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Author's Chapter Notes:
"The more you pretend to be strong, I see your weakness"
Soundtrack: Ayumi Hamasaki - kiss o' kill
Jenny paced impatiently around the waiting area at the ER; she’d circled the room for so long by now that she’d lost count of how many times she’d done it. She’d thought it impossible, but the tears were finally starting to dry on her reddened cheeks.

“Jenny…” Alice’s voice said softly from behind her and she stopped when she felt her hand touching her arm. “Maybe you should just sit down for a while and try to relax a little bit.”

She shook her head, biting her bottom lip as her eyes started to tear up again. “I can’t relax,” she whispered. “Not until I know that she’s okay. She has to be okay.” She nodded to herself and didn’t try to stop Alice when she gently wrapped her arms around her.

“She’ll be fine. She’s gone through a lot in the past and she survived that. Shane’s not going to let this take her down.”

Jenny opened her mouth to say something, but for once in her life she was all out of words. She heard what her friend was saying, but none of it seemed to hold any meaning to her. Alice was no doctor; there was no way she could know. The things she said were hopes and wishes, and Jenny needed fact and truth. She had to see for herself that Shane was all right and until she did there was no way she was going to calm down. Alice hadn’t been there with her in the ambulance as they drove to the hospital. She hadn’t seen how Shane got worse…

Alice cleared her throat and stepped back to look at her. “I don’t know if you heard it, but I talked to Helena and asked her to call the others and tell them what happened. They’re probably on their way already and they’ll be here soon.”

“Okay,” Jenny responded with a slow indifferent nod and she didn’t know for sure how long they stood there like that, but soon she heard familiar voices coming down the hall toward them. Jenny turned to see Helena walking over to them, followed by Max, Tom, Tina, Bette, Jodi and Kit with little Angelica in her arms.

“Phyllis keeps calling me and she’s driving me crazy! Crazy!” Bette gestured with her arms all over the place as she signed to Jodi and spoke loudly enough for the entire hospital to hear her. “She never should have left Joyce, she’s impossible to…”

“Bette,” Tina interrupted her, stopping to stand right in front of her and nodding just slightly in Jenny and Alice’s direction. “I don’t think this is what’s important right now. There’s lots of time for you to tell us about Phyllis. Later. If it matters that much to you.”

“It’s not about whether it matters to me or not, Tina,” Bette continued, not getting her point at all. “I shouldn’t be here right now, I have so much work to do and…”

Tina shook her head while Jodi just stood by Bette’s side, peering from one to the other. Bette had stopped signing and she couldn’t tell what was said between them only from reading their lips.

“If you have so much to do, maybe you shouldn’t be here,” Tina shrugged and turned her back on her ex to go and say hello to her friends. She gave Jenny a warm hug, deciding that their differences from that afternoon didn’t really matter after all.

Helena sat down next to Kit and Angelica on one of the couches and looked concernedly at Alice who hadn’t moved from Jenny’s side. “So, what happened? You didn’t tell me that much on the phone.”

“Well,” Alice started and the others moved to sit down too. “We were at WAX; Shane, Shay and Chase, and some of the guys. And we went to the back to look for something, and all of a sudden Shane told me the place was on fire.”

“Oh my God,” Tina said quietly and Alice decided to go on before anyone else decided to interrupt. She had to struggle hard enough to get the words out already, but she didn’t want to put that on Jenny. Besides, Jenny hadn’t even been there from the start anyway.

“We didn’t have any problems getting out, it was just that Shane couldn’t find Shay once we did. And I don’t know if she heard or saw him, but she realized he was still inside and went to get him out.” She paused for a moment, rubbing the back of her neck. She was exhausted and it was hard to remember what she was supposed to tell them when everything seemed to have started to melt together in her head. “And Chase and the guys are still there, they had to talk to the cops so they could get the guy who did it. They thought it was someone who used to work there.”

“Are they going to be okay? Shane and Shay?” Jodi was speaking and she directed the question at Jenny who had stood silent since they arrived.

