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I Will Be the Sun, I Will Wake You Up

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Ryan Bergara had a few secrets he planned on taking to the grave and beyond. Rather than skeletons, his metaphorical closet was filled with a rather graphic dream about an ex-girlfriend’s grandma, the fact that he didn’t really like beer but felt self-conscious about not drinking it when other guys were, the one time he’d let his younger cousin paint his nails neon purple and how much he’d loved the way it looked, and a slew of other embarrassing memories he never intended on sharing with anyone. None of these had ever posed a problem for him, outside the times when his brain would serve up some stupid shit he did as a 15 year old dumbass rather than letting him sleep. Overall, his conscience was fairly clear.

Until now. The latest secret he was carrying around seemed to have become an ulcer in his brain, throbbing and eating away at his every thought. He could mostly keep the gnawing at bay by distracting himself and with good ol’ compartmentalizing, but there was one thing that always exacerbated it.

“I’m back!”

Shane clapped a hand on Ryan’s shoulder, which caused Ryan to jump out of his skin. He’d been neck-deep in preliminary True Crime research before the interruption.

“Whoa!” Shane said with a laugh as he slid into his chair. “Little jumpy there, Bergara?”

“Sorry,” Ryan mumbled, not sure how to save face.

“We’re at work, Ryan,” Shane said, his serious tone dripping in sarcasm. “There’s no ghosts here to grab ya.”

“Shut up,” Ryan replied, gently kicking Shane’s ankle.

Shane just smiled, then turned to his computer.

It’d been one week and six days since that morning in upstate New York, and Ryan could still feel the gentle press of Shane’s fingertips against his lips. What was killing him was the fact that Shane didn’t know that he knew. He didn’t understand how Shane could be so casual around him, as if he wasn’t keeping secrets, too. It had made Ryan wonder if it hadn’t been the first time Shane had done something like this. The thought didn’t bother him nearly as much as it probably should’ve.

“There’s In-N-Out for you in the fridge, by the way,” Shane said, breaking Ryan from his reverie.

“Huh?” Ryan turned toward Shane.

“In-N-Out,” Shane repeated, then pointed at Ryan. “For you.” He jerked his thumb toward the kitchen. “Fridge.”

Ryan raised his eyebrows as if to say, elaborate, please .

“I brought it back for you from lunch, since I figured you’d be too busy working on your little research notes to get yourself any food,” Shane said, completely nonchalant about the whole thing. “I don’t want you to starve.”

You ate at In-N-Out?” Ryan asked. Shane never seemed to want to stop there when it was the two of them.

“Nah,” Shane replied. “I just figured you wouldn’t want leftovers from the vegan place Sara and I ate at, so we stopped and grabbed it for you.”

Ryan very pointedly ignored the small tug of jealousy he once again felt at the mention of Shane’s girlfriend and asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“On me, man,” Shane replied, waving a hand in Ryan’s direction. “Consider it a preemptive thank you for agreeing to another season of Ruining History, whenever they finally let me make it.”

“Thanks, dude,” Ryan said, grinning at his friend.

Shane smiled back, then turned to his computer.

Ryan couldn’t wipe the grin off his face the whole time he walked to the kitchen. It wasn’t uncommon for he and Shane to buy each other a coffee unprompted, or for one of them to pick up the whole tab if they were at a drive-thru. But there was something about the fact that Shane had made an extra stop just for him, just to do a nice thing, because Shane knew how busy he was that had Ryan feeling weirdly emotional. He swung open the fridge door and scanned from the top, down.

On the middle shelf was a white In-N-Out bag, sealed with silver duct tape and with a note stapled to the front. Ryan’s brows furrowed in confusion as he slowly took the bag out of the fridge and read the note.

I, Ryan Steven Bergara, by removing the tape from this bag and retrieving the burger and fries within, fully concede that ghosts are not real and stand with Shane Alexander Madej in his belief in science and truth.

Ryan’s heart sank. Of course, of fucking course, Shane hadn’t just done something kind for him out of the blue. It was just for the sake of the bit, not born of anything real.

But two could play that game.

Ryan stormed out of the kitchen and back to his desk. He dropped the bag in front of him as he sat in his chair, and Shane looked over at him with a mischievous smirk. Ryan locked eyes with Shane, silently challenging him to watch what Ryan was about to do.

He ripped off the note, slammed it on the desk, grabbed a pair of scissors and carefully cut off the top of the bag, just under Shane’s duct tape. He threw the scrap of paper at Shane’s chest with one hand and reached in the bag with the other. Slowly, and still locked on Shane’s stare, he unwrapped the burger and took the biggest bite he possibly could.

Through his food, Ryan said, “I didn’t undo the tape.”

Shane lost it. Full-on, near tears cackling as he watched Ryan chew his food. It was hard for Ryan not to laugh too as he swallowed his bite, trying not to choke.

“You win, man,” Shane said eventually, wiping a tear off his cheek as his laughter wound down. “You got me. You win this one.”

“Damn right I did,” Ryan said, then put a french fry in his mouth.

Shane pulled out his phone, swiped at the screen for a few moments then aimed the camera at the note.

“As you can see,” he started. “Ryan has–“

“What are you doing?”

Shane sighed, tapped his screen and put his phone down. “I have to update my Instagram followers on what’s happened here. Please don’t interrupt.”

Ryan rolled his eyes but let Shane continue.

“The day has come. December 17th, 2018. In a rare twist of events, Ryan Bergara has outsmarted me,” Shane said, filming what Ryan assumed was the cut up bag and note. “He used scissors to open the bag, leaving the tape intact. Score one for the Boogaras. I’ll give you guys this one, but only on a technicality.”

Shane tapped at his screen with a small smile on his face, and Ryan took another bite of his burger. Then, Shane aimed the camera at him.

“How’s the burger taste, man?” Shane asked him.

Ryan stared right into the lens. “Like victory.”

Shane laughed again, and Ryan ignored the fluttering in his stomach.


It was just past midnight and Ryan couldn’t sleep for the life of him. He was switching back and forth between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, pointlessly refreshing and trying to avoid watching Shane’s Instagram story for what felt like the hundredth time. He wasn’t sure why, but he couldn’t stop. With a defeated sigh, now that he was on the train of thought, he pulled up the app and tapped Shane’s icon.

“I’m sitting here at the In-N-Out drive-thru, about to buy a burger for the little guy,” Shane said into the front camera, which was much too close to his face. “But there’s some terms to this burger. Some terms he’s not gonna like.” In the background, Sara laughed.

Sara leaned out the window, and said into the drive-thru speaker, “Yeah can I get one cheeseburger and an order of animal fries?” From behind the camera, Shane whispered, “He fucking loves those animal fries.”

Next was a picture of the bag sitting on the counter in the BuzzFeed kitchen, taped and with the note attached.

“What do you think, Sara?” Shane asked, pointing the camera at her as she stood in front of the fridge, clutching the bag. “Do you think he’ll renounce the Boogaras?” She replied, “I think that this poor burger is gonna go to waste.”

“The day has come. December 17th, 2018. In a rare twist of events, Ryan Bergara has outsmarted me,” Shane said as the camera panned over the cut up bag. “He used scissors to open the bag, leaving the tape intact. Score one for the Boogaras. I’ll give you guys this one, but only on a technicality.”

“How’s the burger taste, man?” Shane asked from behind the camera.  “Like victory.”  Shane laughed.

Ryan tapped the edge of the screen to watch the last story again. And again. And again. Every time Shane laughed, Ryan’s smile spread wider. It wasn’t until his face ached and he felt butterflies blooming in his stomach that he realized it.

Wait, do I have a crush on Shane?

Ryan’s world stopped spinning, just for a moment, and then everything shifted. Slowly, a new reality slid into place. A reality where he, Ryan Bergara, had an actual crush on Shane Madej.

“What the fuck?” Ryan whispered as he locked his phone and set it down on his pillow.

It made sense, he realized, as he thought through the last few weeks of his life. He’d rationalized how long he’d stared at Shane that morning with the fact that he was just tired and cozy and didn’t want to move. He’d figured the reason he was so fixated on the feeling of Shane’s fingers against his mouth was because of how bizarre it was, not the now-overwhelming need to feel them there again. He’d only kept the footage of that morning because of his compulsive need to keep as much raw Unsolved footage as he could, and the fact that he hid is so deep into his personal hard drive was just to save Shane the embarrassment of anyone seeing it. He hadn’t quite reconciled the weird pang of jealousy he’d felt lately every time Shane mentioned Sara, or when Ryan saw them together, so he’d just been ignoring it.

Ryan had been ignoring a lot of things, he realized. Some for a very long time. But there was no more ignoring anything as the last pieces of this upending new reality clicked into place.

He had feelings for Shane. And it could only end terribly.

Before he could think any more about it, he slid out of bed, shuffled to his bathroom and took a sleeping pill. He very adamantly tried not to think of Shane as he laid in the dark, waiting for the drug to pull him under. Despite his best efforts, the last thing on his mind before he drifted off was Shane’s laugh.


Ryan was trying to work. He really, really was. Side by side on his computer screen was a blank Google Doc and a website about the Villisca Axe Murders, both of which had sat untouched for at least five minutes now. Not even a gruesome, octuple homicide could distract him from the one thought running through his mind:

Shane.

Although the man himself wasn’t at the office today, Ryan’s brain was like a broken record. Shane Shane Shane Shaneshaneshanealexandermadej. Since the floodgates had opened the night before, he couldn’t seem to slam them shut again. The one other thing on his mind was the fact that Shane was very much... not a woman. Ryan, of course, had no problem with queer people, but it was different when it was in his own head. The only thing was, it had, in the abstract, been in his head for a long time. After all, he’d had a few experiences with men.

In middle school, he’d kissed a friend of his on a dare at a sleepover. Ryan thought it was nice, and that it didn’t feel that much different than kissing girls. Their other friends, however, exploded into laughter and jeers, hurling slurs that still stung him, just a bit. But none of them ever talked about it after that night. The friend, Ryan learned through Facebook after they’d drifted apart and reconnected in the online world, turned out to be gay, and any time the memory crossed Ryan’s mind, he could only imagine how much more the slurs must’ve hurt the other boy.

In his freshman year of college, a guy in the dorm next to Ryan’s was openly gay, and they became fast friends. One night at a party, Ryan was drunker than he’d ever been in his life so far, and had somehow ended up getting a blowjob from the guy. He’d rationalized it, figuring a mouth was a mouth, regardless of the body it was attached to, and it was just a drunk fluke. Until it happened again. And then one more time. Then, began a two-month tryst, consisting mostly of middle-of-the-night handjobs, until the other guy shut it down for reasons unknown. Ryan had never gotten around to going down on him, and neither ever scored a home run, but he’d since chalked it up to self-discovery and left it in the past.

For a decade, those memories had sat in his metaphorical skeleton closet, undisturbed. It wasn’t like Ryan was constantly shoving down some lurid desire to be with men, causing himself misery. He loved the women he’d been with, loved Helen more than anyone. Sure, he could appreciate a good looking man, but couldn’t any guy? He’d never felt anything romantically for another man, or even sexually, really, since his college fling had been about getting himself off than actual desire.

Just like that, the word sexually mutated into sex with Shane and his mind broke. Instantly, he was overwhelmed with thoughts of Shane moving on top of him, Shane’s fingers sliding over his lips and into his mouth, Shane’s breath on his neck and Ryan’s hands on his back, Shane saying his name in a low, rough voice, Shane slamming–

“Yo, Ry,” Curly said, placing a hand on Ryan’s shoulder.

AH! ” Ryan yelled – actually yelled – and his whole body jumped. He really needed to stop having this reaction to people stopping at his desk.

“Whoa, what the fuck?” Curly replied with a laugh, taking a step back.

“Sorry,” Ryan said, turning his head to look up at his friend, but being very careful to keep his lap under his desk. “Shit, sorry, oh my God. I was totally zoned out.”

“Are you alright?” Curly asked. “You’re redder than a damn tomato.”

“I’m fine,” Ryan said, feeling his face heat up even more. “I’m just… I’m fine. What’s up?”

“Okay,” Curly said slowly. “Uh, I was just gonna ask if you wanted to come out to lunch today. A few of us are gonna try out that new Mexican place down the block. I’m like 98% sure it’s owned by actual Mexicans, so it should be good.”

Ryan nodded. “Uh, yeah, maybe. I’m pretty swamped in Unsolved research right now, but I’ll let you know.”

“Text me,” Curly said as he began to walk away. “We’re gonna leave around 1.”

Ryan gave him a thumbs up, then put his head down on his desk.


“Ryan, I had the weirdest fucking dream about you last night,” Shane said, sitting down at his desk the next morning.

“Good morning to you, too,” Ryan said, swiveling his chair toward his friend.

Shane was grinning, sleep still in his eyes, hair a bit disheveled. Ryan felt butterflies explode in his stomach.

“Good morning,” Shane said. “But, dude, this dream.”

Ryan smiled and grabbed his coffee cup to hide the fact that his hands were shaking. “What did I do?”

Shane launched into a monologue, describing his dream is vivid detail. Ryan tried to listen as Shane spoke, but he couldn’t focus on the other man’s words. What he could focus on was how expressive Shane’s eyes were as he recounted the story, how long his fingers were as his hands gestured wildly, and how his Adam’s apple bobbed as he raved. Shane’s intensity and wide smile lit up Ryan’s heart and stirred up the butterflies in his gut.

This is going to be a major fucking problem, Ryan thought briefly, until Shane started laughing at his own story, and the sound of it was all Ryan could think about.


“This is so fucking stupid,” Ryan said to himself as he drove home. “It’s Shane, for Christ’s sake.”

All day at work, any time Shane looked his way, Ryan felt his heart swell. Shane would smile, and Ryan would melt. Shane would say his name, and Ryan’s knees would go weak. It was so fucking stupid, and all completely involuntary.

“How’d this even happen?” Ryan asked himself. “Like a week ago he was just dumb Shane and now I’m like… ugh.”

Stopped at a red light, he brought his head down against the steering wheel for a moment.

“It’s so fucking stupid. I don’t want to get butterflies every time I look at him. This came out of fucking nowhere.”

No, it didn’t, said a small voice in the back of his head. And it was right.

He was slowly realizing, in hindsight, that he’d maybe always had a little bit of a crush on Shane. Shane, who made him laugh harder than anyone else and always remembered how Ryan liked his coffee. Shane, who snored like a monster but didn’t hog the covers. Shane, who always looked down on him literally, but never figuratively.

He suspected that his relationship with Helen is what had kept him oblivious to what was really going on in his head. Now that they’d been broken up for months and Ryan had gotten over it, the Shane feelings seemed to have pushed through to the surface.

Ryan hated it. He had to work with Shane every single day. Shane, who had a girlfriend, and who – as far as Ryan knew – was straight. There was no room in their friendship or their professional relationship for these feelings.

“So get the fuck over it, Bergara,” he said out loud, for emphasis.

If only it were that easy.


Thursday passed in a blur of feelings, subsequent annoyance at the feelings and trying not to stare at Shane from where he sat across the table at an important meeting Ryan hadn’t paid any attention to. By Friday, thankfully, the initial shock had worn off, and Ryan was able to have lunch with Shane like a normal human being.

“God, I’m so antsy to get out of here today,” Shane said, his point emphasized by his knee bouncing under the table. “I still have to finish packing.”

“What time does your flight leave tomorrow?” Ryan asked, then took a bite of his sandwich.

“Around 3, and since it’s almost Christmas it’s gonna be crazy, so I have to be at LAX at like 10 AM.”

Ryan smiled. “I’m so glad I can drive home for Christmas.”

“But you won’t get snow,” Shane countered.

“Exactly, Shane. We won’t get snow.”

Shane laughed. “Fair point. I’m excited to be home for a while, though.”

“When do you get back, again?”

“January 7th.”

Ryan nodded. “That’s like two full weeks, nice.”

“Yeah,” Shane agreed. “I’m excited to just… get away from everything and everyone here for a little bit. No offense.”

Ryan held up a hand as if to say, none taken, then said, “I totally get that.”

“I feel like I need to recharge or something. Like, you ever…” Shane paused, then lowered his voice. “You ever feel like your head and your heart are telling you sixteen different things, except none of them actually make sense?”

“Yeah, man,” Ryan said simply. That was exactly how he felt.

“Sometimes, I just…” Shane trailed off, then took a sip of his drink.

Ryan frowned. There was something in Shane’s tone that sounded so sad.

“Hey, I know this is kind of lame,” Ryan started, “and I know we mostly goof around, but you can always, like, talk to me. If you wanted to.”

“Aw, Ryan,” Shane replied with a grin. “That is so lame.”

“Shut up, dick,” Ryan said, throwing a napkin at his friend. “I was trying to be nice. It’s Christmas.”

“Speaking of Christmas,” Shane said with a soft laugh. “Should we exchange our gifts now?”

“Mmm, totally,” Ryan said. “We’ve only got a few minutes of lunch left.”

Ryan reached into his back pocket as he watched Shane rifle through his bag and pulled out an envelope with the other man’s name scrawled on the front. He pushed it across the table, and Shane slid an envelope over to him.

“Looks like we’re on the same page,” Shane said, and Ryan smiled.

“You first,” Ryan said.

Ryan couldn’t help but grin as he watched Shane make a show of opening the envelope. About a month ago, Ryan had gotten an email about a screening of Poltergeist in theatres on January 11th, and knew instantly that two tickets would be the perfect gift for Shane. He hoped Shane would use the second one to bring him, but knew it would probably end up going to Sara. Either way, he couldn’t wait for Shane’s reaction.

What he didn’t expect was no reaction at all.

“Shane?” Ryan asked, confused as to why his friend was staring blankly at the two tickets. “What’s up?”

“Did you seriously get me tickets to Poltergeist?” Shane asked, and he sounded… angry?

“Uh, yeah,” Ryan said. “What’s the problem, man? You love that movie.”

“Ryan, open your envelope.”

Carefully, Ryan slid his finger under the seal and tore the flap open. Inside were two tickets to Poltergeist, in theatres, on January 11th.

“Holy fucking shit, dude,” Ryan said, and the seriousness of his tone made them both dissolve into laughter.

“This is unbelievable,” Shane said, still laughing.

“But so fucking funny,” Ryan said.

“Oh, it’s hilarious,” Shane agreed.

“So what do we do with the extra tickets?”

Shane thought for a moment. “Well, Sara hates Poltergeist, but my brother and his girlfriend love it. I do still need a Christmas gift for him.”

Ryan couldn’t help but feel let down. He had really hoped the night would just be the two of them.

“Or,” Shane said, seeming to read Ryan’s mind, “we could, like, scalp them?”

Then, Ryan had an idea. “Hang on. I’ve got it.”

“What?” Shane asked.

“You’ll see,” Ryan said, tapping away at his phone. After a few moments, he nodded his head toward Shane’s. “Look at Twitter.” 

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

Los Angelenos! @shalexandej & I have two extra tix to Poltergeist at Regal LA on Jan 11, 8PM. First person to tweet me a pic of you holding a sign that says FUCK THE HOT DAGA gets em for free! (Please only send if you can make it to the show. I'll email you a pdf.)

1:57 PM - 21 December 2018 

Shane laughed. “That’s actually sort of brilliant. Or maybe it’s really stupid?”

“Either way, the damage is done,” Ryan said, as they both stood up from their lunch table.

A half-hour later, Ryan had started to panic. The only replies he’d gotten were from people who said they wished they could make it, but no one who actually wanted the tickets. He was scared he’d have to delete the tweet and take a bunch of shit from Shane while they figured out a Plan B. He refreshed his mentions again and thought, oh, thank God. Someone named Lindsay had sent him a picture of herself on what he recognized as La Cienega Boulevard holding a sign that said FUCK THE HOT DAGA in big, loopy script, captioned with a hot dog emoji and a ghost emoji.

“You win!” Ryan typed in a quote tweet. “Sending you a DM now.”

He tapped to her page, followed her, then clicked the envelope next to her name. 

Hi! Just want to verify – you can definitely make it to Poltergeist at Regal LA on January 11th at 8PM? This is an honor system but I really want the tix to go to someone who can be there. If so, send me your email and I’ll send you the tix!

Yes yes yes yes I can make it I promise omg!!
Sorry that was weird haha, I just kind of can’t believe this??
Anyway yeah I live in LA and I don’t have plans that night so I will definitely be there
Also you can totally unfollow me after this you don’t have to feel weird and like guilt follow me for six more months and secretly resent me bc my tweets are super dumb
Wow ok shut up Lindsay lmao

Hahahaha. I believe you. Need your email tho!

She sent back a string of embarrassed emojis, followed by her email address, and Ryan clicked over to his inbox.

FROM: Ryan Bergara
TO: Lindsay Hanson
DATE: Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 2:38 PM
SUBJECT: Poltergeist Tix

Hey Lindsay!

Here’s the pdf of the Poltergeist tickets. Hope you and your +1 enjoy the flick!

–Ryan

FROM: Lindsay Hanson
TO: Ryan Bergara
DATE: Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 2:45 PM
SUBJECT: re: Poltergeist Tix 

THANK YOU SO MUCH RYAN!!!!!!

My friend Elise and I are soooooo excited. It’s one of our fav movies ever ever ever but we didn’t get tickets when they were on sale. We’d love to buy you and Shane a drink beforehand to say thanks!! I promise I’m not as weird in real life as I just was on twitter, you just caught me off guard.

Thank you again! This is the coolest. Unsolved is one of my favorite things ever. You guys are so funny. Also I’m a total Boogara, and I promise I’m not just saying that. :)

Fuck the Hot Daga,
Lindsay

Ryan frowned. The point of this plan was so it would be just him and Shane. On top of that, if they hung out before the show, he’d feel compelled to keep hanging out with them, and he didn’t want the night to be ruined if it was awkward. But saying no felt rude, and his near-crippling self-consciousness made it nearly impossible for him to be rude to strangers.

After a few minutes of hemming and hawing, he typed out a reply. 

FROM: Ryan Bergara
TO: Lindsay Hanson
DATE: Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 2:52 PM
SUBJECT: re: Poltergeist Tix 

Shane and I actually have plans before the show, so we can’t get a drink, but thanks! If you see us at the theatre, definitely say hi. We’ll take a few selfies with you guys or something.

Thanks so much for the Unsolved love. I’m glad the tickets went to a Boogara. :)

Ghosts are real,
Ryan


Ryan got to his parents’ house mid-afternoon on Sunday and his mind instantly felt more at ease. There was something about being home around holiday time that made everything feel intrinsically okay. There was food cooking, his mom’s dogs were cute as ever, and all the stress of the feelings that had been eating away at him were left in Los Angeles.

Sunday turned into Christmas Eve, which turned into Christmas, and even though it was the same routine every year, he never got tired of it. The only difference this year was how often Shane came up in his thoughts. All day, he’d been itching to text Shane and wish him a Merry Christmas, but there was something about the way Shane had sounded at lunch on Friday that told Ryan to leave him be. He’d also gotten unexpectedly emotional listening to Mariah Carey sing about snow coming down and how Christmas wasn’t like Christmas at all without her titular Baby at home, which he decided to blame on too much eggnog rather than anything more.

Around 9PM, amidst a very heated conversation with his brother about whether or not Rogue One sucked, his phone buzzed.

“One sec,” he said, then pulled it out of his pocket to see a text from Shane. 

Merry Christmas!!!! Would’ve texted you earlier but I had my phone off all day. Recharging yknow? But you didn’t text me either so I guess we’re both terrible friends. Hope you and all the Bergaras had a good one. Give my love to your mom’s dogs.

Merry Christmas to you and the Madej clan! The dogs are very loved, I promise. Also I don’t suck. I didn’t text because I knew you were recharging. If anything I’m an excellent friend.

“Who is she?” Jake asked casually.

“Huh?” Ryan raised an eyebrow as he looked up from his phone.

“The girl I assume you’re texting,” Jake said. “You’re smiling so big right now, it’s gross.”

“Oh. It’s, uh...” Ryan stuttered, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “It’s actually Shane.”

“Oh, word,” Jake replied, characteristically unfazed. “Tell him I said Merry Christmas.” 

Jake says Merry Christmas.

Tell Yung Berg I say it back.

“He says Merry Christmas, too,” Ryan said, sliding his phone back in his pocket. “But anyway, that Vader scene was fucking iconic. How are you this wrong?”

Later that night, as Ryan laid in his childhood bed, he pulled his phone out to read the texts from Shane again. It wasn’t anything Earth-moving, but the fact that he’d taken time out of his recharge to reach out to Ryan was enough.


When it came time to leave on Tuesday morning, Ryan couldn’t do it. All Shane’s talk of recharging and getting away from LA had made him want to do the same. Maybe all he really needed was a few days away from Shane to clear his head and get his feelings sorted out.

“Hey, Ma?” he said, walking into the kitchen where she was pouring coffee into his travel mug. “Is it cool if I stay for a few more days?”

“Of course, Ryan!” she said, her face lighting up. “But don’t you have work?”

Ryan shrugged. “I only have a few things I need to get done this week, and they can all be done from here.”

“What about the party?”

Ryan nearly swore, but caught himself, for the sake of his mother. He’d forgotten that the BuzzFeed holiday party was this Friday. He knew he really should go, but how zen he felt at the moment coupled with the fact that Shane wouldn’t be there either was enough to convince him not to care.

“They won’t miss me,” he said with a shrug.

His mom smiled warmly. “Whatever you want is fine with me, honey.”

She wrapped him in a hug and he closed his eyes. This was exactly what he needed.

He texted work that he’d miss the rest of this week, then shut off his phone and plopped down on the couch.

“Jake!” he yelled. When he heard a faint response grunt come from his brother’s room, he continued, “Come down here so I can whip your ass in Super Smash!”

The rest of the week continued similarly, and Ryan felt more relaxed than he had in a long time. He felt a sort of regression, being in his parents’ house this long, hanging out with his brother and, once, a few high school friends. It was like he was 16 again, in a simpler time when his biggest problems were math tests and not getting the new sneakers he wanted.

But underneath it all was a deep ache. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone this long without talking to Shane. It seemed every minute they didn’t speak only made Ryan want to speak to him more. He wondered if Shane felt as strange as he did about not talking to Ryan, and then wondered if Sara was part of what Shane had wanted to get away from, and if he was recharging from her, too. He knew from Facebook that she was with her family and was now back in LA, rather than in Illinois with Shane. That was just enough to make him obsessively fixate on the situation as he tried to fall asleep.

Eventually, it was New Year’s Eve. Ryan, Jake, and their dad were watching a Back to the Future marathon on VH1, each with a large bowl of popcorn in their laps. His mind, of course, wandered back to Shane. He wondered what his friend was doing back East, and mused on how much more enjoyable this night would be with Shane beside him, and wished they could be in either place together.

Around 10:30, part-way through Back to the Future 3, he heard his phone ring from its place across the room. He let it ring, figuring if it was important, they’d call back. Which, of course, they did.

“Should you answer that?” Jake asked quietly, and Ryan noticed their dad was asleep.

“If it rings again, I will.”

It didn’t.

Ryan managed to stay awake until midnight, and as the credits rolled, he looked over at Jake, only to find his brother also asleep.

“Well, Happy New Year,” he said to himself, and he couldn’t help but feel like starting 2019 sad and alone was an omen of sorts.

He pushed himself off his recliner and shuffled over to where his phone sat, his body sore from lying still for so long. His heart faltered when he looked at his lock screen. He had two missed calls and two voicemails from Shane Madej.

“Fuck,” he whispered. “Fuck fuck fuck. Why didn’t I fucking answer?”

With a heavy sigh, he turned off the television, turned off the lights, then trekked off to the bathroom. Once he finally crawled into bed, he pulled out his phone and pressed play on Shane’s first voicemail. Immediately, he was overwhelmed by the noise, and turned the volume down a few clicks.

“RYYYAAAAAAN! HAPPY NEW YEAR, BUDDY! Well, for me, not for you yet. Time is fucking DUMB. Anyway, Ryan, I wish you were here! This bar is showing Back to the Future on a big screen and it’s fucking incredible. Also– Scott, hang on, I’m talking to Ryan. Of course I’m yelling, everyone in here is yelling! Ugh, okay, fine. Hey, Ry, I’m gonna call you back in a few!”

Ryan was grinning ear to ear. Something about the fact that he and Shane had both spent their night watching the same movie made his heart melt a little. He pressed play on the next message, then clicked the volume back up when he realized it was much softer than before.

“Me again. Are you asleep or something? Why aren’t you answering me? Anyway, Scott made me go outside to talk to you because apparently I was yelling too loud? Whatever. It’s freezing out here, but it’s snowing so it’s really pretty. It’s so weird that you don’t have snow right now. I wish you were here. Back to the Future is so much more fun when you’re drunk, did you know that? I miss you. We haven’t talked like all week and I know that’s my doing but it still sucks. It’s weird to travel without you now. Like, whenever I’m sitting on a plane, I expect you to be next to me. It’s so cool that we get to travel so much together and see all these cool places. I’m so glad it’s with you. I miss you. Did I say that already? Fuck, Ryan, I’m so drunk. Why did I get this drunk? Jesus. Okay. Anyway. Hope you’re having a good New Year’s, even if you are asleep right now like a total fuckin’ loser. But I still love you, despite your sleeping on New Year’s loser-ness and the fact that you’re not answering my fuckin’ phone calls. What if I was dying right now, huh? What if that’s why I’m calling? To say my goodbyes. You wouldn’t even know, Ryan. Fuck, I’m just imagining you with a little ouija board like 'I’m sorry, Shane, I should’ve answered the phone!' God, that’s so funny. I know you hate ouija boards, but you’d use one for me, right? I’d probably try one for you... Ugh, sorry, I don’t wanna think about you dying. It’s too sad. Don’t die, Ryan, okay? Not before we… Okay. I’m hanging up for real now because my hand is going to freeze off. Snow is so goddamn cold. Happy New Year. I love you. Bye. OKAY, SCOTT, I’M COM–”

Ryan let out the breath he was holding, then scrubbed backward in the message and listened to the end again.

“I love you.”

Shane’s fingers grazing his cheek.

“I love you.”

Shane’s fingers pressed to his lips.

“I love you.”

Shane, everywhere, all at once.

“I love you.”

Chapter Text

When Ryan woke up the next morning, the world was quiet. There were no neighbors milling about on the other sides of his walls, no freeway traffic in the distance. The clock on his nightstand told him it was just past 9AM, and he wanted to stay in this moment forever.

Before he could stop it, the previous night drifted into his memory. He lost track of how many times he’d listened to Shane’s second voicemail. His voice sounded so genuine. Ryan loved that about drunk Shane. As rambunctious and ridiculous as he could get in a crowd, when you got him alone, his entire demeanor softened and he became painstakingly honest.

“I love you.”

Ryan unlocked his phone and listened to it again before heading downstairs. His family didn’t seem to be awake yet, which was strange considering Ryan was the last one to fall asleep. He didn’t mind the alone time. He made a cup of coffee and poured himself a bowl of cereal, humming The Power of Love like he always did in the days after a Back to the Future binge.

