Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Love UnSeen - 10

10


Jackson slept most of the way home. The jerk of the car as Dan parked nudged Jackson awake. He could just make out the burst of light from the lamp on the side of the house, but otherwise everything was a murk. His head throbbed. His tongue felt as if it were glued to the roof of his mouth, but Dan’s smell was comforting. His cologne had faded, but Jackson could just sense the notes of it mixed with clean, masculine sweat that sent blood immediately south, although the alcohol kept things in check.
“Hey,” Dan said in that tender voice Jackson was growing to love, gently touching Jackson’s hand. “We’re here. Home.”
Jackson smiled at the thought of Dan considering this his home, too. Jackson reached toward his left, and when his hand found Dan’s shoulder he tried to urge the other man close. He wanted to taste him again, to convince himself he hadn’t dreamed it while he was passed out on that utility room’s floor.
But Dan was much stronger and not drunk and easily resisted Jackson’s overtures. “Let’s get you inside.” The sound of the seat complaining as Dan shifted in it, then the creak-swoosh of his door opening.
Jackson slid his right hand over the doorframe, finding the button for the window, then the hand grip, and finally the door latch, pushing it open. That was the easy part. He started to lift his right leg to get it out of the car and onto the driveway, but his foot kept catching. A huge part of him told him it would be nice to just go back to sleep right here, but the rest reminded him that Dan was waiting.
Jackson finally used his hands to help guide his legs out of the car.
He could hear Dan was standing nearby, the scratch of his shoes on the pebbled surface of the driveway as he shifted his weight. Maybe he wanted to help but was giving Jackson a chance to get out on his own.
Getting out of a car, even when he wasn’t drunk wasn’t easy. His braces helped improve his gait and helped with his balance issues, but they were finicky. He had to angle his leg in just the right way to trigger the joint mechanisms in his ankle and knee. It had become mostly unconscious, but drunkenness changed everything. Jackson used the doorframe to help pull himself up into a stand, but his angles were off and his braces didn’t lock, his knees collapsing. Once again Dan came to the rescue, strong arms wrapping around Jackson, keeping him upright. Jackson swayed a little and managed to hear the click of his knee joints locking, but he leaned against Dan anyway. Dan smelled so nice and felt so good he couldn’t even be embarrassed. He’d trip on purpose if it meant Dan would hold him like this.
Sensing Jackson was stable, Dan stepped back, his hands on Jackson’s shoulders. “You OK?”
Wonderful, Jackson thought, nodding.
Dan made a noise, air blowing out of his nose, as if to say he didn’t believe it, but he took his hands away.
Even though it was warm for the time of year, Jackson wasn’t wearing his tux jacket and losing Dan’s touch made him feel suddenly chilly. He pulled his cane out of his pocket and struggled to unfold it, but he managed not to throw it down the driveway, which felt like a huge achievement. He oriented himself with the light and managed a few steps before he stopped suddenly. Something wasn’t right. He listened hard. He could hear Dan’s breathing, the hum of the streetlight, distant traffic on St. Charles, but mostly it was silent. This was a quiet neighborhood at night, except when the college kids were celebrating at the end of a semester.
“Molly?” He couldn’t hear her. Had he left her in the car? Jackson started to turn around, but between his balance being off and his gait rhythm, he nearly spun around straight into the driveway, Dan coming to his rescue yet again. “Molly?” Jackson wanted to say more but his tongue was being as stubborn as his legs and the murk of his memory.
“Calm down,” Dan said in a harsh whisper.
This time Jackson struggled in Dan’s hold, beginning to panic. “I have to get Molly,” Jackson shouted, the words fighting their way out of his mouth as much as he was fighting Dan. “Molly!”
“Shh, Jesus,” Dan said, the first hint of anger Jackson had ever heard from the normally calm man. “She’s with Ms. Susan for the night. Come on. You need to sleep this off.”
“No,” Jackson insisted. Why would he have left Molly? The only times they’d ever been separated since they finished their training was when he had surgery, and even then Lyn had brought Molly in for a visit as soon as the doctor’s allowed it. Why was Dan keeping him from Molly?
“Stop it,” Dan said, frustrated. And a moment later, he scooped Jackson into his arms, like a stubborn bride.
Jackson let out a grunt of protest because his tongue felt like it was weight in his mouth and he couldn’t get it to do what he wanted.
“Shh, you’re safe, Molly’s safe. Let’s get you in bed and I’ll get Molly first thing in the morning, OK?” Dan shifted Jackson in his hold, putting most of Jackson’s weight into the crux of his right arm. Damn, he was strong. And something about it made Jackson relax. Jackson had always been small, and he’d always been attracted to stronger, bigger men, yet he’d never been with anyone strong enough to carry him so easily.
Jackson relaxed and leaned his head against Dan, getting sleepy again. So close Dan’s scent was strong. All his worry melted away. Dan made him feel safe.


