There was this spot in the middle of the stacks on the 6th floor of the library, that was always empty no matter the time of day that Shane had privately claimed as his own.
It was right by a pillar, which had one lone outlet in it, and someone had dragged a desk and chair over into the small oval of empty space between the stuffed library shelves. He didn't know what books filled those shelves, had never much bothered to look any harder than the occasional zoning sesh when he could no longer stand to look at whatever he was doing, but for all he knew it was their ancient cloth bindings that were responsible for why this one section of the library was the only one that stayed vacant even in the height of midterm and finals stress.
It was less surprisingly empty at 8 on a Friday night, but the doors to the library were open well into the night and it was just as easy a place to go when he was being sexiled by his roommate’s weird fake study group. But Shane didn't say anything, and would continue to not say anything about how he knows Andrew isn't in any culinary classes as long as his roommate continued to not tell him what they did with all that food and how three people would even fit in that twin extra long. It would probably save them both a lot of embarrassment in the long run, this unspoken agreement.
There were lots of places Shane could have gone, when his roommate came back holding a tray full of something delicious looking that would be gone before Shane could try it and gave him the usual dark look that said ‘We both know what is about to happen here so please don't embarrass us both by making me actually say it.’ Which was really just as good as saying it in Shanes opinion but grabbed his backpack and headed out anyway.
Shane passes Steven on his way out and wonders not for the first time what his roommate must be like that they never have their little study group at his place.
There were always plenty of places for him to go, he had his laptop, his wallet, his keys, the world was his oyster yet he still found himself walking through the 4th floor entrance of the library and headed toward the stairs.
He doesn't even bother with the desk, when he does get to his empty as usual spot, just slides down the column until he was sitting on the floor with his legs out in front of him. Normally, and boy oh boy does this happen often enough that he has a regular routine, Shane would try to knock out one assignment for the week that he knew was going to be a huge pain in his ass. His own way of making sure things are easier on him the next time he actually wants to hit the town.
So he should really be working on that creative writing piece of his that has really gone off the rails.
Instead he must drift off.
He wakes up with one of his headphones dangling out of his ear to the sound of frustration. A wheeze of frustration?
Blinking himself back to full awareness, Shane looks around and sees another student in the stacks beside him reaching for a book on the overstuffed top shelf. He just watches the guy struggle for a little while.
Shane mostly just watches the way his arms look as he reaches for whatever book he so desperately wants. It’s amusing and kind of endearing to watch the guy keep going at it, the shelf is so overstuffed that you need to pull the book out from the top and he’s just too short to reach. His fingers are brushing the middle of the spine as he tries to get a grip and with every attempt it pushes the book just a little further back on the shelf and out of his reach.
The way the muscles in his back and shoulders move as he makes each attempt is distracting, and even though Shane can only see him in profile, it’s a very appealing profile.
He’s suddenly very glad that he decided to go to the library today.
Normally he would just observe, Shane didn’t really think anyone would want to be caught struggling like this and he had plenty of friends, guy and girl alike, who had shared stories of creeps approaching them on campus.
But, and well isn’t there always a but, normally he doesn’t spend five minutes watching the cutest guy he’s seen on campus work up a pout over the unfairly tall shelves of the 6th floor stacks.
“Do you want some help?”
The guy jumps so far in the air that Shane is impressed, if he’d still been reaching for that book he would have solved the problem himself.
“Holy shit, dude, you scared the shit out of me.”
It was probably impolite to laugh at someone you just met, but it’s hard not to when you just watched them jump in the air at a whisper.
He must not be too offended though, joins in Shane’s laughter with a little giggle of his own. “Nah, dude, you’d have to be freakishly tall to reach. I’ll just find a chair or something.”
Shane thinks about answering, then looks down at his legs stretched in front of him and decides to let standing be his answer.
“And you’re a giant, cool,” he said nodding, like he expected nothing else but is still trying not to seem surprised. His smile has a weird sort of edge to it but it’s still a wide grin that brightens up his face.
“80 percent leg at least,” Shane agreed, feeling his head bob in some kind of nod. It’s the sort of thing he would be embarrassed about, a goofy and stuttering motion that brought extra attention to the parts of him that gangled.
It was hard to be embarrassed when it earned him a wheezy laugh and another smile the guy tried to hide by ducking his head.
“It’s the one up there on the right,” he said once Shane came up beside him. “No, over, over, that one, yeah,” he directed as Shane’s hand passed over each book on the shelf.
It came free from the group hug off its shelfmates without too much trouble since Shane could grab ahold of the top of its spine and give it a tug, and once it was in his hands he had to know what book had the attention of such a cute guy.
“Oh no, don’t tell me you’re one of them,” Shane said.
“What are you talking about,” the guy said, it would have been believable too if Shane couldn’t see the bashful tilt to his mouth.
