Normally when Jackson had a lot of work to do, he’d do it in his office at home or at school. It was easier because he had all his tech in one place, without worrying about dropping or misplacing something. But he was on vacation, and he was tired, and so instead he’d parked himself in the recliner, opting to go without his refreshable Braille display for now so he just had to handle his laptop, his single earbud in one ear so he could hear the screen reader when he navigated, and also get the audio feedback whenever he pressed a key.
Since returning home from the grocery store, Jackson had been busy tweaking his resume and sending it out to every school in the area. He’d even grudgingly sent one to the local school districts. He was certified to teach middle school and high school, and although he loathed working as a sub, it was money he couldn’t afford to turn away.
The job hunt took him nearly all afternoon--he’d even applied for a few tutoring positions he’d found online--and he was even more exhausted than when he’d started. His legs were tightening up, and he needed to stretch, but that would mean getting up, and napping right here where he was seemed far more appealing than that. Jackson closed his laptop, pulled off his earbud. Then he used both hands to help himself lean farther back, and closed his eyes. Just five minutes, then he’d get up and stretch.
A huge crash off to Jackson’s right snapped him awake. He felt the weight of his laptop on his legs and grabbed it, ready to use it as a weapon if necessary. His breaths came in panting gasps and he struggled to control it. He couldn’t get out of the recliner without closing it, and he was afraid to do so as it would leave him exposed. Only for a second, but he was vulnerable enough.
“Chill, dude. Forget I lived here already?” Dan.
Jackson let out a relieved breath and struggled to calm down. No way was he going to let on how mortified he was that he’d let his fear take hold. “Just having this crazy dream.” Jackson attempted to smile it off and released his death grip on the computer long enough he could double-check the position of the table before setting it aside. “Gumbo ready yet?”
Now that Jackson wasn’t half asleep, he could hear clearly that it was Dan moving beside him. The man had to be large, because the sofa almost complained with his weight as he stretched out in it. At least that’s how Jackson interpreted the whines and creaks of the leather off to his right. One good thing about living with Dan over Lyn was he moved more like a stampeding elephant than a house cat, so, nightmares about break-ins aside, he’d be less likely to take Jackson by surprise.
Dan let out a long sigh as if he were ready to fall asleep himself. “Just waiting for the rice to finish. We can eat in a few minutes.”
“Great. I’m starving. If I never have to send out another resume in my life, I’ll die a happy man. Why did I want to teach again?”
Dan laughed. He had a rich, echoing laugh, almost a caricature of one, the kind Jackson and Lyn might have made fun of someone for, but coming from Dan it sounded like happiness. “I could never teach college. Too . . .” Dan made the same sound someone might when they found a dead mouse in their soup. “I love photography, I couldn’t imagine not doing it, but some of those art people are just . . . too much for me. You know?”
Jackson didn’t know. For as long as he could remember he ate, slept, and dreamed history. Maybe because it was easier to get lost in the triumphs and tragedies of other people’s lives than to focus on the isolation and frustration of his own. But he did understand academia, and as much as Jackson enjoyed being paid to share his love of history and to continue studying it, he wasn’t such a big fan of the people. But then Jackson always had been an introvert.
Dan took Jackson’s silence as assent. “One reason I fell into cooking, I guess. You still have pompous assholes in the kitchen, but at least it was an escape from the constant BS of the art world.” Dan chuckled. “Plus, if you work in a restaurant, you take the ‘starving’ out of starving artist.” If Dan had worked as a cook in a New Orleans’ restaurant, there was a good chance that gumbo was going to taste even better than it smelled, its aroma drifting into the room and making Jackson’s stomach gurgle.
But a sudden twinge around Jackson’s right knee drew his attention away from the conversation and even the thought of food. His legs were spasming and tightening up. Too long in one position, probably. He massaged the tight muscles, working his fingers into them to will them to relax.
“You OK?” Dan asked after a moment’s hesitation. Either one of his numerous slips in which he’d used some body language Jackson couldn’t see, or he was biting his tongue.
“Yeah. Just stiff today. It happens.” Jackson braced himself for the questions that inevitably followed, but they didn’t come.
Or maybe Jackson had thought too soon. “I have a million questions I want to ask you,” Dan admitted, his voice almost . . . shy. The confident aloofness of his usual tone faded into uncertainty. It was strangely sexy. Most people didn’t even consider Jackson’s feelings, if they saw him as a person at all. But not Dan. From that very first moment, he’d been awkward and yet accepting.
“Tete a tete?” Jackson offered. “There’s things I want to know about you, too.”
