“But it’s different with me?”
She was waiting for him to say more.
“Apart from whatever else, you’re my best friend. I’m not just a good time to you, and you’re not just a good time to me.”
Silence again, and panting breaths and the thudding of their feet on their separate treadmills. “Does it follow that because I’m not just a good time, I can’t be any good time?
“Of course not.”
“I mean, it was a good time.”
“So I ask again, why the look?”
Mick shrugged and struggled to put words to his internal state.
“Maybe… there’s a reason I haven’t had anything but a good time since Mandi.”
“Because Mandi was a hellbasket who made you crazy until she left you, and then you became suicidally depressed? I mean,” Fran stopped herself, apparently aware that she might sounds insensitive. “Not to put too fine a point on it.”
Fran laughed at his tone. “The word for how you look right now is ‘chagrined.’”
“Well.” She ran and thought. A mile went under his feet before she spoke again. “I remember what it was like after Mandi left. Remember that night when you called me?”
“I remember.” Mick stared out through the window, watching the first of the falling leaves.
“I came over and I stayed all night. I was really afraid for you.”
“So was I.”
“Micky, do you really believe having sex could cause me to treat you the way she did? Is sex what makes the difference between me and her?”
“No. No. No, Frannie.”
She hesitated and then asked, “It’s not my body?”
Her body? On the contrary. “No.”
“I know I’m not your type.”
“I don’t have a type.” Did he have a type?
“Oh please. Please. As we established long ago, you are only interested in the skinny ones. There’s about twice as much of me as there should be, as far as your dick is concerned.”
Oh shit, that conversation all those years ago, just days after they met, when he had unthinkingly commented on the body of a passing woman. It had stuck with Fran. “That’s not -”
“It’s not the only reason, but it must be a big one. Oh god I’m gonna be alone forever.” Fran battered at the minus sign on her machine and slowed to a walk.
“You’re gonna lose if you do that!”
“I can’t bring myself to care right now.”
Jesus, it must be a big deal for her if she didn’t care about winning. He pushed the plus sign on his own treadmill, just to make the point.
“I hate this noise in my head, Mick. I want the noise to shut up.” She was walking with her fingers laced behind her head. She was trying to get all the air she could.
“My entire career, my wildly-successful-by-any-measure career, is built around making the noise stop, but I can’t do it now. I don’t know what happened.”
He didn’t have words for her. They were nearing the end of their 45 minutes.
“So you’re afraid,” she said, “that if we have sex, you’ll do what you always do, which is be the good time and then leave.”
“Yeah. That’s it.” That was it exactly. Fran could always figure things out.
“Well. You say yourself, you’re not so good at the feelings and the words, but you are good at the kinetic. I can’t help wondering if we should play to your strengths as a friend supporting me in… my time of need, I guess.” She was still walking instead of running. “What would it take for you to believe that it wouldn’t change our friendship?”
Half a mile of thinking later, transitioning into the cool-down, he said, “I have to think about that.”