|i was walzting with my darling
When Kyle was six and Shawn was seven and a half, they used a barbeque lighter to melt a box of 64 crayons to the cream-colored carpet in Kyle's bedroom. Shawn remembers that Uncle Tommy yelled, but Shawn can't remember why he was angry - whether it was about the multi-colored wax indelibly etched on the carpet, or the idea that one or both of them might have been seriously hurt.
He would ask Uncle Tom - since he can't ask Kyle - but Uncle Tommy is on the other side now, for all they're still fighting for the same thing, and they don't make social calls to one another anymore.
Shawn doesn't make social calls to anyone, really; sometimes a secretary places phone calls to business associates for him, and sometimes he has long lunches at restaurants he couldn't afford without Jordan's money, but Shawn doesn't have friends anymore. He's surrounded by people every hour of the day - he can even hear the restless shifting of his bodyguards outside his bedroom door, when he can't sleep.
He doesn't have friends anymore; he just has a bunch of strangers who all want something from him.
He didn't really have friends before he disappeared, either, though. No one but his mother and his brother and Uncle Tommy missed him. Not even Kyle missed him, because Kyle spent the entire time Shawn was gone, somewhere he didn't remember, in a coma.
Shawn didn't have friends before he disappeared. He just had Kyle.
Cousins are better than brothers, closer than friends. He and Kyle were inseparable from the first moment that Kyle could toddle after Shawn, running around the backyard of Uncle's Tommy house in the summers. Shawn remembers the grass cool underneath his feet, the sound of the sprinkler, the way Kyle laughed with his head thrown back, when he was a kid, when he was a teenager, the sound always the same.
When Shawn came back, when everything fell apart with his family, when he didn't know where to turn, he turned to Kyle - and Kyle was unfamiliar. Kyle was a stranger in a friend's body, and the night he found Kyle sitting in the sprinkler, completely unaware of who he was, Shawn was more frightened than he'd ever been in his life.
Not even the light coming down at Highland Beach and Kyle calling out for help scared Shawn as much as Kyle did that night in Uncle Tommy's backyard.
Shawn turned to Jordan because Kyle wasn’t the person Shawn needed him to be, but then again - Shawn hadn’t been the person Kyle needed him to be, either. Shawn had been gone, and Kyle had been sleeping, and suddenly they didn't know each other anymore.
Then he came back, and he didn't even have Kyle.
He has rare moments when there's no one else around. When things are quiet, not quiet in his head but at least quiet in the demands that are being made of him, and sometimes he thinks about what it would have been like if the future had gotten Kyle like it had meant to. Shawn always thinks of the future as it, never as them, never as people - an it that changed his entire life, and Kyle's and Uncle Tommy's and the lives of 4399 other people who all look up to Shawn like he knows the answers to anything.
If it had gotten Kyle, Shawn would have spent three years frantic. Kyle didn't even know that Shawn was gone until after Shawn had come back.
The future took Kyle, in its own way - after Shawn woke him, brought him back from the as-good-as-dead, Kyle wasn't himself, and Shawn was frantic then, too. So many years of history, and Shawn had always thought that looking at Kyle would be like looking in a mirror; Kyle's features, Kyle's gestures, Kyle's laughter so familiar that it might as well be Shawn's own. When the future spit them both back, Shawn first and through Shawn Kyle second, Shawn didn't know who anyone was anymore.
Shawn came back, and Kyle was gone. Kyle came back, and suddenly he needed Shawn to be 22, because Kyle was 21, and Shawn only ever felt alternately 17 and 45, torn between the way it was before and the way Jordan was grooming him to be something he didn't want to be.
He went to Uncle Tommy's place, once, only once, after the time he found Kyle sitting in the backyard, sprinkler going in his face. After Jordan was dead, when Shawn was suddenly something he wasn't ready to be, with his entourage and his bodyguards and his tinted windows. He stood there and he didn't recognize his cousin, even though Kyle's face was more familiar than anything about Shawn's new life.
But Kyle had smiled, and twitched a shoulder in that way he'd always had, and Shawn had remembered the secret language of someone who has known him his entire life. No one else in the world knew him like Kyle did. No one else in the world had ever gotten that close to Shawn, and no one else ever would, and he knows it.
He knows Kyle's laughter and the slope of his shoulders; the way Kyle leaned into Shawn's body when Kyle had too much to drink. Shawn was missing three years of his life, but he remembered Kyle like he'd never been gone.
And sometimes - sometimes he didn't remember Kyle at all.
When they were kids, they had spent hours in Uncle Tom's backyard in the summer. Shawn sinks down in his desk chair and thinks about long summer afternoons, the colors as bright in his memory as the crayons on the floor of Kyle's bedroom years and years ago.
Kyle had never been able to surprise him; Shawn was older, Shawn knew Kyle first, knows him best.
Shawn was surprised when Uncle Tommy called him, told him that Kyle was the one who'd shot Jordan. It was a punch to the gut. He's known Kyle all his life, he remembers Kyle learning to walk and learning to talk and learning to love. Shawn came back and he didn't know Kyle anymore, except that three years is not as long as the rest of his life, and he still knew Kyle.
Shawn never saw this coming. It was a punch to the gut, it was a betrayal of the sort that even Shawn, who stole his brother's girlfriend, who has done nothing but destroy lives since he came back (or at least that's how it feels; no one was ever this angry at him before) - even Shawn could not fathom this.
He didn't understand it. He didn't understand Kyle. Kyle was a stranger, and Shawn didn't know Kyle anymore.
He sinks down in his desk chair at night, now, after everyone's gone home and the lights are turned off, and he tries to remember how things were before.
He can't remember anything anymore. He can't remember Kyle, except in memories fading out like colors stripped by sunshine.
He falls asleep and dreams of Kyle.
author's notes: plum did beta duty. title and summary from "the tennessee waltz", as covered by many, many people.