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With one last grunt, the wrench turned and the bolt foundhome.
“Alright. Done.” The stocky man stated proudly. He was average height with chestnut hair that could use a trim and tanned skin. He worked maintenance for the large office building and never seemed short of a job. That lack of free time made the situation all the more awkward. There were hundreds of different things this man could be working on, yet here he was working on a removable elevating footrest.
Dan sat in his chair in a humiliated silence. He didn’t have a reason to be embarrassed as the other man volunteered to do this work, but he was embarrassed all the same. Jamie, the maintenance man, had been appropriately discreet and friendly when he’d offered to fix his footrest. Dan was hoping he’d make it through the day without anyone noticing, but it was hard for anyone to ignore Dan’s dangling leg and the leg rest that had clearly abandoned it.
“How’d you manage this in the first place?” Jamie asked curiously as he clicked it back onto the chair. He fiddled a bit to get the length just right. Dan sighed, recalling the morning.
"On the train." He began quietly, referring to the public transit system. "It was pretty crowded. Some guy got too close, caught his foot on it. Almost tripped out the door." It might have been funny except that it had hurt. His sensation wasn't great but it was partly there. More than his leg, though, it had hurt his pride. He'd only been back to work a few weeks since the accident and he wasn't mentally prepared for a crisis like having a leg rest that wouldn't budge. Jamie let out a low chuckle, clicking the device home. He let Dan reposition his own leg. It was a small gesture, but Dan appreciated it.
"Well, it's a damn good thing he didn't end up in your lap." Jamie's remark brought a small smile to the other's face. The small twinkle in the kneeling man's eye nearly brought a blush as well. It had been so long since he'd made eye contact like that with someone.
“That’d be one way to pick up a guy.” Dan couldn’t help but add. This pulled a hearty laugh from the sturdy man.
"Boy, I'm glad you're back at work," Jamie muttered, rising to his feet. Dan glanced up surprised. The sincerity in the warm brown eyes that met his almost made him regret the choice. He didn't know how to deal with it. "Well. I'll let you get back to work." Jamie cut off his thought process.
The smaller man thought the line should have been his but squeaked out a “Thanks” instead. He did appreciate Jamie’s fix. He’d be able to go through the rest of the day without the added worry of a broken footplate. Work was work and it felt good to be back in the swing of things after the months he’d spent in recovery. It was still a bit slow, especially since the hospital loaned wheelchair didn’t quite make it under his desk.
The day moved by smoothly, only hitting a snag at the end when a few co-workers invited him for coffee. At first, he was thrilled; they had asked in a nonchalant manner and it was an activity they'd done prior to the accident. It felt natural, up until he remembered that what had once been his favorite café was no longer an option. It was on the second floor, stairs only.
“Sorry guys. Can’t.” He let them down gently, hoping they wouldn’t press the subject. He wasn’t lucky.
"But I thought you loved the place?" One of the ladies spoke. She was hoping to catch up with the handsome young man. He'd been reserved, more so than normal, since he came back. He'd barely broken a smile at the welcome back party and kept to himself.
“I-I…” Dan swallowed hard. He didn’t need to look up to know all their eyes were fixed curiously on him. “Can’t. Stairs and all.” His voice was tight, breath coming quickly. He may have been in the wheelchair for almost a year, but most of that had been home or the hospital it hadn’t gotten any easier to remind someone about accessibility issues. A look of horror flashed across his co-worker’s face.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry. I forgot! We can go somewhere else?” The group nodded, agreeing with her statement. This was quickly becoming a scene; one Dan didn’t want to have the starring role in. He shook his head.
“No, it’s alright. I still have a few things to do.” Dan gave them an out. He forced a smile. The woman nodded. She didn’t quite believe him, but she wasn’t going to press the issue. They’d already made him uncomfortable.
"Next time, you pick the place. We still need to catch up." She offered with a smile. Dan agreed, sighing and sinking into his seat the moment they couldn't see him He wasn't too keen on there being a next time, though.
Dan suffered the punishment of his lie at his desk, quietly biding his time. He hadn’t really had anything left to do and now he had to wait so he didn’t get caught in his fib.
“Not going out with the usual suspects?” A familiar voice jolted him from his thoughts. Dan wheeled himself to face the man with a tight smile.
“Eh- Yeah. Can’t exactly get in. And I’ve got work to do.” Dan repeated, the lie easier the second time. Jamie got an odd glint in his eye, a sly smirk gaining purchase on his lips.
“Did the little angel just lie?” He asked slowly. Dan’s hazel eyes went wide, a flush coloring his face. He dropped his head to avoid eye contact but his short blonde hair did little to cover his blush. It wasn’t in his nature to lie and he certainly didn’t expect to get called on it so quickly. Jamie laughed madly, leaning on a nearby wall for support.
"Oh, man." He breathed as he recovered from his laughing fit. "Alright, as punishment, you've got to come out with me. Trust me, it'll be your new favorite place." The man stated firmly as if he were a judge delivering a verdict. He strolled toward Dan casually.
“No - I” Dan began, trying to turn him down.
"Don't worry, it's fancy. You can roll right in." Jamie cut him off, speaking as if being handicap accessible made a place high-end. Dan was curious but still afraid. He wasn't sure he was ready to brave the community just yet.
“Jamie nothing. It’s good to get out. Think of it as a pick me up. My treat.” The bigger man chided him. Now he was leaning on the desk. Dan noticed he had a clean shirt on and his smile was nothing but warm. There was no pity, no forced friendship. Dan dropped his gaze to his lap, unable to take it.
“Jamie, I don’t need a pick me up.” Dan breathed when he could finally get a word in edgewise. It was another lie and it made him uncomfortable. Dan didn’t like making a habit of lying, especially to the man beside him.
“Bullshit.” Jamie snorted. “You look me in the eye and repeat that statement.” Dan couldn’t. They both knew that. “See? You’re coming with me. C’mon now.”
It reminded Dan of when they’d first met. Dan had been working a bit late and Jamie was working on a few of the lights. The blonde had sighed one too many times and Jamie had called him out.
“Keep on like that and you’ll sigh your soul right out. Voop! Just like that.” Came the scolding statement. When Dan hadn’t answered, Jamie continued. “What’s bugging ya?” Dan had answered that question, telling him about his day and how a customer had reacted when he’d caught sight of a picture of Dan with his boyfriend. Jamie hadn’t even been fazed.
“Would you fuck a duck if it made them happy?” The man had climbed down the ladder just far enough to make eye contact. Jamie could read a lot about a person from eye contact and he could read Dan like a book.
“That’s not the same-“ He’d been cut off. Jamie didn’t stand for excuses.
“It’s exactly the same. Would you? To make him happy?” Jamie had demanded an answer.
“No.” Dan had answered. Any sane person would answer likewise.
“Then if it ain’t illegal, he can mind his own fucking business.” And that was the end of the conversation. Jamie was so matter of fact and saw the world so clearly that it amazed Dan. It often left him without words and struggling to keep up. Dan’s boyfriend didn’t last, but his friendship with Jamie stayed.