was trying to decide whether to shut the door in Adam’s face.

“I know. I figured that out from how you hung up on me every time I called. They taught me to deduce motivation from people’s actions in journalism school.”

Jake looked like he might laugh in spite of himself, but got the twitch at the corners of his mouth under control and resumed scowling. They stood there for a moment looking at each other, and then Jake opened the door wider and gestured Adam in. The door opened into the living room of Jake’s apartment. “Sit down,” Jake said, managing to make the offer sound hostile rather than hospitable. Adam looked around at the options, and settled for one end of the couch. Jake sat down at the other end of it, turning to face Adam, his bare feet crossed under him. “What do you want?” he said.

“I want to apologize to you.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Jake, I mean it. I flew all the way across the country to see you when you wouldn’t talk to me on the phone. Could you at least hear me out?”

“What? Did your boyfriend give you a super-fast ride here?”

“I came by plane. I arranged for my friend Anjuli to take care of my son, and got the first flight I could get a ticket for.”

“Your son. Ezra, right?”

“Yes.”

“Cute kid. I’ve seen pictures of him. Of course, I didn’t know he was yours at the time.”

“I know.” He hesitated before continuing. “Jean-Paul and I are separated, at least for now. He moved out a few days ago.”

“Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?”

“No.” Neither of them said anything for a moment. Adam continued, “I didn’t know he was here. I still don’t know what happened between you and him, at least not all of it. I had no idea he’d even spoken to you until you called me. Jean-Paul told me nothing. I want to convince you that I wasn’t party to this, whatever it was.”

“Then what are you apologizing for?”

“I treated you shabbily. A year ago, and again when you started calling me recently. I’m sorry. I was all wrapped up in my own drama - my worries about my relationship with Jean-Paul, my regret about betraying him. I didn’t think about what I’d done to you. I owe you an apology.”

“You didn’t do anything to me. It was a one-night stand. Don’t make a big deal out of it. You don’t owe me anything.”

“I don’t want to make a big deal of a one-night stand. I’m not making a big deal of it, I don’t think. I’m recognizing that my behavior was... unethical and I want to apologize for that and try to make amends. Ethics is something that matters to me. Not just professional ethics,” he added. “Personal ethics counts with me, too. You were right to say so, to point out that I hadn’t treated you ethically, even if you were incorrect in the particulars of what happened.

“I do owe you something. I owed you something when we met. Yes, even when it’s just a one-night stand you owe something. I owed you kindness and honesty and respect. You gave me all of those. I didn’t give you any of them.”

“I didn’t. Well, not respect, at least not all the time. I didn’t show respect for what you did and didn’t want to do. I was an asshole to you that night. A chemically enhanced asshole.” Jake looked away. “I haven’t taken any of that stuff since.” Then looking back at Adam, “I don’t know why I’m telling you that. I’m not deluded enough to think you’d care.”

“I do care. I’m very happy to hear it. Jake, please, listen to me. We both got carried away. We both made mistakes. I focused afterwards on what I perceived as you having wronged me. I should have looked at my own role in all this.

“After, when I called you to find out your... status and more about what happened that night, you still treated me with kindness and honesty and respect. You answered all my questions. You apologized sincerely for what you saw as your error. And I never did. I never thought about what I’d done wrong to you. I never even thought about having lied to you when we met. I never thought about the fact that you were willing to disclose your sexual history to me and I didn’t reciprocate. I never even asked you how you were. That’s not how I usually behave towards people.” He stopped for a minute, not sure how to go on. “I was an asshole to you. I’ve known that for a year, really, but I haven’t thought about it. I’ve taken the coward’s way out, just put the whole thing – and you – out of my mind. I don’t want to be like that anymore.” Adam lifted both hands, palms up, in a gesture of resignation. “I don’t know what Jean-Paul did to you, and I’m not apologizing for his behavior. I’m not responsible for his behavior. I am responsible for mine. And I don’t much like myself when I think how I behaved towards you. Even less when I contrast that with how you behaved towards me. You’re a better man than I am, Jake Patterson.”

“It sounds better with ‘Gunga Din’.”

“I won’t ask you to carry my water for me.” They smiled at each other briefly. Adam stood up. “Thank you. Thanks for letting me say that, for listening to me. I’ll be going now.”

