hiss in the silence
by Gale

SUMMARY: “What makes you think it’s just up to you?”


Shannon’s aware, dimly, that her father’s seeing someone, but she doesn’t meet her until after her father’s already proposed.

He tells Shannon the things she guesses he’s supposed to say – how much he loves her, how this really isn’t going to change anything – and tells her she has to be a big girl, that that’s what her mother would want. It’s on the tip of Shannon’s tongue to say that her mother wouldn’t want her husband to marry another woman, but she holds it in. She’s hurting, not needlessly cruel, and she knows her father is still hurting, too, remarriage or not. Besides, if her mom’s listening up in heaven and hears Shannon say something like that, she’ll be in so much trouble.

So Shannon grits her teeth and smiles and tries to make nice with Sabrina, who has perfectly straight hair and even white teeth and very dark eyes.

She’ll look back when she gets a little older and see Sabrina the way she’d really been: nervous, excited, terrified her soon-to-be stepdaughter wouldn’t like her. She’s not cold; she’s just not very keen on expressing herself in front of people, let alone strangers, and eight-year-old Shannon had still been a stranger then.

But eight-year-old Shannon just sees the woman her father’s replacing her mother with, and hates her immediately.

The news that Sabrina has a ten-year-old son of her own is greeted almost as enthusiastically.

*

“Shannon?” Boone knocks before he comes in, which is new. Something he learned at boarding school, maybe. All *she’s* learning is how to speak Latin and get better grades in history by flashing her stockings at Professor Balaire. “You okay? Your dad’s downstairs—“

And that’s probably when he comes into the room, because he shuts up suddenly, and when she turns around he looks a little green.

“Shut the door,” she manages, and gets her head back over the bowl before anything comes up.

“Doesn’t it taste gross?” Christie Fitch asked her once, and Shannon just rolled her eyes. Of *course* it’s gross; it makes her back hurt and her breath a little nasty, and it’ll ruin her appetite for a good four or five hours afterwards. That’s the whole point. Duh, Christie, grow up.

“Jesus,” she hears Boone mutter. “Are you okay?”

”I’m fine.” She spits a few times and gives an experimental heave, but nothing comes up. “No big deal.”

”No big—Shannon, you’re throwing up.”

“And I’m telling you, it’s not a big deal.” She spits again and gets to her feet, supporting herself with the toilet bowl. Boone offers her his hand; she ignores it.

He’s growing up; he’s taller than he was, for a start, and if his lashes aren’t longer they seem that way. His eyes seem bigger, too, his mouth more lush. As a boy, he’d make a very pretty girl. Shannon smirks.

“You get prettier every time I see you, big brother,” she says sweetly, grinning when he scowls. “How are you doing? Bringing any pretty boys home this time?”

”Fuck off,” he mutters. “So this is what you’re learning in upstate New York? General Bitchery and Eating Disorders 102?”

”It’s not a disorder,” Shannon says, reaching for the mouthwash. Long drink, swish, swish, gargle, spit. “That means it’s a problem. This isn’t a problem.”

”Right,” Boone says dryly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Everyone’s throwing up after they eat an apple and two pieces of toast. It’s all the rage in French Vogue this month.”

Shannon wipes her mouth. “Screw you.”

“Not even if you paid me,” Boone says. He reaches out and flicks her hair back into place. It’s an absent gesture, thoughtless, but no one’s done it since Shannon’s mother died. It makes her throat hurt.

”Thanks,” she says, meeting his eyes in the mirror.

And for a second – just a second– they have a moment of perfect clarity between them. In the four years they’ve been in each other’s lives, there’ve been maybe four of these, and though she’d never tell anyone, Shannon treasures all of them. It makes her feel like she’s a part of something – part of a family, maybe.

Moments like these, Shannon gives a crap whether or not Boone likes her.

And then Boone glances away and the moment’s gone, and they’re back to being Pretty and Perfect and the Ice Princess. Just as well; it’s what they’re best at.

