The third episode for an imaginary season three. Joan is confused about her relationship with Ryan, and her family have their own problems. Can she trust her friends to help?
Just now, neither of them was pointing at anything. They lay, Luke with his hands behind his head, Grace with hers folded on her stomach, and they just looked into the heavens, their vision in perfect alignment.
"It's all so huge," Grace said softly. "I feel as though I could fall off the earth and float away."
Luke nodded carefully, so they wouldn't bang skulls.
"Does it make you feel insignificant?" Grace asked. "I mean, we're so small."
"Smallness is relative," Luke shrugged. "Atoms are small, but they're significant-look at the energy if you split one."
"But we're not atoms," Grace said dryly.
"We're still not insignificant," Luke said confidently.
"Geek," Grace said, but affectionately. "How can you know that? How can you know we matter?"
"We matter to each other," Luke pointed out. "That's something."
"Yeah," Grace said, "but relationships are scary enough without making them any more significant than they have to be. I mean, way to hand people the power to hurt you. I'd rather have some kind of significance that doesn't depend on anyone else."
"That's not how the universe is constructed," Luke argued. "It's not a bunch of components acting independently of one another, Grace. Every part is interconnected."
"What's wrong with wanting to be independent?" Grace countered.
"It's just not how the universe works," Luke said. "Look at Thomas Etter's definition of connectivity. He says that when we increase connectivity, when we add connections, things lose some part of their independence. When we break connections, things become more independent. Humans behave the same way as anything else: we trade off little bits of our independence to form connections, sure, but that's not a bad thing. It's just how it works."
Joan was crushed tightly against Ryan, her own arms wrapped around him, clinging to him as they kissed. A small part of her brain kept trying to get her attention by flashing messages like 'I can't believe I'm doing this' and 'I must be out of my mind.' These warnings, though, were far outnumbered by the sheer sensory input-the taste of Ryan, the smell of him, the heat of his body, the even more incredible heat pulsing through her own body in waves. She felt dizzy, as though she were reeling helplessly through a dream. None of this felt quite real.
Joan's internal censor had gone on vacation. Hell, maybe it was a permanent vacation: maybe her conscience had quit, and found something more fun to do. Ryan's hands eased under her shirt, first running across her back in ways that gave her cold-shivers, then slipping confidently around to cup her breasts, his fingers lightly tracing her nipples, making them shiver to attention. And not once did she think, let alone say, 'stop.' Partly it was just that it felt too incredible to be real; she almost didn't believe it was actually happening. But mostly? Mostly it felt too good to stop. She was drowning in sensations, just feeling and reacting, carried away by the flow, never once reaching for the logical thoughts that could have stopped the torrent and let her pull herself aground: thoughts about implications, consequences, outcomes. Those rational, responsible thoughts had always been within her grasp when she was with Adam. Where were they now?
She realized, with a gasp of shock, that she'd pushed her own hands under Ryan's shirt so she could run her hands eagerly over the contours of his chest and shoulders. By now, too, he was unbuttoning her shirt with one practiced hand, easily pushing it from her shoulders and lifting her arms, one at a time, to free them from the fabric. Her already-unclasped bra followed her shirt to the floor.
He took her hands in his and stood up. "let's move into my bedroom," he said. "We'll be more comfortable there." He smiled at her dazed expression and her huge, dazzled-looking pupils. "Unless," he added, "you're afraid?"
Joan started to shake her head, but stopped quickly-it made the room spin slightly. "I'm not afraid of you," she said defiantly, but her tongue tripped slightly over the words, and Ryan laughed at her, quietly. "Anyway I don't believe you," she said. "I don't believe you're nearly as cold and uncaring as you pretend to be."
He pulled her to her feet and led her firmly to his room. "Joan, my pet," he told her, "you go right ahead and believe whatever you need to get you through the night." But the arm he placed around her waist to steady her held her gently, almost reverently, in spite of the forced harshness of his words.
"Oh, I don't know," Helen said, exasperated by her inability to pin down what she was feeling. "Maybe we should just get back to discussing marriage."
"Okay," Lilly said. "So. Marriage is a sacrament as long as both the spouses are giving themselves, and accepting each other, as irreplaceable individuals."
"What if one partner is sure about their faith?" Helen asked tentatively.
Lilly shook her head. "Believe it or not, that doesn't matter," she said. "Even if one partner isn't Catholic, or is a heretic, the marriage is still a sacrament as long as both partners were baptized at some point."
Helen thought this over. "That seems strange," she said. "It makes it sound as though the believing partner would be bearing the burden of faith for both of them, somehow."
Lilly shrugged. "Perhaps that's the point," she said. "Look at it the other way around: maybe doubt is just too big a burden to bear alone."