It’s a very good question, and one I wish I’d answered in my new short story Honor Among Thieves, which just came out from Storm Moon Press. While I had a great time solving the problem of how you demonstrate a character’s bisexuality in a short narrative while still pairing them up with a single love interest at the end, I’m afraid I’ve only scratched the surface of the complex situation that is "friends with benefits".
You see, Danielle is a career criminal: an international art thief and con artist extraordinaire. A modern day Robin Hood (or so she sees herself), she’s spent most of her adult life stealing from wealthy collectors and tithing a portion of her proceeds to those in need. Her partner in this scheme is Jay: the man behind the scenes who runs the equipment while Danielle is out in the field. As one can easily imagine, a life of crime does not lend itself too easily to stable, long-term, committed relationships. As well as being there for her, Jay is in the unique position of always being there: the one constant she can count on, and the only person in her daily life who knows her for who she truly is.
The relationship between Jay and Danielle might seem complicated: they are business partners, lovers, friends, and pretty much the only family either of them has. In practice, though, their relationship is easy. One minute, they banter and tease like brother and sister, the next they slide into bed as easily as Danielle slides into a new persona. They’re most definitely comfortable together, but the question is: are they too comfortable?
There’s no question that Danielle finds Liz exciting. She’s the reporter who has been assigned to write a feature on the very collection of art that Jay and Danielle are planning to steal. She’s witty, intelligent, and pretty damn cute on top of everything else. It’s practically love at first sight, no matter how many times Danielle reminds herself not to get too close; the chemistry is too electric.
The story ends, as you might imagine, with a beautiful ride off into the sunset. Danielle doesn’t have to manage the sticky issue of living with Liz while still working with Jay. She doesn’t tackle Jay’s jealousy at possibly being replaced. But being asked to think about the polyamorous implications of my story, I find myself thinking: I hope she makes it work. She clearly loves Jay, and is falling in love with Liz, and a life filled with the love of both those wonderful people is one I’d like to step into myself.
I guess what I’m wondering is: is a friend with benefits simply that? Is it just a temporary condition, a sort of placeholder for a "real" relationship, to be cast aside when the right kind of love comes along? Or can it be more? When friends are as important as family, and love is more flexible than "one-size-fits-all", I certainly think that it can.
Amy Gaertner is a debut author. Her short story, Honor Among Thieves is now available in e-book formats through Storm Moon Press. You can follow Amy on Twitter @AmyGaertner or on her blog at http://amygaertner.wordpress.com/