“Are you flying back tonight? Seven hours each way in less than a day?”

Adam shook his head. “I would have, but I couldn’t get a flight until tomorrow morning. I’m going to go look for somewhere to stay. And find a toothbrush, at least, I guess,” he added. “I didn’t think to pack anything.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve got an extra toothbrush. Why don’t you stay? I can take you to the airport in the morning.”

**********************************************
“Adam Joseph Greenfield! What is going on?”

“Hi, Mom. So nice to hear from you. I’m fine, thanks. And how are you?”

“Oh stop it. I don’t have time for pleasantries. What is going on? What do you think you’re doing? And where were you for the last two days? I called you at home and Anjuli wouldn’t tell me anything. I have to track you down at work? And I don’t even hear from you that Jean-Paul has moved out?”

“I’m not going to talk to you about this. And Jean-Paul shouldn’t have either.”

“Well, he didn’t, Mr. Know It All. He won’t tell me anything. And, believe me, I tried. I saw him in Westchester, when I was there about the Foundation. They want me to be a trustee.”

“Yes, I know. Do you want to do it? I think you’d be great for that.”

“Don’t change the subject. Jean-Paul would barely talk to me, won’t tell me anything about what’s happening with you two. And neither will Anjuli.”

“So what makes you think anything is happening?”

“I heard it from Charles Xavier. Who looks like death warmed over, by the way. What’s wrong with him?”

“He has cancer.”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I had no idea.”

“He’s pretty sick.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“I don’t know. And, since he’s sick, I’ll overlook the fact that he’s talking about my personal life, but he really shouldn’t have said anything to you.”

“It wasn’t his fault. He had no way of knowing your own mother didn’t know that you’re separated from your partner. He didn’t know he was giving me new information. What is going on? What do you two think you’re doing? You’re not kids, you know. You’ve got responsibilities. You have a child!”

“I’ve noticed, Mom. Look, this is between Jean-Paul and me. I have a child; I’m not a child. So stop treating me like one. When we have things worked out, I’ll let you know. We don’t know how we’re handling things with Ezra yet.”

“Do you want me to take him for a while? I could come down there, take care of Ezra. Or bring him back here for a few days. Give the two of you time alone together. Maybe that’s what you need.”

“No, Mom. Thanks. That’s nice of you to offer, but Ezra’s fine. I’m fine, too. Jean-Paul is fine. We’ll work something out. We’re both committed to parenting together. We are both committed to Ezra’s welfare. We have a temporary arrangement for custody and we’re talking.”

“But what happened?”

“I really don’t want to talk about that.”

“What did you do? It must have been something awful. He loves you so much.”

“Mom! I didn’t do anything. This is really none of your business.”

“Then what did he do?”

“None of your business. None of your business. How many times do I have to say that? This is none of your business. I’m not going to talk to you about this.”

“Did he do something with somebody else? Some other man? On one of his missions?”

“I’m going to hang up on you, Mom.”

“Look, he can’t help it. He’s so good-looking. I’m sure men – and women – are all over him all the time. Men are like that – they’re weak. Yes, yes, I know – you’re a man, too. But you’re different, Adam. Adam, even your father, may he rest in peace - ”

“Mom, I really don’t want to hear this.” [click]

*******************************************************************
“Who was that?” Adam handed Hank, wrapped in a towel, to Anjuli, when she came back to the bathroom. He reached into the tub to get Ezra as well.

“Sasha.”

Turning around with his son, Adam noticed her worried expression. “Is something wrong?”

“They’re moving the wedding up.”

“What?”

“This Sunday instead of next month.” She paused, and added. “They’re worried Charles won’t make it if they don’t.

“Can they do that?”

“Well, they’re managing. At least there’s no hall to rent. They’ll just have it at Xavier’s, as planned. A smaller group, since not everyone will be able to make it. The minister had another commitment, but Jean’s mother came up with somebody else to perform the ceremony. The caterer couldn’t make it this weekend, either, but ‘Ro is organizing staff and kids at the school to cook.” She shrugged. “They’ll manage.”

“It’s so sad.” Diapering Ezra, he added, “Is there no hope for him? Not even with the new stuff – MGC, right?”

