When tragedy strikes, Jenny and Shane both learn that there are things more worth holding on to than grudges...
Categories: The L Word
, Shenny Characters:
Alice Pieszecki, Bette Porter, Jenny Schecter, Jodi Lerner, Kit Porter, Max Sweeney, Molly Kroll, Shane McCutcheon, Sounder II, Tasha Williams, Tina Kennard
AU, drama, friendship, romance, what if...Spoilers up through:
TLW Season 6Warnings:
angst, strong language
November 03, 2008 Updated:
July 22, 2010
I started writing this story for the 2008 NaNoWriMo
; I had the idea a while back but decided to wait until November to start writing it. I made it to 50 000 words at the end of November but I didn't finish the story. There's still a lot that needs to be added, rewritten and deleted and it's taking some time to finish all of it. Trust me, if you write 50 000 words in 30 days, there's a lot of fixing to do.
If some things seem strange, or if some characters don't quite act how you expect them to; give them some time. The story is written backwards in a way and has a lot of flashbacks, so things will be explained eventually.
This story is dedicated to the person who inspired me and told me I had to write this, and who helped me with pretty much all the research. You know who you are, and this is for you. Thank you.Disclaimer:
The L Word and its characters belong to their respective owners. No copyright infringement intended. I own nothing but the story itself. The chapter titles are taken from song titles and lyrics from Evanescence songs. No copyright infringement intended there either.
1. Chapter 1 - Solitude by DarknessDescends
2. Chapter 2 - Missing by DarknessDescends
3. Chapter 3 - Lacrymosa by DarknessDescends
4. Chapter 4 - Away From Me by DarknessDescends
5. Chapter 5 - Anywhere But Home by DarknessDescends
6. Chapter 6 - You're Not Real by DarknessDescends
7. Chapter 7 - You Still Have All of Me by DarknessDescends
8. Chapter 8 - Forgive Me by DarknessDescends
9. Chapter 9 - How You've Betrayed Me by DarknessDescends
Chapter 1 - Solitude by DarknessDescends
Flashback. Someone is having a really bad day.
» One month earlier… »
Finally alone in her trailer, she sat down and placed her left hand on her forehead, resisting the urge to rub her eyes and possibly smear her make-up all over her face. All she wanted right now was to lie down and try to get some rest, but the day had just started and she wouldn’t get to go home any time soon. She had no idea what was going on – no matter how much sleep she got it never seemed to be enough, and it was becoming increasingly harder to hide it from the rest of the world.
For what could be the millionth time, the thought crossed her mind that going through with the Pink Ride had probably not been the best idea after all. Not just because it was exhausting, but holding on to the handlebars had been a living hell at times. When she held up her right arm it felt like her shoulder blade was on fire. She’d spent most of her time with her girlfriend but she doubted that even she had noticed the constant pain she was in and in spite of how she felt now, she was still glad she’d finished the race for Dana like she’d meant to.
She was fairly certain none of her friends had noticed anything yet either. Sometimes, especially the last couple of weeks since the pain had kept getting worse, her mood hadn’t been what it used to. At least this morning when they all had breakfast at The Planet she’d been able to blame her period for it because that seemed to be what everyone was doing – even though she wasn’t even on it right now. She hadn’t even told her best friend and roommate what was going on, because when it all came down to it, she didn’t know that much herself.
It was becoming painfully obvious to her though, that whatever was causing it didn’t plan on stopping on its own accord. Taking a deep breath, she decided it was time she did something about it and took out her phone, but she didn’t even get a chance to start dialling the number before she heard a knock on the door that opened immediately after and one of the assistants stepped into the trailer.
“We need you on the set.”
“Oh, right, I’m sorry,” she replied with a quick nod and frowned as she put the phone back in her pocket. The fact that she still had things to do had completely slipped her mind somehow and she realized she’d have to call the hospital later when she could find time to do it.
She had just put her hand down on the arm of the chair to push herself up when the pain in her side suddenly worsened and made her groan and bend forward while she pressed her other hand on the sore spot right under her ribs on her right side. She pinched her eyes shut, trying to get the room to stop spinning.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah it’s okay. I’m fine,” she assured her, trying to shrug it off and make it seem like it was nothing. “It’s just that time of the month. I’ll be there in a sec.”
“Okay, I’ll let them know you’re on your way,” the other woman replied, eyeing her skeptically as if she wasn’t sure whether it’d be safe to leave her there like that or not, before she finally decided it was and left the trailer.
Alone again at last, she sighed and ran her fingers through her dark brown hair before covering her face with her hands. This was not going to be a good day, she could feel it.
Chapter 2 - Missing by DarknessDescends
Isn't something missing?
Indicates sign language.
» Present day »
As she woke up she could hear voices somewhere close to her but she didn’t bother opening her eyes. The parts of her body that didn’t already feel numb were tingling and she opened her right eye just slightly to peer at the needle that was attached to the inside of her right elbow, the source of the cold that was running through her veins. Shivering a little, she tried to lift her other hand to pull her blankets up closer to her face, but someone got there before she did. Warm hands tucked her in and she managed to relax, if only a little.
“Jenny?” she mumbled, trying to fight off the sleep that tried to take her over again. She wanted to talk to her, it was important. It felt like it had been way too long since last time even if she couldn’t understand how that could be.
“No, Shane, it’s me.” A soft voice spoke next to her and she forced her eyes open, seeing Jodi sitting down on a chair by her bed. “And the nurse just came in to check on you. Jenny’s not here.”
Shane frowned and shook her head just barely, trying to process that unwelcome piece of information. “No, she was here, I know that. Where did she go?”
Jodi glanced over at Tom, her interpreter, even though she already thought she knew what her friend had said. If there was one thing she’d learned the last month, it was that when Shane really wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t even try to sign, it was best to make sure you understood what she was saying before you tried to reply. It wasn’t the first time Shane had asked about her former best friend, in fact, she couldn’t remember a single chemo therapy session when she hadn’t, and Jodi was running out of explanations since none of the ones she’d given her ever seemed valid to her. Jodi didn’t have the heart to remind her of what really happened right in the middle of her treatment.
“You had a dream,” she said softly and reached out her hand to brush a few stray strands of what was left of her hair out of her face. “It was just a…”
“No!” Shane exclaimed and tears began to glitter in her tired eyes. “Stop treating me like I’m delusional, I have to talk to her! Why did you let her leave?” Frustrated, she placed her hands on the mattress to try to push herself up and Jodi and Tom both immediately got up from their chairs to make sure she stayed in her bed. Jodi placed her hand gently on top of Shane’s, and when her friend looked up at her, her eyes were filled with despair. “What did I do?”
“You didn’t do anything,” Jodi told her and tried to smile reassuringly. What she’d said wasn’t exactly true, but when it got this bad, Shane never remembered what had happened that night when she’d pushed Jenny away by breaking her heart. “Try to get some rest, we don’t get to go home for a few more hours.”
Shane sighed and relaxed into her pillow again with her eyes closed, mumbling something Jodi couldn’t quite make out, and she turned to Tom for an explanation. ‘I miss her’
, he signed and she could feel a lump forming in her throat. Do you think we should call her?No
, Jodi signed and shook her head as she went on. She doesn’t want her to know and we promised. I don’t think it’s up to us.
She stopped for a moment, sighing as she looked back at Shane who seemed to have fallen back to sleep. I wish I knew what to do. Everything would be so much easier if she wasn’t so fucking stubborn.I know.
Tom replied. He’d been there ever since day one and he’d witnessed Shane’s ups and downs just as Jodi had. But to be honest, I don’t think we’re what she needs right now. Maybe if Jenny was around she’d…
He stopped when he saw the pained expression on Jodi’s face and knew he didn’t have to finish his sentence.…Want to live again.* ~ * ~ *
“Don’t you think it’s about time we got Angelica a real bike?” Bette asked and turned to Tina who sat next to her with all their friends at their usual table at The Planet. “She’s starting to outgrow her tricycle. And I just thought…” She shrugged and didn’t even try to hold back the proud grin that spread on her lips when she thought about teaching her daughter how to ride a real
bicycle. She was sure she’d learn in a heartbeat like she did with everything else.
“Oh, I saw the cutest
little thing the other day,” Kit chipped in, walking by the table just as the conversation started. “I’ll show it you if you got some time off later today,” she added, looking a little nervously from her sister to Tina.
“Sure,” Tina smiled, and giggled a little when she met her partner’s eyes and was sure they were imagining the exact same thing. Since they got back together a couple of months earlier things had only been getting better between them, and they were finally starting to be just like the family she’d always dreamt for them to be. “I’m sure it’s great.”
Bette turned in her chair and looked suspiciously at her older sister. “Kit, why were you looking at bikes?”
“Because I thought that my little Angel might just be old enough to get one,” Kit replied with a shy smile. “So if her mommies don’t mind, auntie Kit would like to give her her first real bike. It was gonna be a surprise, but…”
“Aw, Kit, that’s so sweet. I’m sure she’ll love it,” Tina smiled but then turned serious as she looked at Bette. “But we’re getting her training wheels. We’re not gonna try to make her learn how to ride it without them, she’s not old enough.”
Bored from all the talk about kids and bicycles, Alice decided it was time to change the subject. “Has anyone heard anything?” she asked after taking a sip of her coffee. Before anyone had a chance to say anything, she continued. “I tried calling her again, but I got nothing. Either she constantly has her phone turned off or she changed her number.”
There was no need to mention Shane’s name. It wasn’t the first time they had this conversation about their old friend, or rather former
friend, the last month or so, and they all knew it wouldn’t be the last. The subject seemed to come up every now and then ever since she’d been caught fucking Jenny’s girlfriend by none other than Jenny herself, and then just disappeared from their lives.
“I haven’t heard anything either,” Tina sighed and glanced over at Jenny who sat next to Helena on the other side of the table. She didn’t seem like she was listening to the conversation at all, completely devoting herself to her waffles. She imagined it couldn’t be easy for her to be constantly reminded of what happened, even if she tried as hard as she could to make it seem that way.
“Like, I don’t get what her problem is,” Alice went on, waving her fork around as she chewed. “She’s the one who fucked up, but she’s the one shutting us
“Maybe she just wants to forget what happened and move on,” Tasha suggested and glared a little at her girlfriend. “Can’t say I blame her. She probably knows if she came back it’d be a living hell for her. I’m not trying to make excuses for what she did, but this is starting to get old.”
“Bite my head off!” Alice exclaimed and opened her mouth to continue but Tasha interrupted her before she had a chance.
“I’m serious, Alice, you keep bringing this up. What good is it gonna do to either one of us if we just keep going over this every single day? What if you call her tomorrow and she actually answers her phone, what are you gonna do? Are you just gonna give her a piece of your mind and yell at her about what happened and tell her what a horrible person she is?”
“No, but some answers would be nice,” Alice retorted and an uncomfortable silence spread through the group. Ever since Alice had made the decision to fight for her and Tasha’s relationship in spite of Shane’s advice to move on, their arguing had only gotten worse, up to the point where they didn’t even realize they were doing it right in front of their friends. They were all used to it by now and seemed to have made a collective decision to pretend they didn’t hear them, so they all remained silent until Tasha spoke up again, and even though she kept her voice low they all still heard her words.
“Do you really think Jenny wants to have to listen to this every single time we’re here?”
“What?” Jenny said with her brows furrowed, looking up for the first time since the discussion started. “I don’t care. I don’t give a shit where she is or what she’s doing.” Leaning back in her chair, she shrugged. “She’s dead to me.”
Max had been sitting in silence opposite Jenny since they got there, but as she finished her sentence he got up from his chair and left the table without even so much as an ‘excuse me’ and headed out through the back door of the café.
“Way to be a drama queen,” Alice sighed as he left and rolled her eyes. “What’s his problem?” She and Max hadn’t gotten along well at all lately; she thought it had been a bit better after she apologized to him on the podcast that Shane fucked up, but when she thought about it, she realized he’d started acting even weirder around her since Shane left. She lost her train of thought when Jenny suddenly rose from her chair, grabbed her purse and ran after him.
“Max!” she yelled after him but he didn’t even turn around to acknowledge her so she kept racing by crowded tables until she reached the door and found him leaning against the wall outside. “Max, what’s with you lately?”
“I haven’t been getting much sleep,” he mumbled, rubbing the bridge of his nose and refusing to meet her gaze but she could see a tear glittering under his right eye.
Beginning to worry, she took a step closer to him and gently placed her hand on his shoulder. “Why, what’s going on?” she asked.
He let out a deep sigh and swallowed before he finally faced her. “A friend of mine is really sick and she needs someone to look after her 24/7. I don’t know…”
“I’m so sorry,” Jenny said quietly; this was the last thing she’d expected when she followed him outside. What she had initially thought she couldn’t even remember anymore. “Max, I had no idea. Is she gonna be okay?”
“I uh…” he started and shrugged, looking down at his feet. “I used to think she was, but now I’m not so sure anymore. She… she lost her best friend and now she’s not even trying to get any better. She’s just giving up when she could have her life back, but I think she just doesn’t see the point in fighting for it.”
His words made chills run down her spine because some of them just sounded all too familiar and hit a little bit too close to home for her to just be able let them go. “Max, I…” she started but he immediately cut her off.
“And that’s why I can’t just sit in there,” he said, his voice becoming harsher and his tone colder for each word and if it hadn’t been for the tear that trickled down his cheek, she would have been scared of him; instead his words were what frightened her. “While you guys say all these things about her,” he went on, “when you don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about. You have no idea
what she had to give up just so you wouldn’t have to go through all of that again…”
“Go through…?” Jenny swallowed and placed her hand on the wall to steady herself as the world seemed to come crumbling down around her. “What… what are you talking about? You’re not…”
“And then you sit there and tell everyone she’s ‘dead to you’. Well, guess what, she might be dead to all of us sooner than you think.” Hearing how his words came out, he turned to her again looking terrified when he saw the shock that was painted all over her face. “Jenny, I’m sorry,” he said, reaching out his hand towards her but she backed off and shook her head; the damage was already done.
“No.” She slowly took a few more steps back as tears started to fill her own eyes. “Don’t. Why are you doing this?”
“I never meant to tell you this way, I’m sorry. Jenny, please…” The whole time he’d been sure that once he’d let it all out he’d feel at least a little better, and even if he did in a way, what he felt now was different, and in more than one way a million times worse. “I didn’t…”
“What’s wrong with her?”
Her voice was low, but suddenly so steady and the look in her eyes made it very clear to him that she was in control now and he better give her the answers she wanted. Whatever he’d expected, it was not this. If she’d screamed, stomped her feet into the ground or fallen apart, he’d known how to deal with her, but this was something new when it came to Jennifer Schecter. She was taking it a little too well and it worried him. But he’d already broken the promise he’d made a month ago when he found out, and maybe what they all needed about now were some honest explanations. There was no point in trying to turn back now.
“She has cancer, Jenny,” he said quietly. “Shane has… cancer.”
Lyrics from the song Missing by Evanescence.
Chapter 3 - Lacrymosa by DarknessDescends
Flashback. Shane gets a phone call.
» One month earlier »
”You’re not gonna get changed?”
Shane looked up at her best friend with confusion written all over her face and found herself staring at her, unable to take her eyes off of her. She was standing in front of her in a black dress that she knew left Jenny’s back bare even if she couldn’t see it right now, and as always, she was absolutely breathtaking.
“Shane?” she repeated and a giggle escaped her lips when Shane shrugged out of her reverie and smiled back at her.
“Yeah, I’m on my way,” she replied and cast a glance down at her own clothes; she was still in the red t-shirt and blue jeans she’d been wearing all day and there was no way she was going to Jodi’s art show wearing that. “You look…” she started but was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone in her pocket. She took it out and looked at the number on the display; she didn’t recognize it, but knowing who it could be made chills run down her spine and she cleared her throat and swallowed, nodding in the direction of their back porch. “I gotta take this, I swear I won’t be long.”
She hurried outside and closed the door behind her before she answered the call, running her fingers through her hair and hoping she would be wrong. That they would all be wrong, and that everything was going to be okay. Feeling her heart beginning to hammer in her chest, she listened to the voice on the other end telling her they had her test results.
“What is it?” she asked, struggling to get the words out. “Please… I need to know. -- No, just tell me. I can handle it.” She glanced up at the blue sky and grabbed the back of her neck, squeezing it in frustration when her doctor refused to tell her what was going on. “Look, I don’t want to go to the hospital for this, I want you to just tell me what’s wrong.”
Not even realizing she was doing it, Shane started to pace back and forth on the porch, rubbing the bridge of her nose as she took in every single word until her doctor finally got to the point. She froze, staring at their back garden without even seeing anything. It was far from the first time the possibility occurred to her, but never before had it seemed so frighteningly real to her. “Am I gonna die?”
