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all the fresh starts

Chapter Text

It’s stupid, really. They’re both busy guys even when Unsolved is on hiatus, constantly being pulled from their desks to all corners of the building, so it’s not out of the ordinary that Shane has barely seen Ryan today. Despite popular belief they’re not attached at the hip, and he’s had his own shit to get done, so the fact that he’s spent maybe five minutes in Ryan’s presence before the other man was whisked away to fill in for a last minute vacancy in some video or other shouldn’t be a big deal.

And it’s not. Really. They spend more time together than apart, whether it’s for work or during their leisure time. Hell, they’d spent all of Saturday night and most of Sunday together. You’d think Shane would appreciate a little alone time.

But this thing between them - the relationship thing, the boyfriend thing - is still new, and after months of bullshit pining and one awkward but admittedly sweet confession, it feels like any free time they have is better spent together, exploring all of the new territory that’s opened up to them. 

And explore they have, Shane thinks with a subtle smirk, barely even registering the words to the email he’s trying to answer. They’d certainly done their fair share during their little sleepover on Saturday, and maybe that has more than a little something to do with why Shane’s feeling so prickly now. Maybe he just misses Ryan’s warmth, now that he knows how it feels to be wrapped up as close as they could possibly be.

A burst of laughter heralds Ryan’s return to the bullpen, flanked by half of the Try Guys and seemingly no worse for wear after whatever video they’d roped him into. Shane glances over just in time to see Keith toss his arm over Ryan’s shoulder and Eugene to say something Shane can’t hear that sends Ryan into another peel of laughter, and something tugs in Shane’s stomach, a swift, sharp pinch that makes him grimace.


He turns back to his email with a determined frown (not a pout, goddamnit) and ignores the muffled conversation heading his way. The tight set of his shoulders eases as Ryan plops into the seat next to his, alone and wearing a smile that seems to broaden once Shane glances his way.

(Oh, there goes his stomach again, though this time the tug is much warmer and far more pleasant).

“Nearly ready to go, big guy?” Ryan asks. At Shane’s blank look, he grins, full and bright and damn, that never gets old. “Lunch? On me? Did you forget?” 

Shane hadn’t; he’d just failed to notice that noon had crept up on him so suddenly (he definitely didn’t have much work to show for it). Plus he might have already resigned himself to going solo after Ryan had been carted away by Keith and the others.

Rather than admitting any of that, though, he settles for answering Ryan’s questions with one of his own. “You’re free, then?”

“Yep, I’m all yours.” Ryan says it so damn simply but there’s no disguising the glint to his eyes, like he knows exactly how Shane’s been feeling all morning and has no qualms about teasing him for it. Shane can’t even blame him; he knows he’d be doing the same if their positions were reversed.

Besides, he can handle a little ribbing if Ryan keeps looking at him like that, warm and soft and bemused, knowing when Shane is being ridiculous and loving him for it, anyway. 

Chapter Text

The shadows around them teem with spirits, glassy-eyed, hungry beasts practically falling over each other to get a whiff of the soul waiting just beyond their reach. Ryan can hear them scratching at the floor, can hear their hungry calls, and the urge to crack his human shell and turn them all to ash is so strong he can feel the skin along his back and shoulders prickling. There’s not enough room for all of his wings to unfold, not without bringing the walls crumbling in on them, but Ryan’s fucking tempted, anyway.

Fucking demons, he thinks uncharitably, narrowing his eyes as a writhing mass of shadows breaks off from its brethren and spills onto the floor, a pair of burning amber eyes peering from the darkness and fixed hungrily on the center of the room. On Shane.

The crackle of Ryan’s wings pushing through the skin of his back echoes amid the groans and grunts of the demon and its hoard; they flinch back at the sound, and that amber gaze swings from Shane’s sleeping form to Ryan, as if just now noticing him. 

Ryan smirks. They always underestimate him until it’s too late, too consumed with their desire for Shane’s human soul to pay any notice to the creature guarding it. 

Ryan’s careful as he tucks himself against Shane’s side - Shane’s out like a light but there’s no guarantee he’ll stay that way if Ryan makes any sudden movements, and he doesn’t want Shane to see him like this, not this way, not when they’re in the middle of a demon’s den. He’ll tell him - show him - soon, but Ryan wants it to be on his own terms. Besides, as much as it frustrates him sometimes, Shane’s utter lack of belief works as another layer of armor against the creatures that seek to do him harm on these locations, and Ryan would hate to lose it.

“You can’t have him,” he hisses. The shadowy hoard spits and cackles at his words, inky claws scritching along the floor towards them as if in challenge. 

“Try me,” Ryan growls, his back arching beneath the strain as his wings break through his skin, spreading white and golden over the dirty floor. They can’t spread far, and an ache settles in his shoulders and spine as they fold up around his and Shane’s tangled forms, but he grits his teeth and pushes through it, glaring at the demon and it’s pack of spirits. “I fucking dare you,” he adds, his eyes glazing over into piercing, burning white. He can see them for what they truly are now, a gluttonous devil leading a band of tortured, starving spirits, and his anger flares as he realizes that this is the future the demon had envisioned for Shane, turning him into yet another mindless soul forced to do its bidding.

Ryan has made it his mission to rid the earth of these foul creatures. Their hate and their malice and their lust for death scare the shit out of him, but if he doesn’t take care of them, who will? Having Shane by his side, oblivious to the danger he courts every time he hurls insults into the shadowy corners of asylums and hospitals and prisons, only serves to make Ryan that much more determined, that much bolder.

And the bolder he gets, the more pissed off he becomes. 

Because these things think they can just take Shane without a fight, that his soul is ripe for plucking, that Ryan, with his coating of fear and wide-eyed panic, can’t do a damn thing to stop them from taking what they want.

Guess again, douchebags, he thinks with a smirk, and flares his wings. Light seeps across the floor, drenching into the woodwork and cascading along the walls. An angry, agonized hiss pours from the writhing shadows, followed by the groan of the floorboards as the mass flees from the room, trying to escape, but it’s too late. By now Ryan’s light has filled every decrepit room of the rotting house, and by daybreak there will be no reminders of the evil that lurked there, nothing but the scratches gouged into the floor as it ran for its life.

Ryan closes his eyes and breathes as the dust settles, exhaustion aching in every limb as his wings fold along his back and eventually disappear. He sighs, and then nearly shrieks as arms wrap around his shoulders and pull him down into a warm chest.

“S’alright, babe,” Shane mumbles sleepily, his words slurring against the crown of Ryan’s head. “I gotcha. No ghosties are gonna bug ya while I’m around.”

Ryan smothers a laugh into the hollow of Shane’s throat, part relief and part exasperation, and curls into the warmth of Shane’s side. 

“Right back at ya, big guy,” he mumbles, and closes his eyes to sleep. 

Chapter Text

“It’s just not possible, bud,” Shane scoffs, sparing a moment to appreciate the utter strangeness of having this discussion over the dinner table. “No way, no how.”

Ryan swallows a bite of his burrito and raises an eyebrow. “Says who?”

“Says me. Wet, slippery tile plus wet, slippery us does not for a good time make.” Shane thinks for a second and amends this with, “Well, usually." 

Ryan barks a laugh, eyes scrunching up. "You’re ridiculous. Also a goddamn liar if you’re gonna try and tell me you’ve never thought about it.”

“Not nearly as often as you have, clearly,” Shane shoots back. He’s aware that he basically just confirmed Ryan’s suspicions that he has, maybe, possibly thought about it. He’s aware that Ryan’s aware, too. “What even brought this on? Tell me that, Ry. Was it the three hours of editing we just did or the Chipotle that got you frisky?”

“It was your goofy face, actually,” Ryan says, grinning sunnily. He doesn’t even have the decency to be a dick about it. Nope, Ryan’s being 100% genuine.

And Shane… can’t really handle that. He tries, tries to reach for some teasing remark to toss back at his boyfriend, but all that manages to come out of his mouth is, “Huh.”

Ryan wheezes, the sound of his laughter ringing through Shane’s apartment, and damn it, that doesn’t help at all. “Is that all you’ve got to say, big guy? You were being so mouthy before. You ready to fess up?”

Shane sputters. “Fess up to what? The only thing I’m admitting to is that you’re delusional if you think this’ll work." 

Ryan cups his chin in the palm of his hand, giving Shane a slow once-over that does not make his blood boil. Really. "Bet I could prove you wrong,” he says. “Bet I could blow your mind so completely that you’re begging me to keep at it by the end of the night.”

“Cocky,” Shane returns, reaching for annoyance and finding nothing but a well of flustered arousal at the sight of Ryan’s smug face. Goddamn it.

“Is that a ‘yes, Ryan, prove me wrong?’” Ryan asks, lips quirking. 

Fuck it. “Yes, Ryan, prove me wrong,” Shane repeats, as deadpan as possible.

Ryan’s grin stretches into a wide, blinding smile.

Half an hour later and Shane’s coming to regret his lackadaisical tone, considering the truly shameful noises falling out of his mouth and how goddamn smug Ryan’s gonna be at the end of all this. He can’t be fucked to care at the moment, however; he’s too busy slumping against the shower wall, one long leg hooked over Ryan’s hip as callused fingers plunge into him. Slick with lube - water-proof, Shane had noticed, and makes a point to bring it up later; yet another piece of evidence leading to the conclusion that Ryan’s had this particular scenario on his mind for a good long while - they slide in with little to no resistance, sheathed in slick heat and in no apparent hurry to do anything but drive Shane absolutely fucking crazy. Ryan’s spent way longer than he has to working him open, stroking his free hand along the length of Shane’s thigh and watching his face for any sign of discomfort. Water spills from the showerhead and speckles Ryan’s shoulders and chest with water droplets, plastering his dark hair to his forehead, and Shane allows his head to slump back against the tile, closing his eyes against the sight. Seeing Ryan all wet and focused on fingerfucking him to within an inch of his life is only going to send Shane crashing over the edge embarrassingly quickly, and he’s not about to give Ryan that satisfaction.

He hears Ryan’s huff of laughter, barely audible over the pounding water, and immediately bristles, a task made monumentally more difficult by his body’s willingness to go limp beneath Ryan’s searching fingers. “Yuck it up, Bergara,” he pants, clenching his thigh around Ryan’s hip at a particularly deep thrust. “You haven’t - fuck - haven’t proven anything yet.”

“Just makin’ sure you’re ready, big guy,” Ryan murmurs, and Shane can hear the smile in his voice.

Shane doesn’t whine, but it’s a near thing. “I was ready ten minutes ago,” he grumps, frustrated. Ryan’s fingers keep grazing his prostrate but never going beyond that and the teasing touch is quickly becoming too much to handle. “Just - fucking do it already.”

“If that’s what you want,” Ryan says, easing his fingers free. Shane groans quietly at the empty feeling that overtakes him, his hands slipping along the tile at his back as he catches his breath. A soft moan spills into the steamy air between them and he cracks open his eyes to see Ryan smearing lube down the length of his cock, lip caught between his teeth and dark eyes trained on Shane. 

Good lord, that’s a pretty sight. 

“Don’t you dare fucking drop me, Ryan,” he croaks, his heart pounding at the slow spread of Ryan’s smile and the heat of Ryan’s hands wrapping around his hips and squeezing.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, baby.” His hands drift along Shane’s outer thighs, curling into the warm, damp skin, and Shane’s breath hitches. “Just hold on to me, okay?”

As he reaches for Ryan’s shoulders, it’s on the tip of Shane’s tongue to make a snarky remark about Ryan holding on to him (”and not letting go, I swear to god, Ryan”) but the words die on his tongue as strong arms wrap around his thighs and yank.

“Jesus Christ!” Shane yelps, arms locking around Ryan’s neck and legs wrapping around Ryan’s waist as he’s pressed against the cool tile. He breathes out harshly as Ryan releases one thigh to work between them, guiding the head of his dick to Shane’s entrance and working it steadily inside. Aided by plenty of lube and the thorough fingering Ryan had subjected him to, Shane’s body accepts the new intrusion easily, hungrily, and his slow, tortuous slide down the length of Ryan’s cock makes them both groan. Ryan’s hands clench around his hips, kneading at Shane’s skin, his grip firm and unrelenting. There’ll be bruises tomorrow, Shane’s sure, a ring of them on each of his hips in the shape of Ryan’s fingertips, and just the thought makes his head spin. “Holy shit, Ry,” he breathes, tremors working down his spine as Ryan bottoms out and he’s finally, blessedly full, held aloft in the circle of Ryan’s arms and tucked securely against the shower wall. He can’t even be annoyed that all of his skepticism had been for naught, he just wants Ryan to do like he’d promised and fuck him.

And Ryan doesn’t disappoint; he never does, especially not when his pride’s on the line and he’s secure in the knowledge that he’s proving Shane wrong. Shane can feel the curve of his smile against his throat as Ryan fucks him against the shower wall, hard and fast and in direct contrast to how he’d eased Shane open, and Shane does as he’d been asked and just holds on, breathy, “ah, ah, ah"s punched from his throat with each snap of Ryan’s hips. There’s not a goddamn thing he can do but trust Ryan to hold him steady, and despite the slick walls and their height difference and the slippery wetness of their skin, he does, and at that point it’s easy to turn off his brain, to just enjoy the ride, sinking his fingers into Ryan’s wet hair and mouthing at the arch of his throat as they writhe against the wall and each other.

Shower sex is a marvelous thing, he thinks later, much later, when Ryan’s running a towel over his hair and grinning goofily up at him. Shane doesn’t have to say a thing - his thoughts are plastered all over his face, written in the blissed-out slant of his smile, and Ryan’s grin looks a lot like victory.

Shane lets him have it. This was one battle he was happy to lose.

Chapter Text

“We really shouldn’t be doing this here,” Shane pants, and he means it. This is a monumentally stupid move on their part, especially with their crew and coworkers in the same building. Someone’s bound to notice they’re missing; hell, they probably already have. It’s theirwrap party, after all. “Everyone’s gonna know what you dragged me away for.” It’ll be plastered all over their goddamn faces, their wild hair and kiss-swollen lips a dead fucking giveaway.

“Mmm,” Ryan hums distractedly, rolling his hips in a move so markedly unfair that Shane has to muffle a curse against the bend of his shoulder. “Don’t care.”

Shane huffs a strangled laugh, head falling back as Ryan rides him harder. They’d locked the door to Ghoul HQ but the sounds of their fucking are too loud and too obvious to pass for anything other than what they are. Ryan’s loud anyway, and being in a public space hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm or his vocal chords one bit. 

Despite his reservations, Shane can’t find it in himself to care that much. He’s been on edge for the past few hours anyway, ever since they changed into their new shirts and he’d seen his own name plastered over Ryan’s shoulders. The little thrill of possessiveness he’d felt at the sight hadn’t really shocked him, and neither had the warm flush of arousal settling in the pit of his belly. He just hadn’t expected Ryan’s reaction - he’d given Shane a lingering head-to-toe assessment that had ended with his lips tilting into a slow, secret smile, and the way he’d said, “You look good with my name on you, big guy,” in a low, teasing murmur had sent Shane’s blood rushing south so quickly he’d nearly gotten vertigo.

The party had been fun, the knowledge that they had another successful season of Unsolved under their belts making them both giddy and eager to celebrate, but always in the back of Shane’s mind was Ryan and that damn shirt. Peering into the crowd and catching flashes of his name stretched across those strong shoulders brought his mind to a screeching halt every time, so that by the time Ryan had approached him and asked if he wanted to get out of there, Shane had been more than ready to follow him.

He hadn’t expected to wind up in Ghoul HQ, both of them stripped from the waist down and balancing precariously in one of their chairs, Ryan sinking onto Shane’s cock like he was made for it, and yet, watching Ryan now, his thighs taut and trembling as he bounces in Shane’s lap, Shane can’t imagine anywhere else he’d rather be. 

And Ryan knows it. The soft, dark-eyed look he shoots over his shoulder at Shane proves as much, his lips tilted in a beatific smile as Shane moans appreciatively. This is Ryan’s show and Shane knows it, just as sure as he knows that he never could have waited until they were clustered away in one of their apartments to have this, Ryan snug and hot around him, his palms braced on the table while Shane helps to hold him steady with arms locked around his waist.

“Love the way this looks on you,” he murmurs, his words hoarse and breathless. He presses his lips to the bend of Ryan’s shoulder, feeling the heat of his skin even through the shirt, and stares at the arch of his name emblazoned across the back. “Fuck, never gonna get tired of it, seeing my name on you. Looks so fucking perfect, Ry, like it belongs there, where everyone can see it.” He’s babbling and he knows it but he can’t fucking help it; Ryan’s a hot vice around him, the slick grasp of his body sucking Shane in again and again, and he can’t think, he never can when they’re like this, there’s no room for thought or logic, only heat and breath and RyanRyanRyan. “S’that why you wanted us to wear ‘em? ‘Cause you wanted everyone to see? To look at you and know who you belong to?” He remembers Ryan’s face when they’d first put the shirts on and his breath hitches. “To look at me and know I’m all yours?”

Shane,” Ryan keens, reaching blindly over his shoulder to grab for him, stuffing his fingers in Shane’s hair and holding on tight. His other hand curls around the edge of the table, body trembling as he rockets toward orgasm. Shane reaches for his cock, bobbing full and red against his stomach, and Ryan’s guttural groan as Shane wraps his fingers around the leaking head is goddamn musical. This is the sort of magic he believes in, right here, Ryan desperate and wanting and clenching around him, his voice a low, fevered rasp in Shane’s ear. “Yeah, yes, fuck, want ‘em to see, want ‘em to know you’re mine, all mine, baby, please - ” 

It’s an awkward angle but that doesn’t stop Shane from catching Ryan’s mouth in a filthy kiss, his fist jerking down the length of Ryan’s cock, slick with pre-come and catching wetly on the swollen head. “C’mon, Ry,” he coaxes, tucking his nose against Ryan’s cheek, feeling him surge beneath his hand. They’re both close, he can feel it, can feel his own orgasm cresting and building at the base of his spine, spreading out to every limb, molten and heady and so fucking good. “Come on, wanna feel it, wanna make you cum.”