“You ready?” Boone asks. “Your dad’s noticed you’re not downstairs.”

Shannon smoothes out her skirt. “Might as well,” she says, and plasters a smile on her face. “Let’s go say good morning to Mommy and Daddy.”

She offers Boone her hand. Boone takes it.

*

Shannon walks in on Boone just once, when she’s fifteen.

It’s weird enough that they’re together reason at all, because Sabrina and her dad are in Nice for two weeks and Shannon’s supposed to be staying in New York for break. But given a choice between two weeks by herself and two weeks hanging with Nicky and Paris – that’s not really a choice. Two weeks by herself, no too-trendy friends hanging around, and Sir and Madam off in another country. *Score.*

Or so she thinks, right up until she gets the front door open and sees someone with artfully messy white-gold hair on his or her knees, expertly sucking Boone off.

She’s just – frozen, silent in her shock, staring. Boone’s still dressed, in a T-shirt and jeans that are shoved down to his ankles, barefoot, toes curling against the living room carpet. His hands are in Whoever’s hair, threading, not pushing. Beneath the curtain of hair (good go, he needs a haircut; she can’t even see his eyes) she can see him grinning down at the person, hearing him making little delighted noises. His mouth is so wet, so red—

Shannon makes a little squeaking noise.

Boone snaps his head up, and now Shannon can see his eyes: they’re bright blue, wide open, and totally pissed, just like the rest of him. “GET OUT!” he yells, utterly thunderous, and Shannon – who has never, *ever* been scared of Boone, not even once – runs like she’s on fire. She doesn’t even grab her bag; she just goes.

(He only yells at her like that one other time in her life, but that’s five years and a couple thousand miles away; and that time, like this one, she does what he says without question.)

He’s – he’s not supposed to have *sex*. He’s her *brother*. He cleans up her messes and takes care of her, takes her side in the fights against their parents. He’s held her hair back when she throws up, he’s brought her Kleenex when she’s sick – God, last year he drove her out to her mom’s grave when her dad got stranded in Hong Kong on business.

That’s all Shannon can think: he’s not supposed to have sex. He’s her *brother*. That’s *gross*.

She’s not sure how long she’s on her back, breathing hard and staring up at the ceiling, trying not to cry. Long enough for her brain to turn off as she stares at her walls. Pale pink and cream, the same walls she’s had since she was a kid. Her dad even made sure her room here at Sabrina’s had the same color scheme, so she’d feel less freaked out. So conscientious, her dad.

She hears her door swing open. “Shannon?” Boone asks, sounding almost tentative. Then, more firmly: “Shannon, can I come in? We need to talk.”

“Whatever,” Shannon says, not lifting her head. “Is your girlfriend still here? Because I’d rather do this in here, if she is. I don’t relish making small talk with whoever you brought home to bang.”

She hears Boone sigh, feels the bed dip by her feet. “No. Cooper went home.”

“Cooper?” Shannon pushes herself up onher arms and looks at him. “That’s a guy’s name.”

Boone just looks at her.

Oh. Oh, *God*. Shannon doesn’t know it’s possible to want to die *more*. “Kill me,” she says, falling back against the mattress. “God. I could be in New York right now, at a club or something, but no, I came home. And what do I find?” She turns her head to glare at Boone. “My stepbrother, getting a blowjob. This is so fucked.”

She can actually hear Boone roll his eyes. “Look, if you’re going to be a child about this—“

”Of course I’m a child!” Shannon snaps, shoving herself up to lean against her headboard. She glares at him. “I’m fifteen, and I just caught an authority figure engaging in sexual acts!”

”And you’re yelling about it, not curled up fetal,” Boone says, looking at her, “so it can’t be that traumatic.”

They sneer at each other for a second.

Boone breaks first, slumping backwards, his head near her feet. “Seriously, you couldn’t have called first?”

”No one was supposed to be here!” Shannon says, still glaring. “What would be the point of calling?”

”Double-checking?”