Her thoughts were racing through her head, and she tried to will them away because she just wasn’t ready to deal with them yet. If the answer to her question was yes, how much time would she have left? When she started to wonder whether or not she’d get to see Shay grow up, or even get a chance to see him again, she rolled her hand into a fist and hit it hard into her thigh to make herself stop. That was all she dared to do because she had a nagging feeling that Jenny might be watching her through the kitchen window and she didn’t want to have to explain any of this to her when she got back inside.
She sat down on the swing when the voice on the other end began to speak again and buried her face in the palm of her hand when she heard what it had to say. “On Monday? In three days?” she asked after a while and realized it didn’t matter what day she had to go back to the hospital. It wasn’t like she had a job anymore or anything. “Okay. What time? -- Okay. Yeah, I’m okay. – Yeah. -- No, I don’t have any questions, not right now. I just—I just need to think about this for a while. Thank you.”
She ended the call and let out a deep sigh. More than anything right now, she wished she could just stay home tonight, lie in bed and try to process all of this, but she’d promised Jodi and the rest of her friends that she would go, so going she was. Maybe she’d even be able to think about something else if only for a moment, though she doubted it.
When she got back up, opened the door and walked back into the house, she’d already made the subconscious decision that this was something she had to keep to herself – at least for now. She had no idea how she was ever going to be able to break the bad news to any of her friends, least of all Jenny. History was repeating itself, and even if this time it was happening to her and not Dana, she knew it would bring back all the memories of what they all went through two years ago and she didn’t know how she could ever do that to them.
“What’s wrong?” Jenny’s voice reached her before she even made it into the kitchen and Shane just shook her head and tried to smile, albeit unsuccessfully.
“Someone got the wrong number,” she lied and instantly wanted to smack herself. Jenny wasn’t an idiot, anything she could possibly have said would have been better than that, but she just couldn’t seem to think straight right now.
“That was a pretty long call for being the wrong number,” Jenny said sceptically and reached out one of her small hands to grab one of Shane’s. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Shane nodded and swallowed, then wrapped her arms around her best friend and pulled her close, soon feeling Jenny’s arms slipping around her waist and one of her hands beginning to gently rub her back. She was grateful for the opportunity to bury her face in the nape of Jenny’s neck because she could already feel the tears coming and if she had to say another word about any of it, she knew she wouldn’t be able to stop them.
“Do you think I need to let Sounder go outside once more before we leave or will he be okay?” Jenny asked after a while and loosened her hold on her just a little so she could look at her.
Somewhat confused, Shane shrugged and glanced around the room to check where Jenny’s dog was, but she didn’t see him anywhere. “When was the last time you let him out?”
“Um… I took him for a walk, but that might have been an hour ago.”
“If that was before you started getting ready,” Shane said and looked at her friend with her brows furrowed and tried to smile a little, “I’m pretty sure it’s been more than an hour.” It was strange and surreal to be talking to her about whether or not the dog needed to pee when she’d just gotten off the phone with her doctor, but it was nice. Until Jenny playfully slapped her shoulder for making fun of her and Shane had to struggle not to let the pain that shot through her show on her face.
“You’re not ready to go.”
Startled, she looked away from Jenny and took a step back, seeing her girlfriend standing by the door to the hallway wearing a long blue dress and a thoughtful frown. “You’re not going—are you?”
“No, no, I’m going,” Shane assured her, “I just got distracted. Of course I’m going. I’ll be quick, I promise.” She gave Jenny’s hand a reassuring squeeze before letting go and walked up to Molly to place a quick kiss on her lips before hurrying off to her bedroom to get ready.
She closed the door behind her and walked over to her full-length mirror, sitting down slowly on the floor in front of it. What stared back at her wasn’t the face her friends were used to, the one they’d remain used to, but the one she knew she couldn’t let them see. Exhausted, pained and terrified. She could be dying, no one even knew for sure yet; it was too soon to tell. It wouldn’t take long; before she knew it, it wouldn’t even be the same reflection looking back at her. Did it even matter? If it was all going to end anyway?
Unable to stand seeing her face in the mirror, she turned away and her eyes caught a glimpse of a framed photograph of her and Jenny in her bookshelf, taken some time last year, no, the year before that, she realized. After Jenny had just come back from Skokie, before they even found out Dana was sick. Looking at it stung, more than she’d have expected it to. Of course it mattered. She just didn’t know what she could do about any of it; it was all out of her control now. ‘This isn’t even my body anymore.’
She shook her head and got up off the floor, groaning from pain as she did so – something she hardly ever allowed herself to do unless she was alone. How she’d been able to keep Molly from finding out about what was going on was beyond her. She was constantly making things up to keep the truth from her, and she’d even blamed her bike and complained to her girlfriend about her ass hurting during the Pink Ride, when the real reason she was in pain was the tumour in her side. And that was before she even knew that’s what it was. She hated having to lie and she was sick of doing it, but it didn’t seem like she had much of a choice.
Thankfully she’d already picked her outfit for the night so that wasn’t yet another decision she’d have to make. She started to get changed, grimacing to herself as she pulled her t-shirt over her head and she was relieved by the fact that she’d put this off long enough to get to have her bedroom to herself while she did it. It scared her how fast she was getting worse, but she couldn’t blame anyone but herself for not doing anything about it sooner. She’d just kept convincing herself the whole time that it wasn’t all that bad, and that whatever it was, it would get better with time. Asking for help had never been easy for her. It wasn’t even because she wanted to handle things on her own, she realized, but mainly because she was convinced she didn’t deserve it.
She wished so badly that she could just talk to someone about it. Even if she was used to keeping things – especially her problems – to herself, she wondered if maybe it wouldn’t feel so hopeless if she told Jenny about it. Tired of lying and of going through it all alone, she played with the thought of letting her know, but she knew she couldn’t do that. Once she got the surgery over with and found out exactly how bad it was, then maybe.
The tears she’d tried to hold back had begun to trickle slowly down her cheeks and without even wanting to go there, she caught herself trying to imagine how Jenny would take it when she found out, and realized she couldn’t. She just knew that whatever her reaction was, it wouldn’t be a good one and if she was putting her in that place, she should at least have all the facts first. Jenny deserved that much.
It was when she struggled with putting on her striped v-neck top that it suddenly occurred to her. Not once had she thought about telling Molly, or even wondered and worried about how she would handle it when she found out she was sick, and guilt washed over her in an instant. Every little thought had been about Jenny and she froze right when she was about to pull the garment over her head as she made the realization. Her mind was too clouded right now to try to figure out what that meant, all she knew was that it was comforting and frightening at the same time.
She put the rest of her clothes on and sneaked out of her room and into the bathroom to do something about her make-up before someone noticed she’d been crying. When she was ready to go she headed back to the living room and found Molly waiting there for her.
“Are you okay?” she asked when Shane walked up to her, and she gently wrapped her arms around her neck and looked into her eyes, her own green ones filled with concern. “You look a bit, I don’t know, distressed.”
She managed a small smile and nodded as she placed her hands on her girlfriend’s hips and pulled her closer. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I’m just tired, it’s no big deal.” ‘Here I go again with the lies,’ she thought bitterly and leaned in to kiss her, hoping it would be enough to distract them both from the current topic. It didn’t work on her, but at least it seemed to take Molly’s mind off of it. She didn’t try to ask her anything else until Jenny came back with Sounder, and then it was something as simple as “Are we ready to go now?”
“Yeah,” Jenny nodded, “I’m just gonna make sure he’s got everything. You guys can get in the car, I’ll be there in a sec.”
“Alright,” Shane replied and headed outside with her arm around Molly, but only got to the door before Jenny called her name, and something in her voice made her worry. “Huh?” she said and turned around, motioning for Molly to keep going and wait for her outside.
“What happened?” Jenny asked and bent down to take off Sounder’s leash, and before Shane had time to say something, she continued: “Was it about Shay?”
“No, I told you it was nothing.” Shane tried to keep her voice steady, but it was hard when her heart began beating faster and faster. She couldn’t do this. Not now. “Jenny, please, don’t worry about it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, Jenny, I’m sure,” Shane smiled, but every single word felt like a cut at she said it.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” Jenny walked up to her and gently stroke her hand down Shane’s back, smiling back at her. “I’ll stop asking.”
Later she would wish she hadn’t.
Chapter 4 - Away From Me by DarknessDescends
Jenny tries to understand what's happening and begins to make up her mind.
» Present day »* ~ * ~ *
“No!” There it was, the stomp into the ground that Max had been waiting for, complete with accompanying flailing of her arms. “She would have told me. I would know.” She buried her fingers in her thick mane of dark hair and just stood there, holding on to it and staring at him until she managed to calm herself down a little.
“She deliberately kept it from you, Jenny, I’m sorry,” he replied, not feeling like he could possibly apologize enough after lashing out at her the way he had. “I wanted to tell you for so long but I promised her I wouldn’t. But you needed to know. I think… I think you might be the only one who can help her now.”
“How?” she asked quietly while a single tear found its way down her cheek. She shrugged hopelessly and raised her hand to wipe it away. “What could I possibly do about that, especially now after everything?”
“We’ve all been trying,” he explained, wanting to put his arms around her to try to comfort her, but he sensed she probably wouldn’t let him. “I mean, Jodi, Tom and me, and it works in some ways. We can make sure she’s never alone if something happens and take her to the hospital and those kinds of things, but it doesn’t change anything. It’s like she doesn’t care anymore when she doesn’t have something to fight for.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” Jenny whispered. “It doesn’t make any sense, I think… I think I have to sit down.” With a little help from Max, she eased herself down on the ground, leaning her back against the wall and not caring if she got her clothes dirty. She kept trying to think, but her thoughts just came crashing into each other and confused her even more. Shane was sick and it was serious, and she hadn’t even told her. She’d have had to know before the thing with Niki and… Oh god. Maybe…
Her train of thought came to a screeching halt and she swallowed, trying to start all over again. Instead she got the feeling that there was something she should remember, something important that could explain all of this if only she knew what it was.
While she sat there racking her brain, Max sat down in front of her and tried to look into her eyes. “Jenny, are you okay?” he asked softly, knowing it was a stupid question but still one he needed to ask. First she shook her head, then nodded before she finally just shrugged as the tears started coming again. “She talks about you,” he began to explain, “every single day, but she doesn’t even know she’s doing it because she’s so out of it.” She looked at him with confusion written all over her face, and he explained. “The chemo does that to her. It makes her forget… Having to explain to her what happened and seeing her reaction over and over again, it’s not…”
“Did she—did she know before she…?”
Jenny couldn’t even finish her sentence, but it wasn’t that hard for Max to figure out that she was talking about Shane and Niki. “Yeah, she knew she was sick before then,” he told her.
“Why would she do that?” she asked, and never before had he heard her sounding so hopeless. “Why didn’t she tell me?”
“Listen, Jenny, the whole thing with Niki…” he started, certain there was no way his words would ever make sense to her, no matter how true they were. “Shane did that intentionally to push you away and make sure you didn’t try to find her when she left.” Jenny opened her mouth to say something, but he held up his hand, silently begging her to let him finish. “She thought that if she tried to tell you, you would have talked her into staying and she didn’t want you to.”
“She hurt you that night because she thought it would be easier for you to hate her for what she did, than to have to watch her die, because she was sure that was gonna happen.”
Jenny sat in silence for a while and stared out in front of her until she finally shook her head and turned back to Max. “That’s bullshit.”
“It wasn’t to her.”
“Does she even believe that herself?” She peered at him through her tears and pursed her lips sceptically. “Does she really expect me to believe that?”
Max shook his head and looked at his watch. “No. She never wanted you to find out about any of this. She’ll hate me when she finds out I told you, but I think it’s for the best. I know that after what she did, you’re probably not even gonna want to talk to her, but she needs you right now. The rest of us… I don’t know, she just keeps trying to push us away.”
“But if it’s like you’re saying, that’s exactly what she did to me.”
“That was different. She did that because she thought it would keep you safe somehow, but we just bug the crap out of her. She acts like she’s sick of having us around because the only person she wants with her isn’t there.”
“Where is she?”
Before Max had a chance to say anything, the door opened and Tina emerged, looking concerned from one to the other. “Hey…” she said softly, stepping outside but holding the door open with one hand. “Is everything all right? You just disappeared so I thought I’d check on you.”
“Yeah,” Max replied immediately, and Jenny nodded and sniffled a little.
“Yeah, we’re okay,” she said and tried to smile at her friend but she didn’t think it turned out quite right. “Could you just give us a sec? We just…”
“Of course,” Tina said quickly.
“…need a moment,” Jenny continued quietly and looked up at Max as Tina closed the door behind her again. “Max, where is she?” she repeated, begging him silently to answer her this time. “I need to see her.”
He reached out his hand to help her up off the ground and she gratefully accepted it and stood up on unsteady legs. “She’s probably still at the hospital,” he told her, “Jodi and Tom took her there this morning and it usually takes a few hours.”
“Can we go there?” she asked, looking hopefully at her roommate who just shook his head.
“No, we can’t just walk in there when she’s getting the chemo,” he said, but when he saw the devastated look on her face, he continued. “Anyone who’s gonna be in the room with her has to get tested before they go in there to make sure that they’re okay, because if someone has something as simple as a cold, it could kill her. But if she’s not too sick later tonight, I’ll take you over to Jodi’s, if you want.”
Quietly pondering, Jenny stood in front of him, playing absentmindedly with the hem of her jacket. So Shane was staying with Jodi. She probably had this whole time, and she hadn’t known anything about it. She’d known nothing at all about everything that was going on in Shane’s life and it made it all feel like none of it was really happening. Maybe now just wasn’t the time to try to get it all to make sense.
“She really has cancer?” she asked him finally, her voice barely more than a whisper, and he nodded, emotionally exhausted and unable to say anything else about it. Instead he just wrapped his arms around her and held her, and when she began shaking in quiet sobs, he could no longer hold his own back either.
A couple of hours later, Max and Jenny returned home. When they’d finally been able to stop crying and Jenny had gone to the ladies room to do something about her makeup, she had returned to their table and explained to their friends that they had to go but without mentioning anything about Shane or what happened.
Once that was taken care of, Max drove to the hospital, not to go and see Shane but to get Jenny tested to make sure that once she did, she wouldn’t risk giving her a cold or something even worse. Max got tested too, because even though he did it regularly, he figured it didn’t hurt to make sure he was okay for Shane’s sake.
“The chemo shuts down her immune system completely,” he’d explained to her again, “so if one of us is about to come down with something and we don’t even know it yet, she might catch it and it could get really bad.” He hadn’t meant to scare her, and even though she’d looked a bit freaked out by his words, she needed to know the risk was there, though the whole time Jenny had been very determined about seeing Shane and seemed prepared to do just about anything it took to do that.
Now that they were home, it was starting to seem like the bad news had really begun to sink in and she didn’t say much, just took Sounder’s leash and got him ready to go out for a walk.
“Are you gonna be okay?” Max asked her carefully, trying to meet her gaze but she kept her eyes on her Pomeranian who seemed more than happy to have her home again and jumped around her feet while he waited for her to open the door.
Jenny nodded slowly when she placed her hand on the door handle. “Yeah, I just—I just need to think,” she said and nodded again, pursing her lips before she finally looked at him. Her eyes were still a bit red from all the crying and he could relate; he’d had his fair share of that the last month.
“Okay. I’ll be out in the studio if you need me or anything. I’m really sorry about all this.”
“Don’t be,” she said quietly. “It’s not your fault. I’m glad you finally told me.” She didn’t wait for a response, but just opened the door and took off with her dog. Jenny needed to be alone for a while, and she needed to do something. It felt like someone had pressed pause on her life and the only thing that could get it started again was getting to see Shane, finding out what was really going on with her, and getting some answers. She didn’t even know what she expected, or if Shane would even agree to talk to her. Something must have happened in the first place that had made her push her away like she did. It had to.
She’d always thought Shane knew her better than anyone and it cut her deeper than her razorblade ever could have, knowing that her best friend had chosen not to have her around anymore at the one time when she could possibly have been able to do something to help her in return for all she’d done for her in the past. The Shane she knew could never have done something like that.
The last month Jenny had done everything she possibly could to make herself hate her but without the least bit of success. It made it a little easier to pretend and try to convince the rest of the world she never wanted to see, speak of, or even think of Shane McCutcheon again. But the truth was that not a minute had passed since then when she hadn’t thought about her and missed her. She’d cried herself to sleep countless nights, trying to understand what went wrong but there was no one there to give her the answers she needed.
Now after Max fell apart and let it out, she finally knew and had a chance to at least try to put the pieces together. The reason why Shane was gone was worse than she’d ever imagined, but now that he’d told her, she might be able to help somehow.
When her dog had done what he needed to, she went back inside and took out the vacuum; she needed something to do and she was too distraught to write so cleaning seemed like a suitable way to pass the time until they could go over to Jodi’s. She started going through the rooms, followed by Sounder who loved the vacuum and seemed to think it was a friend of his and treated it as such, until she got to Shane’s room and froze by the closed door.
Turning off the vacuum, she took a deep breath before she put her hand on the doorknob – she’d barely gone into Shane’s room unless she had to since she disappeared because she just didn’t feel like she had any right to. She kept it clean, that was all, but even then it was hard for her to see the room without her, and most of her things, in it.
