A week later, both Justin and Lance were out of the hospital and on the mend. The media picked up on it right away and news of the accident was splayed all over MTV and Entertainment Tonight. It worked out well though, because it took the focus off the fact that JC wasn’t around.

"Your little friends were on TV again tonight." Sara poked her head into the library where JC was scribbling in his book.

"Yeah?" He asked, without looking up. He was mid-thought and didn’t want to lose it.

"They said you were in Florida dealing with some family issues." She said softly as she leaned on the doorway.

"Hmm?" He looked up and put his pen down, "Yeah, that’s the press story." He nodded.

"So you’re lying to everyone?"

JC thought about that for a minute, "I guess, yeah."

"You don’t feel bad about that?"

"Grab a seat." JC nodded at the opposite end of the couch as he put his notebook on the table beside him. Sara walked over slowly and tucked her feet under her as she sat. "I feel bad about lying, but at the same time it’s none of their business."

"Then you should just say that."

"If a reporter asks where I am and they get told that it’s none of their business, that just makes them go out and find me. If they get told I’m dealing with family issues out of state, then they just leave it at that, you see?"

"Are you ashamed to be here?" She asked after a minute.

"This isn’t my finest hour, no." He shook his head. "This is a business I work in. And it’s not just me… I’ve got 4 other guys careers riding on this. Just like they have my career riding on their decisions. If this got out it would not be good for any of us."

"You’re not worried about anyone here talking?" She asked a minute later.

JC shrugged, "Not really. I think if anyone were going to talk they’d have done it already. Besides, I’m not if sure many people here know who I am."

"I know." She raised her eyebrow at him and chewed on her thumbnail.

"So are you going to say anything?" He asked.

"Probably not." She shook her head.

"Well so you won’t say anything, and the doctors and nurses can’t say anything. I think I’m safe." He smiled.

"Okay." She said softly. "So, your friends are okay then?"

"Yeah." JC nodded and ran his fingers through his hair. "They’re bumped and bruised, but they’re at least going home now."

"Home to where?"

"Florida." JC sighed. "They leave next week."

"Are you… I mean… what about you?" Sara concentrated on picking at her fingers.

"It depends. If Dr. Grayson says I can go, then I guess I will." He said softly.

"And if not?" She mumbled.

"Then I’ll stay." He said, as though there were no other option.

They sat in silence for a minute before Sara said, "She won’t tell you you’re better."

"What do you mean?" JC frowned.

Sara sighed and mocked the doctor, "This is a journey to self-wellness. You will know when you’ve healed yourself well enough to take the step towards home."

"Yeah but what does that mean? We can discharge ourselves?" He leaned closer to her on the couch.

"Not by a long shot. I’d have been outta here a long time ago." Sara rolled her eyes. "All that means is that she won’t tell you you’re better. When you think you’re better, and you say something to her, she’ll either agree and let you go home, or disagree and then you’re stuck here. Like me."

"Do you think you’re better?"

"I never thought I was sick."

"Well yeah, but do you think you’ve wrestled your demons or whatever?"

"Obviously not, I haven’t slept in week." Sara shrugged and stood up. "Do you think you’re better?"

"I guess." JC sighed. "If we’re judging by sleep then I’m doing alright. I haven’t had the nightmare again." He shrugged and stood beside her. "I guess I’ll run it by Dr. Grayson and see what she says." JC smiled slowly and looked at Sara.

"She thinks you’re ready." Sara said matter of factly.

"You think?"

"She let you leave didn’t she?" She raised her eyebrow at him and frowned.

"Well yeah but that was just to see my friends in the hospital." JC followed her to the library door.

"She wouldn’t have let you out the front door if you weren’t ready."

"What about you?"

"She won’t let me leave." Sara shook her head and walked down the hall quickly. JC stood at the doorway of the library and watched her.

"I can’t leave if she’s still here… she’ll never make it." JC thought to himself. He rubbed his neck and sighed before walking slowly down the hall to Dr. Grayson’s office.

 

JC knocked softly on the door frame as Dr. Grayson wrapped up the call she was on, "Come on in JC." She smiled and motioned for him to sit in the big comfortable chair beside her desk. "How are things going?"

"Good." JC nodded.

"Are your friends out of the hospital?"

"Yeah." JC nodded and sat in the chair, "Lance was out like the day after, and Justin just went home I think yesterday."