Shannon winces. “Sorry,” she mutters. And really, she *does* feel bad about it. A little. Still, though, Boone having sex. Blearggh.

Boone waves a hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I can fuck around with Cooper whenever.” He pokes her in the side with his foot. “It’s not every day I get to hang out with my sister without a charity event being involved.”

Shannon rolls her eyes. “Loser,” she says, but secretly she’s thrilled. Like it or not, love it or not, Boone *is* her brother – and, more times than either of them will ever admit out loud – her partner-in-crime. If nothing else, having him around will make her week more interesting.

“Come on,” she says, rolling to the other side of her bed and getting to her feet. “We should go get a pizza or something.” She smirks, just once, because that’s what she’s supposed to do. “I hear sex increases your appetite.”

”Which explains why you’re the one with the eating disorder,” Boone shoots back, tossing a pillow at her. But he’s smiling, not smirking, and he follows her out to the living room.

*

For most of her dad’s funeral, Shannon’s okay.

She’s okay when Boone flies out to get her on a Tuesday, waiting outside the door to her trig class and looking horribly out of place on an all-girls campus. She tries to brush him off, but he’s got the serious face on and circles under his eyes, and it’s not like he’d just leave college in the middle of the week because he’s bored, not Boone. When he tells her, he’s there to help her back to her room and pack a bag for her, to get her on the plane.

She’s okay when people start filing in and offering her cold comfort. She smiles and thanks them and throws up everything she eats the entire time she’s there; she’s only awake and on her feet because of coffee and the cigarettes she sneaks downstairs. She bites her nails and doesn’t sleep.

She’s okay when the camera guys show up – because, after all, this is Sabrina Carlisle’s husband who’s dead, so it’s news. Sabrina’s spending all her time weeping and gnashing her teeth, so most of the actual planning is being done by Boone. Shannon wants to hate him for it, but she already thinks it’s shitty that a woman in her forties is having her son, the nineteen-year-old college freshman, handle the funeral arrangements for his stepdad.

She’s okay right up until Sabrina starts giving the eulogy. Shannon hears Sabrina say something about Edward “always being first in her heart”, and how she was always first in his, and she just – loses it.

Later on, when she’s stumbling through an apology to Sabrina – partly because Boone’s guilted her into it, partly because it’s what her dad would want, but mostly because Sabrina is ten kinds of bitch when she’s pissed off, and Shannon’s had a shitty enough week already – Sabrina will go through the list of things Shannon did: hit her. Kicked at her. Yelled awful things until Boone grabbed her and pulled her off, taken her out to the car and gotten her the hell out of there.

But that’s later. Right now, Shannon just knows she opens her eyes and she’s in her room at Sabrina’s, holding onto a mug of hot tea that’s rapidly going cold.

”What happened?” she asks, blinking at the bedspread. She takes a sip.

Boone, who’s standing and looking at the pictures on her dresser, waits ‘til she swallowed before he says, “You went postal on Sabrina.”

Shannon coughs for a second. It’s surprising, but not – surprising, if that makes any sense. The woman’s had that coming for years. But she’s still Boone’s mom, so Shannon mutters “Sorry” and takes another sip of tea. Her head hurts.

Boone shrugs. “Nine years. I figured you’ve earned one.” He nods at one of the pictures. “Is that your mom?”

Shannon puts the tea down and gets up, walks over to him. “Yeah,” she says, looking at it. “I was – what, not quite a year old when Dad took that picture. Or so he says.”

Shannon looks like her mother, except she has her father’s hair, sun-blonde where her mother was brunette. They’re sitting outside somewhere, and Shannon’s wearing what looks like a christening dress. It might even *be* her christening dress, except her mom’s in jeans and a sleeveless blouse, smiling into the camera. Very pretty, her mom. Shannon wishes she remembered her better, but she died a long time ago.

