Chapter 7: No
Shane stared up at the brightly painted space above. With a quick shift of his gaze, he looked at the clock. Four. It was four in the morning. And he was still awake. Ugh, work was going to be brutal later.
Two hours ago, his mind was filled with a different concern.
Because Shane had taken advantage of Reed. It took a moment to sink in when he realized it, but it felt so painfully true. Shane had taken advantage of a vulnerable, emotionally volatile Reed. And it made him feel like an utter douche.
Thinking back, he distinctly remembered the self-generated warnings, and he regretted not having listened. He remembered voices in his head urging him to do what he almost did, and he cursed himself for the lack of self-control. If only Reed didn't look almost angelic against the gusts of wind caressing his face or if the soft New York lights weren't perfectly dimmed to accentuate the hazel in his eyes. Self-control didn't seem like a viable option at the time. Right now, though, he wished he had just closed his eyes and turned away or pictured Kurt and Blaine in compromising positions.. or anything equally repulsive.
The knight-in-shining-armor way was to apologize, potentially salvaging what was left of their kind of inappropriate friendship. The tail-between-your-legs way out was to ignore everything- ignore yesterday ever happened or that he ever met Reed. Most of his hours on that bed was dedicated to this decision.
He glanced warily at the clock, an involuntary action by now. 4:12. Great. Having tossed and turned for hours on end, waiting to succumb to the abyss, Shane forced all thoughts off his mind, if only to steal a couple hours of sleep before he had to work. He could persecute himself for his mistake later.
Despite all efforts though (counting sheep didn't work, neither did listening to mellow songs which only reminded him of Reed more), sleep refused to take him. Thoughts of Reed were unrelenting, eating him away till he decided that getting any sleep that night was virtually impossible. So he got up, his head muddled and heavy, but his eyes wide and awake, thinking of some form of distraction. Eventually, he trudged into the living room, plopped himself on the couch, and turned on the TV.
Some mindless entertainment would do him good.
When he got up to prepare breakfast, Blaine was surprised to find Shane sprawled on the couch with the TV on. He supposed he should've expected something like this, if Shane's moping last night was any indication. His brother really was hopeless. Blaine pursed his lips, eyes running over Shane's disheveled countenance. He turned the TV off and fetched Shane's blanket from his room and laid it over his brother. He'll wake up soon enough.
Blaine scurried off into the kitchen, deciding that Shane probably needed his favorite breakfast regardless of Kurt's endless complaints about too much grease and calories in one food.
The enticing scent of freshly cooked bacon left Shane's stomach grumbling, and effectively sending him tumbling into consciousness. The second he was able to register the sunlight against his eyelids, images of last night flashed in his eyes and he instantly slumped back against the couch. As much as he'd like to go back to sleep and surrender to the morning grogginess, he had work.
Ugh. Damn it all.
Moaning, Shane sat up, his head immediately protesting as it felt like lead, and scrambled off the couch and into the kitchen, devoid of his usual grace on the stage.
When he entered the room, Kurt and Blaine followed him with watchful eyes as he slowly pulled back the chair and dropped himself on it. Shane's eyes were slits, apparently still too heavy to fully open. When Blaine deposited a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him, the mouth-watering scent jolted him awake. He promptly proceeded to inhale his breakfast.
Blaine snorted, taking a seat beside him. "Told you bacon would do the trick."
Kurt grimaced as he watched Shane shamelessly stuff himself with the grease-infested food. "Just so you know, Shane, I was perfectly fine with bacon until I met you."
Shane grinned, thankful for the light conversation. "More for me, then." He said, ripping a strip in half with his teeth and chewing viciously.
Kurt rolled his eyes, averting his gaze from the carnivorous display. "I swear, you're worse than Finn."
Shane chuckled, his lips pressed tight. "Hank you." He said, spraying orange bits on the table cloth.
Blaine laughed at the exchange. "Glad to see you're holding up well. Didn't seem like you had much sleep last night."
Shane cast his eyes down, amusement slowly draining from his face. He shrugged, chewing nervously at his food. "I'm o'ay yow." I'm okay now.
"Except your table manners remain to be nonexistent." Kurt piped up, earning a playful smile from Shane.
Finally, Shane managed to swallow the contents of his mouth. "You're just jealous of my meat."
Kurt scoffed. "Yes, just as I'm jealous of your blemished skin and ridiculously unruly hair."
"Hey!" Blaine pouted, unconsciously brushing at his curls. "That ridiculously unruly hair happens to be genetic."
