PART V: CLIMAX

by elfin


Jonathan awoke to the incredible aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  He was lying across the entire kingsize bed on his front, tangled in the sheets.  For a moment his befuddled brain wondered at the mechanics of going to bed with someone and waking up alone when you were in their house.  But he wasn’t alone long.  As he started to sit up, to extract himself from the sheets, the bedroom door opened and Adam stepped inside wearing a green towelling robe, the colour of which matched his eyes perfectly, and carrying a tray.

“You’re still here,” Adam commented gently, “that’s a good start.”
Jonathan smiled up at him, leaning up on one elbow, watching him place the tray on the bedside cabinet and slide back onto the bed.  Adam ducked his head for a morning kiss.
“It does make a change, me waking without you here.”
Adam shrugged, “Variety and all that.”  He reached up for the two mugs of dark, aromatic coffee from the tray.  Jonathan took a mug thankfully.  The champagne had been expensive enough not to leave him with a raging hangover, but he needed liquid and caffeine badly.  “So… you up for some more rehearsing?”

* * *

It seemed ages since he’d been over at Maddy’s for a cosy dinner for two.  He wasn’t sure where the apprehension had come from but there were definitely butterflies in his stomach.  The kitchen was a moment from actually being on fire, as it always seemed to be whenever Maddy was cooking.  He hung his coat and stepped into the smoke.
“Hi.”
Maddy turned from the frying pan.  “Hi.  It’ll be a few minutes yet.”
“Sure?  It looks done to me.”
She gave him a warning glance and went back to the cooking.  “Jonathan?”
“Yep.”  He crouched down by the wine rack, wishing that now and again she’d chill something.  He frowned at himself inwardly, perhaps he was just getting used to the finer things in life.  He didn’t see her turn and look at his back.
“It’s me or Adam, Jonathan.  You can’t have both of us any longer.”

Jonathan looked around and stared at her across the smoke-filled kitchen.  Suddenly the burning roast didn’t seem so important.  “What are you asking me?”
She looked at him, genuine sorrow in her eyes.  “I’m asking you to make a decision.  Adam might be able to carry on like this, Jonathan, but I can’t.”  There was no anger in her voice.  Anger he could have dealt with.  There was just a defeated calm, as if she’d tried to cope and couldn’t.  He had never had the right to ask her to cope so he never had.  He’d known that the current situation wouldn’t last forever and he’d never wanted it to.

But to end so soon....

“Him or you?” he clarified, trying and just about succeeding to keep any emotion out of his voice.
She nodded.  “I’m sorry, but I can’t compete against him.  He’s too good at this.”
Jonathan sighed, holding out his hands.  “It’s not a case of him being too good at it.  He’s just... he’s just being Adam.”
“I know.”  She shook her head.  “Like I said, I’m sorry.”  He nodded.  He wasn’t sure he could trust himself to speak.  Maddy shrugged.  “Just let me know.”
Dinner was forgotten.  Those butterflies in his stomach had become agitated.  “What... what’s this going to do to our friendship?”
“To be honest, I don’t know.”

*

Jonathan sat in the back row of the stalls, feet up on the back of the seat in front of him, scribbling on the pad in his lap.  Since arriving here from Maddy’s place he believed he’d been through every emotion possible.  He’d decided upon burying himself in work, but even that wasn't helping.  Adam was half an hour into a dress-rehearsal on stage for the show that night but Jonathan could practically feel his employer’s eyes upon him at every conceivable moment.

He timed it well, disappearing in the middle of the final trick so that after the rehearsal Adam couldn’t question him.  He didn’t want to speak to anyone.  He took himself off to Hyde Park and walked for hours, his mind going round and round in the same circles, over and over again.  It wasn’t like he’d been jumping straight from one bed to the other.  He and Adam seldom managed to grab any private time between them.  If Maddy hadn’t seen them that night outside the windmill, she wouldn’t have known.  And she and him had only slept together... what? four or five times?

Maybe he should give them both up.  Maybe he should just become celibate.  But at the mere thought he found himself becoming tearful.  Why?  Which one of them couldn’t he live without?  He knew the answer to that one, but he wasn’t sure if it was because of how he felt, or because his dreams, his hopes and his future lay in the hands of one of them.
 