The night of the wrap party, after Jenny had caught Shane with Niki, it had taken hours before she finally managed to go back home. She hadn’t known what Shane planned on doing, but she’d been certain she couldn’t face her and she’d wanted to avoid the house for as long as possible. Once she did get back, she’d found the door to Shane’s room wide open and the room itself nearly empty, void of all the things Shane used on a daily basis.
As she opened the door, she closed her eyes without thinking about it, bracing herself before facing the emptiness behind it. ‘She doesn’t live here anymore,’ she thought as if she still couldn’t believe it and stepped into the room with Sounder in tow. Was she ever going to stay there again? Jenny had tried to keep the room clean for her if she would suddenly decide to come back, and there was hardly any dust or dirt there at all. She wanted it to remain as spotless as it would have been if Shane had still lived here and it seemed more important now than ever.
Bending down to turn the vacuum on again, she did her best to clear her mind of all thoughts and focus on the task at hand so she could get out of there as soon as possible. She clenched her jaws together as she made her way through the room and then told Sounder to come down from Shane’s bed where he’d laid down to sleep, and follow her out. He reluctantly did as he was told, barking when he walked through the door.
“You miss her too,” Jenny whispered, fighting back the tears that had threatened to fall for quite some time now. Sounder had always loved Shane and it must be weird for him too to not have her around anymore.
As if in a daze, she walked into the kitchen just as Max entered through the backdoor.
“You’re cleaning?” he asked, arching an eyebrow when he saw her lethargically pulling the vacuum after her over to the table to sit down. Jenny wasn’t exactly known for an interest in housekeeping and it wasn’t what he’d expected to see when he walked in.
Sighing wearily with a slow nod, she leaned back in her chair and faced him. “Yeah, I just… I just started doing it, but I guess maybe – maybe it’s because I want it to be clean enough if she wants to come back. Come home.” Her own words embarrassed her and she couldn’t bear looking at him, couldn’t let him see that she still hoped things could be what they used to be. She was so used to pretending she never wanted to see Shane again, and it was hard for her to suddenly start showing how she really felt about everything that had happened. She didn’t want anyone to see her as a victim, even though she knew that was the last thing Shane would have wanted to make her out to be.
“It wouldn’t be easy,” Max said softly and took her hand that rested limply on the tablecloth. He knew from his own experience that even if Shane, when she was healthy, had been one of the sweetest and most gentle people he’d ever known, being near her and trying to take care of her when she was sick could be a real challenge for everyone involved. He knew she didn’t mean to be like that and he still had strong conviction that it would be different for Jenny. Shane would want her around, deep down at least, he was sure of that. “But if you think you could do it,” he continued after clearing his throat, “and if that’s what she wants, then I’ll do whatever you need me to do. And I’m sure Tom and Jodi would still help out.”
“Thank you, Max,” she said and managed a small smile.
“But yeah…” He bit down on his bottom lip because he knew what he was about to start was a conversation they would need to have sooner or later that day. Even if he doubted it would be a problem, he’d still known Jenny for a few years and it was better to be safe than sorry. “Look, Jenny, before we go over there, you have to promise something.”
She shifted around in her seat until she sat up straight, waiting somewhat nervously for what was about to come. ”What?”
“You can’t yell at her or cause some kind of scene,” he started, trying to make his voice as soft as possible in attempt to not sound like he was accusing her of anything because that wasn’t how he meant it. But he still had all the things Jenny had said about their former roommate fresh in his memory. “Or tell her all the things you’ve been saying to everyone else since she left,” he added. “She’s not strong enough to handle that right now, so if that’s a part of why you’re so anxious to see her, then…”
“Max,” she interrupted him and shook her head slowly. “It’s not. That’s not… She’s my friend.”
“I know that.”
“No, no, I know,” she said quietly. “I don’t mean it like that. I mean…” She paused when she realized she wasn’t even sure of what she meant. “When I found her with Niki she kept saying that, and maybe she really meant it. You know? Maybe she actually thought what she did was the right thing to do.”
Max tried to hold back a short dry laugh but it still escaped his lips. He couldn’t help it; with all that he’d said already he thought it should be obvious. “Jenny, she wouldn’t have done it for any other reason. She wanted to do what was best, best for everyone. It made sense to her at the time.”
Jenny didn’t say anything for a while; instead she sat in silence, wondering if the last thing Max had said meant that Shane regretted it now and whether or not she knew she’d made the wrong decision when she left her. Only Shane could answer that question. “I need to see her,” she said after a moment, “even if it’s just for a short while. If she wants me to go, I’ll leave.” It wasn’t a question for permission, Max had already promised they would go; it was more of a case of Jenny Schecter thinking out loud.
“I don’t think she will. But you know she had chemo today and she won’t have a lot of energy. She usually doesn’t.”
“It’s just… so strange,” she whispered and looked into his eyes. “You’ve known this whole time and you didn’t say anything to anyone of us.”
He looked down at his hands that lay folded in his lap and when he replied his voice was even more quiet than usual. “I’m sorry about that but… She asked me not to say anything and I promised her I wouldn’t. I still wouldn’t have if I hadn’t thought there was no other way.”
“But why would she do that?” she sounded so hurt and vulnerable that it immediately made him feel a million times worse. “What was so wrong about me knowing that—that she had to lie and hurt me the way she did? I want to understand but I can’t.”
“I think you should talk to her about that.”
“Why?” Jenny prodded. “You don’t know anything about it?”
“No, I do know,” he started, not knowing how to phrase it properly, “but I think the whole story is something you need to hear from her. Not tonight, but if you guys can talk like civilized people, she’ll tell you eventually. She’ll explain everything, just give her some time.”
“Okay,” she nodded and Max got up and grabbed a water bottle from the fridge.
“I’m gonna go and call Tom and see how things are going, and I’ll let them know I told you,” he said. “If you need me for anything, you know where I am. Oh, and Jenny?”
“There’s one more thing. When we go and see her, it’ll be right after she comes home from the hospital and the chemo tends to make her act a bit… I don’t know, different sometimes. If she says something weird, don’t take it personal and start fighting with her no matter how bad it might sound, she might not even know she’s saying it, or that it’s you she’s talking to.”
“Okay,” Jenny repeated and said bye to Max, waiting until he was gone before she allowed herself to freak out about what she’d just learned. It was probably not the best thing to do, but she’d kept catching herself comparing Dana and Shane, and it scared her that from the few things she knew about Shane’s situation, it seemed more serious than Dana’s had been – and Dana wasn’t with them anymore.
Max hadn’t wanted to say too much about her condition, he’d just assured her that everyone involved was doing all they could to make her better, and he’d said she should try to not worry too much about it if she could avoid it. The most important thing for her to do, was to just be there for her and she’d learn the rest along the way. She thought she was beginning to fully understand that now. All the anger and hurt she’d felt the last month was going to have to take a backseat right now, because compared to Shane’s health her own hurt feelings didn’t matter anymore. As long as Shane was still breathing, she could deal with the rest later.
Chapter 5 - Anywhere But Home by DarknessDescends
Flashback. Shane opens up to a friend.
Indicates sign language.
» One month earlier… »
20 years had passed since her mom had left her. It felt like so much more than that. Since then she’d stayed with several different families, some she’d gotten along with more, some less. She’d lived out on the street and in cars, but never before had she felt as lonely as she did now. It hurt so much more than she’d ever have imagined it would, to know what it’s like to be loved by someone, or to at least think you were, and then have it all pulled away from underneath your feet, than to never have it in the first place. Then again, things were a bit different now.
She parked her car outside of Jodi’s place and grabbed the borrowed book she’d placed in the passenger seat to return it to her friend, hoping she wouldn’t be home so she’d have an excuse to just leave it by her door. No such luck though. She didn’t even get a chance to rethink the explanation she’d give her if she’d have to talk to her, because Jodi must have seen her and was waiting outside her car as she left it.
“Oh, shit!” Shane exclaimed when she noticed her and put the book under her arm so she could sign as she continued. “You startled me.”
“I’m sorry,” Jodi apologized and smiled a little. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just got home. Are you okay?”
Ignoring her question, Shane took out the book and handed it to her, waiting for her to take it before she explained. “I just wanted to return that to you. Thanks for letting me read it.”
Any other day Jodi would have asked her if she’d enjoyed it, but the heartbroken look on Shane’s face along with the smeared makeup and redness in her eyes that was barely visible in the darkness made her decide otherwise. Something had obviously happened, and it seemed bad. Even the fact that Shane had showed up at her home late on a Saturday night just to return a book was a clear indication that something was wrong, and she looked past her friend, through the window of her car and saw everything that was packed inside it.
“Shane,” she said softly and tried to meet her gaze. It was hard, as Shane struggled hard to avoid letting her; she seemed to find something about her boots extremely fascinating at the time. “What happened?”
“I’m leaving,” Shane said with her head still down, and after a moment she realized Jodi wouldn’t have heard, or even seen what she’d just said, so she tilted her head up and repeated it, signing it this time. I’m leaving town. I have to get out of here.
Having no idea what brought on this sudden decision, Jodi shook her head. You don’t look too good. I think you should stay here tonight, and if you really want to go, you can do that tomorrow.
”Jodi, I can’t,” Shane sniffled, taking a few short breaths. I didn’t think I’d see you, I was just going to… Please don’t make this harder for me than it already is, I have to go. She began to shake and soon felt her friend’s arms around her. Feeling Jodi’s hands gently stroking her back, she found herself calming down a little in her embrace.
“You don’t have to go anywhere,” Jodi said softly into her ear. “At least not tonight. Please just come inside with me.” Shane didn’t say anything but Jodi could feel her nodding slightly into her shoulder and she took a step back, smiling encouragingly at her. Shane didn’t return the smile, but it looked like she was at least trying to.
Together they walked inside in silence and Jodi kept a watchful eye on her, wondering what could possibly have gotten her into this state and hoping she’d somehow be able to get her to open up, if only a little. More than ever, Shane looked like she needed someone.
“You look like you could use a drink,” Jodi said softly after she closed the door behind them and Shane had wandered thoughtfully over to the couch, letting her fingers play along the back of it.
“No, thank you,” she mumbled, and once again she had to repeat it in sign for Jodi. Her thoughts were all jumbled and she berated herself for constantly forgetting that her friend couldn’t hear her. I… don’t really drink anymore.
Jodi frowned at her and tilted her head to the side, a confused half smile forming on her lips as she signed her response. Since when? Shane wasn’t exactly known for being a teetotaller unless she’d decided to be overnight, like the time she sworn off sex, but this seemed like something completely different. “I’ve seen you drinking—“ she said thoughtfully but didn’t get to finish her sentence.
“Yeah, I know,” Shane said quietly. I’ve been faking it. It seemed like it would be easier that way, not having to answer a bunch of questions every time I had to say no. Since the pain had gotten worse and she’d realized she had to stop, it hadn’t been that hard to hide; if she was getting a drink, she’d order one without any alcohol in it, if she had a beer she could just spit it back into the bottle. The night when she and Jenny got high after Jenny got fired from her own movie, she’d been so out of it that she hadn’t even felt any pain from the few sips of wine that she’d had.
She put her hands down and took a deep breath before she said it, knowing the questions would come this time and there’d be no turning back. I can’t drink alcohol anymore.
Jodi froze and looked terrified at her. Shane seemed serious enough to make it clear that this wasn’t just some whim. “Something’s wrong with your liver.” There could probably be other explanations, but from the way Shane looked at her now, she knew it was the right one.
“Yeah, there is, I don’t know how to say this…” she said, pulling her fingers through her hair. I have… She stopped when she realized she didn’t know how to sign the word she needed, and began to spell it out instead with her heart beating faster and faster for each letter, terrified, yet relieved that she didn’t have to say the word out loud.
C… a… n… c… e… r.
There, she’d said it, and it felt so final, like the death sentence she knew it could be. It was the first time she’d been able to tell someone since she found out and she could feel the tears coming back, unable to stop them. “That’s… that’s why I have to leave,” she said, biting her lip and trying to wipe them away.
“What?” Jodi was there next to her in an instant, and her voice was a lot softer than Shane had expected it to be. When she finally dared to look back up at her, she saw Jodi’s bottom lip trembling before she continued. “When did you find out?”
“Yesterday,” she said quietly, rubbing her nose before attempting to wipe away the tears that slowly trickled down her cheeks. “Uh… Before we went to your…”
“Shane…” She was starting to put the pieces together now. When they’d seen each other briefly the day before she had noticed something wasn’t quite right with her friend, but it hadn’t been the time and place for a deep conversation and she’d decided to leave it alone for the time being. Full of regret even though there was no way she could have known what was going on, she pushed that thought aside so she could at least focus now on what Shane was telling her.
Shane struggled with her signing, realizing she was too distracted to be able to get it right and instead she did her best to speak as clearly as possible. “If they think I’m strong enough to handle it, the surgery’s next week,” she told Jodi and flinched slightly when she felt her hand on her shoulder, regretting it immediately even though she couldn’t help it. “And then they’re going to start with the chemo as soon as possible after that.” She still hadn’t had nearly enough time to get used to and accept what was happening to her and she spoke of her illness as if she was talking about someone else, someone she barely even knew. When she’d calmed down a little after the initial shock of finally sharing her secret with someone, she was quickly starting to shut down and disconnect, reminding herself silently that it was her problem, and hers alone.
“Jodi, I haven’t told anyone else,” she said, relieved that her friend couldn’t hear her voice quivering.
Jodi took a step back and stared at her, her eyes wide open in confusion and Shane let out a weary sigh. “Please,” she pleaded, somehow doubting it would do any good. “Please don’t say anything to anyone. Not Bette, not Max, none of them. I’m begging you.”
“But why?” Jodi wasn’t the type to tell her friends’ secrets, and with everything that had gone down when she found out Bette had been cheating on her, she didn’t plan on speaking to anyone in that group of friends unless she had to. Shane’s secret would be safe with her, but she still found it strange that Shane didn’t feel like she could talk to them about something like this. Maybe once the bad news had sunk in it would be easier for her to do it herself.
“I don’t want them to know,” Shane went on. “Please, I don’t want to make them go through this again, not after what happened to Dana. I don’t wanna remind them of that.” She felt that all too familiar stinging feeling go through her body when she mentioned Dana’s name. In the hours since she found out what was wrong with her, the memory of what had happened to one of her closest friends just wouldn’t leave her alone and it had made her more and more certain of the impact the news of her condition would have on her friends.
Shortly after she arrived at the Hammer the night before, she’d ended up getting into a heated discussion with Phyllis and she’d found out about a few things she wished she hadn’t. But learning how Bette and Alice really saw her – as someone who couldn’t be faithful to anyone to save her life, someone who’d only end up making Molly unhappy - hadn’t made her change her mind, but only convinced her that the decision she’d made was the right one. She couldn’t stay in their lives anymore, she’d caused the people around her too much pain already. She couldn’t stick around only to remind them of the painful loss they’d all suffered when Dana passed away. She had no right.
“Jenny doesn’t know?”
The sound of Jodi’s voice caused her to flinch again and snap out of her reverie, the gloomy thoughts seemed to evaporate only to be replaced by new ones that hurt even more. No, and she’s not going to, she signed, shaking her head. I did something, something bad.
They sat down on the couch and Shane began to explain what had happened with her, Niki and Jenny only hours before and she told her how she’d broken up with Molly, leaving out the details of her conversation with Phyllis, at least for now. Jodi stared at her in a state of shock at first as she listened to the story. She let her take her time and didn’t push even when Shane’s voice trailed off and she sat in silence for a while, something that happened more than once.
She’s not going to want to talk to me again after that, and that’s the way it has to be, Shane signed and paused to rake her hands through her hair, pulling it in the back of her neck and squeezing her eyes shut. “I don’t want her to have to deal with this, and she wouldn’t let me do it alone.” Of course she wouldn’t. Jenny would have done everything in her power to get her better, she’d have fought to the end and it would have destroyed her and she couldn’t let that happen to her. She kept telling herself she’d done the right thing, but she still missed her best friend like someone had stabbed a knife into her chest, cut her heart out and left a big gaping hole in its place. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. She couldn’t even see a point in trying to fight for a life without Jenny in it but that was her problem, not Jenny’s.
“She would be right. You shouldn’t go through this alone.” Jodi spoke softly and placed one of her hands on her friend’s back, rubbing it gently. What Shane had told her was finally starting to sink in and while she was still shocked and scared for her, she did all she could to put her own feelings aside so she could just be there for her. She didn’t want her to think of her as yet another person she’d have to hide from and lie to. “You can’t. Shane, you’re going to need people around you. Where were you gonna go?”
“I don’t know!” Shane said, exasperated, and looked at Jodi with tear-filled eyes. Away from everything. Anywhere but home.