They laughed and normal conversation ensued. Shane thought it was a good way to start the day.
The New York crowd was distinctly different from the Ohioans he was used to, Shane decided. There were times when he felt like a sailboat caught in a storm at sea, scrambling to reach calmer waters. And there were those more preferred times when he drifted through the waves with ease, letting the current take him freely. Fortunately, today was the latter.
Shane's heart rate seemed to quicken with each step, his palms becoming gradually sweatier. Nate Ruess' voice (fun.) drowned out the musings of the city, detaching him from the world as music bombarded his eardrums.
Shane wasn't sure what would come out his mouth once he saw Reed and was supposed to apologize. He knew he wouldn't fare well against those big, hazel eyes and those full lips and that milky white skin, and the fact that he was in this predicament was enough of a testament to this. His stupid brain would either ramble on with an apology or splutter out an inappropriate confession. Either way, he was kind of screwed. Shane slumped.
And be calm
I know you feel like you are breaking down
But I know that it gets so hard sometimes
He wasn't far now. The gallery was almost in his field of vision. Just a few dozen more feet.
Something curly and unmistakably strawberry-blonde floated in the distance. Shane slowed his pace, half of him looking forward to seeing that smile again and half of him wanting to turn around and flee. But then something caught his eye.
But with every single buck I've made
I'm saddled with bad luck that came
There was Reed, in all his cherubic glory, in the arms of another guy. Shane felt somehow betrayed, which was stupid because he had no right to be. Reed had a boyfriend- he was properly informed of that fact. Yet somehow, he felt disgusted. He felt betrayed and cold and lost, and he knew it was his fault; Reed bore none of the blame. Reed didn't instigate that almost kiss, Reed didn't ask him to spend time with him under the pretense of a tour around the city and Reed didn't want to dance with him. Reed didn't do anything. It was all Shane, and he felt ashamed and selfish for it, and yes, he should probably apologize but Reed was in the arms of another guy who probably had a better sense of humor and actually understood fashion and Shane felt like the poorest excuse for a human being at the moment.
But what he was most torn up about was the sad and anguished look on Reed's face as he buried his nose on the crook of the guy's neck. It seemed like despite Shane's best efforts to console him yesterday and distract him from his parents' separation that Reed was still grieving like the divorce was fresh news, and that hurt Shane. It hurt because he knew he could never claim a place in Reed's heart like Reed had completely taken over his. And Shane absolutely despised how three measly days could make him feel this much about a complete stranger, because that's not how it's supposed to work, and it's stupid and illogical. Yet somehow, there's a level of certainty with the way Shane felt.
There was a sense of calm and giddiness that came with hanging out with Reed. It's exhilarating and overwhelming, and it felt like a total adventure. It was like a ride at Disneyland- the wait could be long and torturous, but the ride was always worth it. Like winter- the frigid cold always preceded blissful warmth. Like Christmas coming early. Like the well-received performance after weeks worth of practice. And yet somehow, Reed wasn't all those things. Somehow.. Reed was better. And Shane could reinvent the meaning of cliche and conjure up a few more analogies to express how much of a lovesick puppy Reed has reduced him into, when it happened.
They locked eyes. Brad's back was to Shane, so he didn't notice as Shane watched Reed's eyes widen in fear and shock. Brad seemed to have sensed Reed freeze, moving to pull away when Reed tightened their embrace and locked him in place. Shane's heart shattered a bit. Reed's eyes looked a bit glassier, and all Shane could do was stare back. Regaining control of his legs, he ordered them to move before he started crying too. So he smiled halfheartedly, knowing full well how forced it looked, and shrugged. It's fine. He had your heart first. What can you do.
He didn't wait for whatever type of response Reed could give as he darted down the pavement, back to their apartment.
Since then, it was like they never met.
Shane never went back to the gallery, never even dared to cross that street. He spent a week's worth of nights at random bars, drinking away his sorrows and hooking up with complete strangers, hoping to possibly fall in love with random bar-goers since he apparently had a thing for people he barely knew. But before they could get past second base, Shane would shove them away and stumble home to the apartment where Blaine cooked him bacon for dinner and he shoveled his way through a carton of ice cream till he fell asleep to the sounds of Jack and Rose dancing.
It was pathetic, he knew. But it was a start.
Five months and twenty-six days later
"You better be there, you hear?"
Shane laughed as Summer aimed a threatening finger at his direction, a slip of a smile gracing her lips. "Yeah, yeah. I'll be sure to grace your lifeless party with my presence."
