Couple: Reed Van Kamp/Shane Anderson
Summary: Shane finds out Reed, his boyfriend of one month, has only got just under a year to live. And when you’ve only got a year to live, you’ve got to make it count.
Warning: Uhm, character death (I cried writing it) and very brief “blink and you’ll probably miss it” sex.
Word Count: 4128
"Why didn’t you tell me?" Shane asks, his voice soft as his thumb moves slowly in circles on Reed’s hand, soothing him.
"Because I didn’t want you to know."
"Reed, that’s not an answer."
"Well, you asked me why I didn’t tell you, and I said because I didn’t want you to know. I thought that was a great answer," Reed replies stubbornly, looking out the window to avoid Shane’s gaze but not pulling his hand away.
Shane sighs and squeezes Reed’s hand gently, “then why didn’t you want me to know?”
Glaring, Reed turns to face Shane, dragging his hand back to hold his legs in place at his chest, causing his breathing to sharpen slightly at the pressure, “because it’s not something that’s exactly easy to bring up in conversation when you’ve been dating someone for a month. Hey, uhh, look I know we’re just starting to go out now, but I have a terminal illness that is rapidly deteriorating and no one knows but hey, that’s ok, because I’ve got a year to live!”
"Don’t you think I needed to know?"
Reed didn’t answer straight away, he simply rests his chin on his knees in thought and turns so he could look at Shane, “can you really blame me for not telling you? I love you Shane. I was afraid if I told you, you would run away. You wouldn’t want to be with me if you knew I only had a year left. I was being selfish. I just wanted someone to love me.” Reed’s voice is barely a whisper, and he blinks his eyes to stop any tears that might break through. No crying; not now.
"I would have liked a chance," Shane says quietly, "a chance to not run or to know. But you know, we’ve been dating a month now and I’m not going to run. You said you-" his voice breaks, a mixture of a strangled and choking sound. "I’m not going anywhere," he decides on saying instead. He can’t bring himself to say the time Reed would have left nor admit it to himself. "I love you Reed Van Kamp," he whispers, prying Reed’s hand away from his knees, pressing a soft kiss against the knuckles, "and I will always love you."
Reed gives in, crawling into Shane’s arms. His body starts to shake and tears begin to roll down his cheeks, “I just didn’t want to lose you,” he chokes out, clutching onto the other as though he was afraid he is going to disappear into thin air any second, “I just wanted to have something to remember.”
Two weeks later, Reed sits in a hospital chair, his legs draping over the plastic edge of the chair, but his small body curled into Shane’s side, his head resting softly on the other’s shoulder. Shane’s grip on his is tight, and even Reed (who is quite often oblivious to such things) could tell how tense and scared he was.
"Relax," Reed whispers, nuzzling Shane, "I know I’m clumsy but I’ve gotten pretty good at not falling out of your arms after the first time."
"Oh god," Shane loosens his grip on Reed, "was I hurting you? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I’m just really worried at what they’re going to say and what if you have to take some kind of medication you don’t want to or -"
The strawberry haired boy laughs, “calm down, it’s just an ordinary check up. They’ll tell me what they always tell me, and then we’ll go home. I’ll force you to stop for ice-cream on the way, convince you that getting strawberry flavoured ice-cream is in fact not ironic, I’ll trip over and you’ll freak out and make sure I’m fine, then we’ll rent a Disney movie, your pick, and we’ll cuddle on the couch okay?”
Shane can’t help but to stare at the boy he calls his boyfriend who is curled up in his arms, “and what is it they usually tell you?”
Reed just makes a humming noise and doesn’t respond, his fingers running along the sensitive skin on Shane’s arm, which causes his hair to
stand on end. Shane doesn’t ask the question again, but his brow furrows in a worried expression as he wonders what they usually tell him.
I’m sorry Mr Van Kamp, there’s been no change.