#


Jackson must have drifted off because he woke when Dan set him on the mattress with a soft bounce. Jackson put his hands behind him and pulled himself back, farther onto the bed, then laid down, ready to go right back to sleep.
“You’re not making this easy, are you?” Dan said. He’d stripped off his shirt, because Jackson could just make out a blur of peach that had to be his arms, even if it seemed to blend in with the white of his undershirt. “You really going to make me undress you?”
Jackson grinned. He was sleepy and didn’t think he could get fully hard, but Dan could still fill him. Jackson didn’t think he could coordinate well enough to find and massage Dan’s crotch with his foot, so instead he slid his palm over the front of his pants, willing his erection to grow.
Dan’s hands were on Jackson, undoing his belt.
Jackson’s breath came faster. It had been years since he’d had another man inside him. All he’d managed since Benji were hand or blowjobs. His ass clenched in anticipation.
Dan nudged Jackson’s hand off his crotch so he could undo the zipper. He seemed to linger just a moment.
Jackson grinned and pulled Dan’s hand toward his cock. For a moment, Dan reached in, through the fly of Jackson’s boxers and wrapped strong fingers around Jackson’s half hard cock, one finger stroking along the shaft as if gently urging it to harden.
“You’re not going to remember any of this tomorrow,” Dan said, first as if it were an argument against continuing, but then he repeated it as if it were a bonus.
“Not. That. Drunk,” Jackson said, fighting to get the words out, his jaw and tongue resisting so that he was practically spitting the words out like cum. That made Jackson giggle.
“Not drunk, huh? You’re normally way too serious to giggle.” Dan’s hands moved up to pull Jackson’s pants down and Jackson braced himself on his elbows to help lift his pelvis up. He giggled a little but quieted as he felt Dan sliding his pants off one leg at a time, and the silence from the other man. It usually happened whenever someone saw his braces for the first time, but somehow the drunk fog in Jackson’s brain wasn’t enough to dampen how much it hurt that Dan’s attraction seemed to end there. Why? Dan knew Jackson’s legs were wonky. Seeing the stuff he wore to help him walk better shouldn’t have made any difference, and yet it did.
Jackson pushed up and scooted forward so he could do it himself. He didn’t say anything because it was too much of a fight against his body to do so. His braces were simple rings on his thighs, cushioned on the back with velcro on the front, attached to the metal bars that ran on both sides of his leg. At his knees he had a stance control lock that would engage and disengage to help mimic a natural gait. Below he wore what he joking called “the casts,” a more massive white plastic boot that his calf and foot fit into, velcro securing it in place. On the back it had a black carbon fiber ribbon that served as the “hinge” and mimicked the body’s Achilles tendon to help flex his stubborn ankle joint. It worked better than any other ankle brace he’d ever worn and helped improve his walk substantially.
Dan cleared his throat loud enough to rise above the sound of tearing velcro. “If you aren’t going to throw up or pass out on me, you do that leg and I’ll do the other.”
Jackson paused and looked up. His stomach did this strange dance that could have been nausea but he was certain was something else. Dan was a moving blur as he went to work, his fingers sliding over Jackson’s bare skin after he removed each strap in a way that made Jackson shiver.
Within a few minutes, Jackson’s legs were free, and the weight of exhaustion began to pull him rapidly toward unconsciousness. He was pretty sure he could fall asleep sitting up, but Dan helped him lie back, lifting Jackson’s legs one at a time onto the bed. Jackson felt the mattress dip near his knees, and then Dan’s hands were on him again. This time Jackson could tell Dan was tracing the surgical scars he had running along the sides of his legs from thigh to ankle. Jackson was trying to stay awake, bracing himself for questions--Dan had admitted he was a curious person--but instead Dan’s hands moved to Jackson’s calves to the tight muscles there, digging his thumbs in and sliding his palms up along Jackson’s shin, massaging.
Jackson moaned. He was so tight after tonight and he’d normally stretched himself before going to sleep, but had decided he’d deal with the spasticity in the morning.
Dan immediately stopped. “Am I hurting you?”
Jackson let out a contented sigh and shook his head. All of this had to be a dream, even if they weren’t fucking. Dan’s head drifted toward his shoulder and he may have fallen half asleep.
“I promised your sister I’d take care of you,” Dan murmured as if to himself. He massaged for a few more minutes and then moved up, closer to Jackson’s head.
The disturbance of the mattress stirred him, but he pretended to be asleep; Dan seemed bolder when he didn’t think Jackson would remember.
Dan undid the buttons on Jackson’s shirt, and once it was open slid a hand along Jackson’s chest and stomach. Jackson was small but he was fit, his stomach hard even if it wasn’t defined. Dan held Jackson and eased off each sleeve carefully; he was clearly trying not to wake Jackson up. Jackson loved seeing such a tender side of the man who was strong enough to carry him without complaint.
Once Jackson’s shirt was off, Dan whispered, “Close your eyes if you’re awake,” and a moment later eased Jackson’s sunglasses off. The mattress rose as Dan stood up. Hesitation. The air felt so cold without the warmth of Dan’s body nearby. Then a zip, the sound of clothing hitting the floor. Bare footsteps on the wooden floor padding around to the other side of the bed. Sleep pulled strongly, blurring Jackson’s senses. He thought he felt the mattress dip and complain as Dan stretched out next to Jackson.
Jackson rolled onto his side and smiled when he felt Dan wrap his arms around Jackson and pull him close. Maybe it was a dream, but it felt real enough. Jackson thought Dan’s nose touched the top of his head. “I’ve been wanting this since I first saw you at the wedding,” Dan may have murmured. “I wish we could have this.”

