November 11, 2000 - Part I
Diane opened the door, taking in the man in the wheelchair sitting in front of her. He was shockingly handsome, with a defined jaw and long, sloping nose, brilliant blue eyes and golden hair that fell loosely about his face, cascading over his ears.
“You must be Diane.”
She nodded, stepped aside so he could come in.
The door was a tight fit for his chair, so he pulled himself in with his hands on the doorframe.
“And you must be the infamous Kai,” Diane said, closing and locking the door behind him.
“Uh oh. Now I wonder what Renee’s been telling you about me,” he said as he slipped out of his coat, flashing a smile that would weaken the knees of nearly any woman.
Diane laughed, taking his jacket and hanging it up for him. He wore a long-sleeved T-shirt beneath a regular one that, though loose, couldn’t hide what had to be incredible arms and shoulders.
“Renee had to run to the store to pick up a few things last minute, but she should be back soon. Can I get you anything?”
“I’m good, thanks.”
Diane stood awkwardly, patting her thigh absently, looking around as if thinking what to say, trying to avoid staring at his wheelchair or his legs. Despite the wheels, he was incredibly attractive, she’d give Renee that. But even though Renee had sat Diane down and explained the essentials of the “complicated” Kai Fox, so Diane would know what to expect and potentially get on board with it, now that he was sitting in front of her, she wasn’t sure what to say or do. Diane had never known a disabled person before, and now suddenly her best friend was dating one. And Diane’s personality already came off as a bit . . . Diane would say “honest,” but most people might say “abrasive.” It’s one reason she and Renee made such a good pair: Renee’s sweetness balanced out Diane’s acerbic personality, whereas Diane’s assertiveness balanced Renee’s occasional timidity.
“So . . .” Diane said, bouncing on her knees a little, restless. Then she noticed one of his legs was spasming mildly, and remembered Renee had explained about that and decided maybe she didn’t want to make him seem self conscious, so she stopped. God. She was over thinking, like Renee, which Diane never did, and this wasn’t even her own boyfriend. But he was the first man that Renee had expressed a real, healthy interest in--well, if you could count weeks of desperate failed stalking until they finally rekindled “healthy." Unless he sent Diane’s “asshole alarm” blaring, she didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize what could be a good relationship for Renee, even if Diane couldn’t understand the whole disabled part of the equation.
“So . . .” he echoed her. Was he smiling? Did he find her uncharacteristic uncertainty amusing? Who knew what Renee had told him. “Do you want to sit?”
His question caught her by surprise. Was it rude for her to stand when he was sitting? Renee hadn’t said anything about that, but then, Renee was so short, it probably didn’t matter much. Dammit. More over thinking.
He laughed now, low and rich. “Just thought you might want to be more comfortable while we wait for Renee?”
Diane nodded and led the way toward the section of the main room where they had a pair of couches and their small TV and VCR. She walked around the coffee table and sunk into her favorite spot. She’d already settled in when she realized his wheelchair couldn’t fit between the table and the sofas. Shit.
“It’s fine,” he said with a smile, pulling up to the edge of the plush carpet that defined the space. “I’ll move the table later.”
Though she’d already observed his upper body seemed fit and strong, the statement still seemed jarring. She took a breath.
“You’re a visual art major?” His right foot was spasming more visually now, jittering like he’d had too much coffee, although Renee had explained it was completely involuntary. He pressed his hand on his knee, but otherwise ignored it, so she did her best to do so as well.
“Yup. I started off in architecture but didn’t last,” Diane said with a laugh. “I dabble in all mediums and forms but I really like sculpture, especially working with metal.” She relaxed a little, and then shifted in her seat. “Your wheelchair has some nice lines to it. And I could probably paint it for you, if you wanted. The frame, I mean.”
He glanced down, seemingly out of reflex, and when he looked back up, she caught a flash of embarrassment before he hid it.
“Sorry,” Diane said, though she wasn’t really. “Renee didn’t warn you about my foot and mouth disease?”
