John woke up to gentle hands in his hair. He ached to press his face into the back of the couch and fall back asleep, but the headache growing behind his forehead felt otherwise. Slippery fingers tugged at his cowlicks when it realized he was awake and he sighed, rolling his head to accommodate the strange, mesmerizing feeling.
"I think I'll eat now," he said once he had amassed the initiative to speak.
"Too late," it said. "Breakfast is cold."
"Make lunch, then," he mumbled. Fingers walked up his side, sending a shiver down his spine.
He was startled out of a sleepy drift at the harsh sound of a prescription bottle rattling above his head. He blinked in the bright afternoon light and sat up enough to grab it and the glass of water that was set down on the coffee table in front of him by invisible hands. "What's today?" he asked after swallowing two of the small white pills.
"J is today," it said and he could hear it grinning.
"I don't remember him calling back," John answered after discarding several retorts.
"Don't talk to my friends," he said and pulled his knees up, wrapping the transplanted bedclothes around himself. He closed his eyes, trying to catch the last evanescence of his interrupted sleep. He turned the television on and it left him alone.
J glanced over both of John's shoulders before coming in, something that John didn't find amusing, but It did for some reason. "Hey," J said smiling almost genuinely.
"You didn't have to come over."
"It's Wednesday, of course I did."
"I'm not going to hate you just because we missed a week because I was throwing up."
J looked at him oddly and John collapsed on the couch. "Make yourself at home," he said.
J flipped through the stations, finally landing on a Frasier re-run and John slumped in the couch. They had closed the curtains, turning five o'clock into night and John cut back an apology about missing their weekly game at the gym for vegging out on the couch. They watched one episode, and then another when J lost the remote in the couch and soon the sharp sliver of light behind the curtains faded. Rather than relaxing, however, J was getting edgier and edgier. He crossed his arm's tightly, leaned down to check under the couch for the remote and then thought better of it and was far too disturbed at the sound of the neighbors slamming their doors for a guy with noisy roommates.
"It only makes a sound when it wants you to hear it," John said, suppressing a smirk. J stuck his hands in the pocket of his hoodie.
"I don't know how you handle it," he said.
"I don't," John answered vacantly.
"Handle it," John said.
"Hey buddy," an enthusiastic voice that didn't belong to either of two people in the room interrupted them and John bit his cheek, wishing he could backspace his last confession that wasn't a confession. J didn't scream like he had the first time, but he did spill his beer.
Later that night John lied flat on his back on his own bed, sheet tangled around his feet and pillows thrown to the carpet. He let vague fantasies about developing a full fever and calling in sick for the third day in a row cultivate and ignored the hands squeezing and fingering his knees in a strange resemblance to massage.
"J has ticklish knees," it said mournfully.
"Don't touch him," John answered automatically. "Not my friends." He yawned and rolled over, displacing insistent gloves and pressed his cheek to the cool sheet, already drifting away.
It wasn't until John dropped his bags on the counter that the tension that had been itching in his muscles all day came to a standstill, a burning, freezing standstill. He swallowed the adrenaline that made his hands nervous and got the milk in the fridge without dropping it before turning around. The glove flipping newspaper pages at the counter might have well have been a gun, cocking and pointing at his head. John swallowed and stood, waiting, as a primitive piece of him screamed as the hand that made him chicken soup two days ago drummed its fingers on the counter. His back hit the wall.
"You sure that fever didn't make a late appearance?" It asked.
He narrowed his eyes and cleared his throat. "No, I don't think so."
An invisible palm brushed his forehead and John gave himself a point for not flinching and then took one away for holding his breath. "Great."
"Great," John mocked it. He rolled his eyes as the newspaper floated up and folded itself neatly in midair.
"Well if you don't appreciate it," It said and shoved him abruptly in between the shoulder blades. John stumbled forward, catching himself on the counter and hiding surprised amusement in a cough as the hand guided him roughly toward the... couch? He had to grab for it when it pushed him sharply and before he could get his feet underneath himself again it physically lifted him by the back of his shirt and threw him over the back of the couch. He laughed outright at the half somersault it manhandled him into, cursing as two gloved hands slid under his shirt and up his ribs. He arched his back and squirmed away as another two roughly unbuckled his belt. It lifted him by his pants again and deposited him safely in the middle of the couch.
"Hold still," it growled and he laughed and shrieked into the back of the couch, grabbing uselessly hands pressing him into the cushions with nothing but fingertips sliding around his ribcage. His jeans were left hanging onto his hips as the hands removing them from him got distracted by his thighs. It kept him speechless with fingers on the the sides of his ribs as it pulls cuffs tight around his wrists and ankles.
John coughed and gasped for breath as his hair was pulled sharply, stopping him from pounding his head.
"Hold. Still," it repeated.
He blinked twice and his ribs weren't being abused anymore so he froze half curled in on himself. It was enough to temper the headiness in his head with old paralyzing fear again and he coughed weakly, holding himself tight to the back of the couch.
There was something about clothes. In the beginning it stripped him, informed by both John's modesty even when he was alone in his own apartment and its knowledge of human body taboo in general. Well, alone in a sense. Vulnerability should have informed his reaction, making him more aware of his body and it stretched him out, face up and without a thing to cover him as often as possible. He was putting up an impassioned fight for his jacket while it unbuttoned his pants. Then something incredible happened. It dug its fingers in to the exposed bit of his belly and he laughed, a startled strangled sound. John wasn't ticklish on his lower stomach.
"What, what are you doing," he panted as the hands fighting to bare him disappeared into ether.
"So." He pulled an incredulous face. It ran a gloved finger quickly across the pale sliver of John's skin and he jumped, tugging his shirt down. Huh.
It waited until he walked in the door the next day, fully dressed in three layers of undershirt, shirt and hoodie and waited until he dropped the car keys and loose change before it picked him up by his sweater and tied him down face down and fully dressed. He gripped the chains holding him and pressed his lips together, but couldn't hide the way his legs kicked and high sounds caught in his throat as it rifled his pockets. It slid two hands under his second and third layers and gripped his ribs, relishing the new loose helpless laughter, less suffering but louder, more hysterical, than the last time it did this, only he was bare and shivering at that time.
Freedom of movement was even more interesting. It didn't even tie his hands the next day, just followed him across the floor until he bit the carpet. He screamed at it this time, really truly angry until it was forced to tie his hands for worry he'd crack his head open on the coffee table in a rage. He had let his head fall back and breathed deeply, panicked blush fading as he twisted his wrists unconsciously in the loose strap. Even more interesting.
The next time his face fell and he didn't say a word. It was so disconcerted that it led him to the bedroom, left him dressed, tied his wrists to the headboard and squeezed his hips until he laughed like he wasn't afraid. It thinks to itself that if it doesn't break him open, if it makes him (lets him, makes itself let him) like it, makes him stay...
It holds him to the couch, hands easy and slow on his hip, keeping him giggling and boneless as a small cloud of hands clear the bed and find leather in the closet. He flails yelling abruptly as it moves to his shoulder blades and under his arms, his chest, alarmed. "This isn't about you," it tells him forcefully.
"Funny," he breathes. "I thought it was all about me."
The leather creaked as It tightened the cuff around John's left wrist, his right.
He couldn't seem to catch his breath. It was building in his chest, a fist, pressing against his sternum, pain shooting through his ribs.
"Please," he gasped.
"Begging?" it said. "This late in the game?"
John gaped for air as he descended into silent panic, and blackness.