She shrugged hopelessly and shook her head. “We don’t know, we… haven’t heard anything yet. Shay seemed okay on the way over here, but Shane…” Jenny closed her eyes as she remembered how Shane had passed out in the ambulance right before they reached the hospital, and she hadn’t seen her awake since then. She cleared her throat and tried to go on. “Um… I don’t think either one of them got burned, but Shane fell and hit her head and her knees and her hand and… She was coughing a lot, she must have inhaled some smoke…”

“Inhaled some smoke? That can’t be such a big deal considering all the smoke she inhales on a daily basis. I thought it was something serious.”

No one laughed, and Bette chuckled uneasily when she realized her attempt to be funny had backfired completely. Instead an uncomfortable silence spread through the group.

Jenny was the first to speak, and when she did her voice was barely more than a whisper even though inside there was nothing she wanted more than to scream at her neighbor. She just didn’t have the energy to. “I guess you don’t know, Bette, that smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death in fires. And it’s not something to laugh at.” A tear trickled down her cheek and she felt Alice’s hand on her back, rubbing it comfortingly.

Tom had translated the conversation for Jodi, and when she turned to her girlfriend the expression on her face was one neither of them had seen her show before. She was hurt and offended, and when she spoke, her voice was filled with disgust. “She’s right,” Jodi said out loud, shaking her head as Bette began to sign at her in frustration. “And Shane’s your friend.” The signing kept going between the two of them until Jodi seemed to have had enough and turned away from Bette, ignoring her completely and giving Jenny a warm smile instead.

Jenny did her best to smile back, then slipped out of Alice’s embrace and moved to sit down next to Kit – still with a sleepy Angelica in her lap – who hugged her and quietly explained that Angelica had followed them because Tina didn’t think there was much of a point in trying to find a babysitter on such short notice and that they’d only be able to stay for a while. Jenny didn’t know how to respond to that, so she just sat in silence while she saw her friends’ lips beginning to move again. It felt like she had somehow lost her ears or the ability to hear, and she wondered if that was how it felt for Jodi every single day. None of their words reached her, and she realized she didn’t even care. The numbness that had started to take her over made her question if she was ever going to care again.

Time passed but she seemed to have lost her sense of it, and she couldn’t be bothered to look at the clock on the wall across the room. If she were to do it only to discover that only five or ten minutes had passed since they arrived at the hospital, it would make her feel so much worse than she already did. The only thing she wanted was for someone to come and tell her Shane and her brother were okay. ‘Maybe I’m making things worse than they are?’ she thought and hoped with all her heart that she’d turn out to be right.

“Hey, Jenny?”

Alice had kneeled down in front of her and looked into her distant eyes, trying to get her attention. After a moment Jenny’s gaze met hers and acknowledged her presence, and Jenny shrugged uneasily, wondering how long she’d been sitting there.

“Look, I’m gonna go and call Chase and ask him what’s going on over there. I just thought I should let you know. Okay? Are you gonna be all right?”

Jenny nodded and Alice got up, giving her a quick hug before she walked over to the phone again.

“What’s with all the sad faces?”

At first Jenny thought she was imagining it, then she followed the impulse to turn her head around and saw Shane standing right behind the couch she sat on, resting one hand on Shay’s shoulder and holding the back of her neck with the other.

“Oh my God!” she squealed happily, her tears coming back for the millionth time that night. She hadn’t expected them to just walk out to them, she’d thought for sure the next time she saw them at least Shane would be in a hospital bed. It seemed like that was more what she needed though, her eyes were still red and she looked completely exhausted. At least now the wound on her cheek didn’t look as bad after they’d cleaned the blood off of it, and her right hand that lay limply on Shay’s shoulder had a bandage on it. Shay himself looked close to normal, and he still held his skateboard in a tight grip, making Jenny wonder if he’d had it with him in the exam room as well.