As he sat down at the table, he pulled out his phone and listened to the voicemail again. It was pathetic, he knew, but there was no one around to judge him but himself. By his third listen, he realized that he wasn’t going to get over these goddamn feelings anytime soon. He’d just have to wait it out.

“Good morning,” his mom said, walking into the kitchen and suppressing a yawn. “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year,” Ryan replied, quickly locking his phone. “I made coffee.”

She ran a hand over his hair as she walked past him, and he wanted to tell her. He wanted to spill out everything that had happened in the last few weeks and every feeling he had for Shane so she could soak them up and tell him what to do. She’d encouraged him to ask Helen out in the first place, she’d been there with something thoughtful to say anytime Ryan had asked for advice, and she’d been there when they broke up and Ryan needed a place to crash for the weekend while Helen moved out. She’d know exactly what to say about his latest situation.

“I can hear you thinking from here, baby,” she said, sitting down across from him. “What’s got your mind working so hard?”

“It’s nothing,” he said, fleetingly wondering if she could actually hear his thoughts. “I just have a ton of stuff to do at work this week. I probably shouldn’t have played hooky.”

He knew she knew he was lying, but after a few moments of silence, she didn’t pry.

“Okay,” she said softly, then stood back up. “I’m gonna bring this coffee up to your father. And if you want to talk…”

“I’ll find you,” he said.

She leaned down to kiss his forehead, then walked out of the room.

When it came time to leave that afternoon, it was nearly impossible. He still hadn’t thought of an excuse as to why he’d missed the holiday party, and the thought of sitting next to Shane’s empty desk for the rest of the week was depressing as hell. He wanted to crawl back into his bed and never leave. Instead, he said his goodbyes to his family, promised to come back soon and loaded his things into his car.

When he got back to LA, he had a text from Shane.

Watching your fav ep of Twilight Zone on Syfy!

Attached to the text was a photo of a television showing To Serve Man, just at the moment the Kanamit grabs Patty as she screams for Mr. Chambers to get off the ship. Ryan’s blood ran cold and once again, he wished he’d never told Shane how badly that episode had traumatized him as a child. In the back of his mind, beyond the inherent fear, he was glad for the contact. 

FUCK THAT EPISODE

“It’s a cookbook!”

STOP!!!

Shane sent back a string of alien emojis, which Ryan responded to with a string of middle fingers.


Going to work the next day required a Herculean amount of effort, but Ryan managed. He listened to everyone’s stories about their Christmases and New Years, heard all the gossip from the party he’d missed and caught up on the emails he’d spent the previous week ignoring.

“So, did Shane drunk dial you, too?” Ryan asked Sara as they both walked to their cars at the end of the day.

“Huh?” she asked.

“On New Year’s,” Ryan clarified. “He left me the drunkest voicemail ever.”

“Oh,” Sara said. “Uh, no. Nothing for me.”

Weird.

“Count yourself lucky,” he said quickly. “It was a fucking mess.”

“Huh. Well, goodnight,” she said, stopping in front of her car. “If you talk to him again, tell him I miss him.”

Ryan didn’t know what to say. It sounded like she was joking, but it was sometimes hard to tell with Sara.

“We didn’t talk, he just left me…” Ryan trailed off as Sara got in her car.

As he got into his car, he felt terrible. He’d only been trying to make conversation, not hurt her. But he couldn’t help but feel giddy that Shane had called him instead of her. Maybe she was part of what he needed a break from.


Friday marked the premiere of a new season of True Crime, and while Ryan was excited, it felt strange not to have Shane to share it with. He’d sent Shane a text that morning but had never heard back. When he pulled out his phone to check his messages again, a tweet sat on his lock screen.

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

New season of True Crime starts today! I’ll be on a plane back to LA when it goes live so please look to @ryansbergara for the link. It’s a wild one, folks.

12:29 PM - 4 January 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

@shalexandej DB Cooper it and post a link on your way down?

12:32 PM - 4 January 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

@ryansbergara I’ll scream the link out loud as I plummet to the ground somewhere over Utah.

12:33 PM - 4 January 2019


That Monday, Ryan heard Shane before he saw him. Shane was talking to Steven as they walked through the office, and when Steven made Shane laugh, Ryan actually sighed.

“Hey, buddy!” Shane said as he sat down at his desk.

“Hi,” Ryan said, then cringed at how moony his voice sounded. “How was Illinois?”

“Oh, it was great, as always,” Shane said. “Nice to be back, though.”

“You’re good and recharged?”

Shane grinned. “Very.”

“I kind of stole your idea,” Ryan said. “I ended up staying at my parents’ until New Year’s Day.”

“So we’re both fully charged.”

Ryan smiled. “The Boys are coming for 2019.”

“Fully charged boys!” Shane replied, and they both laughed. “Speaking of New Year’s, sorry about the drunk dials.”

Ryan fluttered. “No worries.”

“Did we actually talk?” Shane asked. “I vaguely remember talking to you, but I honestly can’t remember if you were talking, too.”

“You left me a couple voicemails.”

“Oh, man,” Shane said, rubbing a hand over his face. “How bad was it?”

“You, uh. You mostly just yelled about the fact that it’s 2019,” Ryan lied.

Ryan was surprised to find himself upset that Shane didn’t remember what he’d said. The words Ryan had spent all week listening to – I miss you, don’t die before we…, I love you – were a complete mystery to Shane, lost forever in a haze of alcohol. Ryan didn’t want to carry around another secret.

“You did end one of them by telling me you love me,” Ryan said, and he hoped the heat he felt in his cheeks wasn’t visible.

“Fuck, that’s embarrassing,” Shane said with a soft laugh. “I called Sara right before you, so my drunk brain probably just carried that part over.”

Ryan immediately remembered back a few days, when Sara had said to him that Shane hadn’t called her. There would’ve been no reason for her to lie. Which meant Shane was lying. His so-called drunk brain just loved Ryan.

Ryan didn’t know what to do with that.

“You know what, though?” Shane said. “I stand by it. Fuck toxic masculinity. Ryan Bergara, I love you.”

The flood of emotions that filled Ryan’s head were impossible to describe. Hearing Shane say those words in real life sent his heart into overdrive, but the fact that it was a joke made him vaguely furious.

Except, he wondered, what if it wasn’t a joke? What if Shane meant it but was hiding behind humor? What if Ryan leaned over right here in the middle of this office and kissed Shane, right on his stupid mouth?

The thought terrified him.

“Well?” Shane asked.

“I, uh,” Ryan started. “I love you, too, Shane.”

“Aw, sweet!” Sara said, bouncing over to their desks. “What’d I miss?”

“Not too much,” Shane said. “Ryan and I have decided to shirk toxic masculinity. We love each other.”

“I love it,” she said, patting Ryan on the shoulder.

“So what’s up?” Shane asked as she leaned against his desk.

“Nothing, really,” she replied. “I have like ten minutes to kill before a meeting and you were gone for a really long time.”

“So you had to come stare into my eyes, even though we just drove here together?”

She reached down and threaded their fingers together, resting their hands against Shane’s knee. “Something like that, yeah.”

“Gross,” Ryan mumbled, and although he wasn’t joking at all, they both laughed.

He put on his headphones and did his best to ignore the conversation happening next to him.


“Goddamnit,” Ryan said to himself, staring at the mirror and roughly combing his fingers through his hair. He’d been trying to get it to look good for fifteen minutes, to no avail. “I hate my stupid fucking hair.”

He felt like a complete moron, stressing out this much about how he looked to go see a movie with Shane . The last time he remembered feeling this nervous was before his first date with Helen.

“This isn’t a date, dumbass,” he said out loud, leveling a glare at himself in the mirror.

He continued fussing with his hair, his hoodie, his belt until his phone buzzed with a call from Shane.

“Hey, you outside?”

“I’m here,” Shane said, drawing out the vowel sounds in a terrible Poltergeist impression.

“Cute,” Ryan said, grabbing his wallet and keys. “I’m on my way down now.”

“See ya in a few,” Shane said, then ended the call.

Ryan took a deep breath. “Chill the fuck out, Bergara.”

When he opened the car door, Shane immediately lit up. “Merry Christmas, buddy!”

“Merry Christmas to you, too,” Ryan said. “I still can’t believe we did this.”

“I can,” Shane said. “You really get to know a man when you kill ghouls together.”

Ryan saw the Uber driver glance at them in the rearview mirror and laughed. “Good point. You have seen me at my most terrified.”

“And I take that as an honor,” Shane replied.

They chatted for the rest of the drive to the restaurant, mostly about Poltergeist, and Ryan was already having a blast. Even though he and Shane were with each other every day, they didn’t often get casual, one-on-one time like this.

“Jeez, this place is fancy,” Shane said as the restaurant’s hostess seated them.

Ryan looked around, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. “Yeah, it’s a little more upscale than it looked online.”

“It’s kind of romantic,” Shane remarked, as if that were a totally normal thing to say to your friend. “But know that I’m not gonna put out just because you brought me to a nice restaurant.”

Ryan gripped his knees to keep his hands from shaking. He joked, “Well, there goes the night then,” but it came out all wrong. He wanted the ground to swallow him whole.

Shane laughed and took a sip of his water.

Before Ryan could stick his foot any further into his own mouth, their waitress came over. She was pretty, probably early twenties, and definitely trying to be an actress judging by her abundance of fake hair and frighteningly white teeth. Ryan tried to focus on her, rather than thoughts of Shane “putting out.”

“Stare much?” Shane asked as she walked away with their drink orders.

“Huh?”

“You were totally staring at her,” Shane said. “Like, borderline creep.”

“Shit,” Ryan said, and goddamnit, he was really blowing this. “She just looked familiar.”

“Uh huh,” Shane said, raising an eyebrow. “You could just ask for her number.”

“What?”

“She’s cute,” Shane said, “and it’s been forever since you broke up with Helen.”

“I’m not gonna be the guy who hits on the waitress,” Ryan grumbled.

Shane held up his hands. “I’m just saying. It’d be nice to see you get back out there.”

Ryan felt his face heat up. “Can we just change the subject?”

“Sure,” Shane said, but before they could do so, he said, “Is that Quinta?”

Ryan turned around, and sure enough, their friend was walking right toward them. Fuck.

“Quinta!” Shane said louder as she approached. “Hey!”

“Shane and Ryan?” she said, coming over to their table. “What’s up?!”

“We’re going to see Poltergeist tonight and had to grab a bite first,” Shane said. “You?”

She frowned slightly. “Well, I was meeting someone, but he just texted me, ‘Can’t make it lol,’ a half hour after we were supposed to meet, so maybe I dodged a bullet.”

Shane laughed, and Ryan felt the dread in the pit of his stomach, knowing what the other man was about to say.

“Why don’t you join us?” Shane asked, and Ryan wanted to physically put his hand over Shane’s mouth. “We literally just put in our drink orders.”

“I’d love to,” Quinta said, “but I already told another friend I’d meet her at a bar a few minutes away.”

Ryan had never felt more relieved. He tried to mean it when he said, “Oh, bummer.”

“Totally,” she said. “But we should hang soon! I miss you guys.”

Shane nodded, about to agree, but Quinta’s phone buzzed with a call.

“See you boys,” she said, waving to them both then walking off, phone pressed to her ear.

“I miss her,” Shane said, turning back to Ryan.

“Yeah,” Ryan said. “But still, this is nice. I don’t remember the last time we hung out, just the two of us, outside of something work-related.”

Shane thought for a moment. “Yeah, wow. Me neither.”

“Although you could argue that this is work-related,” Ryan joked. “Lotta ghouls in Poltergeist.”

“Oh, what, are you gonna whip out the spirit box?” Shane asked.

“I might,” Ryan said. “Who knows? The production was super haunted. Maybe the movie is haunted, too.”

“Do you hear yourself?” Shane asked through a laugh as the waitress set down their drinks. “Like, when you speak?”

“Shut up,” Ryan said.

“So, what can I get you two?” the waitress asked, grinning down at Ryan.

Both men looked at their unopened menus, and at the same time said, “Oh, shit.”

Shane looked up at the waitress. “Sorry. We ran into a friend and haven’t even opened the menus. I’ll just have a cheeseburger, though, if you’ve got it. Medium rare.”

“Cheeseburger, medium rare,” she repeated, writing down his order, then shot Ryan another blindingly white smile. “And you?”

“Same, cheeseburger, but well done.”

“Okay! I’ll have those right out for you boys.” She touched Ryan’s shoulder briefly, then walked away.

“She’s into you,” Shane said.

“Fuck off, she’s just trying to get a good tip,” Ryan replied, feeling his cheeks heat up again.

Shane reached out to grab Ryan’s arm where the waitress had touched him and said in his breathiest voice, “Oh, I’ll have those right out for you.”

“She didn’t say it like that, you dick,” Ryan said, laughing despite how aware he was of Shane’s hand on his arm.

“I’m just saying,” Shane said, drawing his hand back. “It’d be easier if you were coupled up again.”

“Easier?” Ryan asked, raising an eyebrow.

Shane paused. “Uh, yeah. I just mean, like. Sara really liked when we’d go out with you and Helen. It’d just be fun. To do that again. Four of us, y’know, so you’re not a third wheel. Not that we mind when you hang with us! But, uh. Yeah.”

“Right,” Ryan said slowly. “So I should marry this waitress to appease Sara?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I’ll get ordained online right now.”

They both laughed, and Ryan took a sip of his beer.

“Alright, let’s talk about literally anything else,” Ryan said. “What’s up with Ruining History?”

Shane groaned. “I’m not sure. I have eight scripts outlined, and as of now, it’s slated to film more in April.”

Ryan nodded. “That’s not too far off.”

“Still,” Shane said. “It’s fucking annoying that they keep pushing it in favor of other stuff. I know they take a while to edit, but still.”

“Another new subject, then,” Ryan suggested.

Shane paused, tenting his fingers and making an exaggerated thinking face. “I could give you a preview of Monday’s Hot Daga installment.”

“Abso-fucking-lutely not,” Ryan said immediately.

The rest of dinner went smoothly, touchy subjects staying properly avoided. Ryan’s brain was mostly a loop of how much fun he was having on his date with Shane, the fact that it wasn’t a fucking date, and what in the hell Shane had meant by easier.

“Anything else I can get you?” the waitress asked, directly addressing Ryan at this point.

“Just the check,” Ryan said. “We’ve got a movie to catch.”

“What movie?” she asked.

“Poltergeist,” he replied.

“Oh, I loved that movie,” she said, touching Ryan’s arm again. “Sam Rockwell, right? He’s great.”

Ryan, looked at Shane, confused.

“We’re uh,” Shane interjected. “We’re seeing the original. From the ‘80s.”

She looked at Shane. “There’s an original?”

There was a moment of intensely awkward silence, and Ryan could tell Shane was trying as hard as he was not to laugh.

“The check would be great,” Ryan said. “Separate, please.”

She nodded, clearly a bit peeved, and walked away.

“Okay, so, never mind on marrying the waitress,” Shane said once she was out of earshot, and they both cracked up.

When they got their checks back, there was a phone number and a smiley face written next to the waitress’s name on Ryan’s. He left it in the book.


"That’s such a good fucking movie,” Ryan said as the two of them left the theatre. “It’s so fucking good.”

“So fucking good,” Shane agreed. “I’m so glad we both had this idea.”

“Me too,” Ryan said. He didn’t want the night to end here, so he asked, “Hey, you wanna come back to my place, keep the party going? I have Poltergeist II and III on DVD for some reason.”

Before Shane could reply, an unfamiliar voice said, “Ryan?”

He turned around to see two women, one with purple hair and the other with pink, and said, “Yeah?”

“I’m Lindsay,” the woman with the purple hair said. “From Twitter. You gave me the tickets.”

“Oh, hey!” Ryan said. “Movie was dope, right?”

“So great,” Lindsay said. “Thank you again.”

“Our pleasure,” Shane said, smiling down at her.

“And you’re Elise, right?” Ryan asked the other woman.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“Cool,” Ryan replied.

“How’d you guys even end up with extra tickets?” Lindsay asked.

“We both gave them to each other for Christmas,” Shane said. “So we had an extra set.”

“Oh my god, that’s adorable,” Lindsay said, and Ryan tried not to smile too wide.

“So, you guys wanna take a selfie, or?” he asked.

The girls nodded excitedly, pulling out their phones. The four of them passed the phones around, taking different angles, some group shots and some individuals. Once they were satisfied, Ryan pulled out his phone to snap one of everyone, then had them each put their handles in his Notes app for when he tweeted the photo later.

“Well, it was nice to meet you guys,” Ryan said, “but I think we’re gonna head–“

“Do you guys want to get a drink with us?” Lindsay asked, interrupting him. “There’s a bar like right down the street we’re gonna go to. First round’s on us.”

Ryan took a beat too long to reply, so by the time he was going to decline, Shane had already said, “Yeah, we’ll grab a drink.”

“Awesome!” Lindsay said, and Ryan couldn’t have disagreed more.

Which was how he found himself six strong cocktails deep, listening to a complete stranger yammer on about how haunted her childhood home was. Shane and Elise, who they found out also worked in film production, were engrossed in a conversation about cinematography, so there was no one to save him.

The combination of hard liquor and annoyance at the lack of Shane’s attention filled Ryan with the strangest desire to make Shane jealous. He wanted to make Shane crave him the same way Ryan did. He wasn’t exactly sure how to do that, so he settled on throwing back the rest of his drink and abruptly asking Lindsay, “Do you want to dance?”

She stopped talking immediately, her whole face lighting up. “Yeah. Oh my God, yes. Let’s dance.”

She chugged the rest of her drink and Ryan grabbed her hand. As she lead him away from the table, Ryan could see Shane looking at them in his periphery, and Ryan swore he saw a frown.

Dancing with Lindsay, it turned out, was more Ryan awkwardly bopping to the bad music playing in the bar and Lindsay dancing on him. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant, just not exactly what he’d envisioned. Then again, he never was big on dancing. After a few songs, he suggested getting another drink, and she happily agreed. They made their way back to their table, fresh drinks in hand, to find Shane and Elise were still deep in conversation.

“Ryan Bergara,” Lindsay said, slowly resting her hand on the back of Ryan’s neck, her fingers playing with the tips of his hair. She was very drunk, but he didn’t hate the feeling.

“Lindsay Hanson,” he said back.

“You remember my last name?” she asked.

“I was singing MMMBop for the rest of the day,” he replied. “But you probably get that a lot, huh?”

“Not so much anymore,” she said, sipping the drink held in her free hand. “But when I was younger I was convinced I was gonna marry Taylor Hanson, and it’d all be really simple since we already had the same last name.”

Ryan laughed, which made her laugh and, really, she was so gorgeous. He wasn’t sure how he didn’t notice it earlier.

Feeling bold, he wrapped his free hand around the wrist resting against his shoulder. He could feel her pulse under his fingers, which was kind of hot, in a strange way. It meant she was alive and real and right in front of him. She wasn’t a fantasy in his head. She wasn’t in a relationship with one of his friends. She didn’t do and say confusing things like gently touch Ryan’s face or drunkenly say she loved him and then turn it into a joke. She was just a girl who seemed pretty damn into him. And he was pretty damn into that. She looked down at his lips, and he did the same to her.

“Okay, we’re gonna go to the bathroom,” Elise said, pulling Lindsay’s hand away from Ryan.

“But I don’t have to go,” she whined.

“Buddy system,” Elise said, dragging her friend away.

“Well aren’t you a babe magnet tonight?” Shane remarked after a moment of quiet.

“Babe magnet?” Ryan repeated. “What fucking year is it?”

“First the waitress,” Shane said, ignoring his jab, “now this girl. You’re killing it.”

Ryan shrugged. Shane didn’t seem very jealous. “I guess.”

“You should take Lindsay home,” Shane suggested, then swallowed the last of his drink.

“I can’t do that,” Ryan said immediately.

“Why not?” Shane asked. “Seriously, have you slept with anyone since you and Helen broke up, what, like, nine months ago?”

Ryan looked at the table. This wasn’t a conversation he wanted to be having.

“Exactly,” Shane said. “Just ask her to get out of here. She’s watches the show, so you know she likes you, and she literally can’t stop touching you.”

“Isn’t that kind of… I don’t know, skeezy, though?” Ryan asked. “Since she’s a fan? And she’s only here because I gave her tickets?”

“So what if it is? I’m not gonna judge you, so as long as she’s into it, what’s stopping you?”

Ryan took another sip of his drink to avoid answering him. Shane wasn’t wrong, and Ryan had been thinking about asking Lindsay to get out of there before Elise had pulled her away. But something about Shane’s encouragement made the whole thing feel gross and counterproductive.

He should’ve just let Shane give the tickets to Scott and his girlfriend. Then they’d probably be at Ryan’s apartment right now, watching Poltergeist II and bitching about it over a bowl of popcorn. Suddenly, he wanted to cry. He finished his drink instead, hiding his frown as the girls walked back over. It was awkward for a few moments and Ryan had a hard time looking up from the table.

“Well, it’s getting kind of late,” Shane said eventually. “I think I’m gonna head out. Ryan?”

“Uh,” he said, looking back and forth between Shane and Lindsay. Shane raised his eyebrows in a silent what the hell? and Lindsay looked at him expectantly. “Yeah. I’m gonna head out, too.”

“Or… we could head to my place?” Lindsay said, and Ryan’s jaw dropped a bit.

He looked to Shane, who mouthed, say yes.

“Thanks,” Ryan said. “But... no thanks. I’ve got a ton of… stuff… to do tomorrow.”

Lindsay’s face fell. “Oh. Uh. Okay.”

“Okay,” Ryan repeated. “Well, it was nice to meet you guys.”

And then he was walking away as fast as his stumbling feet would carry him. He heard Shane yell after him, but he didn’t stop walking. He couldn’t believe how badly he’d blown this night and couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so goddamn embarrassed. Even though he was the one who’d shot Lindsay down, his whole body felt awash with rejection.

“Ryan, what the fuck?” Shane asked, eventually catching up to him where he’d stopped outside the bar. “That was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Yeah, well you made it that way,” Ryan spat.

“How did I make it that way?” Shane spat back. “I was doing what you wanted!”

“I don’t want to hook up with some random girl, Shane!” Ryan yelled, and the sidewalk seemed to tilt a bit. “I want–“

Ryan’s brain blocked out the surrounding voices and grey noise of Los Angeles. All he could hear was the resounding silence between the two of them.

“What do you want?” Shane asked softly, taking a step forward.

To fucking kiss you, you stupid fucking idiot, Ryan thought. It would be easy, really. He’d just have to take another step forward and roll up onto the balls of his feet.

“What do you want, Ryan?” Shane repeated.

Just tell him.

“I want to fucking go home.”

Shane sighed. “I’ll get us an Uber.”

They didn’t speak on the drive back, and Ryan wasn’t sure how the evening had gone so awry. They’d been having such a great time before Shane had tried to whore him out to make his own life easier, whatever the fuck that meant. By the time the cab got to Ryan’s house, he was so steeped in drunk, irrational anger that he didn’t even say goodnight.

If a few tears escaped his eyes while he laid in bed trying to fall asleep, no one had to fucking know.


The next morning, Ryan woke up to a string of texts from Shane. 

Hey you awake?
...guess not.
Anyway sorry things got so weird tonight. I don’t really know what happened.
Sorry for pushing you. I thought you wanted to hook up with her. I was just trying to help out. Be your wingman or whatever.
If you’re not over Helen or just not ready to get back out there I get that.
But it’s been a really long time Ryan.
I just want you to be happy.
You’ve seemed really sad the last few weeks.
And I don’t like it.
So I’m sorry. I was trying to help but I was an idiot and didn’t pay attention to what you were saying.
Tonight was really fun up until the end there.
But I guess it’s not Christmas without some drama right?
Okay. That’s all. I’m sorry.
Good morning.

Thanks. It’s all good. I think I just had too much to drink and needed to let off some steam. You’re right, I have been tense lately. I’m working on it. Sorry for taking it out on you, especially since we were having such a good time before that.

No apology needed. Everything ok with you tho?

Yeah I’m ok.
You busy today?

Not really why?

My Poltergeist 2 and 3 dvds are calling our names...

Be over at 1?

See you then. Bring the good popcorn. No fighting this time.

NO GIRLS ALLOWED
BOY KERNELHEADS ONLY

Ryan laughed once as he slid out of bed and said to himself, “I fucking wish.”


“This is the greatest place we’ve ever ghostbusted,” Shane said, flopping face-first down onto the bed. “It’s nicer than the Dauphine.”

“It is pretty great,” Ryan replied. “I haven’t been here in years.”

“Pre- or post-Queen Mary?”

“Pre-QM,” Ryan replied with a grin. “So I’m excited to be back to check out this ghost.”

Their last trip for this season of Unsolved Supernatural was to San Diego, which Ryan was grateful for. He was really starting to get sick of LAX. They were investigating the Hotel Del Coronado, or more specifically, the possibly-suicide-possibly-murder of Kate Morgan in the Hotel. They’d managed to secure her room, which was easier than Ryan had expected thanks to mid-January not being prime vacation time.

The only downside was that the room had one bed, and Ryan wished that, for once, someone would just die in a fucking double room. He hadn’t shared a bed with Shane since the Socci House and the subsequent discovery of his own stupid feelings, and he was strangely anxious about the whole thing.

“Ghost,” Shane repeated, putting air quotes around the word.

“Fuck off,” Ryan replied, smacking him on the leg. “You wanna go get dinner with Teej and Mark? It’s only 8 and we don’t start filming until like 10.”

“Sure,” Shane said. “Let me just change out of this stupid shirt.”

Ryan laughed, remembering how Shane had spilled coffee down his front moments after they’d gotten on the freeway and wasn’t able to get his suitcase out of Ryan’s trunk. The laughter died quickly as Shane sat up and pulled off his shirt. Sharing close quarters as often as they did, they’d seen each other in various states of undress plenty of times. It had never made Ryan uncomfortable before.

He couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from Shane’s bare torso as the other man bent over to rifle through his bag at the foot of the bed, and he was glad Shane’s back was to him. His long, freckled back, with shoulder blades stretching under the skin as Shane moved his arms. Ryan felt his mouth go dry.

If you’d told Ryan six months ago that one day he’d be lusting over Shane’s gangly, floppy, car dealership inflatable body, he’d probably have laughed in your face. Even now, he was kind of confused as to why all he wanted to do was reach out and run his hands over Shane’s back, dig his fingers into Shane’s sharp hip bones, pull Shane on top of him in this goddamn bed they had to share and–

“Ryan?”

He snapped back to reality to see Shane standing in front of him, still shirtless. Ryan was staring right at his chest. He looked up and said, “Huh?”

“You alright?” Shane asked. “You were just sitting there staring at me.”

“Sorry,” Ryan said, shifting uncomfortably. “I was just… going over everything I want to film tonight. Got a little lost in thought, I guess.”

“Okay,” Shane said slowly, and he didn’t seem convinced.

“Besides, your back is so goddamn pale it blinded me,” Ryan said, hoping the humor would help him recover. “I was seeing spots.”

Shane laughed, then pulled his clean shirt on, much to Ryan’s relief. “It’s January, Ryan. Am I supposed to go tan on the beach?”

“You don’t tan anyway,” Ryan said. “You’re either vampire pale or lobster red.”

“The Slavic curse,” Shane replied, his tone full of mock solemnity.

Ryan rolled his eyes and pulled out his phone. “I’ll text Teej. He probably knows a good place to eat around here.”

They ended up at a Mexican place back across the bridge, and Ryan was very much enjoying watching Shane squirm as he tried to power through the spicy food. He wasn’t sure why Shane always ordered things he knew would hurt him, or even agreed to come to Mexican restaurants in the first place since it was always an ordeal, but it never failed to entertain Ryan. He’d asked Shane once, months ago, after offering four times to go to a different restaurant, why he insisted on torturing himself. Shane had just answered, “You like the food, and I’ll eat anywhere.” That had always stuck in Ryan’s mind.

As they walked back to their cars, Shane pulled out his phone, and Ryan saw his face fall.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“I have four missed calls from Sara,” Shane said.

“Is everything okay?”

Shane shot him a look. “How would I know that if I didn’t answer the calls, Ryan?”

“Fair point.”

“You mind if I call her back while we drive?” Shane asked, getting into Ryan’s passenger seat.

“Yeah, no problem.”

Before Shane could call, Sara was calling again. He sighed and answered it as Ryan turned the key in the ignition.

“Hey, hon! Is everything okay?”

“Oh, wow, look who knows how to answer a phone all the sudden!” Sara yelled.

Ryan could hear every word she had said, but didn’t want to turn up the radio and make it harder for Shane to hear. He tried not to listen.

“What?”

“I called you a bazillion times.”

“I was at dinner,” Shane said, looking over at Ryan, who kept his eyes firmly on the road. “I didn’t have my phone out.”

“With Ryan?” she asked, and Ryan could hear the sneer in her words.

“With everyone,” Shane answered. “Are you drunk?”

“A little,” she replied. “Why do you care?”

“I don’t,” Shane said. “But it’s Wednesday night.”

“So?” she said, and then paused. Ryan could hear muffled voices in the background of the call. “I still can’t fucking believe you went.”

Shane groaned. “Sara, I’m not having this conversation again.”

“Now I have to go to this party alone,” she continued. “And when everyone asks where my boyfriend is, I’ll have to say, ‘Oh, apparently fucking ghosts are more important than I am!’”

“This has been scheduled for months,” Shane said, his tone sharp. “It’s my job.”

“It’s my job,” she spat back in a mocking tone. “It’s ridiculous is what it is. You travel to all these places and you’re gone all the time so you can go into old houses and yell at nothing. Couldn’t you have just pushed this one like a week?”

“Not really,” Shane said. “It’s a pretty popular place. We were lucky to even get the haunted room.”

Haunted,” she said. “Whatever.”

“Is this why you called?” Shane asked. “Just to yell at me again?”

“I was telling everyone about it,” she said, then hiccupped. “And they said I should call you.”

“And what did you expect?” he asked. “I’d turn around and drive home because you got drunk at your friend’s house and they made you get you mad at me?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “At least an apology.”

“For doing my job?”

“For abandoning me.”

Ryan wanted to sink into the ground and never resurface. He didn’t know it was possible to simultaneously feel so guilty and so goddamn gleeful.

“I didn’t abandon you, Sara,” Shane replied, his voice softer. “And I know it sucks that I’m gone a lot, but it’s not that often. Plus, True Crime is coming up in the spring, and we don’t travel as much for that.”

“Whatever,” she said again. “Say hi to Ryan for me.”

The beep of the call ending hung heavy in the air as they pulled into the hotel’s parking lot. Ryan kept looking straight ahead.

“How much of her half did you hear?”

Ryan gave Shane a sheepish grin. “Literally every single word.”

“Sorry,” Shane said. “That was… Sorry.”

“Shane, if you want to cancel…” Ryan said, trailing off. He had no idea what they’d do if Shane took him up on the offer.

