The holidays were uneventful for Shane. She headed back to Chicago and managed to get a temporary job with her former production of 'Wicked'. They were getting ready to head out on tour in the spring and her former boss was thrilled with some of the ideas and tricks that Shane had picked up while traveling with Celtic Thunder.
She still kept in touch with the other cast and crew members, especially Emmet, but often their schedules and the time difference made it difficult. As much as she hated to admit it, she missed the young tenor but pushed the thoughts to the side and got on with her work. She would see him in a few weeks and moping around her apartment wasn't helping anything.
It seemed like the tour had just ended yet Shane found herself boarding a plane bound for Ireland. Thankfully Sharon had given her a day to recover because jetlag always got the worst of her.
The next day she met up with Sharon and Ana who was putting the final touches on the set and the work began. Shane's junior lighting assistant was a young man from Colorado named Glenn who had been touring with Celtic Woman and decided to make the jump over to the Celtic Thunder side. He knew what he was doing without being cocky and wasn't afraid to ask questions. He immediately clicked with Shane and the other crew members which eased some of Shane's worries about the upcoming tour.
A week later Emmet walked into his local Starbucks and had just picked up his coffee when he saw a flash of color in the corner.
The young woman glanced up in surprise then smiled at Emmet. "Hey, what are you doing here?"
"I live here. I should ask the same about you."
"The crew rehearsals started last week. I sent you a text, didn't I?"
Emmet shook his head. "I don't remember seeing that."
"Oh, sorry." She shrugged and folded up the newspaper she had been reading as Emmet sat down across from her. Suddenly nervous, and hating herself for it, she ran a hand through her hair that was dyed a shade of ice blue that was so light it was nearly white. "So how have you been?"
The two chatted about what they had done for the holidays, the upcoming tour, and various other topics but as they talked Emmet noticed that Shane seemed distant and reluctant to really engage with him. No, he hadn't expected her to run into his arms but she was just as withdrawn as she had been when the last tour started.
"Is everything okay?" he finally asked and Shane began to play with a drop of condensation on the table.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"You're not acting fine." Shane winced and Emmet softened his tone. "This isn't like you. What happened to the girl who stole Keith's skateboard and laughed at Barry's terrible jokes?" He leaned closer and saw Shane attempt to make herself as small as possible. "Where's the girl who didn't mind standing in the snow for two hours during the Christmas party?"
Shane frowned and shook her head. "You left that girl on the last tour."
She stood and quickly made her way out of the coffee shop. Seconds later she heard footsteps behind her and knew she couldn't outdistance Emmet.
"Shane wait, please."
She stopped and stood with her hands in the pockets of her coat, her eyes focused on the ground.
"What's wrong? Did I do something? Did something happen in Chicago? Please Shane, you're scaring me."
The young woman looked up and when she saw the fear and confusion in Emmet's eyes she wanted to be sick.
"Sharon offered me the job," she whispered.
"Sharon offered me the position of permanent lighting director for all of the future Celtic Thunder shows."
"That's amazing! Congratulations!"
"That's only if the Australian shows go well. If I mess up on this tour then poof, there goes my dream."
"Shane, everything is going to be fine. You're brilliant at your job and you're working with a fantastic crew. The schedule is going to be a bit more demanding but I know you can handle it."
She nodded and kicked at a stray pebble. "With my schedule I'm not going to have very much, if any, free time. It's not going to be like the last tour, there's a very good chance that you'll go days without seeing me."
"So I'm giving you the chance to walk away now. There's not going to be time for us to just sit together for hours or time for me to draw or…" she trailed off and Emmet could see the slight flush on her cheeks that wasn't caused by the cold.
"Shane listen to me. I'm not going anywhere. I don't care if I don't see you until after the promos in March are over. I'm your friend, I care about you. I'm not going to throw away our friendship just because you're busy. You have a job to do and what kind of friend would I be if I expected you to put our friendship before your job?"
Slowly the blue eyes rose to meet Emmet's and she let out a slow breath. "So you're not mad at me?"
"And you're not going to get frustrated or angry because I'm busy?"
"Of course not."
"Alright." She rocked back on her heels and played with the cuff of her jacket. "I'm sorry about that. It's just…things didn't go so well when I got back to Chicago."