Jenny jumped out of the couch and ran up to her, wrapping her arms around her and holding her as tightly as she dared to. She felt Shane relaxing into her embrace, placing her good hand on her back and stroking it gently as she leaned her head against hers. Shane coughed over her shoulder, and while the others were probably relieved that she seemed to be somewhat all right, no one said anything and instead let them have their moment in private.

“Are you guys okay?” Jenny asked quietly and realized the second arm that wrapped around her just then wasn’t Shane’s at all. It could only be Shay’s and that made her tear up even worse. She moved her left arm from where it rested on Shane’s back and slipped it around him, hugging them both at once.

“They said Shay’s gonna be just fine,” Shane said hoarsely as she stepped back and smiled a little, but the way she said it didn’t do much to comfort Jenny at all.

“I’m glad he’s okay,” Jenny replied, stroking her hand over his back. “But what about you? Are you gonna be okay? Because the last time I saw you, you passed out in the ambulance.”

“Passed out?” Shane asked, her brows furrowing in confusion. “According to what they told me I fell asleep on the way over here but that’s it. I didn’t faint or anything. I was probably just exhausted ‘cause I still am. And I think I’m getting a headache. Look, I just wanna go home, take a shower and go to bed. Can we, please?”

Jenny was sceptical. She loved Shane, but she knew she would do anything to get out of the hospital; even trying to keep the truth from her if she thought it was necessary. She wouldn’t lie, she just wouldn’t tell her all the facts. “Shane, did they say it was okay for you to leave, or are you saying it?”

Shane never got a chance to reply, because Alice had just gotten off the phone and discovered they were there, so she ran over to them and pushed Jenny away a little so she could hug Shane and Shay. That made the rest of their friends get up and do the same, and Jenny found herself closed off from her for a while, but she didn’t mind. It was nice to see how genuinely happy they all were that they seemed okay, even Bette. Jenny realized that for some reason she hadn’t expected that after what she’d said earlier.

“Hey, do you guys need a ride home?” Alice asked. “I still have your bag in my car, Jenny.”

“Oh,” she said quietly when she remembered how she’d just left it outside of WAX and she thanked her for taking it with her.

They accepted the offer and everyone let the three of them leave quietly with Alice, understanding that Shane wasn’t up for any kind of small talk after what had happened that night. Alice managed to stay quiet all the way to her car, but then she decided it was time to tell her what she’d found out when she talked to Shane’s business partner.

“So, I called Chase and he said they caught him!” she exclaimed excitedly.

“Caught who?” Shane coughed, sitting in the backseat half asleep with Jenny’s arm around her. “Mick?” She hadn’t given it much thought up until that point, but in her mind, there was no other suspect than their former employee.

Alice frowned at her in the rear-view mirror. “I thought Chase said his name was Nick? The guy he fired… before the fire.” She giggled at her own bad joke and Shane smiled just a little.

“I barely even met him, Alice, I couldn’t bother to remember his name. You mean he did it?”

“Yup,” Alice nodded. “At least that’s what Chase said, and he told me about that before we left as well. But isn’t that great news?”

“What, that he burned down my store?” Shane asked dryly. “I would have preferred if he hadn’t.” She paused when she realized how cranky she sounded. “Look, Al, I’m sorry, but I’m just having a hard time looking at the bright side of life right now.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she replied and they all stayed silent for the rest of the drive to their house. After Alice pulled over to let them out, she got out of the car and gave Shane another hug. “Make sure you take care of yourself, okay? I’ll stop by tomorrow and check on you. And don’t argue with me on this.”

“Okay, I won’t.” Shane took a deep breath and let go of her friend, trying to smile at her without much success. “Thanks for the ride and everything.”

As Alice got back into her car and drove off, Jenny came back outside with Sounder in his leash and she told Shane she was taking him for a quick walk. After giving her a kiss on her cheek, Jenny hurried off and Shane went inside to look for her brother. She found him in the living room, still with his skateboard in his arms, a look of complete hopelessness clouding his young features and making him look older than his age.