Summer rolled her eyes playfully. "Please. The only reason you're even invited is because Alex won't stop pestering me about you. I very nearly chopped his balls off." She shot him a devious smile. "But then I thought, you guys wouldn't have much fun without it." She winked suggestively, in which Shane blushed and winced in response.
"If you promise never to mention your brother's sexual exploits, or anything even remotely close to it, especially when referenced to me, I will go to your party."
She laughed in an almost evil manner. "Wear those jeans that match your ass perfectly, and it's a deal."
Shane grinned cockily. "That description doesn't really help. Everything matches with my ass."
She cast a sidelong glance behind him, grinning. "No arguments here."
After commenting on how her ass wasn't half bad either, they shared a laugh and Shane relented to his inevitable attendance at the party. They exchanged a hug and parted ways, and Shane's thoughts drifted to dinner when a muffled Money in the Bank started blaring out of his duffel bag. He stopped, rummaging through the piles of clothing he seemed to just blindly toss in there after dance rehearsals, and finally got a hold of his phone. Shane frowned at the number caller ID wasn't recognizing and stole a moment to wonder who it possibly was (hoping it wasn't Alex, otherwise he would kill Summer) before finally answering.
"..I-I'm kind of surprised you answered."
It couldn't be. It's been five months- why would he call now?
"..I-I'm sorry. I know this is sudden. I just.. Gosh, I-I'll go. Um, bye-"
"Wait." Shane didn't know what compelled him to say that. And he wasn't entirely sure if that was the right thing to do. But he needed a few seconds to think before Reed disappeared from his life again like he never existed.
When the silence stretched out too long for Reed's comfort, he spoke. "..Shane?"
Shane blinked, regaining his voice. "Yeah?"
Reed continued hesitantly, uncertainly. "Do you, um.. Do you want me to.. hang up?"
Shane was surprised to find himself shaking his head. "..No."
"Okay." Reed whispered, sounding almost relieved. "I-I guess.. you're wondering why I called so suddenly."
Shane anxiously waited for him to continue.
"I just.. I missed you." Reed's voice punctuated the sentence with a higher octave. "Mom and Dad's divorce was just final, and I'm getting used to the fact that they're not together anymore. They seem happier, so that's good." Reed managed a small smile.
After a moment's silence, Shane understood that Reed wasn't going to address his main concern. So he asked. "How's Brad?" There was a hint of bitterness in his tone, but barely noticeable.
Expecting the question but not too thrilled to answer, Reed bit his lip. "He's.. he's okay."
Shane nodded in understanding. They were still together. They were still them, and they were okay. He knew he shouldn't have hoped because he was Shane, and life never threw him a bone. And although a small truth rings in the thought of him content with simply being Reed's friend, simply looking, he still doesn't trust himself around Reed. So his next words are uttered with much conviction. "I should.. I should probably go."
"Wait!" Reed blurted out.
So Shane waited.
"Um. I don't.." Reed sighed. "You don't have to if you don't want to, but um, I'm having an exhibit on Monday at the gallery, and.. it would be nice if you dropped by or something.."
Shane stopped. Why this was all happening now was beyond him, but what mainly dawned on him was that Reed was giving him a chance to be friends again, to maybe put the past behind them and start anew. But apparently, Shane still felt a speck of something towards Reed, if his hostility towards Brad was any indication. So the question was, was Shane willing to go back to a friendship with Reed with the assurance of being nothing more?
Shane set his lip in a line. "I'll- I'll think about it."
Reed seemed satisfied. "Fair enough. Um, so.. I'll see you around?"
Shane snorted, smiling. "Yeah, see you."
"..promised, okay? You know how long I've been planning this goddamn party. You know how much it means to me-"
"Alright alright, I'm sorry, okay!"
"..have been busting my ass, trying to make this perfect, and you're suddenly telling me-"
"Okay, look. Summer. Summer!"
The rambling on the other line stopped, albeit reluctantly.
Shane sighed. "Look. I'm sorry, okay? I swear, I'll make it up to you somehow, but.. Well, there's this guy.." Shane paused for a moment, gauging her reaction. "You remember Reed?"
"..Reed? The Reed?"
Shane grit his teeth. "Yeah, that Reed."
"So what, did he call or something?"
"He called. He.. invited me to his art gallery."
"..And he's single again?"
Shane hesitated. "Uh, no."
Shane could hear her mischievous smile on the other end. "Ooh, kinky. Get some, curly top."
"Oh my god, just shut up." Shane covered his face with a hand, evidently flustered. "So.. we're good?"