Jodi offered a pale smile, but behind it she could feel her heart sinking. She’d never seen Shane so hopeless before and she obviously wasn’t thinking clearly. ‘You always think with your heart instead of your head,’ she thought, her own eyes tearing up again as she gently brushed a drop off of Shane’s cheek with her finger. “I think you should stay here. I’ll do everything I can to help you if you just let me.”
Shane shook her head, looking at Jodi like a deer in headlights. I can’t make you do that. Horrified when she realized how much she’d told her even though she’d been set on keeping everything to herself, she felt guilt come washing over her for all the problems she’d loaded onto her friend. That wasn’t why she’d come to see her and it was obviously time for her to go before she made it worse. She made a move to get up from the couch but Jodi placed her hand on her thigh, a gesture that caused her to exhale slowly and sink back down onto it.
You’re not making me do anything, Jodi signed, looking stubbornly at her and she was about to continue when Shane started shaking her head.
Jodi, when I said I didn’t want my friends to see me like that, that includes you. I never meant to tell you about any of this.
But you did tell me, Jodi pointed out, hoping she’d somehow be able to convince her to stay. And that means some part of you wanted to, or at least understood that you needed to. She slowly moved closer to her, looking at her intently until Shane finally met her gaze and then continued out loud. “You can’t do this all by yourself, and I’m not gonna let you. We’ll figure this out somehow. Come here, we’ll figure this out.”
Jodi held out her arms and Shane allowed herself to relax into her friend’s embrace again. She finally fell apart and her violent sobs caused her whole body to shake. Jodi whispered soothing words into her ear and continued to stroke her back, allowing her to let out all that she’d been keeping inside and for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, Shane didn’t feel alone.
Chapter 6 - You're Not Real by DarknessDescends
Jenny gets her wish.
» Present day »
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Max asked Jenny later that night when they stood outside of Jodi’s door, about to go inside. The question seemed redundant since they’d gone over it and discussed the situation all day, but he still wasn’t completely sure that Jenny knew what she was getting herself into. She wanted to talk to Shane now that she knew where she was staying, and she seemed devastated knowing what was wrong, but it didn’t seem to have sunk in for her exactly how sick Shane really was and he was worried that she would fall apart completely when she finally saw her.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Jenny replied quietly and tried to muster up a smile but it came out more like a grimace. She didn’t feel well at all, but she knew it wasn’t physical, as her test results had come back fine, but psychological. She’d been so nervous that she hadn’t been able to finish her dinner, something she regretted now because she had a feeling she was going to need all the strength she could get. “How do you think she’s gonna react?” she added and played nervously with her cell phone before putting it back in the pocket of her jacket. She couldn’t remember why she’d taken it out in the first place.
“I don’t know if she’ll even be awake,” he said and decided it was best to keep being honest with her. “But if she is, she might not be happy to see us, at least not me. I promised her I wouldn’t tell you and I did anyway. I doubt she’s gonna trust me again after this.” It didn’t matter though if she stopped trusting him, or even started to hate him for what he’d done. He was becoming more and more certain that he’d made the right decision when he let Jenny in on their secret. Shane had been indifferent to all of them; wasting away right before their eyes and there seemed to be nothing they could do about it. With Jenny around, he hoped things would finally change. He didn’t have anything else up his sleeve that could possibly turn things around so it had to be enough.
“Okay,” she said with a slow nod and looked up at him, more confident now. “Okay.” Max’s words hadn’t exactly been encouraging, but she was set on making the best she could of the situation, and she braced herself for the worst when he nodded back at her and opened the door. The place was dark and eerily quiet, but she soon noticed there were a few lights on here and there.
As soon as they were inside, Max reached his hand towards the shelf left of the door and grabbed two surgical masks, handing one to Jenny before putting one over his own face. She just looked at him, eyes wide, not seeming to know what she was expected to do with it.
“We have to wear them when we’re around her,” he explained in a hushed voice and was about to help her put it on when she finally snapped out of it and did it herself. “It’s like I told you,” he continued, “the chemo completely breaks down her immune system, but the risk is smaller that she’ll catch something if we have these on.”
“But we got tested,” Jenny whispered, and the warmth of her own breath under the mask distracted her even more.
“Yeah,” he replied and saw Jodi moving behind the screens behind Jenny’s back and nodded at her.
“We didn’t have to do this when Dana was sick.”
“I know.” Max’s face fell and he took a deep breath. “We should have,” he said and it was all he needed to say.
It became painfully obvious to Jenny that he meant that maybe if they’d been more careful with Dana, she might have still been alive. Nothing she knew from the time Dana had cancer seemed to fit Shane’s situation anymore; Dana had been hanging out with them and going to parties while Shane was stuck in bed, and she started thinking that maybe the latter was the more appropriate way to go about it.
“And Shane’s chemo is a bit more extreme than hers was, it’s just better to be safe than sorry,” he said, and next thing Jenny knew, Jodi was there with them, wearing a mask too and looking more worn out than she’d ever seen her before.
“Hey,” Jodi said, smiled with her eyes and embraced her, giving her a warm hug that Jenny found herself immediately leaning into. They stood like that for a while, Jodi gently stroking Jenny’s back as tears began to trickle slowly down her cheeks, until Tom emerged from the bathroom. Jenny wasn’t surprised to see him there; she figured she needed him more than ever now, if everyone always had to wear masks for Shane’s sake.
“She’s asleep,” Jodi said after she let her go and nodded toward the screens on the right side of the room that were almost completely covered by a few white sheets, and Jenny assumed it must be to give Shane some privacy since Jodi’s home for the most part consisted of one big room. “I’m glad you came,” she went on, and from the look in her eyes she seemed to mean it.
“Can I see her?” Jenny asked, seeing Tom’s hands moving in the periphery.
“Yeah, but she’s not feeling well.”
Jodi motioned for her to come with her behind the screens across the room from where they stood and Jenny saw that while Tom followed them, Max stayed behind. Jenny had never visited Jodi before, but when she saw the big bed she led her to, she realized the deaf woman must have given up her own bed to let Shane have it and it warmed her heart that she would do that for her. Seconds later she felt a cold rush going through her instead when she finally saw her.
Shane was barely visible where she lay in the darkness under a number of blankets and duvets, with the hood of what Jenny assumed was a black sweatshirt covering most of her head and face. As Jenny slowly moved closer she saw that she was breathing slowly, curled up close to the side of the bed next to where an empty green bucket stood on the floor.
“Oh my god,” Jenny whispered and covered her mouth over her mask, staring at her sleeping former roommate.
“She gets really cold,” Jodi answered the unspoken question so quietly Jenny could barely hear her, and she then pointed at a chair that stood by the bed. “You can sit with her if you want, as long as you let her sleep for as long as she needs to.”
Jenny nodded and went to sit down where Jodi had told her to, taking her jacket off and hanging it over the back of the chair after moving it a little so she had her back against the others and faced Shane. When she turned around again she noticed that they had left her there and turned her attention back to her old friend. Max had told her it was bad, but she hadn’t imagined this. From where she sat now, even in the darkness she could see the pale yellowish shade of her skin and how her face was visibly thinner. Somehow she looked older and younger at the same time. So vulnerable, nothing like the Shane she used to know. ‘How could this happen?’ she asked herself silently, wishing someone would wake her up from the nightmare she found herself trapped in. She’d barely finished the thought before a movement in front of her startled her out of her reverie.
Shane struggled to roll over on her back, and judging from the pained expression on her face it was more than painful for her to do so. When she appeared to have made herself somewhat comfortable, she opened her eyes a little and peered at her for a long while without saying anything, and Jenny felt like her heart stopped beating and she found she was scared to breathe.
“You’re not real, are you?” Shane said finally, her voice a quiet whisper. She didn’t know if the person sitting in front of her was really Jenny or if she was imagining things again, but in the darkness it at least looked like her. It could be Jodi again, but it was hard to tell when everyone wore masks around her most of the time. They usually didn’t listen when she asked them to take them off.
At first Jenny wasn’t sure if she was really talking to her, but she looked right at her, her eyes pleading. For what, she didn’t know. “Shane, I’m real,” she said softly once she managed to compose herself. “I’m here.”
This seemed to console her somehow, and she closed her eyes and lay quiet for a while that felt like an eternity to Jenny before she spoke again. “They weren’t supposed to tell you. I begged them not to.”
“I know,” Jenny heard herself say, and as if her brain was on autopilot, she went on, “but I’m glad they did.”
Shane still wasn’t entirely sure that any of what was going on was really happening. The last month she’d learned to not always trust the things she saw or heard because she knew the chemo did things to her that she couldn’t control, but when it happened she never knew that was what was going on and it confused her to no end.
At the beginning when she’d left the house she’d shared with Jenny and moved in with Jodi, she’d wished Jenny would just come walking through the door and she’d realize it had all just been a bad dream and that none of it was real; not the cancer, her lies and betrayal, or her leaving. Since then, the wishes had changed, and though her need for Jenny to remain unknowing of her illness was a constant, her dreams were variables where Jenny always had a way of coming back into her life, and she stayed, in spite of all that had happened. She racked her brain, trying to figure out if this was just another one of those dreams, but it was too hard for her to tell.
There were so many things that Jenny had wanted to say to her, but now that she was finally with her, she couldn’t think of a single one. Instead she just leaned forward and took Shane’s hand, feeling a chill running through her as the cold skin touched her own, and tears began to well up in her eyes again when she felt Shane squeezing hers gently without opening her eyes. “How are you feeling?” she finally managed to ask.
“Not so good.”
Jenny’s heart sank even if the answer was expected. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this is… happening to you.”
“It’s not your fault.” Shane slowly opened her eyes again and struggled to focus on her but the pain she felt through her entire body made everything look cloudy to her. “I’m the one who should be sorry and I am. What I did to you, Jenny, I swear…”
“It’s okay, we don’t have to talk about this now,” she said, her voice soft as she gently stroked her thumb over the top of Shane’s hand. It seemed to soothe her a little, and for a while she seemed to calm down again until she suddenly let go of her hand and grimaced as she pushed herself up so quickly that the hood fell off her head. She rolled over on her stomach and bent over the edge of the bed, reaching for the bucket by its side. Jenny reacted instantly and placed one hand on her forehead and slipped the fingers of the other one around Shane’s hair to keep it out of the way. She stared in shock when she felt the weight of Shane’s head in her hand and some of the hair fell back over her face again, but a lot of it stayed in her, what she thought had been, loose grip.
Loose strands, even tresses of Shane’s hair danced and fell down onto the floor as she hurled, and Jenny could hear someone sobbing, not immediately realizing she was the one doing it. Without stopping to think for a moment, she helped her up and reached for the glass of water on the bedside table, holding it for her so she could rinse her mouth and drink a few small sips of the clear liquid. Shane gave her a grateful nod before she sank back down onto her pillow, but none of it registered with Jenny.
She couldn’t understand why, but even after the day she’d had and all that Max had told her, it wasn’t until now, after seeing Shane with her own eyes, that she truly understood the seriousness of the situation. She’d been so convinced that she knew what was going on, but now it was painfully obvious that she hadn’t had the slightest idea. As the truth started to sink in, Jenny lowered herself down on the floor when she started seeing the familiar black spots in front of her eyes, and she reached it only seconds before the darkness took over.
Chapter 7 - You Still Have All of Me by DarknessDescends
“Jenny? Are you okay?”
Jenny slowly opened her eyes, realizing she was lying on the couch in Jodi’s apartment and that Max sat on the floor next to her, looking at her with concern in his eyes. He was still wearing his mask, but she soon realized she didn’t have hers on anymore and she raised her hand to her face to check where it had gone. When she couldn’t find it, she looked confused at him, feeling panic starting to overcome her.
“Here,” he said quietly and handed the mask over to her. “I took it off when you passed out.”
Taking it and quickly putting it back on, she shook her head a little and blinked a few times. “I passed out?” she asked and glanced around Jodi’s apartment, trying to figure out what had happened. In the darkness she could vaguely make out Jodi’s silhouette sitting in Shane’s bed and holding the other woman up while she drank something out of a glass. “I haven’t done that in years,” she added absentmindedly, remembering what had happened to Shane before she fainted, what she’d seen. “I used to do it all the time.”
“How are you feeling now?” Max offered her a glass about half full of something that looked like orange juice and she took it, casting a suspicious glance at the cold liquid, unable to smell it because of the mask. “It’s okay,” he said when he saw the questioning look she gave him a second later. “You can take your mask off for a while and drink that. You probably need it.”
Jenny reluctantly took it off on one side and drank it all up before looking nervously in Shane’s direction again. As far as she could see, Jodi had left her alone again and in spite of what had happened, she longed to go back there, if only just to make sure she was okay. She thought Max must have noticed, because before she had a chance to act on it, he nudged gently at her arm and gave her another worried look.
“You…uh…” He shifted uncomfortably and followed her gaze over at their former roommate who was back down in bed with her head on her pillow again. “You think we should head home?”
Shaking her head, she stood up and put the glass down on the table before resolutely putting the mask back in place. “No. I’m gonna talk to her.”
“Are you sure that’s such a good idea?”
She didn’t answer him. Instead she just turned on the spot and walked on somewhat unsteady legs over to Shane’s bed, finding she was still awake and looking up at her as she came closer to her and sat down on the chair again.
“Are you okay?” Shane asked quietly and the look she gave her was heavy with guilt, as if it had somehow been her fault that Jenny had fainted, and it hurt her to see that yet again she was trying to take the blame for something. Jenny wasn’t going to let this turn into yet another way or reason for her to try to push her away.
“I’m okay,” she nodded and folded her hands in her lap to stop them from fidgeting. “Shane, I know that you’re supposed to be resting, and I know that we… We haven’t talked about anything yet, but I want you to know that you’re welcome to come home, I mean, if—if that’s what you want. But I…” She could feel herself starting to tear up again but held back a sob when she felt Shane’s hand on her own.
want me to come home?” Shane asked simply and let out a deep sigh, blinking as if she was struggling to stay awake, but her hand remained on Jenny’s.
“Of course I want you to come home.” Jenny’s heart sank further and she could feel herself going with it, slouching deeper into the chair. “I never wanted you to leave. Of course I want you to come back.”
Shane shook her head, but the movement was so slight it was barely visible to Jenny, and she wet her lips with the tip of her tongue before she spoke. “It’s not gonna be easy,” she said quietly. “It isn’t for Jodi now and I don’t…”
“I know it’s not gonna be easy,” she interrupted her and sat back up straight, slipping her fingers around Shane’s hand and holding it as tightly as she dared to. “But we’ll figure it out. I’ll do whatever I have to do; I’ll learn how to help you and do what you need me to do. Just please come home.”
Shane who had seemed uneasy about Jenny’s suggestion now appeared to relax a little, and after a moment’s silence she finally nodded in agreement. “Okay. I’ll come home.”
At the last word a smile spread on Jenny’s lips and she couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt such relief. Shane was coming back to what she still considered her home – with her.* ~ * ~ *
It was too late at night and too soon after Shane’s chemo for her to go home with Jenny and Max when they left Jodi’s, and it was decided that if she felt better the next morning they could come over and pick her up.
Jenny reluctantly left her there and spent the night tossing and turning, unable to will her worries away. She kept seeing images of Shane in her fragile state flashing before her eyes but she refused to, even for a moment, as much as consider taking back what she’d said about taking care of her in their
home. It wasn’t going to be pretty, she knew that, but at least they were going to be in it together, the way they were supposed to be.
She soon gave up on trying to sleep and spent a few hours walking through the house, making an extra effort to see that she’d cleaned it enough and that everything was in its place. The last door she entered led her into Shane’s room, but it still looked as neat as she’d left it the day before and she didn’t stay long. After she’d fixed the pillows on the bed she hurried out of the room when she felt the tears coming back, not sure what had brought them on this time. She had more than enough reasons to cry and didn’t bother to try to hold them back. Instead she just hurried back to her room and crawled into bed, falling into a restless sleep with the tears still running down her cheeks.
A couple of hours later Max woke her up when he realized she hadn’t heard her alarm and knocked on the door until her head was clear enough for her to manage to turn it off. Feeling like a complete and total mess, she got up and got ready, and after looking into the mirror and seeing how her face was swollen from all the crying, she wondered silently how she was ever going to manage the enormous task she’d taken upon herself. If it was this much of a struggle to even wake up in the morning, or fall asleep at night for that matter, how was she ever going to be able to care for someone as sick as Shane was?
The rest of the morning Max did his best to distract her from the dark thoughts she obviously had until they could finally head back to Jodi’s to pick Shane up. Much to Jenny’s surprise, Shane was already up, dressed and ready to go, even if she looked just as exhausted as she had the night before. Before she had a chance to say much to her, Jodi pulled her aside to talk to her, and when Tom followed she saw Max in the corner of her eye, walking with his arm around Shane and helping her sit down by the table, getting her something to drink.
“Jodi says, there are a few things you need to know since you’re going to take her with you,” Tom interpreted when she’d begun to sign to Jenny.
“Okay,” Jenny nodded, finding it hard to take her eyes off of Shane across the room even though she definitely wanted to learn as much as she could.