"Don't worry about it. Now come on, let's get out of this cold weather."
Emmet walked Shane back to her hotel and took her up on the offer to watch a movie. The moment she sat down on the sofa he could see how exhausted she was and knew that the stress from the tour was already taking its toll.
He noticed that she wasn't watching the movie, she was curled up in the corner of the sofa with her knees pulled to her chest, staring off into space. Emmet knew that something had happened over the break and though he was sure she didn't want to talk about it, he had to know what was going on.
"What happened in Chicago?" The young woman went rigid but refused to answer. "Please, Shane. You know you can tell me what happened."
"It's stupid and petty."
"I don't care."
Finally Shane let out a sigh that seemed to deflate her. "I don't have a lot of friends, just acquaintances and co-workers, but there was a group back home that I was actually pretty close to. We'd worked together on a couple of shows and we always got along well. But when I got back from the tour something had changed. They had grown so close they were practically sisters but I was left outside of that group. At first they were happy to see me and congratulated me when I told them about Jason then…"
"Then?" Emmet prompted.
"Then something changed. I got a temporary gig working with 'Wicked', my former boss needed the help, and my friends seemed to resent me for it. They said that my job was more important to me than they were. They even said that I must be pretty bad at my job if I had to practice my craft during the break."
Shane stood and began to pace around the small space, her arms wrapped tightly around her midsection.
"It's not that big of a deal but…but it was hard to spend the holidays alone knowing that you were hated."
She fell silent and Emmet tried to decide what to say. He was furious that Shane's so called friends would turn on her so easily. He was about to speak when Shane spoke again.
"I think you should go."
Emmet's stomach dropped. "Why?"
"Because I can't lose you too."
Shane's last words were spoken so quietly that Emmet had to struggle to hear them. "Lose me? You'll never lose me."
"Yes I will. It always happens. Eventually people discover that I'm not worth their time and walk away. If you leave now it will hurt but not as much as it will later. At least now I'm expecting it."
Emmet stood and walked over to where Shane was standing with her back to him. "Shane, listen to me. What your friends did wasn't right, if they were truly your friends they would stay by your side no matter what."
He gently grasped her shoulders and turned her towards him. She refused to meet his eyes and was clenching her jaw so tightly that he could practically hear her teeth grinding together. "I'm not going anywhere. If you want me to leave I will but I will never give up on you. You're my friend, Shane. You're very dear to me and nothing you say or do will change that. Even if I don't see you again for a year I will never walk away from you."
Shane stood perfectly still as she considered Emmet's words but inside a war was raging. Emmet had promised her time and again that he wouldn't walk away but she was still terrified that he'd wake up one day and decide she wasn't worth it.
Finally something inside of her broke as one of the walls she had spent her life building cracked and began to crumble. Slowly she turned her head and met Emmet's eyes before reaching for him.
The tenor pulled her close and felt her thin frame tremble in his grasp. "It's alright, I'm here," he crooned while rubbing slow circles on her back. Shane clung to him, afraid he might disappear any second.
"Why does this have to be so complicated?"
Emmet tipped Shane's chin up so he could meet her eyes. "It doesn't have to be. Just let things run their course and everything will work out in the end."
Shane didn't have a reply for Emmet instead she leaned against him once more, her head tucked under his chin as his strong arms held her tightly.
Neither one knew how long they stood together but eventually Shane loosened her grip and stepped back. Emmet gently cupped her cheek and forced her to meet his eyes. "Better?" She nodded and he smiled. "Good, now let's watch that movie."
Despite her recent outburst of affection, Shane still sat on the opposite end of the couch but Emmet didn't mind. He knew that this was hard for her and was willing to take his time. About thirty minutes in to the movie her head began to droop and Emmet couldn't help but smile as she fought against her exhaustion. It was a losing battle and soon she was asleep with her head twisted in what had to be a painful angle.
Carefully Emmet stood and eased Shane down onto the couch, holding his breath when she stirred but didn't wake. He grabbed an extra blanket from the closet and tucked it around her then knelt next to her.
"I missed you," he whispered so quietly the words were barely audible. He pressed a gentle kiss against her cheek then silently let himself out of the hotel room.
The next few weeks passed by in a blur of rehearsals, promotions, and the everyday drama that occurred when that many people were crammed into one building.