“Haunted places,” Shane began to read, and as the pair of eyes across from him widened Shane started moving the book around and away from the hands trying to grab it away. “The national directory.”
Shane lifted the book high now as a pair of warm hands closed around his bicep trying to pull him down.
“A guidebook,” he continued with a laugh, “to ghostly abodes, sacred sites, UFO landings , and other supernatural locations.”
Shane paused but then did hand over the book, a little worried that he had gone too far when his smiling, tall but not tall enough companion didn’t join in the laughter. It wasn’t snatched from his hands but indignation did dance like a righteous light in his dark eyes. “I don’t know what you mean by one of them , but if it’s someone who believes in something bigger than just the world we know then yeah.”
That was actually pretty poetic, and if Shane were a better person he would probably let things lie there. Too bad he wasn’t a better person.
“I actually meant a nerd.” Shane corrected, doing his best to keep a serious face before a small smirk cracked through at the end.
“Oh that’s rich coming from you,” he said, bright eyed, cocky, and really attractive. “You’re like a goddamn squatch, I can’t believe you don’t believe in anything.”
“Well no, of course you don’t.”
His head fell back as he laughed, exposing the long line of his neck. Shane wondered how you asked a guy whose interests you just mocked and whose name you don’t know out for coffee. “God you’re a dick,” he said, a hand shoved Shane’s shoulder hard enough that it sent him rocking back into the shelf behind him causing the whole thing to rattle dangerously.
The silence that followed lasted exactly as long as it took them both to take a breath and start laughing. A wheeze that grew as their own amusement fed off the others, until a throat being cleared beside them killed the revelry as quickly as a knife between its ribs.
Shane vaguely recognized the woman as someone he had seen shelving books before, as she said, “Gentlemen this is a quiet floor, and there have been complaints. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave for the evening and return when you are capable of being more courteous.” Her stern look left no room for questions and sucked all of the fun out of the air. “I’ll take that,” she continued, snatching away the book that started all of this, “and shelve it for you.”
The thank you, good day hung in the air without needing to be said. The two of them walked right beside each other, being crushed under the punishing silence that Shane didn’t think he’d really experienced since elementary school when a very similar looking librarian had also shushed him. It was really only with the seal of the door opening and the feeling of outside air on his face that he felt like he could actually talk again without fear of his voice being stolen.
“I can’t believe you got us kicked out of the library,” the guy said, before Shane could even really finish appreciating the feeling of no longer being in trouble.
“What?” The flabbergasted expression on his face alone was enough to leave Shane feeling helplessly endeared.
“I can’t believe you got us kicked out of the library, Shane . To which I would respond with, well you were also a little bit to blame…” Shane let a hand dance out in front of him to emphasize his obvious invitation to an introduction.
“Well Ryan, I’m pretty sure that woman was actually the ghost librarian from ghostbusters so it’s probably just as fair to say we narrowly avoided disaster.
That was enough to earn Shane an eyeroll, but he didn’t let it distract him from Ryan’s small smile.
“I can’t decide if you’re making fun of me or if this is just your really shitty attempt at flirting.
“Well, how’s this to help you decide. I’ve got at least another hour of exile from my place, what if I bought you a drink to make up for the fact that you couldn’t check out your book of run down buildings and over priced tourist traps.”
“Couldn’t resist that last dig, could you.”
“I really, really couldn’t,” Shane agreed, feeling a little flutter at seeing his smile mirrored on Ryan’s face. “C’mon I’ll even let you tell me why you think ghosts are real before I tell you it’s bullshit.”
Ryan laughed a little at that, “A tempting offer, a drink and you’ll tell me something I’m passionate about is stupid. How could I say no?”
“Well I’m kinda counting on the idea that you think I’m as cute as I think you are,” Shane said, feeling his face warm with a blush there’s no way he’s hiding, but in for a penny, “but if you’d rather talk about Big Foot that could be our common ground.”
Ryan was gaping at him just a little, mouth hung open in a tiny little oh like it was taking his brain too much energy to puzzle out just what it was that Shane had said to deal with the little things like keep his jaw shut. So when it did snap closed, Shane assumed that a decision had been made.
“Okay sure, yes, let’s get a drink so we can talk about how you believe sasquatches could be real but draw the line at ghosts.”
Ryan starts off in one direction, and leaves Shane no choice but to follow him. Annoyance or righteous disbelief one, have set a pace that Shane’s long legs have an easy time keeping up with, and he’s happy to follow to wherever he’s being led. “I could also be convinced of aliens, but almost certainly not the way you believe in aliens.” Shane added, just as happy to add fuel to whatever fire he had started back in that library.
It was enough to stop Ryan dead in his tracks, “What does that even mean?”
Shane kept walking, unwilling to let the momentum of this moment slow to a stop. “Guess you’ll have to find out.”
There was something that just felt right about Ryan running to catch back up to his side, the reason for that was something he hoped they could figure out together.