Ryan nearly sobs, his fingers going tight in Shane’s hair as his release crashes through him. His cock spurts over Shane’s fist, cum dripping down over Shane’s wrist, and Shane chokes out a moan at the tight, clenching heat around his dick, hips jerking as he spills inside Ryan.

“Fuuuuck,” Shane breathes hoarsely, trembling as the aftermath of his orgasm weaves through him, his shirt sticking to his back with sweat and his cock twitching weakly with every unconscious clench of Ryan’s muscles around him. 

Ryan laughs, a low rasp against Shane’s brow. He slumps against Shane’s chest with a sigh, apparently content to remain locked together for a little while longer, even thought they’re both disgusting, sweat-slick and desperately in need of a rub down before they can even hope to return to the party.

But Ryan is warm and pliant in his lap, so sated and self-satisfied that Shane’s gonna have to tease him for it later, and Shane would rather risk the inevitable discomfort of drying sweat and cum sticking to his skin than lose the comforting weight of his boyfriend nestled against him.

Fuck it, Shane thinks, squeezing Ryan’s middle and grinning tiredly at the soft wheeze of Ryan’s laughter. They can spare a few more minutes.

Chapter Text

Shane grumbles as he pats along the ground, squinting as if that’ll help him find his glasses faster. In the distance he can hear the nasal laughter of Randall and his cronies fading away, probably off to torment some old folks or kick puppies or whatever the hell it is that bullies get up to. 

It takes an embarrassingly long few moments and Shane feels his ears burn as he listens to the muffled whispers of other students passing him by, but he finally locates his clear-frame glasses and stuffs them onto his face. His bag lies in a heap on the ground and his books are scattered across the concrete - books he’d just checked out from the library. He’d stayed a little later than usual among the stacks so he could avoid this very situation, only to find Randall and his goons waiting for him as he’d left the building. 

He can still hear their jeers, pointed barbs tossed at everything from Shane’s height to his sweater to the books Randal had knocked from his hands, and he sighs. His life has seriously become an after-school special.

With his glasses firmly in place, he begins the annoying task of gathering up all of his books. He’d planned on pouring through them over the weekend, something he’d been looking forward to when he’d checked them out, and he tries not to let his encounter with Randall sour his earlier excitement. He slips each book carefully into his bag: one about a bear in the Polish army, another about a badass pirate queen, and one on 19th century whaling, enough of a range in topics that he’s sure not to get bored. He’s twisting around to search for the fourth and last book, one about cryptids that had caught his eye, when he stops short.

The book had skidded across the concrete when Randall had tossed it, and there’s a guy kneeling down to pick it up. Shane knows exactly who it is - even if he couldn’t see the guy’s face the beat up leather jacket would be a dead giveaway: Ryan Bergara, resident delinquent (well, if rumors were to be believed) and someone Shane really doesn’t want to fuck with.

He rises to his feet and tries not to let on how nervous he is as he approaches the guy. Ryan might be short (well, everyone is in comparison to Shane, especially after his latest growth spurt), but he’s built like a brick shithouse and Shane has seen him toss a punch that bloodied another dude’s nose back in freshman year. Ryan’s no bully, but he’s not exactly the kind of guy you introduce to your parents. Shane’s mom would take one look at his leather jacket and slicked back hair and think trouble.

“Hey, uh, could I - ?” Shane starts, gesturing to the book. Ryan turns dark eyes up to his, and the rest of Shane’s words kind of… dry up in his throat.

“You into Bigfoot?” Ryan asks, and it’s such a strange non-sequitur that for a moment Shane doesn’t know how the fuck to respond. Ryan’s lips twitch into a smile at whatever expression must be splashed across his face, and Shane’s surprised into silence again. Ryan’s got a nice smile. “The book, I meant,” Ryan continues, waving the book around. Shane finally notices the illustration of Bigfoot emblazoned across the cover and nearly face palms. 

“Oh, yeah. I mean, I guess? Just thought it’d be interesting to read up on him.”

Ryan nods as if this makes total sense, and then his expression turns grave. “Hey, I saw what happened with those dicks,” he says, and embarrassment settles thick and cloying in the pit of Shane’s stomach. Great. “Do you - I mean, I could walk you to your car, if you want? Make sure they don’t mess with you again.”

For the third time (or fourth? He’s starting to lose track), Shane feels as if he’s lost the thread of this conversation. Why the hell is Ryan Bergara offering to walk him anywhere? “Uh, I don’t - “

“Sorry, I don’t mean to like, insinuate that you can’t take care of yourself,” Ryan’s quick to interrupt, and Shane feels a bubble of pride pop in his chest. He’s generally a pretty timid, non-confrontational guy, and it’s kind of nice that someone like Ryan, who looks like he could take on the entire football team and win, thinks Shane has any hope of fighting anything and coming out victorious. “I just -  I fucking hate those assholes, you know? Thinkin’ they’re hot shit just ‘cause they can push people around and no one’s tried to stop ‘em.” 

You could, Shane thinks, and then repeats it out loud, because he’s that fucking lame. “I mean, you look like you could. Take them. In a fight. Or something. Shit.”

Ryan laughs, a full-bodied wheeze that lights up his whole face, his teeth bared in a wide smile. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, bud,” he says, and claps Shane on the shoulder. He has to reach up to do it, and Shane’s strangely tickled by the noticeable difference in their heights. He’s also kind of thrilled by it, for some reason that he refuses to examine too closely.

“Hey, if your offer’s still good - “ he starts, shrugging his shoulders as if it’s no big deal if Ryan walks with him or not.

Ryan’s eyes gleam like he knows exactly what Shane’s about. “Lead the way,” he says, and takes Shane’s bag before Shane can even think to protest.

It shouldn’t be a big deal, and it’s not, really, but it’s nice all the same, walking through the halls and out into the afternoon sunlight with Ryan beside him, embroiled in a conversation about Bigfoot that quickly shifts to the supernatural and then to ghosts, which inevitably leads to an even more spirited discussion when Ryan confesses he very much believes in all of that shit. 

Shane’s so focused on Ryan that he barely notices Randall and his friends loitering in the parking lot. He does catch the look of surprise on the other boy’s face as Randall sees exactly who Shane is walking with, and Shane knows it’s stupid, but he can’t help the smug little grin he levels at Randall over Ryan’s shoulder. It’s worth whatever torment is in store for him on Monday to see the red-faced anger on Randall’s face.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to Randall’s slack-jawed alarm a couple days later when Ryan steps between them in the hallway, eyes dark and fists clenched as he stares Randall down, and it’s nothing compared to Ryan’s smile after Randall and his cronies turn tail and run.

“My hero,” Shane breathes, and though he’s exaggerating, it’s not by much. 

Ryan shrugs, his shoulders rolling beneath his jacket, and though he’s trying to look nonplussed Shane can see the ruddy tinge to his olive cheeks. It’s pretty fucking adorable.

“How can I ever repay you?” Shane asks, because he’s insufferable and over the past few days he’s grown to enjoy teasing Ryan for everything from his belief in ghosts to his predilection for leather. 

Ryan shoots him a dark look, but then a smug, flirty smile stretches across his lips, and it’s Shane’s turn to go red. “How about a date, big guy?” he asks, the barest tremor in his voice betraying his nerves, and Shane melts.

“You’ve got yourself a deal, Bergara,” he chirps, tossing an arm over Ryan’s shoulder as they meander down the hall. They’re both late for class already, and Shane can hear his mom’s voice in his head chiming That boy is trouble, but as Ryan’s arm slips around his waist, warm against the small of his back, Shane can’t even be fucked to care. A little trouble never hurt anyone, anyway.

Chapter Text

Ryan’s in the midst of researching a possible location for the next season of Unsolved when hands slip over his eyes and a familiar voice chirps, “Guess who?”

Ryan slaps the hands away and turns in his chair, planning to to ask Shane how the video went, only to find himself looking up… and up… and up.

Holy shit.

“Holy shit,” he breathes.

Shane laughs, hands poised on his hips and allowing Ryan to look his fill. “I know, right? Think they had a good three inches or so.”

Ryan gulps. “Looks like it,” he says faintly, eyes trailing from the top of Shane’s head down to his feet, encased in pale heels that have definitely boosted his height into at least the 6′7″ range. Ryan feels completely dwarfed sitting in his chair, though he’s grateful not to be upright when a thought suddenly strikes him. “Are you, uh, keeping them?”

Shane studies his face for a moment before shrugging and plopping down into his own seat, as ungainly as a newborn giraffe. “Nah, just borrowin’ ‘em for a bit,” he says, jiggling his mouse and opening up his email. The quick, almost nervous dart of his eyes to Ryan’s face doesn’t go unnoticed. “I was thinking, though… Might get a pair of my own, sometime.”

“Oh?” Ryan says, and, after seeing Shane’s shoulders draw up defensively, adds, “That’s - that’s good. They look good. On you, I mean.”

Just like that, the tension leaks out of Shane’s shoulders, his lips tilting into a smile. “You think so?”

“Yep,” Ryan answers, instilling as much sincerity as he can into the word. He glances around the office, notices that no one is paying attention to them, and leans in to murmur, “Really fucking good, babe. Seriously.”

Shane’s smile stretches into an impish grin, but despite its teasing edge there’s no denying how pleased he is. “Oh, so this is a thing for you. Is that it? Huh, Bergara?” He bats his lashes, which looks ridiculous, and then he crosses his legs, which does not. Ryan swallows hard. “Is it the heels or the height that’s doin’ it for ya?”

It’s the whole goddamn package, he thinks desperately, and then clears his throat as he feels a tell-tale warmth pool in his cheeks. “Shut up, Shane,” he murmurs without heat, and ignores the way his lips twitch at Shane’s answering laughter.




A week later Ryan’s kneeling in his closet and pulling out a box hidden beneath a pile of old jerseys with his heart in his throat. He doesn’t know why he’s so fucking nervous. Shane had said he’d wanted a pair of heels of his own, after all, and Ryan had enlisted the help of his coworkers who knew much more about them than he ever could to find the pair that would suit Shane best. Even looking at them inside the box had made Ryan flush, knowing how good they’d look on Shane, how fucking pretty they’d be when matched with his long legs and pale skin.

There’s no guarantee that Shane will like them, though. He might have been kidding after all when he’d said he wanted to buy some, though the look on his face and his nervousness about Ryan’s reaction had seemed genuine enough. Ryan just doesn’t want to mess this up. 

“You get lost or somethin’?” he hears, and nearly jumps as he shoots to his feet, the box cradled in his arms. 

“I’m coming!” he calls, and, after a few slightly unsteady breaths, heads back into the living room. 

Shane’s sprawled on the couch, a full bowl of popcorn on the coffee table and a Netflix film waiting to play on the television screen. Ryan had planned to wait until after their movie to give Shane his gift, but one look at Shane’s face had weakened his resolve and sent him nearly tripping into his bedroom. 

He’s regretting that decision now, not knowing how Shane will react, but there’s nothing to be done for it but to get it over with. Ryan plops the box in Shane’s lap and all but collapses on the couch beside him, waving his hand at the package when Shane gives him a questioning look.

“They’re for you. You said - you said you wanted some?” Understanding lights up Shane’s face, along with some emotion Ryan can’t identify. He waits nervously as Shane eases off the lid, his pulse thundering in his ears as Shane brushes aside the protective tissue to reveal the box’s contents - a pair of heels the color of burnished gold, three inches and admittedly gorgeous, even to Ryan’s untrained eye. “I didn’t know what color you’d like,” he continues, well aware that he’s about to start babbling and unable to do a goddamn thing about it. “I have the receipt if you want to return them, or get a different pair, or whatever, it’s fine - “

“Ryan,” Shane interrupts, and fuck, the look on his face - it’s the same soft-eyed, searching look he gives Ryan in bed, when they’re wrapped around each other and dropping off to sleep. Ryan’s weak for that look. “Will you help me put ‘em on?”

“Y-yeah, sure.” Ryan takes the box and tries not to shiver as Shane’s bare feet settle in his lap. You’d think he was about to tango with a ghost, the way his hands are shaking, and he’s suddenly glad that he hadn’t gone for any of the heels with straps, knowing he’d be too keyed up to work them right. He slips on one shoe, satisfaction tingling in his stomach as Shane’s foot sinks right into it, the fit absolutely perfect. “How does it feel?”

“Like Cinderella,” Shane grins, though it’s a little wobbly at the edges. “Perfect fit and all.”

“Yeah,” Ryan breathes, and slips on the second shoe. His hands curl around Shane’s ankles as he admires them, how the soft golden color compliments Shane’s pale skin, how the curves of the shoe and the three-inch heel draws your eye again and again to the ball of Shane’s ankle, up along his shin and over his knee. His legs look even longer now, if that’s possible, and Ryan’s cock twitches in his briefs. God, that’s typical.

“C’mon,” Shane urges, swinging his legs off the couch and reaching for Ryan. “Let’s give these babies a test drive!” He pulls Ryan up, the both of them turning to face each other, and Ryan’s dick goes from soft to half-mast the moment he realizes he has to crane his neck to get a good look at Shane’s face. “Well?” Shane asks, twisting in a slow circle. He wobbles a bit, but after a few moments is able to steady himself and stand tall, hands posed at his hips. “What’s the verdict, babe?”

Ryan could say a lot of things. He could say that the heels look amazing, that they’re goddamn fantastic when matched with Shane’s coloring and long limbs. He could say that Shane looks fucking gorgeous, pretty and fierce in his jean jacket and skinny jeans. Ryan could even say that all he wants in that moment is to strip Shane down of everything save those heels and eat him out ‘til he’s sobbing and begging Ryan to stuff him full.

But in the end, Ryan can’t say anything at all. He can only reach up - and up - to wrap his fingers in Shane’s collar, and pull him down into a deep, searching kiss, lips soft and pliant against each other’s. Shane sinks into him immediately, a low, happy groan rumbling against Ryan’s mouth as they kiss, and Ryan shudders as long fingers curl around his throat and drift teasingly along the nape of his neck. 

It’s only after they ease off that the words come to him. “You think you could dance in those things?” he asks, breathless already, and Shane ducks down to kiss him again, a series of soft, chaste pecks that make them both grin. 

“Only one way to find out, hot stuff!” 

They spend the rest of the night twirling around Ryan’s living room to the music pouring from one of their phones, alternating between spinning each other around and wheezing when one of them stumbles, to swaying together with Ryan’s head pillowed on Shane’s chest and Shane’s chin resting on the top of Ryan’s head. Shane never says thank you or I love you, but he doesn’t have to. It’s all there in the way he kisses Ryan, in the way he drags him into the circle of his arms as they dance, in the way he squeezes Ryan close after they finally draw to a stop.

And later, when he’s got Shane stretched out across his bed, heels digging into Ryan’s shoulders as Ryan eases him open with his tongue, Ryan echoes the words with every soft lick and each touch of grasping fingers, and judging by his boyfriend’s increasingly desperate moans, Shane hears him loud and clear.

Chapter Text

They decide to take a break in the late afternoon, after a thin sheen of rain begins falling and spotting their lenses with drops of water. TJ and Mark head back into town in search of dinner, but Shane opts out of joining them - he doesn’t think he’ll need to eat for the rest of the trip after devouring that massive Bigfoot sandwich, and Ryan seems to agree, judging by the slightly green tinge to his skin at the mention of food.

“I’ll explode if I try to pack anything else in here, dude,” he says, grimacing and patting his stomach. “I’m cool to hang out here for awhile, if you want? The rain’s not supposed to last long.”

“Sounds good to me,” Shane chirps, hopping up onto a fallen log. “Might have a better chance of catching a Foot if there’s less of us around,” he adds with a wink, grinning as Ryan heaves himself up onto the log beside him. They stow their body cameras in Ryan’s bag to save them from the light rain, and Shane’s eyes light up as Ryan pulls out another can of beer.

“Ooh, gimme - “ he starts, only for Ryan to hold the can out of reach - barely, those arms of his may be stacked but they’ve got nothing on Shane in terms of length.

“You’ve already had two - “

“Bigfoot was letting the other go to waste!” 

“ - and I’m not about to carry your ass out of here. Lightweight.” The latter is said with such utmost affection that Shane can’t even bother to be annoyed at the smirk on Ryan’s face. 

Still, he scoffs. “Please. We’re both adults here, Ryan. You don’t have to pretend like that’s not one of your secret fantasies.”

Ryan wheezes. “One of my - ? What the fuck, Shane?”

“C’mon. Getting me wasted out in the middle of some cryptid-infested woods, far away from civilization where you can take advantage of me at your leisure.” He takes on an affronted look, turning his nose up in the air. “As if I’d be so easy.”

Ryan can barely answer him for the laughter shaking his frame, spilling loud and breathy into the forest air. Shane’s lips twitch of their own accord at the sound of it.

“You’re delusional, buddy,” Ryan snickers, reaching into his bag and bringing out another beer. He tosses it to Shane with a smirk. “But here, knock yourself out.”

Shane pops the tab with a knowing sigh. “See, what’d I tell ya? I’m onto your dastardly schemes, Bergara. You won’t be foolin’ me.”

Ryan takes another swallow of beer in lieu of answering him, but Shane doesn’t miss how he settles a little closer, the curve of his shoulder tucked against Shane’s.

It’s nice, just the two of them. They don’t get a lot of alone time out on location, and considering no one at work knows about them yet, any sort of PDA is usually restricted to their hotel room. The lack of other people - barring a surprise visit from one Mr. Foot, of course - and the warmth of the alcohol swimming lazily through his veins gives Shane all the push he needs to indulge a little.   

“I knew it,” Ryan gloats as Shane tosses an arm around his shoulder. “You’re buzzed already, aren’t you, big guy?”

“If I say yes, will you take advantage of me?” Shane asks, fluttering his lashes and leaning heavily against Ryan’s side. He even purses his lips for good measure, knowing he looks ridiculous and not giving a single shit.