Shane's schedule was insane but for the performers it was just as crazy. If they weren't rehearsing they were doing promotions and if they weren't doing promotions they were rehearsing. It was exhausting but they knew it was necessary.
Everyone had to admit that Brooklyn, Ana, and Shane had done a magnificent job with the choreography, set, and lights. The first time that the performers did a full dress rehearsal complete with costumes everyone watching had tears in their eyes. The three young women had designed, what Sharon believed, was the best show yet. The trio was given the nickname Sharon's Angels and even though Shane scowled the first time she heard it in reality she was touched and honored that people thought so highly of her work.
For the entire month of rehearsals Emmet barely saw Shane. She usually spent her free time up in the rigs or working with Brooke, Ana, or her crew making sure that everything was perfect before the tour. He could see the dark circles under her eyes and wanted nothing more to take her away from the chaos just for a day so she could rest. Unfortunately when the cast was given a day off the crew was usually working so his plans were never able to come to fruition.
Once everyone flew to Australia they thought that things would slow down but instead it was the opposite. The crew flew out one week ahead of the cast in order to make sure that all of the equipment arrived and that they wouldn't have any difficulty with the dozens of adapters they had to use to power the show.
Every day until he flew out Emmet checked his phone but not once did Shane send him a text or an e-mail. Part of him was hurt but he also knew Shane and knew that she wouldn't let anything, even friendship, come between her and her work.
He saw her for a minute or two the day he arrived at the venue, she was perched on one of the rigs high above the stage working on something but he didn't want to call out to her and upset her balance. Squinting at the distance, he watched her work then was pulled away by Brooklyn.
Finally the sets were finished, the costumes completed, and the equipment was in perfect condition. It was time for Celtic Thunder's first Australian tour to begin.
Sharon gave everyone the night before the first show off with specific instructions that they were to rest, not party the night away. About half of the group listened to her while the other half went out to explore the nightlife.
Emmet knocked on the door in front of him, hoping that he had gotten the correct room number, and after a moment an exhausted looking lighting director opened the door.
She was dressed in a tank top and sweats with a towel slung across her shoulders. Her hair was still wet and sticking out in a million directions and the bags under her eyes were as large as those stored in her closet.
"Purple? I like it," said Emmet indicating her freshly dyed hair but Shane barely reacted. "Can I come in?" She shrugged and turned away from the door, not waiting to see if Emmet followed.
Glancing around the room the tenor had to admit that it was the neatest hotel room that he'd ever been in. Everything was in it's place, her bags were still packed, and only the items that she needed had been unpacked. Compared to his room it was pristine.
Shane ran the towel over her hair again then sat down at the desk. She flipped open a notebook and chewed on the end of her pen as her eyes skimmed the page, every now and then pausing to write something or to scratch something out.
Emmet watched her for several long minutes then sighed and walked over to where she was sitting. He peered over her shoulder to see what she was writing, assuming that she would slam the notebook shut and tell him to mind his own business, but Shane didn't seem to even notice his presence.
"What are you working on?"
His words made the young woman jump, she had completely forgotten that Emmet was even there. "Just a checklist for the show."
"Don't you guys have a checklist?" Emmet knew that each crew member had a thin binder with a daunting checklist that was given to them at the beginning of each tour.
"Yeah, but this is my checklist."
Looking closer Emmet's eyes widened when he realized that nearly a quarter of the notebook was filled with Shane's neat handwriting. "How many pages is it?"
"I lost count."
Emmet rolled his eyes and plucked the pen out of Shane's hand. The young woman turned and scowled at him. "Do you mind?"
"Let me ask you a question. How much sleep did you get last night?"
"I don't know, a couple of hours."
"And when was the last time you ate anything?"
Shane shifted uncomfortably and flipped through her notebook. "Well…I had coffee at breakfast then for lunch, wait…I worked through lunch…" She stood and threw her hands up into the air. "Why are you asking all of these stupid questions anyway?"
"Because I'm worried about you."
"No you're not. You're not eating, you're not sleeping, and the tour hasn't even started yet and you're about to collapse from exhaustion. Why are you doing this to yourself?"
The young woman was silent as she took the towel from around her neck and neatly hung it up on the rack in the bathroom then slowly sat down on the edge of the couch and folded her hands in her lap.
