tagLoving WivesS7: Holy War

S7: Holy War

byqhml1©

Again, thanks to Jezzaz for the loan of his characters.

And I did research on everything I wrote, so if you're Catholic, don't be angry. I have no feelings for your religion one way or the other, but I do respect it, and I mean you no offense.

And yes, the main character is a bit over the top, but sometimes that's what is needed. I remember Harddaysnight taking me to task about making the hero of 500 Annies a bit unrealistic years ago.

Of course, after reading his opus Lady In Red, about a group of absolutely normal teenagers, I have to agree with him. Normal is much more entertaining.


*****

I came back to England happy for Polly and the fact that she would soon be close to me again. I came back sad for me, for the marriage I thought I had, and for the way it all turned out.

After the episode with Jo before the wedding, I rethought the whole thing. In the end, even if I would have done things a bit differently if I had given it more thought, I was satisfied I had done the right thing.

I had to admit to myself that if I had gotten my other career choice I would probably have given it up. It was just too depressing, too soul consuming for me to be happy. You'd always see the worst in people, whether you intended to or not.

And I believed Jo actually loved me, but how much of the real me did she love and how much was the construct of me she carefully crafted? Plus I really believed her when she finally said she was sorry.

But it was too little too late, and I wasn't going to try to rewrite the past. Probably the best thing that happened was my partial reconciliation with my mother.

Polly and Jess both showed up at my suite with the determined jut to their jaw they inherited from their mother.

"We're here to do a little demanding and a lot of begging. Not for Mom, or Grandpa, but for Grandma. She's just been miserable the last few years, pining for her only son. She told us she did you a great wrong, but she wanted to explain why she did it, and it led to the hardest, most public fight I've ever seen between them."

When Polly stopped Jessica started. "So we had her write you a letter, and promised her on the souls of her grandchildren we would get you to read it. It's just a couple of pages, so, for the love of your children, will you please read it?"

I really didn't want to, preferring to keep the past the past, but we do strange and difficult things for our children. And like they said, it was only a couple of pages. I opened the envelope.

"My son,

I know I've lost you. I won't ask for mercy, or expect anything, but I had to tell you the truth.

Yes, I did a terrible thing to you, twice. I should have told you the minute I found out, but they talked me out of it, using some pretty valid arguments. If I had told you, which was my first instinct, it would have been the end of you and Jo, and you were so much in love with her, and she thought she was pregnant for real at the time. Plus, your friendship with Mike, the man you considered a brother, would have been gone forever.

And just as you did when the truth finally came to light, any relationship you had with your father would have ended. And so it came to pass."

I stopped for a minute, surprised at the honesty. It must have been terribly difficult for her to write this.

"So I held it in. But my friendship with Mike ended that day. I no longer considered him another son. No son of mine would have done what he did to his brother. He tried several times over the years to justify what they had done, but I would immediately change the subject and he got the message."

"My relationship with your father suffered. It was never quite the same after I found out. I couldn't help but speculate if he could do something like this to his only child, what kind of agendas and secrets did he keep from me. Was he really just a courier? What exactly did he do while he was gone? He repeatedly assured me all he did was deliver messages, but I was never sure."

"And then I wronged you again years later when I caught Jo out on her 'date'. I should have told you then. But unlike Jo, I never underestimated you. I knew deep down, that there was a core of steel in your makeup. Some things you just wouldn't forgive. It took Jo a long time to realize that, and by then it was too late."

"I knew you would divorce her immediately, even though the children were just coming into their teens. There was a chance she would move, and I would lose my only grandchildren. I couldn't bear the thought of that, so I lied to you again through omission. I have to admit I'm wondering how you found out, because I never breathed a word."

"To sum it up, by trying to protect you, I ended up hurting you far worse than if I had told you the truth. You would not believe the hours I've thought about this, and I realize something. I no longer have a right to your love, so I won't ask for it. What I do ask for is forgiveness. Pardon a foolish woman for her crimes, committed out of love and confusion. Promise me you'll attend my funeral when I pass, that you'll see me one more time. It's important to me, so please give the girls your answer."