“No,” Shane said. “It’s fine. We’re staying.”

Ryan nodded. “Are you guys okay?”

“Yeah, it’ll be fine,” Shane said. “Our friend has this gallery opening tomorrow night, and since we’re here until Friday morning, I won’t be able to go.”

“And she’s that upset?” Ryan asked.

Shane shifted in his seat. “There’s kind of been events the last three times we went somewhere. It’s just a weird coincidence, but she’s pissed that she has to keep going alone.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Shane said. “Like I told her, these have been scheduled for months, and this is our job.”

Ryan frowned. He really hoped making Unsolved would be their job for a long time, but a seed of worry had been planted in the back of his mind. He didn’t want Shane to ever have to choose between Unsolved and Sara, because Ryan knew which one Shane would choose.

“Alright,” Shane said, turning his phone off then shoving it in his pocket. “Let’s go kill some fucking ghouls."


Around 9:30PM, they had their chairs set up in the ballroom. It was gorgeous, and Ryan had a hard time looking away from the massive chandeliers hanging overhead.

“You guys ready?” TJ asked, adjusting one of their lights.

“Ready,” the boys said in unison.

TJ laughed as he walked back over to where Mark stood with the cameras. “It’s so weird when you guys do that.”

“Thanks,” they both said again, causing everyone to laugh.

“Whenever you’re good,” TJ said once they’d calmed down.

Ryan took a deep breath and looked at Shane, who gave him a nod. They both turned toward the middle camera.

“This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved, we investigate the mysterious death of Kate Morgan at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California as part of our ongoing investigation into the question: Are ghosts real?”

Ryan suppressed a smile as Shane shook his head at his camera.

“Some claim Kate’s death was a murder, some claim it was a suicide,” Ryan continued, glancing at Shane. “But no matter the cause, her ghost has been said to roam the halls of this resort, and there have been multiple reports of suspicious happenings in room 3327, where she died.”

“So guess where we’re sleeping tonight!” Shane said into the lens.

“It’s pretty cool that we got it,” Ryan countered, “since it’s the most requested room in the resort.”

“She’s probably seen a ton of people just going at it, then,” Shane said with a sly grin. “I’ve literally only seen couples since we got here.”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Ryan said. “We’re not even hunting yet and you’re already disrespecting her.”

“No disrespect!” Shane argued. “More power to her! Get that free porn.”

“Okay, enough of this,” Ryan said, laughing despite himself. He turned to the lens. “Let’s get into it.”

They waited a moment, then TJ gave them a thumbs up. “Great intro.”

“Cool,” Ryan said, pulling out his phone. “Just give me a sec to pull up my script.”

“Unprepared,” Shane said. “Very unprofessional.”

“Shut up, Shane,” Ryan replied, not bothering to look up from his phone. “Okay! Got it. Let’s go.”

“Rolling,” Mark said, and TJ gave them another thumbs up.

“On November 29th, 1892,” Ryan began, resisting the urge to use his theory voice, “Kate Morgan was found dead on an exterior staircase of the Hotel Del Coronado.”

They continued through the narration, Shane injecting his snide humor and Ryan hitting back. He never got tired of how goddamn easy it was between the two of them. Even when they were filming, he never had to try hard to be On with Shane. The banter and barbs were the most natural thing in the world.

“So I think we’ll do some investigating around the halls and public spots tonight,” Ryan said to TJ as they knocked down their equipment and reset the ballroom. “And film the sleeping, since Shane and I only have Kate’s room tonight. They want us to get some exterior shots during the day to show the grounds off a little, so we can do that tomorrow afternoon. Then tomorrow night they’re gonna have a guide let us into some of the employee areas where Kate’s been spotted.”

“Sounds like a plan,” TJ said.

“It’s just a little tough since this is, like, an active hotel that people pay a lot of money to stay in. We can’t be too loud tonight.”

“So no screaming at the ghouls?” Shane asked.

“No screaming,” Ryan said. “They’re comping our night in Kate’s room for the exposure, and we get a free dinner tomorrow at their fancy restaurant, so we don’t want to piss them off.”

“Does that mean no spirit box?” Shane asked, and Ryan almost laughed at the glimmer of hope in his eye.

“For tonight, not until we’re back in Kate’s room.”

“No,” Shane replied, drawing the word out. “I don’t want to ruin our fancy room with that godforsaken thing. It’s so nice.”

“It’s our job,” Ryan replied, and immediately felt bad for reiterating Shane’s earlier argument with Sara.

Shane didn’t seem fazed. “It’s the shittiest part of an otherwise great job.”

“It’s amazing and one day it’ll prove you and all your Shaniacs wrong.”

“Yeah, okay.”


By 1AM, they’d finished that night’s investigations, and Shane and Ryan were back in their room. The rest of their crew were back at the Hampton Inn across the bridge, which Ryan wasn’t looking forward to sleeping at the next night now that he was settled on tonight’s luxurious bed. Ghost be damned, the place was nice.

“So, is it spirit box time?” Shane asked as he pulled his pajama bottoms on.

“Unfortunately for you, yeah,” Ryan replied, trying casually to avert his eyes from where Shane was changing. “So hurry up and get your PJs on.”

“They’re on, they’re on,” Shane said, waving a hand. “Turn on that stupid camera so we can get this goddamn thing over with and go to sleep.”

Ryan laughed as he walked over to the camera and flipped out the viewfinder. He had Shane sit on a few different spots on the bed, framing the shot as best he could.

“Get ready, Kate,” Shane said as Ryan walked back to the bed. “Someone blew your head off but we’re about to blow your ears out.”

“So disrespectful,” Ryan chided, then turned on the spirit box.

Shane yelled along with the static until Ryan set the channels to switch and Ryan rolled his eyes. “You’re so fucking dramatic.”

“This is torture, Ryan,” Shane replied. “You’re torturing me and the ghosts.”

“Kate?” Ryan asked, ignoring Shane’s complaints. “Kate Morgan? Are you here?”

Static.

“My name’s Ryan Bergara, and this is Shane Madej. We’re gonna be staying in your room tonight and we’d love to have a little chat with you.”

Static.

“Could you say our names back to us?”

“Ry–… Sh–… M–…”

Ryan’s blood ran cold. “Did she just say Ryan Shane?”

“Probably not.”

“It was our names,” Ryan said, looking at the camera. “I’m sure of it.”

“Okay,” Shane said, holding up his hands. “I’m sure you’ll make me listen to it seventy more times back at the office.”

“Kate, did someone murder you?”

“Give us a solve, for once, Kate,” Shane asked. “We need it.”

“T–… Shot–…”

“She just said shot,” Ryan said, starting to panic a little. “Shane, she said ‘Tom shot.’”

“Tom?” Shane asked.

“Tom was her husband,” Ryan said. “He’s basically the prime murder suspect.”

Shane shrugged. “Just sounded like broken syllables to me.”

“You’re so fucking infuriating,” Ryan said, and he couldn’t fight the smile on his face.

“This stupid box is fucking infuriating.”

“Kate, why did Tom shoot you?”

Static.

“Kate?”

Static.

“Goddamnit,” Ryan said, then looked at Shane. “You probably pissed her off.”

“How’d I piss her off?” Shane asked.

“By not believing she was talking to us!”

Shane laughed. “Sorry, Kate. Feel free to kill me in my sleep.”

“Dick,” Ryan said, turning off the spirit box. “That’s good enough for the episode, though. We’ll do more tomorrow.”

“Ah,” Shane exhaled, closing his eyes. “Peace.”

Ryan got up and put the spirit box back with their equipment. He picked up the camera’s tripod and moved it to the foot of the bed.

“So, what ghoulish, ghostly activity are we in for tonight?” Shane asked him.

“Hang on,” Ryan said, looking down at the viewfinder. “Ask me that again when I get in the bed.”

“Got it,” Shane said. “Want me to scoot over to your side?”

“Yes, please.”

When Ryan had their sleep framed and had crawled back into bed, Shane asked his question again verbatim.

“People have reported cold breezes, sudden changes in temperature, strange smells, doors opening and closing, objects moving.”

“So typical ghost shenanigans?”

Ryan smiled. “Typical ghost shenanigans.”


“Shane,” Ryan hissed. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Shane asked, muffled by his pillow.

“The bathroom door just creaked.”

“No it didn’t,” Shane answered, not bothering to turn toward Ryan. “Go to fucking sleep.”

Ryan glanced at the clock on the wall from where he laid, wide-eyed and flat on his back. It was almost 4AM. He wasn’t sure why he’d decided that it was a good idea to schedule a bunch of filming after what he’d known would be a sleepless night.

“I can’t,” Ryan said. “I can feel her watching me.”

“Then don’t jerk off,” Shane mumbled, sleep still in his voice. “We’ve already established that she gets enough free peepin’.”

Ryan laughed, and tried not to focus too much on what Shane had actually said, seeing as the man was lying right next to him and they were on camera. Suddenly, he felt Shane’s feet brush his thigh. He gasped softly.

“Sorry,” Shane said, but he didn’t move. “My feet just got freezing.”

“Sudden changes in temperature,” Ryan whispered.

“More like bad circulation,” Shane argued. “And you’re warm.”

Ryan paused. “You can leave them there, then. I don’t mind.”

Shane hummed, then nudged his toes under Ryan’s leg.

Usually, when they shared a bed, Shane constructed a pillow wall between the two of them as best he could. Ryan didn’t realize until now that Shane hadn’t done so at any of the haunted locations this season. Along with that, they never touched in the bed. Any accidental graze of feet or hands was met with instant recoil. But here Shane was, pressing his cold toes into Ryan’s leg. It was exciting.

Ryan didn’t know exactly what to do with this development, but he knew where he hoped it was heading.


The rest of January flowed like molasses. Shane and Sara seemed fine and dandy after the boys returned from their trip, and Ryan still felt a quiet rage in his stomach every time he saw the two of them together. He still swooned internally when Shane looked at him. Still got butterflies every time he heard Shane laugh.

The thing that sucked about harboring a crush on your close male friend, he realized, was how impossible it was to talk about. He didn’t really have any female friends outside of work, and all his guy friends either knew or knew of Shane, so talking to any of them about his goddamn feelings was out. He knew he could talk to his mom, but that would also require a whole other Talk about his sexuality, and he wasn’t quite ready for that conversation since he was still working it out in his own head.

He wasn’t used to keeping things bottled up like this.

Not for the first time, he missed Helen. He’d always been able to tell her anything, and she always knew what to say. One time, he’d imagined what would happen if he’d called her. Hey, Helen. How’ve you been? Turns out I’ve got a huge ass crush on Shane. It’s driving me insane and every time I see Sara I kind of want to cry and I don’t really know what to do about it. Got any advice for me?

He wondered if she’d be surprised when he told her. Probably not.


“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Shane said, sitting down at his desk.

“Happy Thursday,” Ryan deadpanned, not looking up from his computer.

“Grumpy,” Shane said simply.

Ryan shrugged.

“Well, I’m pumped,” Shane said. “Sara and I are leaving after lunch to fly up to Lake Tahoe for the weekend.”

“Fun,” Ryan said, and even he could hear the insincerity in his words.

“Yeah,” Shane said. “I think we need to spend a few days away from everything here.”

Ryan frowned. “You’ve been saying that a lot lately.”

“Yeah, well,” Shane said. “LA’s rough sometimes. Drinking expensive champagne in the mountains will hopefully help.”

“Hopefully,” Ryan said with a short laugh. “I’ll think of you when I’m drinking beer by myself tonight with nothing to celebrate.”

“You’ll have something to celebrate,” Shane said.

Ryan turned toward him. “Huh?”

Shane didn’t answer, and Ryan spent the next few hours wondering what in the hell he meant. Around 3PM, their receptionist came up to his desk.

“Delivery for you, Ryan,” she said, placing a red box down on his desk before walking away.

Ryan looked down at the box, then over to Shane’s empty chair. He slowly opened the card attached to the front.  

Goondis–
Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the sweets. The upside to being single is you get to eat all of them in one sitting and no one will judge you.
–Shane

The grin that split across Ryan’s face as he opened the box was embarrassing, but he didn’t care at all. Inside sat twelve perfect chocolate covered strawberries. He pulled out his phone.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. Hope they go well with the beer.

Even if they don’t, that combo’s gonna be my dinner tonight.

Good.
See how many you can fit in your mouth at once.
Get real fuckin gross with it.

I’ll be sure to send you a selfie of my disgusting mouth stuffed with strawberries.

Please don’t sext me while you’re at work.

Oh fuck off.
But seriously thanks.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Next year’s will be better.

Ryan’s head filled with a rose-colored fantasy of him and Shane cuddled up in a cabin in Lake Tahoe, drinking champagne and eating chocolate covered strawberries together. The more he tried not to think about it, the more intense it got. He could practically taste the chocolate, feel how the chill from the snow was kept away by Shane’s arms around him.

He was so fucked.

Hopefully. Have fun with Sara.

We will.
I hope.
Boarding. Talk to you later.

Later that night, after managing to fit four of the strawberries in his mouth, Ryan snapped a few selfies at the worst angle he could. He laughed as he swiped through them, then took a sip of his hot chocolate.

He deleted the photos and turned off his phone.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Ghoul Boys!” Sara said as she walked up behind their desks. “You got a sec?”

“For you? Always,” Shane said, spinning around in his chair to face her, and her smile could’ve lit the room.

Their little romantic getaway seemed to have worked the magic Shane had hoped for because they’d been fine ever since. More than fine, really. They’d been downright peachy for the rest of February. Eating lunch together every day they could, stopping by each other’s desks, being extra touchy and complimentary, but never inappropriately so. It made Ryan want to scream.

“What’s up?” he asked her, his tone well-practiced and even.

“I’m shooting a video on the 14th and I want you guys to be in it,” Sara said, and Ryan tried to ignore how her hand was now resting on the nape of Shane’s neck.

“What about?” Shane asked.

Sara grinned. “Not telling. It’ll be better if you don’t know.”

“I’m in,” Shane said immediately, smiling up at her.

“Yay!” Sara said – actually said the word yay out loud – and then turned toward Ryan, eyebrows raised.

Ryan looked at Shane. His overwhelming and completely unfair disdain for being around the couple almost outweighed how much he wanted to jump at the opportunity to do literally anything with Shane. Almost.

“Sure,” Ryan said.

“Awesome! Thanks, guys.”

“Thank you for thinking of us,” Shane said.

“Thank you for thanking me,” she replied.

“Thank you for thanking me,” he countered with a smirk.

Sara smiled wide and leaned over to press a kiss into Shane’s hair. As she straightened back up, she asked, “See you for lunch?”

“See you.”

The urge Ryan felt to vomit was only quelled by Shane rolling his eyes at his computer screen as soon as Sara turned her back.


As March wore on, Shane and Sara’s behavior became increasingly strange. It was subtle, but now that Ryan paid too much attention to the two of them, it was easy to spot.

Their compliments felt forced and obligatory. Their eye contact seemed to be held a beat too long. Their hands looked tense as they rested against each other’s skin. Their speech was ever so slightly stilted. If they weren’t together, Shane was texting her to check in far too often.

Ryan couldn’t tell if something was wrong between them or if he just wanted something to be wrong, but he hoped for the former.


Ryan sat in a chair in one of BuzzFeed’s studios, straight across from Shane. He glanced at the camera that faced them in profile, then back at the lens facing him from over Shane’s shoulder.

“You ever gonna tell us what this is about?” Shane asked Sara, who was perched behind a monitor.

“Just a sec,” she said to him, then mumbled something to one of the PAs.

Shane looked at Ryan. “Are you worried this is a snuff film too?”

“What?” Ryan asked, laughing softly.

“She’s been so goddamn secretive,” Shane said, raising his voice so Sara could hear. “She might be trying to kill us.”

Ryan grinned. “The title of this video is gonna be We Made a Snuff Film So You Wouldn’t Have To.”

“BuzzFeed: Dark Web,” Shane replied. “With a little link in Sara’s Instagram bio to download Tor.”

“We’re just sitting here like, ‘Oh, hey, what’s goin’ on?’” Ryan said, looking around in mock bewilderment. “And then, bam! They’re beheading and dismembering us both.”

“We’re still half alive and screaming,” Shane held out his hands. “‘Please! Help us! Why are you doing this?!’ and the pervs of the internet are just eating it up.”

“And probably jacking off,” Ryan pointed out.

“Oh, definitely jacking off.”

“Then Sara turns to the camera,” Ryan looked at the lens facing them, “and she’s covered in blood like she’s fucking Patrick Bateman and then Huey Lewis and the News starts playing.”

“BuzzFeed Presents,” Shane said in a dramatic voice, then mimicked the whooshes and creaks of their production logo.

Ryan leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes and clapping his hands together as he laughed. He could hear Shane laughing too.

“Are you two done?” Sara asked, strolling over to them and tapping at her phone’s screen. “And no, I’m not planning on murdering you.”

“Only because we figured you out,” Shane said.

“Yeah, you got me,” she said, totally deadpan as she slid her phone into her back pocket. “My whole career has been a long con to make my first snuff film here at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, in broad daylight, with all these witnesses and after posting an Instagram story about filming with you two.”

“Fuckin’ knew it,” Ryan said, and Shane winked at him.

Ryan swooned, just a little.

“Can we get on with the video now?” she asked.

“Yes,” the boys said in unison, looking up at her.

“Great. So, the actual title of the video is Guy Friends Try Intimacy Exercises. Or something like that, we’re not sure if we want to stick with ‘intimacy’ yet.”

Ryan saw Shane’s face fall a bit in his periphery.

“But the concept,” she continued, “is you guys and a few other pairs we’ve had in today are gonna be doing, like, trust and emotional stuff.”

“For real or should we kind of mock it?” Shane asked.

“Either way,” Sara said. “But everyone else has started silly and ended up kind of legit.”

“Cool,” Shane replied.

Ryan nodded at Sara and hoped his nerves weren’t showing on his face. He should’ve trusted his gut and not agreed to this. Having to sit here in front of a group of people, in front of Shane’s girlfriend, and do so-called intimacy exercises with someone he was trying to stop having feelings for was straight out of a nightmare.

Wake up, he thought, to no avail.

“So, first is compliments,” Sara said from her place off camera. “You each give each other three compliments, alternating.”

“Like, physical compliments?” Shane asked.

“They can be,” Sara replied. “But any compliment is fine.”

Shane nodded.

“You guys good, then?” Sara asked.

“Good,” the boys replied, speaking in unison again.

“Great.” The crew set up the shot and started rolling, then Sara said, “Whenever you’re ready.”

“Should I go first?” Shane asked.

“Sure,” Ryan said, trying to sound casual. He had been momentarily terrified of going first. He wasn’t sure if Shane was going kid around or be sincere, and Ryan would’ve been so embarrassed if he’d went with sincerity and been met with sarcasm.

“Okay,” Shane said. “Ryan, you’re one of the most ambitious people I know. You have so much on your plate and you somehow manage to do all of it and then some with time to spare, and do it well, and that’s really admirable.”

So they were going with sincere. Great.

“I mean, I get a lot of help, it’s not just–”

“No, no,” Shane said. “No modesty. We all get help, but I’m complimenting you. You’re like an Energizer bunny but with murder.”

Ryan was unable to stop the grin on his face. “Thanks, man.”

There was a beat of silence, then Shane said, “Your turn.”

“Oh, shit, sorry,” Ryan said. “Uh…”

He tried to think of something safe to say. Something that wouldn’t come across as too eager. It was damn near impossible.

“You’re starting to hurt my feelings here, buddy,” Shane said. “Is it that hard to say one positive thing about me?”

“No,” Ryan said quickly. “There’s just a lot of things to choose from.”

Smooth, Bergara.

Shane laughed. “I’ll definitely take ‘too many things to compliment’ as a compliment. My turn.”

Ryan nearly sighed with relief while Shane considered him.

“You’re fucking weird,” Shane said eventually.

Ryan laughed once. “Are you aware of what a compliment is?”

“Let me finish,” Shane said. “You’re fucking weird, but in a really cool way. You’re into all this niche shit. Your top three interests are, like, anything horrific, Paddington and theme park fun facts. You have the most bizarre dreams of anyone I’ve ever met. It’s awesome.”

“Oh, speaking of,” Ryan said. “I had a dream the other night that you drowned in a vat of strawberry ice cream and I was trying to save you but you got sucked into like this huge metal fan at the bottom and we all watched in horror as the strawberry ice cream went from pink to, like, blood red.”

Shane slowly turned toward the camera facing them both. “See? Fucking weird. It’s great.”

“Okay, my turn, for real,” Ryan said. “You make me laugh harder than anyone. Even when you say shit that’s not funny, it’s somehow still funny.”

“I think a lot of that is just because of the way my face looks,” Shane said.

“No, it’s not,” Ryan said with a laugh, illustrating his point. Then, he turned toward the camera. “I never ham it up on Unsolved or in these videos. He really does make me laugh that hard.”

Shane smiled. “Thanks.”

Ryan just smiled back.

“Okay, last one,” Shane said. “Ryan. Uh.”

Ryan held back a smile as he watched Shane search for something to say. He wondered, as he watched Shane open and close his mouth a few times, if Shane was having the same problem Ryan had been having earlier.

“Got it!” Shane said eventually. “Okay. Ryan. You always know exactly what to say. Like, if I have a problem or need advice or just want to complain about something, I feel like you always have the perfect response I didn’t even know I needed.”

Ryan was genuinely shocked to hear that one. He felt like he stuck his foot in his mouth more often than not, especially around Shane. To hear that Shane felt the opposite was… a lot.

“Thanks,” Ryan said. “Glad I could help.”

Shane nodded. “You’re up.”

“Alright, last one,” Ryan said. And then a smile split his face as he thought of the perfect way to end it. “Oh, man. They’re gonna love this one.”

“They?” Shane asked.

“You’ll see,” Ryan said, then turned to Sara. “Want me to start that over?”

“Please,” Sara answered, and Ryan nodded.

“Last one,” Ryan repeated. “You never hog the covers.”

Shane laughed, his eyes crinkling at the corners, and Ryan felt the all too familiar butterflies well in his stomach.

“I know that sounds dumb, but seriously, like every other person I’ve ever slept with has– Wait, not slept with– Ah, fuck it, you know what I mean. Every other person has hogged covers. And you somehow never do, even though you’re twelve feet tall.”

“Can confirm,” Sara called from off-camera, loud enough for the mic to pick it up, and Ryan knew she’d sneak that into the video.

Shane laughed again. “Well, I’m glad both of you enjoy sleeping with me.”

Ryan hoped more than anything that he wasn’t visibly blushing.

“How’d we do?” Shane asked, turning toward where Sara and the crew stood.

“Really good,” she said, and Ryan was struck by the look on her face in contrast to her words. Her lips were slightly pursed, her eyes slightly narrowed. He didn’t know what to make of it. “Most of the other pairs were more joke-y and had a little trouble, but you two just went right into heartfelt.”

Shane shrugged. “It’s all the ghoul killin’. It bonds ya.”

“Our matching boots entwined our souls,” Ryan replied.

The boys laughed, the crew laughed. Sara didn’t.

She gave another quiet instruction to two PAs, who walked over to the set with her.

“Next is trust falls, so stand up,” she said.

The boys complied, and the PAs dragged their chairs out of frame.

“Are we still rolling?” Ryan asked. Sara nodded, so he continued with, “I’ve never actually done a trust fall before.”

“I think the last time I did one was in summer camp,” Shane said.

“So back when you were normal height?” Ryan teased.

“Oh, did you not know I’ve been 6’4” from birth?”

“Shut up, Shane,” Ryan mumbled. “But seriously, I’m not sure I’ll be able to catch your enormous, floppy ass. You might topple me.”

Shane waved a hand and breathed a dismissive psh! “You’ll catch me no problem with those arms you’ve got.”

“What?”

“Your arms,” Shane said again, pointing at his bicep. “Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about with the fuckin’ gun show over here and all your little shirts. No one wears tank tops in January, Ryan, not even in LA.”

Ryan crossed his arms over his chest, suddenly feeling self-conscious. He knew his arms looked good, and he’d worked hard to get them that way, but something about Shane pointing them out made him feel embarrassed about it.

“Boom!” Shane said. “Look at that arm. You’re about to Hulk out that stupid Pikachewbacca tee.”

“Shut up,” Ryan groaned, smiling despite himself.

“Flex for the camera, Ryan,” Shane said, jerking his thumb toward the lens. “Give the people what they want.”

Ryan rolled his eyes, but slowly uncrossed his arms and flexed the one closest to the lens with a grin. Maybe this wasn’t so bad. Shane’s eyes were locked on his arm, after all.

Shane cheered. “See! You’re welcome, ladies.”

Ryan felt his smile falter, just a bit.

“That counts as a compliment, by the way,” Shane said, still smiling wide. “So you gotta give me another one.”

Caught up in the moment, Ryan said, “You have a great smile. It’s so... expressive and... warm.”

Shane didn’t respond, but his eyes softened, and Ryan never wanted to look away.

“Trust falls?” Sara said eventually.

“Right!” Shane said, breaking their gaze. “Trust falls. Me first again?”

“Hang on,” Sara interjected before Ryan could respond. “We need to finish adjusting the cameras. Stay right on those marks and give us a sec.”

They both nodded, and Ryan pulled out his phone while Shane very politely asked a PA to grab him a bottle of water. Ryan opened Instagram and pulled up Sara’s story. The photo she’d posted was the two of them mid-laugh and it nearly made Ryan gasp. His own head was thrown back and Shane was bent forward, and both of them were smiling wide. The fact that brutal murder was what had made them laugh just made the photo even funnier. He fought the urge to screenshot it.

“Hey, look at Sara’s story,” Ryan said, sliding his phone back in his pocket. “The picture she posted of us is ridiculous.”

Shane nodded and pulled out his own phone. Ryan waited as he tapped at the screen, and grinned when Shane actually laughed out loud.

“Holy shit, that’s great,” he said. “Why was the idea of being murdered making us laugh that hard?”

“Because we’re ‘fucking weird,’” Ryan said with air quotes.

“I said you’re fucking weird,” Shane said. “But, yeah. I can’t really defend myself.”

“You guys ready?” Sara called.

“Yeah,” Shane replied. “Also, send us that pic you posted on your story.”

“Will do,” she answered. “Each of you do three in a row.”

“I’ll go first,” Ryan said. “If that’s cool.”

Shane nodded and held out his arms.

Ryan took a deep breath and turned his back to Shane. In truth, the concept of trust falls had always terrified him. Part of it was because he assumed that everyone he knew secretly hated him and therefore would let him crash to the ground, and the other part was the closeness. Ryan was a man who appreciated his personal space, so falling into someone’s arms wasn’t his idea of a great time.

As he crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes, he felt a sense of peace wash over him. He knew without a doubt that Shane would catch him.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Fall away, baby,” Shane said.

So Ryan did. The panic he expected as his body fell through the empty air never came. Shane’s hands gently braced against his back, and he let out a soft oh and opened his eyes. Shane gripped his shoulders and pushed him upright.

“That was so weird,” Ryan said, his voice dreamy.

“Wanna go a little farther this time?” Shane asked.

“Sure,” Ryan replied.

“Go for it.”

Ryan closed his eyes and fell backward again. Just as he started to worry that he was going too far and falling too fast, Shane caught him again, and he felt silly for ever worrying in the first place. He laughed this time, completely thrilled as Shane pushed him upright.

“Last one,” Shane said. “Whenever you’re good.”

He fell, Shane caught him, and Ryan was somehow the most relaxed he’d been in weeks.

“My turn,” Shane said eagerly as Ryan uncrossed his arms and turned back around.

Catching wasn’t nearly as relaxing, Ryan found, but he was grateful that Shane didn’t seem to hesitate at all. They went progressively lower and Shane laughed every time Ryan’s hands braced against his back.

“Oh, man, that was great,” Shane said when he was back on his feet. “We should do this more.”

Ryan laughed. “Yeah, just sitting at LAX like, ‘Hey, wanna do a few trust falls?’”

“Totally normal,” Shane replied. Then he asked Sara, “What’s next?”

“Eye contact,” she answered. “You guys are gonna look each other in the eye for four minutes.”

Ryan laughed once in disbelief. “Four minutes?”

“Yup,” Sara answered, popping the P.

“Is it a staring contest?” Shane asked. “Are we supposed to not blink?”

“How the fuck would we not blink for four minutes?” Ryan asked him.

“I don’t know,” Shane said. “Maybe you’re one of those lizard people you always talk about.”

“Yeah, Shane, I joined the Illuminati and was replaced with a lizard just for the sake of winning staring contests.”

Shane whipped his head toward the camera and said, “Hashtag BuzzFeed Solved.”

“Oh my God,” Ryan mumbled, laughing despite himself. “How about whoever blinks first has to buy the other lunch tomorrow.”

“You’re on,” Shane said.

They shook hands.

“I think we’re gonna need the chairs back,” Shane said, looking back at Sara. “I can’t crane my neck down that far for four minutes.”

“Yeah, and I couldn’t crane my neck up,” Ryan shot back.

Their chairs were brought back over and they settled into them. Shane looked down at his lap, so Ryan did the same.

“Are you gonna time us?” Shane asked.

“Yeah,” Sara said. “Ready to go?”

“Ready,” they said in unison.

“I’ll count you down,” Sara said. “Three… two… one… Go.”

Minute one, as expected, passed in a blur of giggles and funny faces and Shane cheering when Ryan blinked first. Minute two had a few stray smiles and short laughs. Minute three was when Ryan noticed that Shane’s eyes weren’t just brown, they were also flecked with deep hazel and shiny gold, perfectly accentuated by the studio lights. Minute four brought another cosmic shift for Ryan, when he realized that he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to look into these eyes if they only ever saw him as a friend.

“That’s four,” Sara said. Neither of them broke the gaze. “So… you can look away.”

Shane blinked once and looked down at his lap as he straightened up, and Ryan realized they’d both ended up hunched forward.

“That was intense,” Shane said simply.

“Yeah,” Ryan agreed, still a bit dazed.

When he turned to look at Sara, her face was hard as stone.


Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

The Boys are back! Our #BuzzFeedUnsolved Supernatural premiere is live. We visited the Socci House in New York and man oh man is that place brutal. Getting my one demon out of the way early. Check it out.

3:02 PM - 22 Mar 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

We’re back baby! Socci House. We filmed in a diner! There’s buckets o’ blood! It’s basically a Tarantino flick but with less casual racism and more spirit boxing. Hope you dig it!

3:03 PM - 22 Mar 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

@shalexandej Am I Jackson or Travolta?

3:05 PM - 22 Mar 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

@ryansbergara You’re Mia and I’m Butch obviously.

3:06 PM - 22 Mar 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

@shalexandej I’ll take it. She’s iconic. Also why are we tweeting when we’re literally sitting next to each other?

3:07 PM - 22 Mar 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

@ryansbergara Because you have headphones on.