Seeing him like that scared the hell out of her. Everything that had happened that night must have been at least ten times harder for him than it had been for her, and she just didn’t know what she could do to help him deal with it when she could barely stand on her own legs.

“Hey,” she said softly, trying not to startle him. “How are you holding up?”

He didn’t say anything, he just nodded and all of a sudden he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. “I thought you were gonna die,” he said so quietly she could barely hear him.

She slipped out of his embrace and sat down on the floor in front of him; she needed to rest her legs for a while, and when she did, he sat down too. She looked concernedly into his eyes, so similar to her own, that were quickly filling with tears. “Shay,” she said and shook her head, “I’m not gonna die.”

“You looked like you were,” he replied, his voice strained from trying hard to hold back a sob. “I don’t want you to go away too.”

Shane put her arms around him again, it felt like someone had put a knife through her heart and turned it around, and she had a feeling she’d done that herself somehow. Seeing him in so much pain hurt a thousand times more than her injuries from the fire ever could. “I’m not going anywhere. I promise. I just want you to be okay. But if you’re not, I want you to know that you can talk to me about it, it’s okay. I’m not gonna leave you, ever. You hear that?” She said the last words without fully realizing the decision she had finally made and she sat back to try to look at him through the tears that were welling up in her own eyes.

Shay nodded and for a moment she thought she’d gotten through to him. Until he opened his mouth to speak again. “If I hadn’t gone in there, you wouldn’t have been hurt.”

She began to realize what was really torturing him, but just as she was about to say something, she started coughing again and she hated herself for it even though she couldn’t help it. It was going to make it even harder to explain things to him and make him believe her. “Shay, none of this was your fault. You didn’t do that on purpose. And there’s no way I was just going to leave you in there. Don’t you know how much you mean to me?”

“I’m sorry,” he sobbed quietly.

“You have nothing to be sorry for. Nothing. You didn’t put the place on fire, some guy who used to work for us did. It wasn’t your fault, and we’re both okay. Don’t blame yourself for this, you have no reason to. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good,” she said, hoping he actually believed her this time, and she held him close until the door suddenly opened behind her and Jenny walked in with her dog.

“Hey you guys,” she said in a baby voice, not having switched back to her normal one yet after spending time with Sounder. “Why are you on the floor?”

Shane let go of her brother and smiled at him, trying to see if he really was okay after all, and when she decided that he seemed calmer now, they helped each other up. “No reason,” she said to Jenny before turning back to Shay.

“You wanna go to bed or do you wanna take a shower first? Or do you want anything?”

“Can I take a shower?” he asked, wrinkling his nose. “I kinda smell. You do too.”

“Yeah, I can imagine,” Shane chuckled. “Okay, you go first, and then we’ll get some sleep. I think I could sleep for a decade after tonight.” She let out a deep sigh, pulling Jenny close to hug her as Shay wandered off to the bathroom.

They stood there in silence, just holding each other for a while until Jenny remembered that she had to give Sounder something to eat, and Shane walked out on the back porch and sat down on the steps.

“Do you want some coffee?” Jenny said from the door after a while, holding up the thermos she’d prepared before she went to WAX and that she’d just retrieved from her bag. “I completely forgot about this.”

“Thanks, but I don’t think I should drink anything that’s gonna keep me up longer than necessary. I’m tired as hell and I need to actually sleep for once.” Sounder ran around happily playing by her feet, and after smiling at Jenny she offered him her undivided attention.

Jenny went back to the kitchen to clean up the thermos instead and when she was done she went back outside and sat down next to Shane, gently placing her hand on her shoulder.

“Shane, can we talk?” Shane turned her head to face her and nodded, and Jenny went on, all her concern slowly becoming visible in her eyes. “You weren’t supposed to leave the hospital, were you?”