"I'll always love you, my darling boy."

Mom

Wow. I thanked the girls and told them how proud of them I was for standing by their grandmother. I told them to take a message to her. I would agree to her requests, and I would think about our relationship prior to the truth coming out. That was as far as I would go.

I ran into Jo's mother at the wedding. She was a couple of sheets into the wind and proceeded to unload about my marriage, her clipped Boston tone even more pronounced due to the alcohol. There were a few people around who got to hear it, mouths hanging open.

I waited her out, then told her I needed to thank her.

"For what?"

"For making me realize I made the right choice when I divorced your daughter. If the axiom of looking at your mother-in-law to see what your wife would look like in twenty years holds true, I got out just in time. You look like a scarecrow that fell into a vat of Botox and bad hair dye."

Her mother was trying desperately to beat the clock, and the clock was winning. She dieted to the verge of anorexia, and was always having 'a little something done'. My mother was two years older and looked five younger, and all she did was live sensibly.

She recoiled like I had punched her. "You...you...YOU TAKE THAT BACK!"

"Sorry, Marie, but I think it's time for a little tough love. You're not attractive, you're not healthy, and you're not happy. Step back, take a look at yourself. I'm not being cruel here (well, yes, I was), I'm being honest. You need to talk to somebody, family, priest, professional counselor, somebody, and soon."

I really did feel bad when she dissolved into tears, but I got over it quickly. Maddie was looking at me with something akin to shock as we walked away. "I really, really need to remember to never seriously piss you off. Was all that necessary?"

"No, but then again, before I always had to take it for the sake of Jo. Marie always thought her daughter married beneath her. I endured slights and disrespect my whole married life, and now I finally got to say what I really felt. And it was the truth. She really needs to change her outlook on life."

I did the math in my head. "She's 67, and she'll never make seventy at this rate."

Of course a tearful Marie told Jo all about how mean I was, and she headed over to my table with a full head of steam. To my surprise, Maddie stood and held out her hand.

"Stop! Whatever you were going to say, think first. I heard the whole conversation, if you can call a one sided rant a conversation. I don't know you mother, but she deserved a little comeuppance for the way she was treating Pete. Now then, keep it civil, we are, after all, at your daughter's wedding."

Whatever she was about to say died on her lips. After fumbling for the right thing to say, she just turned and started to walk away. I put my hand on her arm.

"I'm sorry, Jo. Marie never liked me, and I bet she did cartwheels when we divorced. I wonder, does she know the real story, or did you let the lawyer in you spin it? Doesn't matter, I stand by my statements. She needs help, Jo, or she's not going to be around much longer. You're her only child, do something now, at least for the sake of her grandchildren, or regret it for the rest of your life."

She looked down at my hand on her arm, then looked up with tear filled eyes, nodding.

We were at one end of the family table, with all my kids and Jack and his parents between us, Jo, Marie, my mother and my sperm donor at the other. I'd made it clear to the kids it would be very bad if he attempted to speak to me. Very bad. Apparently he got the message, although I caught him staring a couple of times. The second time I caught him I grinned and slid one hand across the wrist of the other in a cutting motion. He went so pale I seriously thought he was going to faint.

I sat thinking about Marie, and the letter my mother had sent, and before I realized it I was up and beside her, hand extended. "Wanna dance, Mom?"

Her hand flew to her mouth and tears started, but she was up so quickly she knocked her chair over. I pulled her on to the dance floor, where she collapsed and clung to me as the tears fell. She was almost in control when the dance ended, trying to talk . I pulled a napkin away from an empty table and gave it to her.

"You did a bad thing Mom, really bad, to your only child. If I didn't believe in my heart you were only trying to keep the family together, I would never forgive you. This does not mean ALL is forgiven. Whatever your reasons, it was still a terrible thing to do, and you knew it was wrong."

She started to tear up again, and I shushed her as she tried to speak. "Mom, call me every once in a while, or better yet, get Josh to teach you how to Skpe. We'll start slow, see if we can rebuild. It's the best I can offer you. And Mom, as angry as I was, I stilled loved you, and I still love you now."

