“The thing. The sex?” Fran wanted to say that she had been dumb to ask, that she perfectly understood if he wasn’t interested, that she would never bring it up again, but she was too exhausted from the pain, from the constant barrage of noise, so she just sat and chewed.
“Yes. I thought about it. And the thing is, you fall in love when you fuck.”
Mick counted them off on his fingers. “Charles. Bobby. Marcel. William. You fall in love when you fuck.”
Fran goggled at him. That was all of them since she’d met Mick. William in law school – landmine. Marcel the client – landmine. Bobby the editor – ugh, landmine. And Charles. LANDMINE. She fell when she fucked them. How had she not seen that? Pretty, sweet, thin, nice girls don’t have sex with boys, so they don’t get their hearts broken. Fran really, really, really wanted to crawl back into a bath.
“I do,” she said. “And you don’t.”
“No, I leave,” he said.
“That’s true. Jesus,” Fran said, putting it together. “For a guy who isn’t good at The Feels, that’s a pretty intense insight.”
“Given time, I can usually work out why something is a bad idea,” he said. Then he added, “I’m a lawyer.”
Fran tried to think rationally through the war in her head. “I’m trying to imagine under what circumstances I could possibly lose my mind enough to fall in love with you, when in all these years I’ve never been tempted. Is there any sex that could make me forget you don’t really dig fat chicks?”
“Your body isn’t -”
“Or that you’re the good time? Or that you always leave first? Could it really be that being naked with you would make me forget all that and turn into some kind of orgasm zombie?”
“I thought about that,” he said, leaning forward. “The thing is, I was definitely getting weird last week. You noticed it – ‘the face.’ If you hadn’t pointed it out, I might have started slinking away from you and never known why. But when you pointed it out, I could notice it and stop it. So I think maybe if I point it out to you, maybe you can do the same thing.” His face was so earnest, his eyes so warm. “Frannie, you know I know what it’s like not to be able to turn off the noise. I want to help you, and this is something you know helps. It would just suck if you got this short-term benefit at long-term cost.”
“It’s no big deal, Micky, don’t feel pressured. I mean, most of the time I know I’m amazing and gorgeous, but that doesn’t mean everyone on Earth wants to fuck me.” Oh, landmine. Oh. “Hell, there are days when I don’t want to fuck me.”
Mick looked at her and tilted his head. “How… would you–”
“It’s a figure of speech, buddy. Wash your brain out with soap.”
They both smiled, trying to leaven the weight of what they were saying.
“I just want to shut out the noise, and what you did last week quieted everything down. It put the noise back in its box,” she said.
“I know. I think if we both just promise ahead of time not to get weird and disappear,” he gestured to himself, “Or get overly invested,” gesturing at her, “We can avoid consequences.”
Fran was ready to believe he was right. She couldn’t imagine a world where she fell in love with Mick, and she couldn’t imagine a world where Mick would ever flake on her. He never had, not once in a decade.
So she took his fondue fork out of his twiddling fingers and clasped both her hands around his. She looked into his eyes and said, “Michael Washington. You know I love you and I always will. But all the orgasms on earth will not make me fall in love with you. I promise.”
“I believe you.”
“Good. Now get your ass into the bedroom.”
“I’m bringing the fondue,” he said, rising.