He shook his head, smiling. “It’s fine. Somehow, though, I get a feeling you weren’t hoping to get me alone so we could talk about metallurgy.” His muscle spasms had quieted, so he used his hands to push his body up, adjusting his weight. “Ask or say anything you want.”
There was one question she had, which she’d attempted to broach with Renee but never managed to actually ask. It wasn’t exactly the most PC thing to say, but he seemed to be inviting her to speak freely. “So . . . Renee told me a little about . . . you,” she said delicately, but her gaze settled on his legs and the look in his eyes told her he caught her meaning. “But it’s just your legs . . . that don’t work, right?” She raised her eyebrows.
He was leaned back, looking at her, his lips pursed, obviously holding back a smile, but he said nothing. Evidently, he knew where this was going and wasn’t going to make it easier for her.
“I know it’s none of my business, but Renee’s had problems with guys taking . . . advantage . . . of her before. I know she likes you, but I’d get if she picked you because--”
Kai held up a hand and Diane worried that she’d stepped in it. “Yes, my plumbing works, and yes, I know about Jude. Renee told me, but that’s not why she’s dating me.”
Diane felt her own blush this time. “Wait. Renee told you about Jude? About--”
Kai’s smile faded to clenched teeth. “How he raped her?” His eyes flashed with anger. He took a deep breath, blinked, relaxed. “That’s why I told her it’s OK to take things slow, if that’s what she needs.”
“I’m sorry,” Diane said, sincerely this time. “It’s just . . . Renee’s dated some real users, and the way you always seemed to pull these disappearing acts, I just--”
“It’s fine. You’re looking out for your friend. Renee’s lucky to have someone like you.” Kai shifted his weight again.
Diane shrugged. “I think I’m more lucky to have her keeping me out of trouble.”
Kai laughed. God, was it possible he was actually a really nice guy? And Renee must trust him if she told him about Jude. Only a handful of people knew that secret.
The front door opening interrupted their conversation, Renee popping her head in, carrying several sacks of groceries. “I’m back!”
Kai was at her side before Diane had even stood up. “Anything else in the car?”
“Nope, this is everything. Just some snacks and the movies,” Renee said, smiling as Kai accepted most of the bags, carefully arranging them in his lap so they wouldn’t fall and following her to the kitchen.
He was going to help her put the groceries away? Diane could hardly believe her eyes. The last guy Renee dated would come over, crash on the couch, putting his dirty shoes everywhere, leave his beer bottles all over for Renee to clean up, and usually eat Diane’s food. Renee, God bless her, would always offer to pay Diane to make up for it, but Diane was grateful that relationship--if she could even call it that--hadn’t lasted.
Diane started for the kitchen, hesitating in the doorway, watching Renee and Kai interact as they worked together to put away Renee’s purchases, smiling and flirting and laughing and happy. Diane saw the way they looked at each other: it was nauseatingly Hallmark-greeting-card sappy, but Diane was relieved. Renee deserved someone who genuinely cared about her--and Kai’s reaction when Jude had come up in the conversation indicated he did--and who would treat her right. Diane didn’t think she could deal with the wheelchair, but if it didn’t bother Renee, then more power to her, right?
Diane cleared her throat when it was clear they were too lost in each other to notice her standing there. “Uh, I’m going to head out. You two have fun.”
Kai used the edge of the cabinet to help him turn around in the tight space. “Oh, Diane, I don’t want to kick you out--”
She held up her hand, snagged her purse from the opposite counter. “I have a sculpture project due soon anyway; the studio should be empty. Perfect time to get some work done.” She smiled and waved. She seemed to remember Renee mentioning a brother. Might be worth investigating. “Don’t wait up for me,” she added with a wink before heading out the door.
“Thanks for the Gatorade,” Kai said, snagging a bottle, twisting off the cap and taking a long drink. “But you didn’t have to.”
Renee shrugged, leaned forward and stole a quick peck. “I wanted to. Do you eat popcorn?”
