Improv ficlet for northern.

doing fine
by Lesa Soja

Home again; or rather, Orlando again. Where nobody knew them, and, JC thought, where he didn't know anyone anymore either. Which was why he was sitting around the Harlesses' living room like a dork on their free night, while the others, who'd been over for dinner, were getting ready to go out.

"You going to Henry's party?" Joey said to Chris. JC twisted around to look. Chris looked good, in a dark shirt and pants, and he was grinning as he nodded.

"Thought I would," he said. "How about you?"

"Can't," Joey said. "I'm taking Kelly out tonight."

"Bring her," Chris suggested.

Joey laughed and shook his head. "Don't think she'd go for that. I promised her a night out. But," and he turned to glance at JC, "whyncha take JC, here? His calendar's free."

Joey was chuckling. JC flushed, but Chris gave him a thoughtful look. "Well, now," he said. "JC. D'ye feel like coming along?"

"Okay," JC said quickly.

When they got there, the party consisted of bunch of people sitting around watching a movie. JC almost laughed; but at least this was a different living room, so that was something.

Chris introduced him around, and somebody gave him a plate of pie and ice cream. JC found a free bit of carpet and sat down. Chris had settled on one of the couches, and JC saw a girl on the floor between Chris and his neighbor lean her head back against Chris's knee. Chris reached down and ran his hand through her hair.

JC looked away and started eating his pie. The movie was fairly dumb, but most people seemed to be watching it, not talking much. Chris's friend Henry was still eating too. It took him a while to finish because his girlfriend had one of his arms bent back and was making him eat with just the other hand. Finally he put his fork down, and she kissed him.

On the nearest couch, a blond guy and a dark-haired girl had started whispering to each other. "No," JC heard her say. "I won't."

"What did you say?"

"No!" She was laughing.

"What did you say to me?" and he took both her arms in a firm grip behind her back.

"No-" she squealed, "no- oh, I'm sorry, sir, please, I'm sorry, I will, sir, I'll be good-"

JC caught his breath, but no one heard him.

He looked around again. Henry's girlfriend was tying a blindfold on him. The blond was saying something in his girl's ear, and she was nodding rapidly. The guy next to Chris was digging in a duffel bag with his heel on the wrist of the girl in front of them. Her head was tipped forward, and Chris was holding her by the hair.

JC lay back on the rug, trying not to attract any attention, and shut his eyes. The movie was playing car chase music interspersed with gunshots. Every so often he heard gasps, and other sounds.

He started to drift till the floor got too hard and he turned on his side. Then he heard Henry's voice. "Hey, uh, JC, right? Are you sleeping?"

JC bit his lip. "Yes," he said.

"Hey, y'know, you can lie down on the bed in the other room if you want."

What he wanted was for them to stop looking at him, to stop noticing him at all. But the silence was stretching out, so he opened his eyes and sat up. "Thanks," he said.

Down the hall in the bedroom, one lamp was on in a corner. He took off his shoes and lay down on the bed.

He was already drifting again when Chris came in and sat down on the edge of the mattress.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," JC said.

Chris reached over and started rubbing the top of JC's foot. "How're you doing?" he asked.

"Okay," JC said.

Chris looked at him. His hand kept moving on JC's foot. "You're not into it," he said quietly.

JC glanced down, away. "I -" he said, and swallowed, and paused again. "I don't have anyone, to be. into it. with."

Chris kept watching him with grave eyes.

"Give me your hands," he said finally. JC sat up and held them out. Chris laid his palm over JC's wrists, bringing them together, and then took a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and put them on JC.

He sat back and looked at JC. JC sat still, waiting.

There was a knock on the door. "Hey, is everything okay?" someone called.

"Tell him we're fine," Chris said.

JC cleared his throat and raised his voice to carry. "Yeah, we're doing fine," he called back.

Chris smiled and stroked JC's short bangs back from his forehead.

"Now lie down," he said. And JC did.