#######

Jackson has been very stubborn lately and hasn't always been cooperating with the story. I have some idea of what happens next, but I'm more than open to your suggestions. Any previous suggestions have been filed away for future use, but if you have new ones, feel free to comment here.

I'd love to know what you'd like to see Jackson and Dan get up to!

#######

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Update: Plain Love Chapter 15

Hello Everyone, Happy Tuesday!
Here's Chapter 15 of Plain Love. Lorna and Eli have been seeing each other for a few weeks now. Spring is in full bloom, even if from Lorna's perspective their relationship is only budding. But after all--she agreed to let them take it "slow and steady".

Adele.

Table of Contents 

Monday, August 29, 2016

In/Exhale Continues

Today starts off a very long day for Kai that I hope you all will enjoy. While I was working on it, I worried about it being too long as it is technically the longest chapter in the series so far. However, it has some really crucial scenes between Kai and those close to him, including a couple characters who are becoming increasingly prominent in the series, and I realized there was no way to trim it down without losing some of this.

It's possible I may do one week as a two-parter, but I haven't decided that yet. I have a little bit of tweaking I realized I need to do in the later part of the chapter, so that may be what pushes me to spreading this out to four weeks. I know the wait is difficult, and I'm sorry! I've been posting the full chapters on my blog once they're all posted here, so you're always welcome to read them in their entirety there.

Last Week on In/Exhale: The weight of suppressing his darkness all day comes crashing down around Kai, but fortunately Renee is there to help him through it. He confesses to her some of the closely guarded secrets of his hospitalization: that he lost it during a group therapy session and threw a chair, and as a result spent some time in isolation, which triggered him to attempt suicide. With no one else available to stay with Kai, Renee offers, grateful he's letting her in more and more every day and yet deeply worried about him.

This Week on In/Exhale: Jon comes home in the very early morning and startles Renee awake. He looks ready to collapse and yet insists on grilling her about what happened that evening and why Renee stayed with Kai. He won't admit why, but urges Renee to promise she'll go to Kai's appointment with Dr. Miller and inform the doctor of Kai's strange behavior. Kai wakes up, shocked he's not torn from his usual nightmares, and pieces of what happened the day before slowly come back to him. He's still afraid that Renee is slowly seeing through his smoke and mirrors and will realize she doesn't actually love him, and yet the way she looks at him reassures him that isn't true.

Next Week on In/Exhale: Renee accompanies Kai to his session with Dr. Miller, who is becoming increasingly concerned about Kai's unstable mood and his suicidal thoughts, but knows she has to tread very carefully so she won't spook Kai before she can help him. Kai goes to his nutritionist appointment, expecting to be chastised for his bad eating habits, but instead, she's sympathetic and urges Kai to see further help for his eating problem.

February 8, 2001 - Part I


If you've forgotten what Kai and his pals got up to in the first part of Season 3, you can read the "Previously On..." to refresh your memory. Or you can hit the updated Table of Contents to re-read any episode.

See you all next week,

-CA

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mistletoe Part One

I look across the room, my eyes automatically landing on him. He's laughing, talking animatedly to some cousins of his, acting like everything's fine. Like we didn't have that fight. Like I'm no longer his best friend, like he doesn't care at all.

I tear my eyes away and survey the room, a room I've spent a large chunk of my life in, now draped in festive decorations, even the occasional sprig of mistletoe dangling from the ceiling. I watch happy couples float across the makeshift dance floor, their cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling. I watch the younger kids crowd around the base of the enormous Christmas tree, rifling through wrapped packages to identify which ones they'll be tearing into tomorrow morning. I watch everyone moving around me like I don't exist, but my eyes keep returning to him. He's gesturing with his arms, and even across the room, I catch the minute twitching in his fingers, the way he subtly leans on his cane in a manner that betrays fatigue rather than nonchalance. I've spent eleven Christmases in this room, but never before have I felt like an outsider. Then again, I've never been unsure about my position as his best friend.

The raucous enthusiasm, in part due to holiday cheer and mostly due to the rowdy spirit of the Morgenstern clan, suddenly feels like a heavy blanket, suffocating me, and I slip out of the room.

Stepping out onto the porch, I desperately pull in lungfuls of cold air, wrapping my arms around my torso as I look up at the stars glittering brilliantly in the dark, wintry sky. Sucking in a sharp breath, I stare up at the night canvas above me, willing the tears to keep from spilling down.

"Nessa." No one says my name like he does - that slow, stumble-y slur that drags a half-syllable too long.