Jonathan returned to the theatre in mid-performance, start of the second act.  Adam was on stage, the audience were clapping madly and he could only assume things were going well.  Tim saw him as he made his way to the dressing rooms at the back of the building.
“Jonathan!  Everything okay?”
Jonathan shrugged.  “Fine.  Why?”
“Adam was going crazy this afternoon trying to find you.  You dropped your mobile when you were last here.”
Jonathan tapped his pockets.  “I hadn’t noticed....”
“It’s in Adam’s dressing room I think.  If you don’t mind, I’ll let him know you’re here.”
Shaking his head that he didn’t mind, Jonathan plodded on to Adam’s room to pick up his mobile.  An hour later, Adam found him sitting in there, feet up on the dressing counter, staring at the ceiling.

“Am I glad to see you?!”  There was real concern in his otherwise light tone.  He threw off his costume, pulling on a pair of black jeans and a denim shirt without taking his usual shower.  Pouring himself a glass of champagne almost on auto-pilot, he closed the door of the dressing room and sat down opposite his friend.  “What’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing....”  The answering expression on Adam’s face made Jonathan reconsider.  “All right....”  He leaned forward, elbows on his knees.  “I need to ask you something and I need to know the truth.”
“Okay....”  Adam felt a chill settle over him.  They didn’t really do the heavy chats very well so they usually didn’t do them at all.
Jonathan steeled himself.  “If we... if one of us wanted to end our... personal relationship... what would that do to our friendship?  To our working relationship?”  Adam stared at him for a moment before standing, starting across the small area of his dressing room floor.  He didn’t answer immediately and Jonathan’s heart sank.  He murmured softly, “Why the hell did we start this?”  His misery started to tell in his voice.

Adam’s hands suddenly appeared on his shoulder, and in the next second Adam had dropped into a crouch before him, arms folded on his knees.  “Jonathan....  This,” he indicate the dressing room, “none of this would be possible without you.  I wouldn’t be here without you.  I meant what I said at the awards ceremony.  As we said before, everything we do together we do perfectly.  Whatever else we are, we’re conjurers.  I don’t think either of us are willing to risk that, are we?”  Jonathan smiled, shaking his head.  “So, I hesitate to ask... what’s brought this on?”
“Maddy’s told me to choose between you and her.”  He couldn’t miss the flash of sudden anger on Adam’s face.  The American was always going to have one of two reactions to this news; a furious outburst or a sulky silence.  Jonathan’s money would have been on the outburst, and when it wasn’t forthcoming he found himself wishing that it had been.

All Adam actually said was, “Oh.”

For a while they just sat, and then almost in sync Jonathan looked down and Adam looked up and their eyes locked.

The magician wanted to say, ‘But I love you!’.  Wanted to get up on stage and tell in the audience in no uncertain terms, wanted to shout it from the rooftops of London’s Theatreland district.  But he couldn’t, because he knew now as surely as he’d known it before he’d started this that it wasn’t.  Meant.  To.  Be.

It hurt.  He wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone and could barely admit it to himself, but it hurt almost more than he could bear.

Jonathan waited, but he knew neither had a clue what to say.  He couldn’t be angry with Maddy for forcing him into this decision.  He felt he’d been using her as much as he often felt Adam had been using him.  But then... he wasn’t sure, but something in his employer’s expression now....  Was he being used?  Or did Adam truly love him as he claimed.  Whatever, maybe he wasn’t ever supposed to know.

“Say something,” he insisted finally.  “Please.”
Adam rose slowly to his feet, stepping away from his lover.  His voice, when he spoke, was too calm, too deliberate.  “What can I say?  It’s a decision only you can make, Jonathan.”
He was right, of course.  And it should have been an easy one.  It wasn’t more than a couple of weeks ago that he’d headed over to Adam’s mansion with the express purpose of ending their periodic sexual encounters.  And what had he found when he’d got there?  Adam on the sofa making love to some woman Jonathan didn’t recognise.  It wasn’t like there was any basis for a long-term relationship here.

But then... Valentine’s Day.  The day he’d arrived home with Maddy after a wonderful meal out to find his windmill had been filled with roses, red and cream flowers downstairs, orange and white upstairs.  And the card that had been placed on his pillow….  Suddenly he wanted to reach out, to take his lover’s hand and not let go, to pretend none of this was happening.

Finally, he couldn’t stand the silence any longer.  He got up and crossed to the door of the dressing room.  His hand was on the door knob when Adam’s call stopped him.  “Jonathan?”  He turned, meeting the sparkling green eyes of the man he loved above all others on this earth.  “Promise me one thing, you won’t resign.  You won’t... leave me... professionally.”
Jonathan smiled gently.  “I promise, Adam.”  He left the room before the other could see his tears.

*