3:08 PM - 22 Mar 2019


“Hello and welcome to another edition of BuzzFeed Unsolved: Postmortem, a show where we answer your most pressing questions about the most recent episode of BuzzFeed Unsolved, which was the Socci House. All the questions we’re answering today came from you guys via our BuzzFeed Unsolved Facebook page and our BuzzFeed Unsolved Instagram page.”

“It’s the premiere!” Shane said. “We’re kicking it off with Ryan’s one demon.”

“Cutting right to the chase,” Ryan replied. “This place was nuts.”

“It definitely wasn’t,” Shane said. “But how ‘bout we answer some questions?”

Ryan couldn’t quite get a read on his own emotions as they answered the viewers’ questions. He felt a strange combination of giddy and sad as he thought about how much of an impact this episode had had on his life since they’d filmed it. Knowing something no one else knew – not Shane, not their crew, not the viewers – felt sneaky and fun, but also bummed him out. He wished he could tell Shane that he’d been awake that morning and how much he’d loved it.

Eventually, Shane asked him about next week, Ryan answered, then the godforsaken Hot Daga began. He found it harder than usual to sit through, and it felt like the room had started to spin a bit as a headache began to slowly creep in.

“Ryan?” Shane asked. “You alright?”

“Huh?” Ryan asked, snapping back to reality. “Oh, yeah, I’m good. Your stupid story is just literally melting my brain.”

Shane laughed, and Ryan shifted uncomfortably in his seat.


Ryan’s entire body shuddered as he curled even further into himself. He was freezing, wrapped in his comforter, but somehow drowning in sweat. He was fairly sure the room had turned upside down over the course of the day and he could see the walls swirling. His throat was on fire and his entire body ached. He’d been alone in this fever-ridden pit of despair for what felt like weeks, and he desperately wanted someone to sit on the edge of his bed, run a hand through his hair and make him some soup.

Shane. He wanted Shane.

Delirious, he reached for the phone on his nightstand. The clock read 1:03, and Ryan wasn’t sure if that was AM or PM. With bleary eyes, he pulled up his Messages app and opened his thread with Shane.

Com eover shaen

???

Im dyingn I need help pleas

Moments later, Shane was calling him.

“Ryan?” Shane said as soon as Ryan answered the call, his voice frantic. “Are you okay?”

“No,” Ryan croaked, and his voice was unrecognizable to his own ears.

“What’s wrong?” Shane asked. “Should I call an ambulance or something?”

Ryan laughed in his mind, but he wasn’t sure if any sound came out. “No. Just come over.”

“Ry, you’re scaring me a little bit here,” Shane said. “I can barely understand what you’re saying.”

“I’m okay,” Ryan said, using all his might to enunciate so Shane would understand him. “Can you come over?”

“Come over?” Shane repeated. “Is that what you said?”

Ryan nodded, then remembered Shane couldn’t see him. So, he hung up the call, then immediately FaceTimed Shane.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Shane said after he answered the call. “Are you even alive?”

“Come over,” Ryan said again, aware of how pathetic he sounded but too exhausted to care.

“I’m at work, man,” Shane said. “I can’t just–”

“Please.”

Shane pursed his lips. “Hang on. Stay on the line with me, okay?”

Ryan nodded, grateful that Shane could see the gesture. As Shane walked through the BuzzFeed office, Ryan closed his eyes, just for a second, and listened as the sound of Shane talking to someone about something drifted into the distance.

“Ryan,” Shane said, and Ryan felt a gentle hand shake his shoulder. “Hey, Ry, it’s me.”

He opened his eyes and immediately felt a lurch in his stomach. He pushed Shane out of the way and leaned over the edge of his bed, then spewed his guts into the trash can he’d dragged there when he could still stand upright.

“Oh, fuck,” Shane said from somewhere far away.

As Ryan continued to retch, he felt a gentle hand rub up and down his back. Eventually, he rolled back onto the bed, his throat burning even more than before.

“Hang on,” Shane said. “I’ll be right back.”

“Okay,” Ryan said as his eyes drifted closed again, but Shane was already gone.

“Ry,” Shane said, and Ryan felt the bed shift. “Open your eyes.”

Ryan did, and he was surprised to find Shane sitting on the edge of his bed, holding two large cups, one with a straw sticking out. “What’s that?”

“Water,” Shane said. “Can you sit up?”

Ryan sat up, but Shane said nothing.

“Do you want me to help you sit up?” Shane asked.

Ryan realized he hadn’t actually moved, then nodded his head. Shane stood up and put one hand behind Ryan’s head to help him shift, then moved the pillows. Ryan was sure the back of his head was soaked with sweat but Shane didn’t seem to care, and Ryan could’ve kissed him just for that. When Ryan was situated, Shane sat next to him again.

“Take a sip, but don’t swallow,” Shane said simply, holding one cup out to Ryan’s mouth.

Ryan nodded and wrapped his lips around the straw. He filled his mouth with water then looked at Shane.

“Rinse and spit,” Shane said, holding out the other cup, which Ryan realized was empty.

Ryan complied, rinsing out his mouth a few times. He felt absolutely disgusting, but Shane didn’t seem to mind. When his mouth was significantly less rotten, he slowly drank the remaining water.

“Good,” Shane said, and the softness in his voice made Ryan want to cry. “I’ve got some chicken noodle for you. Do you want it?”

“Please,” Ryan croaked.

“Okay,” Shane said. “Hang tight. Don’t fall asleep on me again.”

Ryan didn’t know how long Shane was gone, but he fought hard to keep his eyes open. When Shane finally came back, he was holding a large mug and had a washcloth draped over his wrist. He handed Ryan the mug and sat on the edge of the bed again.

“I didn’t trust you to use a spoon,” Shane said. “So if you want more, I’ll refill the mug. Lean your head back a little.”

Ryan did, and Shane laid the cool cloth against his forehead. The relief Ryan felt was instantaneous.

“He’s burning up,” Shane said, turning back toward Ryan’s bedroom door.

Ryan followed Shane’s gaze and noticed Sara standing in the doorway. He wanted to yell at her to get out, but the hot soup felt too good on his throat to stop sipping it.

“Should we bring him to a hospital?” Sara asked. “This is the second day he’s been out and he looks dead.”

Shane looked back at Ryan. “Do you want to go to the doctor, Ry?”

Ryan shook his head, and the action caused a bit of soup to dribble down his chin. Shane reached out without hesitation and wiped it away with his thumb.

“I think he’ll be okay for now,” Shane said. “We’ll check in on him again tomorrow and bring him if he’s still like this.”

“So should we head back?” Sara asked.

“No!” Ryan said immediately, and Shane’s head swung around to look at him. “No, Shane, stay, please.”

“I have to get back to work, buddy,” Shane said.

“Please,” Ryan said again.

Shane sighed and said, “One second.”

He stood up and walked out of the room, gesturing for Sara to follow. Ryan couldn’t hear what they were saying, both because they were speaking quietly and the clouds in his brain, but he did very clearly hear Sara say, “Are you fucking kidding me?” and the slam of his front door. An indeterminable amount of time later, Shane came back in the room with another cup of water, which he placed on the nightstand.

“What the hell are you watching?” Shane asked.

Ryan looked at the television, which appeared to be showing a telenovela, but he wasn’t sure. “I don’t know.”

“Do you want me to put on Paddington? That’ll probably make you feel better.”

“Please,” Ryan said, smiling against his now-empty mug of soup.

Once Paddington was playing, Shane walked back over to the bed.

“Lie down?” Ryan asked.

“You want me to lie down?” Shane asked.

“No,” Ryan said, even though he did. “Me.”

Shane smiled, pried the mug from Ryan’s grip and helped him scoot back down in the bed. His eyes closed before he hit the pillow.

The next time he stirred, it was because he felt the bed shift. He opened his eyes to see Shane pushing upright off his bed, and that his window was dark. As Shane started to turn back around, Ryan closed his eyes again. He felt Shane card a hand through his hair and, for the first time in days, he felt okay.

“I love you,” Ryan mumbled.

He heard Shane laugh. “Love you, too, Ry.”

Ryan cracked one eye open and said, “I think you’re an angel. Everyone thinks you’re a demon, but you’re an angel.”

“Maybe that’s why the demons don’t come out,” Shane said.

“Maybe,” Ryan replied, closing his eye again.

“Call me if you need anything,” Shane said.

Ryan missed him already.


When Ryan woke up the next day, he actually felt human again. He was drenched in sweat and smelled terrible, but he could see straight. He stretched his limbs and looked around the room. On his nightstand were two empty cups and one empty mug, and the Paddington DVD menu was looping on his TV.

That’s weird, he thought. He had no memory of putting in a movie or making tea, but then again, he had almost no memory of the last few days aside from vomiting and an embarrassing dream about Shane’s hands in his hair.

He reached for his phone and saw that it was almost 3PM. He scrolled through the notifications, then slid open a text that Shane had sent much earlier in the day.

Hey you coming in today?
Yeah didn’t think so.
I’ll let everyone know.
Hope you feel better!

Thanks. Feeling more human. I’ll be in tomorrow I think.

HE’S ALIVE!!!!!!!!

Just barely.

You want me to come over again after work or can you function?

You came over?

Yeah you don’t remember?

The last few days are a blur.

Well you texted me that you were dying so I called you to make sure I didn’t need to call 911 and you begged me to come over.
You had a killer fever. I was actually a little worried.
And I brought you soup. The rest should still be in your fridge.

Oh. Thanks.
Hope I didn’t say anything dumb. I babble when I’m feverish.

Nope.
So you’re good?

I’m good. See you tomorrow.

See you. Text if you need anything.


After a long shower and multiple teeth brushings, Ryan settled onto his couch, away from his vomit-smelling, sweat-soaked mess of a bed. When he pulled up Instagram, he noticed that he had a story posted. He cringed as he tapped it open, wondering what kind of feverish nonsense he’d shared with hundreds of thousands of strangers.

“Hey, guys. It’s Shane, obviously. Ryan’s sick so I’m posting for him.” The camera panned from Shane’s face to Ryan asleep in his bed, then back to Shane. “The latest Postmortem is up. Swipe up and all that.”

“Look how peaceful he is now.” The camera was trained on Ryan. “He was puking his guts out before. It was fuckin’ gross.”

Ryan watched them both a few times. The incoherent texts he’d sent Shane were timestamped around 1PM, but in the stories, the window in his bedroom was dark. Shane had stayed with him for hours. Maybe the feeling of Shane’s cool hand against his hot scalp hadn’t been a dream.

He opened Twitter to send a belated tweet about the Postmortem but decided to check his notifications first. There, he saw a cascade of favorites and retweets on a tweet he could see was about the Postmortem. Confused, he clicked through to read the tweet.

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

New Postmortem! Skip the stupid questions and go straight to the Hot Daga. I’ve been converted. It’s a masterpiece. Shane is a genius and I’m an idiot. (This is definitely actually Ryan tweeting and definitely NOT Shane tweeting for him because he’s sick and asleep right now.)

3:01 PM - 27 Mar 2019

He grinned and added a tweet to the thread.

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

Note to self: Change phone passcode to something that @shalexandej doesn’t know...

5:32 PM - 28 Mar 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

@ryansbergara Note to self: Chop off one of Ryan’s fingers and turn it into a necklace so I can use Touch ID to unlock his phone whenever I want.

5:46 PM - 28 Mar 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

@shalexandej Hi @FBI please look into this very serious threat.

5:47 PM - 28 Mar 2019

Shane sent back a gif of Jack Torrance wielding an axe, and Ryan actually laughed out loud.


March became April, and things didn’t get any easier. Every time Ryan looked at Shane, he felt a deep ache in his chest. Every smile and joke and stray touch cut like a dagger, but at the same time, he never wanted it to stop. He actively wanted more.

He’d watched the video they made with Sara a hundred times once it had been uploaded. Watching himself literally fall into Shane’s arms, knowing he couldn’t do so figuratively, was like torture. The absolute best kind of torture. He watched as they smiled and laughed together, complemented each other, stared into each other’s eyes over and over again. He could almost pretend Sara wasn’t off camera, eyeing them both.

If not anything else, he was grateful to have this.


“I fucking hate this place,” Ryan said, leaning down to pick up the carry-on that had just been knocked out of his hands. “I hate LAX more than anywhere in the world.”

“It hates you, too, bud,” Shane said, patting him on the back.

“It’s like there’s some sort of curse on this place,” Ryan said as he straightened back up. “Everyone who walks through the door suddenly becomes the rudest, shittiest version of themselves.”

“This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved,” Shane said.

“We investigate why LAX fucking sucks so much,” Ryan finished.

“You guys are so lame,” TJ said, rolling his eyes.

“Next week on BuzzFeed Unsolved,” Shane said again, “we investigate why Teej is such a dick.”

TJ rolled his eyes as he continued walking toward their gate and both boys laughed.

They rarely traveled for True Crime, so even though their journey consisted of flying to Omaha and driving to Iowa, Ryan was still excited. The Unsolved crew were headed to Villisca to investigate the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912, and Ryan had secretly packed the spirit box. Sure, they were focusing more on the crime than the purported ghosts, but he’d take any chance to get Shane’s goat.

After hours of travel and an extremely restful night, the boys and their camera crew found themselves inside the infamous house, chairs set up, ready to film.

“Rolling,” Mark said.

“This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved, we cover the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912, an octuple homicide in the town of Villisca, Iowa. You may notice that we’re not in Ghoul HQ today.”

“Oh, shit, we’re not?” Shane said, looking around. “I thought we just got a new set.”

“Yeah, we decided to go real elaborate this season, just build a whole fucking house.”

“It’s what we deserve, honestly.”

Ryan laughed. “Anyway, we’re actually at the house where the murders occurred, which is pretty chilling. The energy here is–”

“Don’t you start,” Shane said. “This isn’t a ghost season. We’re dealing with facts.”

“I’m just saying,” Ryan said. “People have reported–”

“No. Tell me about the crime. No ghosts.”

Ryan smiled and unlocked his phone, then cleared his throat. “On the morning of June 10th, 1912, eight people were found dead in the home of Josiah Moore.”

Ryan ran through his narrative, and every time he edged close to anything supernatural, Shane shot him down. He told Shane about the victims, the gross mishandling of the crime scene, the possible suspects, all while knowing how much Shane would hate him come the end of it.

“Now, I do have a little surprise,” Ryan said when he’d finished with his script. “Just something I thought would be a fun addition to the episode.”

Shane blanched. “If you pull out that fucking spirit box I will leave. I swear to God, I will leave.”

“Well, then get ready to leave,” Ryan said, reaching down into his bag. “Because I brought the fucking spirit box.”

“I hate you,” Shane said. “I hate you so much. This is the worst day of my life.”

“I mean, no one is axe murdering you, so you can’t complain too much.”

“I’m about to axe murder the spirit box,” Shane said. “You think they have an axe here somewhere? Or is that too on the nose?”

“Shut up,” Ryan said. “Come on. We’re going to the bedroom.”

“I fucking hate this,” Shane said, but he followed Ryan anyway.

Shane screamed when Ryan turned on the box, and Ryan couldn’t help but laugh. It felt strange to hear the shrieking static in the middle of the day. He asked a few questions, and didn’t seem to get much in return. He’d have to listen again, but it felt like a dud. However, the agony it put Shane in was always worth it.

“Thank God,” Shane said when Ryan finally turned it off. “Don’t put this in the episode. You didn’t get any evidence. Let’s just forget this ever happened and spare me and all the Shaniacs this torture.”

“You know,” Ryan started, “about halfway through that, I was considering cutting it, but since you asked I’m definitely keeping it in.”

“Sorry, guys,” Shane said directly into the camera. Then, his phone rang, and he said, “Oh, shit, sorry for real. Must’ve forgotten to silence it.”

He pulled it out of his pocket and Ryan could see that Sara was calling him. “Should you get that?”

“Probably,” Shane said, but he made no move to answer it.

They both stared at her smiling face on his phone screen until the call ended. Then, Shane clicked it onto silent and slid it back into his pocket.

Later that night, Ryan lounged on his hotel bed and listened to the familiar trill of Shane trying to FaceTime Sara.

“Hey!” she said eventually. “Why’d you ignore my call earlier?”

“I didn’t ignore it,” Shane lied. “I was filming. And I’m calling you now.”

She huffed and then said, “I have bad news.”

“What?” Shane asked.

“You know how we had that production meeting today?” Sara asked.

“Yeah.”

“And you know how Ruining History was supposed to start filming next week?”

Ryan’s heart dropped, and he could tell Shane’s did, too.

“How far did they push it?” Shane asked.

Sara paused. “August.”

“August?” Shane repeated. “Sara, what the hell?!”

“It’s not my fault!” she said.

“But you said you’d handle it for me! I knew they’d try to push it and you promised you’d stick up for it.”

“Yeah, well, maybe if you’d been here.”

They were both silent for a long time, and Ryan could’ve cut the tension in the room with a knife.

“Whatever,” Shane said eventually. “I’ll see you Thursday.”

“Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Shane locked his phone and threw it against the mattress, and Ryan wondered if the last part of their call was a lie too.


With May came Shane’s birthday, and Ryan was more excited about Shane’s gift than he’d ever been. He’d even wrapped it, rather than sticking it in a shopping bag, as he was known to do. He knew Shane would be coming in a couple hours late, and the morning without him seemed to stretch on forever.

“The Birthday Boy has arrived,” Shane said from behind Ryan. “Please hold your applause.”

Ryan spun around in his chair, a wide grin on his face that, to his credit, barely faltered when he saw Shane’s arm wrapped around Sara’s shoulders.

“Happy birthday!” Ryan said as the two of them walked closer. “Please open your gift. It’s amazing and I’m dying.”

“Demanding,” Shane said as he sat down in his chair. “It’s my birthday. I call the shots.”

“So you don’t want your gift?”

“No, I want it,” Shane said. “Where is it?”

Ryan laughed. “Right in front of you.”

Shane looked at the gift on his desk. “You wrapped it?”

“It’s that good.”

Shane looked up at Sara, who was still smiling behind him with her hands on his shoulders, and ripped open the package.

“This…” Shane started, staring at his gift. “Ryan, this doesn’t come out until next week. How did you get this already?”

Ryan smiled at Shane’s amazement over the book in his hands. It was the latest from an author Shane loved, and although Ryan thought the book he’d tried by the guy was boring as hell, Shane had spent hours singing his praises.

“Open the cover,” Ryan said instead of answering Shane’s question.

Shane looked at him, then back at the book and slowly opened it. His jaw dropped.

“‘To Shane, Happy 33rd Birthday.’” Shane looked back up at him, and the smile on his face made Ryan’s heart swell. “How?”

“A buddy of mine who just moved to New York was telling me how this girl he’s seeing who works in publishing was dragging him to some party for a few authors who have new releases this month, and he was super pissed because he wanted to watch the Mets game. I asked him which authors and happened to mention you’re a really big fan of one of them. So then a few days later, he calls me up like, ‘Yo I’m at that party and the author your friend likes is signing a bunch of books for free, you want me to get him one?’ Then I was like, ‘That’d be dope because it’s actually his birthday soon,’ and now here we are.”

Next thing Ryan knew, he was being pulled out of his chair and into a crushing hug. He wrapped his arms around Shane’s back and noticed how perfectly he fit tucked under Shane’s chin.

“Thank you so much,” Shane said, and Ryan could hear the words rumbling in his chest.

“You’re welcome,” Ryan replied.

The hug lasted far too long, but neither of them seemed to care. By the time they pulled back, Sara was gone.


Sara had organized a party for Shane’s birthday the following night at one of their favorite bars, but Ryan couldn’t bring himself to go. He’d made up a lie about a family commitment, apologizing to Shane profusely and promising to take him out to lunch on Monday. Shane hadn’t been bothered, which he was grateful for.

In truth, it was becoming increasingly difficult to be around Shane and Sara. His own stupid feelings aside, he couldn’t help but feel guilty every time things between them seemed weird. Whenever he’d heard them argue, he was at the root of it. Whenever the three of them were together, there seemed to be a strange tension underlying everything. Even though a sick part of his brain wanted Shane and Sara to break up, he didn’t want to be the reason why.

(In even more truth, he did. And that scared him.)

It was around midnight when he heard a voice yelling outside his bedroom window. A few moments later, he realized that it sounded like the voice was yelling his name. Curious, he slid out of his bed and walked to the window. He saw a familiar face when he pushed it open.

“Shane?” he called, grateful that his second-floor apartment meant he didn’t have to yell too loud. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Ryan!” Shane yelled back, drawing the word out, and Ryan could tell he was wasted. “Ryan, hey!”

“What are you doing?” Ryan called again.

“I’m yelling at your window!” Shane called back. “I’m like Romeo! You’re the sun or whatever!”

Why are you yelling at my window?”

“Because I wanna come up.”

“Why didn’t you just call me?”

“My phone died in the Uber.”

Ryan laughed, and then it occurred to him that Shane was alone. “Is Sara with you?”

Shane looked down at his feet, then back at Ryan. “Can I just come up?”

“Yeah,” Ryan called. “Go over to the door. I’ll buzz you.”

It took a bit of time, but Ryan managed to maneuver a very drunk Shane onto his couch. Once he’d gotten Shane a bottle of water and hastily assembled him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Ryan sat down next to him. He didn’t speak as Shane devoured the food.

“Thanks,” Shane said, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.

“You’re welcome,” Ryan replied.

He desperately wanted to ask what was wrong and why Shane was sitting on his couch, looking like he was about to cry instead of at his own birthday party. Something told him to keep his mouth shut.

“She’s mad at me because I liked your gift,” Shane said, and Ryan didn’t have to ask who. “We were sitting at the bar talking to Jen, and Jen was like, ‘What’s your favorite gift you’ve gotten so far?’ and I was like, ‘Oh this book Ryan got me!’ So then she said, ‘That’s better than the party?’ and she was kind of joking but in hindsight, I think it was, like, a test or something? So I said, ‘Oh, yeah, way better than the party.’ But kidding, y’know? Sara was sitting right there. I wasn’t being serious.”

Ryan just nodded, feeling overwhelmed with guilt.

“Then she got all huffy and stormed off, so I followed her outside and she started yelling at me about how could I be mean to her in front of our friends and how she worked so hard, and I was like, ‘Hey, chill, I was kidding! Jen knew I was kidding!’ but she was totally freaking out. Then she said, ‘Don’t bother coming home tonight,’ and I said, ‘Where should I go?’ and she said, ‘How about Ryan’s house?’ then went back in the bar. So… I came to your house.”

“Sorry,” Ryan said.

“It’s not your fault,” Shane said. “She’s the one being a fucking bitch.”

“Whoa, Shane.” Ryan was shocked. He’d never heard Shane say something like that. “You shouldn’t say–”

“What, are you gonna tell on me?” he asked. “Call her up and let her know?”

“No,” Ryan said. “But still, you shouldn't… I mean, you love her, right?”

“Yeah,” Shane replied, and Ryan didn’t doubt his sincerity. “But she did the exact opposite of what Dr. Murray told us to do.”

“Dr. Murray?” Ryan asked.

It took Shane a minute to answer. “Our therapist. She’s been making me go to couples counseling since February.”

“Oh, shit,” Ryan mumbled.

Everything started to click into place. The overly formal compliments. The forced touching. The constant checking in via texts and calls. They were following orders.

“Yeah,” Shane said. “And it’s weird as hell. We basically just sit in a room and she tells me everything I’ve done wrong since the last appointment and then we ‘try to work it out.’ But one of the things she admitted was that she tends to storm off from a confrontation or hang up the phone or whatever, so he told us she should always stay and resolve the problem rather than letting it fester. She never does it, but God forbid I forget to, I don’t know, empty the damn dishwasher. Clearly, I’m the only problem in this relationship.”

“I’m sorry,” Ryan said again.

Shane planted his elbow on his knee, then put that hand over his eyes and let out a long sigh. “I’m just not sure how much longer I can do this.”

Ryan put his hand on Shane’s shoulder.

They stayed like that for a long time. Ryan couldn’t see a clock, and the only sound was the grey noise of Los Angeles outside his windows, so he had no idea for how long. But it felt like an eternity.

“Is it cool if I crash here?” Shane asked eventually, looking over at Ryan.

“Of course, man,” Ryan said. “I’ll pull the couch out so you don’t have to crunch up.”

“Thanks,” Shane replied before shuffling off to the bathroom.

A few minutes of rearranging furniture and fighting with his pull-out couch that never wanted to pull, he heard his water start to run. He hadn’t expected Shane to shower, but something about knowing Shane would emerge from his bathroom sleepy and messy-haired warmed his heart. Ryan quickly went to his bedroom and grabbed the pair of Shane’s pajama pants that had ended up in his luggage on their last trip and a clean tee from his own closet. He really had been meaning to return the pants to Shane, but in this moment, he was glad he hadn’t. He left the pajamas folded on his bed and sent Shane a quick text to let him know where they were.

He heard Shane walk from the bathroom to his bedroom just as he managed to straighten out the couch’s mattress, then crawled on top of it and waited for Shane to join him. But Shane never did.

After about 15 minutes, Ryan climbed off the couch and walked over to his room. He knocked once on the door, then pushed it open.

“Shane?”

The reason, Ryan found, that Shane hadn’t left his room was that Shane had fallen asleep in his bed. Ryan smiled and tried his hardest to commit the image to memory, then walked over to him. Carefully, he extended his hand and let his fingertips brush against Shane’s bearded cheek. Shane’s head turned slightly, pressing against his fingers, and Ryan wasn’t sure if that meant Shane was still awake or if it was subconscious.

Then Shane mumbled, “Night, Ry,” and made no effort to move away from the other man’s touch.

“Night, Shane,” Ryan said, withdrawing his hand.

He shuffled back to the living room to spend the night on his couch and silently hoped that things would get better. He wasn’t quite sure if he meant better between Shane and Sara, or better for himself and Shane, but either way, he just wished all the guilt and tension would go away for good.

As he pulled the covers up to his shoulders and closed his eyes, he knew that he was very sure of what he wanted.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until the first week of June that Ryan noticed things had changed.

His work relationship with Shane was fine. They made their Postmortems with the usual levity and banter, they took part in their coworkers’ videos, they joked at their desks and at lunch, they bounced ideas off each other in meetings, they traveled with their crew for upcoming episodes of Supernatural, sharing rooms and getting on as always.

After the third Friday in a row of Shane declining to hang out with Ryan over the weekend, little things started to click into place. Texts that weren’t work-related went unanswered. Excuses were made if Ryan wanted to get lunch off campus. They chatted less and less throughout the day. Shane would sit across the room in meetings, rather than at Ryan’s side.

Shane was pulling away from him, and he didn’t know what to do about it.

Part of him wanted to flat-out ask Shane what was up and why he was being distant, but he couldn’t think of a way to do that without sounding desperate and clingy. Hey, Shane, why aren’t you answering my texts or sitting next to me or hanging out with me all the time? What did I do? Is everything okay? Are we still friends? That would be pathetic.

Instead, he let it happen. He stopped texting as much. He stopped asking Shane to hang out. He stopped saving Shane a seat in their conference rooms.

Ryan fucking hated it.


June 14th brought a new season of True Crime, which Ryan was particularly excited about. He was incredibly proud of the recreations they’d brought to life for this season, some with Sara’s directorial eye, which he did honestly appreciate. Shane, thankfully, seemed equally excited about the whole thing. They posted on Twitter and Instagram, each starring in each other’s stories imploring their fans to swipe up. Shane even clapped him on the back, which made Ryan realize it was the first time Shane had touched him in weeks.

Later that night, as Ryan mindlessly scrolled through Instagram in lieu of sleeping, he learned that June 14th also brought Shane and Sara’s fourth anniversary. Sara had posted a black and white photo of herself sitting in Shane’s lap on a barstool, a wide smile on her face as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. The caption read, “Four years with this goof. Here’s to four hundred more!”

Ryan could tell by the location tag and Shane’s outfit – which he only remembered because Shane’s shirt had stayed in his bedroom for two weeks following that night – that the photo was taken at his birthday party before the whole thing went to Hell. It was funny, in a sardonic way, that Sara would’ve chosen a photo from that night to portray their relationship, which appeared to be going fine as far as Instagram was concerned.

Reluctantly, Ryan tapped the photo twice, rolling his eyes at the red heart that materialized over Sara’s smile and wondering why Shane had never mentioned the date to him in all their talk of the True Crime premiere.


A little over a week later, Ryan sipped his coffee as he walked toward his desk and was surprised to see that Shane sitting at his own. Ryan was almost always the first of the two to arrive, especially on a Monday.

“Morning, Shane,” Ryan said as he set his phone and keys down on his desk.

Shane didn’t reply, didn’t even move a muscle, and Ryan noticed he had earbuds in. That’s odd, he thought, because Shane would always at least nod at him, earbuds or no.

“Shane?” he asked again.

Shane ripped one earbud out, jerked his head toward Ryan and spat, “What the fuck do you want, Ryan?”

“Whoa,” Ryan said, then put his hands up and rolled backward in his chair, giving Shane a bit of space. “Who shit in your cereal this morning?”

Shane didn’t answer right away, which gave Ryan a chance to look at him. His eyes were tired and puffy, his hair was disheveled, and he didn’t seem to realize his shirt was on backward. Ryan’s overactive mind immediately kicked into worry mode. Something was wrong.

Shane let out a long exhale, then said, “Sorry, man. Just... Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Ryan said, rolling back to his desk. “You need anything? Coffee, maybe? I’ll go make you something.”

Shane shook his head, put his earbud back in and trained his eyes on his computer screen.

“That settles that,” Ryan said under his breath.

The silence between them was suffocating. It wasn’t abnormal for them to not speak as they worked, especially when they both had things to do. But something about the fact that Ryan couldn’t throw a dumb comment or joke at Shane made him feel uneasy. He was worried about the fact that they had to film a Postmortem later that day.

Everyone else seemed to feel the same way. More than once throughout the morning, Ryan watched someone start to approach Shane, then immediately back off when they saw him hunched over his keyboard, headphones securely in and face twisted into a scowl.

It was unbearable.

A few hours later, it was finally time for lunch. He felt bad thinking it, but he was relieved to get away from whatever dark cloud was hanging over his deskmate, just for a little bit. As he walked to his car, he heard a familiar voice talking in a hushed tone. He tried not to overhear, but couldn’t help it.

“I just don’t get it, Mom,” Sara said quietly, leaning against her car’s bumper and clutching her phone to her ear. “I thought I was more important than him. But I guess–“

She stopped talking and looked up at the sound of Ryan opening his car door. He froze, both unnerved by the eyes suddenly boring into him and concerned about the tear on her cheek.

“Uh, hey Sara.”

She didn’t reply.

Before Ryan could stop himself from sticking his foot in his mouth, he asked, “You okay?”

“Hang on a sec,” she said into the phone, then pushed off the bumper and stalked away.

So that’s what it is, Ryan thought as he climbed into his car. If Shane and Sara were both in a bad mood, maybe they’d had some sort of fight over the weekend. Maybe things between them were finally coming to a head.