I turn. He's standing in the doorway, framed by the light spilling from inside the house. He leans on the cane heavily and says nothing, both of us just staring at each other. My mind registers how haggard he looks, and I think of the confrontation. Me yelling at him, demanding to know why he paid my boyfriend to break up with me. Him yelling back, that my ex hadn't loved me enough to stay. Me storming out.

He moves closer, taking painstakingly careful steps, clueing me in to the fact that he’s either hurting or drunk. Maybe both. “Nessa,” he repeats, as he takes the final steps, getting close enough for me to smell the alcohol on his breath.

“You’re drunk.”

He nods. “’Course.” Matter-of-fact, unapologetic.

We stand there, looking at each other. I speak first. “Why?”

He knows what I mean, and this time we’re both prepared enough to have a calm conversation. “He didn’t deserve you. If he had refused the money, I would have respected him a little more, even if I still didn’t like him.” His speech, slurred and mumbled, is further distorted by the effects of alcohol.

I shake my head. “That’s not what I’m asking, Theo. You know that. Why did you do it?” I try to decipher whatever hidden message lies in his warm brown eyes.

He exhales heavily forcefully, and shakes his head, looking down at his feet. The silence stretches, but I say nothing. Finally, he looks up and meets my gaze. There’s something different about him – a determination, maybe. “Because I’m in love with you.” I stare at him, waiting for him to laugh and declare it as some sort of joke. But he continues. “And I didn’t – couldn’t – stand by and watch you fall for another arsehole. I love you, Ness, and I might be the most useless guy you’ve ever met, with my crip shuffle and cane and stupid spasms, but dammit, Ness, no one is ever going to love you as much as I do.” He’s breathless, I’m speechless.

Theo Morgenstern, the subject of my childhood crush, banished to the bottom of my pathetic romantic fantasies. Theo Morgenstern loves me. I continue to stare at him, unable to believe it.

He laughs nervously, shifting his weight slightly. “Say something, Ness.” I wrap my arms around him and squeeze tight, afraid I’m going to wake up from this crazy dream. “Say it again,” I whisper.

“I love you, Nessa. I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Theo.” I grin, unable to suppress the swell of emotion in my chest.

He leans back from our embrace, one arm around my waist, the other using his cane for balance, and jerks his chin up, a smirk on his lips. “Look up, Ness.”

I do, and laugh. Hanging from the porch roof, right above our heads, is a sprig of mistletoe.

My gaze connects with Theo’s, and his lips meet mine, soft and warm and feeling like home. I feel his smile against my lips, and my own lips stretch into a grin. Theo loves me. Almost as if he can hear my thoughts, he tells me, “I love you, Nessa Arienne Hart,” enunciating the words slowly and clearly.

“And I love you, Theo Robert Morgenstern,” I reply, savouring the delicious words on my tongue. This boy, whom I’ve loved secretly for so long, finally loves me back. He’s just taken my first kiss. I want all of my other firsts to be with him. “Kiss me again, Theo,” I whisper.

He presses his lips to mine again, moving his hand up my back to my neck, and lifts his other hand to occupy the spot on my back. “Ness,” he sighs against my lips, then shifts to pepper kisses on my neck. Finally, he pulls back. “My room?”

My heart beats faster in anticipation of another of my firsts going to him. “Okay,” I whisper.

Mistletoe - Table of Contents


Mistletoe Part One

Mistletoe Part Two

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mistletoe Part Two

He presses his lips to mine again, moving his hand up my back to my neck, and lifts his other hand to occupy the spot on my back. “Ness,” he sighs against my lips, then shifts to pepper kisses on my neck. Finally, he pulls back. “My room?”

My heart beats faster in anticipation of another of my firsts going to him. “Okay,” I whisper.



The alcohol seems to be kicking in, and Theo leans heavily on me, using me as a support as well as a guide. “Wanted you f-for ages, Ness,” he slurs heavily, as I drag him into the elevator. The party is in full force in the living room, and I know we won’t be missed.

This is not a conversation I want to have while half-carrying him to his room. “Mmhmm,” I vocalise in response.

Finally, I manage to pull him into his bedroom, and lock the door behind us. Suddenly, I’m pressed up against the wall. “Love you, N-Ness,” Theo mumbles, running his lips over every piece of exposed skin on my upper body.

Gently, I extricate myself from his grip and lead him to the bed. “C’mon, let’s get you in bed, ‘kay?”

He sits heavily on the edge of the bed, gripping my waist and letting the cane thump to the floor. I unbutton his shirt wordlessly. I’ve done this task nearly every day for the past twelve years, as well as done up his shirt in the mornings, and I’ve witnessed the metamorphosis from a pale, skinny chest to the tanned, well-defined masculinity he has now. Somehow, this time feels different. Much, much more intimate. I tug the sleeves off his arms, and as he pulls off his white undershirt, I kneel to undo his shoelaces. Sliding his custom loafers off, I glance up at Theo. His eyes are hooded, and he leans back on his arms to watch me. “W-Want you.” His nearly incoherent statement goes directly to my pussy, and I suck in a gasp, biting my lip.

