On the evening of that same day, Jay becomes restless again. Training helped keeping his mind occupied, but now after coming home, changing into more comfortable clothes, warming up leftovers and eating, he sits on the couch that he converted back from a bed, and longing thoughts of Darren occupy his brain again. Jay has bunched the sheets together in one corner of the couch because he somehow can’t bring himself to throw them onto the pile with used clothes. They still smell of Darren, it’s an earthy, masculine odor, and Jay thinks he could get high just from it alone.
It’s a decidedly odd way to answer a phone. “Darren?” With a quick glance on the screen, Jay makes sure that he dialed the right number. He draws his legs up onto the couch, hugging his knees to his chest, and buries one hand into the sheets used by Darren, inhaling the odor that wafts up and surrounds him.
“Yep, it’s me. Sorry.” It is Darren, though his voice sounds tired, flat. The vowels are washed out and it’s barely recognizable where one word ends and the other begins. “Jay?”
“Y-yes. Um… Hi. I was just…” His voice cuts off and Jay forces himself to exhale and relax. “How was physical therapy?”
There’s a second of silence, then Darren shifts and grunts. “Painful.”
“Oh.” Jay’s brain is spinning. “I’m sorry. W-why… Is it…” Something in Darren’s solid silence tells him all he needs to know. “Does it always hurt?”
“I’m sorry.” Jay notices too late that he said that already. “Does it… help?”
There’s an even longer pause before Darren answers. “Somewhat.” He seems to force himself to continue, his voice low and the words slurring even more. “It would be much worse without it.”
Jay is still contemplating if he wants to know what ‘it’ refers to, when Darren speaks again. “How was training?”
“Uh… Good, actually. Not perfect, yet. But we’re getting close.” Their trainer had almost not yelled at them today. This close to a performance that’s actually quite rare.
Darren takes a few breaths on the other side of the line and Jay gives him time to gather strength for speaking. He briefly considers ending their conversation just then, giving Darren time to recuperate. They can talk tomorrow, or any other day, Jay will survive that. But Jay senses that Darren wants to speak to him as much as Jay wants to. And just as well, Darren asks: “What’s the name of your partner?”
“Is she a good dancer?”
Jay laughs despite himself. “Oh hell, yes. She’s way better than I am. So yes, she’s really, really good.” Jay knows he’s lucky to have her. They are a good team, she’s much more dedicated than he is, spending grueling hours working through the same motion over and over again, picking at her own mistakes until she’s all sweat and tears and fierce anger. He knows how to make her cool down, take a break, a bit of water and fresh air, and start in new spirits. And she’s kicking his ass whenever he’s starting to slack. Which happens only once a week. “We’ve been dancing together for two years now.”
“Is she beautiful?”
The question throws Jay a curveball, but he decides to answer truthfully. “Um… She is, yes.” Her amazing, white-blond hair comes into his mind, her translucent eyelashes and well-formed, strong legs. The muscles flexing in her thighs when she takes a step, her extremely short skirt hiking up…
“Are you into her?”
“Um… no.” It’s the truth, though only part of it. He isn’t, anymore. Jay can remember a time when he was completely blown away by her. It was a good thing back then that his persistent flirting never got reciprocated. It turned out, Khristina wasn’t much into the male gender, and that settled it. When Jay thinks about it he realizes that he hasn’t had the hots for any of the women in his dance group for quite a few months. Since he started meeting Darren, to be precise.
“Sounds good,” Darren mumbles. He seems to move, there is a sound like fabric sliding on the phone and he grunts again, lowly.
Jay grabs the phone in his hand harder. “Are you still in pain?”
Darren’s chuckle has a scathing, sarcastic edge to it, despite his tiredness. “Would be news if I wasn’t.” His breath comes in short gasps and there’s more rustling on the phone. “Sorry,” Darren mumbles then. “Damn light switch is too far away.”
“Are you in bed?” Jay blurts out. It’s still pretty early in the evening, barely past 8 pm.
Darren doesn’t speak but the angry snort he gives is answer enough.
“I’m sorry, maybe I better let you—”
“Na, it’s fine.” Darren’s voice is tense. “Why were you calling, anyway?”
Why was he, indeed? “Nothing in particular. Just wanted to…” Hear you? “Um…”
“Doesn’t matter. Tell me more about your dance crew.” Darren seems to have settled more comfortably in bed, his voice is farther away, but relaxed. And Jay obliges, telling him about his friends, and – more often than not – opponents, with which he shared sweat and tears. He tells Darren about his weekly training schedule, two sessions as a group, one for single or partner lessons, about the one or other training session at the end of which he was ready to shoot himself, but also the solid knowledge that the more it hurt, the more it would pay off in the end. That, bit by bit, days, weeks and hours of training later, movements would become more precise, more fluent, his body and that of his partner acting like one.
“There’s only one way to make it look easy, and that’s when it feels easy”, Jay says. “And now I’ll probably be completely sore tomorrow because I’ve had to do this thing like hundreds of times, over and over again, and why? Because Sergey wasn’t sure if it looked better facing forward or to the side. I’m a bit mad at him,” Jay concludes his little story from today’s training session, mimicking dance poses and pointing at various parts of his body while talking, quite aware Darren can’t see him but too animated to control himself.