She was full out bawling as the girls rushed up. Polly was furious.

"Dad! How dare you be mean to Grandma like this, on my wedding day no less! Shame on you!"

I just smiled and kissed her cheek, telling her to talk to her Grandma, then come back to me if she thought I'd done any wrong.

Fifteen minutes later both girls were all over me, and Polly thanked me for the best wedding present ever.

After they left Maddie looked at me. "God, I wish I could love like that. If I wasn't like I am, I'd have your ring on my finger so fast it would be unreal."

That surprised me, a little. Maddie had told me repeatedly that long term relationships were forever in her past, and would never say why. When we got into bed that night, she asked in a small voice if I would just hold her. So I cuddled and stroked her hair until she fell into a restless sleep. The next day I went off to England and she went to wherever she was traveling to next.

...

Work was piling up with what we had recovered and what was coming to us through the contacts Lord Bevington had developed. Being three short of our original seven didn't help, but bringing in someone new made us a little unsettled, so he left us to our own devices.

He did, however, bring in a couple of more teams. We interacted with them, but never really hit it off with any of them. They knew we tended to get the more important stuff, and there was a little resentment.

Polly and Jack were frequent visitors. I still missed my other children, but managed to fly them over a couple of times a year. Jo never came.

Jessica said there was a new man in Jo's life now, a middle manager with a major corporation. She said he reminded her of me, in a lot of ways. I hope she doesn't treat him like she did me.

It had been two years since the wedding. I dated fairly often but not seriously. One student at the college came on to me, surprising me no end.

"Do you know how old I am?" I was forty-eight, but I kept fit, still had my hair and teeth, so I was a pretty well preserved forty-eight.

"Just shy of fifty, if I had to guess. I'm not some silly college bimbo. I started my education much later than normal. I'm thirty-five, doing post graduate work here. I'm a little tired of the college boys trying to score with the old broad. I'd like to go out with someone who can actually hold a conversation without thinking about sex every ten seconds. Besides," she grinned, "Your reputation proceeds you. Word is you're a bit of a mystery but a lot of fun to be around, in and out of the sack."

"Well good," I grinned, "and at my age, I don't think of sex more than twenty times in an hour."

She laughed, we talked more, and we did go out. It was fun, the conversations were stimulating, the sex was great, but we both realized there was no future in our relationship. We had a pretty deep discussion the last time we were together.

"You don't trust anybody, do you?"

"I trust my colleagues, my boss, my children, and one or two more, but that's it. Let's just say my past makes it difficult to trust anyone, especially women and leave it at that."

We were in bed, and she stroked my cheek. "She must have really done a number on you. It's a shame, really. You're a nice guy, Pete. If you'd let yourself, I'm sure there's somebody out there who would be happy to love you. Might want to think about therapy, before it's too late."

We parted as friends, and a month later she saw me with Maddy and smirked. There was never any love between Maddy and me, but there was a fondness for each other. One night, she brought up Mike.

"Why didn't you kill him?"

"That would have been the easy way out. Mike was really vain about his size, his ability to get any woman he wanted. He always came out on top, reveling in his spot as the alpha male. No, I reduced him to a mere mortal, and he'll have to live the rest of his days knowing he could never be top dog again, that people looked at his disabilities now and feel pity. That was far more satisfying than anything else I could have done."

She went silent a few minutes before grinning.

"You would be so good if you ever went over to the dark side. Want an update?"

"Not really, but if you need to share, go ahead."

"He married his little honey. They lasted a year before he caught her cheating. It was another devastating blow to an already fragile ego. Now he goes out occasionally, but he's only after sex, and when the woman realizes it, she dumps him. He's thirty pounds overweight now, and his hair is starting to go. If your aim was to make the rest of his life miserable, you succeeded. His war stories have been getting wilder, and his drinking buddies are starting to ignore him. He works, goes home, and drinks. I'm betting he doesn't make sixty."