By the time Ryan got back from lunch, Shane wasn’t there. He assumed he’d gone to lunch too, but when thirty minutes had passed and still no Shane, he started to get concerned. They had to film in half an hour, and it would be tough to find someone to fill in last second.

Where are you? Axe murder postmortem filming in a few.

Can you do it without me?

Uh not really.
I know you’re in a bad mood or whatever but can you power through?
.........
?????????
Shane this is ridiculous. Just come sit next to me and I’ll do most of the talking.
Please?
Can you at least tell me to go fuck myself instead of ignore me?
*ignoring
???
Ok fine. I’ll fucking do it alone.
But this is really shitty of you.

Ryan gave up and headed off to their library alone. After explaining the situation to the crew, he sat down at the table. It seemed so much bigger without Shane by his side.

“Move to the center of the table,” TJ said. “It looks weird with you off to the side.”

Ryan nodded, then scooted to the middle of the table as their PA pulled Shane’s empty chair away. He tried not to frown as he waited for his cue.

“Hello and welcome to another edition of BuzzFeed Unsolved: Postmortem,” he said, then rattled off the rest of his spiel. It already felt horribly awkward.

“As you can see, I’m alone today. Shane had, uh…” He paused. “Sorry, let me do that again.”

Ryan took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts.

“As you can see, it’s just me here. Shane had some stuff come up last minute, so I’m flyin’ solo, baby! And most importantly, no fucking hot dogs. So! Let’s get into the questions.”

He ran through a few questions, and the feeling in the room only got more and more uncomfortable.

“This one’s from Facebook,” Ryan started. “Leah Bloom says, ‘I’ve never watched this show before just now, the dude with the hat is chill but the tall guy is annoying as hell.’”

Ryan laughed once, but it immediately fell flat.

“Uh, when I picked that one, I expected the tall guy to be next to me,” Ryan said, glancing sideways. “And I thought it’d still be funny without him here to defend himself, but it just felt kind of… sad.”

He groaned, then put his head down on the table. “This isn’t working, is it?”

“Not really,” TJ replied, and Ryan appreciated the candor.

He lifted his head up. “So what the fuck should we do?”

“Can you think of anyone who could hop in?” TJ asked. “Is Curly around? He probably watched it this weekend.”

Ryan shrugged. “I tried to find him before I walked over here.”

“We could scrap it,” Devon suggested quietly. “Just say there were tech difficulties this week or something.”

“I don’t wanna do that to everyone,” Ryan said, but he couldn’t think of another solution, either.

“Don’t scrap it,” Shane said, walking onto set.

“Shane!” Ryan said, and he felt his heart light up as his earlier annoyance faded away.

Shane walked behind the desk, grabbing his chair from out of frame and dragging it over. “Scooch.”

Ryan happily moved over to make room. Once Shane settled in, Ryan asked, “What changed your mind?”

Shane shrugged. “I was being an asshole. And I didn’t want to miss another chance to listen to you get weirdly excited about an octuple homicide.”

They both smiled, but Ryan could tell that Shane’s wasn’t entirely genuine.

“You wanna film a new intro?” TJ asked. “Or edit it to make it seem like Shane just popped up?”

“New intro,” Ryan said after a few moments of consideration. “And we’ll redo the questions I already did.”

TJ nodded, and the boys waited while the crew reset. Ryan glanced at Shane, whose face was now completely blank.

“Are you alright?” Ryan murmured.

Shane replied, “No.”

“You gonna be able to do this?”

A shrug. “I’ll try.”

“Okay, we’re good,” TJ said. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Shane gave Ryan a short nod, so he launched into his intro again. They ran through the questions Ryan had answered, and it was still awkward, but significantly less so. Shane was off, which threw Ryan off, which made everything seem like it was lagging a moment behind.

“Let’s take it over to Facebook,” Shane said. “This is from Leah Bloom: ‘I’ve never watched this show before just now, the dude with the hat is chill but the tall guy is annoying as hell.’”

Ryan started to laugh, but Shane didn’t.

“Thanks, Leah,” Shane said simply, and Ryan’s heart broke.

“Let’s... just cut this one,” Ryan said. “Two flops is enough.”

TJ gave him a thumbs up, so Ryan waited a moment, then continued with, “This one’s from Instagram.”

The rest of the episode continued, neither of them loosening up. Ryan could only imagine all the tweets and comments they were going to get after this, wondering what was wrong and if they were still friends. The omnipresent paranoia in the back of Ryan’s brain told him that the answer to that question could be no.

“That does it for this episode of BuzzFeed Unsolved: Postmortem,” Ryan said, and he’d never felt more relieved. “Make sure you watch the episode this Friday and send in your questions to the BuzzFeed Unsolved Facebook page and the BuzzFeed Unsolved Instagram page.”

There was a beat of silence.

“No Hot Daga today,” Shane said with a shrug. “Didn’t have time. Sorry to all the Dagaheads out there.”

“Thank God,” Ryan said, then shot a strained grin at the camera.

Shane looked at TJ and Devon. “We done?”

“Ryan?” TJ asked.

“Uh, yeah,” Ryan said. “We’re done.”

Shane stood up and left the room without saying a word, and Ryan didn’t see him again.


The next day, Shane’s mood hadn’t changed. He had once again arrived before Ryan and he was hunched in front of his computer with his headphones in. This time, Ryan didn’t bother saying good morning to his gloomy friend, instead silently placing a large Starbucks cup next to Shane’s balled fist.

Shane wordlessly wrapped one hand around the cup, then used both to bring it to his lips. He took a long sip, closing his eyes while he did so.

“Thanks,” he said quietly as he put the cup down, not taking out his headphones.

A few hours later, Ryan found himself in the kitchen making another cup of coffee. Shane still hadn’t spoken, and the silence was somehow growing more uncomfortable by the second.

“Hey, Ryan,” Jen said, coming up behind him.

“Hey,” he said, turning to face her. “What’s up?”

“You coming Friday?” she asked.

“Friday?”

“Yeah, we’re going out for Sara’s party.”

Ryan paused. He thought he remembered Sara’s birthday being in the fall, but he was notoriously horrible at remembering birthdays.

“Uh, sure,” he answered. “Where are we going?”

“I’ll text you the details,” she answered. Then, she lowered her voice to just above a whisper and asked, “How’s Shane doing?”

“Not great,” Ryan said. Word of Shane’s bad mood must’ve gotten around. “He’s barely said anything to me today.”

“That sucks,” she said with a frown. “I really thought they were in it for the long haul.”

Ryan hummed in agreement, then realized he had no idea what Jen was talking about.

“Anyway, he can come too, I guess,” Jen continued. “But Sara specifically asked me to ask you to come. She wanted to make sure you know there’s no hard feelings.”

“Hard feelings?”

“Yeah,” Jen said slowly. “Since you and Shane are so tight, y’know?”

Before the conversation could continue, Kelsey ducked into the kitchen, beckoning Jen back to whatever they were working on. She smiled sadly at Ryan, then walked off.

Ryan grabbed his coffee and slowly walked back to his desk. He couldn’t make sense of anything Jen had said, and he knew it would drive him crazy all day. There was only one way to get a sure answer, and he hoped it would work.

“Hey, Shane?” Ryan asked as he sat down.

Shane looked over at him and slowly took out one earbud. “Yeah?”

Ryan paused, then carefully asked, “Do you want to get lunch with me today? I feel like we haven’t hung out in a while.”

There was a few moments of tense silence.

“My treat,” Ryan offered.

Shane nodded slowly. “Let’s go to Chipotle.”

They were mostly quiet on the drive over and while they waited for their food. The silence broke when they sat down.

“So, crazy weather we’re having, huh?” Shane said, smiling awkwardly.

Ryan didn’t want to beat around the bush anymore, so he asked, “What the hell is up with you?”

Shane didn’t answer, instead choosing to stare silently at his food.

“I mean, if you don’t wanna tell me, that’s fine, I guess,” Ryan said. “But–“

“Sara got a job offer,” Shane said, cutting Ryan off. “In San Francisco. Better pay, more creative freedom, she’d be able to focus more on her art. It’s a really great gig. And she, uh. She accepted.”

Ryan felt himself slowly shatter as Shane spoke. That’s why Shane had been pulling away from him. It was all over. Everything was over for them.

“You’re moving to San Francisco?”

Shane bit his lip, then took a deep breath. “No, man. I’m not.”

“Oh,” Ryan said, and then it hit him. “Oh. Oh, shit.”

“Yeah,” Shane said quietly.

“So you guys...”

“We broke up.”

Ryan sipped his drink, allowing himself a second to think. He’d been pretty confused about his own feelings lately, but he knew for sure that this news shouldn’t make him so goddamn happy.

“San Fran’s not too far,” Ryan offered eventually. “Couldn’t you guys do long distance?”

“We talked about it,” Shane said. “But it’s not like she’s coming back. We’d just spend the next, what? Six months? A year? Driving or flying back and forth on the weekends, spending way too much money to barely see each other until one of us either gets sick of it or meets someone else. It’s just prolonging the inevitable.”

“I think you’d really like San Francisco,” Ryan said, and he wasn’t sure why in the hell he was trying to convince Shane to go. “It’d be a great place to live.”

“Oh, I definitely wouldn’t mind living there,” Shane replied. “That’s not what this is about. It’s about what I have here.”

Ryan didn’t know what to say.

“When she told me about the job,” Shane continued, “she said she’d been feeling really stuck, creatively. She said that this was a chance to start over and get her groove back. I could tell, even before she said it, that she’d been off her game lately. So, I was excited for her! And she’s telling me all this great stuff about the pay and how we could afford a bigger place and all the creative freedom she’d get and ideas she already had. I’d never heard of the company, but, y’know, LA’s big. So I’m all psyched up, right? Hearing about this new start and seeing how excited she was. And then she tells me the job is in San Francisco. And that she’s already accepted it and found us a place.”

Shane paused, and Ryan watched his long fingers as they anxiously picked apart a napkin.

“So I was like, y’know, I can’t just leave. I have a ton of stuff going on. And she said, ‘No, I know, but you could just finish all your existing projects then move to SF! I’ve got enough saved to cover the rent on my own for a few months.’ Like she’d already planned everything out, and it made me feel like a total asshole for not wanting it.”

“So what’d you tell her?” Ryan asked.

“I told her I didn’t want to leave LA. I told her that I get the creative rut thing, because I’ve been there.”

“We all have,” Ryan agreed.

“But I’m not there now,” Shane said. “I’m the farthest from it I’ve ever been in my life, actually. I’ve got all this cool stuff happening, I’ve got a new season of Ruining History to start filming soon, and I know you pretend you hate the Hot Daga, but it’s such a fucking blast.”

Ryan tried to hide his grimace. As much as he genuinely loathed sitting in silence while Shane droned on about food in different voices, Ryan could, objectively, appreciate the amount of creativity and effort Shane put into it.

“I have so much here that I couldn’t leave behind,” Shane said. “I don’t want to start over.”

“I get that,” Ryan said quietly.

Shane looked him in the eye. “And there’s… you.”

Ryan’s mouth fell slightly open. “Me?”

“Yeah, man,” Shane said. “You. And Unsolved.”

Shane tried to smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Suddenly, what Sara had said the day before made sense. I thought I was more important than him. She’d been talking about Ryan. He felt a little dizzy.

“Shane,” Ryan said slowly. “I don’t want you to break up with Sara because of me.”

Shane laughed. “Okay, chill out, Bergara. It’s not because of you. But you’re part of why I want to stay. I know Unsolved is your baby and I mostly just tag along and make dumb comments after you’ve done all the real work – and you’ve done it without me before – but I love it. I love going to these crazy places with you and yelling at the air, or listening to you tell me about grisly murders, which sounds weird when I say it that way. But I couldn’t give it up. You’d have to kill me.”

Ryan was speechless. He knew Shane was being hyperbolic, as he was one to do, but Ryan didn’t know he was so serious about Unsolved. He’d always had a grim suspicion that Shane was just doing this to mock him and have a laugh, and that maybe Shane really did think less of him. For once, it was nice to be wrong.

Shane smirked. “Even then, I’d come back as a ghost and we’d do Unsolved that way.”

Ryan said the only thing he could think to say. “I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts.”

“Obviously, if I became a ghost, I’d believe in ghosts, Ryan,” Shane said, rolling his eyes. “I’m open to being proven wrong, even if I have to do the proving.”

Ryan laughed, and the heavy air of the conversation around them broke for a moment.

“Still, man,” Ryan said. “Don’t make this decision just because of our dumb web series. This is your real life.”

Shane shook his head. “I’m not. For months now, things between us have been...”

“I know,” Ryan said. “And I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Shane said, and Ryan couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu from the interaction.

He looked at the table as the guilt seeped back in. “Isn’t it, though?”

“Huh?”

“I’ve heard you guys argue, and I’ve heard you complain. I feel like I’m always what you guys are fighting about. And now you’re staying here because of Unsolved instead of moving with her and… How is this not my fault?”

“Ryan…” Shane said. “It’s not your fault. Yeah, Unsolved was a point of contention, but that’s not on you.”

Ryan just nodded, unable to argue any more. Even if Shane didn’t blame him, he knew Sara did.

“I love her,” Shane said. “And part of me always will. But this is the right decision, for both of us. Even if it sucks right now. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be leaving. It’s not like she got fired or we lost the apartment. Nothing’s forcing her to go.”

Ryan tried with all his might to suppress a smile. “When does she leave?”

“Her last day is Friday.”

The final piece of what Jen had said clicked into place. “The party.”

“Huh?”

“Jen invited me to a party for Sara on Friday. I thought she meant for her birthday or something.”

“Sara’s birthday is in October.”

“I fucking knew it was in the fall,” Ryan said, mostly to himself. “But I was also embarrassed to say I didn’t know it was her birthday if it was this week.”

Shane laughed quietly.

“Anyway, I guess Sara asked Jen to ask me if I would go, so I’d know she wasn’t, like, mad at me by proxy or something.”

“Oh,” Shane said simply, and Ryan noticed that he seemed… confused.

“Jen said you can come, too,” Ryan said weakly.

“Yeah,” Shane said, drawing out the vowel sounds. “I don’t think that’d be the best idea.”

“Probably not.”

Shane glanced at his watch. “Oh, shit. Our lunch break’s almost up.”

They were quiet again as they drove back to BuzzFeed, but it was companionable rather than tense and awkward. Ryan hummed along to the radio and Shane played around on his phone, occasionally glancing out the window.

When they pulled into the parking spot, Ryan turned off the car, then turned to Shane.

“You okay?”

“Not really. But I will be.”

Ryan nodded. That was good enough for now.


Shane Madej
@shalexandej

New Postmortem! It’s really awkward and there’s no Hot Daga. Just wanna get out ahead of the criticism. We’re so sorry in advance. Enjoy (or not).

3:01 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

Axe Murders Postmortem is live. The big guy and I were both having shitty days when we filmed this and wow is it obvious. Watch it! Try not to cringe! The one upside is there’s no Hot Daga.

3:02 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

P.S. Before you guys start asking, @shalexandej and I are totally cool and very much still friends. All the conflict was outside the Ghoul Boys. We’ll be back to being morons next week, I promise.

3:02 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

@ryansbergara We’re workplace acquaintances at MOST, please relax.

3:03 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

@shalexandej “Acquaintances” is a little much.

3:03 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

@ryansbergara I’d reply but I’m not supposed to talk to strangers online.

3:04 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

@shalexandej Wow did you really just unfollow me for the sake of the bit? Rude. Maybe we’re not friends.

3:05 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Shane Madej
@shalexandej

@ryansbergara Who’s this?

3:05 PM - 26 Jun 2019

Ryan Bergara
@ryansbergara

@shalexandej Love you too!

3:06 PM - 26 Jun 2019


Ryan walked into the bar where Sara’s shindig was taking place and immediately felt like he shouldn’t be there. Knowing Shane was sitting at home, alone, while all their coworkers celebrated his girlfriend – ex-girlfriend – leaving was overwhelmingly sad. But he promised he’d show up, and Ryan was nothing if not a man of his word.

He saw Steven and Andrew at the bar and walked quickly over to them.

“Hey, man,” Steven said. “Beer?”

“Please,” Ryan replied.

No one said anything. It was awkward.

“I’m… kind of surprised you’re here,” Andrew said.

Ryan shrugged. “I said I’d come, so.”

Andrew just nodded. It was so awkward.

“I… think I’m gonna mingle,” Ryan said, taking his beer from Steven and walking away before either of them could object.

As he walked around the bar, everyone seemed genuinely shocked to see him there. Since the alcohol was flowing pretty freely, most of them, like Andrew, weren’t shy about telling him so.

He already knew that everyone in the office saw him and Shane as a unit. Ryan and Shane, Shane and Ryan. They were inextricable, and Ryan liked it that way. What he didn’t like was that it seemed people assumed he’d turn against Sara because she and Shane broke up. It wasn’t high school.

Just as he was about to say fuck it and leave, he heard the woman herself.

“Ryan!” Sara yelled. “Ryan, come here!”

He sighed, then walked over to her otherwise empty booth. “Hey, Sara.”

She patted the bench next to her, and he sat down.

“Ryan,” she said quietly, drawing out the A sound as she wrapped an arm around his waist and snuggled into his side. She was so smashed. “I’m gonna miss you. My little Boogara.”

Ryan laughed. “Oh, I’m your Boogara now?”

“Yeah,” she said, her voice distant and dreamy as she laid her head on his shoulder. “I’m very drunk.”

“No shit,” he said.

“People keep buying me drinks. It’s not my fault.”

He laughed, and put a hand on her hair. “I’m gonna miss you, too.”

Despite how bizarre things had gotten, he realized in that moment how much he really would miss her. She’d been one of his first friends when he started at BuzzFeed. She’d happened to overhear him freaking out when Brent said he couldn’t do Unsolved anymore and had interjected with a simple, “What about Shane?” She’d been the one to find Ryan drunk and crying outside the bar they’d taken him to after he and Helen had broken up, where she’d wrapped him in a hug without saying a word and stayed there until he was out of tears. She’d talked and texted with him about every new Star Wars movie for weeks after everyone else got sick of having the same conversation. She was a constant in his life, and he’d miss that.

She hummed, then quietly said, “Take care of him.”

“Huh?”

Sara lifted her head to look him in the eye. Her voice took on a solemn tone, despite her bleary stare. “Take care of him. Make sure he’s happy. I want him to be happy.”

“I will,” Ryan promised.

“Good,” she said. “You make him happy.”

“You sure about that?” Ryan asked with a small laugh. “I’m pretty sure I drive him nuts.”

“Oh, you do,” she said, giggling. “But he loves you. He told me.”

“He…” Ryan paused. “He did?”

“Mhm,” she said. “He told me, ‘I can’t leave Ryan,’ like a hundred times when I asked him to move with me, and I was like, ‘But you’re fine leaving me?’ and he got all quiet.”

“Oh,” Ryan said, not sure of how else to respond.

“And I was like, ‘Don’t you love me?’” Sara continued babbling, and Ryan wondered if she even remembered he was there at this point. “And he was like, ‘I think I love him, too.’ And that sucked a lot. It really fucking sucked. But I wasn’t surprised. I already knew. That’s why I asked him at therapy to back off and stop spending so much time with you. I begged him. He thought it was dumb, but he did it for me. I guess that didn’t work.”

“I’m… sorry?” Ryan said, and that was starting to feel like his catchphrase.

“Yeah, well,” Sara said, and then she echoed Shane’s earlier sentiment. “At least we’re making the right choice, I guess.”

Ryan just stared at the table, feeling completely overwhelmed. Shane hadn’t told him that part of the story. Now he had another secret.

“So just take care of him, okay?” Sara asked again.

He nodded. “I will.”

“Good.” She reached up and kissed his cheek. “Bye, Ryan.”

He wrapped both arms around her, her soft curls brushing his face, and closed his eyes. “Bye, Sara.”


Buzz me up.

new phone who dis

I’m outside your apartment. Buzz me up dick.

Just hit the buzzer like a normal person.

I’ve been hitting the buzzer and you’re not answering.

Ugh it’s probably broken again.
I need to call my stupid landlord.
Or maybe just get a new place.

Hey could you maybe muse about your living situation some other time and let me into your fucking house?

I’d love a new neighborhood.
New cuisine
New people
New route to work
New place to make memories in

Me and this bottle of jack and bucket of popcorn are about five seconds from walking back to my car...

The door buzzed. Ryan laughed as he swung it open and started the trek up to Shane’s apartment.

“Whiskey?” Shane said in lieu of a greeting when he opened the door.

“And popcorn,” Ryan answered, grinning as he walked into the apartment.

The place looked wildly different than the last time Ryan was there. It was clean, for one, but uncomfortably so. Most of the knick knacks and decor were gone, replaced with piles of boxes lining the room.

“Whoa,” Ryan said, setting his gifts on top of a stack of boxes.

“Yeah,” Shane said, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck. “I kind of didn’t realize how much stuff was hers until she started packing. Guess it makes sense, though, since this was her place before I moved in.”

“Is she still staying here?”

“Kind of?” Shane replied. “She’s been sleeping at her friend’s place, but she’s been here in the mornings and after work packing and stuff.”

“Which is why you’ve been arriving early and staying late all week.”

“Bingo,” Shane said, and his voice sounded so goddamn sad. “She’ll be here tomorrow with a U-Haul.”

“It’s hard to picture Sara driving a truck,” Ryan said, attempting to lighten the mood. It didn’t work.

“I might offer to drive up to San Fran with her, just so she’s not alone,” Shane said. “Help her get settled, maybe stay the night.”

“Is that really a good idea?” Ryan asked carefully.

With a shrug, Shane answered, “No.”

Ryan frowned. “Well, the video games are yours, right?”

“Yeah, all that’s staying.”

“Great,” Ryan said. “So let’s get drunk while I kick your fucking ass in Mario Kart.”

“Yeah, okay, Princess Peach,” Shane scoffed. “We’ll crack open this Jack and then I’ll prove you wrong.”

“Peach and Daisy are the most aerodynamic,” Ryan said, trailing after Shane toward the kitchen. “And their courses are the best. Daisy has that dope cruise ship.”

“Nah,” Shane said with a laugh as he poured two shots of whiskey. “Wario and Waluigi all the way.”

“You just like Waluigi because he’s also a tall weirdo who’s non-threateningly evil and mostly leg.”

“Representation is important, Ryan,” Shane replied, barely suppressing laughter with a serious tone. “Now drink up.”

They each did a shot, did another shot, and then brought the bottle to the couch with them.

Two vigorous hours of serious Mario Kart competition later, Ryan had been completely destroyed. After losing his twentieth consecutive race, he’d given up, spiking the Wii controller into the couch next to him and screaming into a pillow. Shane had laughed himself to tears, then changed the console to Netflix.

“Oh, fuck, dude, it’s almost 2AM,” Ryan said, halfway through their fourth episode of Arrested Development.

“Shit, really?” Shane asked, then glanced at his phone. “Oh, shit.”

Ryan stood up from the couch and the whole room tilted. He immediately fell back down, landing on the couch with a soft oof.

“You okay?” Shane asked with a soft laugh.

“Yeah,” Ryan said. “Just... Shit, we really drank all that, didn’t we?”

Ryan looked down at the table, where a greasy pizza box held the now-empty bottle of Jack Daniels surrounded by a nest of used napkins, two paper plates and too many half-crushed beer cans.

“We did,” Shane confirmed.

Ryan swore under his breath. “Now I gotta call an Uber.”

Shane stood up and stretched his limbs, and Ryan envied the ease with which he could move at the moment.  “Crash here, man. I don’t give a shit.”

Ryan stood up again, slowly this time. The room stayed upright. He looked back at Shane’s couch and scowled. “Last time I slept on this thing, I had a crick in my neck for a week.”

“Just sleep in the bed, then,” Shane said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s big enough.”

Ryan felt his heart rate pick up, just a bit. “What is this, a bad porno?”

Shane laughed, but it stopped abruptly as a serious look came over his face. He stepped toward Ryan and said with a ridiculous, vaguely Southern accent, “I’ve never been with a man before.”

Ryan laughed too, unable to keep a straight face as he said, “Me neither.”

Shane rolled his eyes and started walking toward his bedroom, his voice returning to normal. “That’s not how it works, pal. One of us has to know what we’re doing, otherwise it’s just two bumbling morons.”

Ryan laughed again as they both went through the threshold into Shane’s bedroom. “Why do you know so much about expository gay porn dialogue?”

“I’m an experimental guy, Ryan,” Shane said, his voice breezier than ever. Before Ryan could fully process the comment, he continued with, “But really. We’ve shared smaller beds. You’re more than welcome to just sleep here.”

Ryan stared at the bed while Shane milled about the room, getting ready for sleep. Saturday night around bar close in LA would mean surge pricing on Uber, and he’d have to get another one tomorrow morning to come get his car. Plus, Shane’s couch, while comfortable to sit on, had a profoundly negative effect on the human body once you went horizontal. And Shane was right, they had shared smaller beds than this.

“Yeah, okay,” Ryan said, ignoring the explosion of butterflies in his stomach. “I’ll stay here.”

“Cool,” Shane said. “I’d offer to lend you PJs but I don’t think any of my clothes would fit your tiny body.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ryan said. “It’s like a thousand degrees in here anyway, I don’t need to drown in your giant, circus tent sweatpants.”

“The A/C is out,” Shane said. “It’s gonna be worse tomorrow when the sun is up, but it’s apparently being fixed Monday.”

“Great,” Ryan mumbled.

Shane patted him on the shoulder once as he shuffled off to the bathroom.

The second Shane left the room, Ryan’s face split into a grin. Sure, he and Shane had slept in closer quarters, but something about this felt different. There were no cameras, no crew, no ghosts (presumably, Ryan had been meaning to get the spirit box over here at some point) and they weren’t on the job. They were just two friends, hanging out for the first time in what felt like ages, drunkenly sharing a bed. Maybe this was a bad porno. Or just a really, really bad idea.

But Ryan didn’t care about any lasting emotional effects at the moment. All he cared about was getting his goddamn jeans off. He sat on the edge of the bed, toed off his shoes, then set to work on wiggling out of his pants. He was glad he’d chosen to wear boxers today, because sleeping next to Shane in briefs would’ve felt like a little too much, and he didn’t want to sleep in denim.

Shane walked in to find Ryan hunched over, trying to pull his feet out of the ankles of his jeans and started laughing immediately. “What the fuck, man?”

Ryan looked up, face fixed into a frown. “I’m stuck.”

“What is it about alcohol that turns you into a helpless baby?” Shane asked, walking over to Ryan and kneeling down. “You hit a certain stage of your drunkness where you just can’t do anything.”

“Shut up, Shane,” Ryan mumbled, letting the other man finish pulling his jeans off.

“You’re free,” Shane said as he folded the jeans and placed them on top of his dresser.

“Thanks,” Ryan replied, then stood up and started toward the bathroom.

He realized, once he was standing over Shane’s sink, that he didn’t have a toothbrush. He wasn’t drunk enough to use Shane’s, but he was definitely drunk enough to just put some toothpaste on his finger. He laughed as he watched himself in the mirror, trying to commit the image to memory for no reason other than how fucking funny it was. He was grateful he’d opted for glasses over contacts, so he wouldn’t be blind tomorrow morning.

Eventually, he stumbled back into the bedroom. The lights were off and Shane was already in bed, so Ryan used his phone light to navigate. Once he was under the covers, his glasses safely on the nightstand, he turned to face Shane.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Shane replied.

The dim glow of the streetlight haloing Shane’s head reminded Ryan of that morning in New York when this had all begun, when his feelings decided to turn against his brain and ruin his life. It was gorgeous.

“Thanks for coming over tonight,” Shane whispered.

Ryan grinned, and hoped Shane could see it in the darkness. “No problem, man. Thinking about your pathetic ass here alone while everyone was… y’know. It was too sad. I had to keep you company.”

Shane nodded. “Did you go?”

“For a little bit,” Ryan said. “But it felt weird.”

“She’s your friend, Ryan. Don’t feel weird because of me.”

“Oh, it wasn’t weird with her. We actually had a really nice conversation. But everyone else was shocked to see me there. I felt out of place.”

Shane hummed thoughtfully. “How was she?”

Wasted,” Ryan said. “And sentimental. She called me her little Boogara.”

Shane laughed, but it died quickly. “I should’ve gone.”

Ryan didn’t respond, but he was suddenly overwhelmingly aware that he was sleeping in the spot Sara had slept for so long.

“But really,” Shane said. “Thank you.”

Before Ryan could stop himself, he said, “I know about New York.”

He could just barely make out Shane’s eyebrows furrowing in confusion. “I, too, am aware of both the city and state of New York.”

“No,” Ryan said. “The Socci House. In New York. That morning when you touched my face.”

Shane fell silent.

“I was just pretending to be asleep,” Ryan continued. “The camera didn’t cut out. I just deleted the footage so no one else would see it.”

“Ryan…” Shane said. “I was just… You had a bug on your face, and…”

“Shane. It’s okay.”

“It is?”

“Yeah,” Ryan said softly. “It was nice.”

“Oh,” Shane said simply.

Ryan exhaled, and the weight of the secret he’d been holding onto vanished. He couldn’t help but think about how easy it would be to lean forward and press his lips to Shane’s. He’d barely have to move at all, they were so close already. This was the most perfect opportunity Ryan would ever get. Through the alcohol and the endorphins, he could hear his rational brain screaming BAD IDEA RED ALERT DON’T DO THIS IT COULD RUIN EVERYTHING, but all he had to say back was, what if it doesn’t ruin everything?

“Goodnight, Shane,” Ryan whispered, then turned around to face away from him.

“Goodnight.”


When Ryan woke up, two things immediately became apparent. One, Shane had not been joking when he said the house would be even hotter when the sun was up, because he was nearly drowning in sweat. Two, he was fairly certain his brain and internal organs had turned to wet cement overnight. He opened his eyes and was met with a glorious sight; on the nightstand sat a bottle of Excedrin, a Clif bar in his favorite flavor and a condensation-covered bottle of water wrapped in a Bunsolved koozie. He propped himself up against the wall and slowly reached out to his treasure.

After he was medicated and halfway through the Clif bar, he realized his shirt was practically sticking to him. He wrestled it off and flung it into the corner of the room. After another long sip of cold water, his body felt like it had returned to a normal temperature.

He could hear movement in the front room and assumed it was Shane milling about. A quick glance at his phone showed him it was almost 12:30 PM. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept in this late. Eventually, he slid out of the bed and shuffled toward the door.

“Shane?” he called, his voice a bit croaky, as he walked down the short hall. “Where are– Oh, fuck.”

Ryan was met with three sets of eyes when he walked into the living room. Most of the boxes were cleared out, and in their place stood a very wide-eyed Shane, a very confused looking Sara and a woman with electric blue hair who Ryan recognized as one of Sara’s friends, but whose name he couldn’t remember. It wasn’t exactly the right time to ask her.

“Uh, hey, Ryan,” Shane said.