“You’re going to need to speak to her doctor about this, I’ll go with you if you want. If you have time today, maybe Max can stay with her and we can try to get an appointment at the hospital.”
“Thank you, that’d be great,” she replied, relieved that someone would actually be there to make sure she did everything right, that no one was expecting her to be an expert on something she knew next to nothing about. “Maybe this afternoon, once she’s settled in her own room again.”
“We can call the hospital and try to set something up,” Tom offered, and Jenny wasn’t quite sure whether it came from him or from Jodi, she was too busy looking at Shane who just then was giving Max a big hug, something she’d never seen before. She saw her clinging to him and wondered if she had problems standing up, but Max seemed to have a firm but gentle hold on her and Jenny relaxed a little, enough to give her attention back to the others.
“I’d appreciate that, thank you,” she said again. Somewhere deep down she sensed that they were probably happy that Shane was leaving – not in a bad way, but they both looked like they needed a break, and the same could be said about Max. She couldn’t blame them if that was the case, words couldn’t express the gratitude she felt for what they’d already done. None of them had been anywhere near as close to Shane before she got sick, as she used to be, and somewhere it felt like it had to be harder caring like that for someone if you didn’t know them enough. But it shouldn’t be a problem anymore – Shane was coming home with her where she belonged.
Max came over to them with one arm around Shane and she leaned her head against his shoulder as they walked. Her eyes were barely open but she blinked sleepily a few times and for a moment Jenny thought she saw a small smile on her lips. It was strange to see her so close to him now, but she decided it was a good thing. It seemed they could always count on him when they needed him.
When it became clear to Shane that they were leaving, she let go of Max and put her arms around Jodi instead, giving her a warm hug before letting Tom receive the same treatment. She seemed to struggle to do it, Jenny could see the pain on her face clearly when she tried to lift her right arm enough to do it, but she didn’t say anything. It wasn’t her place, at least not yet, that was painfully obvious when Shane didn’t give her one – all she got was an uncertain look from her and Jenny swallowed, looking away for a moment. They weren’t there quite yet.
Jenny took some of Shane’s packed bags; the rest of it as well as her car could stay for now and Max would get it later, but now he had his hands full with Shane who still seemed the most comfortable with him. The moments Jenny had shared with her the night before seemed like wishful dreams now, compared to how Shane was acting around her now. Was she scared of her? Did she hate her? Jenny swallowed and tried to push the thoughts away, labelling them ridiculous as she loaded Shane’s things into the trunk. Shane was probably just tired and they weren’t used to each other. It had to be why. Shane couldn’t push her away all over again.
The thoughts and doubts remained in her head for the rest of the day and she was especially reminded of them when Shane was back in her own bed, arguing with her when she tried to make her have her soup for lunch. When the time came for her to leave for the meeting at the hospital, Shane still hadn’t eaten anything and Max had promised to try to talk her into doing it while she was away. It somehow felt like trying to take care of a child, but she couldn’t let any of it out because she knew Shane didn’t mean to act that way. She was tired and sick, and it made all the sense in the world that she didn’t want to eat the damn soup.
The meeting with Shane’s doctor that Jodi and Tom had somehow managed to set up that same day took longer than Jenny had expected it to, and she still found it hard to focus on all the things she was told. Thankfully, they gave her some printouts and brochures, and gave her time to write down the most important things she needed to remember.
Aside from the information about Shane’s meds, her notes said that after Shane had chemo she needed to wake her up every few hours and make her move because if she stayed too long in the same position, she’d bruise a lot. Max had already told her that she might get extremely confused and she just needed to reassure her and try to calm her down, but she still wrote it down when they brought it up. Especially since they said that it could get so bad that she could panic and not know where she was, and Jenny might need help to calm her down because it might be too much for her to handle.
Jodi also told her that Shane sometimes had nightmares and woke up completely freaked out by them, and when that happened all she could do was try to be there for her, unless it got out of hand in which case she needed to get Max or call someone.
She returned home feeling a little more confident in her ability to care for Shane but got a chance to put her new knowledge into practice when Shane spent the rest of the day asleep in her room. Having to wake her up over and over to make her move around had seemed easier in theory than it really was. Shane was in pain and not in the best of moods, and some times she just didn’t seem to want to wake up at all.
In spite of that, Jenny stayed with her for as long as she could, watching over her until she just couldn’t keep her eyes open anymore, even with the huge amount of coffee she’d had. Max promised to check on her if Jenny in return promised to get some rest, but she woke up early and returned to Shane’s room, with her laptop under her arm and a cup of coffee in her other hand.
She sat down on a chair next to her bed and opened the computer, turning it on as she took a sip of her coffee before putting the cup down on the floor next to her. Writing had been harder than ever since Shane left, but now that she was back she might have a shot at it again. She needed something to keep her busy, and her feelings were begging to be let out of their cages. She’d kept them locked away for far too long now.
Starting to write without caring about the outcome, she typed as quietly as she could, but as the words came flowing faster and faster to her, she thought she must have forgotten and begun to hammer with her fingertips on the keyboard, because soon she could see in the periphery how something had started to move around a little in Shane’s bed.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. I can just…” Jenny apologized and placed her right hand on the lid of her laptop, about to close it, but she stopped when she heard Shane’s voice.
“No, no, no, you didn’t… You didn’t wake me up.” She spoke softly, and it sounded nothing like the harsh and annoyed tone she’d spoken to her in the day before. She blinked, seeming to struggle hard not to fall back asleep, and her glance was fixed on Jenny.
“Are you sure?” Jenny asked, just as softly, afraid that if she said the wrong thing she might upset her again.
“Yeah, it’s fine.” Shane nodded slowly, tilting her head down a little and Jenny thought she looked a bit uncomfortable for a moment. “I like listening when you type.”
“You do?” She felt her own face flushing a little, but she could feel something resembling a smile forming on her lips. It felt good. Familiar. Like old times. But there was something about the feeling that at the same time felt horribly wrong, and when Shane continued she was reminded of it.
“Yeah, it’s… it feels safe,” Shane said quietly, and though they were talking about different things, the feelings had been the same for both of them. “Like home, in a way. I missed it. What are you writing?”
Jenny shrugged, spreading her fingers out on the lid to close it finally, then played with her fingertips around the little Apple logo on it. “Um… I don’t know. Just… I’m just trying to figure things out, you know? I know that I can’t compare what the last month was like for me to what you’ve been going through, but it wasn’t easy for me either.”
“Jenny, I know that, and I’m sorry.”
“It’s going to take some time for me to get used to all of this,” she continued, “and writing is the best way of doing that for me.” She paused when she noticed the uncomfortable look on Shane’s face. “You don’t have to worry, I’m not writing a story about this. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“That’s not…” Shane swallowed and shook her head slowly, unable to meet her friend’s gaze. “I never wanted you to have to go through any of this. I never meant to hurt you, and I’m so sorry that I did, but I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do. I know things won’t ever be what they were and I don’t expect you to forgive me. You have every right to hate me for what I did, the fact that I’m sick has nothing to do with that.”
“Shane, I don’t hate you. I could never do that. Believe me, after that night when I found you… with her… I–I tried so hard it felt like…” Her voice trailed off as the memories of that night became too strong for her to want to dig any deeper. “I wanted to. Everything would have been so much easier if I’d just been able to do that, but it doesn’t work that way.”
Jenny hadn’t meant to get into a discussion about it, but now that everything had started to come out, she couldn’t seem to stop herself from saying it. “I know that you did it to keep me from getting hurt. I know you thought that… that you were gonna die and… you didn’t want me to have to see when that happened to you. But I was…” The tears were coming back again and she hated herself for it even though she knew she couldn’t do anything about it. She was just so sick of crying, it felt like that was all she’d been doing the last few days. “I was supposed to be your best friend. Didn’t it ever occur to you that I’d want to be there for you in any way I could no matter what would happen in the end? I think that maybe what hurts me the most is that it seems like you didn’t think you could rely on me. You’ve always been there when I needed you, maybe it was time you let me do the same for you? And you just decided I couldn’t do it without even giving me a chance to try to take care of you.”
“Jenny, I never meant it that way.” Shane replied, looking horrified at her, but it was all she had a chance to say before Jenny went on.
“But that’s what it feels like.” Jenny sniffled and wiped the tears away with both of her hands, doing her best to hold back a sob. “I don’t know what it’s like to go through everything you’re going through right now, I only know what it was like for me when you lied to me and fooled me, then went behind my back and just took off. I don’t know if I’m ever going to understand what happened but I’m not going anywhere. I want you here, and I want to help you if you just let me, but I need time before I can try to go back to what we used to be. I don’t wanna force it, because it wouldn’t make it real. You don’t have to apologize for anything, because… I forgave everything the moment I saw you again. I didn’t think I would, but I did. It’s just gonna take a while before I can forget about all of this.”
“We’ll get through it, Shane, all of it. We’ll get you better and work things out.” There. Everything she’d been holding back the last month was finally out in the open, but it didn’t feel as relieving as she hoped it would the times she’d wished she’d be able to talk to someone about it, or even write it down. She felt even worse when she looked over at Shane again and noticed that she didn’t seem to feel well at all; she suddenly realized she hadn’t said much for a while either. “Shane?” Feeling a lump forming in her throat, she quickly put the laptop down on the floor next to her long forgotten coffee cup and walked over to sit down next to her on the bed. “What’s wrong?”
Shane was lying with her head on her pillow; her eyes closed and her jaws clenched tightly. After Jenny gently placed her hand on her shoulder, she opened her eyes just a little and gasped for breath, looking pleadingly up at her. “Could you…” she began to mumble, “…get me my pills?”
“Which ones?” Jenny responded quickly, her voice shaking a little. Whatever was wrong, it had happened more suddenly than she’d expected it to and with all the pills Shane was taking she hadn’t yet had a chance to learn which did what.
“The…uh…the strong ones.”
Tears had welled up in Shane’s eyes and were now trickling down her pale cheeks. Jenny felt herself starting to panic when she heard her whimpering and gasping for breath. Not wanting to waste another second and unable to just sit there and watch her friend writhing in pain, she got up and stumbled over to the nightstand where they kept some of Shane’s meds. She knew there should be one morphine pill there somewhere; she assumed that was what Shane meant. They weren’t supposed to let her have too much of the strong and addicting drug but she still needed to have one somewhere close if it got bad before someone was around to help her.
When she found it she filled Shane’s glass that stood on the nightstand with water from a pitcher she’d placed there that morning, then took it and sat down in front of her friend, looking at her, full of concern. “Shane? Do you think you can take this?”
Her eyes opened a little again and she nodded slowly, struggling to prop herself up on her elbow so she’d be able to swallow it and with a shaking hand she accepted the pill and the glass Jenny held out to her. Jenny kept her fingers around the glass and helped her tilt it enough to be able to take a few sips. When Shane had taken her meds she sank back down onto her bed, burying half of her face in her pillow again and letting out a quiet moan.
It would take ten minutes or so before the morphine would kick in, so Jenny put the glass away and sat down with her again, gently stroking her back and speaking softly reassuring words to let her know that no matter what happened, she wasn’t alone and she was always going to take care of her.
Lyrics from My Immortal, by Evanescence. (Lee/Moody) No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 8 - Forgive Me by DarknessDescends
Jenny finally gets a chance to return a favor.
I can't believe this chapter took me 5 months to finish...
“How is she?” Max asked later that night when Jenny walked out to join him on the back porch and handed him a cup of coffee when she sat down next to him on the steps.
“She fell asleep in front of the TV,” she replied with a small smile after she’d taken off the mask she’d been wearing around Shane. She had started feeling better a while before they had dinner and she’d managed to have some soup before she nodded off on the couch with some bad reality show on. “How are you, Max? Why are you sitting out here by yourself?”
He took a sip of the coffee and then sat for a moment just staring deep in thought into his cup before he said anything. “I was just thinking about stuff. You know, like when I first found out about this.”
“You never told me about that,” Jenny said quietly, trying to imagine what the past month would have been for the rest of them; Max, Jodi, Tom, and most of all, Shane. She still didn’t feel like she knew anything about what had happened because no one seemed willing to talk about it and share it with her, even though she was now a part of the group that tried to care for Shane while keeping her condition a secret from the rest of the world.
“Well, “ Max started and cleared his throat, “I was out with Tom one night and we were in his car and he got a text from Jodi because she needed help with something. He didn’t tell me what it was, just that it was something urgent.” He paused to take another sip and glanced over at Jenny who did the same. “And when we got there he told me I could wait in the car if I wanted to, but I just had this bad feeling, you know? So I followed him after a while.”
“And you saw her,” Jenny guessed in a whisper and bit down on her lip, both for having interrupted him, and because her mind kept making her try to imagine what he would have seen that night.
He nodded slowly. “Yeah, I saw her, and I didn’t even believe it was her at first. She was sitting on the floor and leaning up against the wall and she was so out of it.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’d had chemo that same morning and she was just… really confused.” He buried the fingers of his free hand in his hair, pulled it tightly as he squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and sighed wearily. “Jodi was trying to talk to her but Shane kept getting pissed off because Jodi didn’t hear her. I don’t think she even remembered she knew how to sign, she was just crying and yelling at her and neither one of them understood what the other was saying and she didn’t remember who Tom was.”
“Oh god,” Jenny whispered and tried to relate to the situation Jodi must have been in with her before Tom and Max showed up. She found she couldn’t, even if Shane could be hard to deal with at some moments now that she was sick, she could at least communicate with her.
“And when she saw me,” he continued quietly, “it got worse.”
From the guilty look on his face after he paused, Jenny figured this was yet another thing he didn’t think she should hear about, but she needed to know the whole story. For Shane’s sake she had to find out what had going on. “Max,” she said quietly and put the cup down on the steps, placing her hand gently on his arm. “Please. Whatever happened, I can take it. Please.”
He looked up at her, a questioning and doubtful look in his eyes, but he finally nodded slowly to himself and finished his story. “She freaked out when she saw me,” he said, “I guess it didn’t make sense to her that I was there. And she just kept crying and asking me where you were and said she wanted to see you. And I found out that’s what the whole thing was about, because Jodi had understood that much at least. She just wanted you there.”
“Oh, Shane,” she whispered, covered her mouth with her hands and felt wet tears well on their way down her cheeks. “If only—if only I’d known,” she said, mostly to herself in a hushed voice as she let her hands down on her lap. “I wish she would have just told me. We’ve wasted so much time, I… I could have been there for her. She could’ve been home. You know?”
“Yeah. Look, Jenny, I’m sorry that I didn’t say anything sooner.”
“It’s okay.” She tried to smile a little encouragingly. “I’m not blaming you for anything, you did what you had to do. It’s just…” Her voice faded and she sat in silence for a moment, looking out into their backyard and trying to collect her thoughts again. To their left, outside of Bette’s house, she could see Tina diving into the pool but she didn’t seem to have noticed them sitting there. Just to stay on the safe side, she lowered her voice. “I used to think that… even if she’d come back, things would never be the same between us again, but they are. As much as—as they could be, considering the circumstances. She’s still the same Shane she’s always been.”
“Are you in love with her?”
The question made her turn back to him and she looked at him with a puzzled expression, but she knew she shouldn’t be surprised that he knew. At this point, she would have thought everyone would have figured her out, in spite of her efforts to make them, and herself, believe she hated her. “I’ve always been in love with her, Max,” she said with a melancholy smile.
“I kinda got that feeling,” he grinned.
“I don’t think I can ever stop loving her,” she continued, “I mean, I tried so hard to stop after what she did, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Have you told her that?”
It was such a simple question, but when she racked her mind in search for an answer, it seemed so much more complicated. “No, I—I can’t do that,” she stuttered, eyes wide. “Not now. She needs me and I don’t wanna freak her out and scare her off. I can tell her when she’s better.” Max didn’t say anything, he just looked uncomfortably at her. “She’s going to be okay, Max,” she added, giving him a stern look.
“I know that’s what you want to believe…” he started, but she cut him off.
“Of course it is.”
“Jenny, we all want to believe that.” Sighing hopelessly, he looked pleadingly at her. “But you can’t know that’s gonna happen. What if she doesn’t
beat this? Are you just never going to let her know?” This time it was Jenny who didn’t know what to say, instead she stared at him as if he’d just slapped her. “You know she loves you,” he went on, his voice soft and he offered her a small apologetic smile. “That’s why she left in the first place. There isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for you, isn’t that proof enough? She gave up everything she had, including you, just so you wouldn’t have to suffer because of what was happening to her. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been living with you guys for three years and I’ve seen a lot even if you two haven’t. Don’t throw this away. It’s better to have…”
“Loved and lost than to never have loved at all?” Jenny finished the sentence for him, and they both smiled at each other.
Max chuckled and shook his head, blushing a little. “Isn’t that what they say?”
the oracle, Max. I just…” She was startled by a sound coming from behind her in the kitchen and she turned around but didn’t see anything. “Hang on a sec,” she told him and he nodded when she got up, taking the two empty coffee cups with her and quickly putting her mask in place again as she went inside.
