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”She’s asked about you a few times,” Kit said with a shrug, although she was trying not to let herself seem too giddy for fear it would make Shane draw into herself again. It had been so long since Shane had asked her anything at all or even seemed to be the slightest bit interested in anything that she was overjoyed, even if the question had been simple.

Shane didn’t seem very interested in her answer, though, and Kit had to glance over at her a few times to see if she was still awake. She was, but staring at the ceiling as usual, doing her very best to avoid any interaction whatsoever. Kit tried not to sigh, and to be happy with what little she’d managed to get out of Shane today. It was far more than any of them had gotten since Jenny had died, and she tried to make herself believe that the short question about Cherie a few moments ago and Shane’s unexpected presence at the Planet yesterday, brief though it had been, were steps in the right direction.

Not that she thought things would fix themselves right away. That would obviously take time, probably a lot of it, and Kit was suddenly incredibly sad again. Watching Shane’s agony these past couple months had been hellish, mainly because there was nothing any of them could really do for her in the long run. Their promises of support had been met with blank stares and their attempts at any sort of intervention had been met with anger and derision, the only emotional displays they’d seen from her since the paramedics had pulled Jenny from the pool.

Not that they hadn’t tried; on the contrary, they’d done all they possibly knew to do. When the talking and the unflinching support had failed to get any reaction, they’d tried giving her space. When that had failed, they’d attempted to get her to check herself into the hospital for a little while. Shane had balked, exactly like they’d all figured she would, and despite their pleading she’d retreated further into her self-imposed solitude. Helena and Alice had tried to get her committed against her will for a short while, but were told that no matter how depressed Shane was, they couldn’t legally force her into treatment until she was a clear danger to herself or to others.

And she wasn’t. She was silent and distant and cold, and there was no life in her eyes at all anymore, but she wasn’t suicidal. She wasn’t even self-medicating like she usually did when things went wrong. That had become such a pattern that Kit was a little surprised when it hadn’t happened this time. She was grateful it hadn’t, of course, but at least when it had, the pain had some sort of outlet. Even if it was an unhealthy one. While she was glad Shane wasn’t doing anything that stupid now, she had to wonder if this wasn’t worse.

She figured it probably was, but she had no clue what she should do to break the cycle. Shane just seemed to withdraw further the more she pressed, so eventually she’d stopped. She’d promised Alice that she’d drop by at least once a day to make sure Shane was alive and had food, but there didn’t seem to be much more she could do. Shane never told her to leave, though. She’d even given her a key to the place when she’d asked.

She hadn’t really told Alice or Helena to leave either, at least not in words, but they were so uncomfortable with the silence and the way Shane looked right through them that neither had the heart to try to visit anymore. They always sent their love, but most of the time Kit didn’t mention it to Shane. She wasn’t sure how far she could press, and she didn’t want to risk driving Shane so far into herself that she wouldn’t come back out again. That was what she feared the most about the whole thing. Every time she talked to Shane and got no response it gave her a chill, because she knew she wasn’t being ignored. That felt hostile, and there was no hostility coming from Shane. Just numbness and detachment, and that was much, much worse.

Kit shook her head slightly, realizing that she’d been done setting up the food for a few minutes now. “Hey,” she said, trying to get Shane’s attention. It took a few seconds for her to turn over on the futon and get her eyes to focus, but eventually she looked at Kit and smiled wanly.

“Thanks,” she said in a quiet mumble, and it was all Kit could do not to walk over and hug her. She knew Shane was always grateful for the food, but being thanked for it directly was a rarity. Hell, even being spoken to most days was a rarity, and she was happier than she probably should have been at the amount of effort Shane had made the past few days.

“You want anything else?” Kit asked, a bit nervously. She always tried to bring everything she thought Shane might need along with her, but she never knew if there was anything else she might be forgetting. During what had turned into several recent late morning conversations Cherie had told her that she’d seen Shane showering at the gym a few times now, which explained the bottle of shampoo on the work table. She knew Shane was fully capable of going to the store and buying things for herself, even in as deep a state of grief as she was, but she’d have been more than happy to pick her up something. “I can stop by the store and get you anything you need on the way over tomorrow.”

Shane looked like she might want to say something, and Kit gave her some time. In the end, Shane just shook her head and sighed. Felling horribly incompetent, Kit told her not to hesitate if she ever did want something. This didn’t get a response at all, and Kit was saddened again. “Okay, I’ll get going then,” she said, halfheartedly hoping that Shane might say something, anything, to stop her. That didn’t happen, and Shane just looked at the ceiling.

“All I told her is that we lost a friend awhile ago. Ain’t my place to say more,” Kit said at the door, not turning to look at Shane. There was no sound, but she had the feeling she was listening. “She just wanted to know if you’re okay.” There was a faint sigh behind her, and what sounded like it could have been muffled crying, but Kit didn’t turn around to check. “I know you ain’t ready yet, but when you are, you’re not alone.” She couldn’t think of anything else to say, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It made her feel like an over-emotional fool, but she’d gotten her point across and it seemed like Shane had heard her.