The statement renders Shane speechless but he doesn’t allow himself to cry. He doesn’t allow himself to look weak in front of Reed who simply nods and smiles at the doctor. And Shane tells himself how it’s not fucking fair that this beautiful boy is used to hearing this like it’s someone telling him his coffee is ready. Reed slips his hand into Shane’s and smiles, squeezing it gently, “ready to go?”
He wants to hold Reed, to just pull him into his arms and tell him that’ll everything will be ok. That nothing will happen because he’ll save him. But he knows he can’t so he just swallows the sob rising in his throat, squeezes Reed’s hand back and nods, following the older boy out of the hospital.
They go home, Reed insisting they stop for ice-cream. Shane laughs at his joke about strawberry ice-cream but orders it anyway. Reed orders the rainbow ice-cream but trips over a chair leg and the ice-cream slips from his hands, splattering the pristine floor with an array of colours. But Reed brushes it off because it’s just a little thing of life. Shane never knew how much Reed appreciated those moments. When everything felt normal.
Shane later cries himself to sleep that night. Reed doesn’t sleep at all.
Reed deteriorates slowly, but at a constant pace. His guard at Dalton starts to fade and some days he doesn’t even pretend to smile. He just nods along in class and clutches his knees to his chest, wishing Shane was there to hold him at the time. It doesn’t take long for people to hint on and for Reed to break down in front of them. Kurt holds onto him, tears rolling down his cheeks. The twins stand there in equal silence, speechless for the first time in their life. Wes starts yelling and David tries to calm him down but the worst reaction by far is Dwight. The younger boy shakes his head, splutters something and runs from the room. The others try to follow but it’s no use. They don’t see Dwight much, for the next few months. He’s always locked up, always doing something different.
Shane still wakes up and looks in the mirror and tells himself that would be the day that a cure is found. He’s making toast one morning when his ears tune into the song playing on the radio.
There is a drug that cures it all
Blocked by the governmental wall
We are the scientists inside the lab,
Just waiting for the call
The toaster is thrown across the room, but misses the radio entirely. The curly haired boy breaks down on the kitchen floor, holding himself and rocking back and forth. Everyday Reed tells him it’s going to be okay, but never once has he said it to Reed.
Remind us all of what we could have been
It’s three months later, six months into Reed’s timeline, and the two sit on Shane’s bed together, listening to the sound of each other breathing.
"It’s beautiful," Reed mutters and Shane is unsure of what he means. Following his gaze, his brow creases in worry.
"The- the wall?" he asks lightly, not wanting to hint Reed to his worry. He wonders if he’s seeing things. He’s never asked the details of Reed’s cancer because, quite honestly, he doesn’t want to know. If he knows, then it’s final. He knows he’s shielding himself from the truth but he just wants to hold onto the lie for as long as he can.
"What?" Reed, pale and already broken looking, turns to focus his brown eyes on the green-grey ones of Shane. He laughs, and shakes his head, "no, I was talking about the sound of your breathing. It’s beautiful and soothing. I like to think everyone’s breaths play a different tune. We make the most beautiful music, and some of us don’t even know it."
"Yours is beautiful too. The song of Reed Van Kamp."
"It’s not going to be playing for much long-"
"Don’t say that," Shane interrupts him harshly, turning away so Reed doesn’t see his eyes well up with tears. He’s so young.
"Why not Shane?" his voice is angry, and he shifts so he’s sitting in front of him, his hands resting on the taller boys shoulders, "why can’t I say that? Because it’s nice to pretend and be all happy and rainbows? Look at me. Listen to me. I’m pale. I sound weak. Well, weaker than before-"
"-you never sounded weak," Shane says softly, "never."
Reed chooses that moment to kiss him. Not a soft kiss that you would expect a dying boy, or man for that matter, to initiate. A kiss that showed the other that he wanted more. “I want to have sex with you,” he whispers, pulling back so he can gage the reaction.