He moves back carefully, and sits against the headboard. I lift his legs onto the bed and slip a pillow under his bent knees to support his contracted legs. Straddling him, I place my hands on his chest. Our friendship has always been intimate, but now we’re crossing the line. This is it. No turning back to best-friend status now. Nervously, I shift off of him and undo his fly, then slide his pants and boxers off, revealing his AFO braces.

I unzip my dress on my own, knowing that it could take hours for him to get a good grip on the little zip, in the state that he’s in. Slowly, I let it slide down my body, revealing my lacy white bra and underwear. He moans, palming himself as he watches me strip. Flushing, I shimmy out of my simple lingerie in similar fashion, then sit on the edge of the bed, next to his legs. Slowly, reverently, I unstrap the orthosis on his right leg, peeling the long sock off. Underneath, his thigh tapers off into calf that somewhat lacks muscle tone. The same goes for his left leg, as I remove its plastic and steel support.

“C’mere.” I obey the command, and straddle his hips again. Lowering my lips to his, I slip my tongue into his mouth, twisting one hand into the soft curls at the nape of his neck. One hand latches onto his nipples, teasing them into rock-solid mounds of flesh, caressing and nipping until his moans are accompanied by heavy panting. His hands, marked with rough calluses from his hobby of dragon-boating, glide across my skin, tracing patterns on my back and hips. His fingers jerk and twitch, digging gently into my flesh in an unpredictable, erratic rhythm, strangely erotic.

I pull away. “I want a bath."

Devo Diary Updated!

Devo Diary is back again!

Read Chapter 20 here.

In case you forgot, it's 2001 and I'm still dating Rollerboy, an incomplete c7 quad who lives 3 hours away.

Find the whole story here:

Table of Contents

Thursday, August 25, 2016

For The Love Of Not Walking Chapter 18

Hi there, I can't believe how quick time is going right now. Thursday is Kieran and Erin day and here I bring you Chapter 18 of FTLONW. It stays emotional but amongst the chaos they both feel so much for each other. Hope you enjoy this week's chapter. Thanks so much for the comments from last week. I hope everyone still enjoys the story and is ready to keep going with Kieran and Erin.
Love you all, Dani

Table Of Contents TOC

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Love UnSeen - 11

11

Jackson woke to a warm body pressed against him. The disaster of the party, the horror of not knowing where he was, of not having his cane or Molly to guide him--it all felt like a sour pit in his stomach, a nightmare, and now he was safe and awake in his own bed. Had it happened? Or had he dreamed it? What about the kiss? That hot, fucking kiss that made Jackson’s morning wood throb and ache. He could still smell Dan, still taste the whisky on his tongue, still feel the stronger man’s hands gripping his ass.
And then there was the tender side, Dan carrying Jackson to bed, undressing him, not judging or stopping because of Jackson’s braces, and then curling up next to him in bed. Keeping him safe. That part felt the most dreamlike, and yet Jackson couldn’t deny someone was asleep beside him.
Despite the fact that his tongue felt like it was soldered to the roof of his mouth, or that his head was pounding out its own drumbeat, he smiled. Rolled over toward the form beside him. It seemed smaller than Jackson expected, so he reached a hand toward it, searching.
And found fur.
Jackson’s heart sank even as he heard Molly’s tail thump, thump, thump against the mattress as she realized he was awake. She shifted and a moment later he felt her warm wet tongue on his face, wishing him a happy and enthusiastic, “Good morning.”
“Mol--Molly. Molly! Stop. Stop it.” Jackson pushed her away, suddenly angry and disappointed with himself. Molly whined in complaint but she immediately obeyed.
Jackson lay there, his body yelling at him in a million ways for his attention, but all he could think about was how much of a helpless drunk he must have seemed to Dan. How could Dan possibly be attracted to the man who got lost in a utility room and couldn’t even make it back to his own bed without help? The kiss and every tender part of last night had to have been the fog of hope and drunkenness, and nothing more. Dan helped him because he was a nice guy.
Jackson hadn’t felt this low, this wrecked, since Benji left him.
“Just fucking go away already!” Jackson yelled at his persistent erection. Whacking off now would only make him more depressed.
Molly thought he was yelling at her, whined and jumped off the bed, the click click of her nails on the hardwood as she took off. He should get up to let her out, but that seemed like too much effort. His father would be so disappointed in him. The last Santoro left and he was an embarrassment. His estrangement from the Krewe his family founded finalized.
Jackson finally reached over to the nightstand for his phone. He always checked it in the morning out of habit. He was surprised when he felt a piece of Braille paper resting on top of his cell. It was the heavyweight paper used for embossing Braille letters with either a stylus or a typewriter, cut into a rectangle roughly the size of an index card. On it, it someone had embossed nine letters with an unnatural amount of space between each: V, O, E, C, I, M, A, E, L. At first, Jackson was bewildered, and he read it again to make sure the pounding in his head hadn’t caused him to misread it. But he got the same letters again. But then it hit Jackson, and he chuckled. The Braille code for the vowels “I” and “E” were mirror images of each other. Dan, whom Jackson presumed must have written the note, must have mistakenly inverted the two letters. What the note was meant to say was, “Voicemail.
Jackson’s traitorous heart picked up with hope as he used the voice guidance on his phone to help navigate to his voice message box. He had three from his sister that he ignored and one from Dan.
“Hey, Jackson,” Dan’s voice began. “Hope you’re not too hungover. I left you a bottle of water and some aspirin on your nightstand. And I dropped your tux off at the cleaners, so you don’t have to worry about it. Anyway, I’m leaving you this message because if I’d tried to write all this in Braille it would have taken me hours.” Dan laughed nervously. “I just wanted to let you know I have a sudden deadline come up so I’ll be in the darkroom and photography lab all weekend. So you won’t see me for a few days at least.” Dan laughed again, and the normal relaxed confidence that Dan gave off had been replaced by this rambling, almost shy guy Jackson didn’t recognize. “Right. You don’t see me anyway. Uh, you know what I mean.” A long pause and Jackson thought maybe Dan had forgotten to hang up, but then he said, “Take care of yourself.”
Jackson may have listened to the message an obscene number of times. No mention of their kiss or anything suggesting the events of last night wasn’t a mere figment of Jackson’s drunk imagination. But why did Dan seem so self conscious? Jackson couldn’t decide what was worse: that the kiss hadn’t happened, or that Dan was avoiding Jackson because it had.