He expects Ryan to laugh; the soft-eyed, hungry look he gets instead sends more warmth flooding through his veins than alcohol ever could. “Would you want me to?” Ryan asks, his voice low. His hair is damp from rain and plastered to his forehead, flattened from that ridiculous helmet, and Shane still thinks he’s the prettiest damn thing he’s ever set eyes on. He’d be annoyed if he didn’t love the guy so much.

“What do you think?” Shane breathes, curling his hand around Ryan’s nape and pulling him in. He can taste the beer on Ryan’s breath, can smell faint traces of his body wash mixed with the scent of earth and rain, and his eyes slip closed as he loses himself in the kiss, a soft, wanting sound spilling between them that Ryan echoes with a sigh of his own. 

Despite the slight chill in the air from the misting rain, he’s warm beneath Shane’s hands - he always is, all that California sunshine making him run hot, and Shane loves it, loves to twine his arms around Ryan’s waist or spread his fingers along the span of Ryan’s back to soak up all of that warmth, and the thought of doing both later in their room has him surging forward, deepening the kiss with a soft, happy hum.

Ryan’s arms wrap around his shoulders, strong fingers spearing through his hair and dislodging his beanie. It’s going to be impossible to hide what they’ve been doing if they keep at it much longer - their hair they can hide, but their kiss-swollen lips, not so much. 

Fuck it, Shane thinks, and drags Ryan closer. Maybe it’s their surroundings, maybe it’s the possibility of a cryptid in their midst. Hell, maybe he’s just ready to stop hiding. Either way, he’s in the mood to take some risks, and here, tangled up with Ryan, damp with rain in some forest far from home, is as good a place as any to start. 

Chapter Text

“Maybe we should call Rie… ”

“Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of this being a surprise?”

“The only surprise here is that there’s an inch of countertop left that you haven’t managed to cover in gunk.”

Ryan shoots him a pissy look. “Do you want to stir this?” he asks, gesturing to the bowl of cupcake batter in his arms.

“No, no,” Shane returns, raising his hands in surrender. “You look like you’ve got it covered.” Besides, he’d like to avoid getting any more shit on his clothes; Ryan had commandeered the only apron in his apartment and Shane had vastly underestimated how messy their little baking venture would turn out to be. He can’t complain too much about it, though - Ryan looks pretty cute in his little checkered apron, something Shane’s mom had given him ages ago in the vain hope that he would learn to cook for himself. Plus Ryan’s wearing short sleeves and his biceps look… incredibly distracting when he stirs.

“Shane, stop ogling and check the oven.” 

Shane opens up his mouth to protest… and then snaps it shut when he realizes it’ll just brand him a liar. Besides, Ryan’s lips are quirked in a smile and it doesn’t escape Shane’s notice that he stirs the batter a little more vigorously than he needs to. 

Show-off, Shane thinks fondly, ducking down to check the cupcake tin nestled in the oven. He squints at the pillowy tops of twelve… somewhat identical cupcakes, slipping on an oven mitt and carefully maneuvering them out onto the stove top to cool.

“Huh,” he says, hands on his hips as he surveys the batch. They look… okay? Surprisingly so, considering they were the ones to make them. From scratch, even! Ryan’s idea, naturally. It’ll mean more that way, or something, he’d said, a nervous flicker to his eyes, like they were about to face down a house full of ghosts rather than some soccer mom’s “Famous Red-Velvet Cupcake recipe!” 

“So, what’s the verdict?” Ryan asks, leaning against Shane’s shoulder and peering down at their creation. He smells like sugar and vanilla with a subtle hint of sweat (baking is grueling work, especially when you botch two batches and are staring down the barrel of a dwindling sugar supply), and it’s strangely appealing. “Hey, they look alright! We might actually have pulled this off, big guy.”

“Third time’s the charm,” Shane agrees, poking at one of the cupcakes. Feels soft enough (unlike batch #2), and doesn’t smell burnt (unlike batch #1). They might actually have figured this shit out.

An hour later they have forty plus lusciously red cupcakes lined up on the counter, which has - mostly - been cleared of the mess splattered across its surface, the result of some over-excited stirring and a fumbled cup or two or five of flour and sugar. 

They start at opposite ends, each of them armed with a piping bag liberally filled with creme cheese frosting, also made from scratch because they’re just that badass. Shane’s three cupcakes deep when he realizes no two are gonna look the same and two more down the line before he stops giving a shit. His legs ache from being on his feet for hours and he’s pretty sure he has a glob of batter drying on the back of his neck, so he’s cool if the showmanship suffers a bit if it means he gets to hop in the shower sooner.

He sneaks a peek at Ryan and has to bite his lip to keep from laughing. He usually only sees that serious a look on Ryan’s face when he’s at his desk, neck deep in some difficult editing, brows furrowed and eyes narrowed as he carefully squeezes frosting from the bag. His tongue’s even poking out of his mouth, and it’s -

Well, it’s fucking adorable, actually. Shane automatically reaches into his back pocket and pulls out his phone, thumbing open the camera and hitting ‘record.’

“You wanna tell the boys and ghouls at home what you’re doing, Ryan?” he asks, sticking his tongue out as Ryan glances up at him, sees he’s being filmed, and immediately flips Shane off. 

“I’m making the best goddamn cupcakes the world has ever seen,” he says, squeezing another dollop of frosting from the bag. “Well,” he falters, shooting a grin at the camera. “The best the world has ever seen from me specifically. I don’t know about you, though.” He nods his head towards Shane’s side of the miniature cupcake army they’ve constructed. 

“Hey,” Shane chortles. “What’s wrong with my cupcakes?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing,” Ryan returns, in a tone of voice that suggests otherwise. “They’re not the prettiest bunch around, is all I’m sayin’.”

Shane gasps, deliberately loud so that it’ll be heard on camera. “I take offense to that, good sir! Besides, it’s not always about looks, y’know. They might be a little messy on the outside, but they’re soft and gooey and perfectly delicious on the inside. Hey, just like me!”

Ryan wheezes. “Are you - are you saying you look rough but you taste great? Is that where we’re at right now, Shane?”

“You got it, baby!” Shane chirps, and winks for good measure. 

Ryan shakes his head, lips tilted into a smile that Shane doesn’t think is meant for the cupcakes. “Nah, you’re just as pretty on the outside, big guy. Trust me.”

For a moment, Shane gapes, before he feels his lips curl into a grin. What the fuck, he’s downright touched. “You smooth motherfucker,” he breathes, putting his phone away and approaching his boyfriend. He slips his arms around Ryan’s waist, beneath the apron so he can feel the warmth of his skin through the thin comfy tee he’s wearing, and tucks his chin over Ryan’s shoulder.

“Are you blushing?” Ryan asks knowingly, a thread of laughter in his voice. 

“Hush up and finish your cupcakes, Bergara,” Shane mumbles, neither confirming nor denying, though the heat in his cheeks is a dead giveaway. 

Ryan’s laughter rumbles against his chest and Shane closes his eyes, content to settle there and wait for him to finish. There’s at least another half-hour of cleanup and packing away the cupcakes ahead of them, but he can’t really complain. He’s happy right where he is. 

Chapter Text

He can feel it happening, the way his tongue trips up as he speaks. It used to happen a lot as a kid, used to be so fucking noticeable, to the point where he’d clam up just to save himself the embarrassment. A few years of speech therapy helped to train it out of him, but there are still moments where it comes back, moments where he’s too excited about something, trying to say too much at once, and it happens - his tongue slips, his words stumble, and he hears it. That damn lisp.

He shuts his mouth. It’s stupid, because he could have just kept going and Ryan probably wouldn’t have noticed, but it’s an instinctual response, even after all these years. It’s so much easier to keep quiet than to risk being the brunt of mockery.

Not that Ryan would ever do such a thing, and Shane knows that. Doesn’t stop the embarrassed flush from stealing over his cheeks, or the way he’s careful to speak as little and as carefully as possible as he says, “Sorry. Got a little - “ He waves his hand, coughing to dispel the sudden lump in his throat. Goddamn it, he feels like a kid again.

Ryan shifts against his side, not to move away but to tilt his head against Shane’s shoulder, his hair tickling Shane’s cheek. “You don’t have to stop,” he says, and Shane can feel his eyes on his face but can’t bring himself to meet them. “C’mon, big guy, keep talkin’.”

Shane shakes his head, resisting the urge to fidget. “You’ve heard it all before,” he mumbles.

“So?” Ryan settles more fully against his side, fingers curling loosely in the hem of Shane’s sweater. The movie they’d decided on earlier in the night plays on in the background, muted. “They danced to death, dude; that’s a subject that never gets old. Besides, I want to hear all of your ideas for the episode.”

“It’s not that interesting, Ry,” Shane tries, even though his excited rambling earlier - about his research notes and possible costumes and props - indicates otherwise. 

He hears Ryan huff before there are fingers turning his chin, and there’s Ryan, eyes soft and dark behind his glasses and a no-nonsense look on his face. 

“It’s cute,” he says.

“Uh, what is?” Shane asks, confused. “The Dancing Plague? Ryan, that’s just morbid.”

Ryan wheezes. “No, you idiot - Fucking. Your lisp. Your lisp is cute, okay?”

Shane gapes, because fuck, he’d never thought that Ryan had even noticed, and he can feel the embarrassment looming, thick and hot in his chest, until -

“Wait. You think it’s cute?” 

Ryan grins, a flash of brightness in the darkness of the living room. “Yeah, cute. You got a problem with that?”

Shane actually has to think about it. Funny he’s heard before. Weird, tooNever cute. “I… don’t know,” he finally settles, voice lilted as though he were asking a question.

Ryan hums, seemingly satisfied by Shane’s non-answer. “Well, you think about it and let me know, big guy,” he says, leaning up to brush his lips against Shane’s cheek before settling back against his shoulder. “Now, tell me more about the episode.”

And okay, Shane knows it’s going to happen again. He’ll start back in about how he’s planning to work the script, and what props he’s thinking of using, and how soon they can start filming, and then he’ll start rambling and getting too excited and he’ll forget to watch his tongue placement and then he’ll lisp again.

And then… Well, and then Ryan will give him that gooey besotted look he swears he’s never given Shane a day in his life, the one that Shane teases him for but not-so-secretly loves, because Ryan thinks his lisp is cute, because Ryan apparently wants to hear Shane talk his ear off about a bunch of people in France who danced themselves to death for the thousandth time, and hey, who is Shane to deny him that?

“Well, as I was saying… “

Chapter Text

“Lemme see ‘em again.”

“Ryan,” Shane says, exasperated. Ryan gives him a Look and he sighs, opening his mouth for the third time in as many minutes and allowing his fangs to elongate. Ryan’s breath catches audibly and Shane clamps his lips shut, his face heating. “There. Satisfied?”

Ryan snorts. “Not really.” He leans back on his hands, peering at Shane over the few feet of space separating their beds. “Were you ever gonna tell me?”

“… Eventually.” It’s the truth. He would have told Ryan sooner or later; he’s always wanted to. Just not like this, with the hunger pulling at him, aching in his gums and in his belly because he’s been neglecting it for too long. He’d tried to ignore it, to focus on other things like their shoot tomorrow, but it had been no use. He was so goddamn thirsty, and in his haste to sneak out of the hotel to take care of it he had banged his shin into the bedframe and woken Ryan with his frustrated cursing.

And now here they were, Shane’s greatest secret laid bare between them, because at this point he was too frustrated, too thirsty, to care about hiding.

“Where were you gonna go?” Ryan asks him, deliberately casual. “Who were you gonna – you know?”

“There are… people,” Shane hedges, choosing his words carefully. Ryan hasn’t freaked out yet but it’s only a matter of time, surely. “People who know about – folks like me, and, uh, help out. For a fee.”

Ryan’s mouth opens and closes a few times before he goes, “Ah. That’s, uh, convenient. Also, gotta admit? Shifty as fuck.”

Shane laughs, a short, startled burst of sound. “It’s not like I’m haggling for blood in a back alley, Ryan. It’s a service. They don’t just pull people in off the street all willy nilly.”

He’s hoping for a laugh or a smile or something, but all Ryan does is chew on his lower lip, a contemplative frown on his face. Uh oh, that’s never good.

Shane’s already bracing himself for a Terrible Idea before Ryan even opens his mouth, and not a moment too soon, because the words, “You can take it from me,” would have knocked him to the floor otherwise.

“Nope.” The response is automatic and a little too loud for the late hour, but whatever. Shane’s allowed.

Ryan’s face scrunches up. “What do you mean no? I’m right here, I’m offering. What’s the issue?”

The issue is that it’s you, Shane thinks but doesn’t say. He has a feeling that wouldn’t go over well with Ryan. “Look, it can be… a lot, for someone who’s never been fed on before. It’s just easier to go to someone who knows what to expect.”

“Why don’t you just tell me what to expect, then?” Ryan asks, a tad testily, and Shane falters, squinting at his friend.

“Are you – are you seriously upset, right now?”

“I’m not upset, I’m annoyed,” Ryan insists, though if there’s any difference to be made between the two, Shane can’t see it. “Stop being a stubborn ass, dude. Just take what you need from me.”

Shane’s half-tempted to go through with it just to get Ryan to stop talking. “You can’t just say shit like that, man,” he says, strangled. His stomach is a barren wasteland and the ache of his hunger is sharp, painful. Ryan’s words are a balm to his fraying nerves, and that makes them dangerous. Shane needs to leave.

Ryan huffs. Bedsprings creak and before Shane can protest Ryan’s there on his bed, perched on the edge and staring him down with the sort of fierce determination that Ryan is infamous for when they’re on location. “Shane, I’m giving you permission to – to feed from me. I’m telling you it’s okay, so c’mon. You… really look like you need it, man.”

Now who’s being a stubborn ass? Shane thinks, a little hysterically. Ryan’s too close; Shane can hear his heartbeat, steady and strong. He can hear the hot rush of blood through Ryan’s veins, smell the soap and aftershave he’d used earlier. “It’ll hurt,” he says, a last ditch effort to save Ryan from this, to save himself. “It’ll leave a mark, it’ll leave you weak. We have to shoot tomorrow, Ryan, you can’t – “

“I don’t care,” Ryan says firmly, like none of that matters. “I’ll borrow concealer from Devon, I’ll guzzle orange juice, I’ll eat a goddamn cookie. For fuck’s sake, Shane, what do you want me to do, beg?”

No, Shane wants to say. He wants to say a lot of things. Smart things, logical things. He wants to tell Ryan to forget about it, he wants to say that he’ll be fine if he can just leave for an hour and get this taken care of, but none of that comes out of his mouth, because he’s tired and he’s unguarded and he’s so fucking thirsty. “Alright,” he croaks, and hates himself for it. “Fuck, Ryan. Alright.”

He hears Ryan’s heartbeat stutter before it kicks up in speed, but it’s not fear that’s making it race. Shane knows Ryan’s fear, but this - this is new. This is excitement, and okay, that’s not new, sometimes people are into being fed on and Shane gets that, it’s kind of an intimate experience, whatever. It’s nothing to get into a tizzy over.

But this is Ryan, not some stranger that Shane’s never going to see again, and he can’t stop his hands from fucking shaking as Ryan scoots closer, until he’s sitting cross-legged in front of Shane, waiting, patient, like he’s got all the time in the world.

“Why are you not afraid?” It almost comes out as a whine and Ryan laughs, shrugging his shoulders.

“I can pretend to be?” he offers through a toothy grin. “If that’ll make you feel better.”

There’s only one thing that will make Shane feel better now and they both know it. “It really won’t,” he says, and his voice wobbles around the words as the thirst gnaws at his belly, aching in his throat and in his gums.

“Hey. Hey, c’mon, bud, it’s okay.” Ryan reaches for him, curling his hand around the nape of Shane’s neck and pulling him close. Shane goes willingly, struck dumb by the touch and by the relief of finding his mouth guided to the arch of a warm throat, blood rising thick and hot to the surface. He makes a sound, a whimper or a moan, something weak and pathetic, and Ryan shushes him, squeezes the nape of his neck and urges him to, “Go on, Shane. It’s okay, I promise.”

Shane’s last shred of resistance crumbles in the wake of Ryan’s soft reassurance, and with a broken sigh he parts his lips, fangs elongating and then sinking, smooth as silk, into the warm skin of Ryan’s throat.

Ryan twitches beneath him, his soft gasp rending the air, and Shane holds himself very still, even as the first gush of blood over his tongue threatens to make his eyes roll back in pure, toe-curling bliss.

He holds himself still, at least, until Ryan’s fingers sink into his hair, not pulling him away but pushing him closer in tacit permission, and that’s it, Shane’s gone, eyes falling closed as he surrenders to the blissful sensation of blood filtering through his teeth, sliding thick and rich and hot over his tongue and down his throat. Heat blooms in his cheeks and chest and belly as he drinks, soaking into his skin and bones. Ryan is plaint against him and so fucking warm, fingers twisting in Shane’s hair and his heart thumpthumpthumping in Shane’s ears.

Shane’s usually quiet as he feeds, preferring to keep it as impersonal and businesslike as possible, yet he can hear his own hums of pleasure and soft, throaty groans filling the room as he drinks and there’s nothing he can do to stop them.

Shane,” Ryan gasps, and Shane tries to pull away, thinking Ryan’s had enough – he’s taken all he needs, anyway, every inch of him flushed and warm from Ryan’s blood – but Ryan’s fingers hold him tight, keeping him tucked against Ryan’s throat.

“Ryan?” he rasps. “You okay?”

Ryan nods jerkily against him, his eyes clenched shut and his breaths coming fast and heavy. His heart is racing and his cheeks are flushed, and a quick glance down at the bulge in his sleep pants confirms Shane’s suspicions that it’s not distress or pain or fear causing him to react so viscerally – it’s arousal.

“Ryan,” he breathes, thumbing away the drops of blood clinging to Ryan’s throat. There’s wonder in his voice, much as he tries to hide it, and he’s sure Ryan must hear it.