She nodded. “I don’t know yet. He’s trying it. It might work; it might not. It might have worked if we tried it earlier. But we didn’t, because we didn’t have it earlier. We wouldn’t have it now if Scott hadn’t figured it out. I’ve been just kicking myself – why didn’t I ever think of this?”

“Don’t, Anjuli. Just don’t. You can’t second guess yourself like that.”

“If only...”

“You can’t spend your life thinking ‘if only.’ Maybe there’s a chance now. Maybe not. But driving yourself crazy over what might have been isn’t going to help anything.”

They moved into the other room and continued getting their children ready for bed. “I told Sasha we’d all be there this weekend,” she said, after a while. “All five of us.” She brushed Hank’s fine hair. “Do you want to call Jean-Paul, or should I?”


**********************************************************
Sitting on the living room couch with his laptop, Adam was so absorbed in what he was writing that he hadn’t heard the door open. He paused as he finished a paragraph and looked up. Jean-Paul was standing there. Adam turned to Anjuli, seated across from him reading a journal. She gave him an “I had nothing to do with this” look, excused herself and walked out.

“What are you doing here?” he said, as soon as she’d left the living room.

Jean-Paul wasn’t sure what Adam’s tone meant. It wasn’t outright hostile. Maybe wary. He wasn’t sure how to proceed. “I miss Ezra,” he said.

“He’s asleep. Please don’t go in there now. He’ll be up half the night if you do. You’re picking him up from daycare tomorrow. You’ll see him then.”

“I miss you,” he added. Adam didn’t say anything. “I want to come home.” Adam shook his head but still didn’t speak. “Adam, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. But I can’t believe you’d throw away what we had over this.”

“I don’t think this is the time or place to talk about this.”

“S’il te plait, listen to me.” Adam didn’t say anything. Jean-Paul sat down next to him and they looked at each other for a minute. “I love you. I want to be with you. Adam, I didn’t even do anything with him. Please believe me.”

“I know you didn’t have sex with him.” Jean-Paul looked surprised. “Jake told me.”

“You didn’t believe me, but you believe him?”

“That’s right. He hasn’t lied to me.” Jean-Paul opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it. Adam continued, “It doesn’t make any difference to me what you did or didn’t do with him. You lied to me, betrayed me. You went there to fuck him. I don’t know what changed your mind. Jake thinks you were playing some sadistic game or something. I don’t know. I have no idea what you were doing and I don’t even think I care. I know if you could do this after all we’ve been through this past year – after all you put me through for one lousy mistake – I just can’t be with you anymore. I can’t trust you anymore. What I did was wrong, I know it. But I told you, Jean-Paul. I didn’t lie to you.”

“I know you did. I wish I’d told you. But I was too ashamed. And too confused.”

“Well, I’m still confused. I don’t know what the fuck you think you were doing. I don’t know what you expected to happen.”

“Did you call Jake to find out what happened between him and me?”

“No, I called him to apologize for how I treated him. How I treated him on your behalf, Jean-Paul. I was so fucking scared that you’d think I was having an affair with him if I even talked to the man, that I treated him like shit. Now that I’m not living my life according to what Jean-Paul Beaubier thinks I should do, I realize how awful I was to him. I felt like a heel and I wanted to apologize for that. So I called him, and he wouldn’t even talk to me. He thought I was in on whatever your scheme was. I had to go there and plead with him to listen to me.”

“You saw Jake?”

“Yes, I did.” He said it defiantly, adding, “I don’t know that it’s the last time I’ll see him, either.”

“Did you...? Are you...?”

“I don’t feel like I need to answer questions from you anymore. Even if you decide how to finish them,” he added, ironic smile on his lips. Then, after a minute, Adam added, “I like him. You and I were both awful to him. He has every reason to hate me, but he doesn’t. He was willing to listen, to give me another chance. He’s willing to get to know me.”

“He likes you a lot. I know it. He talked about you, before... When I met with him, for the interview, he said a lot about you. He said he wished something more had happened, that it hadn’t just been a one-night stand. He sounded very sincere. His interest is genuine, I’m sure. He seems like a good person.” After a pause, he added, “And he’s not a mutant.”

“Don’t give me that shit, Jean-Paul! That has never been an issue for me and you know it.”

“I’m sorry. I guess it’s an issue for me.” Neither said anything for a while. “He’s from your world,” Jean-Paul added, finally.