#

The house had never felt so empty, so lonely. Jackson had forced himself to stretch, shower, take his meds and eat a sandwich, but this all felt like the aftermath of Benji all over again except for the fact that he and Dan had never had a relationship to begin with. Dan was his roommate, one Jackson had a huge crush on, but that’s all it was. The fact that Dan had a life and Jackson didn’t shouldn’t make him feel so hollow, and yet he did.
He shuffled around the house, too stiff and lazy to wear his braces, finally crashing on the couch and flipping channels. Unfortunately on a Saturday afternoon the only shows being broadcast with audio description were police procedurals. Lyn had always helped him with the visuals he couldn’t see for shows that didn’t have that provided by the network, and it made him miss her even more. He almost called her more than once but remembered he’d ignored her voicemails. Besides, she was married now and deserved her own life, and Jackson had to prove that he didn’t need her or Dan to get by, right?
One minute Jackson was watching an episode of Law and Order in which a woman was suspected of beating her husband to death, and the next Jackson was startled awake by his default ringtone and the computerized female voice announcing an unfamiliar local number. That meant someone was calling him who wasn’t in his contacts. Jackson’s heart was pounding in his chest no matter how much he tried to will it to calm, that it wasn’t another break in, it was just his phone. Normally Jackson ignored calls from unfamiliar numbers, but since it was local, Jackson rushed to pick up. Maybe it was one of the schools he’d applied for a job at, calling to give him good news. It was a stretch, since it was a Saturday, but Jackson didn’t want to risk it.
“Jackson Santoro,” Jackson said in his his most professional-sounding tone.
“Jacky,” a familiar booming voice echoed over the line. “Good to see you survived last night. I heard you took the ‘make merry’ part of our krewe’s anthem a bit too hard.” Harold chuckled, the sound grating. Jackson wished he could punch him through the phone.
“It’s Jackson,” Jackson growled. But the truth was now he was worried. Did everyone in the krewe know he’d hooked up with a bartender and embarrassed himself? Suddenly Jackson’s blood ran cold. Dan had been very cozy last night with Harold . . . had he struck some kind of deal with the king of Cadmus? A high-paying gig in exchange for spying on Jackson? Jackson knew he was being paranoid, but why else would Harold be calling him? They weren’t exactly bosom buddies.
“Jacky--Jackson,” Harold said, clearing his throat. “I’m calling because we had our morning meeting and the higher level krewe members all decided that it’s time you were included in the court.”
Jackson’s head had never quite stopped hurting despite the aspirin and all the water he had been drinking and he was certain that his headache must be what caused him to mishear Harold. “Excuse me?”
“We’re inviting you to be one of the dukes,” Harold said, his tone a bit condescending, but then his tone almost always was.
Jackson was speechless. Being named a duke was one of the highest honors a male krewe member could have, the only higher one king. On the one hand, Jackson could never forget what happened during his initiation, but on the other, this was his legacy. The krewe had meant so much to his father and grandfather, and Jackson had always been a disappointment. Part of Jackson wanted to tell Harold to go fuck himself, but the rest inwardly squealed in delight. As the last one to carry the Santoro name, he should have had a place in the royal circle years ago.
“Jackson? Do you accept?”
Jackson swallowed. “Is this a trick to embarrass me in front of half of New Orleans?”
“Of course not. If we embarrass you during a parade we embarrass the Krewe of Cadmus.”
Jackson wasn’t entirely convinced, even if Harold had a point. If they did anything to make a fool out of Jackson on the most important float in the parade, on one of the most watched parade of the entire Mardi Gras season, it would tarnish Cadmus’ reputation. “I can’t stand for hours. I need to be somewhere I can be sure I won’t fall off the float. And Molly has to ride the float with me. No negotiation.” Jackson had decided after last night he was never going anywhere without Molly again so long as she was still working.
Harold hesitated, but then he said, “Of course. Whatever you need, it will be arranged.” Harold sounded as if he wasn’t keen on the whole deal but his hands were tied.
I have your oath as a brother of Cadmus?” Jackson asked in Greek, using the formal language krewe members used in situations such as this.
Harold sighed but tried to turn it into a cough before replying, “I give you my word by the sacred goddess Harmonia.
Jackson still wasn’t 100% sure this wasn’t some kind of trick, but he couldn’t help that “kid on Christmas morning” feeling in his stomach at the idea of finally being accepted into the krewe and taking his rightful place in Cadmus. “In that case, I accept.”
“Great. The tailor who’s making the costumes for all the royalty will be coming to my house Monday evening. I expect you to be there. In harmony, I wish you farewell,” Harold concluded in Greek, using the krewe’s formal goodbye, and then without waiting for Jackson to reply, he hung up.