She found Shane standing by the sink, gripping the edge of the counter so tightly it made her knuckles whiten and Jenny quickly put the cups down. She put her arm around her instead to keep her from collapsing onto the floor, because she looked like she might any second. Shane didn’t say anything, she just took a few deep breaths and blinked repeatedly. “Shane?”
“Hey…” It wasn’t much more than a whisper, but she tilted her head up a little and met Jenny’s concerned eyes.
“What are you doing?” Jenny asked her, trying hard to smile at her with her eyes in spite of the worry she felt for her, and she began to stroke her hand gently over her back.
Shane’s gaze swept from one side of the counter to the other until she finally looked back at Jenny and shrugged, grimacing slightly, but it soon transformed into a small, embarrassed smile. “I don’t remember.” It always made her uncomfortable when that happened, she’d be doing something and all of a sudden she barely knew where she was. At least this time she knew that it was happening, and that definitely made it easier for her. She wasn’t always that lucky.
“It’s okay,” she assured her and took a guess on the first thing that came to mind. “Are you thirsty?” Shane nodded slowly and she had to stop and think for a second and give her tired mind a chance to figure out the best way of doing this. She then led her over to the table and eased her down on one of the chairs before she hurried to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water. “There you go,” she said as she handed it to her after she’d loosened the cap a little. “If that wasn’t it, just tell me when you remember.”
She opened it and took a few small sips of the cold liquid and then glanced up at her with a guilty look on her face. “Thanks but…you shouldn’t have to run around and do everything for me.”
“It’s not like that at all, Shane.” Jenny grabbed a chair and placed it next to Shane’s, then she sat down and hoped that her smile would show in spite of the mask that covered half of her face. “It’s not a problem.”
Shane let her fingers play with the cap on her bottle for a while and nodded slowly, avoiding looking at her. “Yeah, it is. I shouldn’t have moved back here, it was a dumb idea.” In just the few days she’d been back in the house, she’d already noticed how Jenny’s life had changed because of her presence, and she couldn’t believe she was doing that to her when her fear of doing it was the reason why she’d left in the first place. “You deserve to have a life,” she sighed deeply, “and you can’t as long as I’m here.”
“Stop,” Jenny said, holding up her hands in front of her as she felt that warm tingling in her eyes and knew the tears were about to come. Again. She knew Shane meant every word she’d said and that made them hurt even more. Earlier that day she’d tried to explain to her what she’d gone through when she’d left, but she hadn’t expected Shane to fully comprehend something she couldn’t even understand herself. Besides, unbeknownst to her at the time, Shane had been in so much pain that it wouldn’t surprise her if she didn’t even remember they’d had that conversation, and she started over. “Do you even know what my life was without you in it?” she asked her just as the tears reached the edge of her mask and Shane looked completely heartbroken at the sight. “Nothing. It was nothing.”
Shane’s lips parted for a moment as if she wanted to say something, but she soon closed them again and looked down at her hands.
“I couldn’t even write, I tried so many times because I just needed to get it all out of me, but I got nothing.” She sniffled and a joyless laugh slipped out when she remembered the way she’d been living alone in their house. How all the familiar things around her had suddenly seemed foreign to her, because what made them feel like home to her, what connected her to the world around her just wasn’t there. “I just walked around and tried to pretend you’d never lived here to begin with so it wouldn’t feel so empty when you weren’t here. It never worked, it just made it so much worse. So don’t tell me I’d be better off without you. I’m not gonna let you push me away.”
Jenny reached out her hands, taking the bottle that Shane still held even though she’d long since stopped drinking from it, and she placed it on the table. Shane didn’t move or even flinch when she did so and she remained still when Jenny took her hands in her own and continued. “Shane, when I did that, it was the biggest mistake of my life and I’m not doing that again no matter how hard you try to make me do it. You’re stuck with me. Get used to it.”
At this Shane finally tilted her head up and faced her, letting Jenny see the glittering tears in her eyes as well as those that had already begun to trickle down her cheeks. All that Jenny had just told her had stunned her completely but she accepted it. There wasn’t anything she wanted more for herself than to stay with her, and if that’s what Jenny wanted, then that was how it was going to be. She’d just have to do whatever she possibly could not to hurt her in the process like she already knew she’d unintentionally done to Jodi.
She looked deeply into Jenny’s eyes, mustered up the strength to lift her hands enough to cup her face with them and gently brushed some of the tears off her cheeks with her thumbs. She stopped when she reached the mask and tugged a little at it with her fingers, giving her a pleading look. “Can you take that off? Please?”
“This?” Jenny asked her, a little startled and placed her hand on top of Shane’s right one where it held on to the mask she always used to cover her mouth and nose for Shane’s safety.
Shane nodded, the movement so slight it was barely visible to her. “Yeah.”
“I don’t want you to get sick,” she whispered and suddenly shook her head, causing Shane to flinch and withdraw her hands.
“I already am.” Shane’s heart sank. She knew deep down that all they wanted was to keep her safe but it only made her feel more secluded from the world when every face she ever saw was covered, even those of the ones she loved. “Jenny, I promise, it won’t make it worse unless you have a cold or something, and they tested you and you were fine.”
Jenny took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, feeling the hot air against her face and wishing once again that she could just take it off. It was uncomfortable and she hated wearing it, but she’d made a promise to herself that she’d do it for Shane. Keeping her alive and well was more important than how the mask made her feel. “I know. They told me all that when I got tested, but I don’t want to take any risks.” The comparison she’d made in her head between Shane and Dana a few days earlier when she spoke to Max about it at Jodi’s was brought back up in her mind and made it seem like an even worse idea. They hadn’t been careful enough back then, and Dana was gone…
“It’s fine, I promise,” Shane persisted and the look in her eyes was silently begging her to just agree and let her have her wish. Fresh tears welled up in them but she didn’t bother to wipe them away when they ran down her cheeks.
Instead she raised her hands a second time and Jenny saw how she had to struggle to lift them high enough to reach her face, but once she did, she let them down on Jenny’s shoulders and just let them rest there. She suddenly seemed so tired and Jenny wondered if it was the conversation they’d had or her monologue earlier that had worn her out like this.
“I just wanna be able to look at you,” Shane sniffled, blinking repeatedly to get the tears out of her eyes, and she gently stroked the back of Jenny’s neck. “I can’t do that with that thing in the way. I haven’t… I haven’t seen you for so long and you always have that on.”
A loud sob slipped out of Jenny and she lifted her right hand to her ear to remove the band around it while Shane smiled a little through her tears and did the same on the other one. Jenny took the mask and put it down on the table and when she turned back to Shane she was struck by how genuinely happy she looked now. She hadn’t seen her like that for so long. Probably not since that night they got high in the living room just shortly before she left her, she realized, and found herself smiling brightly back at her.
“Come here,” she said and moved closer to the edge of her chair, slipping her arms around her waist and pulling her close, hugging her as tightly as she dared to. Shane’s arms tightened their hold around her, but she could feel the weakness in her compared to what she was used to, and she wondered how much pain she was in now that she guessed the morphine must have worn off, but she doubted that was something she really wanted to know.
Shane rested her head on her shoulder and leaned it against her ear, breathing slowly. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “For everything, I… I’m so sorry I hurt you.”
“Shhh, don’t be sorry. None of this was your fault.” She gently rubbed her back the way she always used to and it seemed to soothe her; she could feel the tense muscles relaxing little by little and Shane’s head felt a little heavier on her shoulder now. She’d missed this so much. Just being close to her, holding her, and even if things looked bad now, she dared to believe that they could get through it. ‘As long as we have this, we’ll make it through somehow.’
Thinking that, she moved her hand up to the back of Shane’s head and felt the thinness of her hair. More of it had come out in the short time she’d been back at the house; she knew that from the amount she’d taken out of her bed already, and an idea formed in her head. “Shane?”
Shane hummed a little when she pulled back slightly to give her a questioning look and Jenny demonstratively took a lock of her hair between her fingers, as gently as possible so she wouldn’t pull it out like she had before.
“Don’t you think that maybe it’s time you did something about this?” she asked softly.
Looking a little surprised, Shane shrugged slightly. “Yeah, I meant to shave it all off, but I don’t think I can hold my arms up long enough to do that.” Her face fell as she finished the sentence, but Jenny’s hand was soon there to touch her cheek and the small smile she’d had before made a reappearance. “My shoulder still really hurts when I lift my arm,” she explained, “so I just never got it done.”
“You want me to help you? I mean, I’ve never shaved anyone’s head before but I think I could learn.” The idea made her a little nervous, but if Shane thought it was a bad one, she was sure she’d tell her that. At least she had offered, if that was the case.
“It’s not hard,” Shane replied and it surprised Jenny to see that she was in on her suggestion. “I can tell you how to do it, you can’t really mess it up. All the hair is coming off anyway.”
“Your hair…” Gently playing with a tress of her hair, she suddenly felt like an idiot, because somehow it hadn’t occurred to her yet what it all meant. All of it would be gone after she was done, but it was already falling out so fast…
As if she’d read her mind, Shane offered her a pale smile that turned into a chuckle when she spoke. “It’s just hair, Jen. It’ll grow back when I get better.”
“I know, but…” Jenny froze and felt her jaw dropping slowly when she realized what Shane had just said. It hadn’t been ‘if
’ she got better, but ‘when
’, and that, if anything, was proof enough for her that she was going to be okay. Especially since Shane herself hadn’t seemed to realize she’d said it and it felt like a huge weight was finally lifted off her chest.
“It’s okay. Really, Jenny, it is.” Shane hadn’t imagined that something that seemed as simple as shaving off her hair would turn out to mean so much more than that to Jenny. She didn’t even need to explain it, the look on her face was enough. This was yet another thing that had to change, and one she’d have to face every single day. It was touching that in spite of that, Jenny had still offered to help her get it over with. “Look,” she said softly, “as much as I’ve experimented with my hair in the past, this really isn’t that big a deal to me.”
“Okay,” Jenny finally agreed after a moment’s thoughtful silence and eased herself up off the chair. Her newfound hope and confidence convinced her that it didn’t have to be that bad after all. “Do you want me to do it right now?” she asked. “Or do you wanna get back to bed?”
“We could do it now,” Shane shrugged. “I probably won’t feel as good as I do right now for a while, so we might as well get it over with. If you don’t mind.”
“No, that’s okay. Should I just go and get your things in…?” Jenny started and pointed with both of her hands in the direction of Shane’s room.
“They’re in the bag in my room. It’s by the door, you can just get the whole thing and I’ll find what we need.”
Shane followed Jenny with her eyes as she walked out of the kitchen to get everything and even though she was used to people doing things like that for her, it didn’t make her feel any less guilty for it. Her being sick hadn’t just made her own life pull a u-turn but it did the same thing to those close to her, and that had been the one thing she wanted to avoid. How Jenny still managed to put up with her and smile
at her even after what she’d done before she left and after the two days she’d spent there already, she didn’t know. It hadn’t taken long since she’d moved in with Jodi before the two of them had started getting on each other’s nerves, but she knew that was different. Jenny had always been Jenny and she couldn’t compare her to anyone else she’d ever known.
Jenny soon returned with Shane’s things and placed the whole bag on the table so that they could begin to look through it together. Shane picked out a few things here and there and then sent Jenny off to get a towel that they could use to wet what would be left of her hair before they got started with the actual shaving. It was turning into quite a project, but once they were about to begin, Shane thought Jenny was starting to seem a bit excited about the whole thing.
“This feels so weird!” Jenny grinned and jumped a little excitedly at the spot, causing Sounder to wake up from where he slept in the living room and he came over to see what they were doing. She reached down to pet him and then looked back at Shane with a nostalgic smile. “It reminds me of the first time you cut my hair. Do you remember that?”
“You mean…” Shane started and frowned a little as she tried to remember. “The night Mark moved in? When I cut it really short? Was that the first time?” It seemed like a lifetime ago, but when she focused she could still remember that day, in spite of the way her brain was acting lately. Most of it was still a blur, but the thing she wanted to bring out of her memories was still there: when she’d found Jenny sitting in the kitchen late that night, and Jenny had asked her to cut her hair for her.
“Yes. It was, and I was completely freaked out about the whole thing, but it felt like I had to do it anyway.” She remembered how Shane barely had made the first cut when the tears started to come, but it was a fond memory. Giving away that power and control to her new found friend and now four years later being trusted with the same in return felt like a beautiful thing in spite of the sadness of the reason why it was happening.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Shane apologized but Jenny shook her head.
“No, don’t be. I don’t mean it like that. I was just trying to figure out who I was, and I don’t know why I got the insane idea that I had to have short hair to do that.”
Shane let her gaze follow the length of Jenny’s hair, from the roots and down to the ends, and in her mind she replaced her long dark waves with the short haircut she’d given her that night. “I know you like your long hair better and I love it,” she said after a while, “but I thought you looked really, really cute with short hair.”
“Thank you.” Jenny could feel herself blushing a little. “What I was gonna say was that it’s strange to me how the roles are reversed, but we’re in the exact same place as we were then. Even when so many other things have changed.” She’d been completely honest and serious with her comment, but Shane obviously found something funny about it and giggled a little. “Shane, don’t laugh at me!” she scolded her, but found it hard to stay serious herself.
“But you’re cute,” Shane grinned.
Turning serious again, Jenny cast a nervous glance at the things they’d placed on the table. “Are you sure you want me to do this?”
Shane nodded. “I’m sure. It’s really simple. Like I said, you can’t screw it up.”
She explained to Jenny each step of the way as she was taking it, and more and more of her hair ended up on the floor, something that Sounder seemed quite intrigued by. He barked from excitement at the hair as it fell, and it was hard for them to not laugh at him, but they let him stay with them. It was liberating to finally get rid of it all. Shane had meant to do it for so long, but the pain in her shoulder and the exhaustion she felt in general had always made her put it off to another day.
When they were done Jenny handed her a mirror and Shane struggled to lift her left hand so she could feel what it was like, especially in the back where she couldn’t see anything.
“Do you want me to get you another mirror?” Jenny asked when she saw what she was doing.
“No, it’s fine.” She smiled appreciatively and Jenny’s eyes shone back at her. “You did a really good job with this.”
Jenny pulled up a chair and placed it in front of her, sat down and took her hands, smiling as she took a moment to evaluate her work. “Shane,” she grinned shyly after a moment, “you look really, really hot.”
Her response teased a chuckle out of Shane. “Yeah, really.”
“No, I’m serious!” she persisted, unable to take her eyes off of her, and not really caring when she felt her cheeks getting warmer and warmer by the second. “I never imagined you shaving your hair off before, but it looks really good on you.”
Shane bit her lip, nodding slowly while tracing along Jenny’s fingers with her fingertip. “Thanks for helping me,” she said quietly, swallowing before she looked at her again. “Really, a lot. I couldn’t have done that by myself.”
“You don’t have to thank me for that.” Jenny smiled back at her and suddenly lit up even more when she had another idea. “You know what?” she started, lifting her left hand to play with a lock of her own hair. “It really wasn’t that hard to do that. I think I should do mine too. I should.”
“What?” Shane said hoarsely, placing her hand on Jenny’s arm and looking at her with her eyes wide. “No.”
“Why?” She didn’t understand the sudden look of alarm on Shane’s face at her decision, and she looked around for a moment to see if there was something else going on in the room that she wasn’t aware of, but even Sounder was resting peacefully on the floor next to them so she had no idea what she could have meant, if not what she’d first assumed. “If I want to shave my head like yours, in solidarity, why can’t I?”
Shane shook her head just barely, took a deep breath and licked her lips before she answered her. “Please, Jenny. Don’t do that,” she begged her quietly. “It means so much that you’d even consider it, but it would mean even more if you didn’t do it. I love your hair, don’t take that away. Please.”
“Okay. I won’t, I promise.” Jenny softly patted her shoulder and got up to begin cleaning up in the kitchen and get rid of Shane’s hair before Sounder decided to start playing with it again.
Meanwhile, Shane sat there watching her, at the same time trying to get used to not having any hair at all anymore. She still had her eyebrows and eyelashes that she needed to do something about, but that was something she could take care of on her own. Glancing over at Jenny again, she remembered something she’d worried about earlier when Jenny had actually left her alone for a while on the couch. “Can you promise me something else?” she asked after a while.
“What?” Jenny stopped for a moment, leaning against the broom she’d used to sweep the hair into a neat pile that Sounder soon attacked and she decided it was time for him to go outside for a while, at least until she was done.
“Can you promise me that you won’t lock yourself in here with me?” Shane asked, watching as Jenny opened the backdoor and let him out. “Don’t close yourself off from the rest of the world just because I’m here.”
“I don’t think I’m doing that.”
“Max told me you used to hang out with the others a lot before you found out about me. They’re gonna start wondering what’s going on if you suddenly stop.”
“Okay,” Jenny nodded and picked up the broom to start all over again and clean up Sounder’s mess. To her it was perfectly understandable that Shane didn’t want any of the others to find out, and she couldn’t blame her.