"You don't understand. This tour has to be perfect and…and I'm not sure that I'm the person for the job."
"What are you talking about?"
"When Sharon offered me the position I was ecstatic but then I realized that she just saw me as a charity case. I'm just a street rat that got a couple of lucky breaks and I don't deserve this position. Tomorrow I'm going to go and talk to her. After this tour I'm going to quit and go back to Chicago where I belong. She doesn't need a stupid kid like me ruining her shows."
Emmet left his stomach drop at Shane's words and sat down next her to her. "Where is this coming from?" The young woman shrugged and let her head rest in her hands. "If you want to quit then I can't stop you but trust me, Sharon does not see you as a charity case. Yes, she's kind and is willing to go out onto a limb for people but she would not give someone a lead position unless she knew without a doubt they were right for the job."
"You're just saying that because you don't want me to leave."
"Well of course I don't want you to leave. I care about you but if you really want to go then I won't stop you. Life's too short to be unhappy."
"I just don't know what to do."
"You're exhausted. Get some rest and think about where you want your career to go tomorrow."
"But I have so much to do…"
Emmet shook his head. "No you don't. The set is already built, the lights have been tested half a dozen times, and you have trained that crew so well that they could get the rigs ready in their sleep. There is nothing else you have to do tonight."
He stood and held out his hand, after a moment Shane grasped it and he helped her to her feet. She swayed then allowed Emmet to lead her over to the bed. He pulled the covers back and she crawled in, pulling the blankets up to her chin as Emmet went around the room turning off the lights.
Sitting next to her Emmet smiled as the light from the bedside table cast shadows across her face.
"It's no use," said Shane before letting out a jaw cracking yawn. "I can't sleep. I have too much on my mind."
"Well close your eyes and try."
"Yes, mother," Shane grumbled but closed her eyes anyway.
"Take a deep breath and when you let it out imagine it taking away one of your worries. Do the same with the next breath…then the next…" Emmet continued to speak in a low, steady voice and watched as Shane slowly drifted off.
Soon she was asleep but Emmet didn't move. He gently ran his hand through her short hair and smiled when she turned into his touch. Whether or not he liked it he was falling hard for the unique young woman. She wasn't the type of girl that he saw himself falling for but Shane had captured his heart.
He knew she had scars and was still dealing with the demons of her past but he hoped that he would be able to find a way to help her see what he saw when he looked at her. She was a smart, talented, beautiful young woman and Emmet only prayed that he'd find a way to help her realize that she did deserve this job and any other opportunities that she was given.
The Australian tour was a huge success and even though Shane didn't speak to Sharon about resigning she still pushed herself to the limit to prove that she deserved the job. She worked insane hours and was always the first one to the arena and the last to leave.
Her stress level was at an all time high and she usually hid in the rigs in order to avoid everyone, she was too tense to deal with anyone anyway.
Watching Shane drift away was painful for Emmet and he hated that he didn't know how to help her. He was tempted to go and talk to Sharon but changed his mind when he remembered how disastrous his last intervention had been. Instead he gave the young woman her space but watched her closely, she was so exhausted that she looked like she would collapse any second.
"She has nightmares."
Emmet jumped when he heard Angie's voice behind him. He had been watching Shane walk across one of the rigs, without a harness, holding his breath until she safely reached the other side.
The photographer came to stand beside him and watched as Shane moved among the equipment. "She has nightmares. At first they weren't too bad but lately they've reached the point that she won't sleep in the bunks. She spends the night in the back but I don't think she sleeps."
Emmet sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Not only was Shane working herself to the point of exhaustion but to hear that she wasn't sleeping either scared Emmet. Everyone had a breaking point and he was worried that Shane was about to reach hers.
His fears were realized a few days later.
They had the next day off and were spending the night in a hotel. The performers were exhausted, their bus had a leak and they had spent the previous night mopping up the steady flow of water that poured down the main aisle.
Emmet had gone to bed early but was woken in the wee hours of the morning by a frantic knocking on his door. It took him several minutes to realize that the knocking wasn't part of his dream and he reluctantly pulled himself out of bed.
Opening the door he scrubbed a hand over his eyes and scowled at Candice who had a concerned look on her face.
"Emmet, it's Shane." Immediately the tenor was awake. "She's having a nightmare and I can't wake her up, I'm afraid that she's going to hurt herself and I didn't know what else to do."