Shane rubbed her eyes with the heel of her left uninjured hand and then shook her head slowly. “They didn’t think I should, no. They wanted me to stay for observation, but I… I couldn’t do that. I know this probably sounds dumb, but after everything that happened, I just wanted to be somewhere that… that I can feel safe.” She lifted her head to let her eyes meet Jenny’s and saw her biting her bottom lip. “I just wanted to go home. And you know the other reason, so…”

Her voice trailed off and Jenny wrapped her arm around her back, letting her head come to rest on her shoulder. “I know,” she said quietly. “I’m just worried that you’re not getting the help you probably need. You did not seem okay at all at WAX.”

“It’s really not that bad.” She knew she probably didn’t sound too convincing, especially not as she began to cough again at the end of her sentence, but at least she meant what she said. “I’ll be fine. They told me that… I was lucky. For someone who did what I did, I got away easily. And if for some reason it gets worse, I can just go back there.”

Jenny turned to look at her for a moment and she moved her hand a little so she could play with a lock of Shane’s hair. “Can you promise me that you will do that if you need to?”

“Yeah, I will. And they said we should take it easy and rest for a few days, and we’re gonna do that. I promise.”

“Thank you.” A sigh of relief escaped Jenny’s lips. She could finally relax at least a little; she knew that Shane wouldn’t break her promise to her. She might whine about it for a while, but in the end she’d keep her word.

Shane sighed too, using her good hand to try to pull Jenny closer without much success. She let go, placing her hand on her lap instead and Jenny glanced concernedly at her, but before she had a chance to say anything, Shane spoke. “I could really use a cigarette right now.”

“You probably shouldn’t…”

“No, I have to quit,” Shane said with a quiet chuckle. “They said that if I don’t after what happened, it might make things worse. But it’s okay, I was thinking about doing that already so now I just have to actually do it.”

Jenny smiled a little as she saw Shane raising her hand to let her fingertips play thoughtfully with her lips like she did sometimes when she wanted to smoke really badly. She lifted her own hand and took Shane’s left in her right one, lacing their fingers together and softly kissing the top of her hand before she let them down in her lap.

“You know what?” she then asked, stroking a few strands of hair away from Shane’s face.

“What?”

“If you have to quit, then I’m gonna quit.”

“You are?” Shane said, somewhat amused by Jenny’s sudden decision. “Jen, you don’t have to do that because of me. Unless that’s what you want.”

“I know, but I want to. It wouldn’t feel right if I kept doing it when you can’t. So I’m quitting! We can do this, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” Shane said quietly. While she appreciated it, she somehow suspected that quitting on her own would be much easier than quitting with Jenny. Because Jenny without her cigarettes? She could just not see that ending well as far as her moods were concerned. It would be a good thing for her if she did quit though; Shane wanted her to be healthy and she’d give her all the support she could possibly need.

From inside the house, she could make out the faint sound of the bathroom door opening and she got up, out of habit trying to dust off her jeans that couldn’t possibly be any dirtier.

“Do you need help?” Jenny pointed at her right hand that she had the bandage on. “We could put a plastic bag over it while you shower, that way you don’t have to take it off.”

Shane raised an eyebrow as she looked at her; it took her a moment to clear her thoughts enough to realize what Jenny meant. “Yeah, yeah, okay. We can do that.”

“Okay.” Jenny left Shane standing by the backdoor and went to get a bag and some tape. When she found it, she came back to get her and Sounder, who Shane was trying to persuade to come back inside. “Sounder,” Jenny said in a baby voice, “come to mommy!” He immediately turned from where he was running around on the porch and ran over to her, licking her outstretched hand.

Shane shook her head and closed the door. “He doesn’t listen to a word I say.”

“Sure he does. He’s just a bit playful tonight because he was alone for so long. Aren’t you, Sounder? Aren’t you?”

Shane coughed a little and put her arm around Jenny’s waist as they left the kitchen and walked through the hallway on their way to the bathroom. She peeked into Jenny’s old room and saw that Shay was already in bed and seemed to be asleep. He was probably as exhausted as she was, and she decided she could talk to him some more in the morning.

“Is he okay?” Jenny whispered when she closed the door and Shane nodded a little.