"That’s good to hear, I’ll bet you feel better."

JC didn’t answer her question; "They’re going back to Florida next week."

"Are they? Is that where you’re from?"

"Yes." JC said softly and looked out the window. He’d spent so long here, 4 weeks, he’d forgotten how much he missed home. "I… I’d like to go home with them." JC pulled at a string hanging off the cuff of his jeans.

"Do you think you’re ready?" The doctor asked carefully.

"Yes." JC looked up at the doctor. "I know that I am."

"Tell me why you think you are." Dr. Grayson leaned against the end of her desk and watched JC.

He ran his hands through his hair and thought for a minute, "For the first time since I’ve been here, I’m not thinking about myself. Since before I got here actually. For years now it’s been all about the group, and making everyone else happy. Changing to fit their image of perfect." He wiped his sweaty palms on his thighs and continued, "Before I uh… before I came here I know that I was getting angry… hurt… just really pissed off because it was all about everyone else and I got selfish."

"You need to think about yourself JC."

"No, I know. But it became this weird obsession, or something. It was like I turned into a "me" monster. I was an ass to my friends, the guys, to everyone I knew basically. Petty things. You know, like if we did an interview or whatever I’d just be… I don’t know. Focused on me. That doesn’t make much sense, I’m sure. But that night in the… when I uh, cut myself… everything came to light." He looked to the doctor for some kind of reinforcement, she just nodded and waited for him to continue. He took a deep breath as tears rose in his eyes, "I um… I stood in that bathroom for a long time. A really long time. Just staring at myself. Kind of like the ultimate attention. It was all about me for that time I was standing there. But then the phone rang and it startled me and I knocked the medicine cabinet off the wall and it broke into hundreds of pieces."

"Who was on the phone?" Dr. Grayson asked softly.

JC looked up and wiped his eyes quickly, "That… that doesn’t matter."

"It does." She nodded, giving JC time to collect himself.

JC hung his head and cried softly to himself for a minute, "It’s not his fault." He shook his head slowly.

"Of course not."

"He didn’t know I was thinking about it. He didn’t know anything." JC said softly, staring at his hands in his lap.

"No… he didn’t." Dr. Grayson agreed.

"I… I don’t have to tell him, do I?" JC looked up with a desperate look in his eye.

"Not if you don’t want to." She shook her head.

"Joe called. To tell me I had to go out with them because the media was covering the party. So regardless of what I wanted to do, I had to go." He said softly. "Adjusting my life to accommodate other people… all the time."

"And that set you off?" Dr. Grayson asked.

JC nodded, "Yeah, I think so." He sighed and picked at his fingers some more, "I mean… all I wanted was someone to pay attention to me, and he calls to say I have to do this because of the group. In my own little messed up world that just… do you know what I mean?"

"I do." She nodded. "You think that’s changed now?"

"I know it has." He nodded. "I’ve had a lot of time to think in here." He laughed shortly and continued, "I agreed to sacrifice my private life, and everything else when I joined up with these guys. I found myself in them, and since I’ve been here I’ve seen that we’re a team. Without one of us, the team is useless. I was seeing it as kind of… 5 separate lives and then like... like a team room and every time we got together we’d cram into the room but when we were done there was still our selves. But as we got bigger we all had to stay crammed in the little room and we were just like this Nsync being… we lost ourselves. That’s how I saw it anyways." He ran his fingers through his hair and leaned back in the chair.

"And now?"

"And now I see it for what it is." He nodded slowly. "The team room got bigger, so each of us individuals can fit inside… and still be ourselves. It’s not all about me… but it’s not all about any of us. It’s about all of us." He smiled slowly. "That’s how it should be."

"Okay." Dr. Grayson smiled and nodded. This kid was ready.

"I know that might not make any sense to you… or to anyone else for that matter."

"It makes sense to you, and that’s all I care about." She walked around to the other side of the desk and sat with her elbows resting on the stacks of paper in front of her. "You said you were thinking about other people… are you talking about the guys?"

"Them too." He nodded. "But I’ve always thought of the guys… we’ve shared lives for too long to not think about them. I’ve been thinking about how to help Sara."

"Hmm." Dr. Grayson nodded, silently cheering in her mind.

"I think I know how to really reach her, but I’ll need your help."

"You think you can help her?"