“And I’m not trying to sound like I’m pitying myself,” Shane went on, “but I think sometimes you need a break from all this. A break from me
.” At those words Jenny froze and turned to stare at her with her hand placed firmly on her hip, but as soon as Shane saw her opening her mouth to protest, she continued to explain. “Things can get pretty intense, I know that, and I just think it’d be good for you to go back out in the real world from time to time. I don’t think I ever talked to Jodi about that, and I should have.”
“It’s okay, Shane.” Giving up on the cleaning for now, she sat back down on her chair after moving it next to Shane’s, and when she gently wrapped her arm around her shoulders, things felt strangely like old times. “I don’t need time away from you,” she reassured her, “I like having you home again. But I’ll go and see them once in a while if you want me to. Oh, and speaking of Jodi, I forgot to tell you but she called earlier when you were asleep.”
“Well, Tom called for her. They just wanted to check on you. Make sure you were okay, and just check that we didn’t forget that you’re going back to the hospital tomorrow.”
Shane groaned and lifted her left hand to rub her eyes. “Did you have to remind me?” she whined, pouting just enough to make Jenny’s heart sink.
“I’m sorry!” she apologized and bit down on her lip. “But I’d like to think it’s better that you know where I’m dragging you off to in the morning.”
“Yeah, I’m just kidding.”
Shane’s lips formed a small smile but Jenny wasn’t convinced and an unpleasant feeling began to creep up in the back of her head. “Are you nervous about going there with me?”
Shane flinched as if Jenny had slapped her and shook her head so furiously it nearly made her dizzy. “No! I mean, I can’t exactly say that I’m ecstatic about going, but that has nothing to do with you. I’m glad you’re going with me but… I just want you to know what you’re getting yourself into.”
“I know this isn’t going to be all wine and roses,” she replied softly, gently stroking her thumb over Shane’s shoulder. “I’m no expert when it comes to this, but I’d like to think I can learn along the way. I just wanna be there for you if I can help.”
“You can. I just don’t wanna make you uncomfortable.”
“I’m going with you.” Jenny swallowed, nodding resolutely. She wasn’t backing down from any of it; she’d said she’d be there for her and nothing was going to change it. Especially not Shane’s constant efforts to push her away, or to save her from herself.
“Okay. It just fucking sucks though.” Shane laughed dryly and reached for the nearly empty water bottle on the table, but Jenny managed to take it before she did and handed it to her. “I’m finally starting to feel better and then I have to go there again tomorrow so they can fuck things up all over again. I hate it.”
“I know. But it’s keeping you alive.”
“Yeah, I know,” Shane said with a deep sigh and for a moment Jenny wondered if she was about to start crying again. She didn’t waste a second before she put her other arm around her too and pulled her closer. It didn’t take long before she felt Shane’s arms wrapping around her own waist, holding her tightly like she never planned on letting her go.
“We’ll get you through it. I’m not gonna lose you again,” she whispered, and at least in that moment, they both believed it.
Lyrics from Forgive Me, by Evanescence. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 9 - How You've Betrayed Me by DarknessDescends
In West Hollywood, there's no such thing as a secret.
I'll try not to work on the same chapter for 15 months next time. I swear. I didn't mean to.
“I don’t think you should fall asleep here, they’re gonna come and get us any minute now.”* ~ * ~ *
Shane lifted her head from where it rested on Jenny’s shoulder and looked at her with her eyes half open. “I’m not sleeping, I’m just resting.”
They were sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, waiting for the nurse to come and tell them they were ready to start with Shane’s chemotherapy. Before they sat down to wait they had both seen a doctor; Shane to make sure she was strong enough physically to handle the treatment and Jenny to check that she didn’t have anything Shane might catch when the drugs would break down her immune system. When they both seemed okay they’d been told to wait until the drugs were sent up to her room.
“Okay,” Jenny said softly and frowned a little when she realized how tired her friend looked. “You can sleep during the treatment, right?” She sat with her left arm around Shane and was slowly stroking her thumb up and down Shane’s upper arm.
“Yeah, I usually do,” Shane said, relaxing her head onto her shoulder again with a sigh.
“Are you nervous?”
When she’d been asked the same question the night before the answer had been ‘no’, but she realized that wasn’t the case anymore. “Yeah,” she mumbled, trying to swallow the lump that was forming in her throat. “A little.” It wasn’t the treatment itself that freaked her out, it was pretty much the same thing every time and she knew what to expect. But she’d said some pretty messed up things when Jodi had followed her there and a lot of them had been plain cruel. She only remembered parts of it but she knew she’d been out of line, and how could she be sure she wouldn’t do the same thing to Jenny now? She’d been lying awake for hours worrying about everything and nothing, hoping she wouldn’t say something she couldn’t take back, or that at least if she did, that Jenny would know she didn’t mean any of it.
“It’ll be okay,” Jenny said, giving her left shoulder a soft squeeze and her lips formed a small reassuring smile that she wasn’t sure Shane could see. Had it been the day before she would have stroked her hand over Shane’s hair, but now all she could do was put her lifted hand down on the knitted cap she wore to keep her recently shaved head warm and place a soft kiss on her temple. “I’ll be with you the whole time.”
Shane tilted her head back just a little so she could look at her when she replied. “Thanks for coming with me.”
“Of course I’d come with you,” she smiled, wrapping her arm around her again. “You’re not alone in this.”
Shane said a quiet “okay” and relaxed a little, closing her eyes for a while. When she opened them again, unsure of how much time had passed, she glanced up at the TV across the room and saw that ‘The Golden Girls’ was on, smiling a little to herself. “We should be like that,” she mumbled as she peered sleepily at the three old women on the screen who all shared a house.
“What?” Jenny giggled, glancing around the room before she looked back at Shane to figure out what she meant.
Shane lifted her hand to rub at her nose and blinked a few times while she tried to put her thoughts into words in her tired mind. If she was this sleepy before she even began her treatment there was no doubt she’d fall asleep when they started it. “Like… like fifty years from now, or something like that,” she said, waving her hand at the screen. “We could live together and just… be old and happy.” Pinching the bridge of her nose, she added, “And wrinkly.”
“Oh, Shane!” Jenny exclaimed but lowered her voice when the other patients around the waiting room all turned to look at her. “You would be like Blanche!” she giggled while pointing at the TV.
“Last time I checked I didn’t have a habit of running around fucking a bunch of guys, thank you very much,” she coughed, trying to sound offended. “So… Then who’d you be? Rose?” Comparing Jenny to the scatterbrained little lady forced a chuckle out of her and Jenny slapped her lightly.
“Did you just call me stupid?”
Shane just shrugged a little. “I said you’d be her because she’s the cutest one, but if you want to call the glass half empty, that’s your choice.”
Jenny could feel herself blushing a little but didn’t have time to say anything as a nurse came to get them and led them over to what would be Shane’s room for the next few hours. When Shane had made herself somewhat comfortable on the bed Jenny watched in a panic she struggled hard not to show as the nurse prepared her for her treatment. Shane herself didn’t seem to be too nervous about it, but for Jenny it served as yet another reminder of how sick her best friend had gotten in such a short time, and that there wasn’t anything substantial she could do about it.
When the IV had been put in place on the inside of Shane’s elbow, she took off her hat for a moment and told the nurse that Jenny had helped her ‘get rid of’ her hair and Jenny watched and listened as they both laughed and she got complimented on a job well done. They seemed to know each other from before and it all just made her feel even more left out. So much had already happened, and she should have been there with her. As if Shane had read her mind, she reached out her right hand, grabbed Jenny’s and gave it a reassuring squeeze when the nurse left the room.
“Hey,” she said softly as Jenny pulled up a chair and sat down by her side. “If I say something weird… I don’t mean it, you know that, right? Please don’t take anything that comes out of my mouth today seriously.”
“Shane, I know. Both you and Jodi explained it to me, even Max did. I know you can’t control this.”
Shane gave her a slow, barely visible nod and they sat in silence for minutes that felt painfully long for Jenny who watched the medicine flow into the vein in Shane’s left arm. ‘The things we do to torture ourselves’ she thought when she caught herself doing it. Shane had closed her eyes and for a moment Jenny thought she might have fallen asleep until she spoke.
“How’s that whole thing with the movie going? You haven’t said anything.”
Jenny froze. Maybe it wasn’t the best time imaginable to tell Shane about what had happened with Lez Girls, but if there was anything she’d learned the last week it was that they had to stop keeping secrets from each other or everything would just continue the way it had the last month. In all honesty, Jenny couldn’t even bring herself to care about her movie anymore. It all seemed so pointless and trivial compared to what Shane was going through, but she knew it still mattered to her friend. No one had encouraged her and supported her through all of her projects the way Shane had and she had to choose her words wisely to not risk upsetting her.
“I—I honestly don’t know right now,” she mumbled, feeling Shane’s eyes on her but avoiding looking back at her. “I don’t know if you heard, but the morning after that night at the Yamashiro Tina told me the investors had decided to change the ending. They’re gonna make Jessie go back to Jim and…”
“What?” Shane stared at her, blinking and licking her lips before she went on. “Just… Why? Can they do that? I mean, shouldn’t that be your decision?”
Jenny shrugged and let out a short uncomfortable laugh. “They think the movie is too gay.” She saw Shane raising an eyebrow in disbelief – or what would have been an eyebrow if she hadn’t removed what was left of them as well as her lashes the night before – and smiled a little. “I know, right? But there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it and honestly, at this point, I don’t give a shit. It’s not important to me anymore.”
“But it’s your movie. Your really, really gay movie, Jen.” She’d started out looking serious, but as she reached the end of the sentence they both had small smiles on their lips.
“It was my movie. Shane, I mean it, I really don’t care. The only thing that matters to me now is getting you better.”
Shane wanted to believe that Jenny meant what she said but there was still a little voice in the back of her head telling her that she was just trying to make her feel better. It wasn’t helping either way; she could have spent the last month helping Jenny get her movie back the way it was supposed to be, and where had she been? Hiding in Jodi’s living room. Thinking about it, she soon discovered the flaw in her own argument; she’d been sick and that wasn’t something she could have changed simply by willing it away, but she could have chosen not to hide from Jenny. She could have been there for her still and helped her figure something out, but the thought hadn’t really occurred to her before that even if she might have brought Jenny’s moods down by staying in the house, Jenny might still have needed her around the same way she needed her.
“I’m sorry about all of this,” she mumbled, feeling like a complete idiot.
Squeezing Shane’s hand and trying to smile at her, Jenny shook her head. “No,” she said firmly. “Stop that right now, you’re not allowed to say you’re sorry anymore. There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
“Yeah, there is.”
Jenny raised her free hand to brush some of her hair away from her face and sighed. “If there’s anyone here that should be sorry, it’s me. I shouldn’t have let you push me away like I did. I know you, I should have known there was something else going on…”
Her voice trailed off as a vague memory of something Max had said was suddenly triggered and surfaced in the back of her mind. The gears began to turn in her head when she recalled when he had told her about how Shane had found out she was sick before everything happened with Niki and that that had been the reason why she did it in the first place. The wrap party had been on a Saturday night, but what Jenny was finally starting to remember was the afternoon before that, when Shane had taken a phone call out on the back porch…
“Oh my god.”
“What?” Shane asked with concern, sitting up just enough to be able to place her other hand gently on top of Jenny’s. “What’s wrong?”
Jenny just stared blankly at her. She knew this had been the very thing she’d been trying so hard to remember the last few days, the missing piece of the puzzle. Now that she’d finally found it, it made her nauseous and she looked down at their hands, trying to swallow the lump in her throat and hold back the tears. This of all moments was not the right one to burst out crying. It had been right there in front of her the whole time, why hadn’t she realized it sooner? Before Shane had felt that she had to hurt her and leave her the way she had.
“Jenny?” Shane’s voice quivered a little and startled Jenny enough to look up at her, revealing the tears that now filled her eyes.
“That day,” she started, sniffling a little and pulling her hands away to wipe the tears from her cheeks while trying her hardest not to meet Shane’s gaze. “Jodi’s art show. Before we went to The Hammer, you were on the phone…”
“Yeah,” Shane mumbled and swallowed. For some reason she found herself completely unprepared for that conversation and she had no idea what to tell her. Jenny wasn’t an idiot, she should have known she’d think of it sooner or later and ask her about it. She silently wished she’d remembered to bring it up herself instead, that she’d thought of a way to explain what had happened that day.
“That’s when they told you.” Jenny’s voice was soft, and there wasn’t even the slightest hint of blame in it, something that calmed Shane enough to be able to look her right in the eye and nod slowly. “I knew something was wrong,” she went on with a barely visible shrug, rolling her eyes as she once again struggled to stop the tears from trickling all the way down to her chin. “Why didn’t I ask you?”
“You asked me, remember?” Shane replied quietly, once again filled with the stabbing feeling of guilt as she berated herself for the millionth time for all the lies. “I just couldn’t talk about it then, I couldn’t even understand it myself at the time. And after that things just… got out of hand and I’m not gonna try to place the blame for that on anyone but myself. There’s just not a whole lot I can do about it now.”
Jenny nodded and managed a smile through all her tears. “Just focus on getting better, that’s the only thing that’s important.” She put her hands back on Shane’s, noticing they were both still cold and when she realized Shane even shivered at her touch she changed the subject. “You’re freezing. Do you want me to get you a blanket?”
Shane gave her a small nod and Jenny got up, pulling something out of her bag. Shane smiled when she realized Jenny didn’t just cover her with one of the hospital sheets, but she’d actually brought one of their own from their house. “Thank you,” she sighed sleepily when Jenny was done tucking her in.
“Is that okay?” Jenny asked, sitting back down on her chair. “Is there anything else you need?”
When Shane shook her head, the movement was so slight she could barely see it, and that was the only response Jenny got from her before she took her hand and drifted off to sleep.
Several hours later Jenny pulled up in their driveway, got out and headed over to the other side to help Shane out. Shane blinked sleepily and pulled the hood of her black sweatshirt over her head again after it had fallen off when she got out of the car. Slipping an arm around her waist, Jenny kept her steady as they walked together towards the front door and she glanced nervously around them when she heard a car stop somewhere near them, but she couldn’t see anyone. Shane had made it pretty clear to her that she didn’t want anyone they knew to know she was back in the house, which was why Shane’s car was still at Jodi’s, and they did all they could to keep her presence from being noticed by their neighbors – especially Bette and Tina. Jenny knew they usually spent their late afternoons playing ‘happy family’ with Angelica in their backyard now that they were officially back together, and the front door should be the safest option. Yet this time they only got to the porch before they heard a voice shouting from behind them.
“Holy fuck! Shit, Shane, where the hell have you been?”
They both turned around and saw Alice running over from her car that was parked outside of Bette’s house and Jenny just stared as she came closer to them. Shane on the other hand took a much less subtle approach.
“Why?” Shane yelled back at her, holding on to the nearest pillar on their porch, and it hurt Jenny to hear her doing that when her voice sounded so weak, but Shane didn’t seem to care and went on. “Are you asking because you really give a shit or just because you want something to talk about with Phyllis or god knows who?”
“What?” Alice exclaimed and she seemed significantly paler now that Shane had turned her way, and Jenny wondered if she could see from where she stood just how sick she was. If she could, that would definitely explain her change of expression. Shane didn’t seem to take any notice of it though and just kept on yelling.
“Cut the bullshit, okay? I know what you and Bette said to her, she told me.” She paused as she started to laugh, and Jenny felt tears welling up in her eyes because it sounded like Shane was doing it to keep herself from crying instead. “God, that must have been the best day of my goddamn life. I got to find out what my so called friends really think about me, and that I…”
“Shane...” Jenny said softly, right as she thought she was about to start sobbing, and she put her arms around her again, taking a steadier hold this time and Shane slowly let go of the pillar, letting Jenny support her instead until a second later, she changed her mind.
Shane shook her head, placing her hands on Jenny’s arms and tried to push them away, causing the hood to fall off her shaved head again. “Don’t touch me.”
“No, Shane, please listen to me,” Jenny begged her; the tears were running down her cheeks now but she didn’t even feel them. “Please,” she repeated and managed to place one of her hands on her forehead. “You’re burning up, Shane. Shane? I think you should come inside with me. Or do I need to take you back to the hospital?”
She didn’t say anything for a while, but just stood there looking completely panicked and glanced from one side to the other until she finally looked pleadingly into Jenny’s eyes. “Where are we?”
Jenny tried to smile at her a little through her tears but she wasn’t sure if it worked, so instead she just wrapped her arms around her and hugged her as tightly as she dared to and was relieved to feel Shane hugging her back. “We’re at our house. We’re home, we just gotta get you inside. Okay?”
“Okay,” Shane whispered quietly into her ear, she seemed to have calmed down at least a little though Jenny could still feel her friend’s heart beating faster than it should from all the excitement. They stood like that, just holding each other until they heard Alice’s voice again, closer now. Jenny had completely forgotten she was there when she had to take care of Shane, and hearing her now was a shock to her.