Summer laughed. "As long as I get all the dirty details, we are fabulous, honey."
Shane laughed. "I swear, you were a black gay guy in some past life."
Shane let the crowds shoulder their way past him as he stood motionless, staring ahead.
He wasn't sure what exactly he was doing, and he was fairly sure people were getting pissed at him for standing in the middle of a flowing crowd while wearing a dopey look. He sighed, almost inclined to move forward at the glare an elderly woman shot him. Almost.
But Reed's gallery stood at the next corner- Reed's gallery, which he was invited to and therefore was given the right to enter at any time. Reed would most likely be waiting at the door, keeping guard in case Brad decided to spontaneously show up, in which case Shane's phone would be ringing in a heartbeat with Reed on the other line, waiting to tell him that tonight wasn't a good time after all. He'd thought about just calling Reed and telling him something suddenly came up, that his dog died or that he was being held captive in Captain Hook's ship. Shane was obviously a terrible liar.
But as he stood there for half a minute, his phone didn't ring. The only sounds were the shuffling of feet against cement and incoherent mumbling from vague conversations and a ticking in his ear that won't stop.
It was well after their agreed upon time. But Shane figured being fashionably late was expected of people in Reed's world.. not that he deemed himself someone who belonged in Reed's world.
Ten minutes later, Shane exhaled a big huff before finally starting forward.
Let's get this over with.
The gallery slowly fell into view. Shane swallowed, eyes frantic as he searched for any sign of Reed even though he was still ten feet away. The doorman acknowledged Shane with a raise of his eyebrows, looking pleasantly surprised. Shane smiled crookedly back. The man opened the door for him, bowing slightly.
"Thanks." And with a step, Shane was inside.
Soft music wafted through the room as Shane's eyes continued to scour the area for a hint of strawberry-blonde hair. There were less people than the last time he was here. He wasn't complaining though. The less people, the less judgment at his evident lack of artistic intellect.
When he couldn't find Reed after five minutes, he sighed and decided he might as well try to appreciate the paintings and at least pretend like it was touching him in what would seem like a spiritual level. But when he caught sight of one particular painting, he gasped.
There were two columns of pink trees, their shadows dancing on a green expanse. Pink leaves floated with the wind, and Shane could almost feel the gust of air against his face from that day. The wide path bordered by the pink trees almost seemed to never end. The details were uncanny. It was like the image was extracted from his head and plastered on a frame.
And then a scary thought hit him.
He quickly spun on his heel, advancing on to the next painting. When his sight caught enough of it through the crowd, he froze.
It was the New York Harbor. As he stepped closer, his brows knitted in complete confusion and shock. Its point of view was from inside the Statue of Liberty. Even the old tour guide was present.
His heart pounded against his chest as blood rushed to his face, out of anger or embarrassment he wasn't sure. "What the.."
Suddenly, he was racing through the room, and each time he passed by a painting, his expression contorted into deeper confusion. He wasn't sure what to think as his eyes raked through ever disturbingly accurate detail of each painting. Even the Times Square one had a viewpoint from almost exactly where they stood, with the JumboTron looming over the large crowd.
But when Shane reached the display at the farthest end of the gallery, the hairs on his skin stood on end.
It was of the Empire State. Well, not entirely. It was a vantage point from the highest point in all of New York, exposing the glimmer of the stars and the expanse of the night sky in a new way. And there was a silhouette of two people with whom Shane had a pretty good idea the identities of. They were huddled together, arms wrapped around each other in a comforting fashion. If only people knew how misleading that was- how the people in the painting were so completely different from the people they were based on.
Hearing that voice, it was like a bolt of lightning shot up his spine. Shane shot up, bracing himself for the sight of Reed. Slowly, he turned.
There Reed stood, eyes looking slightly glassy and bottom lip fixed between his teeth. His eyes were fixed on Shane's shoes and his fingers fiddled nervously with the hem of his shirt. He looked horribly nervous, but Shane barely noticed, too overwrought by the sudden turn of events. It was when Reed made the mistake of looking up, meeting the hurt look in Shane's face, that Shane spoke up.
"What is this?" Shane said in an almost accusing tone, hands balled into fists at his sides.
Reed looked torn for a moment, like he was having an internal struggle. His eyes were brimming with tears when he managed to stutter out a frustratingly unsatisfying reply. "I-I don't.."
When no other proper response came, Shane shot Reed a pained look and wordlessly rushed out, breezing past him. He couldn't believe this was happening. He couldn't believe Reed, of all people, could do something like this. What did this even mean? What the hell was Shane supposed to take from all of this?