“I’ll eat some if you make some, but you don’t need to worry about me.”
“You’re so easy,” Renee said, opening one of the boxes she’d brought, extracting a bag, and sticking it in the microwave.
Kai laughed. “I make up for it with being complicated in just about every other sense.”
Renee pulled herself up on the counter so she was sitting on it, then popped open a cabinet and fished out a large plastic bowl.
Kai couldn’t help nasty thoughts of what he could do to her, sitting on the counter while he was in his chair, but he quickly pushed them aside, accepting the bowl and helping her down.
“So what did you and Diane talk about while I was gone?" Renee took back the bowl and set it aside. "I made her promise not to embarrass me.”
“Nothing,” Kai said, taking another sip of his drink. “We just chit chatted.”
“Uh huh. What’d she say?”
Kai shrugged, shook his head.
Renee dropped a shoulder. “Oh God, she asked if your dick worked, didn’t she?”
Kai laughed. “She may have.”
Renee turned scarlet. “Oh God. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine, Re. She just wanted to make sure my intentions were good.”
Renee nibbled her lower lip and traced a line along his jaw with a single finger, making his cock immediately spring to attention.
“Not if you keep doing that,” he said, only half joking.
She grinned, took the Gatorade from him and set it on the counter. Then she climbed in his lap and kissed him, deep, probing, intense, making him smile and moan into her mouth, gripping her closer, desperate to feel her against him, flesh to flesh. He hadn’t had sex in over two months, and now that Renee knew about his transplant, he had nothing--physical anyway--to hide from her anymore. Still, they’d only been officially together a couple weeks, and ripping her clothes off and eating her out in the kitchen followed by her fucking him in his chair wasn’t exactly “taking things slow.”
The sound of popcorn popping began to fade, and the microwave beeped, but she continued to kiss him, ignoring it, gripping his shoulders and making him crazy.
“Ow.” Renee pulled away, looked down. Kai’s right knee was jumping.
Fuck, not now. “Sorry. . . .” His leg and foot had spasmed a little earlier, but then calmed, and he’d hoped he’d have a peaceful night, other than his tight back.
Renee used his shoulders to support herself as she climbed off. Her cheeks were delightfully flushed, and the neckline of her sweater had dipped over her shoulder, exposing her pale skin that Kai desperately wanted to lick and nibble as he moved his way lower. Not jacking off before coming over was apparently a huge mistake. And now his foot was spasming again, too. Nothing really painful, just annoying. He placed a hand on his knee, to try to make it less obvious, and also to try to keep his thigh from moving too much. He was making good progress with his recovery, and he didn’t want to set things back, even if these spasms weren’t particularly violent.
Renee hadn’t commented, emptying the popcorn into the bowl but keeping an eye on him in her peripheral vision. Finally, she said, “Can--can I do anything?”
He smiled faintly. “It’ll either pass in a minute, or get worse. I’m sorry if I hurt you.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “You surprised me more than anything.”
“Let’s go sit,” he said.
“Not yet,” she said, suddenly, leaving the popcorn in the kitchen. “We should see if you fit in my bathroom before we get too cozy, right?”
“It’s fine, Re. I’ll figure something out. Good thing about drinking so much Gatorade is the bottles really come in handy. I always keep a few with me.” He cringed. “Sorry. Too much information.”
Renee just shook her head. “Try it, for me?” She tucked her shoulders up, toeing the ground with her foot, and there was probably nothing she could have asked of him in that moment that he wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to.
He nodded with a slight smile and followed her; if her bathroom was anything like Jon’s, there was no way he’d fit, but Renee was new to life with someone in a chair, and some lessons had to be learned by seeing how he literally could not fit in most small bathrooms.
The first thing Kai noticed was instead of having a traditional door, the room had two smaller ones that pulled open and laid flat against the wall, giving him the full width of the frame to enter, with no huge awkward door to work around. It could have been his imagination, but they smelled freshly painted. The second was that the bathroom, though small, was oriented in a way that he could actually fit inside; the bathtub/shower on his left, perpendicular to the door, which determined the depth of the room, a small sink in front of him, and off to his right, the toilet.