#

Jackson stayed up late listening to an audiobook. He’d hoped he might hear Dan come home, but either Dan was uncharacteristically quiet or Jackson fell asleep before Dan ever returned. Jackson woke up disappointed, painfully hard, and lonely.
Jackson was lying in bed feeling sorry for himself and trying to will his erection away when his phone rang. Lyn’s ringtone, followed by the computerized voice announcing her name. It took a minute for Jackson to find his phone and answer it. “Yes?” Jackson said a little irritated.
“Jacky. I was worried about you! You never called me back yesterday.”
Jackson sighed. “I’m fine.”
“Are you still going to the doctor on Monday?”
“Lyn, how can I make an appointment over the weekend? I promise I’ll call tomorrow and take his first available. I should see him before the new semester anyway.”
Lyn didn’t seem sure what to say after that. She finally said, “How’s Dan? Is he taking care of you?”
That made Jackson bristle. “Dan isn’t my caregiver; he’s my roommate. And he has his own life. He said he’d be gone all weekend. Some photo project or something. I don’t know.”
“Kevin and I are going out on the lake. You could come.”
Jackson had to stifle a laugh. Being trapped with his brother-in-law for hours in a confined space had to be one of Jackson’s circles of hell. “I’m not third-wheeling you on your honeymoon. Besides. I’m fine.”
“Jacky, I’ve known you your whole life. I know when you’re not fine even if you try to act like you are. Did Dan hurt you?”
“Jesus, Lyn. No. I’m fine. Really.”
Lyn let out a sound suggesting she wasn’t buying it. “I can come over.”
As much as Jackson would have liked the company, Lyn deserved time with her husband, time away from acting like Jackson’s surrogate mother. And Jackson had to prove to her and himself that he could be independent, that Dan was just someone to help pay the insurance on the house, and nothing more. “No. Have fun with Kevin. I’ve got stuff to do. School starts next week so I should be finalizing the syllabus, etc., anyway.”
“But--”
“I’m fine,” Jackson said with more effort, trying to convince himself as much as his sister. “I love you, Lyn. Have a good time. Take lots of pictures to show me later.” Jackson grinned.
“Ha ha, aren’t you the funny one. Love you, Jacky. Take care of yourself and don’t be too stubborn not to call me if you need me, OK?”

#

Jackson couldn’t seem to focus. He’d tried working on his preparations for the first day of class, tried dabbling with his book project, but he couldn’t seem to escape that loneliness that weighed on his shoulders. The feeling that he’d never have anything more than a few disastrous hookups and a lot of unsatisfied hardons to punctuate his life. While working on his computer, he kept wanting to facebook stalk Benji, the only man he’d ever had some semblance of a relationship with. But facebook wasn’t very screen reader friendly, and without his sister to describe all the pictures, he knew it was pointless. Besides, how pathetic was he to still occasionally follow the life of a man who had left Jackson behind years ago?
Lyn was right. He had to get out more, socialize. She was his only friend besides Dan if Jackson could even label Dan as such. On a day like today, when both were busy, he didn’t have anyone else to call or hang out with. It was pathetic, and worse, Jackson hated that he was living up to the stereotype of the blind shut-in.
So Jackson decided he needed to leave the house, and he had to do more than walk Molly to Audubon park. Most of the shops near campus he frequented were closed for Mardi Gras or because school was out for the winter break, or because it was Sunday, so he had to go somewhere else. He wasn’t in such an adventurous mood to try a new place, so instead he thought of heading to an old haunt from his graduate school days. It was in the Quarter, but it wasn’t like Jackson had anyone to come home to with Dan as buy as he was.