Ryan’s lips twitch, like he’s trying not to smile or grimace or both, and his eyes, when they crack open, are nearly black with want. “Sorry – “ he starts, but Shane shakes his head, interrupting him.

“Don’t be,” he says. “It happens sometimes. Doesn’t mean anything.”

Ryan shakes his head, fingers shifting restlessly through Shane’s hair. “It’s not because of – that.” He huffs and amends, “Not justbecause of that. Uh. I’m kind of… into you? In a big fucking way?”

All of the blood Shane just consumed comes rushing to his face, his eyes wide as he eases away from Ryan’s neck, just enough to stare incredulously at him. “You – you are?”

Ryan nods, his face and neck flushed a ruddy pink. “Mm hm. Uh. Surprise?”

Shane’s lips twitch. “I’ll say,” he says, laughter in his voice, though he sobers quickly at the guarded look on Ryan’s face. “That’s – that’s a good surprise, Ry. Really.”

“Yeah?” The hopeful lilt to Ryan’s voice does absolutely terrible things to Shane’s heart.

“Yeah,” he says, dropping back to Ryan’s neck with a sigh. “You do know there are easier ways to ask me out, though, don’t you? You didn’t have to give me your blood, Ryan.”

Ryan’s laugh rumbles against Shane’s chest where they’re pressed together. “It worked, didn’t it?” he asks, pushing his fingers through Shane’s hair, and well, he’s not wrong.

“Dinner will work just as well, next time,” Shane mumbles, sleepy and satisfied, his chin tucked into Ryan’s collarbone and nose pressed to his throat.

“I’ll keep that in mind, big guy,” Ryan tells him, voice rumbling against Shane’s brow. The relief in his voice serves as a balm as much as his blood did, and Shane falls silent as he listens to it, loose-limbed and full and finally, desperately content.

Chapter Text

Shane whistles as he walks down the street, a skip in his step that would absolutely get him heckled were he back home. Well, heckled behind his back, anyway – no one dares to do it to his face, not unless they want to risk dear old Pops hearing about it. It’s pretty annoying, to be honest. The novelty of being feared and envied by the other denizens of the underworld had worn off centuries ago, to the point where Shane tends to chafe if he spends too long back home. Earth is a welcome reprieve, not only because no one knows who he is here, but because, at least for a while, Shane can forget too.

Of course, those aren’t the only reasons he takes the trip up, not anymore, and Shane has to bite his lip hard to suppress a wide, wide grin. He may not be recognized as the Prince of Hell up here, but he still has a reputation to uphold, and if any of his fellow demons stationed up top saw him like this, bright-eyed and nearly skipping down the goddamn street, he’d never live it down.

Not that he gives a single shit what his fellows think about him, or what they’d have to say if they ever found out about his little secret. Not even his Pops’ inevitable anger or disappointment is enough to sour his mood as he rounds the corner and spots a familiar building up ahead, and it’s with a renewed kick in his step that Shane approaches the nondescript apartment complex, distinguishable from the others stacked along the block only by its crumbling and bedraggled appearance. He doesn’t bother with the front door – it had been boarded up ages ago, a condemned notice put in place to ward away any curious humans, and Shane ducks into the alley and around to the back where he can safely unfurl his wings and take to the air, scaling the building in seconds.

He’s the last to arrive, as he expected, and he stumbles a bit as he drops to the rooftop, his legs already moving before his wings have even finished settling.

“I was wondering when you’d show up,” his companion chirps, mock-annoyance on his handsome face and hands poised on his hips. “Fashionably late as always, huh, your Majesty?”

Shane doesn’t even falter at the teasing moniker, just lunges forward the last few steps and wraps his arms around Ryan’s shoulders, squeezing him to his chest.

Ryan wheezes against him, his wings flaring out behind him in swaths of brilliant gold. “Careful there, big guy,” he laughs, strong arms slipping around Shane’s waist and wings wrapping around him, all six of them stretching out wide and blocking the night sky from Shane’s view. They’re bigger than Shane’s, bright where his are ashen and radiating with warm, heavenly light. Shane loves them, loves their warmth, loves the contrast of Ryan’s golden feathers entwined with his gray, but above all else he loves the shiver that courses through Ryan’s frame when he stuffs his hands beneath them, long fingers stroking along the broad span of Ryan’s back. “If I didn’t know any better,” Ryan muses against his ear, his voice grown soft and dulcet, “I’d say you missed me or somethin’.”

Shane scoffs, though the wide smile on his face betrays him, always. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he mumbles, rubbing his scruffy cheek against Ryan’s smooth one and thrilling in the giggle his action elicits. “I saw an angel all alone and unguarded and decided it was my chance to strike. Look, you’re so terrified you’re trembling!”

Ryan quakes against him, his laughter spilling into the space between them. This close, Shane could swear he feels it rumbling in his own chest, filling his body with warmth and light the likes of which he’s never felt and never knew he could feel. It’s a saccharine thought, the kind of sickly sweet nonsense he’s heard humans spout and always scoffed at, but it’s also the truth. He’s met dozens upon dozens of angels in his long lifetime and not cared for a single one, and yet here he is wrapped in the arms of one that he’d move heaven and earth for – heaven and earth and all the vast realms in-between.

A couple of decades ago a thought like that would have made him want to chew his own arm off, but now all it does is lend a flush to his cheek and a softness to his grip as he soaks in Ryan’s warmth beneath his palms.

Ryan pulls back to look at him, mirth lending a bright sheen to his dark, dark eyes. Shane’s lips twitch at the tinge of red on his cheeks left behind by his scruff, and he lifts a hand to Ryan’s jaw, his earlier excitement easing into a soft contentment as Ryan tilts his head into the caress.

“How long do we have?” Ryan asks quietly, closing his eyes as Shane’s fingers drift along the curve of his cheek, his thumb stroking over the bow of Ryan’s lower lip.

“A few weeks,” Shane answers, tucking his brow against Ryan’s, drinking in the plains and shadows of his face, the fall of dark lashes over his cheek, his parted lips, plush and soft and catching on Shane’s thumb. “Maybe a month if we’re lucky. Steven and Andrew will cover for me.” He’d left them gorging themselves on gold-leafed delicacies in some fancy human boutique uptown, and feels something like fondness swell in his chest as he remembers them waving him away with matching grins and promises to keep the old man in the dark about his whereabouts.

Ryan hums. “A few weeks, huh?” he asks, and Shane’s breath hitches as the strong arms wrapped around his waist squeeze him in closer, barely a sliver of light allowed to pierce the space between their bodies. “Any ideas on how we should spend that time?” His tone is rough and teasing, tinged with a hint of desperation that Shane can feel thrumming through his own veins. It really has been too long since they’ve managed to steal away to this place.

The next few minutes, hours, days, spread out far and wide before them, rife with possibility. They can dive headfirst into the crowded streets of Los Angeles, their glamours allowing them to meld with the teeming mass of humans, enjoying all that the world has to offer. They can take to the night skies and fly as one again, Ryan’s wings a blazing corona above Shane’s head as they dip and weave through the stars together. They can hide away in the top-floor apartment, the space they’ve claimed as their own and filled with all the comforts they’ve come to adore on Earth, where they can lose themselves in each other away from the prying eyes of Heaven and Hell.

“Oh, I’ve got a few,” Shane says, and dips his head to indulge in his favorite, the one that’s been plaguing him since he set foot up top a few short hours ago, knowing that Ryan was waiting for him.

Ryan’s smiling lips part beneath his, ready and sure as he surges up to meet Shane’s kiss, soft despite their desperation and carrying with it the promise of more – more, and soon, and always.

Chapter Text

They’re on their way back to the hotel when Shane decides to bite the bullet and finally address something that’s been on his mind for a while.

“So,” he says, deliberately casual. “That was nice.”

Ryan snorts, shooting him an incredulous glance. “You consider almost getting murked by a pack of coyotes a nice time, do ya, big guy?”

Shane barks a laugh. “What - ? That’s not even - Ryan, we were perfectly safe the entire time, c'mon now.”

“We were in the middle of Mothman territory with coyotes bearing down on us, we were definitely not safe - ”

“Ryan,” Shane interrupts, laughter in his voice. “You’re not even listening - I meant that this, that today was nice.” He’s not talking about the Mothman hunt, though that had been its own kind of fun, like every episode they filmed. He’s talking about earlier, when they’d explored the shops and stuffed themselves with sweets and shared a booth and some admittedly delicious pizza. He’s talking about how, even with all the Mothman paraphernalia scattered about, it hadn’t felt like they were recording an episode.It had felt like something else, like something Shane had wanted for a long time, like something they had been tiptoeing around for months.

Ryan’s hands tighten around the steering wheel for a moment, a soft, “Oh,” his only response. Shane forces himself to be patient, knowing that this isn’t the time to push, and he’s rewarded a few quiet minutes later when Ryan nervously clears his throat and says, “It was nice. Today. The hunt and the - other stuff.”

Shane can’t help but laugh, softly and tinged with relief. They’re taking their sweet time, but they’re getting there. One step at a time.

“We should do it again, some time,” he says, and though his tone is perfectly steady, his heartbeat is anything but. 

“What, you want to stay another night and try again to bag us a Mothman?” There’s a teasing glint to Ryan’s eyes, because they’re both unaccustomed to being emotionally vulnerable for more than ten minutes at a time, apparently, but Shane doesn’t mind. This is new territory for them, after all. It’s best to tread lightly.

“I was thinking we could go out, actually,” he says, steepling his fingers atop his stomach and keeping his eyes fixed on the road. “On a date,” he adds, just to drive it home. He feels lighter for having finally gotten it out, less burdened now that his cards are all on the table, and there’s a sense of freedom in having nothing left to do but to wait for Ryan’s next move and then go from there.

He doesn’t have to wait long.

“Yeah,” Ryan breathes after a moment, and when Shane glances at him, there’s a soft, almost shy smile on his face. “Yeah, big guy. We can do that.”


They decide to go see a movie, a horror film that Ryan’s been excited about. Shane expects it to feel awkward or a little weird - they’ve been friends for years, after all, and there are bound to be a few hiccups when making the transition from best buds to best buds who happen to be dating. 

But it’s easy. They already know each other inside and out, what makes each other tick, how to read each other’s moods, their likes and dislikes. Ryan knows exactly how much salt and butter Shane likes on his popcorn and that he prefers a seat in the back of the theater so that he doesn’t obstruct anybody’s view, and Shane knows that Ryan is nervous by the way his hands flail as he talks during the previews. He knows exactly how to ease it, too, and as the movie starts he yawns theatrically, his arms stretching high above his head before falling, one settling on the armrest and the other curling around Ryan’s shoulders.

Ryan laughs breathily against him. “Smooth move, Madej,” he whispers, thumping the back of his hand against Shane’s chest. Shane reaches for it with his free hand, fingers wrapping around Ryan’s, and shrugs.

“Did it work?” he whispers back, squeezing Ryan’s fingers. Ryan rolls his eyes and doesn’t reply, but he does settle more firmly against Shane’s side, and that’s enough of an answer for Shane.


It’s not like anything really changes, not in the long run. They grab dinner together, they go to theme parks, they go out with their friends, just like they’ve done for years. The only difference now is that whatever modicum of space used to exist between them has shrunk down to nothing, and touches that used to be casual or purely platonic now tend to linger, filled with a warmth that sometimes flares into something deeper, something hotter.

And alright, sometimes Ryan reaches for his hand while they’re on location, gripping his fingers tightly in the middle of the night when something spooks him.

And sometimes when they’re deep in their cups they dance a little closer than they used to, or take drunken selfies that are… not entirely appropriate for Instagram.

And more often than not their movie nights end with them wrapped together on the couch, whatever film they’d chosen playing on forgotten in the background while Ryan mouths at his neck or he stuffs his hands beneath Ryan’s shirt, both of them flushed with warmth and muffling their groans and soft sighs (and other truly ridiculous noises) into each other’s skin.

Okay, so some things change.

Chapter Text

“I blame you for this.” 

Shane winces, which looks pretty fucking weird considering he’s doing it with Ryan’s face. “In my defense,” he says, and Ryan has never been more unnerved by the sound of his own voice. “When I said ‘rip my soul out of my body,’ I didn’t mean it literally.”

Ryan sighs out a long, long breath and reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Well, Shane’s nose. God, this is so fucking weird. They’re standing in the middle of the abandoned farmhouse they had spent all of last night investigating, no closer to a solution to their little… problem then they’d been this morning.

He’s never gonna forget the sensation of waking up and seeing his own face fast asleep on the pillow next to his. It was easily the most what the fuck moment of his life. Scrambling from the bed and tripping over his suddenly eight feet long limbs came at a close second, though. 

“Ryan, we’ll figure this out, okay? I promise.” Shane reaches for his hands, hesitating for a moment like he thinks Ryan’s gonna jerk away, and that - that fucking sucks, actually, because yeah, Ryan’s terrified and he’s freaking out and he’s this close to having a full blown panic attack, but even with as much shit as he’s been giving Shane today, he’s not actually mad at the big guy. Shane hadn’t known they’d pull a Freaky Friday when he started taunting the ghosts last night, and it’s not his fault that no amount of pleading or bribery or shouting seems to be doing fuck all to help them now.

Ryan grabs for Shane’s fingers and curls his own around them, and though he’s seeing it from the wrong view, at least the image of their hands clasped together is a familiar one. “I know we will. Sorry I’m so - ” He shrugs his shoulders, a self-deprecating tilt to his lips. “ - all over the place.”

Shane shakes his head, exasperation warring with fondness on his face. It’s the same look he’s always given Ryan when he thinks Ryan’s being too hard on himself, and Ryan’s glad he can still recognize it even when the look is splashed across his own face. “You’re not all over the place, Ry. You got us back here, didn’t you? And you made sure T.J. and the others were none the wiser. Besides, if there’s ever a situation that deserved a little panic, it’s this one."  

Ryan huffs a laugh, a little surprised still when it’s Shane’s familiar chuckle that falls out. "Careful, big guy. Gonna spoil me if you keep being sweet.”

Shane grins, big and bright, and Ryan’s chest goes all funny. Huh. “Who’re you callin’ big guy, big guy?” he asks, reaching up to poke at Ryan’s shoulder, which is… much higher up than Ryan’s used to. Ryan’s always kind of envied the extra inches Shane has on him, but after spending the morning wobbling around like a newborn giraffe on Shane’s long ass legs, he’s more than ready to embrace his 5’ 9". 

“I actually miss having to look up at you,” he says, almost unconsciously, because it’s true - he likes that Shane’s shoulder is the perfect height for him to rest his head against while they watch movies, he likes that Shane’s long enough to curl around him in bed at night, and, much as he might grumble about it in the moment, he even likes having to push up on his toes to meet Shane for a kiss. 

Shane’s fingers squeeze around his, and oh, Ryan knows that face. It’s the same one he’d tried to hide from Shane for months, when he’d first realized how hard he’d fallen for the big guy and was terrified of anyone finding out. It’s a look of unbridled affection, all soft eyes and even softer smile, and Ryan feels his cheeks go hot at the sight of it. 

“Let’s get out of here, huh?” he asks, tugging at Shane’s hand and turning away, toward the front entrance. “This place gives me the creeps.” It’s a weak excuse and they both know it, but Shane doesn’t call him out on it, allowing Ryan the time he needs to get his face - and the blush warming his cheeks - under control.

They stop for food before heading back to the hotel, and once they arrive Ryan collapses on the bed with a sigh of relief. Trying to maneuver in Shane’s body is the weirdest thing he’s ever had to do, not to mention the most difficult - he’d pushed his seat back as far as it could go and his legs still ache from being cooped up in the car - but at least he’s gaining a new appreciation for his boyfriend, right?

Or so he thinks, until he takes the first bite of his spicy burrito and his mouth catches on fire.

“This is so fucking unfair,” he croaks a few minutes later, after downing half of his soda and glaring through watery eyes at his suddenly very penitent looking boyfriend. “It’s not enough that I’ve got your body, I’ve got your fucking spice intolerance too?”

He’s not even angry, just disappointed that he can’t even indulge in his favorite comfort food after the day they’ve had, but Shane’s face falls anyway. Ryan immediately feels like a dick - he doesn’t blame Shane for any of this but it’s clear that Shane does, and Ryan hadn’t meant to add to that with a few poorly thought out words. 

“Nuh uh, nope,” he says, reaching over and curling his hands - his huge fucking hands, Jesus Christ, he forgets sometimes how big Shane’s hands actually are - around Shane’s cheeks. It’s still weird, because he’s basically cradling his own face, but Shane’s eyes melt in a way that’s familiar enough and Ryan forges ahead with a firm, “That look isn’t allowed on my face, especially when you’re the one wearing it.”

Shane huffs but his lips have curled into a small smile. “What look?” he mumbles, as if he doesn’t know.

Ryan purses his lips. “That ‘I’m guilty and I know it’ look. This wasn’t your fault, babe. I was being an idiot, and I’m sorry.” He strokes his thumb along Shane’s cheekbone, a move that Shane’s used on him a thousand times before, and a lightbulb goes off in his head as he watches Shane sigh and melt beneath the caress.

He waits until after they’re done eating - once they’d switched plates his borrowed taste buds had calmed the fuck down, thankfully - and coaxes Shane up towards the head of the bed. “I wanna try something,” he says, tucking a pillow behind his back and patting his thigh. 

Shane gives him a look. “I get why you’d want to take my dick for a spin but is now really the time - ?”

“Jesus Christ, Shane,” Ryan wheezes, even as he feels a flush steal across his face. He’d tried not to focus too hard on the weight or the feel of Shane’s dick in his hand anytime he’d ducked into the bathroom all day, but he’d be lying if he said he hasn’t thought about it. Still. “Not happening. I don’t care if it’s you in there, I’m not about to watch you cum with my face.”