"Come on, let's go."
Emmet hurried with the young woman down the hall and when she opened her door he felt his heart break. The sheets were tangled around Shane's legs and the pillows had been knocked to the floor as she thrashed across the bed. She didn't cry nor did she scream but the soft sounds of distress made something cold settle in his stomach.
Kneeling next to her on the bed he was forced to dodge her arm then grasped her wrists in an attempt to keep her from hurting herself. "Shane, wake up!"
As soon as Emmet grasped her wrists Shane began to struggle, fighting to free herself. "No…please no…"
"Come on Shane, you're dreaming, wake up!"
"I'm sorry…failed you…"
The fact that Shane couldn't pull herself from her dream terrified Emmet and he didn't know how to wake her up. Finally he released her wrists and grasped her shoulders, shaking her gently.
"Shane please, wake up! Listen to me, wake up!"
She struggled against his grasp then her eyes suddenly flew open as she was ripped from her dream. The second that Emmet released her she scrambled backwards, her dark eyes wide with fear.
Emmet waited, not wanting to startle her. Finally he reached towards her but dropped his hand when she flinched away. "Are you okay?"
"You were having a nightmare and I couldn't wake you up."
Her brow furrowed in confusion. "It was a dream? It wasn't real?"
"No, it was just a dream."
Shane let out a sigh and ran a hand through her sweat soaked hair. Glancing around the room she saw Candice leaning against the door and her face fell. "Candice, I'm so sorry…"
The costume mistress shook her head and waved off the apology. "Don't worry about it. Emmet, I'm crashing in your room."
The door clicked shut behind her and Emmet glanced back at Shane. She was still curled up at the head of the bed, her body still shaking as she tried to convince herself that the dream was just a figment of her imagination.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No," she answered quickly.
"I know you've been having nightmares and that you haven't been sleeping. Obviously something is bothering you."
"You know you can talk to me about anything."
"Just drop it, okay?"
Emmet shook his head. He was exhausted and frustrated and was having a very hard time controlling his emotions. Glancing up he watched as Shane tried to pull herself together and his anger faded. She looked like a terrified child and even the slightest noise made her jump. It was a side of the hardened young woman that he had never seen before and he wanted nothing more than to banish those fears for good.
It was nearly five minutes before Shane even moved and when she met Emmet's eyes they were wide with fear. "I'm sorry I'm keeping you up. I didn't know Candice would go and get you…I hope she was able to get some rest."
"It's okay, I really don't mind. And I'm sure Candice will be fine. Keith may be surprised when he wakes up and sees her in the morning but I know she isn't upset with you, she is just worried."
Shane nodded and slowly got to her feet, padding towards the bathroom. While she was gone Emmet straightened the bed, recovering the lost pillows and smoothing the sheets.
After a moment Shane returned and crawled under the covers. Emmet sat down next to her and watched as she tried to convince herself to sleep. A couple minutes later her body jerked and her eyes flew open.
"It's okay, I'm here…" Emmet crooned and Shane's eyes closed once more. A few minutes later her eyes opened with a gasp and she let out a sigh.
"Forget it, I'll just stay up."
"You have to get some sleep," protested Emmet. He could see the dark circles under her eyes in the dim light of the room.
"I…I can't. I'm to sca…too rattled to sleep."
Emmet stood and walked to the other side of the bed, laying down on top of the blankets next to Shane but not quite touching her. "Just close your eyes and relax, I'm here and you're safe."
"I'll never be safe," Shane whispered but the words were spoken so quietly that Emmet didn't hear her.
Suddenly she turned and Emmet's heart broke when he saw the fear in her eyes. He smiled slightly and held his arms open.
She hesitated and Emmet gave her a small smile. "It's alright, I won't hurt you."
Slowly and tentatively she inched closer until she could rest her head on his shoulder. His arm gently wrapped around her waist and each time her eyes flew open he would murmur nonsense words until she settled down.
Emmet watched as her body slowly relaxed, every now and then snapping awake from her terror, but eventually exhaustion won the battle and she gave in to sleep. He listened to her even breathing for a long time before pressing a soft kiss to the top of her head then closing his eyes and allowing himself to drift off, offering whatever comfort he could provide.