#

Jackson decided to splurge for an Uber, since he was still recovering from Friday and not in the mood for wandering around the Quarter. The car came to a stop and the drive indicated they’d arrived.
“This is Grind and Screw, right?” Jackson asked, wanting to be sure he was where he was supposed to be.
The drive chuckled. “Yeah. Is this place for real?”
Jackson didn’t respond and got out. He could just make out the bright orange of the building and the blur of rainbow colors he knew were the gay pride flags many of the LGBTQ-friendly business displayed in this area. Jackson couldn’t really see the sign above the door, but he knew from experience that it displayed the business name in pictures rather than words, almost like pubs did back in England. The first was an icon of an old-fashioned, hand coffee grinder and the second was of a corkscrew, representing the name but also informing everyone that this was a coffee shop and a bar. The sexual innuendo was an added bonus.
He and Molly entered and were assaulted by a familiar smell: old wood and coffee with just the hint of beer overlaid with a strong scent Jackson could only describe as male. If Nate, the owner, could somehow bottle that smell into a cologne, he’d make a mint. Jackson used Molly to help him find the counter. The building had been a pharmacy once upon a time, complete with a small lunch counter Camellia Grill style. The chairs were attached to the counter, at table height rather than bar height, and swung out almost like seats in a large lecture hall. They were tricky for Jackson to get in and out of, so he decided he’d put in his order and ask for directions to an empty table. He’d brought his laptop and full-sized refreshable braille display so he could get some work done without being a hermit.
“Holy shit. Jackson!” Nate cried out in his comforting Uptown accent, soft and slurring and distinctively New Orleans. “How long has it been? Two? Three years? We all thought you must have moved.” Nate found Jackson’s free hand and shook it heartily. “Hey, Mol. You’re looking as beautiful as ever, aren’t you, girl?”
“It’s good to see you, too, Nate.” Jackson was relieved that Nate wasn’t taking Sunday off. He loved this place and lived above it. He was from the baby boomer generation and had lived through the AIDS crisis, and had been a pivotal part of the LGBTQ community in New Orleans for decades. Jackson liked Nate, and he liked G & S because it wasn’t a loud partying club but rather a place for guys to meet, work, drink some coffee or cocktails, and actually talk and not just fuck. (Though plenty of that went on in the bathrooms.) Jackson didn’t feel comfortable in places that were so loud he lost his hearing as a way of orienting himself. And dancing was definitely not his thing.
“There’s an open table right behind you. Do a 180 and head straight and you’ll find it. Still like cafe au lait? Or you want something stronger?”
At home Jackson usually didn’t bother with milk in his coffee mostly out of laziness, but he loved a good cafe au lait or a latte. Since he’d just had the latter with Dan not long ago and he didn’t want to do anything that reminded him of the man, he decided to order something different. “Irish coffee. I’m not driving.”
Nate let out a booming laugh. “Still got your sense of humor, I see. All right. Take a seat and your coffee’ll be ready in a sec.”

#

Jackson found the familiar, comforting surroundings conducive to work, much as he had in grad school. The quiet jazz Nate pumped over the speakers and the surruss of men’s voices talking low surrounded him. Jackson might have been an introvert, but he still appreciated being around people.
The only downside was G & S reminded Jackson of Benji. They’d spent hundreds of hours sitting at a table just like this, working on their dissertations, discussing texts Benji had helped Jackson with, or just talking. Benji had a deep, silky voice that went straight to Jackson’s balls, and the way he talked during sex always made Jackson shiver and scream.
Although Jackson wasn’t sure what he missed more: Benji, or the idea of Benji. That loneliness surged again so powerfully Jackson debated leaving.
Suddenly Jackson felt Molly stiffen against his leg from where she lay beside him on the floor, and a moment later the scrape of a nearby chair and then the creak of it as someone heavy settled into it.
“This table is taken,” Jackson said since it apparently wasn’t already obvious.
The man shifted, sipped his drink, but otherwise didn’t say anything. All Jackson could tell of him was that he was white with dark hair.
“I’m not so blind I can’t tell you’re there,” Jackson said, getting irritated that the man wasn’t talking to him. Was he staring? Was he trying to be sexy but instead being creepy? Or did he somehow not realize that Jackson couldn’t see him? Usually the dog and the sunglasses gave him away, but maybe this guy wasn’t real quick on the uptake. “It’s rude not to talk to a blind person,” Jackson snapped.
The man chuckled low, so quiet that someone else may have missed it, and shifted again. The table creaked; Jackson could feel the slight dip in it as the man put his weight on it. Maybe he was leaning on his hands?
Jackson shut his laptop, getting nervous. Nothing could happen to him in the middle of the busy shop, not with Nate on watch, but echoes of the break in still haunted him. He found himself wishing Dan were with him, then quickly squelched those thoughts. He was nothing to Dan and the reverse had to be true, also. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Jackson growled.
The man burst into laughter now. From the sound of it, he had a deep voice. “You always were sexy when you’re angry.”
Jackson’s stomach fell. A tinge of embarrassment that he hadn’t been able to recognize him sooner. “Benji?”
Benji clicked his tongue. “The one and only.”

############