AN: Woop, final chapter!
You see, when Reece had been walking to and from the bakery, he'd been desperately trying to come up with a plan. He was furiously thinking of things that he could suggest they do for their next date, because obviously the best way to show Zach he was keen was to have some ideas ready to go by the time he got back.
He'd considered many options that he thought might be appropriate for a blind man: indoor ice-skating (he wasn't entirely sure whether Zach's balance would be good or not, because you balance with your ears, right, not your eyes?), the theatre, a coastal walk, and a science exhibition. None of those options seemed right, however, and it wasn't until Reece had almost returned to Zach's that he had a stroke of genius.
Thus, once he'd returned to Zach's and they'd finished their breakfast, he broached his brilliant idea, which Zach had heartily agreed to.
And that was how, the following Saturday, they ended up having dinner at a restaurant in total darkness. The restaurant was famous for it. You were led down a completely dark corridor, through some curtains into the dining area, and then to your table. You were told there was wine (which you'd specified beforehand in the lobby) and bread on the table, but you had to figure out where.
After a slightly awkward and self-conscious start, both Reece and Zach began to enjoy their date immensely. Reece was humbled by experiencing what life must be like for Zach, and Zach was silently overjoyed that Reece was taking himself so far out of his comfort zone for Zach's sake.
Reece knew things were getting serious when Zach agreed to see him for a third time. Neither of them could do the following weekend, but the weekend after Zach had a work dinner, which he invited Reece to. Initially Reece was unsure, since he was usually very shy when surrounded by a lot of strangers, but he felt proud that Zach was willing to present him to his colleagues, so he agreed.
'It'll be super casual,' Zach promised and they walked back to his place after their dinner noir. 'The food's really good as well.'
'Can't say I've ever been to a Turkish restaurant,' replied Reece, already looking forward to the prospect of exquisitely cooked meat.
'And there won't be many people. Maybe around fifteen.'
Fifteen people sounded like rather a lot to Reece, but he didn't say so. He could be easy-going and sociable for one evening. For Zach.
It was late by the time they got back to Zach's and they went straight to bed, although no one got to sleep for at least another hour. Zach was still reluctant to have sex, and Reece understood, so he once again treated the inside of Zach's thighs (and various other places) to some special treatment and in return, Zach gave a demonstration of why not having a gag reflex was extremely useful.
The night of Zach's work dinner felt like a very long night. Everyone met beforehand at a pub for a couple of drinks, then they trooped the couple of hundred yards down the road to the restaurant, which turned out to be so small that their party practically took over the entire floor.
Reece was pleasantly surprised by how easily he assimilated into the group. Not many of the others had brought along their partners and Reece felt very conspicuous for the first hour or so, but after chatting with a few of Zach's colleagues he began to feel at ease.
They seemed entirely at ease around Zach, too. Reece didn't notice anyone else in the group who had a visible disability, but it didn't seem to matter to anyone that Zach was different. They even made the odd blind joke, which Zach always grinned at.
By the time the two of them they left, feeling very full and a little bit drunk, it was just after ten o'clock. Reece felt utterly exhausted. The streets were quiet and they meandered along slowly as they headed back to Zach's.
'Thanks for coming tonight,' Zach said quietly, his voice adding to the slow tap, tap, tap of his cane against the pavement, which was the only other noise to be heard.
'You're welcome,' replied Reece and he looked down when he felt Zach's fingers thread through his.
'You were great.'
'Your colleagues are great,' Reece said, holding the other man's hand tightly in his own.
'Yeah, they're a good bunch,' Zach chuckled. They lapsed into comfortable silence then, not speaking again until they were inside the warmth of Zach's flat. 'Do you…want to have a bath?' Zach asked once they'd taken their shoes and coats off.
'Challenge accepted,' Reece grinned. He knew Zach's bath was perhaps larger than average, but it certainly wasn't big enough to comfortably fit two six-foot-plus men in. Nevertheless, he was keen to see how far they'd get. 'Shall I get it running?' he asked, already on the way to the bathroom.