That seemed to pique Dan’s interest. “Like what? I’m a pretty open book.” Although this time his tone seemed forced, as if he weren’t nearly as open as he was pretending to be.
Have you ever sucked cock? Jackson cleared his throat and focused on the pain in his legs to keep his wood in check, and asked instead, “What do you look like?”
Although Jackson strained to hear anything from the other man, the only indication of his presence was the subtle shift in his breathing and the faintest hint of his cologne, although the gumbo’s spices heavily outweighed it. For a split moment Jackson worried he’d spoken his thought out loud, but then Dan spoke. “Wow, I never . . . wow. I can’t imagine what it must be like not knowing what most people look like.” Dan shifted, the couch protesting, then a strange scratching noise.
“Are you . . . what are you doing?”
“Oh. I keep a little notebook with me so I can jot down ideas for photos.” Jackson had no idea what could have prompted Dan to be inspired. “So do you . . . like in the store. Do you need to feel my face to ‘see’ me?”
Jackson would love nothing more than an excuse to get his hands all over Dan, but considering he was straight and they needed to live together at least until Jackson could pull in enough to cover his expenses on his own, he didn’t think they should go there. “I should at least buy you dinner first,” Jackson teased. That flirting smile snaked its way onto his face, but this time he didn’t squelch it.
Dan laughed. “Sorry. I’m fumbling in the dark with this whole blind--” He groaned. “You know what I mean. So then, uh, what do you want to know?”
“I know you’re taller than me, but almost everyone is. And from what I felt of your arm, you seem fit. And you obviously eat better than me.”
“Cookie Monster eats better than you, if your grocery store haul is any indication. Seriously, I think bread was the healthiest item you brought home.”
Jackson flashed Dan a middle finger, and the other man laughed heartily. “You sound heavy,” Jackson said, angling his head so that he could hear every nuance of Dan’s voice and movement.
“I don’t mean fat--didn’t I just say you felt fit? I mean you’re obviously much bigger than me.” Jackson wasn’t as petite as his sister, but he was a small-framed man who stayed slim despite his diet through a combination of good genes and a lot of walking. He pictured Dan as exactly the kind of man he found most attractive--around six foot with broad shoulders and chest, strong arms, a firm ass and thick thighs. Jackson’s dick grew half hard at the mere thought and he wondered if it’d be better if his concept of Dan stayed vague.
“I played football in high school. I had the build for it but not the heart. I did it because it’s what my dad wanted, expected, but my real passion was photography, even then. I almost got kicked off the team because I’d lose track of time in the darkroom and miss practice, sometimes even games.” Dan didn’t laugh. He sounded almost . . . pensive.
Before Jackson could ask anything else, a timer sounded in the kitchen.
“That’s my cue.”
Jackson heard Dan stand and decided he’d join him, especially since his own stomach rumbled audibly at the thought of dinner. He reached down to close the recliner, pushing against the armrests to help get himself to his feet. But his knees had another idea. They were locked at about a fifteen degree angle--essentially how they’d bent when he was sitting in the chair--and refused to cooperate. The awkward position wouldn’t allow the automatic hinge in Jackson’s ankle braces to engage, meaning he couldn’t even adjust his feet to compensate. It threw off his balance and stability, and Jackson stumbled, starting to fall forward, his stomach lurching into his throat.
But Dan wrapped his arms around Jackson, holding him secure against a strong chest. “You OK?”
Despite the pain in his legs and the embarrassment of the situation, the position was so intimate and provocative it turned Jackson on. It was possible Dan could see Jackson’s erection, maybe even feel it, depending on how they ended up. Jackson fought through the murk of his sex-fueled brain. “I’m fine.” And no matter how amazing and firm Dan’s arms felt, Jackson made himself push the other man away.
Dan released Jackson, but he barely made it a few steps before his stubborn legs locked up tighter, making him wince and stumble again.
“Like hell you’re fine. Lyn told me to watch out for you. That you had trouble walking sometimes.”
Jackson wasn’t sure what was more mortifying--that he needed Dan’s help right now, or that his sister had warned Dan about it. How much had she told him? He wasn’t five fucking years old! Since he’d undergone leg-straightening surgery in high school, as long as he stretched, kept active, and took his meds, most people would be too busy noticing the dog or the cane to even notice his gait. And now suddenly he was this helpless cripple in the stronger arms of a perfectly able-bodied guy. Jackson’s erection withered with his indignation. “I’m fine. I just need to stretch. Lyn worries too much.” Jackson stretched for the recliner. If he sat, he could take off his shoes and braces, and he’d manage a walk that took a lot more effort than his corrected gait, but it would mean he could get around without anyone’s help. Even if Dan’s arms felt like heaven, and despite everything his mind wandered to what those arms would feel like if they fucked. Dan was strong enough to all but carry Jackson, and as hot as that was, Jackson was determined not to start off their friendship being the helpless invalid who needed Dan’s help.