"Shane! Shane, wait-"
Shane found himself abruptly wheeling around. "Are you- are you mad at me or something? Was that some sort of- of revenge for trying to kiss you?"
Reed shouted through the tears. "NO!"
"Did you just invite me here so I could see that?"
Reed hesitated. "Well, yes but-"
So completely tired and done with this whole affair, Shane shook his head and chuckled drily, moving to walk away.
"I am so tired of waiting, Reed!" Tears began to burn the back of his eyes. "I am always waiting. For weeks, I waited for the hope to go away! As I was in pain, I waited until the hope that anything could possibly happen between us die and I could grieve properly." Shane exhaled, suppressing tears. He looked exhausted. "You know you do these- these things to me that just makes me want to just-" His fingers twisted and arced in the air in a crushing motion. "It's- It's so stupid!" He stopped, breathing labored and cheeks sporting tear stains. He stared at Reed who was rendered speechless at the admission and sighed. Shane let out one last exhale, shaking his head in resignation. "You know what, I gotta go. Good luck with your exhibit." He made to turn and leave when Reed spoke.
"You make me do those things too." Reed wasn't sure what brought on the sudden courage, but it seemed to keep Shane from leaving. "When I see someone dancing, or when we pass by the Statue of Liberty.. And it makes me feel horrible because Brad is right there.." He surrendered his head, shame and guilt suddenly washing over him. He wiped off the tears on his cheeks. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you when I invited you. I was just.. I wasn't sure if you'd still come if I did."
Shane paused. "I still would've come."
Surprised except not really, Reed nodded. "I'm sorry."
Shane didn't acknowledge his apology, but stole a moment to ease his question in. "What was all that?"
Reed looked up, expecting the question but not really prepared to answer. "..I-I needed to find out if.. if there was still.. something.."
Shane scoffed, donning on a sad smile. "Don't go looking for something you'll end up regretting, Reed." And he made another attempt to walk away.
"Brad knows." Reed blurted out in a fit of panic. When he saw Shane freeze on the spot, he continued. "He knows.. about us."
Shane looked up at him, eyes wide and cautious. "H-How?"
"I told him."
"You told him?"
Reed nodded, averting his gaze.
Reed shrugged, uncertain how to answer. But then, that's what Shane deserved. A proper and honest answer. "I was.. There were times when you would suddenly pop in my head." He ventured, blushing. "Like when I'm painting.. and then accidentally, I'd be painting you."
Shane could only stare in curiosity, heart racing and blood rushing to his face. He wasn't sure what to think about all this.
"Just pieces of you. Sometimes, it would only be your eyes.. Or you dancing."
Shane watched Reed intently, because he couldn't make the same mistake. It wasn't just his heart on the line. "..And what did Brad say?"
Reed adopted a sad smile. "He wasn't happy."
Shane snorted, smiling. "I would imagine."
Reed shot Shane a light warning look, easing the tension. "He um.. he basically stormed out. He wouldn't talk to me for days.. And when he finally did, he told me that he wasn't ready to forgive me yet, but we could make it work.. as long as I didn't talk to you anymore."
That was it. That was the clincher. Shane nodded, understanding. "I should go."
"Wait!" Reed nearly reached out to grab his hand before recoiling. "That was.. That was four months ago."
What? So.. what? What was he trying to say? Lips set in a frown and eyes narrowed, Shane looked at him with confusion. He shook his head. "..I don't understand."
Reed chuckled drily, looking upwards to suppress the tears. "Neither do I." He whimpered. "I-I've said all I need to. You can leave if you want." He surrendered his head.
Standing there for a moment, Shane watched him intently, because he couldn't make the same mistake. "Is there?"
Reed looked up, revealing tear-stained cheeks. "Huh?"
Shane cast his gaze down, nervous. "It's selfish of me to ask because.. well, Brad.. but.. you said you wanted to find out if there was still something." He met Reed's gaze. "Is there?"
Reed was taken aback by the question. He fumbled for an answer. "I-I'm not sure yet."
"What happens if there is?"
"I don't know."
Shane studied him with scrutinizing eyes, weighing his next words. "Can I ask you a question?"
Preparing himself for another unexpected inquiry, Reed nodded.
Shane ventured slowly. "Do you ever regret that day?"
Reed smiled, the brightest since their reunion, and shook his head. "No."
A/N: I AM SO SORRY. I know I suck, forgive me please.