“I hope so.”

“Come.” Taking Shane’s hand, Jenny nodded towards the bathroom door on the opposite side of the hallway. “We should hurry up so we can get you to bed. You look like you could use some rest.”

Shane followed her and once they were both inside, she closed the door behind them and used her uninjured hand to pull down the zipper on her hoodie. It took her a while to get it off as she tried to be as careful as possible so she wouldn’t do anything to make her hand or arm hurt more than they already did. Once she slipped out of it, she dropped it on the floor, not caring enough at the moment to hang it up somewhere, and she heard Jenny gasping next to her as she did so.

After taking off her own sweater, Jenny found herself staring at the big dark-blue mark that seemed to cover half of Shane’s left upper arm and she placed her hand over her mouth as she realized how much it must hurt. “Shane…” she whispered, horrified, and bit down hard on her lip. “How did that…? What…”

“I don’t know.” Shane tried to pull up the short sleeve of her white t-shirt to get a better look at the bruise. “I didn’t even see it until now. I just felt that it hurt a little before but I didn’t think it was such a big deal.”

“It looks like a big deal to me.” Jenny swallowed, taking a closer look. “And it looks like it would probably hurt more than just ‘a little’.”

Shane shook her head at her as she fiddled with the button on her jeans. “It’s fine, it’s not the end of the world. It’ll heal.” Just as Jenny reached out to help her get her pants off, she managed to unbutton them and slipped out of them, kicking them off on the floor.

It made Jenny worry even more when she saw the wounds and bruises on her knees, but she decided to leave it alone. At first she thought that it couldn’t be worse than a kid falling off his bike after all, because on their own, Shane’s injuries didn’t seem that bad. But when Jenny saw them all at once after Shane had finally managed to take all her clothes off, it started to really scare her. Even the Band-Aid on her arm where she guessed they’d drawn blood unnerved her a little. But she didn’t say anything; she just smiled encouragingly and helped her get into the shower.

“Wait, we forgot this,” Jenny suddenly said as she remembered the plastic bag she meant to cover Shane’s bandages with, and Shane turned around on the spot where she stood in the bathtub so that Jenny could help her put it on.

“This feels stupid,” she mumbled once Jenny was done putting tape around her arm and she frowned discontentedly at it while Jenny put the tape and scissors away and then came to join her in the shower.

“You didn’t think it was when you made Shay do it,” Jenny reminded her and gave her a quick kiss.

“That was different.”

Jenny was about to ask how exactly that was any different, but she decided not to. There was no point in arguing with her about something so insignificant, especially not now. At least now she had that thing on her hand anyway and Jenny reached past her to turn the shower on. She motioned for Shane to back away a little as she did so, wanting to make sure the water wasn’t too hot for her with the wounds she had all over her body.

“Do you think this is okay?” she asked, and when Shane nodded after letting the water touch her left hand, she traded places with her and picked up one of the bottles of shower gel.

Shane leaned her forehead and elbows against the bathroom wall, covering her face with her left hand to stop the drops of warm water that drizzled down on her tender skin from getting in her eyes and mixing with the tears than had begun to trickle down her cheeks. Seconds later she let go, curling her fingers into a fist and slamming it into the white tiles above her head.

Startled, Jenny realized Shane’s whole body was shaking and there was no time for any second thoughts. She hurried to her side, slipped her arms around her waist and tried to hold on to her without hurting her, only a moment before Shane’s legs collapsed beneath her. With tears welling up in her own eyes, Jenny did her best to steadily lower her down in the bathtub while Shane’s sobs grew more and more violent.

“I could have gotten him killed,” she cried, her voice getting higher for each word, and that alone sent chills down Jenny’s spine. She wasn’t used to her sounding like that, and even though she’d seen her cry a few times in all the time she’d known her, she’d never seen her fall apart like that.

