Ryan Avery is on the lookout for clones. Ever since he was a young man, he's been fascinated by the science behind biotech research and how cloning has developed from Dolly the sheep to the latest clones adults who live among us. But even though he buries himself in research, Ryan cannot seem to find a single clone out in the world.
This changes when he stumbles upon men in a cruising park. Since the only feature that differentiates clones from humans is the appearance of a navel, Ryan believes he will find the answer to what he's seeking by following men into the park and seeking out what he's always wanted.
Of course, like with all scientific discoveries, Ryan is about to find out more than he ever thought possible.
"Hey," the man said again. "You okay?"
"I am." Ryan nodded, though his cheeks felt molten. "Are you okay?"
"I've been having a blast," the man said with a wry smile. "You're fun. You should keep going."
"Yes. I. Uh."
Ryan looked the man up and down. He'd only noticed the dark hair and eyes, and the jogging clothing before, but now he fixated on everything he could see. Not just dark hair, but chestnut like the tree's bark they were positioned next to. Almost ruddy, though, in the sunlight. Hair was cut to his ears, wavy and remarkably smooth, like he conditioned it. His skin was almost flawless, save for a small cut on his chin, most likely from shaving. His jaw was firm, stoic. It was impossible to tell his age in exact years, except that he was probably young to be this stunning. His physique was sculpted, and not just from running. It was made. It was man-made.
"A clone," the man completed. He sighed. "Yes, I am. The navel gave me away, huh?"
And the stunning beauty, Ryan wanted to say. He merely nodded.
The man sighed again. "Is this going to be a problem?"
"No. A problem?" Ryan furrowed his brows. "Why would it be a problem?"
The man shrugged. He seemed upset, almost dismissive, even of the concern that Ryan tried to convey as he put his hand on his shoulder.
"Don't worry, man," he said, shifting away from Ryan's palm. "It's weird for some guys. I don't mind. I can go --"
"No. Stay. I think ..." Ryan bit his lip. He mustered all the strength and courage he had. "I think you're stunning."
The man smiled. He batted a hand playfully away. "Aw, shucks, you're just saying that."
"No, I mean it. I've been ... looking for you."
"Looking for me?" The man's dark eyes grew with concern. "I haven't, you know, ripped you off or something, right?"
"There may be others like me. Not just clones, but clones of clones. It's insane -- but I think I've managed to avoid that fate so far. So I wanna be sure you haven't run into me or someone like me before. Right?"
"No, nothing like that."
"You serious?" The man's eyes were still affixed with worry and tension. "You're not going on some kind of crazy revenge mission, right? Because I swear, I get the upset. But it wasn't me who done you wrong."
"I know. You're not getting this. I like you. I mean…" Ryan bit his lip. He wanted to show the man his notebook, with twelve names that he'd kept records on, concluding each one with "not a clone." He wanted to show him the stacks of books he'd read on science and biotech; the framed image of Dolly the sheep, not the singer, he had in his apartment. He wanted to show him everything, but that felt like too much. It felt like stalking without a subject, and now that he had the subject he wanted, he had no idea what to do other than stare and touch.
"I want you," he said. "Just you. No one else. And not because I want revenge. I just want --"
The man kissed him.