Darren is a good listener. He grunts and hums to indicate his presence but he doesn’t interrupt. When Jay falls silent after the last bit, unsure if he overshared, Darren chuckles. “Well, that sounds awesome. Brutal, of course. But probably worth it.”
Jay makes a questioning sound.
“Yeah… About being sore, that makes two of us.” Darren groans as he changes position again, the line going a little static again.
“Um…” Jay tucks at the fabric of his pants around his shins, absentmindedly. “What is it you do in physical therapy, exactly?”
“Ugh…” Darren shifts again. “Mostly stretching, because I can’t very well do that alone. There are exercises I should be doing at home, to strengthen muscles and improve posture… And I do that, but I should definitely do more.”
Jay thinks Darren is already as fit as it goes, but then again it’s probably not enough to be simply huge and muscular. It isn’t for dancing, anyway, so that probably applies to other areas as well.
Darren sighs and resumes. “We do some of those, too, with and without weights. Then standing, walking somewhat. Hm.”
“Will you be able to walk then, one day?” Jay asks, carefully.
Darren chuckles sadly again. “No, don’t think I’ll ever really walk again. I could, when I was younger, with a walker,” he adds, before Jay can ask. “But as I got older it’s getting more painful and more difficult. I guess it’s just a lot on my body. But as someone who sits most of the time, standing is important, or so they say. And I need to preserve function, I can’t risk losing the ability to stand or take a step, even if it’s just for transferring. It makes it so much easier, especially with only one working arm.”
Jay is a little floored by that prospect. He’d briefly thought about parallels between his own training and Darren’s therapy, how hard, painful work could pay off in the end. But while for Jay training is all about reaching perfection and beauty, Darren’s highest hopes are just him not declining. It’s a hard pill to swallow, he supposes, and he doesn’t know what to say for a moment.
“How are you practicing that?” he asks then.
Darren seems to think about it for a while. “Often stuff to improve balance, standing and walking on softer floor, or a moving plate. That’s the worst, actually. They have a harness that attaches to the ceiling to keep me up. Don’t like that at all, makes me feel like… I don’t know. I don’t want to be chained to it.”
Jay pictures Darren’s large body in a harness, hanging from the ceiling, and he immediately gets why Darren detests it. There probably aren’t many things less dignifying than that.
“If I fall asleep, just end the call, will you?” Darren mumbles then and Jay chuckles a little. He’d started to feel drowsy, too, in fact. The day had been long and his muscles are burning. He know he’ll pay for this tomorrow. “All right. Or…”
Jay’s hard-on has been deflating during the first part of their conversation, but now, with Darren’s low breath in his ear, it’s coming back. He lazily palms himself though his pants, one thumb tracing the outline of his cock. “Just… talk a little to me?”
“Isn’t that what I’ve been doing the entire time?” Darren jibes, but Jay notices how his voice has dropped a pitch. Darren inhales slowly. “Hmm… Where are you right now?”
“On the couch,” Jay says, feeling his heartrate pick up at that. He’s on the couch, with Darren’s used sheet just next to him. He shifts and inhales the faint smell of Darren surrounding him. When he closes his eyes, it’s almost as if Darren is there, next to him.
“Good. Remember what I taught you, about taking it slow?”
“I want you to show me that you’ve been a good student. Touch yourself, but don’t you come before I give you permission.”
Fuck. It’s as if someone has turned up the heating in Jay’s apartment, he’s suddenly feeling much warmer, not exactly burning up, more like waking up in the middle of the night, wrapped in his warm, heavy blanket. Jay’s heart is thudding faster in his chest and with a surprised jolt he notices his cock is painfully hard in his pants, the bulge pressing against the fabric and the zipper starting to sting. “O-okay.” He scoots a bit lower, opening his legs. There’s no one watching, just Darren listening, and he feels strangely carefree. He puts Darren on speakerphone, unzips his pants and frees his cock, humming with pleasure when it’s exposed to the air in the room.
“Stroke yourself, use your skill, and savor it. Be good to yourself.”
For a second Jay isn’t sure he really knows how to, but then he circles his thumb over the sensitive tip, swirling it in drops of precome, and adds his second hand to fondle his balls, and soon his head falls back against the couch, his nerves singing with pleasure. His brain seems completely empty, all he hears is Darren’s slow breathing through the phone, and his own heartbeat, and he wouldn’t even know how to go on if it weren’t for Darren.
“You may increase the pressure now, start moving a little faster. Maybe take both hands…”
Jay leaves one hand covering the base of his cock, just holding it there, protectively, while the other moves up and down, giving a little twist on the tip that sends a lightning bolt through his stomach. Other than that, he feels relaxed and pliant, his legs are stretched out in front of him, and he's as good as lying on the couch.
“Don’t hold anything back, let me hear how you enjoy this.”