“Hey,” Ryan answered, completely frozen and very aware of the fact that he was only wearing boxers.

“Really, Shane?” Sara asked, looking back and forth between the two men. “You couldn’t have at least waited until I was on the 405 before you guys–”

“He just slept over,” Shane said quickly, cutting her off. “We had a little too much to drink last night, so he slept over.”

“Just slept over?” Sara repeated. “Naked, in our bed?”

“I’m not naked,” Ryan said quietly, crossing his arms over his bare chest at the same time Shane said, “He’s not naked. And he was wearing a shirt last night.”

“It’s hot,” Ryan said, shrugging weakly.

Sara rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Can you just go put some clothes on, Ryan?”

Ryan nodded and stalked back to the bedroom. It seemed the affection Sara had for her little Boogara last night had faded away. But as he heard her words echo in his head – I thought I was more important than him – he understood why. The thought of hurting her bummed him out extremely, but a small part of him couldn’t help but notice that Shane hadn’t seemed particularly upset at the implication that he and Ryan had slept together. Again, Sara’s words came to mind. And I was like, “Don’t you love me?” And he was like, “I think I love him, too.”

Ryan pulled on his jeans and, after a moment of consideration, pulled a clean BuzzFeed tee out of Shane’s closet and shrugged it on. When he shuffled back out into the living room, the only person he saw was Sara’s friend trying to lift an oblong box on her own.

“Can I give you a hand?” Ryan asked, walking quickly over to her despite his throbbing headache.

“Yeah, thanks,” she answered. “If you could just get the other end.”

Ryan counted down and the two of them lifted, then started to walk the box outside.

“Hey, I know we’ve met,” Ryan said quietly, “but, sorry, I’m totally blanking on your name right now.”

“Oh, ha ha,” she drawled. “Very funny, Ryan.”

He laughed once, but the sound was strained. It was like the universe was determined to make this the most awkward morning imaginable. He continued to walk boxes to the truck, keeping his head down and not saying a word as the vibe got weirder and weirder. Finally, all that remained was a dresser. As he and Shane carried it to the truck, Shane whispered, “Thanks, Ry,” and the simple phrase instantly calmed the tense energy crawling over his skin.

“So, how hungover are you?” Shane asked.

The two of them stood outside by the truck, both staring straight ahead, waiting while the girls gave the apartment one final sweep.

“Oh, I’m moments from death,” Ryan said. “My brain is soup, my arms are jelly and my legs are numb.”

Shane laughed, and it was the first genuine smile Ryan had seen from him all morning. “Same, buddy. Why the fuck did we drink that much?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan answered, laughing as well. “We were sitting on a couch and you got up to get the pizza at the door. I didn’t feel that drunk ’til I stood up before we went to sleep.”

“Do you want to go to Denny’s after this?” Shane asked. “On me. Breakfast food can only help.”

Ryan looked up at Shane and found the taller man smiling softly down at him. His heart fluttered, and he felt his world shift again. It was just like that night when he’d laid in his bed repeatedly watching an Instagram story and realized he had feelings for Shane. It felt like a whole new reality was clicking into place. A better reality. One where he could look at Shane and not feel sadness underneath all the fondness. One where Ryan could reach up right now and press his hand to Shane’s cheek and feel the warmth in his heart grow with the warmth of Shane’s skin.

“Breakfast food would be great,” Ryan answered, returning the taller man’s smile. “But we’ll split it. I’m the one who inflicted the whiskey on us.”

“Deal,” Shane said.

“I think we’re all good,” Sara called, walking toward the truck, Blue Hair trailing behind her.

Shane straightened up and gave her a tight nod. “Alright.”

“I’ll be back in a couple weeks to wrap some stuff up with BuzzFeed,” she said. “So if you find anything, let me know, and I’ll come pick it up.”

“Alright,” Shane repeated, then gave her a sheepish smile.

She smiled back, then began to walk toward the driver’s side door of the truck. Shane trailed after her, and Ryan could practically feel their hearts shattering. It was impossible to watch.

“Well,” she said, so softly that Ryan could barely hear from his place on the sidewalk toward the back of the U-Haul. “I guess this is it.”

“Yeah,” Shane replied. He looked at his feet, then at her. “You’re sure you want to go?”

“You’re sure you want to stay?” she countered.

Shane exhaled. “Fair point.”

She reached up and laid a hand against Shane’s cheek. “I want you to be happy.”

“You too,” he replied.

“We will be.”

Shane nodded, turning his head slightly to press against her palm. They were quiet for a long time.

“So,” she said eventually. “You ready to do this?”

“Ready,” Shane said, giving her a crinkly-eyed smile.

“Okay,” she replied. “Here we go.”

She pushed up onto her tip toes and Shane leaned down. Ryan couldn’t look away as they kissed. It was the saddest, sweetest thing he’d ever seen in his life. They pulled apart, and he watched Shane wipe a few tears from Sara’s cheeks with his thumbs.

“Good luck up there,” Shane said, his voice painfully sincere. “Text me when you’re settled in so I know you made it.”

“I will.”

They paused, and Shane dropped his hands from her face.

“I love you,” Shane said.

“I love you, too,” Sara replied.

Without saying another word, she turned around and climbed into the truck.

When Shane had returned to the sidewalk, Ryan put a hand on his shoulder. He tried not to smile when Shane threaded their fingers together.

As the truck roared to life and pulled away, Ryan turned to look at Shane. A single tear ran down his face, and Ryan wished he could kiss it away. For the first time, that thought didn’t scare him.

Chapter Text

After eating far too much food at Denny’s, Shane went back to Ryan’s place, citing his lack of air conditioning as the reason why. They’d kicked back on Ryan’s bed and put A New Hope in his DVD player. Five Star Wars films, a mountain of Chinese food and six bottles of Gatorade later, they’d both fallen asleep slumped against Ryan’s headboard. They continued their movie marathon all through Sunday, and Shane didn’t leave Ryan’s place until early Monday morning.

When Shane got to the office that day, seemingly back to his usual routine of arriving a bit late, he’d asked Ryan just a little too loudly how his weekend had been.

“Uh, it was good?” Ryan had answered, clearly confused. It wasn’t like he was about to go around telling their coworkers he and Shane had shared a bed for an entire weekend, but Shane actively wanting to keep it a secret made Ryan feel slightly ashamed.

The rest of the week passed in a haze of normalcy. Shane didn’t mention their little sleepover weekend, so Ryan didn’t either, and he tried to push it to the back of his mind and write it off as a fluke. Until Friday.

“So, what do you want to do tonight?” Shane asked as they were leaving the office.

“Huh?”

“Tonight,” Shane repeated. “I was thinking maybe we could go see the new Spider-Man then head back to your place.”

“Oh, you’re just inviting yourself over?” Ryan asked, trying to cloak his shock with humor.

“Yup,” Shane said with a grin. He lowered his voice a bit before continuing, “Like last weekend.”

Ryan matched Shane’s tone and asked, “You want to stay over again?”

“If that’s okay,” Shane replied.

Ryan felt a stir of butterflies at the thought of sharing a bed with Shane again. “Sure.”

“Great,” Shane said, his voice returning to a normal volume. “Because I bought our movie tickets online like two hours ago. It starts at 7:15.”

Ryan laughed. “Of course you did.”

“I’m gonna head to my place first,” Shane said. “Grab some clothes and stuff. Then I’ll Uber to you and you can drive us?”

“Sounds good to me,” Ryan said.

They parted ways at their cars, and Ryan spent the entire drive to his apartment with a smile on his face.


The rest of July passed in a blur of happiness, frustration, and filming. When they shared hotel rooms in their travels for Supernatural, Shane always slept in his own bed. But every weekend, Shane would go home Friday, pack a bag, and end up back in Ryan’s bed until Monday morning.

Throughout the month, Ryan noticed little things. A few shirts that weren’t his in his closet. Two pairs of pants that were much too long in his dresser. A new brand of coffee in his kitchen. A second toothbrush sitting by his sink. A contact case with an S written on one of the lids and a second bottle of saline solution in his medicine cabinet. Each new finding made him smile.

The weird part, however, was that they didn’t talk about it. They never mentioned their weekends at work, they never discussed the fact that they were sharing a bed. It was just something that was happening, and to be honest, Ryan loved it. He’d always found comfort in the feeling of sleeping next to someone, and he hadn’t realized how lonely he’d gotten post-Helen until he had that extra body back. He knew Shane must be lonely, too. There was only one problem.

Much to Ryan’s dismay, it turned out there wasn’t really a guideline for when you could finally kiss your male friend who you were secretly in love with (and who may secretly love you back) who’d taken to sleeping in your bed but who’d also just ended a four-year relationship with a woman you were close friends with. Every time they crawled into bed together, their faces inches apart, it was nearly impossible for Ryan not to close the distance between them. There was something in his gut that told him to wait and let Shane make the first move. It was driving him crazy.


On a Friday mid-way through July, Ryan had left work early. He’d stayed late the previous night helping out with a shoot, and had ended up over his hours. When Shane got to his house that night, Ryan could tell there was a cloud hanging over him. Not that the vibe had been particularly hard to pick up on since Shane had walked into his house and immediately face-planted onto the couch.

Ryan walked over and crouched down, placing a hand on Shane’s back. “You okay?”

“No,” Shane replied, his voice muffled by the couch.

“What happened after I left?”

Shane turned his head to the side. “Ruining History got pushed again.”

“Until when?”

“October.”

October?” Ryan repeated. “What the hell?”

Shane gave him a one-shoulder shrug. “They gave me some garbage about how much time it takes to animate and edit since it’s long-form, and it’s hard to fight since we get so much freedom with Unsolved. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize us by getting on someone’s bad side.”

Ryan’s heart skipped a beat at Shane’s casual use of us.

“I’m sorry, Shane. That’s such bullshit.”

“Yeah, well,” Shane replied, shrugging again as he rolled onto his back. “What can ya do?”

“We could watch that robot show you’ve been begging me to watch,” Ryan offered, hoping it would make Shane feel better. “The one with the cowboys.”

Shane’s head whipped toward Ryan, and the smile on his face told Ryan he’d said the right thing. “Westworld?”

“Sure,” Ryan answered. “There’s a new season soon, right?”

“Yeah,” Shane said, getting visibly more excited as he pushed into a sitting position. “I’ll hook my laptop up to your TV and we’ll start it right now.”

Ryan laughed. “Or we could order dinner first? I’m craving Mexican.”

“Or I could make us something,” Shane countered. “We always order takeout.”

“I didn’t know you cooked.”

“I’m an excellent cook, Ryan,” Shane answered, then started toward the kitchen.

Ryan grinned as he followed behind. It was exciting, he thought, to still be learning new things about each other. He watched as Shane rummaged through his refrigerator, trying and failing to keep the fond smile off his face.

“Ryan, what the fuck?” Shane asked, head still buried in Ryan’s fridge.

“What?”

Shane turned around as he closed the door. “You just have, like, hot sauce, LaCroix, three eggs and a bunch of leftover takeout, most of which looks bad. Where’s your food?”

“We’re filming,” Ryan said. “We’ve been out of town.”

“We haven’t been gone that much. Do you ever cook for yourself?”

Ryan paused. “I make scrambled eggs sometimes.”

“Oh my God,” Shane said with a laugh.

“I always had roommates or girlfriends who cooked!” Ryan replied, starting to feel embarrassed. “I never really learned how.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Shane said, laughing again. “How have you been eating?”

Ryan looked down at his feet, unsure of what to say.

“Shit, hey,” Shane said, his voice soft as he stepped forward, and Ryan looked up at him. “I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I was just being a dick.”

“It’s fine,” Ryan replied with a weak grin. “It’s just my crippling self-consciousness.”

Ryan laughed, but Shane didn’t.

“Let’s go to Ralphs,” Shane said. “We’ll get some stuff and I’ll make enchiladas.”

“I… think I’ll pass on enchiladas made by a white guy,” Ryan replied with a grin. “No offense.”

Shane smiled, and Ryan felt silly for ever feeling embarrassed in front of him. “None taken. Hot dogs?”

“Fuck you.”

“Burgers?”

“Burgers sound great.”

There was something wistfully domestic about the mundanity of grocery shopping with Shane. Walking the aisles, comparing prices, deciding together on which chips to buy and what kind of onions they preferred. Shane filled the cart with much more than was necessary for burgers, explaining to Ryan things he could make with them as they went. Ryan wanted nothing more than to loop his arm through Shane’s as they strolled through the store. Shane insisted on paying, even though the groceries would stay in Ryan’s fridge, and Ryan could’ve kissed him on the spot.

The domesticity and Ryan’s pining both increased exponentially once they got into Ryan’s small kitchen. He just watched at first as Shane prepared the patties, fascinated and grateful when Shane added the bacon he’d mysteriously been frying to the ground beef. Then Shane tasked him with washing lettuce and chopping onions, and the teamwork made Ryan’s heart swell. They worked well as a unit in every aspect, it seemed.

By the time they were in front of the TV, their dinner in front of them and Westworld queued up on the screen, Ryan could’ve ended the night right there and still counted it as one of his best.


The weekend was a combination of cooking lessons and binge watching. Once they’d finished Westworld, they moved on to The Terror, and Ryan learned how to actually use the waffle iron his mom had given him years ago.

By the time the next Friday rolled around, something occurred to Ryan.

“Hey, Shane?” he asked from where he was perched on the kitchen counter.

“Yeah?” Shane replied, not looking up from the pan in front of him, full of a sizzling stir fry that already looked mouth-watering.

“Do you, like…” Ryan paused. “Live here?”

Shane looked at him. “What?”

“You’ve been staying here all week,” Ryan said. “You bought a ton of groceries. Your stuff is everywhere. You have a toothbrush in my bathroom. You kind of… live here.”

“Oh. I guess I kind of do.” Shane looked back at the stir-fry, poking it gently with his spatula. “Is that okay?”

“It’s fine,” Ryan said quickly. “You can stay as long as you want.”

Shane nodded slowly, and Ryan immediately regretted saying anything at all.

When he woke up the next morning, Shane was gone.

Hey where’d you go?

Home.
Just wanted to make sure it was still there.

Oh.
Sorry if I made you feel weird last night.
It really is fine if you keep staying over here.
It’s nice actually.
I’ve never been more well fed.

No it’s not weird. You’re fine.
But I have some stuff to do, errands etc. I’ll see you Monday.
Finale Postmortem!

See you then.
Can’t wait for whatever stupid song you’re gonna make me suffer through this time.

Oh man it’s so good.

Yeah okay.


As the next week wore on, it became increasingly difficult for Ryan to keep his eyes open. He’d felt more rested after his nights in haunted houses than he did by Wednesday morning. It had become damn near impossible to sleep without Shane by his side, and it infuriated him. Shane, he noticed, didn’t seem to be any better off. He became blearier as the week went on, and Ryan wished more than anything that they could curl up together and nap somewhere.

“You coming over this weekend?” Ryan asked when they were walking to their cars on Friday.

“No, I’ll be in San Diego,” Shane answered. “Scott and I are going to this thing Saturday, and we’re staying overnight, so.”

“Oh,” Ryan said simply, biting back the urge to ask Shane to just stay tonight, then.

“Yeah,” Shane said. “Next weekend?”

“I leave Thursday,” Ryan reminded him. “My parents’ party.”

“Right,” Shane said, and Ryan wasn’t sure how to respond.

A strange tension set in between them over the next few days. Their conversation felt a bit stilted. They couldn’t hold eye contact for more than a few seconds. Any accidental touch was held just a second too long, then met with recoil. Ryan had an idea of how the tension could be broken, but he still couldn’t bring himself to break it.

On Wednesday night, Ryan heard a knock on his door around 10PM.

“Thank God,” he mumbled, pushing off his bed and walking toward the front room. He was starving, and very grateful that his usual pizza place seemed to be delivering more quickly than normal.

He gasped when he opened the door. “Shane?”

“Hi,” Shane said. “Can I come in?”

“Of course.” Ryan moved out of the doorway, and Shane shuffled into his apartment.

“I just want to fucking sleep,” Shane said. “And apparently that’s impossible to do at my place now.”

“It hasn’t been easy here, either,” Ryan admitted.

“Well, maybe it’ll be easier now.”

“Maybe.”

Ryan was pleased to discover, after pizza and conversation and all the tension of the previous week melting away, that it was much easier.


The following morning, Ryan awoke to the smell of eggs cooking in his kitchen. He grinned as he pushed out of his bed, slid his glasses on and walked toward the smell like a cartoon character wafting toward a pie.

“Morning,” Shane said, and he was already dressed for work. “Eggs are almost ready.”

“Thanks.” Ryan leaned against the counter next to Shane. “Coffee?”

“Should still be hot.”

Ryan smiled as he made himself a mug. Eating breakfast together brought back the sense of domesticity and partnership that Ryan had felt before. Even through the fog over his glasses that the coffee had caused, he could see that this was a future he desperately wanted.

“Alright, I’ve gotta head out,” Shane said eventually, standing up from the table. “When do you leave?”

“A few hours,” Ryan said as they walked toward the door. “It’s not far and the festivities don’t start until dinnertime.”

“Cool. Tell everyone I said hi.”

“I will.” Ryan paused. “You’re sure you’ll be fine without me at the meeting on Friday?”

Shane rolled his eyes. “Oh my God, Ryan, yes.”

“I can drive back to LA for it if you want.”

“Don’t do that,” Shane argued. “I know you’re pissed it got rescheduled to your vacation, but it’ll be fine. They’re not gonna cancel Unsolved. We’re bigger than ever.”

“I know. But I’m not me if I’m not terrified for the worst.”

Shane smiled. “It’ll be fine. I’ll text you the good news the second the meeting is over.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’ve gotta go.”

“Bye,” Ryan said.

“Bye,” Shane replied.

Shane leaned down, gave Ryan a kiss goodbye, and then walked out the door.

It took Ryan a moment for his brain to catch up with the tingling feeling on his lips. Shane had just kissed him. He ripped open the door and was met with Shane, his fist raised to knock on the door and a wild look in his eye.

Before Ryan could say any of the ten thousand things on his mind, Shane reached forward, slowly slid off Ryan’s glasses and placed them gently on the table beside his door. There was a moment of silence and breathtaking stillness. Ryan was sure he could’ve heard a pin drop.

“Shane,” he whispered, and the surface tension broke.

Shane kissed him with an intensity unlike any kiss Ryan had ever felt. Ryan slid his hands into Shane’s hair to hold him there, and Shane gripped Ryan’s waist as he walked the pair backward into the apartment. Ryan felt like he could pass out from the shock and pure lust of it all.

He gasped when his back hit the wall, which Shane used as an opportunity to slide his tongue past Ryan’s lips. Ryan slid one hand from Shane’s hair to the side of his neck, and he could feel Shane’s racing pulse under his palm. Then Shane raked his shirt up, and when his hands made contact with Ryan’s bare skin, it ran through him like a bolt of lightning. Ryan made a soft noise in the back of his throat as he pulled Shane closer.

And then Shane was gone.

“What?” Ryan asked, opening his eyes in a daze. “Shane, what are you doing?”

“I have to go to work,” Shane said, and the smirk on his face betrayed his casual tone.

“No,” Ryan said, taking a step forward and knotting a hand in Shane’s tee. “Call in late.”

Shane pried Ryan’s hand loose. “That would be wildly irresponsible. We should be on our best behavior if we’ve got a meeting about Unsolved’s future on Friday, shouldn’t we?”

“Oh, you dick,” Ryan said. “Don’t use that against me.”

Shane grinned. “I’m just being pragmatic.”

“Fuck pragmatism,” Ryan spat. “This is finally happening and now you want to leave?”

“Finally happening?” Shane repeated.

“Don’t you play coy right now, you son of a bitch,” Ryan said, grinning despite himself.

Shane laughed softly. “Ryan, I am so glad this is finally happening.”

“Me too,” Ryan said. “Kiss me again.”

“I will,” Shane said. He leaned down until his lips ghosted over Ryan’s. “On Monday.”

Ryan pressed his lips against Shane’s and slid a hand around his neck before the other man could pull away again. Shane smiled against Ryan’s mouth but, thankfully, made no effort to move.

“I really have to go to work,” Shane said again, his words muffled by Ryan’s kiss.

Ryan pulled back with a sigh. “Fine.”

When they reached the door, Shane leaned down to press another soft kiss to Ryan’s lips. “See you Monday.”

“See you,” Ryan said.

His door clicked closed, and Ryan felt the final shift in his world click into place.

It was finally happening.


Ryan was trying to focus on the conversation unfolding in front of him. He really, truly was. But, rather than focusing on what his father and grandfather were saying from their places at the table on either side of him, his brain was occupied with one thing: Shane.

Shane’s lips against his own. Shane’s hands on his skin. The look in Shane’s eyes before they kissed. The promise of whatever was in store on Monday. It was all he could think about.

“Right, Ryan?” his dad said.

He snapped back to reality. “Huh?”

“Right?” his dad repeated, and oh, fuck, Ryan really had no idea what was going on.

“Uh, right,” he said, hoping it was the correct answer.

“See!” his dad said, throwing his hands up. “Even Ryan agrees!”

“I’ll be right back…” Ryan mumbled, and he wasn’t sure if the older men even noticed when he walked away.

He shuffled off to his bedroom and pulled out his phone. For the millionth time since Thursday morning, he wanted to text Shane. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted to text him, but he felt a near-primal need to connect in some way. With something so heavy hanging between them, everything Ryan typed out felt either too mundane or too eager.

Hey how are you? Delete.
What’s up? Delete.
Sup? Delete.
So do you miss me? Delete.
Sooooo do you miss me? Delete.
I miss you. Delete.
Is it Monday yet? Delete.
Ugh is it Monday yet? Delete.
Wish you were here. Delete.
Wish I was kissing you right now. Delete.
Hey how are you? Hesitation. Delete.

He sighed, locked his phone and headed back downstairs. Jake and his girlfriend were sitting on the couch, laughing together as they watched something on Jake’s phone. Ryan was struck by a strange combination of happiness at his brother’s delight and jealousy that he wasn’t with Shane.

“Hey, you guys wanna go get lunch at the diner?” Ryan asked, leaning over the back of the couch next to Jake. “My treat.”

They looked at each other and shrugged, and Jake said, “Sure.”

“Cool,” Ryan replied. “I’ll drive.”


There was always a surreal quality, Ryan thought, to driving around the town he’d grown up in as an adult, especially with his younger brother in the back seat. (Which was a seating arrangement he’d railed against, claiming he wasn’t a fucking Uber driver, but Jake hadn’t wanted his girlfriend to have to sit alone.) So much of his life had changed since he lived here that he felt like the town should’ve changed, too. As he drove the familiar route from the only good diner back to his parents’ house, his mind wandered to what it would be like to bring Shane here. To see his new life mix with his old, to show Shane his memories and make their own in the same places.

His musing was broken when he saw his phone light up with a text in the cup holder next to him.

“Hey, check my phone,” Ryan said to Jake. “Who’s the text from?”

Jake leaned forward in his seat to glance at the screen. “Shane. There’s three of them.”

Ryan felt a seed of fear in the back of his mind. He knew the meeting went well. Like Shane had said, Unsolved was bigger than ever. They were in no danger of being cancelled or tabled. But, like Ryan had said, he was always scared for the worst.

“Can you unlock it and read them to me? I think it’s about work.”

Jake reached forward to grab the phone, swiped open a message and tapped in Ryan’s passcode. Then, silence.

Fuck.

“What’s it say?” Ryan asked.

“You… might wanna wait and read these yourself.” Jake said, slowly putting the phone back in its place.

Fuck fuck fuck.That had to mean it was bad news and Jake didn’t want to be the messenger.

“Just read them,” Ryan said. “I can handle it.”

“Ry, really–“

“Read me the fucking texts, Jake.”

Jake sighed and picked the phone back up.

“Fine. First one says, ‘Bored as hell waiting for this meeting.’ Second one, ‘I wish you were here with me.’ Third one,” Jake paused, then deadpanned, “‘I can’t wait to taste you again.’”

Ryan’s body burst into flames. Full-on spontaneous human combustion. All they were going to find in this car was his shrunken skull on the seat next to the last shreds of his dignity.

“Oh my God,” he mumbled, utterly mortified.

“Told you,” Jake replied. His tone was frustratingly neutral, but Ryan could hear his girlfriend suppress a giggle.

He’d had never felt a more suffocating silence in his entire life, and the longer they drove, the more the car seemed to close in on him. When he finally pulled into their driveway and turned off the engine, the silence got even louder.

“So,” Jake said eventually, and Ryan held his breath. “You and Shane, huh?”

Ryan turned back toward his brother, whose mouth was pulled up in a small grin, and weakly said, “Surprise?”

Jake laughed once. “Not really.”

Ryan didn’t know what to say to that, so he just watched as Jake and his girlfriend got out of the car and walked into the house. Then, he picked up his phone and read the texts for himself before firing off a reply.

I was driving when you sent those and I thought they’d be about the meeting so I asked Jake to read them to me. His gf was in the car too. Thanks!!!!

Yikes how embarrassing for you.

Dick.

Soon!


When Ryan returned home late Sunday night, Shane was nowhere to be found. Which is what Ryan had expected since the plan was to reunite on Monday. But a small part of him had been hoping to open the door and see Shane on his couch, a bowl of popcorn in his lap and some weird movie on the television.

He hoped, as he walked toward his bedroom, that soon it would be their bedroom.


On Monday morning, Ryan felt Shane before he saw him. A single finger dragged slowly across the back of his neck, and it shot a thrill down Ryan’s spine. He smiled and turned toward Shane’s chair just in time to see the other man begin to sit down.

“Morning,” Ryan said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Happy Monday,” Shane replied.

They both stared at each other, and Ryan felt his heartbeat quicken.

“Today’s going to be impossible, isn’t it?” Ryan asked quietly.

“I think so, yeah.”

And it was. In fact, impossible was putting it mildly.

Ryan knew very well from experience that Shane enjoyed messing with him, and he was both extremely thrilled and extremely annoyed to find that enjoyment translated into a new context. All through the morning, Shane would casually link their ankles together for a moment or press his knee against Ryan’s. He asked for a pen and made sure to slowly drag his fingertips over Ryan’s knuckles as he took it. He let his hand brush Ryan’s arm as they walked side by side. It was driving Ryan insane.

Around lunchtime, he walked back to their desks and was disappointed to find Shane wasn’t there. After a bit of searching, he found Shane alone in a meeting room, headphones on and hunched over his laptop. Ryan knew this was how Shane sometimes worked when he was getting too distracted by their office’s open floor, and Ryan secretly hoped he was the reason for that distraction. He closed the blinds on the door, locked it and walked over to the couch where Shane sat.

“Hey,” he said, sitting down as close to Shane as he possibly could.

“Hey,” Shane replied, his mouth curling up into a smile as he closed his laptop and took off his headphones. “What’s up?”

“You wanna go get lunch?” Ryan asked, and he hoped his tone conveyed what he was actually asking.

Shane let his hand drop to Ryan’s thigh. “I’d love to, but I told Andrew I’d get lunch with him. He has some idea he wants to pitch me.”

“Can’t that wait until tomorrow?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Shane said simply as he tightened his grip on Ryan’s leg.

“Why are you doing this?” Ryan hissed.

Shane grinned, and Ryan swore he saw a flash of pure evil in his eyes. “It’s fun.”

“It’s really not,” Ryan said, smiling back.

“Mmm,” Shane hummed as he leaned closer, and their noses were just barely brushing. “But you’re so hot when you get all squirmy. Why do you think I like to rile you up so much?”

Ryan’s mouth went dry. Shane thought he was hot. This whole time, all the flirty antagonism, was because Shane thought he was hot.

Before Ryan could reply, Shane got up and strode out of the room. Ryan groaned and put his head in his hands. He had no idea how he was going to get through the next few hours.

Miraculously, he did. As they walked out to their cars in silence, Ryan was buzzing with excitement. He was surprised when Shane started to get into his passenger seat.

“What are you doing?” Ryan asked.

Shane grinned. “I took an Uber to work this morning. I figured I’d drive home with you.”

For the first time, Ryan noticed the duffel bag swung over Shane’s shoulder. He didn’t have any intention of going back to his own place.

A wide smile spread across Ryan’s face. “Yeah. Okay. Cool.”

“Cool,” Shane repeated, climbing into the car.

The drive to Ryan’s apartment was mostly silent, aside from the radio and sounds of LA traffic. Shane’s hand found its way to Ryan’s thigh again, and Ryan couldn’t help but notice how easily they enveloped the width of his leg. Shane’s fingers drummed against the inseam of Ryan’s jeans to the beat of the music, and it took all of Ryan’s mental fortitude not to crash the car.

Ryan had never in his life been more relieved to pull into a parking space. They walked quickly into Ryan’s apartment building, and he couldn’t help but laugh at how they were both on the verge of breaking into a full sprint.

“What’s so funny?” Shane asked, bouncing on his toes as they waited for the elevator.

“Us,” Ryan said. “This.”

Shane grinned. “Let’s just take the stairs.”

Ryan shot up the stairs with Shane close behind, nearly getting whiplash as he swung around the corners. By the time they got to the second floor, they were falling all over each other, both a mess of giggles.

“Come on,” Shane said, holding the stairwell door open for Ryan. “We’re almost there.”

Shane grabbed his hand as they made their way down the long hallway to Ryan’s door, and Ryan immediately missed the contact when Shane pulled away. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys.

Ryan paused for a moment before putting his key in his door’s lock. He knew exactly what was going to happen when he opened it. A small part of him was completely terrified, and the other part wished he would just fucking unlock the door already.

“Fucking unlock the door already,” Shane said, stepping forward to crowd into Ryan’s space, and Ryan laughed.

“Look who’s ‘all squirmy’ now.”

“Shut up, Ryan. Open it.”

Ryan pushed his key into the lock.

They weren’t even all the way into Ryan’s apartment before their mouths connected. Ryan heard Shane kick the door closed after they’d finished stumbling through it, and the loud slam! made his whole body shudder.

This was really happening. He, Ryan Bergara, was in his apartment, kissing Shane Madej. And they had the entire night to themselves.

Shane’s hands were rough and warm on the sides of Ryan’s face, and bigger than he’d thought they would be, which only made him wonder what those hands would feel like in other places and, oh, God, he was so glad they weren’t at work anymore. He reached up to slide one hand into Shane’s hair, pulling the other man’s head down further to relieve his own tip-toed stance. He felt Shane smile into their kiss as he obliged, and Ryan laid his free hand on Shane’s waist.

Then Shane pulled back, and Ryan wanted to scream until Shane said, “Bedroom?” in a low, rough voice and Ryan nodded so quickly that he nearly broke his neck.

Shane walked backward in front of Ryan through the apartment, tugging Ryan’s shirt off as they stumbled along, occasionally leaning down to kiss him. Shane pulled his own off as they crossed the threshold into the bedroom, and Ryan immediately reached out to run his hands over Shane’s bare chest.