“Shane…” she said as softly as she could in an attempt to calm her down, but she was without success. With her eyes shut, Shane pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead and shook her head, the water from the shower washing over her like warm rain. Jenny reached out her hand to turn it off; Shane’s eyes were irritated enough without the water getting in them.

“He could have died in there!” Shane’s eyes met Jenny’s for a moment before she started sobbing so hard that she began to cough again.

It hurt to look at her, both mentally and physically. Her pain was so apparent by just being in her close proximity that Jenny could feel it coursing through her own veins. It made her shudder, and though she knew it might be because she’d just turned the water off, it seemed far more likely to her that all the desperation in Shane’s eyes was what really caused it.

She wrapped her arms around her and seconds later she could feel Shane hugging her back as if she was holding on to her for dear life.

“I could have lost him, Jen…” Her voice was barely more than a whisper now, and Jenny gently stroked her back, trying to fight back her own tears. It was hard for her to not give in and start sobbing too, but she knew that if she did she would only make things worse for Shane; it would give her yet another thing to worry about.

“But you didn’t,” she managed to whisper into her ear, her fingers buried in the wet hair in Shane’s neck. “Shane, he’s fine. He’s asleep and he’s gonna be okay.”

Shane tried to shake her head again but couldn’t when Jenny pressed her cheek against hers. “He shouldn’t even have been there,” she sobbed, “he wouldn’t have been if—if I hadn’t taken him with me. It’s all fucked up now, they’re never—they’re never gonna let him stay with us after what I did… Last time he broke his arm, this time he got trapped in a fire. What’s it gonna be next time? I thought I could do this, but I can’t!”

“But you can!” Jenny exclaimed and pulled back to look into her eyes that were still red from the smoke. “Shane, you saved his life, don’t you see that? You risked your own life and you got him out and he’s safe now. And what did Gabriel do? He took off and left him in the house all alone, don’t you see how much better for Shay you are? If you try to get custody of him, then that’s what they’re gonna see. This is more proof than anything of how great his life would be if he got to stay with you. You love him more than you love yourself and you’d do anything for him, and that’s more than his parents can say.”

She didn’t reply. She just sat still in front of Jenny for a while, blinking until she finally closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against Jenny’s.

“I just want you to be okay,” Jenny said quietly with tears in her eyes, her face crumpling up as she spoke. “I’m so scared that you’re not okay.”

Shane sniffled, placing her left hand on Jenny’s cheek – she hadn’t hit the wall with it hard enough to hurt herself – and not knowing what to do with her plastic-wrapped right one, she let it rest on her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“No, Shane, don’t be sorry.” Jenny wiped at her face with her hand, angry with herself for breaking down when she’d promised herself she wouldn’t for Shane’s sake. “Just take care of yourself. And be honest with me; don’t try to act like you’re fine if you’re not. I just want you to be safe ‘cause I can’t stand the thought of losing you.”

“You’re not gonna lose me.”

Jenny’s face crumpled up again and she tried to cover it with her hand as her eyes filled with tears once again. “I thought I would tonight. I saw you just… disappearing. And I was so scared that you wouldn’t come back out of there. I wanted to go after you and stop you, but Alice wouldn’t let me, and I didn’t understand what was happening. And my head kept trying to paint this like, picture of my life without you… and there was just nothing there.”

They slipped their arms around each other once more and Shane kept whispering apologies into Jenny’s ear while Jenny told her she had nothing to be sorry for. They sat like that until Shane leaned back against the side of the bathtub, just staring at her hands for a while before she spoke. “He…uh…” she began, her voice hoarse, and she shrugged hopelessly. “He meant for… Shay just went to the bathroom. And he must have waited until he was inside before… before he…”

Unable to finish her sentence Shane began to cry again, but Jenny knew exactly what she meant to say. Nick had deliberately tried to kill her brother along with the rest of them, but as horrible as it was, that realisation might mean that Shane could put at least a little less of the blame on herself. Jenny doubted that she’d ever stop completely, no matter how many times she told her it wasn’t her fault, but that didn’t mean she was going to stop trying to convince her.