Sensing Jackson’s mood, or perhaps realizing that he’d overstepped, Dan said, almost as if it were a happy excuse to get out of this awkward situation, “I better check on the food.”
Jackson found the recliner, and once he’d checked he had himself oriented correctly, let himself sink down with relief. “I’ll meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes. There’s beer in the fridge if you want any.” Jackson said it all casually enough, but all he could think was how untenable this entire scenario was. They’d never make it through the week. Let alone three months.
The gumbo was everything a gumbo should be. Spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, the okra cooked perfectly so that it wasn’t slimy, the layers of flavor playing over Jackson’s tongue in such a way that before he’d even swallowed he felt like he’d tasted more in that single bite than he did in most entire meals. “Wow. Wow,” Jackson said, licking his lips. “Wow. Holy shit. Will you marry me? It’s legal now.”
Dan laughed. “So am I forgiven? Lyn told me the way to your heart was through your stomach.”
Jackson licked his lips, searching out any bit of sauce he may have missed. Physically, he felt a little better after stretching and some medicine, but he realized they needed some ground rules if this roommate situation was going to work. “I know you’re new to . . . living with someone like me,” Jackson said, carefully choosing his words. “But it’s not new for me. I know what I can and can’t do, and if I need help, I’ll ask.”
“Got it,” Dan said, and shortly after Jackson heard the distracting sound of Dan taking a swig of his beer, the soft glug as he swallowed. Jackson really wished he could have a hand on Dan’s throat to feel that. Weird, maybe, but he’d gotten drunk with a guy in college once and done just that, and it had been one of the hottest things short of having a hand on a man’s cheek while it was wrapped around his cock.
Jackson seriously hoped that he’d stop fantasizing constantly about Dan or this living situation was going to get tedious. “My sister is majorly overprotective. So I don’t know what she told you, but I can take care of myself.”
Dan went quiet, the only sounds the clink of his spoon against the bowl as he ate. Jackson couldn’t interpret the other man’s silence. Had Dan notice how fierce Jackson’s attraction to him was and it made him uncomfortable? Jackson had the rare occurrence of being hit on by women, and he knew how awkward that was. The clunk as he set his spoon down, then the sound of Dan picking up his beer and what Jackson interpreted as him taking one long pull, perhaps finishing it off. Was he trying to get drunk to drown out the horrid situation they’d found themselves in?
The thunk of the beer bottle on the table, a sigh. Then Dan said, “I’m noisy by nature. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to photography, especially portraiture. It’s so intimate, and yet it’s socially acceptable. The very act of taking someone’s picture is like peering into a little piece of their life.” Dan sighed again. “Like I said before, I’m clueless about you and I’m going to say and do the wrong things constantly. I know a lot about photography and cooking, and not much else.”
“So you’re saying you find me captivating?” Jackson asked, half joking and half pissed, even if he wasn’t entirely sure why. Dan was drawn to him. Maybe he felt the attraction in his own way. Maybe this “relationship” could be salvaged, even if it had only just begun.
A short silence, then a muttered, “God dammit.” A sigh blown out through Dan’s nose. “I shrugged. You seem so . . . not blind?” The cringe evident in Dan’s voice. “Most of the time, I forget you can’t really see me. I’ll get better at this. I promise.”
Some of the tension between them started to fade away. It wasn’t fair of Jackson to take out his own sexual frustration and embarrassment on Dan. “Announcing when you enter or leave a room helps a lot,” Jackson noted. He pushed against the table to stand. He was still tight, but not nearly as bad as before. Jackson knew the perfect way to resolve any disagreement. “I’m not leaving,” he said, unsure of Dan’s reaction to his sudden departure from the table. “Just thought we could have some dessert.”
“I’m pretty full.”
“My philosophy is there’s always room for dessert.” Jackson’s voice had an edge of flirtation to it. He made his way to the fridge, sliding his hand along the shelving in the door until he found the milk. He confirmed he had the right jug by running his fingertips over the Braille label. Next, he set the milk on the counter and reached up, checking the label on the cabinet door that told him immediately this was the one he’d been aiming for, where he kept his favorite sweet junk food. Inside, he used his hand to explore the contents of the first shelf. “Oreos, chocolate chip, or . . .” He glided his fingers over the label of the third package because he couldn’t remember what it was. “Vanilla sandwich cookies?”
