Its Friday evening and Shane is at the Stardrop Saloon yet again, standing rigidly in his personal spot next to the fireplace. He watches the room with little interest, the beer in his hand relatively full. He isn't planning on getting drunk tonight- he knows better than to do that on a Friday. Normally he doesn't care who sees him, but he is fully aware who is about to walk through the front door any minute now, and drinking without her is treason.
He smiles as the saloon's door swings open, the room suddenly being tamed as the farmer enters, her confidence dominating the area before she even steps inside.
“Hey guys!” Lily giggles, noticing that all eyes are on her. The door falling closed behind her, she lets out a soft giggle, brushing off their gazes with a simple flip of her hair over her shoulder, a polite smile on her face. "I got enough for everybody, don't worry!" she is referring to the basket in her hands with mason jars full of fresh honey and homemade jam, each of them decorated with ribbons tied into bows around them. She takes initiative and walks towards Mayor Lewis and Marnie, the amount of eyes on her slowly dissipating because everyone is aware that she will eventually stop by to say hello to them later in the night.
Shane has caught onto her little routine, having it memorized by now since Lily has been living in Pelican Town for over a year. She comes into the saloon dressed-to-impress with a cute sundress and wedges or her only pair of clean sneakers matched with spotless jeans and a colorful top, her hair always rolling off her shoulders in the most elegant fashion. She never comes without a basket of gifts she has meticulously prepared, handing them out to people in the saloon as thank-you gifts for something they may have helped her with earlier in the week. To top off her performance every Friday is her never fading polite smile, her voice never too loud and never too soft- always showing just the right amount of emotion.
She always starts with Marnie and Lewis before saying hello to Pam for a moment as she redirects herself to sit with Elliott and Leah. After conversating with them and catching up on the week's events, she migrates towards the bar to order a drink as an excuse to catch-up with Emily and joke around with Gus for a minute or two. She will then take a seat next to Pierre and talk business with him before giving a jar of pickles to Harvey, assuring him that she is taking care of herself on the farm as he begins to fuss.
When Harvey finally believes that Lily is telling the truth about taking care of herself, she will get up and catch Robin before she starts to dance with Demetrius, whispering a few things into her ear to make Robin laugh. After Robin dismisses herself to dance with her husband, Lily beelines for the arcade, remaining in their for about half an hour before emerging out, her drink normally almost empty. With the saloon's crowd beginning to thin, she goes and talks to Willy and Clint until her glass is completely empty, which she uses as an excuse to leave the table and return to the bar.
Lily can't help but be predictable- a creature of habit just like Shane. She likes to think she is a wild card, but Shane can't help but be amused as he counts her steps towards him, accounting that she takes two more steps than she usually does- probably because of her low wedge heels and the way her hips sway in her red sundress. He waits patiently as she marches over, their gaze colliding to which Lily gives him a shy smile. She casually takes her seat on the stool closest to him, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear after setting her basket on the floor.
Knowing the routine by heart, Shane is aware that Lily will sit there silently staring at him if he doesn’t acknowledge her first. Leaning against the wall as she takes a seat, allowing his shoulders to relax the first time all night, he looks at her and comments slyly: “Seems like you made it.”
“I always do,” Lily smiles, crossing her left leg over her right, her back leaning against the edge of the bar’s countertop lightly. “Who do you want to hear about first?” she asks with an eyebrow raised, cutting straight to the point of their conversation with a flicker of excitement in her eyes.
“Hmm...” Shane takes a moment to think, as if he didn’t already have an answer. He takes a thoughtful sip from his beer, earning a giggle from Lily as he makes her wait. “Elliott.” He decides.
She slaps her hands down into her lap as an excited gesture, her smile growing. “He wouldn’t stop talking today!” she complains, her voice instantly lowering back to a softer volume when Shane throws her a bug-eyed expression in response to her exclamation. She giggles, muttering a quick apology under her breath before continuing. “He decided he no longer wants to write his sci-fi novel and has moved onto compiling a book of poetry.”
“You think he is gonna put any haikus in it?” Shane asks, relaxing again, almost sounding genuine with his question. By the amused look Lily gives him, he takes her answer as a no, deciding to move on from the subject. “Robin?”
“She is starting to catch on that Sebastian smokes,” Lily admits, extending one hand towards Shane as she talks. He knows what she wants, willingly handing his glass of beer into her grasp. “I’m surprised she hasn’t caught on yet, honestly.”
“Yeah,” Shane nods in agreement, watching Lily lift his own glass to her lips for a thoughtful sip, leaning her head back ever so slightly. His mouth feels dry as he watches her, his heart beating just a little bit faster in his chest. She hands it back to him as soon as she takes her sip, her other hand reaching up to her face to wipe away any residue on her top lip with her thumb. Shane always spaces out when she does this- so casually demanding his own poison for herself. It used to annoy him, but he has accepted it as part of the routine despite always being left stunned with how comfortable she acts around him. Even more, he hates how much he enjoys it. “Hear anything else interesting?” he forces out, trying not to stare at her lips.