"I’m pretty sure." He nodded. "She needs to get out."

"JC I can’t just let her-"

"I don’t mean let her go. That’s not what I meant. See, when you let me go see my friends in the hospital-"

"Those were special circumstances, JC."

"I know." He nodded. "But when you let me go, she said that you only let me go because you must have known I was ready to leave… I just hadn’t said anything yet, I hadn’t realized I was ready."

"She’s a brilliant kid." Dr. Grayson thought to herself. "Okay…"

"So you need to show her that you think she’s about ready to go, let her leave for an hour or so."

"JC… she really isn’t prepared to go."

"I know." JC nodded. "But if she thinks that you think she is… that may be the push she needs to start making herself better. She wants to get better Dr. Grayson, she really does. I think once she gets started she’ll get better real fast." JC’s eyes pleaded with the doctor, "She just needs to get started."

"What exactly are you suggesting?"

"Let us leave for a couple hours."

"JC I can’t just let two patien- students, leave here unattended." She corrected herself.

"Then discharge me." He said quickly. "I’m ready, you know I am."

"JC… "

"Please Dr. Grayson. I’d like to be able to go home with everyone, home to Florida I mean. They’re leaving next week. I’m running out of time with Sara."

"JC no matter what, she will not be ready to leave by next week."

"I know." JC said as he pushed himself out of the chair. "But if we can get her started, it’ll be a lot easier for her."

"I can not let you two leave her unsupervised." Dr. Grayson shook her head.

"If you discharge me, then we’ll have my security with me… with us."

"I will have to think about this." She sighed and took her glasses off.

"Okay." JC nodded.

"However… I’d like to discuss your discharge." She smiled.

"Okay." He sat back down in the chair.

"You’re ready to go JC." She smiled. "You’ve been ready for a little while now, and Sara was right, I was just waiting for you to think you were."

"I am."

"I know." She nodded. "We have group session tomorrow, your 4 week marker. I’d like you to be here for that."

"Okay." He nodded restlessly.

"I know you’re anxious to get out of here, but I’d like you to stay the weekend so that we can spend some time together and talk about what happens now."

"Okay." JC smiled, not sure he could say anything else.

"What day are you leaving for Florida next week?"

"Um, next Thursday."

"When were you thinking about taking Sara off site?"

"I’m not sure. Maybe Tuesday?"

"Why don’t we do this, I will discharge you on Monday and from there we can talk about Sara."

"Okay." JC couldn’t hide his smile. "I can really go home?"

"You really can. You’ve progressed beautifully."

"Thank you Dr. Grayson." He stood up and professionally shook her hand.

"You’re welcome, JC. And thank you." She smiled and watched as JC left her office, walking on air.

The next day at the group session, Dr. Grayson announced that JC would be going home the next week. Cassandra would also be leaving in the next week or so, as soon as travel arrangements could be made with her family. It was a good week for Wycroft.

Sara remained quite during the therapy session, as usual. She wouldn’t even look at JC as he beamed. After the session was over she crossed her arms over her chest and stomped down the hall towards her room, "Sara!" JC called after her as he trotted to keep up. She didn’t respond and all he saw was her hair bouncing insanely as she walked faster. "Sara wait up." He said as he fell into step beside her. "What? What’s wrong?"

"You didn’t tell me you were leaving." She said as she pulled her door open and stepped into the room.

"I tried." JC said calmly, waiting for her to turn around and face him.

"Bullshit." She flopped down on the bed and glared at him.

"Sara, I did try. I only found out last night. I knocked on your door but there was no answer, and I didn’t see you in the library or anything."

"I had my one on one last night." She frowned, but wouldn’t meet his eye.

"I tried Sara. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find you before the group session. But, I mean, you knew this was coming, you knew this was coming soon." He leaned against the open door. He watched her for a minute, neither of them saying a word. "Just because I’m leaving doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be your friend any more." JC said softly.

Sara looked up quickly and wiped at her eyes, "It doesn’t matter." She shook her head.

"Yes it does." JC nodded.

"When you get back to Florida or whatever, you’ll get back to your real life and forget all about this hell hole. Wycroft will be just a hiccup in your big flashy world."

"Sara…" JC started. "This last month has changed my life completely. There is no way I will ever forget this place… or the people I met here."

"Whatever." Sara sighed and reached into her drawer for her playing cards. JC was dismissed.