"W-what. You mean like a han-"
"No," Reed’s voice is forceful and harsh and he doesn’t even blush like he would of six months ago, "I want you inside of me. Tonight."
They both know he isn’t joking. Well, Reed knows he’s ready and Shane knows he wouldn’t joke about something like this. Something like this was just not a Reed thing to joke about. It doesn’t stop him from checking. Just to make sure, of course. “You-you’re joking right? But I can’t- you’ll get hurt.”
"That’s kind of the point Shane," Reed says dryly, slumping into Shane’s arms, "is it so wrong that I don’t want to die- don’t you dare argue with me on that point Shane Anderson- a virgin?"
Shane doesn’t answer Reed, he just wraps his arms around him. He’s not trusting his voice currently because he knows he’ll cry. Hearing Reed say that, like it’s so final, makes him finally admit it to himself. No matter how much he’d broken down over the past five months since finding out, he’d never admitted it to himself. But he was going to die. Reed Van Kamp was going to die.
Reed sits there comfortably for ten minutes, just enjoying the sound of Shane’s breath again before sighing and shifting so he can look at him again, “Shane?”
"I don’t want you to die," comes the response. Shane’s voice has cracked and his body feels like it’s finally broken around him. He wonders to himself why he feels like the one who is broken and in need of repair when he’s got the medical scans which show he could live for a hundred years. "You’re so young a-and it’s not fair."
Reed caves and breaks down next to Shane, their tears mixing together as they clutch onto each other. “I don’t want to die either Shane. You know, every night I dream the same thing. It’s you, and it’s me,” his voice is steady, despite the tears that roll down his cheeks, “we have two kids. One boy, James Micah-” the name causes Shane to take a sharp intake of breath but Reed simply smiles a watery smile, “and a girl, Grace Cooper. I’m putting dinner on the table, but you’re laughing because the chicken is burnt. I pretend to not notice you laughing and we sit down. We eat the meal and the kids go to bed but you and I stay up talking. When we fall asleep in each other’s arms, is when I wake up. I wake up without fail and I’m crying. I cry Shane. I don’t want to die but I guess I’ve just accepted the fact I’m going to. When you’re dying you notice everything so much more. Whether it’s the simple sound of one’s breathing, or if it’s the way a leave falls
to the ground. Everything on this Earth has the potential to be beautiful, to captivate someone. I hope, one day, you find the person that truly captivates you.”
Shane kisses Reed deeply, unable to speak. He’s not even bothering to try to stop crying now, not after Reed’s words. His heart aches at how much he wants it. He can picture the kids now. Both a mixture of each other, the girl with light strawberry girls but she’s tall with Shane’s eyebrows and smile. And his eyes. She’s very much like Shane in how she acts, spinning around the room desperately trying to dance en pointe. The boy seems quiet, a mop of black curls on his head but deep brown eyes. So comforting, like his slightly older father’s. He whispers to his Dad that he wants to take photos of food because it interests him so much. The way the marinade sits on the plate, the way the vegetables look crisp. He says that he wants to capture a moment of deliciousness. Such impossible children, Shane reminds himself. Such an impossible life. His brain latches on to the last thing Reed says and he shakes his head forcefully.
"I could never find someone as captivating as you Reed. My dream isn’t as amazing as yours. Every night I just dream of waking up the next day and you’re still here. I have found the most beautiful thing on this Earth," his voice doesn’t hold like Reed’s, it wavers and cracks, the salty bitter tears dripping into his mouth and onto his tongue.
"We dream such impossible things Shane. Such impossible things."
"Isn’t that what a dream is?" Shane asks, regretfully. Neither have bothered to stop crying now, their tears mixed together. Tears always taste salty and bitter to Shane, but Reed’s tears mixed with his own don’t taste bitter. They taste bittersweet. He hates himself for loving the taste. He doesn’t want Reed to cry. And yet, here they are.
Reed laughs in response and nods. He settles down in Shane’s arms comfortably. The silence is soft and it’s sad. But it’s also beautiful and tender. Because it reminds them that every moment is as important as the next.
