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?
Now he flicked a warm tongue across one of her nipples, nearly causing her to cry out with surprise and, yes, with desire. She'd never felt so excited by anyone, anything. She'd never felt so reckless.
At that moment he lifted his head, moving up the bed slightly so they were face to face. She lifted her head to kiss him, and he kissed her back, but then put one hand flat against her chest and gently pushed her back down onto the bed. He looked into her eyes and said three words, softly: "We should wait."
She blinked up at him for a moment, not understanding what he'd said--well, not so much not understanding it as not believing it, really. "You-what?" she said, and then the embarrassment hit her full on, and she wished she could turn invisible, or sink through the floor, or possibly just die of embarrassment and be done with it. She tore her eyes from his face and gazed around the room, trying to find something else to focus on, trying to keep the tears out of her eyes. "You don't want to," she added, bluntly, and it wasn't a question, just a restatement of the obvious for clarification purposes.
To her annoyance he laughed, and then caught her chin and turned her head back to face him. "I do want to, very much," he said, and he growled the last two words in a way that made her heart pound with fear and desire at the same time. "I could just eat you up," he added, and if it was a joke it didn't quite work, because it was a little bit-okay, quite a lot, actually-creepy. "But, Joan," he said, " I don't want to just consume you. I want to savor you. There's no one else in the world like you, except for me, and that makes you too much pf a rarity to waste. So I can't, I won't, take you like this, when you've been drinking, when you're so dazed you might not even remember this clearly. When I take you, I want you with me and aware of me, fully. So we're going to wait, Joan." He leaned in closer, and kissed her softly, but this time she didn't kiss back. "And you'll come back to me, won't you?" he said, the smallest note of amusement in his voice. Joan heard it, and understood it, but she still answered him honestly: she might seem like an over-eager kid to him, but she had too much pride to be cowed into lying about it. Besides, what good would that do? He could tell she wanted to come back.
"Yes," she said, so calmly he looked impressed. "I'll come back. I'm not finished with you."
The next day Adam showed up at Grace's house, early. "I'm trying to cut you some slack," she told him testily, clutching a coffee mug with both hands, "on account of the recent multiple traumatic events. The Joan thing, the Bonnie thing: that gets you some sympathy. But dude, there is so much wrong with this. This is my house, Rowe. Also? This is morning. I am not good with mornings."
"I need your help," Adam said, so quietly and honestly that Grace was silenced. Concern showed in her eyes, even though she carefully looked away to allow him some unstared-at privacy for this conversation. He looked so tired, so worn down, that staring at him seemed invasive.
"It's about," he began, and then stopped. He tried again. "Jane was right, about Bonnie. She shouldn't have to be all alone in the dark. But," he hesitated, and then blurted, "but I don't want to be the one sitting there by her bed, day after day. I'm not Bonnie's boyfriend, Grace. I never was. And I'm not pining for her that way. Sitting there every day, as if I were loyal to her, as if I was waiting for her: that would be a lie. Maybe that makes me a horrible person. Maybe I'm supposed to want to sit there with her. But I don't, and this situation is messed up enough without me giving Bonnie more reason to imagine I feel something about her that I don't."
"What would you like me to do?" Grace asked. There was no reproach in her voice.
"Could you," Adam waved his hands helplessly, "kind of talk to the others, and arrange it so someone visits her every day? It doesn't have to be a big deal, maybe just an hour each afternoon. Just so she's not left all alone. Maybe they could read to her or something."
"So basically, you're asking me to force other people to do a good deed?" Grace asked.
"Yeah," Adam admitted, and Grace smiled.
"Cool," she said. "That I can handle. Consider the posse summoned."
As he made his way down to the sidewalk Grace yelled after him, "Hey! Just because I'm being nice about it doesn't mean you don't owe me, big time. And I will collect, Rowe. Count on it."
Adam smiled back at her, his old smile, vulnerable but open. "I know you will," he said.
Luke and Glynis and Friedman were easy, agreeing to the plan over the phone so readily that Grace wondered, irritably, how she'd fallen in with such a pack of do-gooders. Joan she left until last, and she decided to discuss it with her in person. It was a huge imposition, in Grace's opinion, to ask a girl to sign up for a shift guarding the bed of some chick who had, basically, ruined her relationship with a guy she loved. Grace wanted to be able to see Joan's face, so she'd know Joan wasn't just agreeing out of guilt or something.
But Joan agreed readily too, so readily that Grace was puzzled, and wound up nagging her with questions, trying to goad her out of whatever was preoccupying her and into some display of emotion. "You're sure you're okay with this?" Grace asked, for at least the third time, and Joan took her by the shoulders and looked directly at her.
"Grace," she said, "I'm okay with this. I'm sure. I'm sure that I'm sure. Okay? I've moved on."
Grace had a flash of insight. "You like someone else," she guessed shrewdly. "Girardi! Who is it? Why have you been hiding this? Not that I care," she added, "and you should know the whole 'girl talk' thing is not my scene, but still."
Joan looked at her for a moment. "You really want to know the truth?" she asked finally.
"Yeah," Grace said, but there was something so strange about the look on Joan's face that she was suddenly uncertain. Was Joan's truth something she really wanted to hear? Grace wondered, feeling goose bumps rise on her arms.
"Okay," said Joan. "Okay. Well, first of all, the guy-the guy is Ryan Hunter."
Grace was floored, totally and completely. "What?" she said. "Why? What can you possibly have in common?"
Joan said, "We've both seen God. I mean, talked to God. As in actual conversations, where God talks back." She giggled nervously. Grace stared back silently, looking increasingly concerned. "As opposed to now, I mean," Joan went on, "where I'm the only one talking. Grace? Some input, please? What are you thinking?"
"What am I thinking?" Grace repeated. "I'm thinking you've decided Lyme Disease is so last year, and full-blown schizophrenia is the new black. My God, Girardi, exactly how worried should I be? Have you been having this problem for long?"
"Since last year," Joan admitted.
Grace shook her head, looking stunned, and then a look of anger crossed her face. "And this-this Hunter guy-he's been encouraging you in this? He didn't suggest you get help or anything?"
Joan shook her head. "Well, no, but-"
Grace exploded. "That creep! That utter asshole! Why would he do that? Why would he feed your delusion unless-that son of a-Joan, he's taking advantage of you."
"No," Joan protested, "it's not like that. He sees Him too, I know he does." But for the first time she sounded doubtful.