 

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ 4 days later - Tuesday ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

 

"Hey… Sara" JC knocked lightly on her doorframe.

"Yeah?" She asked, not looking up from the cards laid out in front of her.

"Wanna come with me?" He asked.

"No." She answered then thought for a minute. "Where?"

"To lunch." He said with a sly smile.

"I’m not hungry." She mumbled as she flipped a card over and stacked it on one of the piles.

"Come on…" He prodded her with a smile as he waited.

"I’m not hungry JC. Besides, don’t you have to pack or something?"

"There’s nothing from here I want to take." JC explained. "Come on, it’ll be fun."

"I’ll pass." She finally looked up at him with a cold glare.

"Okay…but I’m going to Mc Donalds." He raised his eyebrow at her and grinned.

"Very funny." She muttered as she picked up the cards and shuffled them in her lap.

"Do… you… want… to… come…?" He asked slowly in a near whisper.

"Oh sure, let me just throw on some shoes and walk right out of here with you." Sara said sarcastically.

"Go ahead, I’ll wait." JC crossed his arms over his chest and smiled.

"Yeah." She rolled her eyes. For a friend he played a lot of mind games. "Just bring me back a Whopper."

"How about a Big Mac?"

"I like Whoppers."

"Well then we can go to Burger King, but come on, we’ve only got a couple hours." He tapped the face of his watch.

"You’re not funny, JC." Sara dealt the cards in front of her again and started yet another game of solitaire.

"I’m not trying to be funny. Joey’s the jokester and he’s waiting out in the car, so let’s go."

"I can’t go Einstein." Sara let her hair fall to cover her face.

"Yeah you can." He couldn’t stop smiling.

"How’s that?" She looked up at him with a blonde curl over one eye.

"I asked Dr. Grayson and she said you could come with me." JC explained. "But I mean, if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to. I just thought you’d like to get-"

"Are you serious?" She interrupted him.

"Yeah." He nodded. "But for real, our ride is waiting."

"I can leave?"

"Well yeah, but you have to come back tonight."

"I can leave?" She asked again.

"Yeah, come on." JC laughed and held his hand out to her.

Sara stared at his hand for a second, then stood up quickly, getting her shoes from under the bed. She laced them quickly and followed JC down the hall, never taking his outstretched hand. She cautiously looked over her shoulder as they neared the big front doors. "Don’t worry, she knows we’re leaving." JC said softly.

"I just…"

"It’s kind of weird huh?" He asked.

"A little." Sara said as he pulled the door open for her. She stepped out into the rare December sunshine and squinted toward the curb where a black limo was waiting with Chris and Justin kicking a hackey sack back and forth near the trunk.

JC waved to them as he and Sara walked down the walkway. She stopped about halfway to the car and watched as JC reached between the two boys and snatched the hackey sack out of the air.

"Hey guys, this is-" he stopped, seeing Sara still standing on the walk. "Just a sec." He said to the guys.

JC walked up to where Sara was and said, "You okay?"

"Yeah, it’s just… are you sure I can go?" She looked nervously over her shoulder.

"Yeah, I’m sure." JC smiled and squinted into the sun. "I figured you’d be the first to jump at a chance to leave."

"I… I… I do want to leave." She stared at her shoes, then glanced up at the limo.

"They’re my friends, Sara." JC said softly as he again extended his hand to her.

She looked at his hand for a second, but he wasn’t backing down this time. He reached over and took her hand in his. As soon as she felt his hand she tightened her grip and smiled nervously up at him. That was one huge step in the direction of trusting someone, actual physical contact.

She held onto his hand as they walked down to the curb and JC started the introductions again, "Sara, these are my friends Justin and Chris. Guys, this is my friend Sara." He said.

"Hey." Chris smiled as he walked over to them and held out his hand to shake hers. She shifted her weight uneasily, it was hard enough to make herself hold JC’s hand. JC quickly shook his head at Chris, who said, "So you’re coming to lunch with us?"

"Yeah." She nodded.

"Cool." Chris smiled and jumped into the limo.

"Joey and Lance are in there." JC said, pointing to the open door.

"Am I going, uh, in there with you?" She asked quietly.

"Yeah, I mean, if you want." JC said. "I’m sorry this is so overwhelming, but when I mentioned going out to lunch, well they all wanted to come." He smiled as Justin ducked into the limo. The cut under his eye was healing quickly, but the stitches made it look a lot worse than it actually was.