**********

Shane ate more of that dinner than she had in what felt like weeks. Her taste buds had been dead for so long that it hadn’t mattered much, but she was hungry for once and decided that she may as well eat while she was in the mood to.

She still felt numb, but there was something at the edge of the numbness now, some remnant of emotion, and she wondered if she wasn’t starting to come out of it a little. The idea terrified her and made her feel guilty. Jenny hadn’t been gone long, and for to feel what might have been even the beginnings of moving on from it seemed like a sort of betrayal.

The idea made her so sad she decided to put the rest of the food away in Tupperware and go back to bed. She briefly considered going to the gym to shower, or to stop by the house to see the baby, but she didn’t have the energy or desire to do anything. She felt too guilty for the hell she was putting her friends through, Kit especially. A quick glance at her phone confirmed that Alice was still trying to reach her several times a day, and that knowledge hurt since there didn’t seem o be anything she could do to rectify it. She sure as hell couldn’t pick up the phone and talk. There just wasn’t enough left in her for that.

When the food was put away in the little dorm fridge, she flopped back on the futon and pulled a thin blanket over herself. She’d had a really bad night, and Kit had gotten there right after she’d managed to fall into a real sleep. She’d had nightmares for hours before that, just like every other night since Jenny had been gone. Never anything substantial, mostly just images of Jenny crying. It bothered her a lot, mostly because she knew she’d never be sure if Jenny’s fall had been an accident.

She knew she wasn’t supposed to think about it. And most of the time, she succeeded in blocking it out. Blocking everything out. It was easier that way, but she was starting to wonder if it was better. She had a strange desire to call Alice and ask if she’d had nightmares after Dana’s death, just to be able to connect to something. But she couldn’t do that to Alice, and the fact that she wanted to, even for a second, made her sick.

Knowing that she was so messed up that even Cherie fucking Jaffe was asking about her felt surreal. She knew that most people would be grateful that people cared, but she wasn’t. She just wished they’d leave her alone. She knew being angry about it did no good and was probably counterproductive and weird, but she couldn’t help it. She wasn’t hurting anyone or anything, not even herself, and they all seemed more concerned than they had when she was sucking down more lines than air. It didn’t make sense.

She took some deep breaths and tried to calm herself down again. She’d had to do that a lot right after Jenny had died. When Kit had asked her input about the memorial service, Shane had been mean. Anger had been the only real thing she’d felt before it had all gone numb, and it was starting to feel that way again. She hated it. She hated not being able to get a grip on how she felt.

She probably just needed to sleep more. That’d make the anger and some of the guilt go away, at least for a little while. It had to, because she had no other answers and was too fucking exhausted to try to think of any. The trip to the Planet yesterday and the tiny bit of interaction with Kit had worn her out completely. She leaned back against the pillows and fell into a restless sleep, one thankfully devoid of dreams.

**********

The next day was a little better. Not great, but Shane felt a little more calm. A little less surreal. She decided that she needed to leave the studio today, for anywhere. It was getting too small in there, and she figured getting out would do her some good.

She didn’t have the heart to go to the house, although she knew she was going to need to in the next few days. There were still some things she needed to pick up, and she felt bad for not having seen the baby in awhile. But it was too much at the moment, and she decided that the Planet was somewhat safer. She stopped for a quick shower at the empty gym and got there not long after the doors had opened.

No one she knew, at first glance anyway, and she was relieved. She got a coffee from an employee she hadn’t seen before and was headed toward the back when she saw Kit walking toward her. She steeled herself, but Kit just smiled at her and walked behind the counter. A little surprised, Shane went over to say hello.

“I expected her to be here,” she said before she was aware that she’d even had the thought, but she knew the words were true when she heard them. Kit looked as surprised as Shane felt, but she had the grace not to make a big deal out of it. Instead, she put her hand on Shane’s free one and nodded.

“Yeah, I always do too,” she said quietly. “I’m glad you’re here.” It was all she said, but Shane could see how much it meant to her and felt a little better as she took her coffee and headed for the back tables again.

Cherie was sitting at one of them. Shane felt no surprise at all at her presence, and wondered if maybe she should. Kit had spoken of her with familiarity, though, so seeing her there didn’t seem like a big deal. Without really thinking about it, Shane walked over to her and stood next to the table.

She saw the concern in Cherie’s eyes the second she looked up from her paper, and realized she was looking at someone completely sober a second later. Cherie looked happy and calm and collected, and there didn’t seem to be any trace of the drugged-out divorcee anywhere in her manner. Instead, she looked almost at peace, and the concern in her eyes was genuine. Shane decided to let herself talk a little.

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