Kai blinked. It wasn’t offset, but it wasn’t the typical low, residential commode like Jon had in his bathroom, but one more like Kai’s, high, easier to transfer to. And grab bars had been installed along the wall. Kai pushed closer; it wouldn’t be as simple to use as what he had at home, but it was far better than passable. Without a word, he drifted over to the shower--now he realized the bathmats that Renee must normally have had on the floor had been removed and lay draped over the tub--and pulled back the curtain.
A shower seat identical to his own was set in the tub, though pushed a bit farther back, and the shower head had been converted to a hand wand, with a base for it at the usual height, as well as a bit lower. Kai felt his heart beating faster in his chest, and he wasn’t sure if it were a sign of an impending panic attack or a surge of excitement that everything Renee had promised him a few days ago--“I’m in this game as long as you want me”--was more than mere words.
Carefully, he turned around in the tight space; Renee stood in the doorway, anxiously awaiting his reaction. “It’s a bit early, but . . . Merry Christmas.”
Kai found it a struggle to find words, or even signs, to respond. “I don’t know . . . what to say.” Nikki had never made any accommodations for him, and though Becca had, like everything with her, they came with strings. Heavy strings.
Renee smiled shyly. “After I spent the night at your place, I started thinking, and. . . .” She shrugged, toed the floor some more. “I want you to be comfortable here. I’m serious about us, and I have three-plus years of school left, and Diane and I really love this apartment. . . .”
Kai glided closer, reaching up for one hand. “Thank you,” he said, not able to say more; there was no way he could convey in English what this gesture meant to him, in more than practical terms, and Renee’s ASL wasn’t remotely good enough. “But . . . how? You stayed at our place only a week ago.”
Renee grinned now, a confident, elated smile. “I talked to Troy, who put me in touch with the occupational therapist people, who advised me on what to do, and Diane helped me convince our landlord. She can be very persuasive when she needs to be.”
Kai felt an easy, relaxed smile slip onto his face. “Can I borrow her? I’ve been trying to get ours to put in a roll-under sink for months.”
Renee laughed. God, she was so beautiful when she looked at him like that it made his chest hurt. “So you like it?”
“I know we’re taking things slow, but this way, if you need to spend the night. . . .” Her eyes twinkled.
Kai pulled his hands along Renee’s sides, sliding his thumbs under the hem of her sweater, teasing her bare skin. She didn’t stop him, so he continued, working his way under her shirt to her breasts, searching out her nipples to tease. Kai caressed her for several minutes, growing achingly hard again, pressing teasing kisses punctuated by playful licks on her belly, a taste of what else she could have if she’d let him.
“We could try out the shower,” he said. “I’ll make it worth your while.”
She sighed, her eyes fell closed for a moment as he continued to fondle her breasts, fingertips circling taunt nipples, and he hoped she’d say yes. Maybe he’d even feel her hands on his cock, stroking him. . . .
But Renee pushed his arms away and stepped back, out of the bathroom. Her face was still flushed from passion, but her eyes betrayed her. She was scared. “I want to . . .” she said, almost apologetically. “But . . . I can’t. I’m sorry.” She pulled her sweater down, covering herself as much as possible. “On the couch or even in the bed it’d be one thing. . . . But in the bathroom . . . I’d feel . . . trapped.” Renee bit her lip. “I know it doesn’t make any sense. . . .”
“I understand, Re,” Kai said. More than you’ll ever know, he thought. “I shouldn’t have pushed you. We agreed to slow. Let’s watch the movies.” He offered her a smile, but though she nodded, she still seemed shell shocked.
Kai followed her out to the living room, surprised to find the coffee table had been moved, pushed against the wall, beside the TV, giving him space to get to either couch, if he wanted. He shook his head. Diane must have done it before she left, while he was too busy drooling over Renee in the kitchen. Part of him was grateful; the table was long and probably heavy, and had been sitting on a plush rug, which would have made moving it from his chair complicated and time consuming. Especially since his back was acting up.