"It’s okay." She said softly. "They don’t mind?" Sara put off climbing into the car.

"No, they don’t mind. I told them you were a friend of mine. They’re cool."

"Do they know that I… that I’m here?" She looked back at Wycroft to see Dr. Grayson standing in the doorway.

"Yeah." JC said softly as he nodded. "That doesn’t matter though." He followed her gaze to where Dr. Grayson stood.

The doctor raised her arm and waved at Sara and JC with a big smile on her face. "Have fun." She called to them.

"See? It’s okay." He smiled and waved back to the doctor. Sara still had a firm grip on his other hand. "Are you sure you’re okay?"

"I’m okay." She nodded, though not convincingly.

"Let’s go." JC smiled and ducked into the car, practically dragging Sara in with him. They sat side by side facing the front of the car, beside Chris and Lance.

"Lance, and Joey, this is my friend Sara. Sara, this is Lance, the gimp… and Joey." JC pointed them out.

"Hi." She smiled quickly.

"Hi." Lance leaned forward to say hello, his injured arm still in a sling.

"How… how’s your arm?" Sara asked.

"It’s doing alright." Lance sat back in his seat.

"So you’re the one Jace was schmoozing on, huh?" Joey asked as the limo pulled away from the curb.

"Joey!" JC, Justin and Lance said in unison while Chris busted up laughing on the other side of JC.

"What?!" Joey asked innocently.

"Sorry, Joey has no tact." JC explained, as his cheeks burned pink.

"It’s okay." Sara said softly as she nervously ran her hands over her hair, wishing she’d have thought to grab a ponytail tie.

"Dude, I haven’t had McD’s in forever." Justin sighed and sat back in his seat.

"We’re going to BK." JC said quickly.

"Aww come on, we want to get Big Macs." Joey whined.

"So get a Whopper." JC shook his head.

"That is so not the same." Joey shook his head.

"Quit your bitching. It’s a burger for crying out loud." Chris added.

"We don’t have to go to Burger King." Sara whispered.

"Nah, don’t worry about it." JC smiled, still holding her hand tightly.

"If he wants to go to Mc Donalds, just go there." She whispered.

"He’s just being a brat." JC shook his head. "Burger King is fine."

"So do you live around here?" Lance asked Sara.

"Oh… uh… kind of." Sara stumbled over her words. It had been more than 2 months since she’d actually talked to anyone outside of the hospital. "I… my parents live in Orange County, and my aunt lives in the Valley."

"Cool, have you ever been to Florida?"

"Yeah." Sara nodded and cleared her throat. "We uh, my parents took me to Disneyworld when I was a kid."

"Yeah, that’s fun. I like it a lot better then Disneyland." Lance smiled.

"No way." Sara shook her head. "Disneyland is much better."

"No way!" Lance argued.

"Hey now…" JC laughed. "No way is Disneyland better than Disneyworld. I’m a Mickey Mouse Club alumni. I’ve gotta stand by my past."

"Well as a California native, I’ve gotta stand by the original." Sara allowed a small smile.

"You know you're talking to Orlando boys, right?" Justin asked.

"I know that’s where you live now, but I also know you all didn’t grow up there. I’ve got more than 20 years invested in California. I’ve got you all beat, Disneyland wins."

"She’s got you all on a technicality." Chris laughed.

The limo pulled up out front of a Burger King a couple miles away and Justin looked out the window, "Are we going in?"

"Let’s hit the drive thru and eat at the park." Lance suggested.

"You wanna do that?" JC asked Sara.

"I… yeah… that’s fine. Whatever you guys want to do." She said softly.

"It’s your day off, you can chose what we do." Joey smiled.

"The park is fine." Sara nodded.

"Cool." Chris leaned over the partition and had the driver go around to the drive thru. He pulled up far enough so that the back windows were at the speaker.

"Welcome to Burger King would you like to try one of our meal combos?" The unisex scratchy voice practically shouted from the box.

"Yeah, just a sec." Justin shouted.

"Just let me know when you’re ready." The voice said.

"Does everyone know what they want?" Justin asked the others.

"Yeah."

"Number 5." Lance said.

"Number 3."

"Just order for yourselves." Justin frowned.

"Do you know what you want?" JC asked Sara.