He filled it half way with hot (but not too hot) soapy water, thinking that they'd cause enough water displacement between the two of them for the water level to easily rise to the brim.
'I'll give you a few minutes,' he said to Zach, leaving the latter alone in the bathroom so that he could settle into the water first. When he went to join him, Zach pulled his legs to one side so that Reece could squeeze in at the opposite end. And so they ended up sat facing each other, with their legs bunched up either side and the water up to their chests.
'It's nice to finally relax,' Zach sighed, closing his eyes and swirling his hand through the water. 'It's nice to be alone with someone who doesn't look at you with pity.'
'I didn't think any of them were looking at you with pity?' Reece frowned. All he could remember was how natural everyone had been around Zach.
'You wouldn't notice,' Zach smiled softly. 'It's only every now and then. I can just feel it. Everyone thinks "how hard must it be for that guy?" and they all think how much better off I'd be if only I could see.'
It's not that Zach wanted a pity party. He just needed to tell Reece what it was like. What it was really like. Because Zach knew that his colleagues were brilliant. He knew that most of the time they never treated or thought of him as any different. But he also knew that no matter how well they knew him, or how accepting they thought they were, people would always think "I'm glad I'm not like that." Zach knew people didn't mean any harm and that it was only natural, but it was the kind of thing that wears you down and he always had to sit by himself for a long while to recover once he'd been in a social situation.
'I don't think I'm any better,' Reece muttered after some time.
'But you try. Very hard. And I know you don't pity me.'
Reece wanted to speak, but he had no idea what to say, so instead he reached out and ran his hand down Zach's leg.
'I hope I didn't make the water too hot,' he eventually said.
'It's perfect,' Zach said, smiling. 'I like the feel of steam,' he added, tilting his head back and letting the hot vapour swirl against this chin. 'I prefer being hot to being cold.'
'I prefer being cold to being hot,' said Reece.
'I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, then,' Zach grinned.
They sat in the bath for a while, long enough for Reece to top it up with more hot water, and eventually the air became so thick with steam Reece felt like he was in a sauna. But he didn't dislike it. Zach seemed to be more relaxed than ever, since he hadn't moved a muscle for at least five minutes and was sat with his eyes closed, one finger gently swirling in the water between them. Reece was content to stare.
After some time, Zach lifted his head ever so slightly and opened his eyes. He was gazing directly at Reece. Reece held his breath and his heart seemed to slow. It was the first time Zach had looked directly into his eyes and he couldn't describe the feeling that was permeating every pore in his skin. He'd been absently stroking Zach's leg, but now he stopped.
'What?' Zach asked, noticing that Reece's fingers had stopped their ministrations. He blinked and his unseeing gaze flicked to the side. Reece paused.
'You just looked right at me,' he said, quietly as if he was talking to himself. There was a lengthy pause as both men looked at each other. Then Reece said, in all but a whisper:
'I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.'
He didn't know whether that was the right thing to say, but it had felt right.
Silence filled the bathroom and not even the gentle lap of water could be heard.
Zach's words broke the quiet. Reece slowly lifted himself up and moved one of Zach's legs to the side, so that they were apart. He knelt down, the water sloshing around them and leaned forward, pressing himself against Zach, who wrapped his legs around Reece's back. Their faces hovered apart for a few seconds, before they simultaneously reached for each other. Zach put his hands to Reece's hot, damp face and pulled him closer, hungrily kissing him like he'd never get the chance to again.
Then, suddenly, he pulled away.
'Can we get out the bath now?' he asked.
'Yeah,' Reece said, standing up carefully and stepping out the bath to retrieve Zach's towel.
They dried themselves slowly and Reece placed both their towels on the heated rail. Before he could say anything, Zach silently took his hand and stepped around him, opening the door and leading him out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. Making his way to the side of the bed, he stopped and turned to face Reece.
'I'm ready,' he said. They were still holding hands and Reece took a step closer so they were chest-to-chest, before gently pressing his forehead against Zach's.
Zach smiled, and then said:
And that's how this is a love story. Nothing more, nothing less.
AN: Thanks for reading! :)