“What world is that?”

“The Ivy League education and big city newspaper world. He’s smarter than I am, better educated than I am. He’s a journalist. He’s probably better in bed, too.” Jean-Paul shrugged and looked at the floor. “But I love you. I have loved you since before we even met. I’ve built my life around you for four years. I’ve taken your family as mine, your people as mine. We have a child together. All of that has to be worth something.” Adam began to speak but Jean-Paul stopped him. “S’il te plait, Adam, listen to me. I did a shitty thing, I know. I called him behind your back. I went to see him under false pretenses. I lied to you about where I was going.”

“Why? Why did you do that?”

“Because I didn’t believe you.” Adam started to protest but Jean-Paul continued. “I’m not saying I had any reason to doubt you. I just did. It was my own insecurity. I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head, the idea that something was going on still.”

“It was a one-night stand! I don’t even remember most of it! I told you everything I know. I’ve given everything I can, done everything I can to make up for it.”

“Je sais. I don’t know why I couldn’t let it go. I just... I kept thinking if he’s calling you up all this time later something has to be going on.”

“Yeah, something was going on. He was working on a story and he wanted me to give him Sasha’s number.”

“I know that now.”

“I wish I’d just called him back and found out that’s what he wanted and none of this would have happened.”

“And it’s my fault you didn’t. You didn’t call him back because I insisted you have no contact with him. I’m sorry.”

“What were you doing there?” Adam realized he was practically yelling. He looked towards Anjuli’s bedroom and then continued more softly. “Why did you go see him?”

Jean-Paul shrugged. “I don’t know, really. I just wanted to know what he was like, who was this man who’d come between us.” Seeing Adam’s expression, he added, “Come between us because I let that happen, because I couldn’t just let the past be past. I know that. I knew it when I went to see him, too. I thought it would help or something. I thought it would give me closure when nothing else was working. I wanted to get over this, vraiment. I thought this would help me get over it.” He moved closer to Adam on the couch, touched his leg. “Adam, I’m not excusing what I did. I’m trying to explain, c’est tout.” Adam gestured for him to continue. “And then I met him. I wanted to hate him, but I didn’t. I liked him. I was jealous, bien sur, when he talked about you. But I liked him.”

“And you wanted to fuck him?”

“Oui. I was attracted to him. I don’t know why.”

“I thought you’re never attracted to other men when you’re in love.”

“It rarely happens. It took me by surprise. I was confused – so many different feelings. I was attracted to him, yes. I also was... hostile, still. To the idea of him, to the Jake Patterson I’d imagined, if not the real one in front of me. Jealous, angry. All these emotions at once. And when he talked about you, about how wonderful you are, about wishing he’d had a chance with you... It scared me. It made me think you’d want him more than you want me, if only you knew he was still interested. I just wanted to make that stop. I don’t know why I came on to him. I guess I wanted to see what he’d say.”

“And he said ‘yes’?” Jean-Paul nodded. “And then what happened?”

“We went to his place. I kissed him – that’s all. I realized I was making a mistake and I stopped. I tried to explain to him, but I didn’t know what I was explaining because I didn’t know what I was doing!”

“You told him about you and me?”

“Yes. I told him that. That I love you. That we are a couple, a family. That we are committed to each other. I said I realized I was making a mistake. I told him Ezra is ours, that you and I have been together for years.” Jean-Paul took Adam’s hand. “I tried to tell him you had nothing to do with me going there. He wouldn’t believe me. I don’t blame him. I told so many lies. How would he know when I was telling the truth?” He looked down. “And I don’t blame you for not believing that I didn’t fuck him. I wasn’t honest with you. I’ve been acting like an imbecile and a lout.”

“Yes, you have.”

“But people are more than just one bad thing they do, Adam.”

“I’ve been trying to tell you that for a year now.”

“I know. I wish I’d learned it. I know it now. Do you know it?” Adam didn’t answer. “I did an awful thing, but I’m not an awful person. I’m a pretty nice guy, hein?” He smiled at Adam, tentatively.

Adam smiled back, in spite of himself. Jean-Paul felt encouraged, continued. “A pretty nice guy who loves you. I’m a better person in every way for loving you. Don’t take that away from me. Don’t throw away what we have. I’ll find some way to make it up to you.”

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