Shane barks a laugh, stretching out alongside Ryan on the bed and pillowing his head on Ryan’s thigh. “Oh, Shane,” Shane moans breathily, turning his head and tossing a wink at Ryan. “You’re soooo big~”

“Fuck you, I’ve never said that!” Ryan narrows his eyes as Shane wheezes against him, more annoyed at his own hot face than Shane’s piss poor imitation of him. “Just for that I should record me claiming ghosts are real and post it alllll over social media. Make all the Shaniacs cry.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Shane challenges, poking at Ryan’s thigh. “Besides, what’s to stop me from doing the same thing and telling the world you don’t believe in ghosts anymore?”

Ryan smirks. Here’s the opening he was hoping for. “This, for one,” he says, and carefully sinks his fingers into Shane’s hair. It’s strange, as much of this day has been, to see Shane’s long fingers sinking into his own dark hair, a familiar enough sight except for how he’s on the opposite side of it than he’s used to. He trails his fingers over Shane’s scalp, along the curve of his skull, all the way down to the nape of his neck until his palm is curled around the width of Shane’s throat. 

As he’d theorized, Shane shudders and goes still beneath his touch before melting into the bed, a soft, pleased hum falling from his lips.

“Holyyy shit,” Shane sighs, arching like a cat beneath the caress. “Is this what that’s always felt like for you?” he adds, even as his eyes slip closed.

Ryan laughs, scratching his nails along the nape of Shane’s neck. It’s fascinating how complete the crossover is, really. Not only have they swapped bodies, they’ve swapped everything that goes along with them, too: voices, taste buds, even erogenous zones. “Pretty nice, huh?” he asks smugly. There’s no denying that it feels great to have Shane all curled up and blissed out in his lap. Ryan knows his own body and knows exactly how Shane makes it sing.

“God, do I sound like that all the time?” Shane murmurs, nearly slurring his words. “All arrogant and shit? What an asshole.”

Ryan laughs, low and quiet. Shane’s practically falling asleep in his lap, a warm weight against his thigh. “I don’t know about that,” he says, keeping his voice soft. “I think you’re pretty great.” 

Shane huffs against his thigh, reaching up to curl his fingers in the material of Ryan’s jeans. “Flatterer,” he breathes. “You’re learning too much from me, Ry.”

Ryan doesn’t bother answering. Shane’s breathing has deepened and evened out, a sure sign that he’s fallen asleep, so there’s no one to reply to him anyway. He doesn’t stop carding his fingers through Shane’s hair, and he smiles as Shane sighs in his sleep and shuffles closer.

For the first time all day, the panic and fear that had been swimming through his veins soothes out into a distant ache. Ryan closes his eyes, slumping back against the pillow behind him and enjoying the peace of the late afternoon sunlight spilling into the room and Shane’s soft, heavy breaths. He still doesn’t know how to fix them, doesn’t know if he even can, but for now he’s happy to ease into a deep, untroubled sleep. 

They’ll figure things out in the morning

Chapter Text

“Gotta admit, Tinsley,” Ricky purrs, the late afternoon sunlight catching on the gold at his throat and around his fingers. “You look good like this.”

C.C. bites back a curse and keeps his gaze trained on the leather loafer settled in his lap. It was already clean when he started but now it shines, and he can see a muddy vision of himself in the leather, his hair slicked back and his clear-frame glasses perched precariously on the end of his nose. He pushes them back with a scoff and finishes polishing the shoe with a few harsh flicks of his wrist, focusing on the work rather than the man in front of him. 

“Done already?” Ricky asks, amusement thick in his voice. C.C. hates that his stomach responds to it, growing warm and tight. “No need to be hasty, baby. Unless you have somewhere to be.”

Heat pools in C.C.’s cheeks. Ricky loves to do this to him. “Of course not, Mr. Goldsworth,” he answers, annoyed at himself when his voice comes out breathy. 
Ricky laughs, a low, throaty chuckle that simultaneously makes C.C. want to kiss him and strangle him. “Of course not,” Ricky repeats, clearly pleased. He retrieves his loafer from C.C.’s grip and trades it for the other, clearing his throat to indicate that C.C. can continue.

For a few moments the room is silent save for the shic of the rag as C.C. guides it forward and back over expensive leather. C.C.’s glad for the quiet; he can become absorbed in his task and try to forget, for a little while at least, the consequences should anyone find out about his continued association - and repeated dalliances - with Ricky. If someone from his office or the papers caught wind of this, he’d be ruined, his reputation in tatters, and that should be enough of an incentive to stop, to toss the vest and slacks and button-down he’s wearing - the clothes Ricky had given him at the door - right back in Ricky’s face, and then to leave and never come back.

But he won’t. Ricky’s got him wrapped around his little finger and they both know the score. 

“It probably doesn’t pay much, huh?” Ricky pipes up, pulling C.C. from his thoughts. “Runnin’ things, I mean. You’re not exactly living in the lap of luxury, are ya, Mr. Mayor?”

C.C.’s lips twist. “Not like you,” he says, and adds, at Ricky’s raised brow, “Mr. Goldsworth, sir.”

Ricky smiles, and it’s a sharp, pointed thing, hidden though it may be beneath the soft bow of those lips. “You know me, Tinsley,” he murmurs, sinking into his seat with a sigh. “It’s the finer things in life I have a weakness for. And the people that can give ‘em to me.” He nudges C.C.’s stomach with the toe of his shoe, waiting until C.C. raises his head to ponder aloud, “Can you give them to me, Mayor?”

C.C. flushes, not because Ricky’s used his title while he’s literally kneeling at the man’s feet and polishing his shoes, but because it’s the same question he’s asked of himself a thousand times before. He’s comfortable but he’s not well off, not by a long shot, not enough to keep Ricky interested beyond a few rolls in the hay. He can’t drape the man in jewelry and expensive cologne and all the other trappings of wealth and comfort that Ricky craves so much. He knows it, knows that sooner or later Ricky will grow bored and move on to someone else. He doesn’t need any more reminders than the ones he tells himself daily.

He ducks his head, for once not answering one of Ricky’s questions, and mindlessly continues his task with a clogged throat and an icy chest. It’s ridiculous for him to feel this way, ridiculous for him to be… to be sweet on a cad like Goldsworth, but he can’t fucking help it. 

“Tinsley.” Ricky’s voice isn’t sharp, like C.C. had expected. It’s surprisingly soft, coaxing C.C. to look up, and against his better judgement, C.C. does. Ricky’s dark eyes are already trained on him, and as they get a good look at his face, they soften. “Has anyone ever taken care of you, Tinsley?" 

C.C. blinks. "What… ? I don’t know what you - ”

“No one’s ever dressed ya up? Covered you in jewels? Laid you out on silk sheets?”

C.C.’s heart jumps in his chest. “I… no. No, they haven’t.”

Ricky tsks, taking his shoe from C.C.’s now slack hold and leaning forward. "Now that’s a shame,“ he mutters, pushing his fingers through C.C.’s hair. C.C. shivers as one of his rings catches in the strands. "A real damn shame. There’s nothin’ like it, baby.” He curves his hand around the nape of C.C.’s neck and coaxes him forward, and though C.C.’s legs ache from spending so long kneeling on the floor, he’s quick to follow Ricky’s lead, allowing himself to be pulled into the other man’s lap. 

“Mr. Goldsworth - ” He starts, feeling clumsy and ridiculous as they both maneuver his long limbs into a comfortable position, Ricky slumped back in the chair and C.C.’s ass balanced on his thigh, long legs draped over the arm of the chair.

“Ricky,” Ricky corrects with a smile, warm and flirtatious. He unclasps the watch from his wrist and reaches for C.C.’s hand, and C.C. can only watch as his sleeve is rolled up to his elbow and the watch is clasped around his own wrist. “It suits you,” Ricky says, dark eyes drinking in the view before he nudges two of his rings free of his fingers. One after the other he slips them onto C.C., followed by each and every one of the slim gold chains hanging from his neck. “Look at that,” he muses, peering up at C.C. like he’s never quite seen him before, like… like he’s one of those fancy baubles Ricky covets so much, and that shouldn’t be arousing, C.C. shouldn’t be so damn weak for that gaze, but he is. He is.

“How do you feel, doll?” Ricky murmurs, tucking his fingers beneath one of the gold chains dangling from C.C.’s neck. 

C.C. swallows hard. “Valuable,” he rasps, and shivers as Ricky draws him close with a few soft tugs on the chain.

“Oh, you are, sweetheart,” Ricky murmurs, just before their lips touch, and against his better judgement, C.C. believes him.

It’s only later, after Ricky drapes C.C. over soft, silken sheets, after Ricky strips C.C. of everything save the jewelry Ricky had given him, after Ricky fucks C.C. into the mattress and leaves him shaken and panting in the aftermath, that Shane finds himself wondering.  

“Did you… plan all of that?” he asks, his voice hoarse and body pliant beneath Ryan’s. He’s still wearing the rings and chains. Ryan glances up at him from his spot curled up against Shane’s chest and grins as he reaches for the gold at his throat. 

“Nah,” he breathes, tugging gently at the chains. “C.C. looked like he needed it, though,” he continues, soft-eyed and sleepy. “Besides, you look pretty in gold.”

Shane smiles, his chest just as warm and full as when Ricky had pulled C.C. close and called him sweetheart, called him valuable. “You too, Ricky,” he murmurs, and closes his eyes as Ryan’s soft laughter spills into the dark. 

Chapter Text

It’s late, they’re both tired and itching to get their weekend started, but they’re also set to record the voiceover for the new episode of Supernatural on Monday and Ryan wants to get as much work done on the script as he can before he calls it a day. 

“You can leave if you want,” Ryan tells Shane, after catching him yawning for the second time. They’re in Ghoul HQ, having migrated there from the office a few hours earlier for the peace and quiet, and Shane’s had his head pillowed on his arms for the past half an hour, his laptop and research notes pushed to the side while he dozed. 

“Nah,” he sighs, peering up at Ryan from the circle of his arms. “You’re nearly done with the edits anyway, right? Figured you’d want to run through it at least once before we head home.” 

Ryan’s lips twitch. It’s been well over a month since they’d moved in together and the novelty of it has yet to wear off. “You sure?” 

“’Course I’m sure.” Shane tilts his cheek against his arm and tosses Ryan a sleepy wink. “Go on, Bergara. Spin me a spooky yarn.”

A smile threatens to stretch his lips and Ryan shuffles his papers to distract himself from it, most of them liberally coated in red ink after his edits. He clears his throat, ignoring the flash of Shane’s grin from the corner of his eye, and sinks into his Theory Voice.

The words are familiar and it’s easy for Ryan to lose himself in the story. They had investigated the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, and as he reads Ryan recalls with perfect clarity the high ceilings and solemn atmosphere of the massive church. 

He’s so focused on the script that he doesn’t even notice Shane shifting in his seat, doesn’t realize that his formerly sleepy co-host has abandoned his chair entirely, not until he feels long fingers curling around his knees beneath the table.

Ryan does not yelp, no matter what Shane says. He merely… jumps, understandably startled by the unexpected touch, and ducks down to stare incredulously at his boyfriend.

“What the fuck are you doing?” he asks, taking in the ridiculous sight of Shane curled up underneath the table, knees planted on the ground and spine curved at what must be an uncomfortable angle just so he can fit all eight feet of his limbs in the small space. 

“Just getting comfortable,” he says with a wink, tucking his hands between Ryan’s knees and spreading them a little wider so he can shuffle into the space.

“Shane,” Ryan starts, a tell-tale flush warming his cheeks. It’s not that they haven’t gotten a little… friendly in the office before, but he feels like he should probably draw the line at Shane dropping to his knees in Ghoul HQ. 

“Keep going,” Shane chirps, waving his hand in a ‘go on’ gesture before curling it around the ball of Ryan’s knee once more. “I’m listening.”

Ryan gives him a Look, sees that it’s totally ineffective, and sighs, straightening in his chair and reaching for the script with a new determination to not pay Shane any mind at all. He can do it. Ignoring Shane when he’s at his most obnoxious is something he’s had years of experience with.

“Guests of the cathedral have been known to claim sightings of various apparitions, from shadow figures to brightly lit orbs.” Wide palms stroke along his inner thighs, fingertips brushing teasingly over his crotch, but Ryan keeps reading, refusing to so much as twitch. “There are even reported sightings of - of - “ He clamps his lips against… well, a noise - not a sigh, not a moan, just a noise - as his button and fly are loosened and unzipped, Shane’s movements measured and easy, the actions of a man who has performed the same maneuvers a hundred times before.

“Sightings of what, Ry?” Shane murmurs beneath the table, and it should feel ridiculous that Ryan can’t even see him, it does feel ridiculous, but it doesn’t matter, not really. He might not be able to see Shane but he can damn sure feel him, his warmth settled within the cradle of Ryan’s splayed thighs, his fingers firm and sure against Ryan’s fly, easing within the slit of his boxer briefs and - holyfuckingshit - wrapping around his half-hard cock.

“Shit,” he breathes, eyes staring unseeing at his script, the black of the text and the red of his pen blurring into an unreadable mishmash as Shane’s fingers stroke along his cock. He swells beneath the familiar touch, arousal bubbling through his veins to pool, thick and hot, at the base of his spine, and it’s ridiculous, Shane’s barely even doing anything, his grip loose, more a tease than anything else. 

“C’mon, babe,” Shane coaxes, and even with the barrier between them Ryan knows he’s smirking. It should piss him off or at least annoy him, and he reaches beneath the table with the full intention of putting a stop to this nonsense - 

- only to settle his hand on a bed of soft hair, sinking in as Shane’s thumb rubs gently over the head of his dick. 

“The sooner you finish the script, the sooner you can cum,” Shane says, so matter-of-factly that Ryan kind of wants to scream. Fucking Shane and his fucking voice and fucking fingers and fucking -

“Ahh, fuck,” Ryan hisses, pressing his forehead to the tabletop as something soft and wet - Shane’s tongue, holy shit - laps at the head of his cock, one slow, lingering pass before Shane taps at his knee, his message clear. Get on with it.

Ryan clenches his fingers in Shane’s hair, a silent reprimand for starting this and for making him so goddamn weak for it, and reaches for his script with his free hand, ignoring how his fingers tremble slightly against the pages. He clears his throat, reaches for some measure of inner calm, and continues in the steady, confident cadence of his Theory Voice. 

“Others have reported sightings of a white stallion in front of the church, thought to be the spirit of a horse that was buried alive on the grounds. Some have claimed to hear it galloping - galloping - “ He breaks off with a thready gasp as warm wetness surrounds his cockhead, Shane’s tongue curling against his slit in a teasing lick. Ryan can hear him, the soft huffs of his breaths as he eases Ryan’s cock deeper into his mouth, and there’s something titillating about it, hearing but not seeing what’s being done to him, not being able to predict Shane’s next move and brace himself for it. There are no visual clues for him to rely on; all he can do is focus on the sensations of Shane’s hands and Shane’s mouth, and it’s driving him towards the edge far quicker than he’d expected.

A low, muffled groan echoes from beneath the table, and Ryan curls his free hand into a fist as Shane sinks further down onto his cock, until his nose is buried in wiry curls and his throat is fluttering around the intrusion, a soft, velvet vice that’s slowly squeezing every single rational thought from Ryan’s brain. 

“Jesus Christ, babe, shit, your mouth,” Ryan babbles, his Theory Voice wrecked beyond all saving, gone hoarse and shivery as Shane sucks at his cock. He can’t focus on goddamn ghosts when Shane keeps alternating between easing off of his cock to slurp at the head and then sinking down to swallow the length of him in soft, wet warmth. 

A tap at his knee has Ryan groaning, knowing what Shane wants without Shane even having to speak. Keep goingFinish the script

And god, Ryan tries. He tries so fucking hard to keep going, nearly sobbing the rest of the script, barely understanding what the hell he’s saying as Shane wraps long fingers around the base of his cock and sinks down around him once more, saliva and pre-come slicking the way. As he nears the end of the script and the end of his goddamn sanity, Ryan’s free hand scrabbles beneath the table and sinks along with its twin within Shane’s messy hair, fingers clenching deep within the strands.

That’s how he finishes the script, with his hands clenched in Shane’s hair and his mouth hanging open, hips jerking in his chair as he chases his orgasm, an orgasm Shane is all too willing to send him hurtling toward now that Ryan’s given him what he wants. 

A few short moments and the filthy undulations of Shane’s tongue against his leaking slit is all it takes. Ryan comes with a broken cry of Shane’s name, his eyes clenched shut and back arching off the chair. His thighs twitch as wave after wave of sensation rushes through him, heat spreading from his groin and belly to every limb until he feels almost weightless with it, warm and sated and utterly spent. By the time he slumps back in his chair his fingers and toes are tingling and he’s pleasantly exhausted, and he peers sluggishly beneath the table just in time to see Shane easing off of his dick for the last time, his lips red and used and his hair an absolute mess.

“You’re… ridiculous,” he breathes, nothing but fondness and satisfaction in his tone.

Shane beams up at him, tucking Ryan back into his boxers with a last, shiver-inducing kiss to the head of his spent dick. “Sweet talker,” he accuses, his eyes bright and playful. Ryan’s heart does a somersault in his chest at the sight, and he huffs a laugh that can’t even bother to disguise how affectionate it is before sinking down onto the floor and reaching for his boyfriend, determined to return the favor. 

Chapter Text

Jen is the only one he tells. He asks her out for drinks a few weeks after his diagnosis, and he picks at the label on his beer bottle the entire time he's speaking, relating everything in the same clinical tones as his doctor.

He can't look at her when he's done, but at least he's not crying or hyperventilating or freaking out, not even when she says, "Oh, Ryan," with so much sympathy that he nearly flinches.

"I'm alright," he says, and it's even true, to an extent. It isn't a death sentence, not anymore. There's medication, suppressants, to combat the physical effects of the disease. He's been taking his for a while now and they - they help. He hasn't had an episode in over a week (since his last movie night with Shane; Shane had fallen asleep on his couch and Ryan had spent the entire night with a trashcan by his bed, his throat on fire).