“Is anyone going to tell me what the fuck is going on?” Alice asked and Jenny didn’t need to look at her to see that she was crying too. She stood frozen on their front lawn but Jenny just couldn’t deal with her right now. Shane had to come first.
“This isn’t the right time, Alice. I can’t. I’ll call you later or something,” she managed to say before her voice broke and she turned back to Shane to try to help her inside. “Just hold on to me,” she said quietly. “Is it bad?” Shane just nodded at her and she barely had her eyes open. Jenny’s heart began to beat harder in her chest and she struggled with her keys to open the door. This was not good. Not good at all.
* ~ * ~ *
Left to herself outside Jenny’s house, Alice just stared at her friends as they walked through the door. She tried to move from the spot but it took all the strength she had just to manage to wipe the tears away and it felt like all the air had been sucked out of her lungs. She tried to piece together what she’d just seen and what Shane had yelled at her and it was too much to take in. Instead she just felt completely blanked out and didn’t even react when a voice called out to her.
“Hello? Alice?” Tina repeated when she got closer to her and once she reached the fence of Jenny’s front yard she let Angelica, who she’d been carrying over there, down on the ground. Bette came after them, pulling Angelica’s new bike with her and smiled brightly. “What’s going on?” Tina said, concerned when Alice still didn’t say anything.
Walking on unsteady legs, Alice managed to get out through the small front gate and sat down on the sidewalk, feeling the world spin around her even then. She soon felt Tina sitting down next to her and heard her asking her if she was okay, but all she could do was shrug.
“We just heard someone yelling,” Bette explained, brushing some hair away from her face once she’d stopped next to Tina, apparently somewhat oblivious to how Alice’s world had suddenly begun to tear itself to shreds. “First I thought it was Shane’s voice, it sounded just like her.”
“Sane, Sane,” Angelica echoed and grabbed Bette’s designer jeans at the knees, pulling the fabric until she picked her up.
“Yeah, Shane,” Bette said, forcing a smile when her daughter wrapped her arms around her neck and made herself comfortable in her embrace.
“Who was that bald woman Jenny was hugging? Is she seeing someone?” Tina asked Alice, but still got no response from her. “Alice? Are you okay?” she repeated.
Even if Alice hadn’t heard much of what they were saying she appreciated that they were there and their voices at least to some extent managed to keep her connected to the world around her. But no, she wasn’t okay. She shook her head nervously and after a moment she willed herself to meet Tina’s questioning eyes, hoping she wouldn’t see her tears. “That…” she said quietly. “That was Shane.”
“What?” Bette grimaced at her in disbelief and then gave Tina the same look. “The woman with Jenny? It didn’t even look like her.”
Alice didn’t seem to be doing well at all, and Tina felt an urge to reach out and put her arm around her, but something about the look on her friend’s face told her it wouldn’t be a welcome gesture. “Are you sure?” she asked softly. “I mean, Shane’s pretty skinny, but not like that.”
“And shaving her head is a bit extreme even for her,” Bette added. “But why would she even be here? It’s not like Jenny would let her into the house at this point, so I can’t imagine she’d be hugging her. Or would she?”
Her friends kept talking to her but Alice still had to struggle to make out a single word of what was being said. They didn’t understand; even if they’d been there and witnessed the conversation they couldn’t possibly fathom the myriad of feelings she was dealing with all at once. As bad as they all were, knowing Shane was right and the guilt that came with it was the worst of all.
“What’s wrong, Alice?”
Tina’s voice made her look back at her and she shook her head while trying to piece together whatever her mind had managed to catch of what they’d said to her. “It was her,” she mumbled, biting her bottom lip. Each heartbeat seemed to hit with such force it was almost painful. “I talked to her.” She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them so tightly she could barely breathe as the tears came back. “She’s… she’s not acting like herself. I think something really, really bad is happening.” Alice paused again to take a few deep breaths and felt Tina’s hand squeezing her shoulder. Her body relaxed a little but the panic and chaos in her head worsened for each passing second. It was all too familiar. “She didn’t know where she was,” she sobbed, just barely noticing how Bette cast a nervous glance at Tina. “She reminded me of… she reminded me of Dana. When she was sick.”
“Oh my god,” Tina whispered when Alice’s words started to sink in and she tightened her arms around her friend without realizing it. She might not be correct with her assumptions, but at least now they had an explanation for their friend’s reaction.
“Shit,” Bette mumbled and shook head. “Do you think she has…?” she started but Alice didn’t let her finish her sentence.
“Please, don’t say it.” She knew what she’d seen and heard and she knew what it meant. That didn’t mean she was ready to deal with it. She’d never be ready to relive the most difficult time of her life.
* ~ * ~ *
Jenny hadn’t expected Shane’s first chemotherapy session since she came back home to be all sunshine and puppy dogs, but she hadn’t been prepared for how bad Shane was really going to feel afterwards either. Max didn’t seem to be home and calling Jodi seemed pointless at the time. Shane didn’t appear to be sick enough to need to go back to the hospital, but she needed someone to help her now, not in twenty minutes, or whatever amount of time it might take Jodi or Tom to get there. She should know what to do, but now that she actually had to do it, and fast, everything suddenly seemed so cloudy. Even the brief but heated encounter with Alice only minutes ago had slipped her mind completely and all she could focus on was getting Shane across the living room to sit her down on the couch until she could figure out what she needed to do next.
“It’s okay. Shane, I’m gonna help you. What do you need me to do? Are you nauseous?”
Shane blinked a few times and shook her head before finally looking up at her and mumbling a quiet “yeah”. Her right hand found Jenny’s while she covered her face with her left one, sighing deeply as she racked her mind, looking for the words she needed. “I have to go to bed,” she finally managed, not even sure if that was what she’d intended to say but it was true nonetheless.
“It’s okay, I’ll help you there.” Jenny put her arm around her again and gently pulled her up from the couch, careful so the movement wouldn’t make her feel worse than she already did. As soon as Shane was somewhat steady on her own legs she felt her wrapping her arm around her waist and when she leaned her head against Jenny’s shoulder as they started to walk slowly toward Shane’s bedroom, Jenny couldn’t help but smiling a little in spite of how scared she was.
She eased Shane down on the bed and made sure her bucket was close enough for her to reach in case she’d get sick which she knew she most likely would sooner or later, and that reminded her of something.
“Shane, you can’t sleep yet,” she said softly when she noticed that her friend’s eyes were already closed even though she was still sitting up. “You have to take your meds first. Promise me you’ll stay awake while I get them.”
Shane opened one eye just a little and peered at her before closing it again and Jenny had to struggle a bit to get her to sit up straight, leaning against the headboard while she went to the kitchen. “Fine,” Shane mumbled.
When Jenny reached the kitchen and began to look for the list of Shane’s meds and when she was supposed to take each kind and how much, the first thing she found was a note from Max saying he and Tom had decided to puppy-sit Sounder for the day. She immediately felt a twinge of guilt when she realized that’s what was different – her dog wasn’t home. She was grateful for the help though, she wasn’t sure she could handle taking care of both Shane and Sounder on a day like this.
The list she was looking for was right under Max’s note and it turned out the only thing Shane needed at the moment was something she should mix with water and give her to drink so she wouldn’t feel as sick when she woke up. She followed the simple instructions and hoped she got it right and that Shane would be able to drink the orange liquid, then got a glass of water just in case and hurried back to Shane’s room.
“This is the only thing you have to take right now,” Jenny announced as she entered the room and sat down on the bed next to her after placing the glass of water on the nightstand. She was about to try to help Shane drink from the other glass when Shane just held up one of her hands defensively in front of her and her face contorted into something that looked like a frown and a pout at the same time.
“That shit is disgusting,” she whined and tried to back away from the glass and Jenny’s heart sank at the sight of it.
“But it’s good for you. Trust me.”
Shane sighed and did as she was told, letting Jenny help her drink by holding the glass for her and when she was finally done she took a few sips of water to get the taste out of her mouth. It didn’t work as well as she’d hoped. It never did.
“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Jenny said softly and stroked the back of her hand over the side of her friend’s head. “Do you want your hat?”
Shane nodded. “The big black one.”
“The big black one,” Jenny mumbled and held back a sigh. She knew which one Shane meant but she had no idea where it was until she noticed something black in the corner of the room, on the floor beneath the window and got up to check what it was. Luckily enough, it was exactly what she was looking for, even if she had no idea whatsoever why Shane would have thrown it across the room. She dismissed that thought and picked up the big knitted hat Shane loved so much and went to give it to her, finding that she’d already managed to crawl down under her big duvet. “Found it,” Jenny told her and carefully helped her put it on. “Do you need anything else?”
“Will you stay with me?”
Shane glanced at the empty side of the bed and Jenny nodded, smiling at her.
There wasn’t anything she’d rather do.
* ~ * ~ *
Half an hour after Bette and Tina had found Alice outside they were all in their living room and had only just started getting something more than incoherent sobs and whispers out of her. After Bette had asked about the one thing she wouldn’t talk about, Alice had been inconsolable but now at least she was willing to talk to them.
Kit, who’d been in the kitchen making a snack for Angelica while they were out playing was now keeping her niece occupied with a coloring book by the kitchen table while still listening with one ear to the conversation the others were having. She couldn’t think of any words to describe the relief she felt now that Shane was back home again, regardless of what was going on with her or her reasons for leaving. The idea of simply walking over to Jenny’s house to ask what was going on had already crossed her mind more than once, but the way they had abruptly dismissed Alice made it pretty obvious that they wanted time to themselves – or possibly just time away from Alice.
“But how can you be sure that it’s cancer?” Bette frowned, pacing back and forth in the living room. “I’m just saying that with her history and what she did to Jenny and then disappeared, even her appearance with the weight loss and shaving her head, it sounds more like drugs to me.” She stopped in front of the others and paused, shaking her head slowly. “It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, she could have gotten into something heavier this time and…”
“Bette, she has CANCER!” Alice interrupted her, her voice shrill and with fresh tears glittering in her eyes. She let out a helpless sigh and leaned back against the couch. “I know what it looks like. I’ve gone through this once already, remember?” Flashes of memory from Dana’s room at the hospital on the day she died started to play in front of her and she began to shiver as she closed her eyes to shut them out, without any success. She felt Tina’s hand gently stroking her hair and she failed to hold back a whimper.
After a moment’s silence, Tina began to speak softly. “I don’t think Jenny would have let her back in the house if she was doing something like meth or heroin now. As angry as she’s been with her after the Niki thing, I mean, the last time we saw her she said Shane was dead to her, and I don’t even know if she’d have tried to get her help for it. But if she’s really sick… God, Jenny must feel awful now.” It wasn’t too hard to imagine. Tina had, in all honesty, not said too much about Shane since she left, but she still felt horrible for the few things that had escaped her lips at one point or another, especially at the beginning. But there’d seemed to be no end to Jenny’s anger the last month and she never ran out of things to say about her old best friend. Tina knew how close they used to be and everything that had happened that night and ever since had been completely out of character for both of them and there had to be some explanation to it that she had yet to find out about.
“Her skin was…” Alice began and the sound of her voice diverted Tina’s thoughts and she turned to look at her. “Almost yellow. I don’t know of any drug that can do that.”
“Sounds like something’s wrong with her liver,” Tina mumbled. “Doesn’t it?”
“I think… now that I think about it…”
Alice, shook her head, staring blankly in front of her. “I’m almost positive Jenny asked her if she needed to go back to the hospital.” Maybe she’d just imagined that part. She tried to remember exactly what it had sounded like to prove to herself that she hadn’t heard what she thought she had, but at the same time a voice echoed in her mind, telling her to accept the truth and deal with it. A second later it was followed by Jenny’s, asking Shane the exact question she was trying to remember. And then Shane’s fragile voice, sounding as if she was about to start crying, but she still kept trying to yell at her…
“She said that…” Alice whispered as the memories of what she’d done to her and the look on Shane’s face when she told her tried to sink in once again. “She said that she knew what I’d said to Phyllis about her.” She noticed that Tina was looking at her questioningly and began to explain. It was something she needed to talk about, even if she was ashamed of what she’d done. “Shane was yelling at me, that’s… That’s probably what you guys heard. She was upset and… I think I told Phyllis at some point about how she’s always been with women. And how we always used to say that whenever she’d walk into a room, some girl would leave crying.” She paused for a second to wipe another set of tears from her eyes and sniffled. “I probably told her what happened with Carmen and the wedding. I don’t know what else she could have meant; I think most of what I said was a long time ago, back when I was still going out with her. But I don’t know what Bette had told her, Shane didn’t tell me any of that.”
Tina froze. “Bette?” She’d been listening to Alice’s story and had tried hard not to judge her for what she was hearing when she could imagine what it would have done to Shane, because at least Alice seemed remorseful. It was just yet another case of Alice talking too much and not thinking enough. She hadn’t meant anything bad with it. But Bette? What did she have to do with it?
“Yeah.” Alice rubbed her nose and avoided Tina’s gaze. “Shane said Bette had told Phyllis something.”
“What did you say to her?” Tina turned to glare at her girlfriend who had been unusually quiet during the whole conversation and now she saw her shifting uneasily.
“Well I…” she shrugged, “I might… have said that if Angelica ever went out with someone like Shane I would put an end to it. Before she wound up getting hurt. It’s…”
Tina couldn’t do much but stare at her as the seconds passed. Someone like Shane? “Bette!” she exclaimed, but nothing followed – she just didn’t know what to say to her. She sat with her mouth half open, trying to process what she’d just heard. Whichever point Bette had been trying to make to Phyllis she couldn’t possibly grasp how she could have used Shane and Angelica as an example. Shane, who’d always been there for Angie ever since the day she was born. Maybe Bette hadn’t noticed any of it, but Tina knew how much their daughter meant to Shane and that she’d never even think of doing something that might hurt her in any way. Shane might not be the best girlfriend imaginable, but she was a great person and that was just a low blow. Tina clenched her teeth together and shook her head slowly at her girlfriend who as usual didn’t even look like she could have possibly done something wrong. They would talk about this more later after Alice left. “How did Shane even find out about this?” she asked Alice instead, though she realized there was really only one likely way.
“Phyllis told her.” As she said it, almost surprised by her own words, vague and blurry memories began to play back in front of her eyes and she realized she’d probably been there when it happened. Her eyes widened and she looked from Tina to Bette and then over to Kit who was on her way from the kitchen to join them in the living room. Of course there was no way for her to be sure, but it didn’t seem impossible that she might be right. “I saw Phyllis come up to her at the Hammer,” she said, “right before Jodi’s show was about to start, and they walked off into some other room. Now that I think about it, she didn’t act like herself after that. She didn’t say much, she was even quieter than usual and she barely even looked at me until the next day. And even then, her eyes were… She’s never looked at me that way before.” Thinking about those piercing green eyes seeming to look right through her, as if they could see every thought in her head, still sent cold shivers down her spine and she made an unsuccessful attempt to shrug it off before she continued. “And that was around the time when she broke up with Molly, wasn’t it?”
“She never had a chance, did she?” Tina stood up from the couch so quickly she heard Bette gasping behind her as she stormed across the room before turning back to glare at them; first at Bette, then Alice and then back again. It was all very clear to her now what had actually happened and she couldn’t believe they’d spent all this time wondering when some of them had had the answers all along. “I’m not gonna pretend that I’ve never said anything about one of my friends behind her back, we all have, but going to someone’s girlfriend’s mother and telling her things like that? Did you deliberately try to break up her and Molly? Huh?” Bette opened her mouth, but Tina didn’t give her a chance to speak and she continued with her voice filled with disgust. “I’m not done, Bette. I know you weren’t happy about Shane dating your boss’s daughter. Because you thought whatever happened between them could affect your career. That’s what you told me. Is that what this is about? They were happy. She even said she was in love with her. How many times have you heard her say that about anyone? And you took that away from her… because of your job?”
“I’m so sick of this shit!” Kit exclaimed from the other end of the room where she stood, leaning against the wall by the front door. “I can’t believe you people. How’s that girl ever gonna be able to change anything even if she wants to, when you won’t even give her a chance? No wonder she lost it that night and took off and won’t return anyone’s calls. No wonder she didn’t tell you she’s back home. You’re supposed to be her friends and all you do is try to find new ways to fuck shit up for her?” She shook her head in disgust. “Some friends she’s got.” Her speech had been directed at both Alice and Bette, but after a short pause, she turned to her sister. “And you. Who are you to pass judgement on anyone after what you did to Tina and to Jodi? Huh?”
As she finished her sentence she felt a small hand in her own and looked down to find her niece looking nervously back up at her.
“Why are you yelling?” Angelica asked quietly.
“No one’s gonna yell anymore,” she replied softly, picking the little girl up and opening the door behind her, glaring over Angelica’s shoulder at the women who were still sitting on the couch and staring back at her. “Come on, baby girl, let’s go outside and practice riding that new bike of yours.”
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