Something in the very far backseat of my mind insisted that Shawn was telling me what I wanted to hear. It was a liar, but you had to give it credit for trying, especially when it was me that it intended to convince. I shook my head. "It can't be like that."
"Why not? Because you could handle it better if you were making it up?"
"Nothing works like that, Bandy." He patted my knee. What was with people and touching me? Was I fuzzy or something? "Sorry to burst your pink happy funtime bubble, but sometimes the truth is an annoying little bastard dressed up like a crazy lie."
I had to laugh, mostly to relieve tension. His hands were in his lap now, nowhere near me. "When did you get to be so philosophic?"
"Last Tuesday." He reached over and ruffled my hair, but the irritation that should have gripped me gave me a bit of a total pass. I sat there, lost in confused lack of panic, and contemplated an unwashed cup lying on its side on the floor. There was a ring of dried liquid adhering to the bottom inside. It was near a vent, and the air kept on blowing it away, playing Catch with gravity.
I blinked. Where was I? Not
It was too dark, I couldn't see a thing. It was warm, though, and I could hear someone breathing deeply. I reached up to rub my eye, knocking back a blanket. It was soft, and my hands didn't hurt, either one of which would have been a good enough clue. I hadn't gone anywhere at all, I was still sitting on the couch, leaning on Shawn's side. He was asleep, snoring gently and almost silently, his hair rebelliously attempting to devour his face. I thwarted it and looked for scars or signs of a major feature gone missing.
Two eyes, closed; one ridiculous nose that should have at least gotten him somebody's phone number by now; a mouth that was open far too often, but not that awful
Yeah. He was all there. No worries.
My head hurt. I felt as though I'd been handcuffed to a bed. Considering the fact that I had never been handcuffed to anything, I probably should have worried about that. I glared at Shawn as though that would get me an explanation. It was no big surprise that it didn't. He just leaned onto the couch arm and pulled me with him.
I watched the room sail about, swearing quietly. This was what I got when I said stupid things. The Univers said, "What not, just give the kid a chance. He isn't actually stupid, and it would probably be a lot of fun."
My arguments were all loud and/or whiny, so I let the situation lie and reached into myself for everything that was still sleepy. There was not as much as I might have hoped. Granted, being snuggled by someone I had been trying to keep at permanent friend status tired me out, but it was not comfortable enough to allow sleep. He had bony hips, for someone who wasn't skinny.
"Shawn," I whispered, poking his arm. He took a very deep breath, putting a stop to the snoring, and then pulled me closer. It might have been nice if the universe was not set up the way it was. If I wasn't me. My head was tucked firmly beneath his chin now, but at least he wasn't in my line of sight anymore.
It could have been worse. It probably would be worse, in the morning. Last time he'd gotten mad at me and confessed. Some might call that rather ultimate, but I held out little hope. I almost wished
I'd never wished I was somebody else before, not seriously. It felt weird. Generally I was pretty content to be me. My life was another story, but I was okay. Lately, though
My world had shrunk so much it was like dropping something down a thirty-foot hole and then trying to take a picture of it. I hadn't left the dorm in days, and Shawn was the only person I'd been faced with that I didn't want to scream at. I only wanted to curse under my breath at him, at the worst. No wonder I was letting the Universe have a voice about it. I lifted his arms off of me and set them back down rather nicely in his lap. At least I hadn't done anything humiliating before I'd figured this out.
The room didn't seem quite so dark now that my eyes had begun to adjust, so I left the light off and stumbled to my room. I turned on the computer and uninstalled the game, cleaned up the registry and otherwise wiped its existence as well as I knew how without grabbing a bloody magnet. Then I threw away the disc, snapping it as an afterthought.
Scrapes on my hands from the plastic shards. Oops. I felt stupidly triumphant about the whole episode anyway. I didn't think it would affect Reality 2, but it made me feel a lot better. Then I got about as dressed as anyone needed to be that late at night.
When I went back out into the living room, I checked to see if Shawn was still sleeping. He hadn't moved, but when I leaned in to look at his face, his eyes flew open and he said, "You can't go already!"
Needless to say, my heart turned off. I fell on my ass and nearly hit my head on the coffee table, half-whispering, "I'll stay, I'm sorry
But he didn't hear me. He hadn't even been awake, just talking in his sleep, the jerk. As soon as I'd finished my tumbled, he vaulted to a lengthways position on the couch, and started snoring again. Spammy git. E even curled up in my blanketsI had half a mind to nick his pillow. Not that he would notice that. Damn. He'd probably just smile and let me have it for a week or two.
I used to be able to piss him off! He used to be able to piss me off
all the damn time. Why did he have to go and get all understanding? Shit. He used to pull all kinds of dumb pranks on me, almost as if he was trying to get me to move out. Or flirting.
Oh god make the brain shut up with the thinking.
Shoes. I needed those. Even if I just went to one of the memorial parks. Buses didn't run this late, but the electric rail for everything in the University grounds ran 24/6
It would have been 24/7, but for weekly maintenance. I could go throw crumbs at sleeping ducks in the ponds. Be an asshole again for a few hours, where no one could see me and Shawn couldn't tell me to go back to bed.
I padded out of the apartment with my shoes dangling from hooked fingers. After I'd locked the door, I sat in the hall and put on my shoes. This would be my first night sneaking out since I'd left home. Something about it made me feel terribly adolescent, which I didn't like one bit.
In any case, I made it to the empty station. All the late-nighters were either downtown or living it up at the dorms, like rational people. This meant I got the rail all to myself, though. That was pretty nice, even though the sound system was playing New Caledonia Heartbreak on some kind of album loop. I had the words to half the songs memorized by the time I stepped off, which would have been more impressive if most of the words were not 'nanana' or 'hey eh'. Still, it had been better than silence.
The grass felt cold through my shoes, but that didn't make any sense so I decided I was imagining. For a while, I just wondered aimlessly stumbling over litter and falling into post holes. Finally I just dragged my sore body over to a bench and flopped down. The sky reflected on the water, daring me to make something of it. I didn't have anything to draw with, and I was a crappy writer, so I backed down from the challenge.
It could have been so much worse. Dad could have sent my old bodyguards round at any time to take me home, Angie could have made a website and taken full malicious advantage of the rumor mill instead of just teasing me and sulking, and Ms. Beckhurdst could have been a ruthless social climber with beady eyes and very real cunning. Or she could have been a romantic. Ugh.
As for Shawn
That could have been worse too. It also could have been better. God, talk about fucked up and unfair. The one person I found myself able to stand when I was at my worse. Why was it a problem anyway? I'd had guys come on to me before, I just said 'no thanks, not interested' and they moved on. I never felt guilty about it like this.
It was because I bloody liked him. I growled at my knees and kicked a rock into the water. I actually liked that stupid way he grinned and got very slightly nervous when he was afraid of doing or saying something dumb. I even liked that he went on and did it anyway. I liked that he confided in me, and I liked the way he just gave with all the vim of a puking dog. No reserve at all. It put me in a state of awe sometimes. He could be amazing.
I wanted him to get things he wanted. And the idiotic thing was, other than that, I didn't really want anything. Sure I wanted to get along better with my dad and clear up this business with Reality 2, but those were so old and so new that they didn't factor in properly. I led a pretty content path, but it was also vaguely boring. I couldn't give him what he wanted, though. I didn't want it. I wasn't actively against or for it, and that mattered, in the end.