Laura stood naked in her living room for the longest moment as Jon wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head against her scarred abdomen. There were also scars on her back and side.
"Do you think we could just cuddle?" Laura asked.
"Yes," Jon answered, relieved by the question.
He stood and took her hand in his.
"It's just that I've been working my way back to a place of comfortable physical intimacy," she explained. "I'm still very sensitive to touch."
"I'm sensitive to sex," Jon admitted.
She smiled, squeezed his hand and led him into her bedroom.
"I'm hoping this can develop into real passion eventually but I'm not there yet," Laura told him as she sat on the bed.
Jon sat next to her. "I understand," he said compassionately.
"Because I really do feel a strong emotional connection to you," Laura said.
She fell back on the bed and let out a loud sigh. Jon lay next to her and rested his hand on her stomach.
"Don't be embarrassed," he urged. "Brenda was disappointed with me because I couldn't keep up with her. There wasn't the intimacy I wanted. It was just sex."
"Loud sex," Laura said.
"Sex has always been a struggle for me."
"I was all about image," Laura admitted. "You should have seen the clothes I used to wear. And the amount of time I spent at the beauty salon. I thought it would help my career enhancement. But after the accident I realized how superficial I was in that attitude."
"I just wanted to feel closer to Brenda emotionally," Jon said. "But she only seemed to be interested in the sex."
"Sounds like role reversal to me," Laura noted. "Usually it's the guy who wants the sex." She turned her head and looked at him. "Where did you two meet?"
"Oh, one of those friend of a friend fix up deals," Jon groaned.
"Maybe you shouldn't have called for the second date," Laura observed.
"Actually, she called me," Jon sheepishly admitted.
"I think we have a better understanding of each other than you and Brenda did," Laura remarked. "Maybe that will help us establish a stronger more passionate connection."
"That would be nice," Jon smiled.
"Could you hold me?" Laura wanted to know.
Jon wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close.
"My therapist says I'm in the process of re-wiring my brain," Laura revealed. "Relearning how to experience pleasurable feelings and realities after suffering through such a trauma and battling depression and PTSD."
"That makes sense," Jon said.
"She says I need to build up physical tolerance and capabilities," Laura revealed. "Holding hands, hugging, and cuddling to reduce the pain and anxiety which will eventually lead to reward and pleasure. You know, flirting and courting - that sort of stuff."
"Haven't we been doing some of that already?" Jon asked.
"I think we have empathy for our situations," Laura said. "Don't you?"
"Yes," Jon agreed.
"So, scars and all?" Laura asked hopefully.
"Scars and all," Jon confirmed.
She nestled against him and they fell asleep together.
Jon and Laura spent the next few weeks working on their individual and collective rewiring - building confidence and developing trust with one another, and talking about their past regrets and their hope for the future.
Jon continued to call Laura every day, gave her rides when she needed them, and they spent quality time together in the evenings, usually dinner and some cuddling time. They talked about sex and thought about it when they weren't together but the slow dance of anticipation and build up continued.
One night they agreed to shower together as the next step in their process and progress. It was the first time Jon got naked in front of Laura who watched with approval.
"Thanks for not laughing," Jon said in all seriousness.
"Forget about that stupid girl," Laura told him.
After the shower, they sat on her bed naked, drinking wine.
"Spend the night," she requested. "I want to wake up in the morning naked with you."
"You make me want to cry with happiness," Jon replied.
"Sometimes, the want bubbling up inside of me is frightening," Laura admitted.
They fell back on the mattress together and stared into each other's eyes.
In the morning, after having cuddled together all night for the first time, Laura awoke Jon with kisses. He cautiously squeezed her breast and the kisses became more passionate until Jon left the bed and went to work.
Laura stayed in bed and rubbed herself to orgasm for the first time in a long time before drifting back to sleep.
When she awoke later, Laura determined that Jon was the person she wanted to have as her partner as she began a new chapter in her life. She knew she was ready.
When Jon knocked on her apartment door that evening to check on her, Laura opened the door and yanked him inside. They had sex on the living room floor and neither were afraid.
"I now understand the Wall of Knowledge," Laura smiled when it was over.