Jen doesn't look so convinced. She reaches for his free hand, squeezes his fingers. "Have you told him?" she asks, and Ryan doesn't ask how she knows.

He shakes his head, mute, and she nods sadly, like she expected as much.

"Will you?" she asks, but Ryan's already taking a long swallow of his beer, hoping it'll soothe the sudden burn in his throat, and he doesn't answer.


He spends so many nights scouring the web for any information he can find on the disease that before long he has an entire folder stuffed full with his research. His doctor had filled him in on some of it - the effects, the medication to treat them, and the warning signs of an impending attack, but Ryan had wanted to know more, not just the medical aspects but others, too.

He knows what people say, knows the myth, the reason that people tend to fall prey to the disease. It's not generally accepted as fact except by those who choose to take it as such - romantics, believers, the non-Shanes of the world, Ryan finds himself thinking one night, eyes aching from the glare of his computer screen.  

He’s compiled all of the firsthand accounts he could find – articles and interviews and blog posts of others who have been afflicted and come out the other side. Some claim the medication saved them, others swear the reciprocation of their affections rid them of the growth in their lungs.

There are others that talk about severing ties, cutting the source of the infection out at the root. Moving on and letting go. Saving yourself. They leave Ryan with a sour taste in his mouth, his chest and throat on fire. He adds them to his notes nonetheless.

The folder, bursting at the seams with all of his research, sits in his home office for weeks before he finally breaks and decides to do an episode on it. He compiles a script, gathers his evidence, and lays out his theories.

“So there’s a subset of people who just so happen to be susceptible to a weird disease,” Shane says, after Ryan’s laid out his last theory and presented his evidence: the numerous accounts of people across the globe whose saving grace from the disease had been their loved ones returning their affections. “There isn’t anything remotely supernatural going on here, Ryan. It’s just science. Biology.”

“Some of these people never even saw a doctor or took medication, though, but they were cured as soon as their feelings were reciprocated,” Ryan counters, his voice calm despite the writhing tangle of fear and bitterness squeezing at his chest. He’d been ready for Shane’s skepticism, prepared for it, and it isn’t like Shane’s arguments don’t make sense, but it’s impossible to remain objective when Ryan can feel the burn in his throat and the pressure sitting like a clenched fist inside his chest.

Shane shakes his head, waving away Ryan’s remark with a casual, “But that doesn’t mean anything. Who decided that unrequited love is the cause, anyway? Maybe it’s just stress - unrequited love is stressful, stress takes a toll on the body and makes the body do some weird shit, nothing magic or romantic about that. Like I said, maybe these people are susceptible to this disease purely because of some genetic mix-up that has nothing at all to do with whether they’re suffering from relationship woes. And whose to say that the people who were magically “cured” were even sick in the first place? It could just be psychosomatic.”

Ryan swallows, his throat unbearably dry. He can feel a familiar tickle crawling up his chest, a cough trapped behind his clenched teeth. He forces it back. “So it’s all in their head? That’s what you’re telling me?”

Shane shrugs, twirling his red pen between his fingers. “It’s a possibility. Mental factors like stress or anxiety manifest in physical symptoms all the time, Ryan. I’d believe that before I’d believe in some sensationalized, romantic myth.”

Ryan wants to show Shane the petals he’d washed down the drain that morning, yellow blossoms coated in saliva and speckles of blood. He wants Shane to see his face after an episode, the red splotches on his cheeks and the tears swimming in his eyes from the pain of hacking the petals from his lungs. He wants Shane to feel the burn in his throat, the burn that ebbs and fades depending on how long Ryan spends in his presence.

He wants to say, It’s because of you. I’m sick because of you and I can’t ever fucking tell you because it’ll ruin everything.

He wants to say, The only way to stop this is to get over you, and I don’t think I can.

He wants to say, I’m in love with you and it could kill me.

He wants to say, This isn’t in my head. This is real.

But he doesn’t say any of that. He finishes the episode, and he flees.


He and Shane always watch the new episodes before they premiere. They make a whole thing of it: they commandeer a couch in the lounge or set up in Ghoul HQ with lunch or snacks and they sit shoulder to shoulder as the episode plays on one of their phones. It never fails to alleviate the stress of weeks or months’ worth of filming and editing and racing to meet deadlines. It gives them a moment to breathe before they’re back up and at it again.

When the final cut of the episode is delivered to both of their inboxes, Ryan’s playing hooky at home, curled up on his couch with his phone tucked close to his chest, watching his own face as he outlines every theory and watching Shane’s as he argues the validity of them all.

Is his face too pale, too obvious? Will anybody notice how withdrawn he’d become, there at the end?

Probably not, he thinks with a grimace, closing the video and staring unseeing at his text messages, opened to the last exchange he’d had with Shane.

S: Episode’s ready to go! Feeling up to a viewing party?

R: Don’t want to make you sick, too. Raincheck?

There’s a lot that people miss, when they’re not looking.


He spends a lot of time with Jen. She doesn’t ask him why, doesn’t press him to talk about anything he doesn’t want to. Whenever he shows up at her apartment, eyes dark and aching and chest tight and sore, she just waves him in, a show of constant friendship and support.

Jen’s there the night he watches Shane toss back shots with Steven and Eugene and the rest of their coworkers celebrating the end of a long week. She’s at his side when Shane shoots him confused, frustrated glances from across the table, because he’s noticed that Ryan has been pulling away and he doesn’t know why. She’s got his hand when a girl asks Shane to dance, and she’s tugging Ryan toward the bar even as he’s watching Shane curl his arms around the girl’s waist, his eyes crinkling as he laughs at something she says.

But there’s nothing she can do about the burning ache in Ryan’s throat, the sensation of fingers, vines, twisting around his heart and squeezing tight. He shakes off her hand, his own pressed to his mouth, and blinks the tears from his eyes as he pushes his way through the crowd and into the bathroom, barely able to register more than the emptiness of the room before he’s hunched over the sink and retching.

His chest is on fire, lungs burning, and he clenches his eyes shut as he feels the familiar scrape of petals clinging to his throat. He gags as they work their way loose, fingers shaking around the rim of the sink and chest heaving as he works to catch his breath. He catches a glimpse of damp yellow petals spotted with blood before he hears his name, soft and disbelieving, from the bathroom door.

His head jerks up, eyes wide. “Shane,” he croaks, because of course it’s him, and Ryan can’t do this, can’t face him with speckles of saliva and blood clinging to his lips, his eyes wet and wild. 

He twists away from the sink and ducks under Shane’s arm, a rush of white noise in his ears, too loud to hear his own breath but not enough to drown out Shane’s voice calling after him.

Jen takes one look at him and follows him out the door, and later, when Ryan sinks down onto her couch and buries his face in his hands, she curls her arm around his shoulder and holds him tight, long after his throat stops aching and his tears run dry.


Shane’s waiting for him the next morning when Ryan Ubers home, long legs folded up as he sits on the steps of Ryan’s apartment building. Ryan doesn’t ask how long he’s been there, or if Jen gave him the head’s up that Ryan was going home. He just pulls open the door and waits for Shane to follow after him.

The weight of eyes sits heavy on the back of his neck, and though Ryan wants to open his mouth and break the tense silence that has fallen between them, the same silence that has been building for weeks now, he can't get the image of blood-wet petals out of his head. Shane had seen them, Shane knew.

And now Shane is here, and Ryan doesn't know what the hell that means. He's too afraid to ask.

He doesn't get a chance to. His door has barely clicked shut behind them when there are arms wrapping around his waist, pulling him back against a warm chest. His hands jerk up in surprise, gripping tight at Shane's forearms, and his lungs burn.

"Shane?" His voice comes out a hoarse rasp, catching painfully in his throat. 

"You didn't say anything." Shane's voice rumbles against his back, thick in a way Ryan's never heard before. A shaky breath fans against the back of his neck before Shane's brow falls to his shoulder. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"What was I supposed to say?" It's easier to do this, say this, without looking at Shane, even though the sensation of Shane plastered to his back and holding him close is wreaking havoc on Ryan's insides. "I'm sick, Shane. I'm choking on goddamn petals because I'm so fucking in love with you and I couldn't - I couldn't put that shit on you, it's not fucking fair - "

"And this is?" Shane asks, incredulous. "Ryan, did it ever even occur to you that I could have helped? That I could have done something? "

"You shouldn't have to," Ryan croaks, his throat and chest on fire, fingers digging into Shane's forearms. "Fuck, Shane, I wasn't gonna guilt you into being with me, that's not how this works, you don't want that - "

Shane twists him around, the movement so abrupt that Ryan nearly stumbles. "What don't I want?" Shane asks, his hands gripping Ryan's shoulders and his face set, eyes dark and almost angry. "Go on, tell me if you're so sure."

You don't want me. Not the way that I want you. Ryan has told himself the same thing over and over, so why can't he open his mouth and tell Shane?

Because he doesn't want to hear Shane say You're right.

Some measure of that fear must show on his face, because Shane's fierce expression crumples. "You always think the worst of me," he murmurs, lips tilted in a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. "I can't fake this, you idiot. I wouldn't try."

Ryan doesn't have time to ask what this is before he's being guided forward by Shane's huge, warm palms, cradling his cheeks and holding him steady as Shane bends his head to touch their mouths together. 

For a long moment Ryan doesn't react, can't react, his eyes wide and lips parting more from surprise than any conscious effort on his part, until finally the softness of Shane's lips and the heat of his breath manages to break through the fog in Ryan's brain.

I can't fake this, Shane had said. This is real.

Ryan surges up, a needy whine spilling between the space between them, space that he's quick to fill with his own body, arms reaching up to wrap around Shane's neck and chest falling against Shane's, firm and warm and close.

This is real, he thinks, as his thumbs scrape against Shane's stubble and Shane hums into his mouth.

This is real, he thinks later, as Shane hovers over him in bed, breaths heavy and a soft, hungry look on his face. 

This is real, he knows, watching Shane's eyes crinkle as he smiles the next morning, his hair a mess and his lips pink from their kisses, and Ryan grins back, huge and bright, the tight ache of too many secrets no longer filling his lungs.

Chapter Text

He gets sick halfway through the tour. Nothing too severe, just a head cold, but his doc puts him on strict vocal rest - no talking, no putting any undue stress on his throat, nada. Unless he’s up on stage, he’s to remain silent.

Ryan’s having a fucking field day with it. Anytime Shane forgets himself and opens his mouth, Ryan’s right there to shoot him a look and go, “Shut it, Madej. Doctor’s orders,” with a smug little tilt of his lips, like he’s having the time of his life. He probably is, the fucker.

This is how you get your jollies, isn’t it, Bergara? he scribbles on his whiteboard, the one Ryan had so generously gifted him with after they’d left the doctor’s office. Admit it, you just like ordering me around.

“You can’t prove that in court,” Ryan hums, strumming a few nonsensical chords on his guitar. The sky outside the window is dark with approaching dusk, the rumble of the wheels beneath them at once familiar and still so new. They’d just come off stage a couple of hours ago, and though they’re all exhausted the adrenaline from performing is still running rampant through their veins, making it impossible to sleep until they wind down first. Shane can hear the muffled sounds of a movie playing up front and bets it’ll be another hour or two before Andrew, Steven, and Jen call it a night and head to their bunks.

He’s feeling too keyed up to settle down just yet, the added hindrance of not being allowed to speak only adding to his frustration. He sighs gustily as he flops onto the bed, relieved at least to be able to stretch his legs out. He’d felt guilty about taking the back bedroom for all of ten seconds until his bandmates had forced him to try one of the bunks for a night and his legs had cramped so badly Ryan had had to help him out of it the next morning, and now he relishes in the extra room with a clear conscience. 

“Stop fidgeting,” Ryan complains, though he sounds more amused than anything. Sure enough, there’s a curl to his lips when Shane tilts his head to look at him. 

I’m bored, he writes, angling the whiteboard so Ryan can see. 

Ryan huffs a laugh, rolling his eyes. His fingers never falter on his guitar, and as a whole he looks very… soft. It’s one thing to see him on stage, sweat shining on his brow and slicking the hollow of his throat, strong fingers curled around the neck of his guitar, clad in those skinny jeans he loves so much and shirts that he purposely buys a size too small so the sleeves cling to his biceps. He’s a fucking vision then, all bright, toothy smiles that the crowd eats up like candy, dark eyes shining in the stage lights, but here, in Shane’s bed, he’s just Ryan, hair soft and fluffy and free of product, contacts switched out for his glasses, dressed down in sweatpants and a worn t-shirt. Soft

“We can go over the new song?” Ryan suggests, fingers changing position on the fretboard and plucking out the opening chords to Unsolved. Shane feels a little shiver go down his spine at the familiar melody - they all contribute to the creative process but this song is all his and Ryan’s. It’s like their baby, if Shane wants to get all sentimental and shit over it. 

Which he does. He’s sitting on a tour bus with his best bud and getting paid to share his music with the world - he’s fucking allowed. 

I’d love to make sweet, sweet music with you, baby, he writes, adding quotes around music because he knows it’ll make Ryan laugh. But no can-do. Doc’s orders, remember? Gotta rest these pipes.

Ryan shakes his head fondly. “Doesn’t mean you can’t listen,” he says, clearing his throat as he strums the opening chords once more. 

Shane sinks into the bed the moment Ryan begins to sing. His voice soft and whiskey smooth, filling the room with the lyrics they’d penned together over countless nights camped out on each other’s couches, nights full of popcorn and their favorite films and each other.

Nights very much like this one, where the rest of the world falls away and it’s just them, just Ryan and Shane and music, the best combination there is.

Package deal, baby, Shane thinks with a sleepy grin, and tucks his chin against Ryan’s shoulder as the music washes over him.

Chapter Text

Shane’s reading off a question about the latest Supernatural episode and Ryan can’t hear a goddamn word, his eyes fixed on Shane’s hands and his lips slightly parted as he watches them move. It’s like watching a fucking dance, Shane’s long fingers curling around the edges of his phone, scrolling along the screen with a light touch, muscles bunching and loosening beneath his skin. Ryan’s mesmerized.

Ryan’s a lot of things, actually. Distracted, hot under the collar, fixated. It doesn’t matter that there’s a camera fixed on them, doesn’t matter that they’re not alone in the room, doesn’t matter that no one is supposed to know about them yet. All that matters to his fool brain is that Shane’s hands are right there, poised on the tabletop, when they should be on him.

And fuck. Fuck, this is not the time or the place to be having these kind of thoughts, not in the middle of the day and definitely not while they’re on set, but Ryan can’t fucking help himself. It was bad before, back when Shane had no idea how he felt and the fantasies in Ryan’s head were just that - fantasies, idle daydreams conjured up whenever Shane would clap a hand to his shoulder or twirl that stupid red pen between his fingers. 

Now - now it’s so much worse. Now he knows what those hands feel like - wrapped around his waist, cupping his face, buried in his hair, curled around his hips. Grasping, stroking, gripping, holding, and every other permutation under the sun. Ryan knows them all.

Better yet, he remembers them all, the sense memory of those huge hands taking him apart piece by trembling piece until he’s left gasping and writhing, moaning nonsensical words that all mean the same thing: please and more and Shane.

“You okay there, bud?” Ryan jumps at the sound of Shane’s voice, finally cutting through the static in his head. It’s only now that he realizes the fan question had long since been answered; Shane’s looking at him, a little curious, a little something else, and Ryan’s frozen, eyes wide and face hot, not able to utter a single goddamn word.

“How ‘bout we take a break, Teej?” Shane asks, his eyes never straying from Ryan’s. “10 minutes?”

Ryan doesn’t see T.J’s face, but the weighty pause between Shane’s question and his answer of, “I’ll give you 15,” is obvious enough. Ryan feels his face heat a few extra degrees, but he doesn’t care, he doesn’t give a single shit, because as soon as the room empties and they’re left alone, Shane’s cell phone is falling to the tabletop with a clatter and those hands - those goddamn hands - are reaching for Ryan.

And if he has to hide his mussed hair beneath a cap, if his clothes look a little rumpled when the crew returns, if Shane keeps a hand curled around his thigh for the rest of the postmortem, well, that’s no one’s business but their own.

Chapter Text

"Move over."

Shane glances up from his phone, only the top of his nose and his eyes visible from within his blanket cocoon. 

"Come again?"

There's nothing confrontational or condemning about his tone, just friendly curiosity, and yet Ryan still falters, not quite afraid, but close. He refuses to be cowed though. If he were a few degrees warmer and back in sunny California that might be a different story, but he’s in the middle of a snow storm in fucking Salem and if he doesn’t go through with this he’s gonna freeze to death.

(There’s a possibility he’s overreacting. He could just go downstairs and ask for extra blankets, or put on another hoodie.

But the power’s out and he doesn’t want to brave the chill of the stairwell and... well, he’s already here, is the thing. He’s committed.)

"Move over," he repeats, and tacks on a "Please?" for good measure. Just to be polite. He’s not desperate or anything. Nope. No, sir.

He can't see Shane's mouth, but somehow he knows the big guy's smirking. Call it intuition or a sixth sense (or a Shane-sense, as the case may be), but if Ryan were to pull away those blankets he knows exactly what he’d find - Shane wearing one of those tiny grins of his, the kind he uses when Ryan’s being ridiculous, the kind that means he knows something you don’t and is just waiting for you to get with the program. 

“Why?” Shane asks him, raising a single eyebrow and making no move to do as Ryan’s asked. “Did’ja need something, Ryan?”

Ryan blows out a breath. “M’ cold,” he mumbles, resisting the urge to shuffle his feet like a kid. He’s being dumb. He knows he’s being dumb and Shane knows he’s being dumb, and yet here he is, dragging this out when he knows what Shane’s reaching for, knows that all it’ll take is the truth and then he can be warm

“That’s too bad, bud,” Shane hums, shuffling deeper into his blanket burrito and peering out at Ryan with barely restrained amusement. Asshole. “Wish there was some way I could help ya.”