Shane grabbed his wrists and yanked him closer, then dropped his hands to Ryan’s belt buckle. Ryan did the same, then pushed up to kiss Shane again as he fumbled with his jeans. His hands were shaking too hard to get anything done. Shane, gangly as he was, appeared to be quite nimble when it came to undressing, so he shoved Ryan’s hands away and undid them himself.

“Take them off,” Shane said, and Ryan felt a stir deep in his gut. Shane wasn’t asking, he was demanding. Ryan could definitely get used to that.

Soon after, they were both nearly naked and horizontal on the bed they’d shared for weeks, Shane’s long frame looming over Ryan’s. Ryan was achingly hard, and he could feel that Shane was too as he rolled his hips down.

Shane pulled back from their kiss and said, “What do we, uh… Do you want…?”

Ryan raised his eyebrows, breathing heavy.

“What are you into?” Shane asked.

“I’m... not really sure,” Ryan said. “I’ve never actually gotten this far with another guy before.”

“You’ve been with guys before?” Shane asked, cocking his head to the side a bit.

“Guy,” Ryan corrected. “A few times in college. It’s whatever. Why?”

“No reason,” Shane said quickly. “That’s just... fucking hot.”

Ryan blushed, and Shane leaned down to kiss him again, slower than before but somehow more intense.

“I think I want you to fuck me,” Ryan said after a few minutes, and the look on Shane’s face was something Ryan would remember forever.

“Yes,” Shane said, just a beat too late. “Yeah. Yes. Fuck. Oh my God. Okay. Yeah, I can do that.”

“Oh, can you?” Ryan asked, laughing once at Shane’s temporary incoherence. “Not sure if you got your point acr–”

Shane silenced him with another kiss, and Ryan continued laughing against his lips. The laughter quickly died when Shane reached down to palm him through his boxers, then it was Shane’s turn to smile.

Eventually, Shane pulled away and sat back on his heels, situated between Ryan’s legs.

“So, uh,” Shane started. He held up his right hand and wiggled his fingers a bit. “These first, right?”

“Yeah,” Ryan said, and he could feel his heart speed up even more. “One at a time.”

“Okay,” Shane replied. But he didn’t move. “We need lube, though.”

“Oh, fuck,” Ryan said under his breath.

“Do you not have any?” Shane asked.

“No,” Ryan said. “Do you?”

“Yeah, Ry, I’ve got a bottle of lube in my jeans pocket. Lemme just go grab it.”

Ryan nodded, looking at Shane expectantly.

“Ryan, I’m joking,” Shane said. “No, I don’t have any. Why would I have lube with me?”

“I don’t know!” Ryan replied, laughing a bit. “You’re the one who was being a tease all day, and I was at my parents’ house all weekend. You should’ve had some fucking foresight.”

Fucking foresight,” Shane said, grinning down at him.

“Stop,” Ryan said. Then, a lightbulb went off in his mind. “Wait, can you Postmate lube?”

“What?” Shane asked.

“Postmates,” Ryan repeated, and the ridiculousness of the idea started to dawn on him. “We could… Postmate… lube.”

There was a moment of complete silence, and then they both lost it. Ryan couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed this hard. Shane doubled forward, lying on his front next to Ryan, face buried in the crook of Ryan’s neck as they both wheezed until their faces hurt.

When they finally calmed down, tears of laughter were streaming down their cheeks. Then Shane started laughing again, so Ryan started laughing again, and they both fell apart. Ryan felt like he was going to suffocate on his own breath, then fleetingly thought that dying of laughter with Shane pressed against his side wouldn’t be a terrible way to go.

“Jesus Christ,” Shane said eventually. “That was the dumbest thing you’ve ever said, Ryan. That literally was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Shut up,” Ryan replied, knocking Shane’s shoulder with his own. “I was trying to be resourceful.”

“Can we Postmate lube?” Shane repeated, laughing softly.

“Stop!” Ryan said, and he could feel a giggle well up in his throat. “Please, stop. We can’t laugh anymore. I’ll explode.”

Shane rolled onto his side and propped up on his elbow, then looked down at Ryan, who was still flat on his back. They both smiled at each other, despite that fact that Ryan was sure Shane’s face ached from laughter as badly as his own.

“How about we work up to it?” Shane asked.

“Sounds good to me,” Ryan replied, then rubbed a hand down his face. “God, I feel like I’m sixteen.”

“It’s kind of hot, though, isn’t it?”

Ryan raised an eyebrow. “That I feel like a teenager?”

“No,” Shane said immediately. “Gross. I just mean the newness and the not really knowing what the hell we’re doing. It’s exciting.”

Ryan smiled and simply said, “Totally.”

Shane looked down at Ryan’s chest, then back into his eyes and asked, “Can I blow you? I’ve always wanted to try that.”

Ryan felt his brain short circuit, and he understood Shane’s earlier reaction to his words. “Um, yeah. Yes. You definitely can.”

“Great,” Shane replied. “Sorry if I’m not good at it.”

“It’s fine,” Ryan said, and they both smiled. “I’ll help you out.”

Shane kissed Ryan again as he shifted back on top, then began to kiss his way down Ryan’s chest, leaving a trail of goosebumps in his wake.

All Ryan could think about was how this was the happiest he’d ever been, until Shane’s mouth made it impossible to think about anything else.


Working Up To It turned out to be one of the greatest weeks of Ryan’s life.

Their hours at the office were actual torture, in the greatest possible way. Every stray touch of Shane’s fingers against the back of Ryan’s neck or the outside of his wrist, every brush of their knees or feet, subtle enough to be seen as an accident by anyone who didn’t know, gave him goosebumps. Every time Shane looked at him, it took all Ryan’s willpower not to kiss him right then and there.

When they went back to Ryan’s place, the nights never seemed long enough.

It turned out there were quite a few things Shane had “always wanted to try” doing with, to, for or on Ryan, and Ryan was more than happy to oblige. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t, and all of it was wonderful. Ryan asked on Friday night, while they were tangled together on the bed with the weekend stretched out in front of them, why Shane had never tried these things before, which lead to a conversation he’d treasure forever.

Shane told Ryan that he’d only ever slept with three women, citing the fact that he was a, quote, eight foot tall beanpole who has trouble opening jars and whose idea of a fun Friday night is a 1,600 page biography and a Vampire Weekend album, end quote, therefore not someone people were banging down the doors to have sex with. He explained that any time he’d tried to hit on a man, something in the back of his mind made him chicken out. He confessed to having a Grindr account for exactly fourteen hours before he was overwhelmed and had to delete it.

He told Ryan how he’d had one real relationship before Sara and admitted that he’d been the one to destroy it, which was where the third woman came in. He explained that he’d assumed he and Sara would end up married, since that was what you did when you were in a serious relationship in your thirties, so his attraction to men wouldn’t matter in the long run, and that he’d only tried so desperately to make things work with her because he was scared that he’d never find anyone else if they broke up.

Ryan listened to everything Shane said, completely rapt, knowing this was the first time Shane had spoken most of these feelings out loud. He felt honored to be trusted by someone so guarded.

“I’ve never really told anyone any of this before,” Shane had said after hours of conversation, his voice just above a whisper. “It’s probably making me seem kind of shitty hearing it all laid out at once, huh?”

To which Ryan immediately replied, “You’re the greatest person I’ve ever met in my entire life, Shane.”

On any other day, the painstaking sincerity in his own words would’ve made Ryan cringe. But that night, it made Shane smile and kiss him and eventually, finally, push inside him for the first time.

It was a moment Ryan could only describe with hackneyed metaphors about fireworks exploding and birds singing and angels sighing. Before falling asleep, Shane had described it as, “fuckin’ so awesome, Ry,” and Ryan had never loved him more.


“Ryan,” Shane said. “Wake up.”

Ryan blinked awake, instinctively pressing his cheek against the warm palm resting against his skin.

“Hey,” Shane said from his place on the edge of the bed. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” Ryan replied, his voice still rough with sleep. He was overwhelmed by the smell of bacon, and he could see a tray bursting with food on top of his dresser. “Did you make me breakfast in bed?”

“Uh, yeah.” Shane looked down at his lap, then back at Ryan. “Is it too much?”

“No,” Ryan said quickly, sitting up in the bed. “I love it.”

Shane grinned, then walked over to get the tray. He handed it off to Ryan while he got situated on his side of the bed, and Ryan found a place to set it between them.

“Cheers,” Shane said once he was comfortable, holding out his coffee mug.

“To what?” Ryan asked.

“Us?”

Ryan grinned, and clinked his mug with Shane’s. “To us.”


“Hey, Shane?” Ryan asked on Sunday afternoon, trying to keep his voice casual.

They’d barely left the bed since Friday night, and Ryan wished desperately that every weekend could be like this.

“Hmm?” Shane looked up from his phone and over at Ryan.

“What are we doing?”

Shane raised an eyebrow. “Watching TV?”

“You know that’s not what I mean.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Ryan looked down at his empty coffee mug. “Look, we don’t have to, like, have some huge talk, but we’re basically living together and now we’re having sex with each other and I feel like that warrants some kind of–”

“Yes, Ryan,” Shane said, cutting him off.

“Huh?”

“I’ll be your boyfriend.”

“Oh,” Ryan said, shocked by Shane’s forwardness. “Cool.”

“Cool?” Shane repeated. “I just cut off your hopeless rambling by agreeing to be your boyfriend and you said, ‘Cool?’”

“Shut up,” Ryan said, laughing and shoving Shane’s shoulder. “You caught me off guard.”

Shane smiled. “Really, though. I’m… I’m all in if you are.”

“I am.”

“Cool.”


Ryan Bergara
August 25th at 2:38 PM

In a Relationship with Shane Madej


Later that night, after Shane had fallen asleep, Ryan dared to look at the comments on the Facebook post of his and Shane’s little announcement. Most of them, as he’d expected, were about how unsurprised everyone was by the news. Jen posted about a thousand exclamation points, Curly sent a swooning gif, Devon left a few hearts, and Jake, to Ryan’s chagrin, had simply commented, “lmao.”

Ryan sent his brother back a middle finger emoji, then typed “Thanks, everyone!” into a new comment.

He plugged his phone into its charger, shifted down in the bed and wrapped an arm around his boyfriend’s waist.

Chapter Text

For the most part, things didn’t change.

Their first day back at work, they were met with a round of applause, which made Shane laugh but made Ryan want to curl up in a ball and die until Shane leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to his hair. Later that day, Curly, Kelsey, and Jen simply welcomed them “to the family” and Ryan, not for the first time, was happy to work somewhere so progressive.

That Wednesday, he got a call from his mom. He already knew what it would be about, since they were friends on Facebook and hadn’t spoken since he’d updated his relationship status. He’d had no idea what to expect, but the first thing she’d said was, “So you tell the internet about your new bae before you tell your own mother?” Ryan had laughed and asked how she knew what bae meant, to which she’d insisted she knew all the hip lingo, which made him laugh again. He could tell, from the time between the post and the call and the way they were dancing around the point, that it had taken a while for her to process. But the way she’d said, “Your father and I love you,” at the end of their conversation alleviated the last of Ryan’s anxiety.

His friends were jerks about the whole thing when they all went out on Friday, but in a way that Ryan knew didn’t carry any real malice. He explained that no, he didn’t “turn gay” and yes, figuring things out with Shane was why he’d been spending so little time with them lately and no, fuck off, he was not going to tell them who tops. Ryan wouldn’t have expected any less from them, but the text Danny sent to their group chat later that night that read hey seriously Bergara I know we were giving u shit before but we’re happy for u and his boys’ resounding agreement meant a lot to him.


By the first week of September, Shane was fully, officially moved into Ryan’s apartment. Their apartment.

As fate would have it, Shane’s lease was up at the end of August. He’d been meaning to find a new place since he no longer had someone to split rent with, but between all their travel and, as Shane had put it, sexcapades, he’d lost track of how quickly the end of the month had rolled around.

Officially Living Together, Ryan found, was worlds better than Accidentally Living Together. Knowing Shane was at home rather than just crashing at his place tugged at something deep inside him. He never wanted Shane to leave.


Their first weekend Living Together was spent in the laziest way possible, and Ryan couldn’t have been happier.

On Sunday afternoon, Ryan was lying in bed watching the Laker game he’d DVR’d with a bowl of popcorn in his lap, Shane pressed against his side and his fingers lightly combing through soft, brown hair. Shane had his Kindle balanced on Ryan’s chest, fully engrossed in whatever he was reading and completely ignoring the game. As much as Ryan would’ve loved someone to share his enthusiasm, he loved even more that Shane was comfortable enough with him to not feign interest.

“Why’d you stop?” Shane asked when Ryan pulled his hand away.

“Phone,” Ryan said. “Social media beckons.”

“This game is DVR’d. Just fast forward through halftime or whatever.”

“Remote’s too far,” Ryan said, reaching out his arm toward where the remote sat at the foot of the bed.

Shane laughed, and Ryan did, too.

“What are you reading?” Ryan asked as he scrolled through Twitter.

“A book called Lab Girl.”

Ryan paused and looked up from his phone. “Is that about, like… a girl who was made in a lab?”

“It’s the memoir of a geobiologist,” Shane replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Oh, excuse me for not knowing that, you nerd.”

Shane looked up at him. “I’m a nerd? You’re watching a basketball game you’ve already seen.”

“Yeah, but the Lakers fucking killed it and basketball is cool.”

“So is science.”

Ryan couldn’t think of anything other than to kiss him. When he pulled away, he was suddenly struck by the fact that they were filming their first Postmortem of the new season tomorrow.

“We’re probably gonna have to make this public at some point,” Ryan said.

“Are we?” Shane asked.

Ryan shrugged. “I don’t really want to hide.”

“Me neither, I guess.”

“And the fans already speculate, we might as well get out in front of it.”

Shane nodded. “So what do we do? Put out a press release?”

“Yeah, Shane, I’ll hit up PR tomorrow and ask them to draft something to send to all the major publications. The fuckin’ Times will put us on the front page for sure.”

“Great,” Shane said with a laugh. “I can email you a quote if you need it.”

“What would that quote be?” Ryan asked, humoring him.

“Hmm,” Shane said, stroking his chin dramatically. “I’m not sure yet. Something overtly sexual, though.”

“Shut up,” Ryan said through a laugh. “I have an idea.”

Ryan grabbed his phone from his lap as the Lakers game resumed. He snapped a photo of the view in front of him – the TV showing the game, his and Shane’s legs tangled together and the giant bowl of popcorn balanced precariously between their thighs. He screwed around with it in Instagram for a moment before tagging the Lakers as the TV and Shane as the second set of legs, then captioned it, Lazy Sunday followed by the heart emoji with an arrow through it.

“Check my Instagram,” Ryan said, placing his phone down on the bed.

He watched as Shane opened the app and slowly scrolled through his feed until Ryan’s post showed up.

“Jesus Christ,” Shane said with a small laugh. “That’s one way to do it, I guess.”

Ryan watched as Shane scrolled through the comments, surprised by how many there were already.

“They seem to have figured it out,” Shane said. “So, mission accomplished.”

Ryan just smiled and brought his free hand back to Shane’s hair.

Around the end of the game, his phone lit up with a notification that unlocked the last bit of guilt squeezing at his heart.

saraerubin liked your photo.


“Hey, boys,” Annie said, walking toward them as they left their library set. “Got a sec?”

“For you?” Shane asked. “Of course.”

She beamed, then continued, “Have you guys ever heard of 36 Questions to Fall in Love?”

Ryan shook his head at the same time Shane said, “The New York Times did a Modern Love column on that a while ago, right?”

Annie nodded, and Ryan couldn’t help but smile, because of course Shane knew that.

“You haven’t done them, have you?” Annie asked.

“No, but I read the piece at the time. Couldn’t tell you any of the questions now, though.”

“Great,” she said. “I’m working on a video where couples answer them and then talk about the experience. I wanted to do strangers, best friends, a new couple, someone who’s been together a year, five years and ten years to see how it affects people differently and how the answers change and stuff. We’re filming next Wednesday.”

“Sounds neat,” Shane said.

“Yeah. So could you guys be the new couple?”

Shane looked down at Ryan with his eyebrows raised, so Ryan smiled back up at him, then they both turned to Annie and said, in unison, “We’re in.”

She blinked once. “Did… you guys… just communicate… telepathically?”

“Huh?” Ryan asked.

“You two just turned completely in sync, looked at each other for half a second and then said the exact same thing,” she said, looking back and forth between them. “That was wild.”

Ryan knew they had a habit of accidentally speaking in unison, and over the years of sifting through their raw footage, he’d watched their physical shorthand develop and intensify. Hearing it confirmed by someone else was enough to make Ryan fall just a little bit farther in love.


The following week, the boys found themselves situated on a small couch replete throw pillows, pressed together from their shoulders to their ankles, three cameras pointed at them, awaiting Annie’s instructions.

“This is cozy,” Shane said, draping his arm across the cushion behind Ryan while the small crew milled about.

Ryan smiled and leaned into Shane’s side. “It’s nice.”

He wasn’t used to being so affectionate with Shane on camera. Even though their relationship was public knowledge, it felt strange to change the dynamic of their Unsolved personas by sitting closer or being overly touchy. It was nice, he thought, to be able to show off a little.

“You guys ready for the rundown?” Annie asked, walking toward them.

“Give it to us,” Shane answered.

“Okay,” she began, then handed two index cards to each of them. “Don’t turn these over yet. Ryan, since you didn’t know, the 36 Questions to Fall in Love were developed by a psychologist as part of a study to see if he could make people fall in love by answering a series of questions. The study was on strangers to accelerate intimacy, but it’s since become a thing people can do to, like, reconnect with their partners.”

“Are we answering all thirty-six?” Ryan asked.

“Not on camera. You guys will do the four I just gave you on camera, then go into a room alone to answer the rest, then come back to talk about it. Also, you guys will alternate answering first. Sound good?”

“Sounds good,” they both said.

Annie laughed. “Are you guys just gonna do that all the time now?”

“Yes.”

She laughed again as she walked back toward the camera. Once they were rolling, Shane flipped over the first card.

“What would constitute a perfect day for you?”

Ryan thought for a moment, then a wide smile spread across his face as he and Shane locked eyes. “I already had it.”

“Did you?”

“Knott’s Berry Farm,” Ryan said. “When we went to the Berry Festival. Roll the clip.”

Shane grinned. “You can be honest, Ryan. You don’t have to, like, play into the BuzzFeed Cinematic Universe thing.”

“I am being honest,” Ryan insisted. “That was honestly the greatest day of my life. Knott’s, theme park trivia, a shitload of boysenberry food… you. It was perfect.”

“Are we allowed to kiss each other?” Shane asked Annie, not looking away from Ryan’s gaze.

“Totally.”

She’d barely finished the word before Shane brought a hand to Ryan’s cheek and pressed their lips together.

“What about you?” Ryan asked as they pulled apart. “What’s your perfect day?”

Shane pursed his lips in thought and looked at the ceiling. “Okay. It’s me and you. We wake up at, like, noon. Waffles just appear in our kitchen. We eat them and they’re incredible and we’re listening to LCD Soundsystem but you’re not complaining about it. We watch all the Mission: Impossible films simultaneously, but in a way that we can parse them and it makes sense somehow. Then we play D&D with a few of my pals but you’re actually, like, good at it and take it seriously, unlike that one time I tried to get you to play. The pals leave and we eat an unholy amount of hot dogs for dinner. Like good, ballpark ones, no boiled grocery store shit. But there’s no consequences. Our stomachs can take it. Also, there’s a pool in the backyard somehow and we swim in it for a while after the sun has gone down, but no bugs are attracted to the light. We, uh… you know. And it’s great. Then we go to sleep and we each get like a solid twelve hours of rest.”

There was a beat of silence.

“Jesus Christ, man,” Ryan said. “That was so specific. Did you just have all that ready to go?”

“No,” Shane replied. “I was just thinking it up as I went along.”

“I mean, that’s, like… doable. We could do that day.”

“We could make waffles appear in our kitchen and watch eight movies at once?” Shane asked with a laugh.

“No, asshole,” Ryan said, knocking his knee against Shane’s. “But, the food, the music, watching one movie at a time. I’ll even try D&D again, and a buddy of mine just moved into a place that has a pool. We could actually have that Saturday if you want.”

Shane grinned. “I want.”

“Great,” Ryan replied. “Then we’ll make it happen. Next question?”

“Sure.”

Ryan flipped his first card and asked, “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?”

“That’s easy,” Shane said. “This. The fact that my job is to sit here and goof around or play video games or travel to every corner of the country with my boyfriend. It’s unreal that I’ve somehow tricked whatever into letting me do this.”

Boyfriend. Every time Shane said it, another part of Ryan’s heart lit up.

“This is awkward,” Ryan said, turning to the camera. “I was gonna say the Lakers.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Shane replied with a laugh.

“No, but for real,” Ryan started, looking back at Shane. “Same answer.”

“Next question?” Shane asked.

“Shoot.”

Shane flipped the card and his face fell a bit. “When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?”

“Heavy,” Ryan said. “And I have to answer first, huh?”

“I can go first if you want,” Shane said. “It’s the same day for me.”

Ryan already knew which day it was, but he nodded anyway.

“When Sara left,” Shane said, then explained to the camera, “My ex-girlfriend. We, uh. We both cried when she was leaving. And then I cried again that night for… a long time.”

“Wait, you did?” Ryan asked. He remembered Shane crying as Sara’s truck drove away, but not after that.

“It was after you fell asleep,” Shane said quietly.

“Shane…”

“What about you?” Shane said, his voice returning to normal. “When’s the last time you cried?”

Ryan thought for a moment. “In front of someone was my mom, back when me and Helen broke up. I just showed up at my parents’ house like an idiot and she asked if I was alright and I just, like, lost it. Alone… oh, fuck.”

“What?” Shane asked.

“It was after we saw Poltergeist.”

Shane’s face fell. “You cried that night?”

“We had a fight,” Ryan said. “I was drunk and confused and overwhelmed.”

“I’m sorry,” Shane replied, and the earnestness in his tone nearly made Ryan cry again.

“Don’t be,” Ryan said. “It was just me being dumb.”

“No, it wasn’t. I was an asshole that night because I was frustrated by my own feelings and I turned it on you. I never got to apologize for that.”

“Well, thanks,” Ryan said. “I’m sorry for yelling at you.”

“Thanks.” Shane was quiet for a moment. “Last question?”

Ryan nodded and flipped his second card. “Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?”

“Oh, I know exactly how I want to die,” Shane said, his borderline-sinister grin breaking through the tense air that shrouded the previous question.

Ryan turned toward the camera and said, “Shane has told me multiple times he wants his last words to be, ‘Keep rolling.’”

“How fucking sick would that be?!” Shane enthused. “I’m suspended mid-air, some demon gripping me around the throat, you look horrified and I choke out, ‘Keep rolling!’ right before its giant demon claw plunges into my chest and rips out my beating heart. And you have it all on tape. We’d go down in history.”

“I’d like to state that I very much do not want that,” Ryan said.

“Liar,” Shane replied.

“I mean, yeah, it’d be dope to get a demon on film, but I’d rather not be forced to relive your brutal murder in Final Cut.”

“But you would,” Shane said. “Because you know I want my death broadcast on YouTube.”

“I would,” Ryan said.

“For real, though,” Shane began, “I’m not sure. Probably something stupid like choking to death on Lucky Charms alone. What about you?”

“I had a really elaborate nightmare a few weeks after we got back from the Sallie House that a demon possessed me and caused me to murder four people and film the whole thing, then I got the death sentence because there was, like, HD video of me disemboweling someone and no one believed that it was a demon. I’ve been vaguely terrified of that happening in real life ever since.”

“Ryan…” Shane said slowly. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Shut up,” Ryan grumbled. “I know it’s absurd, but it haunts me.”

“Who’d you disembowel?”

Ryan was silent.

“Oh my God,” Shane said. “Wait, was it me?”

“Yes,” Ryan said quietly.

“Ryan!” Shane yelled before letting out a loud laugh. “So, let me get this straight. You think the way that you, Ryan Bergara, are going to die, in real life, is because you’re going to get the death penalty for disemboweling me while you’re possessed by a demon?!”

“I didn’t say that.”

“That’s exactly what you said!”

“Fuck, it is, isn’t it?”

“Are you getting this?” Shane said, turning to the camera. “Did you get what he just said? Save this footage. We might need to hand this into the police eventually.”

“Fuck you,” Ryan said, laughing despite himself.

“Not if it means you’re gonna disembowel me one day!”

Ryan blushed. “I promise I won’t.”


Annie got them settled in one of the conference rooms, where she’d turned the lights down and lit candles for ambiance. It seemed silly when they’d first walked in, but once Ryan was sitting on the small couch next to Shane, it did feel romantic. As romantic as a corporate conference room could be, anyway.

Slowly, they went through the remaining thirty-two questions, still alternating asking and answering first. Some questions were easy, some were difficult.

He told Shane about his most terrible and most treasured memories and listened as Shane detailed what his greatest regret would be if he were to die suddenly. They found out they had nearly identical answers for what friendship meant to them, but wildly different thoughts on what they’d ask a crystal ball.

Ryan tried to etch every word Shane said into his memory. He knew he’d forget some things, but he also knew the door was open for him to ask again.


“So, what’d you think?” Annie asked when they were seated in front of the camera again.

“Wow,” Ryan said. “I mean… wow. That was intense.”

“It was,” Shane agreed.

“A lot of it was stuff you’d find out eventually in a relationship, most embarrassing moment, best memory and whatnot, so I can definitely see what you meant by accelerated intimacy. But, like, I don’t think we’d ever just ask each other, ‘Hey, what would you regret most if you died tomorrow?’ So it was cool to discuss that kind of stuff in a way that was safe since we were both answering and being honest.”

“Who would you recommend these questions to?” Annie asked.

“Anyone, really,” Ryan said to the camera. “I think it could make for an interesting first date if both people were willing to be vulnerable, or if you just wanted to have fun and get to know a friend better since there wasn’t really anything inherently sexual, or maybe reconnect with a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, whoever. Even if you already know some of the other person’s answers, hearing them said out loud and discussing them was really affirming. Like, ‘Ha! I knew that thing about you!’ Almost like The Newlywed Game without the stakes of getting stuff wrong.”

Before Ryan could continue, he noticed Shane grinning in his peripheral.

“What?” Ryan asked, turning toward him.

“Nothing,” Shane said. “I’m just really in love with you.”

“Shut up,” Ryan replied, then turned back to the camera. “He’s just hamming it up for the video.”

“I’m not,” Shane insisted. “I’m being serious. We haven’t actually said it out loud since we got together.”

Ryan felt a smile creep across his features. Every time he’d tried to say it, something in the back of his mind had made him swallow the words. He knew it was irrational, but part of him was terrified that Shane didn’t feel the same way, and saying it would ruin things. He smiled wider as that fear dissolved away.

“I love you,” Shane repeated, and Ryan was so happy to have this moment on film.

“I love you, too.”

A hush fell over the room.

“I want to kiss you, but it’s silent in here and there’s so many people watching us,” Shane whispered.

“Do it anyway,” Ryan whispered back.

So Shane did. The crew behind the camera cheered, and Ryan couldn’t help but smile against his boyfriend’s lips.

“I guess the questions worked,” Shane said to the camera when they pulled back, and Ryan laughed.


FROM : Annie Jeong
TO : Ryan Bergara, Shane Madej
DATE : Mon, Sep 23, 2019
SUBJECT: 36 Questions

Boys,

Your guys’ little love confession revelation ultimately got cut from the video. We’re only keeping some of Ryan’s dialogue. But the raw footage is just so damn cute that I had to send it to you.

Enjoy, lovebirds!

-Annie


Later that night, after Shane was asleep, Ryan plugged his external hard drive into his laptop. He navigated through a complicated hierarchy of folders until he arrived at good morning.mp4. The file hadn’t been opened in months, but just seeing it there was enough to make Ryan’s heart flutter.

He opened Annie’s email, saved the video she’d sent as i love you.mp4, then went to sleep.


A few weeks into October, Ryan was woken up by Shane practically pouncing on top of him in their bed.

“What the hell?” he slurred, a bleary smile crossing his face as he opened his eyes.

“It’s today,” Shane said, grinning as he hovered above Ryan, one knee planted on either side of his waist.

“What is?”

“Ruining History.” Shane was nearly shaking with excitement.

“Oh, fuck, that’s today.”

“Fuck yeah, it’s today!” Shane laughed, then leaned down to kiss him.

“Are you gonna give me any hints?” Ryan asked when they pulled apart.

“Nope. But I did make coffee, and I’ll make us breakfast.”

“I’ll take it,” Ryan said. “Are you gonna get off me so we can go eat?”

“I could,” Shane said slowly. “But we don’t actually have to leave for work for another two hours.”

Ryan glanced at the clock, confirming what he’d just been told. “Shane, what the hell?”

“Sorry! I’m excited and couldn’t sleep.” Shane paused. “I can think of a way to pass some of the time, though.”

“Won’t the coffee get cold?”

Shane ducked down to press a kiss to Ryan’s neck. “I’m fairly certain we’ll be able to heat it back up.”

“Will we?” Ryan asked, his eyes fluttering closed again as Shane continued.

“There’s this thing,” Shane said between kisses, “called a microwave. Works wonders.”

Ryan hummed and threaded his fingers into Shane’s hair. “Microwave, huh?”

“Oh, yeah,” Shane said, kissing his way to Ryan’s lips. “Heats food with radiation. Invented post-World War II. Popularized in the 1970s.”

“Hang on,” Ryan started, pulling back. “How the hell do you know so much about microwaves off the top of your head?”

“My brain is a cavern of useless minutiae,” Shane replied without missing a beat.

Ryan laughed. “God, I fucking love you.”

Instead of answering, Shane yanked the covers to the side and began kissing his way down Ryan’s bare chest.


Ryan felt strangely nervous as he sat on the Ruining History panel, waiting for the episode to begin. Steven and Kristin sat across the tables, and he couldn’t help but fixate on the empty chair next to him. There was something about it that felt ominous. Shane hadn’t addressed it, and since he was currently deep in a very technical conversation with some of the crew, Ryan had no way of finding out.

“Who’s running late?” Steven asked across the table, exacerbating Ryan’s racing mind.

Ryan shrugged, glancing at the empty chair again.

“Everyone ready for some history?” Shane asked, walking back to set.

There was a chorus of assent as Shane walked around the table to his seat. He set his notes on the desk in front of him and looked into his lens, waiting for his cue.

“Welcome to Ruining History!” Shane enthused, and Ryan glanced at the still-empty chair. “Today, to kick off the new season, we’re discussing something that you, dear viewers, have asked for over and over again. Constantly. All the time. So, get ready to talk a lot and learn a little about… The Dancing Plague of 1518!”

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Ryan said. “Really?”

“You bet your ass, really,” Shane said, then paused a beat too long for what Ryan assumed would be an opening for the title animation. “So, before we begin, I’m sure you’ve all noticed the empty chair to my right.”

“Sure have,” Kristin answered.