Was I glad? Somewhat. But in the end, I just didn't care. He was getting what he deserved.

She changed the subject. "You know he was in deep cover, it's why his death was faked. I really thought he was dead like everyone else, but he was working for a group with a different set of letters than ours. These guys do all the really scary shit, I don't even like to talk to them, but when you had your little adventure one looked me up. I had a hard time selling him on the fact that you really were just a college professor who did research and helped collect artifacts. He even said he might offer you a job. I told him not to bother, you were our little secret weapon and we didn't share." She grinned while I snorted.

"You know, I wish you'd let up on the Superman bullshit. I got lucky when I fell into the group, the other four guys were all military men that had seen combat, and they knew how hairy things could get. Sherry and Fatima both knew the risk, just from being who they are. I was just some stupid geek off seeking a grand adventure."

She grinned. "Maybe, but I've talked to everyone, and they all say they wouldn't have made it out without you. Your ability to think on your feet and use deadly force when you had to kept the story from turning out much differently. So even if you think you're just a geek, talk to your friends, they won't hesitate to give a different opinion."

"I did all those things because I was scared shitless. I didn't want to die, and I didn't want my friends to die. So I did what was necessary, lied and manipulated, killed who I had to, to get us out. Don't confuse terror with valor, Maddy. Oh, and I don't want to do anything like that ever again."

She grinned and kissed my cheek. "In my line of work, Pete, there is a very thin line dividing terror and bravery. You did as well or better than most seasoned operatives would do."

She sighed. "Enough about that. Back to Mike. According to his handler, his communications were getting more and more infrequent there at the end. Speculation was he may have been been burned. In my opinion, he was in imminent danger of turning. That would have been really bad. So you did everybody a favor when you stumbled on to him, although it would have probably been better all round if he'd been beheaded."

I shuddered a little. She once told me she was his closest friend in the agency. With friends like her...

I had one more odd conversation shortly afterwards, immediately after I'd managed bringing her to three orgasms in forty minutes. She'd had the last as she rode me, keening softly as she relaxed on to my chest, then giggling five minutes later.

"I'm going to risk offending you, but in a nice way. I've been with more men than I care to remember, and I have to say, you're the third best lover I've ever had."

"Just third?"

"Yes, hon, but that's a good thing. The other two had training, and yes, you prude, every country has some sort of sex school for selected operatives. Pillow talk has destroyed more governments than any war ever will. You throw everything you have into pleasing your partner, and we girls appreciate it."

A stray thought hit me and I blurted it out before I thought. "Is Mike one of the top two?"

She actually laughed. "No. Mike was too much of an alpha male, looking to satisfy his needs whether his partner had pleasure or not. Mike doesn't even make it to the top twenty."

"Top twenty? Wow."

She grabbed my equipment and squeezed. "Don't judge. How many women have you been with since your marriage?"

"Three. And you are hands down the best I've ever made love to." I didn't tell her that while the others were good and the sex was fun, aside from her I felt no emotion at all. It was like an enjoyable workout or a good run, that left me satisfied physically, even if I never ran that path again. And I did have a fondness for Maddy, and felt close to her when we were intimate. The woman had skills, no doubt, but it wasn't anywhere close to the soul stirring enthusiasm that Jo had.

She cooed and kissed my cheek. I couldn't help asking how the other two were better, for research, purely.

"One was a Saudi. He already had six wives, so he had plenty of practice. He was like you, only on steroids. The Russian, ah..." She drifted of into a memory for a few seconds. "The Russian was from a different planet. He had excellent equipment, great stamina, and stellar technique. It didn't last though. He wanted me to do corporate espionage, and when I refused we drifted apart. I heard he died three years later of a massive heart attack. Seems he was mainlining a Russian version of a souped up Viagra. What a waste."

...

We worked steadily, making new discoveries every once in a while. One scroll turned out to be a treasure map, and we got Teddy in on it pretty early. He turned the map over to the proper owners, who immediately looted the site and sold the artifacts. Teddy bought most of it through cutouts. It was a sad lesson.

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