“Fucking - can I get into bed with you or not?” There. He’s said it. He’s blushing but he’s fucking said it.

“Oh, is that what you wanted?” Shane asks, widening his eyes like he never would have guessed.

Shane.” Ryan’s not above whining right now, not if it gets him under those covers and away from the miserable chill in the air. “C’mon, dude. Please?”

Shane shakes his head fondly, wiggling out of his blanket nest just enough so that he can lift one corner and beckon Ryan inside. “Hurry, before the heat gets out,” he says, and laughs as Ryan practically divebombs into his arms, pushing into his space and sighing in abject relief as Shane tucks the blankets around him, closing them off from the cold air of the room.

Fucking finally, he thinks, his nose pressed to Shane’s collarbone and their legs tangled, his fingers and toes tingling as warmth seeps back into his extremities. Fuck snow, fuck power outages, but this - this is good.

He feels Shane’s chin settle on his crown, long arms wrapping around his waist in a loose hold. “You know we could have saved a lot of time if you’d just asked to share a bed earlier tonight, right?” 

“Shut up,” Ryan mumbles, closing his eyes and tangling his fingers in Shane’s sleep shirt, worn and soft from use. Shane’s right, but this thing between them... it’s still new. Ryan’s wary of pushing boundaries, changing their routine. 

Shane gets it. Of course he does. “Well, better late than never, huh, Ry?” he sighs, sleepy and amused, but Ryan’s too busy soaking up his warmth to respond.

Chapter Text

It takes three weeks of fruitless searching, mounting frustration, and a fit of brilliance before Shane decides fuck it, exits out of every online catalog he's been scouring, and fires up Microsoft Word.

A couple of hours and a print job later, he's staring down at a tidy pile of papers, cut in half and stacked on top of each other so they form a neat little book. It's not much, admittedly, but it's wholly and uniquely him, a Shane Madej original. If anything, it'll get Ryan to laugh, which is worth way more than another pair of sneaks that would only get lost in the man’s extensive collection. This baby has exactly the sort of personal flare that Shane had been angling for when he’d started his search.

They're both heading home for the holidays and Shane's too impatient to wait until after, so the next time Ryan comes over for a movie night he escapes into the kitchen to grab popcorn and makes a pit stop in his bedroom, pulling the gift bag from its hiding place and dropping it in Ryan's lap with a flourish. 

"What's this?" Ryan asks, fingers crinkling the red and green tissue paper spilling from the top of the bag. 

"You expect me to just tell you?" Shane gasps, absolutely scandalized. "For shame, Bergara! Where's your sense of mystery? Where's your sense of adventure?"

"Jesus Christ, okay," Ryan laughs, pushing aside the tissue paper and reaching inside for the contents. He takes one look at the cover of the little booklet and snorts, lips twitching as he glances up at Shane. "Wow, big guy. You really went all out for this, didn't you?"

Shane huffs, pointing an incriminating finger at him. "You are impossible to shop for, Ryan Bergara. I had to get creative."

"I'm really not," Ryan grins, skimming through the pages and wheezing at some of the more... outlandish vouchers. Some are more conventional: This coupon redeemable for one free coffee or free lunch, your pick!, while others are a little more personal or ridiculous (and sometimes both): Movie Marathon (your choice of theme; can include ghost hunting documentaries, one night only!)Ghouligan Slumber Party (booze to be provided by host)Disneyland Adventure (you name the date and time!), and, one of Shane's personal favorites: You win one (1) argument, with If argument includes existence of ghosts, coupon is considered null and void scrawled underneath in tiny print. Ryan barks a laugh at that one, shoving Shane's shoulder with a casual, "Fuck you, man!" and Shane beams, pleased with his gift and, alright, pretty damn pleased with himself, too.

"What about this one?" Ryan holds up the last coupon, Wildcard written across it in bold, comic-style letters. His cheeks are red from laughter, teeth bared in a wide, happy grin, and Shane's satisfaction with himself ratchets up a couple dozen notches for having been the one to put that look on Ryan's face.

"That one's a free-for-all," he says, leaning back against the couch cushions and steepling his fingers across his stomach. "Whatever you want, it's yours. Just don't ask me to defect to Team Boogara, okay? Abuse of power never looked good on anybody."

He expects Ryan to laugh, to insist that he wouldn't want a Shaniac (the Shaniac, in fact) on his team anyway, but instead Ryan's grin fades into a small, curious smile, his eyes flicking over Shane's face as if he's searching for something. 

"Ry? Something wrong? I know the gift's a little cheesy, but - "

Ryan shakes his head. "Nah, it's great. I just - " He glances down at the booklet, bites at his lip, and rips the Wildcard coupon from the rest of the pack. And then he leans over - just a bit, because there's barely any space between them as it is - and presses his mouth to Shane's. Breathes softly against him, lips soft and clinging, just a hint of pressure and the weight of fingers smoothing over Shane's jaw, before he pulls back. Widens his eyes as if he's just now realizing what he's done. "Uh... "

Shane's mouth moves of its own accord, a million paces ahead of his brain. "If that was all you wanted for Christmas, you could have saved me the paper and just asked."

They stare at one another for a hot second, both frozen in shock or indecision or a mixture of the two, and then the tension breaks and they're off, wheezing into one another's shoulders and crinkling the gift bag between them as Shane wraps an arm around Ryan's waist and pulls him closer.  

"Forget to mention," he says, and he’s grinning, lit up from the inside out and so goddamn giddy he could pop. "That Wildcard coupon? Unlimited uses, never expires, worth its weight in smooches - " 

Ryan huffs a laugh against his mouth. "Shut up, Shane," he breathes, and kisses him quiet.

Shane doesn't bother to mention that the Shut up, Shane coupon is on page three. He'll give Ryan a two-for-one special, just this once. 

Chapter Text

Ryan stares at Obi.

Obi stares at Ryan.

Shane stares at them both. “You sure about this, Ryan?” he asks, shifting on his feet and hitching the strap of his bag further up his shoulder. He’s nervous, which is a shock, but it’s also a great motivator for Ryan to get his shit together and do this right.

“Dude, chill. It’ll be fine. We’ll both be fine.” He narrows his eyes at Obi, who has yet to break their eye contact. “Right, little buddy? We’re gonna be juuuust fine.”

Shane doesn’t look convinced. “I can always ask someone else,” he says, reaching for his phone as if he’s actually going to do it, what the fuck. “What with your whole, you know - ” He waves his hand around his face. “- allergy situation, this is starting to seem a little counterproductive to me.”

“You’re worrying too much,” Ryan says, which, wow. That’s a first. He nudges the front pocket of his duffle so the pill bottle inside rattles a bit. “I came prepared. Besides, it’s just for a week. I can handle it.” He doesn’t mean to sound whiny there at the end, but, well. He’s not great about being confronted with the idea of being bad at something, even if that something happens to be cat-sitting. 

Shane snorts. “Pencils down, Bergara, you’re not getting graded for this,” he says, because of course he knows exactly what Ryan’s about. Ryan can’t even be embarrassed about that; it’s actually kinda nice that Shane just gets him. “Just - make sure he’s fed and has water and play with him so he doesn’t get bored. Simple.”

“Simple,” Ryan repeats, nodding. Obi meows as if in agreement, and Ryan has the privilege of watching Shane fold like a cheap suit at the sound, kneeling down to scratch Obi under his chin..

“You’ll be good for Ryan, won’t you?” he asks, and oh god, there it is. The baby voice. Obi meows again and Shane nods, delighted. “Yeah, you’ll be a good boy, won’t ya, Obi?“ 

Ryan shakes his head, feigning disgust, though the twitching of his lips belies his amusement. "You’re such a cat dad.” 

Shane sticks his tongue out at him and ducks down to press a quick kiss to Obi’s forehead, right between his ears. “Eat your heart out, Bergara,” he says sweetly, just as Obi begins to purr, and then he climbs to his feet and kisses Ryan too, lips pressed to his hairline and then his lips. “You be good, too, you hear?”

Ryan scrunches his forehead, ignoring the rush of blood to his cheeks. “Yeah, yeah, get outta here,” he mumbles, and flushes darker as Shane only laughs.

“Goodbye, boys!” he calls from the doorway, tossing a kiss over his shoulder before he’s gone, and then Ryan’s alone. With Obi. For a week.

“We’re gonna be juuuust fine,” he repeats, crossing his arms and staring down at Obi as if daring him to believe otherwise. “Isn’t that right, boy?”

Obi turns his head and starts licking at his belly. Ryan takes that as a yes. 

The thing about cats is, they're pretty self-sufficient. Shane was right - all Ryan has to do is give Obi food and water and dangle one of his toys in his face for a few minutes until he loses interest and he's good to go. Well, for the first few days.

Ryan's just settling into bed with his laptop on his forth night in Shane's apartment when there's a rattle at the door. He jumps, and then he's annoyed at himself for jumping. After all, if there's any place in the world that's guaranteed to be ghost-free, it's Shane's. 

Still, he's a little slow about opening the door, and then he yelps as a ball of orange fur zips into the room, across the floor and up and onto the bed before he has a chance to react.

"Seriously?" Ryan grouses, watching Obi prowl across the bed as if in search of something, or maybe someone. Well, shit. "You miss him too, huh, buddy?" Ryan asks, nudging the door closed and slipping back beneath the covers. Obi meows sullenly, nosing at the blankets until he can wiggle beneath them and disappear, nothing but a lump in the middle of the bed. Ryan huffs a laugh and reaches for his cell, snapping a pic and sending it off to Shane. He's pouting :(

He misses me! Shane replies a few minutes later, his enthusiasm over the fact obvious even through text. You should sing to him.

"Sing to him?" Ryan mutters out loud, incredulous. He gives the lump a glance. "You really have him wrapped around your little finger, don't you?" he asks, impressed despite himself. Well, fuck that. He checks the time, making sure it's not too late in Chicago, and then opens up FaceTime.

"Ohoho, someone else misses me too, huh?" Shane teases as soon as he accepts the call, and at the sight of his familiar scruffy face, Ryan sinks into his pillow with a peculiar feeling of homesickness in the pit of his belly. Solidarity, little guy, he thinks, patting the little Obi-shaped lump in the blankets.

"Don't read too much into this," he says out loud, schooling his face into an expressionless mask. He fails, if Shane's tiny Cheshire grin is anything to go by. "Your cat's pining away and I'm the one with thumbs, so."

"So this is a favor to Obi, huh?" Shane tilts his head, his smile soft and eyes even softer. Fuck. "Is that what you're saying, bud?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying," Ryan insists, distracting himself from Shane's dumb sleepy-soft face by twisting onto his side and setting his phone against Shane's pillow. "You made him this way, so you have to sing for him."

He makes himself comfortable while Shane chuckles, and even though it's filtered through the tinny cell phone speakers, the sound still warms Ryan through and through. He shoots a commiserating glance at the lump in the sheets. Jesus, they're both pathetic.

"None of the Hot Daga's greatest hits," he warns before Shane can get ahead of himself, and Shane laughs like he's been tripped up and starts singing Mamma Mia instead.

He's barely into the first verse, his voice low and a little raspy, when Obi pokes his head out of the blankets, ears twitching as he glances around the room. 

Ryan's torn between watching him and watching Shane's face, so he alternates, the same part of him that goes all soft whenever he watches Paddington movies or Unsolved trends at #1 or Shane tells him he loves him with that bashful look on his face going into full nuclear meltdown as Obi creeps toward the screen and meows hopefully, his eyes very big.

Shane waves at the screen, his eyes crinkling as Obi starts to purr. Ryan sighs and sinks into the bed, not even realizing he’s decided to scratch at Obi’s ears until he glances over and sees his fingers buried in soft orange fur. 

On screen Shane is smiling so hard he can barely get the words out anymore. Ryan huffs but says nothing, closing his eyes to better enjoy the show, and wonders how much shit he’ll get if he asks Shane to do this again in a few days, so he and Obi can enjoy it in person. 

Chapter Text

Ryan feels under-dressed in his snapback and basketball shorts. Under-dressed and inexperienced and about two seconds away from texting Steven and telling him to get another best man and also to uninvite Ryan from his wedding because he’s going to fuck this up.

It’s just dancing, Ryan, Steven had told him. Multiple times. In varying degrees of exasperation. You know how to dance.

Yeah, he knew how to dance. He knew how to move his body to the muffled bassline pounding through the floor of his favorite club, knew how to roll his hips and grind, knew how to make a fool of himself if the alcohol was flowing freely enough. He didn't know how to do this.

“You’re Ryan, right?” He stares at the hand offered to him, long-fingered and slender, and slips his own against it in a firm shake. "I'm Shane. Shane Madej. I'll be your instructor."

Tall, Ryan thinks, tilting his head back to get a good look at the man. Sleepy eyes, a strong nose, scruffy cheeks. Has no trouble in letting a prospective student ogle him like an idiot, apparently, as he waits patiently for Ryan to get his shit together and offer a hasty, "Ryan! Uh. Yeah. My name. It's Ryan."

He already knows that, jackass, he mentally scolds himself, fighting the urge to shuffle his feet or fiddle with his fingers. Fuck this nervous energy. And now he knows you're an idiot, too, he adds, but whatever. Better to get that out of the way now so Shane's not surprised later, he guesses.

To his credit, Shane doesn't roll his eyes or sigh or make any other outward sign that he's regretting his decision to take Ryan on as a student. Rather, he smiles, his eyes crinkling at the corners in an utterly distracting way, and gestures towards the open door into the (blessedly) empty studio. "Whenever you're ready," he says, and despite every reservation Ryan still has - that he's gonna fuck this up, that he'll ruin Steven and Andrew's wedding with his shitty dance moves, or, and this one's a real fucking kicker, because he just met this guy, that he'll embarrass himself in front of Shane - Ryan shores up some fucking courage and strides into the studio with the same determination he uses to hunt for ghouls.

You've got this, Bergara, he assures himself, and hey, he kind of does.

It's slow going at first: he keeps his eyes trained on his feet and tries to ignore how fucking awkward he feels, enfolded like some Disney princess in Shane's arms, until Shane makes a crack about only taking the lead "until you have a better grasp of the steps; no offense, bud, but you're a little too small to be twirling me around the dance floor right off the bat."

Ryan's so baffled by the fact that he can, and admittedly should, be considered small (he valiantly does not think short) next to Shane that he forgets to hyperfocus on his feet or the sensation of Shane's (huge) hand cupping his waist and stares up at his face instead.

"Really, dude? You're insulting me now?" He's not actually angry or offended, just kind of amused and also way out of his depth. The last time he'd danced like this was back in high school at his senior prom, and he'd been just as clumsy and out of his element then as he is now. He also hadn't been wrapped in the arms of a sleepy-eyed, long-legged Sasquatch either, though he's not exactly hating it. It's nice to have someone who knows what he's doing show him the ropes, nice to be able to put his trust in Shane, who makes it easy to kind of forget all of Ryan's pent up anxieties about the wedding and his duties as best man and just focus on the moment.

Shane grins, a crooked quirk of his lips that Ryan can't help but stare at, warmth easing into his chest and belly like he's just swallowed hot coffee. "Not insulting you, little guy, just stating facts." He caps off his assurance by guiding Ryan into a little twirl, his lips tilting into a smirk as he draws him back in, one hand firm around Ryan's waist and the other clasped with his.

Little guy. Fuck, why does that make him flush? "Show off," he mutters, and tries to ignore the heat in his face as Shane laughs, eyes scrunching up endearingly.

"Give it time," Shane tells him, drawing him into a series of fluid turns, moving gracefully along to the classical music pouring from the studio's speakers. "A few lessons under your belt and you'll be flying across the dance floor like a natural, you'll see."

Ryan doesn't know about that. It's far more likely that he'll stumble all over his partner's feet and make a fool of himself, but he appreciates Shane's vote of confidence.

It's only after their first session has ended and Ryan is walking out to his car, slightly flushed and a little sweaty from being twirled across the dance floor for an hour, that he realizes: the tense line of his shoulders has eased into a tired but satisfied slump, and the thought of continuing his dance lessons - and ultimately putting them into practice at the wedding - no longer fills him with fear.

Over the next week he learns a lot from Shane - how to trust in his body to follow the steps without needing to stare at his feet, how to guide a partner across the dance floor with confidence and something resembling grace, and even how to dip (and be dipped, holy shit, what a rush that was, Shane's groin snug against his and strands of Shane's hair falling messily over his brow as he held Ryan aloft, practically begging Ryan's fingers to reach up and brush them aside).

He'd learned a lot about Shane, too. How he'd grown up loving dance because of his mother, how his long legs had settled naturally into the steps of every dance she'd taught him, though jazz and swing were his favorites, and how he loved passing that knowledge along to his students. He'd also learned what an utter dork Shane was - about history, and cats, and movies. And popcorn, Ryan had been thrilled to learn.

He'd learned a few things about himself, too. That he wasn't half-bad at this whole dancing thing and that he should have more faith in himself, for one, and that he apparently had a thing for long legs and stubble and a killer, crooked smile.

Who knew a few ballroom dancing lessons could be so enlightening?

"Look at you, Bergara," Shane practically croons on the night of their fifth lesson, having spent the bulk of their hour together being turned and twirled across the floor, allowing Ryan to move him as he pleased. "You're a natural. Just like I promised."

He's being generous, though Ryan knows he's definitely improved over the course of the week - enough to instill some much needed confidence in himself at least, confidence he hopes will carry him through Steven's wedding.

It'd help if he had the right partner, though.

"It's all because of you, big guy," he says, the nickname rolling easily off his tongue. He hesitates a moment, the fear threatening to come flooding back in, but then he focuses on the warmth of Shane's hip beneath his hand, the soft huff of Shane's breath as Ryan surprises him with a dip, and the rasp of his laughter as Ryan draws him back in, their bodies tucked close. "Hey, uh, how do you feel about weddings?"

Shane barks out a laugh, his eyes practically twinkling. "Little early to be asking for my hand in marriage, Bergara."