They stay like that for around twenty minutes. Their tears slow, but their cheeks are stained. Stained with a mixture of hopeless dreams and impossible futures. “Shane?” Reed finally says, breaking the peaceful silence, “have sex with me?”
"No," he whispers back, pressing a kiss into his hair.
"Why not? Won’t you help me achieve my one possible dream?"
"Because," Shane smiles, turning them over gently so he’s looking down at Reed, "I want to make love to you instead." The line is so cheesy it makes both want to cringe but neither do. Not when there is skin to explore and find again. They’ve been naked together before. They’ve given blowjobs and handjobs but Reed had never known when he would be ready. And Shane had never pressed the matter. To him, it didn’t matter if Reed wouldn’t be ready until he was thirty. He was worth the wait.
It’s perfect and it’s bittersweet. The soft moans, the begging whimpers and the surprised gasps that came from both of them. Shane stretched him so slowly. Almost agonisingly to Reed. In that moment both forget that he was a dead Warbler walking. When Shane entered him for the first time he found himself thinking that nothing would ever feel so perfect again. Reed is thinking the same. Nothing would ever feel as perfect again. It was slow, and they made it last. In a way, both had known it would never happen again. But they made love that night. It would be the first time and the last time they would.
Reed later cries himself to sleep that night. Shane doesn’t sleep at all.
It’s five months and seventeen days later when Reed Van Kamp dies in his hospital bed. He deteriorated quickly over the last few months of his life. Shane’s by his side when he dies. Reed hasn’t said anything for days. His body hasn’t been awake for days. Clark and his mother have been in and out of the room but neither stay as long as Shane. Shane doesn’t leave. Blaine begs him to leave, to take a shower or to grab lunch. But Shane can feel it. He’s not leaving. And he doesn’t.
Reed dies with his hand in Shane’s. His eyes are closed and his breathing stops. It is nothing dramatic. The doctors don’t rush in and try to revive him. Shane sits there and he cries. He doesn’t move because he doesn’t want to, and he can’t. Hilde gets the news via cell phone and rushes to the hospital immediately, breaking down at the site of her son dead. Shane hasn’t moved in days, but he manages to get up to wrap an arm around her. He comforts her because she hadn’t been ready. To her, it was never going to happen.
But to Shane, it had simply been an impossible dream.
Four days later Shane finds himself clad in a black suit, gripping onto a leather bound book with a single piece of paper in his hand. The service is moving and it’s touching but it’s nothing personal. Not yet. Ethan (or was it Evan?) has his arms wrapped around the other. Wes is crying softly into David’s shoulder and Kurt’s hand is tightly around Blaine’s. Shane could tell it was hurting Blaine, but he could also tell he didn’t care because the pain was helping. He scanned the place looking for Dwight and saw him in the very back row, and empty chair next to him. He looks as though he hasn’t stopped crying since the moment he found out. He appears to be talking to the empty chair and Shane doesn’t question it. It was nice to think, that maybe the ones we love still exist, we just don’t see them.
Shane hears his name and he breathes in, standing up. The tears haven’t come yet and part of him feels guilty that he hasn’t cried. But he knows why he hasn’t. And he also knows it won’t take long until he breaks. He smiles around at everyone. It’s a fake smile, but it’s also a real one. He’s not happy. He feels as though he can never be happy again. But something makes him want to smile.
"I know everyone in this room cared about Reed," he began, his voice only shaking slightly, "and I know we’re all going to miss him. I’m going to miss the way his hair glistens in the sun, and the way his laugh makes me feel. I’m going to miss the way he kissed me and how he tasted. I’m going to miss our conversations but most of all, I’m going to miss him. You know," he laughed lightly, shaking his head, "I had this whole speech written about to try to keep my cool. To not cry like a baby up here but I’m not going to use it now. Because I don’t want to remember Reed formally. I want to remember him in the way he really was. Beautiful, talented and one in a million- no, not one in a million. One in seven billion. There will never be another Reed Van Kamp. There will never be another one like him."