“Not really,” Lily admits, Shane taking back his drink. His hand brushes hers momentarily, giving him the same fit of butterflies in his stomach that it gives him every single time. “What’s new with you?”
This is part of the routine Shane dreads. His shoulders instantly turn rigid again as he returns to standing up straight. He takes a thoughtful sip from his beer before replying, mumbling his words. “Nothing, really. Jas is fine. Marnie is fine. The chickens are fine. Work is fine. Liver is fine,” he lists off what he hopes Lily wants to hear, finding it increasingly difficult to maintain eye contact with her.
“Have you decided to quit Joja and work for me on the farm yet?” Lily blurts out, twiddling her thumbs in her lap. She has probably been waiting all night to ask him that, rushing through the casual chatter to get to her point, practically hitting Shane over the head with a brick with how blunt she says it.
Shane shifts uncomfortably, all the butterflies in his stomach dying in an instant, wishing that he could revert back to the times when he could tell her to buzz off and leave him alone like he used to. “I told you I’m considering,” Shane mumbles under his breath, his eyes dropping to stare at the beer in his hands. He couldn’t look at her during this topic- it makes his stomach sick.
“Yeah, but that’s your nice way of telling me to buzz off,” Lily sighs, her hands going lifeless in her lap. “You know how I felt when I worked at Joja, Shane. You can see how happy I am now that I left...”
Shane grits his teeth, holding back any mean or harsh comments he could possibly bark towards her in hopes she would leave him be. As tempting as it is to go back to being alone, he promised himself not to rely on such methods to avoid confrontation after the last time he left Lily in tears, never wanting to relive such a haunting sight.
Lily finds it so easy to be vulnerable, ripping open her own chest to expose her heart to him even though Shane doesn’t feel worthy of seeing such a side to her. He wishes he could only see the side of her everyone else sees- the girl who comes in and commands the room on Friday evenings, always happy and caring, bearing gifts with a smile. Yet somehow he became one of the very few who witness her real side; the girl who trudges into the saloon late at night on weekdays covered in dirt, sweat, slime, and blood, sword still in hand. Just the thought of the condition she comes into the saloon some nights makes him want to vomit, wondering why he has to be the one who has to step in and be the good guy- Shane isn’t supposed to be the good guy.
“You know I don’t buy your charade,” Shane mumbles, wincing at his own words as they come out of his mouth, trying his best to stop the words from spilling out. “I see you come in every Friday dressed to fool everybody, giving everyone presents. But guess what else I see? What I have to see?”
Lily doesn’t reply, realizing she has made Shane upset. She always pushes him to his edge too quickly, not knowing when to stop, but its just so easy to set him off sometimes.
“I’m here every night, Lily,” Shane begins with a heavy sigh, his hands moving slightly to create gestures of emphasis, “I see you come in on weeknights covered in dirt from kneeling in the fields with blisters on your hands from chopping down trees all afternoon. I see you come in with slime covering your jeans and enough blood and scrapes on you that I can’t tell if its a monster's blood or your own. I see you walk in with tears in your eyes after you get a message from that idiot back in Zuzu City...” he stops himself from continuing, realizing just how much his voice has raised, his tongue soaked in poison. He pauses and bites his lip, coming down from his rant to see Lily sitting with her hands in her lap, eyes glossed over as she stares at her finger tips.
Shane's knuckles are white from holding onto his glass too tightly, witnessing Lily about to cry as she the imagines things in her head Shane can’t begin to fathom. Seeing her upset rushes over him and sucks away any emotions he held before, bringing him back to a neutral state, pulling him back to the nights he sees her walking into the saloon with pain in her eyes.
He hates having to be the good guy.
“I’m... I’m sorry,” he whispers, extending his beer towards her as a peace offering. She lifts up her chin, a frown across her face as she slowly takes the beer from him, her finger tips brushing his knuckles in the process. “I didn’t mean to shut you down. I really... really appreciate your offer, but I am doing alright for myself right now." Shane swallows the saliva in his mouth, wishing he had drunk more before Lily came. Talking is just so much easier after you have been drinking. "Even you hit rock bottom before moving out here, so just let me decide when its time to change my life around, okay?”
Lily nods, taking a slow, hesitant sip from the glass. She doesn’t pass it back to him after she takes a sip, instead holding the beer between both of her hands in her lap. Her eyes avoid his for a few more seconds before she pulls the last bit of courage in herself to look at him.
“We...” Lily swallows hard, nervous about what she is going to say. “We are friends, right?”
Her question takes Shane back for a moment, sending a shock of energy through him. He blinks in confusion, his attention being fully set on her now. Why would she ask a question like that?