Renee’s apartment was relatively accessible, the floor of the main room and kitchen not too dissimilar to that in his own apartment, but the furniture wasn’t arranged with a wheelchair in mind, several thick rugs like this one placed around the floor.
He leaned down to roll up the rug enough he didn’t have to fight with it to get to the couch, transferring to the one facing the TV. He noticed Renee moved quietly, her cheerful mood evaporated, and it felt eerily like looking in some kind of distorted mirror. Is this what Renee experienced so many times when he’d withdrawn reflexively inside himself as memories of the past surfaced to haunt him?
She seemed to be struggling with getting the VCR to accept the tape, cursing to herself in frustration.
“Re, come here. Forget about that for now. I think we should talk.”
She obeyed, rising and joining him on the couch. “I’m sorry,” she said in a thick, but small voice. “I’ve ruined everything, haven’t I?”
“Of course not,” Kai said, taking her tiny hand and cradling it in one of his.
“I trust you,” she said, though she wouldn’t look up. “But what if we start something, and the ‘devil gets in you’ as my maw maw would say, and you can’t stop yourself?”
Kai grit his teeth, darkness swirling in his eyes, but he swallowed it down; he didn’t want Renee to think his anger was directed at her. “Re,” he said, giving her hand a gentle tug to try to get her to look at him. “Do I want you? Yes. Do you make me horny as fuck? Yes. Would I hesitate a minute, if you said you wanted to have sex with me, to kiss and lick and touch every square inch of your body before slipping inside you until we both came? No.” Kai ducked to try to look up and find her eyes, hidden among the shadows cast by her cascading curls. “But will I ever do anything you don’t want me to do? No. You can always tell me to stop. Whether we’re fully dressed or halfway through the full act. You have a right to change your mind. Always.” He tried to tug on her again to get her to look up, but she pulled away. “Re, please look at me.”
Finally, after several minutes, she did. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes were glossy and rimmed with red.
“I’ll be frustrated, of course I will be,” Kai said, trying to smile to reassure her. “But nothing a few minutes in that adapted bathroom of yours can’t fix.” He tucked a curl behind her ear. “I will never be angry because you decide you’re not ready.” He opened his arms, hoping she’d accept a hug.
After a moment of hesitation, she did, but he soon felt her crying into his shoulder, her small body jerking against his larger one, loud sobs that racked her petite frame.
“Was I too Deafie just now? Too blunt?”
“No,” Renee mumbled, but she didn’t say more, continuing to weep in his arms.
Kai held her, surprised by how much it hurt, a physical ache he couldn't localize, to hear and feel her crying and not know how to fix it, how to make it better for her.
Finally, Renee pulled back, wiped her eyes with the side of her hand. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not usually like this.”
Kai shook his head and swept a few stray tears away with the pad of his thumb. “No consequences for telling me to stop. I promise.” He smiled. “Like I said, I might be frustrated, but that sort of comes with the territory of having a Y chromosome.”
That finally made her crack a smile.
“Why don’t you go get the popcorn and our drinks from the kitchen, and I’ll get the movie started. You can pretend every character who dies is Jude, especially if it’s painful.” He smiled, hoping that would cheer her up.
She laughed faintly, and her eyes softened. She smoothed her hand along his hair, finally bringing him close into a short kiss. “Thank you,” she murmured. When she pulled back, she looked like she was ready to cry again, but she shook her head, perhaps in response to his worried look. “I’ll be OK. You’ll hold me and we’ll laugh at Mel Gibson and I’ll be fine.”
Kai nodded, watched her leave, and knew that if he ever met this Jude, he’d kill him for making the beautiful ray of sunshine that was Renee--his nickname for her so fitting--darken the way it just had. No, killing him would be too kind. Castration, perhaps, Kai thought evilly. And in his chair, he was at the perfect height, too.
Continue to November 11, 2000 - Part II -------->