He pauses to look around the room. He wanted to break down in tears. To wrap his arms around the closed coffin and to beg whoever is up there to take him instead. Because he knows Reed didn’t want to die. And that’s what breaks his heart the most. He was so at peace with it, no matter how much he didn’t want it. “Reed gave me this book before he died. And he asked me to read something to you all. I, uhh, haven’t had the courage to open it yet but I want to respect his wishes so forgive me if I break down crying in front of you all.
"My dear friends and family. I guess if you’re hearing this, it means I’m no longer with you. No, I’m still there. I’m always there with you, I promise. You can’t see or hear me, but I’m there. I want you to know I loved you all so much," Shane’s voice shook, a single tear dropping onto the page, "you are all such impossible people. I always had such impossible dreams. I dreamed of a future even though I knew I couldn’t have one. In my last words to you all, I just want to tell you to live every moment like it could be your last. To realise that however small or insignificant, everything has the potential to be beautiful you just have to look at it in the right way. Slugs, and butterflies are beautiful creatures. Hippos and gazelles are beautiful. Warblers and-" Shane allowed himself a small laugh before continuing, "-and Warblers are beautiful creatures. You are all so beautiful and you all captivated me. But for now I say, until we see each other again, goodbye."
Shane closes the book slowly, now freely crying in front of the room full of people. He knows the book holds more. Reed had told him the message was for everyone, but the book was for him. And he would look at it later. He would look at it every day for months to come. Then every week for years. Then every month for the rest of his life.
"I brought these baskets of daisy petals," he continues softly, "to bury with Reed. One petal for every day I knew him. A white daisy represents shared feelings of affection, which I know you all had for him," he smiles a watery smile before continuing, "while a red daisy tells of beauty unknown to the possessor. Reed always talked about how beautiful other things were but he never talked about how beautiful he was. I know he saw it, but I want to bury these with him. I would be honoured if those that wished, took some and placed them in his grave."
He takes his seat again. A soft song is played as the coffin is removed from the room. The group follow to the grave site, where the petals are sprinkled on top of the coffin once it’s lowered. There are a lot of petals, but then there are hardly ever. Shane finds himself thinking how many more there would be if they had got to live their lives together. How many more days, and what could of come. But, as Hilde sprinkles some dirt on top of the petals and the coffin, he knows it’s time to leave. He grips his brother’s hand and they depart the cemetery Shane would come to know well over the years, as he visited Reed.
He looks at the books a day later. Flicking to the first page after the message, he’s greeted with a photo of him and Reed he didn’t even know existed. They’re sitting on the lawn at Dalton and Reed is laughing. He looks so free and beautiful. Shane’s arms are around him and he’s smiling. The note beneath the photo says simply, don’t stop smiling.
The other pages are much like this one. With photos and words. Memories and sayings. Drawings from Reed scattered the book. Some that looked intentional, others that look like they’d been drawn from boredom. It’s a book of their time together, but it’s also a book of their ending. Like many other things between them, it was truly bittersweet. Shake flicks the page over to the final one and blinks in surprise. There is no photo. There is simply a white square, with a single daisy (of all the flowers, that was the ones he chose?) drawn in the corner.
This is your future Shane. It may seem blank now, but I promise you, if you let something grow, it’ll be beautiful and it’ll be all for you. To quote a movie I hope you’ll never forget. Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one. Love, Reed.
Shane breaks down and he cries. He clutches the book to his chest. Maybe things didn’t seem right now. Maybe nothing would ever seem right again. But he remembers the last words he shared with Reed and he remembers everything. In that moment, he remembers everything. He would never forget it.
"Reed Van Kamp," he mutters to the seemingly silent room, except for the beautiful song of Shane’s breaths, "you truly are one in seven billion."