“Uh...” he scratches the back of his head, knowing he cant deny it. She is the only person in town besides Marnie and Jas that he will hold a conversation with- actually, she is the only person in town he would ever let take a sip from his own beer, nevertheless even talk to. He sighs, defeated. “Yeah, Lily. I would say we are friends.”
“Then... do you worry about me sometimes?” she asks, making the situation even harder for Shane to deny. Blood rushes to his cheeks, forcing him to blush.
“Of course I do...” he whispers as quietly as he possibly can. “You heard my little rant a minute ago, didn’t you?” He grows a small hatred in his heart for her in this moment, wondering why she has to torture him.
“Well,” Lily rotates Shane’s beer in her hands for a minute before lifting it up, offering it back to him. “I’m sorry I worry you, and I’m sorry I keep pushing you to quit your job at Joja. I just worry about you too, sometimes.”
He accepts the beer back as a peace offering, amazed at how simple Lily can be in some moments. How genuine her expression can appear to be, looking at him will the most apologetic eyes he normally sees on a dog’s face after they do something bad. In a way, he finds it endearing. He can tell when Lily is acting, but in this moment he can see how genuine her intentions are- how can he stay upset with her?
“Its okay,” Shane sighs, quickly finishing the rest of the beer. He knows the routine- he knows he has to be the one to officiate that everything is forgiven or Lily will worry about it until the following Friday. “You ready to head home?”
“Yeah,” Lily nods, standing up off the stool. “I- I uh, got you a little gift. It’s better than just a chili pepper this time,” she says in a small voice, reaching into the basket to take out a plain white box with ribbon tied neatly around it to keep it shut. The box isn’t huge- about six inches long and an inch tall, light enough to be comfortably held in one hand. She passes it off to him, who graciously accepts it, knowing there is no way to refuse one of her presents from experience.
“Thank you,” he chuckles, glancing down at the box and back at her to catch her gaze. They share a thoughtful connection, a pleasant silence filling the air around them for a moment.
“And,” Lily continues, breaking their eye contact by glancing down at her feet. “I promise to be more careful. Down in the mines and on the farm and what-not.”
“And,” Shane smiles faintly, not knowing what inspiration has suddenly struck him, thinking it might be the good guy act he has been forced into beginning to rub into his personality. “I promise to actually start considering your offer.” He barely understand the words coming out of his own mouth, but the smile that appears on Lily’s face tells him that he is saying the right things.
She lifts her chin up to look at him with a spark of surprise. “You mean that?” she whispers.
“Yeah... I’ll consider,” he scratches the back of his head with his free hand, wishing he could stop talking. Something about being around Lily makes him put his guard down, always ending up saying more than he has all week. “I have a feeling I am going to want to change my life around sooner or later...” He looks at Lily, the smile across her face holding no price tag as tears appear to be brimming in her eyes. Looking at her makes him realize why certain words are tumbling out of his mouth, his heart beating rapidly against his chest:
He wants the routine to change for her.
Lily tucks loose strands of her hair behind her ear, her grin breaking into a small fit of soft giggles as she lightly wipes away any tears forming in her eyes. “Well, uh,” she fumbles for words, not wanting to push her luck with Shane’s trust any further in case she accidently loses it. “Its pretty late- open your gift when you get back to Marnie’s ranch, okay?”
“Okay,” Shane agrees, the two of them instinctively beginning to walk towards the saloon’s front door together. Lily waves goodbye to Emily and Gus, giving a polite nod towards Clint and Willy’s table on the walk out while Shane opens the door for her. On her way out she brushes past him, making his stomach twist violently as he quickly follows behind her.
“Bye, Shane!” Lily grins, holding her now empty basket in one hand as they stand in the middle of town, having to go opposite ways. “Thanks for letting me hang around you.”
Shane knows he isn’t anyone special to be around- that being around her should be the privilege, but he doesn’t comment on it. He doesn’t want to ruin the fluttering in his chest looking at her smile gives him.
“Yeah... thanks for coming over to talk,” he forces out, taking one last look over her before she leaves. “See you around.”
Shane watches as Lily grins and awkwardly waves before turning around and walking off, her hips still swaying in her red sundress. He counts her steps as she leaves, watching her hair move slightly side to side with her gate across her back.
Its a bitter sweet end to the routine, but Shane’s heart always aches just a little more when she disappears from sight. With her gone, he lets out a long sigh, his neck giving out and his chin dropping to his chest.
The last hour has been full of more emotions than he has felt all week, giving him an itch to return inside the saloon and drink until he can’t feel his fingers. Yet looking down at the white box Lily gave him, he feels the fluttering in his chest again, a feeling he doesn’t want to shove away. So instead of returning inside he turns towards Marnie’s ranch, a smile on his face as he imagines all the possible things that could be waiting for him inside.