"Yeah." She nodded and tucked her hair behind her ear.

"Okay we’re ready." Justin said into the box.

"Go ahead." A new voice said.

"Okay, I want a number 2 with fries and a coke." Justin said.

"I’d like a number 5 with no lettuce, and onion rings and a… do you have Dr. Pepper?" Lance asked.

"Yes."

"Then yeah, a Dr. Pepper." Lance nodded and sat back in his seat.

Joey leaned over Justin and shouted, "I want a number 1 with onion rings and a frozen coke thingy."

They all shouted their orders to the box and had it repeated back to them before the limo pulled forward to the first window to pay. Joey tossed his wallet to Justin and said, "I’m buying."

"Right on! Damn if I had known that I woulda got one of those apple pie things."

"Yeah! I want one of those too." Justin whined.

"Hey can we get like 6 of those apple pie things too?" Justin asked the kid at the first window.

"Sure, that’ll bring the total to $34.32."

"Okay." Justin nodded and flipped through Joey’s wallet, pulling out four tens. He paid the kid in the window and handed the change back to Joey. "Thanks man."

"Yeah, you guys owe me next time." Joey laughed as they pulled forward to the second window.

"Here are your drinks. These are the cokes." He said as he handed Justin a cup holder with 4 sodas. "And this is the diet coke and the Dr Pepper."

"Thanks." Justin mumbled as he handed the sodas out.

"Whoa! Hold on a second, what’s this?" Chris looked at his cup. "Backstreet boys?! Oh nu uh. No way. Get us new cups." Chris held his cup out the window as the others laughed.

"Just drink it." JC scolded Chris.

"I can’t drink knowing that AJ or whoever is checkin’ out my crotch." Chris imitated holding the cup to his lips, forcing one of the faces on the cup to look down. "That’s so wrong." Chris shook his head.

"Gimme a napkin." Joey laughed as the food was loaded into the back seat. Justin handed Joey a hand full of napkins and began sorting out the food as the limo pulled back onto the main street.

Joey took one napkin, unfolded it, and wrapped it around the cup, "There… much better." He smiled and took another sip.

"Yeah, I need a napkin." Chris said as he held his cup as far away from his body as he could get it.

"You guys don’t get along?" Sara asked as she took an onion ring from her bag.

"If you put us in the same room together, no one would die." JC shrugged. "But there’s no love lost."

"And I definitely don’t want any of them checkin’ out my goods." Chris frowned and unwrapped his burger.

"Dude Chris, wait till we get to the park." Lance said as he folded the top of his bag down.

"I’m hungry." Chris took a bite and smiled with his mouth full.

"That’s attractive." JC shook his head. "You’ll have to forgive my friends… they’re really 9 years old." He smiled at Sara and released his hand from hers to open his bag and take out some fries.

"That’s okay." Sara smiled.

"We’re not 9." Justin argued. "Chris might be, but I’m at least 11." Everyone laughed as the limo drove quickly to Griffith Park where they parked and jumped out, grateful to finally be outside again.

"Over there." Chris said as he slam-dunked his trash bag in the garbage can carried his coke and apple pie over to a concrete picnic bench.

The group headed to the table and sat down on the warm benches. "So how long has it been since you’ve been outside?" Joey asked Sara. JC cast him a glance, which he promptly ignored.

"Oh I was outside yesterday." Sara said as she wiped her mouth with a napkin.

"We’re allowed outside Joey." JC rolled his eyes.

"Well I didn’t know." Joey laughed.

"Yeah, and they let us eat with utensils." Sara said with a completely serious face.

"I… well… I… I kinda thought…" Joey stuttered. The others laughed, having never seen Joey quite so speechless.

"Can you use knives and stuff?" Justin asked.

"Justin... come on." JC frowned.

"Well, I mean if people are there because they tried to kill themselves, you’d think they kept the weapons and stuff put away." He explained.

"If anyone can kill themselves with a bread knife, I’d be impressed." Sara smiled. "When do you guys go home?" Sara asked a couple minutes later.

"Thursday." JC said softly.

"That’s pretty soon." Sara caught JC’s eye.

"Yeah." He nodded, "But I’m going to call you from Florida and check up on you." He smiled.

"You don’t have to." Sara shook her head and blushed.

"I know." JC smiled back and took her hand under the table, "But I’m going to anyways."