“Shane,” she said, her voice quivering as she shook her head. “Shay’s safe now. Thanks to you. And that fucking worthless piece of shit that did this to you is behind bars and I doubt they’re going to let him out any time soon. And Shay, he has us. We’ll make sure he’s fine. I won’t let him be anything less than that, I promise.”

Shane chuckled with her eyes full of tears and held her close until they both calmed down, and while it had hurt to see Shane fall to pieces like she just had, Jenny was glad that she had finally been able to let out everything she had probably tried to hold inside the whole night.

“We should get cleaned up and then we can go to bed,” Jenny suggested and Shane nodded, seeming too tired to say anything more. They helped each other up and Jenny turned the shower back on, helping Shane wash away the evidence of what had happened that night until all that was left to remind them were the wounds and bruises on her pale skin.

They got ready to go to bed and wrapped up in towels, they headed into the bedroom; their clothes still in a pile on the bathroom floor. Jenny had decided she could clean that up in the morning, but for now, all she wanted was to make sure Shane got some rest.

She handed Shane her pajamas that consisted of a pair of black sweatpants and a washed-out grey t-shirt that she imagined had probably been black too at some point, and she watched as she put them on while she got dressed herself. Jenny still hadn’t gotten used to the bruise on her arm, and she hoped that didn’t hurt as much as it looked like it did.

“You don’t think we should do something about your knees?” she asked her suddenly and Shane shook her head in response.

“I think it’ll heal faster if I just leave it alone. And it’s not even that bad. The bruises make it look worse than it is.”

“Okay,” she replied, letting her have her way. They both got into bed and Jenny got settled just fine, but Shane kept moving around between the sheets, a frown beginning to crease her forehead. “Shane, what’s wrong?” Jenny asked, propping herself up on her elbow. “Oh…” she mumbled seconds later; Shane didn’t need to explain, she understood now.

Shane usually slept on her stomach with her head buried in her pillow, but now that she had hurt her knees, it was probably not the best idea. She couldn’t lie on her right side because of the wound on her face, and on her left side she had the bruise on her arm. Sleeping on her back was just out of the question because she hated that – unless she had Jenny half on top of her, and that wasn’t a very good idea at the moment either.

She sleepily turned her face towards Jenny, looking completely miserable and Jenny crawled over to her and kissed her. “Come here, we’ll figure this out.” She gently eased her over on her right side, facing her, and arranged her pillow so that she could lie like that hopefully without her face hurting. Then she took her injured hand and moved it up in front of her face so she wouldn’t hurt it by accident. “Is that okay?”

“Thank you,” Shane mumbled back, her eyes barely open. She blinked repeatedly, fighting off the sleep as she tried to keep talking. “The only… good thing about this is that… that I don’t have to… don’t have to work tomorrow. We can sleep really… late.”

Jenny smiled as she watched Shane drift off to sleep and she lay there in front of her, just looking at her, until she suddenly started to cough again. Startled, Jenny sat up in bed and half expected Shane to wake up, but she just lay there with her eyes closed like nothing had happened. If her problems from earlier that night were any indication, this was probably not the last time it would happen, so Jenny got up and moved to lie down behind Shane on her side of the bed instead.

She slipped under the duvet and snuggled up close behind her, wanting to wrap her arms around her like she always did, but not daring to. Being this close to her, she could hear that her breathing didn’t sound like it should, and she was scared that if she held her the wrong way it might make it harder for her to breathe. Wanting to stay on the safe side, she gently placed her hand on her hip instead and buried her face between her shoulder blades.

A few hours earlier she never would have thought that she would be going to bed that night with Shane in her arms, but still there they were. Jenny had no words to describe the relief she felt; even if WAX was gone, Shane and Shay were both alive and that was all that mattered. In spite of that, she was still unable to relax completely, and she lay awake the rest of the night, watching Shane as she slept, and listening to make sure she kept breathing.

This is Treasure ~ Chapter 8 ~ Close to you

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