“Well, that’s because we have a very special surprise guest today!” Shane said. “Can I have a drumroll, please?”

Ryan joined Steven and Kristin in slapping their hands against the table.

“Please welcome,” Shane began, “Miss Sara Rubin!”

Sara came around the corner from behind the set’s backdrop, waving to Shane’s camera, and Ryan’s heart sank to his feet. He wanted to grab Shane’s hand and hiss what are you doing? but he couldn’t ruin her intro. He watched, vaguely horrified, as she leaned down to press her cheek to Kristin’s, patted Steven on the top of his head and gave Shane a one-armed hug. She didn’t touch Ryan as she passed him.

“Sara’s the one who initially told me about the good ol’ Dancing Plague,” Shane said, looking at her as she settled into her seat. “So, naturally, I had to have her back on the panel for this one despite her departure from Ye Olde BuzzFeed.”

“Happy to be here!” she said. “I actually don’t know much about this. I just happened to see a mention of it on a Tumblr post, which I read out loud to you and you became obsessed with it forever.”

“Well, you’re about to know everything about it,” he answered. “Let’s get started!”

Shane began his narration, and Ryan could barely focus on what he was saying. He slowly turned toward Sara only to find a smile on her face.

“Hi,” she mouthed.

“Hey,” Ryan mouthed back.

She reached over and placed her hand on top of his balled fist. He relaxed his hand, opening it so she could curl her fingertips into his palm. He squeezed back, returning her smile as her thumb rubbed gently back and forth against his skin.

“We’ll talk after,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.

Ryan nodded as she pulled her hand away.


“So, how’s San Fran?” Ryan asked, turning in his chair to face Sara.

The other half of the panel had dispersed, and Shane was busy running through the footage with the crew.

“It’s honestly great,” Sara said. “It’s such a different vibe than LA. I really love it.”

“And the new job is good?” Ryan asked.

“Oh, it’s great. More intensive than what I was doing here, and I’ve got a hell of a lot more responsibility, but it’s good. It’s keeping me focused.”

“That’s awesome, Sara,” Ryan said, and he meant it.

“Thanks.” She paused. “I have a...  girlfriend, too. Her name’s Anna.”

“Oh. I didn’t know you…”

“Yeah, me neither,” Sara replied with a small grin. “Until I met her.”

“I definitely get that,” Ryan said, and they both glanced at Shane. “How’d you guys meet?”

“My first day in San Francisco, actually. We were both in this little coffee shop across from my apartment, and we were wearing the same Arctic Monkeys shirt, so we started talking and… here we are.”

“That’s like a rom-com,” Ryan said with a laugh. “You’re in a real-life rom-com.”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty ridiculous story,” Sara said, laughing too. “But she’s the greatest.”

Ryan smiled. “Good. I’m glad you’re doing well.”

“You too,” she said, then looked down at her lap. “I’m sorry I was so mean to you before I left.”

“Sara,” Ryan said, but she held up a hand as she glanced back up at him.

“It wasn’t you. It was just the whole situation. I was confused and upset, but… The wounds are healed, you know? I’m glad it all worked out. I’m happy you’re happy. Both of you.”

Before Ryan could reply, Shane walked up to the opposite side of the table. “You ready to go, Ry?”

“Yeah,” he said, and then, “Wait, go where?”

“We have a meeting with Devon and Teej,” Shane said. “We already ran a little long on filming.”

“We do?”

Shane nodded, so both Ryan and Sara stood up and walked around to Shane’s side of the table.

“It was good to see you, Sara,” Shane said, but the smile on his face didn’t reach his eyes. “Thanks for doing this. They’re gonna love it.”

“My pleasure,” she replied with the same expression.

After a beat of silence, Ryan asked, “Do you want to get dinner with us tonight?”

As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew it was the wrong thing to say. Sara’s face fell, and Shane stiffened beside him.

“I…” Sara started. “Don’t think that’s the best idea.”

“Yeah. I guess not,” Ryan agreed.

“But you guys have fun! I’m going out with some of the As/Is crew tonight anyway.”

“Cool,” Shane said, and Sara’s phone buzzed before he could say anything else.

“And, that’s Selorm now,” she said, glancing at the screen. “So... I’m gonna head over to their corner of the office.”

“Cool,” Shane said again.

They said their goodbyes, made hollow promises to keep in touch and Ryan was shocked by the flash of jealousy he felt when Shane pressed a kiss to Sara’s cheek. The feeling faded as he watched Sara walk away and felt Shane’s arm drape across his shoulders.

“I didn’t really think that one through,” Shane said once they were alone, both of them still staring at the door Sara left through.

“No shit,” Ryan replied. “She said she’s doing well, though. She’s got a girlfriend now, too.”

“Yeah, she told me earlier.”

“Wait, is that where you were at lunch today?”

“Yes,” Shane said, then paused. “I couldn’t tell you and ruin it. Are you mad?”

“No,” Ryan replied, and he honestly wasn’t.

“I just wanted to see her again,” Shane said. “See how she’s doing. Talk about some stuff.”

“You could’ve just FaceTimed her, you know,” Ryan joked, trying to lighten the mood a little.

“Yeah, I could’ve,” Shane said with a laugh. “But at least I know we made the right decision.”

Ryan looked up at him. “Were you doubting that?”

“Not at all,” Shane said, and the sincerity in his voice assuaged the last of Ryan’s worry. “But it’s still nice to be proven right. At the very least, she’ll make for an intriguing thumbnail.”

“So manipulative,” Ryan chided sarcastically.

“Just good at my job.” Shane paused. “Hey, do you wanna get out of here early? I don’t have anything else that I need to get done today. We could go see the new Zombieland again, grab some dinner after.”

“What about the meeting?” Ryan asked.

“There’s no meeting.”

They both grinned at each other. “Zombieland sounds great.”


“This is fucking stupid, Shane,” Ryan said, standing in front of the full-length mirror on the back of the bedroom door, seeing his Halloween costume in full for the first time.

“It’s fucking great,” Shane answered, meeting Ryan’s eyes in the glass.

“We’re not going to the party like this.”

“We absolutely are.”

“I’ll figure something else out. Just give me like an hour. I know Party City is still open. We’ll be a little late for the shindig but who cares.”

“No.”

Ryan looked up at Shane, suppressing a cringe at the fake mustache plastered above his mouth. “I hate this more than anything. It’s the Saturday night before my favorite holiday and everyone we work with is gonna be there and I fucking look like this. How the hell did you get me to agree to this?”

“Because I promised you we could both take Halloween off from work and spend all day making out, eating candy and watching whatever weird horror movies you want.”

“But you benefit from that, too! I’ve got the shit end of the stick here! Why did I think that was a good trade?”

Shane wrapped an arm around Ryan’s shoulder, which Ryan promptly shrugged off. “I honestly don’t know. But it’ll be fun.”

Ryan huffed and looked back at the mirror. The sight of his magenta overalls was slightly less repulsive with Shane’s reminder.

“I can’t believe you talked me into dressing up as goddamn Wario.”

Shane smiled as he hooked his thumbs under the straps of his navy overalls. “You’re the one who said I look like Waluigi.”

“As an insult. You weren’t supposed to embrace it.”

“Well, I did,” Shane replied. He pulled Ryan sideways and wound his long arms around the shorter man’s neck, then tucked the top of Ryan’s head under his chin. “You look very cute in this hat.”

“And the mustache?” Ryan asked, curling both hands around where Shane’s arms rested against his chest.

“You make it work.”

“Yeah, well you look like shit,” Ryan replied, grinning despite himself.

Shane laughed and leaned forward to press a kiss to Ryan’s cheek. “We’re gonna win Best Dressed for sure.”

“We better.”


To Ryan’s simultaneous delight and dismay, he and Shane did win Best Couple Costume at the party. He suspected it had something to do with the fact that Shane let everyone he talked to know how much Ryan hated the costume and how awful it would be if he had to accept an award for it in front of everyone.

But even Ryan could admit that the pumpkin-topped trophies they’d received looked quite good sitting side by side on top of their fridge.


November found them back in New York, this time at Letchworth Village. Letchworth was an abandoned asylum that had operated from the 1910s until the 1990s with a sordid past of patient abuse, poor conditions, and suspicious medical activity. Ryan had a serious case of the creeps before they even arrived at the grounds, which were even more imposing than they’d been in photos.

He was surprised by how little the ghost hunting dynamic had changed since he and Shane had gotten together. This was only their second investigation as boyfriends, but Shane remained stalwart in his skepticism, Ryan showed no mercy with his spirit box and trigger objects, and their sarcastic barbs were sharp as ever. But they walked a bit closer and showed a bit more concern. Plus, between a larger budget and joking-but-kind-of-serious complaints from the rest of their crew, they had the added bonus of getting their own hotel room.

He and Shane crept down a long, dark hallway, and he pulled his coat tighter around him. He never got used to how goddamn cold it was outside of Southern California. A gust of wind rushed through a broken window, and he wasn’t sure he’d survive a night here with only their small space heater.

Before he could fixate any more on the cold, a loud slam came from behind them. Instinctively, Ryan reached out to grab Shane’s hand.

“What was that?” Ryan asked, his voice shaking.

In lieu of an answer, Shane ripped his hand away from Ryan and spat, “Absolutely the fuck not!”

Ryan looked at him, dumbfounded. “What?”

“Don’t grab my hand,” Shane said, making a show of shoving it in his jacket pocket. “We’re not a couple here, Ryan. This is a ghoul warzone. Opposite sides of the aisle.”

“Are you serious?” Ryan asked with an incredulous laugh.

“As a goddamn heart attack,” Shane said with a stony expression.

“You’re unbelievable.”

Before Ryan could say any more, the slam happened again and he jumped out of his skin. Shane laughed and swept his flashlight down the hallway behind them.

“There,” he said. “It’s just a door slamming in the wind.”

Ryan took a deep breath. “Just the wind.”

“Just the wind,” Shane repeated. For a split second, he laid his hand across the nape of Ryan’s neck with a gentle squeeze, and Ryan felt overwhelmingly safe.


For once, it wasn’t the potential haunting keeping Ryan awake. Even wrapped in layers of sweaters and thermal underwear, his trusted sleeping bag under the blanket he’d draped over his cot and their ever-reliable space heater, his teeth were nearly chattering. The night was windier than expected, and although the room they were in had its windows intact, the air seeping in through the thin glass and warped frames chilled Ryan down to his bones.

“Shane,” he hissed. “Are you awake?”

Silence.

“Shane,” Ryan said louder.

A rustle of nylon.

“Shane!”

“Mmpfh,” Shane answered finally.

“Are you awake?”

“No.”

“I can’t sleep. I’m too cold.”

Shane laughed once. “Okay, California.”

“I’m serious,” Ryan said. “I think I’m getting frostbite. I’m gonna lose my toes. That can happen, you know.”

Shane opened his eyes to meet Ryan’s from across the room. “I know. It happened to my uncle. Chicago winters are brutal.”

Ryan’s jaw dropped. “Really?”

“Not really.”

“Dick.”

Shane smiled. “Do you want to get in my sleeping bag?”

“We’re on single cots.”

“You’re small,” Shane said. “We can make it work.”

Ryan ignored the insult. “Can you come over here? I don’t want to get out of my cocoon.”

Shane sighed dramatically but crawled out of his own nest of a bed without any further complaint. He repositioned the camera, dragged the space heater closer to Ryan’s cot and then approached Ryan, clutching his own blanket. “Let me in.”

After a lot of creative maneuvering, a few elbows to the face and one embarrassing yelp as Ryan caught his skin in the sleeping bag’s zipper, they were settled in. Ryan nuzzled his face against Shane’s neck, already much warmer as Shane’s arm tightened around his waist.

“Opposite sides of the aisle, huh?” Ryan asked, smiling against the other man’s skin.

“I’ll leave,” Shane said. “And I’ll take the space heater with me.”

“Please don’t.”

Shane pressed a soft kiss to the top of Ryan’s head. “I won’t. Go to sleep. The ghosties and the cold can’t get you now.”

Ryan wanted to hit back at Shane for his mocking tone, but sleep was already pulling him under.

“Love you,” Ryan whispered.

“Love you, too.”


“Goddamnit,” Shane said, locking his phone and throwing it to the opposite end of the couch.

“What’s up?” Ryan asked from his place in the kitchen, where he was attempting to cook dinner on his own.

“That was Scott. You know how our parents are going to Key West for Thanksgiving, so I’m not going back to Schaumburg?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, me and him were gonna go up to Big Bear for the weekend, do some skiing, get Chinese takeout, watch some shitty movies. But his girlfriend just asked him to come to her family’s house. So I’m abandoned.”

Ryan finished fluffing the rice in front of him, put the pot’s lid back on, then walked over to the couch. “You could come to my house.”

“Thanksgiving is in two days,” Shane said. “I don’t want to impose. I’m sure your mom has it all planned out.”

“Are you kidding me?” Ryan replied. “She’ll be over the damn moon if you show up.”

“Really?”

Ryan pulled out his phone and called his mom. “It’s ringing,” he said to Shane as he put the call on speaker.

“Yes, I can hear that, Ryan.”

“Hello?”

“Hey, Ma,” Ryan said, looking over at Shane. “You got a sec?”

“Of course!”

“Cool. So, I was just talking to Shane, and he doesn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving. Could I–”

Before Ryan even finished asking, his mother was off and running. He clicked the phone’s volume down, both of them suppressing laughter as she talked about how much she’d love to have Shane and what kind of wine does he want and will they be staying over and does he prefer white or dark meat and what’s his favorite flavor of ice cream for dessert. Shane politely answered each of her questions and assured her that he was excited, too, and couldn’t wait to see her again.

When Ryan finally managed to hang up, he couldn’t wipe the smug smile off his face.

“Shut up,” Shane said.

“Told you,” Ryan replied.

“Who’s gonna be there?” Shane asked, a wariness in his voice, which Ryan understood. The first time he’d met most of Helen’s extended family had been on Thanksgiving, and it was overwhelming, to say the least.

“Just Mom and Dad, Jake and his girlfriend.”

Shane exhaled. “Oh. Good.”

“Yeah,” Ryan agreed. “So you’ll come?”

“I think your mother would personally find and kill me if I didn’t.”

Ryan smiled, then leaned over to kiss Shane. “We leave tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll be there with bells on. You’re gonna burn that rice if you don’t go fluff it again.”

“Oh, fuck,” Ryan muttered, dashing back to the kitchen.

“One day, you’ll be able to cook a meal without my help,” Shane called.

Ryan hoped he’d never have to.

Chapter Text

The Bergara Thanksgiving Weekend began as it almost always did now that they all lived apart: With a celebration of Ryan’s birthday. He was surprised to find that, although Shane had already given him a few things on his actual birthday, he’d saved one gift for the family celebration. He figured Shane must’ve gotten the lowdown from Jake, but he appreciated it nonetheless.

Thanksgiving itself was the mishmashed multicultural smorgasbord it always was. Ryan watched with amusement as Shane soldiered through his father’s tamales, pretending his mouth wasn’t on fire. Luckily, Ryan had thought to bring antacids, which he planned on surprising Shane with later.

His parents, to their credit, seemed relatively unfazed by his whole dating-a-man thing. They’d never been hateful people or ones to weaponize their faith, and it probably helped that they’d met Shane before, but he could tell that it was an adjustment. He noticed his father stiffen just the tiniest bit when he’d introduced, “my boyfriend, Shane,” to Jake’s girlfriend, but the fact that both his parents had immediately pulled Shane into a hug upon the boys’ arrival made it alright. He knew, in time, everything would be okay.


Ryan woke up the following morning, surprised to find he was able to stretch his limbs in his twin bed. The longer limbs he’d fallen asleep tangled in seemed to be missing, which was fine by him as he felt his spine pop into place.

He unplugged his phone from his charger, and as the screen lit up he saw that it was just past 9:30AM and that Shane had texted him about twenty minutes prior saying, “I’m downstairs,” followed by a heart emoji. Ryan grinned and stretched again as he slid out of bed.

After making his way downstairs, he found Shane in front of the stove, cooking something that already smelled delicious mixed with the strong scent of brewing coffee.

“Morning,” Ryan said softly as he walked into the kitchen. “How are you?”

“I’m fucking furious, Ryan.”

Ryan paused as he was reaching toward the coffee pot. “What?”

“I’m furious,” Shane repeated, but didn’t elaborate. Ryan knew a line when he saw one.

“Okay, I’ll bite.” Ryan grinned as he poured coffee into his mug. “Why are you furious?”

“Poe Dameron has been besmirched,” Shane said dramatically. “And I am out for blood.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Ryan muttered, sitting down at the table.

With that, Shane launched into a vehement diatribe about some fucking thinkpiece he’d read on fucking Vice about how Poe fucking goddamn Dameron was the worst character in the Star Wars series, and Ryan immediately understood his ire. He watched in silent amusement as Shane ranted and raved about Poe’s accomplishments and traits, Oscar Isaac’s acting and the various merits of the new trilogy. The harshness of his words and tone coupled with the soft volume of his voice, so as not to wake anyone else up, was a hilarious and strangely endearing combination. He also couldn’t help but notice the vein standing out against Shane’s neck, and thought about how badly he wanted to stand up and press his lips to it.

A smile spread across Ryan’s face, and his mind was filled with one simple and absolute certainty.

“I mean, I’m right, right?” Shane set a plate down in front of Ryan that was piled with an omelette chock full of peppers and potatoes, strips of perfectly crisped bacon and two pieces of buttered rye toast. As he sat down with his own plate, he continued, “Poe’s the best. It’s complete horseshit. Right?”

Instead of agreeing that yes, it was complete horseshit, Ryan said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Shane froze, and slowly looked up from his plate to Ryan’s eyes. Through a mouthful of eggs, he asked, “Did you just propose to me?”

“What?” Ryan sputtered. “No!”

After taking a moment to swallow his food, Shane said, “You just said you want to spend the rest of your life with me. That’s a proposal, Ryan.”

“No,” Ryan said again. “I just… I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching you make me breakfast while yelling about your boyfriend, Poe Dameron.”

“Oh, Dameron’s way too cool to ever date me,” Shane said immediately, waving his fork dismissively.

“Ouch,” Ryan replied.

Shane rolled his eyes. “What, you think you’re cooler than him? Than fucking Poe Dameron? You? The most easily frightened man I know? Cooler than–”

“Okay!” Ryan said, holding up his hands in a truce. “Jesus. You win. You’re right. No one’s cooler than Dameron.”

“Goddamn right.”

They were quiet for a while after that, each eating their breakfasts. Any other day, Anxiety would’ve burned its way through Ryan’s brain as if it were made of gasoline by now. But Ryan was so sure of what he’d said, so sure of how he felt, that he was nothing but perfectly serene.

He knew that Shane was guarded, and not as ready as Ryan was to blurt out what he was feeling at any given moment. But he also knew that Shane felt the same way he did. He could feel it down to his core. It was just a matter of letting Shane build up the courage to say it.

And he did. Much more quickly than Ryan had expected.

After swallowing his last bite of bacon, Shane met Ryan’s eyes and said, “I want that, too.”

Ryan leaned over to kiss him.

“Get a room,” Jake said as he walked into the kitchen.

Ryan laughed, but Shane looked Jake straight in the eye and said, “Didn’t realize you were a homophobe, Jacob.”

“What?” Jake said, suddenly frozen in place. “No! I’m– I wasn’t–”

“Jake,” Shane said, a sly grin crossing his face. “I’m fucking with you.”

Jake exhaled, sneered, “You’re an asshole,” then continued his walk to the coffee pot.

“Better get used to it, bro,” Shane said with a laugh as he stood up, and Ryan’s heart swelled at the implication behind the nickname. “You want me to make you and your gal some omelettes?”

“Uh, sure,” Jake replied, then turned to Ryan and said, “You better keep him around if he’s gonna make breakfast.”

Ryan smiled. “I plan on it.”


A morning in early December found the boys as they usually were in the mornings. Shane tucked into the corner of the couch, both hands wrapped around a mug of coffee while intently watching the morning news, and Ryan pressed against his side, scrolling aimlessly through his phone.

Ryan opened Facebook and nearly gasped when he saw what was waiting at the top of his feed. One Year Ago, Facebook proclaimed, he’d posted a photo of Shane fast asleep on a flight to Los Angeles, his mouth hanging open and head cocked sideways. Ryan had placed various pieces of Chex Mix on Shane’s face, and he instantly remembered how hard he’d been trying not to laugh and awaken Shane. It was barely funny now, but his sleep-deprived, plane-bored mind had seen it as the peak of entertainment.

He tapped the photo and read the caption he remembered typing, “Shane Madej will sleep through anything, it seems.” What he didn’t remember was the first comment on the photo from Sara Rubin which read, “He still cute tho!!” Shane had sent her back an emoji with heart eyes, and Ryan replied to both of them, “Can you do this somewhere else thanks.”  The whole exchange felt like it was from a different lifetime.

What he remembered most clearly, though, was that hours before he’d taken that photo, he’d been pretending to be asleep while Shane’s fingers had lightly trailed over the planes of his face. It had been a full year since that one morning in rural New York had changed his life forever.

“Where are you going?” Shane asked as Ryan pushed off the couch.

“I have to show you something,” Ryan answered. He grabbed his laptop and hard drive then returned to the couch. As it powered up, Ryan asked Shane, “Do you know where we were a year ago today? Like, almost to the hour.”

“No. Should I?”

“No,” Ryan answered. “But I’m about to show you.”

Ryan typed in his password, plugged in the hard drive, then swiftly navigated through his well-traveled maze of folders until he reached his destination: good morning.mp4.

“What’s that?” Shane asked.

Instead of answering, Ryan opened the video. On screen, he woke up and turned to look at Shane.

“Ryan, what is this?” Shane asked again, turning toward Ryan.

“What do you think it is?” Ryan countered, eyes still on the screen.

Shane looked back at the computer. “Is this… the Socci House?”

“Yup.”

“This was a year ago?”

“Yup.”

“Wow.” Shane paused. “How long are you going to stare at me?”

Ryan looked at the video’s progress bar. “Another fourteen minutes and twenty-five seconds.”

“Jesus Christ,” Shane said with a soft laugh. “That’s ridiculous.”

Ryan turned toward him. “Um, have you forgotten what you’re about to do?”

Shane grinned and mimed locking his lips. They watched in silence for all fourteen minutes. Around minute seven, Shane wrapped an arm around Ryan, and Ryan felt more at home than he ever had before.

On screen, Shane stirred, and Ryan’s eyes closed. And then Shane was gently tracing his face in the morning light. Ryan could still feel the sensation, and when Shane reached up to mirror his past self’s actions, Ryan’s body erupted into chills.

The video ended with a frantic Shane turning off the camera, and Ryan shut his laptop.

“That was… the best stupid fucking decision I ever made,” Shane said simply.

Ryan laughed. “What happened there? Did you forget we were filming?”

“Honestly? My brain hadn’t fully turned on yet, and the lighting in that room was so soft and pretty, and I’d just been having a really nice dream about you.”

“A nice dream?” Ryan asked.

“No, not like that,” Shane said with a grin. “But… I don’t know. I was so overwhelmed by you that I didn’t even think about the camera.”

“Overwhelmed,” Ryan repeated softly.

“Too cheesy?” Shane asked.

“No. That’s just exactly how I felt, too.”

“Good,” Shane said with a smile. “I was so scared I fucked everything up when you reminded me that we were filming. I was terrified you were gonna watch that footage and never speak to me again. I was normally so good at hiding how I felt about you. I don’t know what happened.”

“How you felt about me?” Ryan asked.

Shane looked at him like he had two heads. “Uh, yeah.”

After a moment, Ryan understood. “Wait, did you like like me at this point?”

Like like?” Shane repeated. “Are we in middle school?”

“Shut up. You know what I mean. Answer the question.”

“Yeah, Ryan,” Shane replied. “Obviously. Why else would I have done that?”

“I… don’t know.”

“Wait, did you not like like me yet?” Shane asked. “You stared at me for six hours!”

“It wasn’t six hours,” Ryan said. “And yeah, I did, but I didn’t know it yet. A week after this, I realized I had a crush on you and had a full-on breakdown. But, like, in a good way.”

“Is that why you would barely look at me that week?” Shane asked.

“Yeah, man,” Ryan answered. “I was losing my mind.”

Oh,” Shane said, and Ryan saw the metaphorical light bulb go off. “That makes so much more sense.”

“What, did you think I was mad at you?”

“Yeah. I thought you somehow saw the footage and got freaked out or something.”

“Nope. I was just processing about twenty thousand feelings at once.”

Shane laughed and leaned down to kiss him.

“So, when did you realize?” Ryan asked as they pulled apart. “That you like liked me?”

“Can we stop saying that?”

“No.”

Shane sighed. “Fine. When did you start at BuzzFeed again?”

“Like mid-2014.”

“Mid-2014…” Shane echoed. He mumbled to himself and made a show of counting on his fingers, and Ryan wondered if he was adding up the exact number of days until he repeated, “Mid-2014. I’ve like liked you since mid-2014.”

Ryan’s jaw dropped slightly. “What?”

“I mean, I’m not saying I was in love with you at first sight or anything,” Shane said. “But you know how sometimes you meet someone and you just… know that they’re gonna be important to you?”

“Yeah,” Ryan said, then gently threaded their fingers together.

“Well, I saw you and I just… knew. I knew you were gonna be a big part of my life. And then the first conversation we had, you mentioned Helen, so I was like, ‘Okay, he’s straight and has a girlfriend, don’t catch feelings.’ But I did, of course. It was easier when I was with Sara, because I really did love her, too. And honestly? I was pretty sure you were going to marry Helen. So I thought, y’know, we’d just be platonic best friends who had girlfriends and, if I was feeling ashamed enough, every so often I’d jack off thinking about you–”

“Wait, you–”

“And that would be it, forever. But, that didn’t quite go as I’d thought.”

“Well, I’m glad it didn’t,” Ryan said with a smile.

“Me too,” Shane replied.

They were silent for a moment.

“How the fuck did it take us this long?” Ryan asked.

“I don’t know,” Shane replied with a laugh. “I was so scared of ruining our friendship that I never said anything. I would’ve rather had you as a friend than not at all.”

“That’s exactly how I felt earlier this year. Even though I was single and you and Sara were on the rocks, I still didn’t want to make the wrong move and scare you off.”

“Did the fact that I’d spent hours of my free, off-the-clock time combing through archived files of your voice just in an attempt to make you pay attention to me not tip you off that, maybe, I felt the same way?”

“Was that your idea of flirting?” Ryan asked.

“Kind of.”

“Jesus Christ,” Ryan said. “I mean, it worked, because I thought about that, like… constantly at the time. But Jesus Christ.”

Shane laughed. “We’re morons, huh?”

“Totally.”

“But at least we got here.”

“That we did.”

They kissed again, and Ryan wondered if anyone had ever died from being too happy.

“Hey, can we go back to discussing the jacking off to me thing?” Ryan asked after they’d separated. “Because that’s, like–”

“Too weird?”

“I was gonna say insanely hot.”

“We could discuss it,” Shane started, “but… oh, shit.”

“What?”

Shane grinned. “My car won’t start. Looks like we’re both gonna be late to work.”

“Oh, damn,” Ryan said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You know, I think I saw a… um… car… part… in our bedroom last night.”

Shane laughed. “A car part?”

“Shut up,” Ryan replied, laughing too. “I don’t know. This weird roleplay you started is tenuous at best.”

“Fine,” Shane said as they both stood up from the couch. “I am going to fuck you, hard, and we’re going to be late to work because of it.”

Ryan choked out a wheeze, then looked up at Shane. “No middle ground for you, huh? Just vague innuendo or straight up Penthouse?”

“You know it, baby.”

Ryan laced his fingers through Shane’s and pulled him toward their bedroom.


“Hello and welcome to another edition of BuzzFeed Unsolved: Postmortem, a show where we answer your most pressing questions about the most recent episode of BuzzFeed Unsolved, which was Letchworth Village.”

Ryan breezed through the rest of the introduction, the words flowing off his tongue as easily as his own name at this point.

“And stay tuned after the questions!” Shane interjected when Ryan had finished his spiel. “As promised, there’s a very special guest actor on the Hot Daga today! For real this time, it’s an actual person. Not the workings of a madman coming out of a computer. Please, put a little montage here.”

Ryan smiled. “You done?”

“A moment of silence,” Shane said, ignoring Ryan completely, “for the venerable Dr. Goondis, as portrayed by Ryan Steven Bergara.”

“Oh my God,” Ryan muttered, grinning despite himself as Shane closed his eyes and bowed his head.

“Thank you,” Shane said, and the solemnity of his tone made Ryan laugh.

“Great,” Ryan said. “Let’s get on with the questions. This first one’s from Gram City...”

They ran through the questions, laughing and ribbing each other all the way. Ryan was worried when they’d first gotten together that the playful antagonism everyone loved about them might die down. If anything, it’d intensified. There was something about being completely comfortable around a person that made it easier to roast them to Hell and back.

Even though he and Shane saw eye to eye on most things now – metaphorically, of course – they’d be divided on ghosts forever. But that’s just how Ryan liked it.

“Our weekly Q&A concluded, I now welcome you to the part of the show we call the Hot Daga,” Shane began, and Ryan braced himself.

He listened as Shane droned through the latest installment of his ridiculous tale, still with no fucking idea what was going on. He looked around the room, into the lens, at the table, waiting to be put out of his abject misery.

“And then, through the rubble,” Shane narrated, “they could see him. A gigantic boysenberry strode through the fog.”

Ryan took a deep breath, pitched his voice down an octave, and said very slowly, “None... shall.. pass...”

There was a beat of silence.

“Tune in next week,” Shane enthused, “to see if our heroes can defeat the evil boysenberry and continue their sacred mission through the Roo Barub tunnels and into the Cave of Cell Airy!”

Ryan looked over at Shane, who couldn’t stop grinning.

“It’s Ryan,” Shane said to the camera as he put his phone down. “Ryan’s the guest actor. Willingly, this time. I didn’t have to spend hours chopping up his voice.”

“God help me,” Ryan said. “I’m willingly in the fucking Hot Daga.”

Shane cupped his hand next to his face and said in a faux whisper, “Turns out all I had to do was start sleeping with him.”

“Oh my God,” Ryan mumbled, burying his face in his hands.

“This is a real casting couch situation ol’ Bergmeister’s got here.”

Ryan raised his head. “Don’t put this in the episode.”

“Put it in,” Shane said immediately. “Put it in the episode, I swear to God.”

Ryan shook his head and mouthed, “Don’t.”

“Do,” Shane mouthed, then winked.


Later that day, Ryan felt his phone buzz. He slid it out of his pocket to see a text from Michael.

Editing today’s q&a. Want to double check something when you have a sec since sometimes I can’t tell if you two are joking or serious.

Sure what’s up?

Do you want the bit about Shane sleeping with you cut or should I leave it in? 100% up to you.

Ryan smiled to himself as he tapped out his reply.

Leave it in.