”Lisa Randall, Miss Baxter County in Ohio,” Shannon says. She reaches out and brushes her fingers across the frame. “She met my dad when she was doing some off-Broadway play. Everyone used to make fun of her, say she was marrying out of her class, but she just smiled at them and pretended not to hear. Then she’d come home and take her earrings off and change into regular clothes after a charity event or whatever and play with me ‘til it was time for bed.” She smiles. “Sometimes she sang me to sleep. I think. I remember her doing it, anyway.”

“Mmmn,” Boone says, still looking at the picture. He knows what that’s like; he’s told her so. Sabrina and his dad divorced when he was practically still a toddler. He’s still around – mostly in New York, in banking or whatever – but he might as well not be. Shannon’s seen pictures; she even met him once, a couple years ago, at some thing Dad and Sabrina dragged them all to. Richard Carlisle is bland-pretty, very suitable-for-framing. He looks like a Ken doll, except for the eyes.

They stand there for a minute, ‘til Boone links his little finger through Shannon’s and squeezes gently. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly.

Shannon starts to cry. She doesn’t think, just turns, and Boone’s arms come up around her.

“I hate her,” she gasps, burying her face in Boone’s jacket. He smells like smoke and faint traces of shampoo, and his arms feel very strong. She can’t remember the last time her father did this for her. Months ago? Years? “I’m sorry, I know she’s your mom, but she – she can’t even – he was her husband! She should be doing all of this, and she’s NOT, and I will always hate her for that.”

“It’s okay,” Boone says into her hair, smoothing it down. “It’s okay to hate her, too. You don’t *have* to love her.”

“I should, though,” Shannon says, wiping at her eyes. “Because she’s your mom, and I love you, so I should love her too, right?”

Boone doesn’t say anything to that, just holds her tighter.

After a while, Shannon realizes someone’s knocking on the door.

Neither of them move to answer it.

*

This, Shannon decides, is the worst morning after *ever*.

She wakes up with the mother of all hangovers at four in the morning, and spends the next two hours alternately throwing up and dry heaving into the expensive hotel toilet. Then, just as her stomach settles a little – a *little*, like, not a *lot*, certainly not enough for her to leave the room before she’s, like, thirty – Boone shows up and practically bum-rushes her to the airport, only to find that their stupid plane doesn’t leave until that afternoon.

Also, it doesn’t help that Boone looks disgustingly put together, all mostly-awake and product in his hair. Looking at him, you’d never know he’d been flat on his back the night before, letting her ride him like a racehorse, let alone that he’d been having issues with it as soon as they were done.

He elbows her out of the way after she yells at the ticket agent and handles things, because that’s what Boone does, because that’s what they do. Shannon messes up, and Boone fixes it. That’s been the pattern since they were kids, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

Stupid fucking Bryan, running off with the money. This was all *his* fault. If he hadn’t run off with *her* fifty thousand dollars, she could be somewhere else right now – Puerto Rico, maybe, or Amsterdam. Anywhere but Australia, with its deadly snakes and deadlier spiders and oh my God, the *heat*. As soon as they get back to L.A., she’s hopping a plane to somewhere like Aspen and hiring a private investigator to find Bryan so she can sneak into his apartment or trailer or whatever and break his dick off.

And she’s gonna do that, too. She just has to get through this stupid flight first. Which means making up with Boone, because as much as she doesn’t want to spend the next twenty-whatever hours with him, spending them with Boone in a pissy mood? God, *so* much worse.

“Hey,” she says, tugging at his sleeve. She bats her eyes and tries on a smile, and is surprised and more than a little pleased when it feels almost natural. “*Hey*,” she says again, and this time Boone looks at her. “We okay?”

It’s the question she always asks. And Boone always, always says yes. Even if it takes a while, even if she has to sit through a few hours’ worth of dead silence, he says yes.

Boone looks at her for a long minute, then takes off his sunglasses, looks her straight in the eye, and says, slowly and clearly, “No.”

Just for a second, Shannon really wishes Boone was dead.


I’d like to think that everyone has one Shannon/Boone story in them; this one’s mine. Titled cribbed from a Louise Gluck poem.
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