“Why not have all of them?” Dan said with the scrape of his chair. “I’m not driving.”
Jackson laughed, and he listened as Dan apparently carried their dirty dishes to the sink. Maybe living with this guy wouldn’t be so bad after all. It’d been a very, very long time since Jackson had a friend other than Lyn. “Help me carry the glasses to the table? With my legs acting up, it’s probably a good way of avoiding a mess.”
“Sure,” Dan called over the sound of the sink and the clatter as he presumably loaded the dishwasher. “Did I mention how amazing it is that you have a dishwasher?”
“I recall you squealing like a preteen at a Justin Beiber concert.” Jackson slid his fingers along the counter until he found the two glasses he’d taken out. He never blindly reached for anything that could break or spill because of his depth perception problems, even if he was confident he had a good memory of where something was. He held onto one glass with his left hand and found the milk jug with the other. Glided a finger up to the lid, unscrewed it and held it between his fingers so he wouldn’t lose it, then pushed the glass toward the milk, using his fingertips to meet the spout to the glass, then poured, listening.
“I’d be impressed,” Dan said from nearby as he picked up the glasses, “but I’ve only known you a day and you’ve already shown me that any assumptions I had about you when Lyn first told me her brother was blind are completely wrong.” Dan was standing so close Jackson could feel his body warmth and it made his mouth go dry. If Dan didn’t seem so clueless about his effect on Jackson, he would have thought the man was intent on torturing him.
Jackson gathered up the packages of cookies and made his way back to the table, walking carefully, more of a shuffle, really, until his free hand found the chair and he was able to sit down again. “I don’t share my cookies with just anyone, so count yourself lucky,” Jackson said with a smile as he peeled open the package of Oreos and pried out a handful.
Dan laughed. It wasn’t forced or embarrassed like most of the ones Jackson had heard so far. Instead, it was easy and natural and smooth like his voice, and it made Jackson’s stomach do ridiculous fluttery things. Dan reached for the cookies, and his hand brushed against Jackson’s momentarily before he pulled away. Probably just an accident, but Jackson found himself leaving his left hand on the table between them in case it happened again.
“So you cook,” Jackson said, remembering how Dan had mentioned cooking along with photography earlier, not to mention making the best gumbo Jackson had ever had.
“Well, actually, I was trying to impress you so I acted like I was making gumbo and really went down the street and bought some.” That easy laugh again. “Yeah, I actually worked as a line cook for a few years before I got the teaching job. I liked it, and it was good experience. For awhile I thought I might want to be a chef, but that’s a brutally demanding job and it didn’t leave me a lot of time for my true love.”
“Yourself?” Jackson ventured, teasing as he dipped his Oreo in his milk for only a few seconds so it wouldn’t fall apart on its way to his mouth.
“Haha. I like teaching photography. It reminds me of when I was a kid and the world was full of possibilities.” There was a surprising note of sadness in Dan’s voice suddenly.
“And it’s not now?” Jackson mumbled over a mouthful of mushy cookie.
Ignoring Jackson’s question, Dan said in a feigned flat voice, “How old are you?”
“Wha’?” Jackson said, struggling to swallow. He found his glass and took a sip to help wash it down. “If you’re going to criticize my cookie eating routine then you can get your own cookies.” Jackson reached out toward his left for the packages, trying to sweep them toward him.
Once again, their hands met as they battled over the cookies like ten-year-old boys, and Jackson could have sworn there was a moment in which Dan’s fingers locked in his, almost like holding hands before he quickly withdrew and cleared his throat. They spent the next few minutes munching cookies in near silence before Jackson spoke up. This time his voice was quieter, more reserved than ever before.
“Can I ask you something personal?”
“I suppose I should be honored that you’re asking me about asking and not just barreling through anyway,” Jackson said jokingly. He felt around in the package of cookies nearest to him to get a sense of how many he’d eaten. It was nearly empty, so it was either stop now or go big or go home. He snagged the last of them and stacked them up near his glass.
Dan didn’t laugh, though. Maybe he smiled, but if he did, Jackson had no way of knowing. “You’re out, right? I mean, like, with everyone?”
It took Jackson a moment to realize what he meant. Listening carefully, it seemed like Dan was holding his breath, as if he were nervous, and Jackson couldn’t shake off that feeling he’d gotten moments earlier, that Dan was perhaps hiding something beneath his normal carefree, aloof demeanor.
“Sorry,” Dan said in his more typical self-deprecating way. “Just because I live here now doesn’t mean you have to put up with me.” A joke, but there was the slightest hitch to his tone that made Jackson wonder. He suspected that there was a lot more to Dan than a sexy ex-football player, one-time cook and photographer who smelled great and had a silky laugh that slid over Jackson like a caress.