Jay’s mouth falls open and he whimpers, one hand wandering to stroke up his stomach and gently twisting a nipple. “Hmmm…”
“Does it feel good?”
At first, Jay nods into the cushion, and only then remembers much later that Darren isn’t, in fact, just sitting next to him. “Yes…” Jay’s own voice is slightly hoarse and he clears it, faltering in his upstroke a little.
“If you’d like, you could take your other hand now, stroke along your thighs, to your stomach, back, and then down again.” Jay does as he’s told, twisting a little, not thinking about it at all, until his fingertip stops short.
“Don’t worry, we’re just exploring. See how it feels.”
His breath coming in short gasps now, the hand on his throbbing cock frozen and still, Jay rolls himself onto his side, slides his hand under the part of his pants covering his ass, and moves his finger over his entrance. He flinches first at the unfamiliar touch, then, after some time, becomes bolder. It’s sensitive, raw, and when he adds a bit of pressure, he can feel how the ring of muscles gives way, but only a little. He hisses when it becomes too much.
“Don’t force it. If you like, just circle it a little.”
Jay does as he’s told, his eyes screwed shut, and Darren’s heavy breath in his ear makes him believe that this is Darren’s finger, touching him, dipping a little into him, making him squirm and clench and moan. “Darren…” High-pitched sounds are falling from Jay’s lips, he can’t catch them before they escape, it’s him trying to convey he won’t stand this much longer. Not without-
“You’re doing so well, Jay. You’re being an excellent student.”
There’s a wave of heat washing over Jay at this and he gasps as his breath is cut off for a second. He shivers and opens his eyes, seeing his neglected cock leaking between his legs, and taking to stroking himself again. “Darren, can I… can I… I need to…” His other hand is still behind his back, his finger continuing to explore, timidly.
“Just a little, Jay, you’re almost there.” There’s rustling on the phone again, becoming fainter, then a sound like something sliding open and closing again. “Are you still with me, Jay?” Darren’s voice sounds further away now, too, and a little breathless.
Jay nods, his teeth clenched. He knows he is practically there, he’s so close it’s almost unbearable not to reach out and grab what he wants, and still he forces his hand to go in the same torturously slow speed as it did before, his fingers trembling violently, sweat breaking on his skin although he’s barely moving. “Yes, yes, I am, I’m all right, please, please… I’m good, I’m good,” he babbles, the words falling from his lips without his permission.
Jay realizes Darren has indeed been away from the phone for a bit, it wasn’t just his brain tuning out on its surrounding because his voice is stronger again now. After a moment, Jay hears a faint hum over the receiver, and almost shoots his load as he recognizes the sound. He forces himself to lift his hands away from his body, his hips bucking a little, helplessly searching for friction, his cock jerking in the air. “Are you—?”
“What? Were you thinking-,” There’s a smile in Darren’s tense voice, slightly trembling now and deep with arousal, “...that I could listen to you getting yourself off, without any reaction? I’m human.”
“Of course, I’m sorry, this…” Jay pictures Darren directing the vibrator to his large cock, the vibrating end caressing it, the machine slightly jerking with Darren’s spasms. “Does it feel… Is it good?”
Jay can feel the rumble in Darren’s voice echoing in his own chest and he returns his hand, squeezing himself. “Can you… Please?”
Darren’s answer is barely more than a grunt, his heavy breath is accelerating. There’s rustling on the phone again, Darren’s body moving in bed, his legs thrashing maybe, his fist hitting the mattress. Jay hopes he’ll be able to hold on to the vibrator until he comes, it may not be the easiest task for him with the spasms, and he resents he isn’t there to help. What would he give to be with Darren now, use his own hand instead of the machine? What would he give to see his face, contorted in pleasure, his mouth opening with the guttural groans that Jay hears over the phone?
“Darren, I’m…” The sounds of Darren pleasuring himself and the feeling of Jay’s precome-slick hand on his cock are enough. “I’m going to come, Darren.” His hand moves faster just once and then he feels his cock pulsing with its release, his body going rigid while blood rushes in his ears. Jay jerks himself through his orgasm, his toes curling in his socks, his breath coming in huge gulps between moans. Jay hears Darren on the other side of the phone howling, the line goes a little static again for a few seconds and then there’s only Darren’s breathing. The vibrator is off.
Jay squirms to sit upright and fumbles for the phone, putting it to his ear again. “Did you…?”
“Hmm… Yes.” Darren’s voice sounds, if anything, even more empty now, drained and tired, and Jay feels a stab of regret at having him put through this. He didn’t need to. But then Darren collects remaining resources and breathes: “Don’t… go, all right?”
“Okay…” They stay like this, Jay doesn’t know for how long. At first a few more words are exchanged, but it becomes clear very soon that Darren isn’t in any state to carry on a conversation. His speech becomes almost completely unintelligible until he stops speaking entirely. Jay has wrapped himself in Darren’s sheets, his legs up on the couch again, and the receiver tucked in between his cheek and the couch’s back. He, too, stops talking after a while, and then, only when Darren’s breath has evened out for almost twenty minutes, he hangs up.