"Come on guys, we’ve only got a little time here, let’s play ball or something." Chris bounced around at the end of the table with his pie in his hand.

"There’s stuff in the trunk." Justin stood up and followed Chris back to the limo where they got the ratty old nerf football out of the trunk and began tossing it back and forth.

 

Sara hung out with the guys for a couple of hours before the fans started showing up and they decided to call it a day. They all piled into the limo again and headed back to Wycroft.

"Did you have fun?" Joey asked Sara as he slid in beside her.

"Yeah." She nodded.

"What time do you have to go back?" Lance asked.

"Um… I’m not sure. JC?" She turned to face JC. Her windblown curls would be a mess to brush out that night, but for the first time JC saw a happy Sara.

"I uh, I told Dr. Grayson I’d have you back before 4." He said as all of the guys checked their watches.

"It’s only 3." Chris said.

"Yeah, but we’ve still got to driver her back." JC said, "We’d better just head over now."

"It must be a bummer to have to go back, huh?" Joey asked.

"I… it um… yeah." Sara nodded uncomfortably. "But I had a really good time today. I felt a lot closer to normal." She smiled quickly then looked back at JC, "You’re not staying tonight, are you?"

"No." He shook his head. "I’m officially checked out. I’ll be at the hotel tonight."

"Okay." She nodded and looked at her lap.

"But I’ll call you, how’s that?"

"That’s fine." She nodded again, but didn’t meet his eyes.

"You okay?" JC asked softly as he took her hand again.

Sara nodded quickly and ran her hand over her hair, "Uh huh."

"I’m sorry you have to go back so soon." He whispered, as the other guys started an argument over which series of Baywatch was better, LA or Hawaii.

"I know." She whispered.

When they got back to Wycroft JC and Sara climbed out of the car as the others shouted their good byes to Sara. "It was nice to meet you all." She smiled and waved into the limo as JC started up the walk.

JC walked her to the deserted front entryway and sighed, "I really hate to leave you here."

"It’ll be okay." She said, though not convincingly.

"You’re going to get better really soon. Dr. Grayson is there to help you. I know you think she’s pretty much bogus, but she really can help out a lot. I mean, she thinks you’re well enough to split for a couple hours, that’s gotta say something."

"Yeah, that says you’re a smooth talker." Sara smiled slowly. "I know what games you play."

"You think so huh?" He smiled playfully.

"I think so." She nodded.

"Well… either way. I know you’re well enough to take off for a few hours. I just hope you can see that too, and start to fix yourself." He said softly.

"I… thanks for today JC." Sara looked down at the brown and beige linoleum flooring under her feet, "I had a really good time."

"Good, that was the whole point." He smiled as Joey leaned over the seat divider and honked the horn at them. JC looked quickly towards the door, then back at Sara, "I guess I should go."

"Yeah." She nodded.

"Can I… is it alright if I give you a hug?" JC asked shyly, knowing how she was about touching. She didn’t answer so JC took a step toward her and gently touched her arms before pulling her in for a hug. She didn’t move at first, she just stood there rigid in his arms. But she didn’t push him away which was good enough for JC. "I’m going to miss you Sara. You helped me get to where I am now, thank you." He whispered into her curls.

"You’re welcome." Sara whispered as she began to cry. "And thank you JC." She slowly raised her arms and wrapped them around JC cautiously.

JC’s eyes filled with tears as he felt her arms go around his waist. He’d made contact and he might have even helped her a little… he’d have to wait and see. "I’ll call you okay? To check up on you."

"Okay." She nodded and sniffed quickly, but didn’t let go.

"You’ll be out of here before you know it." JC whispered. "We’ll get together then, okay?"

"Yeah." She said softly.

"Friends?" JC asked as he took a half step back.

"Friends." She nodded and wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

"Good." JC smiled and sniffed, hoping to hide the fact that his eyes were wet. The limos horn sounded again and JC said, "Take care of yourself."

"You too." Sara forced a smile as JC trotted toward the front door and pulled the thick glass doors open.

"I’m coming!" JC shouted as the door slowly shut behind him. Sara smiled and yawned as she headed down the hall to her room, she was looking forward to the solid sleep she was sure would come. She had hope to get better. She had a reason to try. She had a friend.

 

 On to the sequel :  "Lifeline"

 

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Copyright � 2000 Amy Lynn