“Yes. My mom died when I was born and my dad died when I was in high school, right about the time I was figuring it all out, so I never had to come out to them. And Lyn was the one who helped me with the whole figuring it out bit, so I didn’t need to come out to her, either. After that, well, there were bumps in the road, of course, but I didn’t see any reason to pretend I was anyone other than I am. I don’t normally introduce myself as ‘Jackson Santoro, homosexual,’ but it’s far from a secret.” Jackson flashed a smile.
Dan was fidgeting with his glass; Jackson could hear it sliding along the tabletop. “I imagine there’s something pretty freeing in being able to live like that,” Dan said in a tone Jackson’s attuned ears couldn’t ascertain. Before Jackson could ask what he meant by that, he heard the sound of Dan’s chair shuffling along the floor, then the creak of the old wood planks as he rose to his feet. “I should put the leftovers away. If you find some unlabeled Tupperware in your side of the fridge, you know you’ve found it.”
After cleaning up, each of them had decided they could use an early night. But Jackson couldn’t get Dan off his mind. Something about his thoughtfulness with the leftovers had struck Jackson. He was used to people being nice to him, but it was conciliatory more than out of true kindness. People pitied him. He could hear it in their voices even when their words said otherwise, and it was such an embedded fact of his life that he couldn’t even stand to be angry about it except when it was particularly egregious. But Dan didn’t seem like that. Jackson sensed a grudging respect, maybe even admiration. Like Jackson had it all figured out and Dan was . . . jealous. The man certainly didn’t seem nearly as carefree as he initially came off, and that mystery made him all the more attractive. Maybe Dan was lonely, too.
Jackson felt along the nightstand for his phone, grabbing it and slipping on his earbud. Then he unlocked it and tapped along the bottom right until the computerized voice announced he’d successfully found the internet browser. He launched it, switched to private mode, then navigated his bookmarks until he found the coded one that linked to his favorite amateur porn video.
He waited for the site to load, his dick already growing in anticipation, and tapped until he found the video, then double tapped to start it playing. This particular film involved two men, both very vocal, which was why Jackson enjoyed it so much. He always liked to put himself in the role of the younger-sounding man, who moaned and groaned and whined and whimpered as the older-sounding, deeper-voiced man ministrated to him. Jackson loved the sex sounds--the squirt of lube, squishes of fingers shoved in places that made the younger man scream, writhing against sheets that shifted beneath him, and later, the slap of skin against skin as they fucked. But best of all was how the older man talked dirty the entire time, practically narrating everything in his deep, sultry voice.
Jackson could close his eyes and stroke himself and imagine he wasn’t alone in his room but that someone--in this case, Dan--was kneeling over him, large rough hands sliding over his skin and making him shiver, fingers coated in lube teasing at his entrance. It had been so long, and he ached for the feeling of a warm, hard cock inside him so much sometimes it nearly made him crazy.
The younger man began to whine more insistently, the slicking sound of fingers going in and out of his hole echoing the more muted noise of Jackson’s hand on his own cock.
“Yeah, you like that, you little slut? Like my fingers up your ass? I’m going to fuck your tight hole so hard. Fuck yeah,” the older man’s voice announced as his hand continued to move.
The younger man’s only reply was a harsh cry, like he was seconds away from orgasm, and then the sounds grew quiet for a few seconds. A slap, a creak of a mattress. The foil of a condom being unwrapped, then the even more subtle sound of latex as the older man rolled it on. Jackson always imagined the man’s cock as average length but thick, could feel it in his hand in his tactile memory of other men he’d been with, and he longed to truly be the man in this video, his fingers sliding down toward his hole. But he didn’t want to bother with the clean up, not with his legs the way they were, so he had to rely on his imagination as he pictured what it would feel like for Dan to be inside him, those powerful arms that had held him up earlier wrapped around him, driving Jackson onto his thick cock expertly so his prostate was hit with every thrust.
In the video, the young man screamed, followed by the subtle splat of cum on his chest, and seconds later, Jackson bit back his own cry as his orgasm hit him so hard he felt a warm splatter land on his chin. He road out the aftershocks, stroking out the last of his pleasure as the porn continued loudly in his ear. He wiped his hands and face with his shirt and exited out of the browser so it wouldn’t accidently be the first thing to pop up the next time he used it, probably at the exact moment he happened to not have his earphone plugged in, too.
Then he set his phone back on the nightstand and pulled the blankets around him, curling up and wishing Dan were lying beside him.