Ryan sputters. "Not - ! I meant my friend's wedding, I wasn't - " He trails off at the look on Shane's face, his teeth sunk into his bottom lip to keep from laughing. "Oh, fuck you, dude."

Shane's eyes do that scrunchy thing again and oh god, Ryan's so fucked.

"I guess I should make sure my lessons have paid off," Shane muses, his hand settling over Ryan's atop his hip and squeezing. "Can't have you besmirching my name with shoddy dance moves."

It's wrapped up in humor at Ryan's expense, but Ryan recognizes a yes when he hears one, and his heart proceeds to do a few twirls of its own as he grins, squeezing Shane's hip and saying, "You're on, Madej. Just watch, I'm gonna dance fucking circles around you." He says it as haughtily as he can, just because he knows it'll make Shane laugh, and when he's proven right, when Shane shakes his head like he can't believe he's putting up with this shit and says, "It's a date, little guy," Ryan practically fucking preens.

He was wrong earlier. He's not gonna ruin Steven and Andrew's wedding. He's gonna fucking rock it.

Chapter Text

Look, it’s a thing they do, a cornerstone of their friendship. They tease each other, they poke fun, they make jokes at the other’s expense. It’s never malicious, never cruel, and if it happens to tip over the line into too close to home, they talk that shit out, smooth things over, and move on. Easy.

But then they start dating, and suddenly Ryan’s little digs at his height start to... well, hit a little too close to home. It’s not a big deal, and it’s not like Shane’s taking any of it to heart, but... okay, maybe he is taking some of it to heart.

It’s just that - look, he’s a tall dude. He gets it. Tall jokes come with the territory for someone whose spent most of his life staring down at everyone else, ever since that pesky growth spurt when he was a teen that left his back and legs aching for weeks and everyone around him giving him a double take whenever he loped up to them. It’s fine, it’s whatever, and it’s not like he doesn’t give as good as he gets, calling Ryan tiny and little guy and asking him if he’s tall enough to ride the rides at Disneyland whenever they go. It’s their thing. It’s fine.

And if Shane starts curling in on himself a little around Ryan, scrunching his shoulders and ducking his head when they meet fans or take selfies or when Ryan leans up to kiss him - well, that’s fine. It’s no big deal. It wreaks havoc on his back and his shoulders ache like a bitch at the end of the day, but whatever, it’s nothing Shane can’t deal with. 

He doesn’t even flinch when they’re investigating their next decrepit hell pit and T.J. warns them to duck their heads before they check out the basement, because he knows it’s coming - Ryan’s voice, cracking at the edges but struggling desperately not to show it, saying something about Shane not being able to fit inside if the ceiling is that low, or the place not being built with Sasquatches in mind. It’ll make the fans laugh, at least.

So he’s a little surprised when Ryan doesn’t say a thing, just sucks in a breath to brace himself before ducking into the room after Shane. 

He doesn’t even say anything about the bed when they get back to their hotel room, which is wide enough to accommodate them both but too short to accommodate the length of Shane’s legs. 

“Good thing you live that little spoon life, huh, Ry?” Shane muses, enjoying the slow burn of Ryan’s blush spreading across his cheeks. 

“Shut up, Shane,” Ryan returns, his voice only a little scratchy with leftover jitters from their haunt. Shane braces himself for a quip about his long limbs, that it’s their fault Ryan has to be the little spoon when they’re traveling because they both wouldn’t fit in the bed otherwise, but all Ryan says is, “Can you sit down, for a sec?”

“Uh, sure?” Shane makes to sit on the edge of the bed, but Ryan shakes his head and gestures to the floor between his spread legs instead. “What are you planning, Bergara?” Shane asks, even as he settles on the springy hotel carpet, his legs stretching out in front of him and his shoulders brushing Ryan’s thighs. “Is this a sex thing? It’s fine if it is, but I still smell like mold and rot and if that’s a thing for you I need to know - “

“Oh my god, Shane,” Ryan huffs, his voice tinged with laughter as his hands settle on Shane’s shoulders. “Just shut up.”

Shane opens his mouth to do just the opposite, only to let out a full body shudder as Ryan’s hands tighten on his shoulders and start to knead at the muscle, nothing but a soft, “Ohhhkay then,” coming from his suddenly slack lips. His head falls forward as Ryan’s palms slip along the back of his neck and down over his shoulderblades, his eyes slipping closed as the muscles bunch and loosen beneath Ryan’s touch. “Whatever you say, bud.”

Ryan snorts. “Whatever I say,” he mutters, digging into a knot at the base of Shane’s left shoulder with enough force to make Shane moan a little. “You should probably stop listening to what I say.”

“Huh?” Shane murmurs, already half-listening. It’s hard to focus when he’s being reduced to a puddle of a human being. 

“I just mean - it’s like - shit, I don’t mean anything by it, you know?”

“Huh?” Shane repeats, the tone of Ryan’s voice clearing his head a little.

“The height stuff. I mean, we both do it and it’s never been a big deal but I’ve noticed - well. I’ve noticed things, lately. And I know they’re my fault.”

“Hey, wait.” Shane twists around, catching his first glimpse of Ryan’s face since he sat down and not liking it one bit. "Stop that, it’s fine.”

“It’s not,” Ryan returns stubbornly, his hands settling on his lap and twisting, one around the other. “I like it, you know? That you’re taller, that it’s so fucking noticeable in pictures and on camera and that I have to lean up to kiss you and - all of it, I love all of it.”

Shane stares, and stares, and stares some more, though he manages to toss in a short little, “Oh,” just to spice things up. 

Ryan snorts. “Yeah, oh.” He narrows his eyes, pushing his fingers through Shane’s hair and dislodging a handful of dust clinging stubbornly to the strands. “So all of this slouching and scrunching bullshit needs to stop, okay? No more making yourself smaller. Not ever, and especially not for me, because I don’t fucking want it. So there.” He ruffles Shane’s hair when he’s done, with a little more force than strictly necessary, and Shane pushes at his arm with a laugh, a weight lifting from his shoulders.

“Alright, alright, I hear you,” he promises, folding his arms on Ryan’s knees and grinning up at him. “No more - what’d you call it? - slouching and scrunching bullshit? There’s that eloquence I fell in love with.”

Ryan makes a face, purely to distract from the flush stealing across his cheeks, Shane’s sure. “Shut up, Shane,” he mutters, pushing at Shane’s shoulders until Shane relents and twists back around. “Now sit still. I’ve got a lot of damage to undo.”

“Yes, sir!” Shane chirps, wrapping his arms around his knees as Ryan gets back to work, hands sure and firm against his aching muscles. Ryan mutters something above him, something about idiots and stubborn assholes who are more trouble than they’re worth, and Shane grins so hard his cheeks ache - not at the words, tinged with the same fondness that Ryan uses to call him big guy and buddy and babe, but at the pressure of a small, firm kiss, there and gone in the blink of an eye, pressed to the back of his head.  

Chapter Text

"It's not a big deal," Shane says, because that's just the thing you say in situations like these. It's not a big deal. It's not.

"Yeah, no, of course not," Ryan's quick to reassure, though it doesn't do much to help Shane in his current state. He's already bracing himself for confusion, for questions, for judgement, because he's come to expect all of it. Anticipate it, even.

He blows out a breath, running a hand through his hair. He can't bring himself to look at Ryan as he says, "It's not because I haven't wanted to, or never had the opportunity, or whatever." He waves his hand, trying to encompass the past three decades of his life with a mere flick of his wrist. "It's just - circumstances, you know. Never worked out." He hates that he even feels this need - the need to make excuses, to explain, and he hates the nauseous feeling in his gut, too.

"Shane," Ryan starts, but Shane refuses to look at him. "Hey," Ryan continues, undeterred. His voice is so fucking soft. "Baby, you know you don't have to explain yourself to me, right?"

Of course Shane knows that, he's always known that - that Ryan wouldn't mock him for this. He'd be surprised, probably, but he wouldn't turn it into some kind of joke.

But it's hard to forget the expressions of shock or the calculating glances of others he's told, the assumptions and judgments they've made without saying a word. It's all bullshit - so what if he's still all fucking virgin? Why does it even fucking matter? - and Shane's made an art form out of not giving a shit about what people think of him, but this isn't just anybody, this is Ryan.

Ryan, who's looking at him with the softest expression Shane's ever seen, so sweet and fond that Shane feels heat build beneath his collar and spread along the line of his throat, until it finally finds a home in his cheeks.

"What?" he asks, more defensive than he means to be. Ryan doesn't take offense, if his soft laugh is anything to go by.

"Nothing! I'm just looking at you."

"Yeah, well. Cut it out."

Ryan laughs again, only this time it's accompanied by the curl of his arm around Shane's waist, firm and warm through his flannel. "Shane, listen to me," he says, serious and earnest all at once. "I don't care, okay? It doesn't make a difference to me. It's - it's whatever you want, you know? Whether it's everything or nothing or something in-between. You tell me, and then we'll go from there."

Shane groans, slumping until his cheek can rest against the crown of Ryan's head. "Why do ya gotta go and do that, Ry?" he asks, his heart jumping in his chest. "Be all sweet and understanding and shit? S’not fucking fair."

Ryan huffs a laugh against him, his hand stroking along the length of Shane's side. "What'd you want me to do, then?"

"It's not about what I wanted, it's about what I expected. And I expected... questions." That's usually what Shane had to deal with, whenever this particular topic came up: Why not?, What are you waiting for?, and others of that ilk.

Ryan shrugs, leaning back so they can see each other. "Okay. What do you want?"

Like that's all he needs to know. Like it's that simple.

Hell, maybe it is.

"I want you," Shane says, as genuinely as he knows how, because it's true.

Ryan's smile blooms across his face like the goddamn sun, wide and bright and so fucking brilliant Shane doesn't even bother trying not to be charmed by it, not even as Ryan climbs to his feet and crooks his finger in Shane's direction, his, "Then come and get me, big guy," carrying a hint of challenge that gets Shane going like nothing else.

There's no room for second guessing or insecurity after that, no fear of judgement or misplaced anxiety that he won't measure up somehow.

There's only skin, bare beneath roving fingers and hungry mouths, turning slick with sweat as they tangle together; there's only breath, soft and heavy and then faster, mingling with their grunts and sighs and, eventually, pleas for more; there's only soft voices: one patient, careful, wanting, asking, "You're sure?" and "How's it feel?" and "More?" and another, deeper, hungry, desperate, gasping, "Yes" and "Good, it's good" and "Please."

There's only Shane, long limbs splayed and breaths so heavy, and Ryan, dark hair plastered to his brow and bottom lip clenched between his teeth as he sinks between Shane's thighs, thrusts long and measured and deep.

There's only them, together, and that's all they need.   

Chapter Text

“Is it handcuffs? Whips? Chains?”

Ryan sighs, eyes trained on a tricky bit of editing he’s been trying to perfect for the last hour. “No, no, and no,” he says.

Shane hums next to him, his own laptop sitting abandoned on the coffee table. Well, at least he hadn’t brought this conversation up at the office. “Is it name calling? Do you want me to tell you you’re a bad boy, Ryan?”

“Oh my god.” Ryan buries his face in his hands, an exasperated laugh filtering from between his fingers. “No, it’s not fucking – it’s not that. Stop guessing.”

“I’ll stop guessing when you stop stalling,” Shane returns. Asshole doesn’t even have the gall to shrink under Ryan’s glare, choosing to laugh instead. Like an asshole. “You might as well just tell me. You’re only depriving yourself here.”

Ryan scoffs, dropping his hands and turning resolutely back to his editing. “Depriving myself of what? Your mockery?”

Shane laughs, bumping their shoulders together. “Hey! I wouldn’t mock you… about this. There’s no room for kink-shaming in the Madej household, bud, you know that.”

Ryan grumbles, sinking down into the couch as if that’ll save him from having to continue this conversation. No such luck, of course - Shane’s like a dog with a fucking bone with this, has been ever since they went to that bar with the crew last weekend and Ryan got a little too honest after a few too many beers.

"You do realize this is the kind of shit we can talk about, don’t you?” Shane asks, the humor fading from his voice as he catches Ryan’s eyes. “I mean, we are, ya know - ” He holds up two fingers and curls them together.

Ryan snorts. “We’re having a conversation about kinks and you can’t even say the word ‘dating’?”

“Is that what we’re doing?” Shane asks, eyes twinkling, and oh god, Ryan’s really stepped in it now. “Thought we were doing the whole 'ghoulfriends without labels’ thing but if we’re dating - ” He leans in, bracing a hand on Ryan’s knee, and Ryan tries valiantly not to do something embarrassing like gasp or squeak or whimper, what the fuck.

Thankfully he manages to bury whatever sounds he may or may not make against Shane’s mouth, though there’s nothing he can do to smother his hitching breath as Shane kisses him softly. Shane’s lips twitch against his, lifting in a smile, and Ryan almost bristles but stops himself just in time, knowing he’ll only be giving Shane exactly the reaction he wants.

Shane doesn’t allow the kiss to deepen, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Ryan’s dick, which has been steadily swelling against his zipper ever since Shane started his little guessing game. He huffs, as Shane presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth, then his chin, then along the bend of his jaw, annoyed and fond all at once as only Shane can make him.

“Is it spanking?” Shane asks, his voice softer and a little hoarse, devoid of his usual teasing. “Biting, maybe?” He nibbles at Ryan’s jawline, soothing the slight sting with a flick of his tongue, and though it sends a pulse of arousal straight to Ryan’s groin he shakes his head and mutters a shaky no.

“Hmm,” Shane hums, his lips traveling along Ryan’s cheek, over his sideburn until they can brush against the shell of his ear. “Edging? Sex toys? How about some good old fashioned dirty talk?”

His breath fans hot against Ryan’s ear and Ryan shudders, clenching his thighs together beneath the forgotten weight of his laptop. Fuck. “Shane, c'mon.”

Shane sighs, his hand drifting from Ryan’s knee to splay across his chest. Ryan freezes. “Is it really so hard to ask for what you want, Ry?” Shane asks him, his voice far more gentle than it has any right to be when Ryan’s already about to burst out of his skin. And then Shane’s pointer finger brushes against his nipple, a totally unconscious gesture that nevertheless wrestles a strangled moan from Ryan’s throat, and Ryan doesn’t need to look at Shane’s face to know he’s been found out.

“Well, that explains a few things,” Shane muses, rubbing the point of his finger over Ryan’s nipple and grinning as Ryan’s breath hitches. “Namely why you’re so eager to lose your shirt all the time.”

Ryan sputters, his arousal taking a backseat to his need to set the record straight. “That’s not why I - ! Look, I just happen to have a healthy body image and our coworkers keep putting me in situations where I have to take my shirt off.”

“Hmm,” Shane murmurs, unconvinced. “A likely story,” he says, and then he ducks his head, pressing a kiss to Ryan’s nipple. Even with the barrier of his shirt in the way the touch is electrifying, and Ryan reaches clumsily for his laptop, pushing it off of his lap onto the cushion beside him and threading a hand through Shane’s hair.

“Shane,” he murmurs, not as a deterrent but as a not-entirely-subtle plea for more.

“I got you, Ry-guy,” Shane promises, a teasing lilt to his voice, before he parts his lips and draws Ryan’s nipple into his mouth, not even bothering to push his shirt up and out of the way.

Ryan sucks in a breath at the sensation of damp cotton and warm heat over sensitive flesh; it comes out as a moan as Shane flicks his tongue over the hardening nub, and he grabs a fistful of Shane’s hair in a vain attempt to distract himself from the white hot pleasure of it all, his head falling back against the couch as Shane begins to trail his fingers over his other nipple.

“Fuck, Shane,” Ryan grits, his dick straining against his zipper as Shane continues to mouth at his chest, switching between bestowing soft kitten licks over Ryan’s nipples and sucking at the pebbled flesh, fingers tracing the swells of Ryan’s pecs through his shirt until Ryan’s reaching for the hem himself, desperate to get the fucking thing off so he can feel Shane’s mouth against his bare flesh.

Shane encourages him with soft words and filthy promises, “That’s it, Ry, c'mon,” interspersed with “Could make you cum just from this, couldn’t I? Bet I could, bet that’s all it’ll take.”

Ryan nods breathlessly, tossing his shirt somewhere beyond the couch and nearly shouting as Shane ducks down and seals his mouth around a nipple, flushed dark and aching with sensitivity. Shane hums against his chest, refusing to stick to any pattern that Ryan can adjust to, switching between hollowing his cheeks around Ryan’s nipples and scattering kisses over his chest, sucking a bruise along his sternum that has Ryan arching off the couch and nearly sobbing Shane’s name.

It seems to go on forever, every teasing lick and scrape of teeth along his nipples going straight to his dick, trapped within cotton and denim and slicking the front of his briefs with pre-come. Shane never even touches him below the belt, sticking to stroking wide palms over Ryan’s arms and chest and stomach while his mouth wreaks havoc on Ryan’s nipples, and Ryan hates that he doesn’t need more than that, that Shane is right and this is all it will take to send him crashing over the edge.

He barely even notices as he finally spills into his briefs, his dick twitching against his zipper, unable to separate the sensation of his orgasm ripping through him from the continued assault on his chest, and by the time Shane eases away Ryan’s nipples and pecs are sore and slick with sweat and saliva, his chest heaving as he struggles to catch his breath.

Shane stares down at him with dark eyes, satisfaction heavy in his gaze as Ryan breathes heavily beneath him. He brushes his thumb over one of Ryan’s nipples, hard and damp and ringed with friction marks leftover from his beard, and bites his lip as Ryan whimpers.

“Any other kinks you want to fess up to, baby?” he asks, his voice trembling with laughter as much as need. Ryan can see the hard length of him straining against his chinos, and reaches over to press the heel of his palm to the bulge, swallowing Shane’s gasp with a quick, hard kiss.

“Shut up, Shane,” he murmurs needlessly, working to free Shane from the confines of his pants and wrapping eager fingers around his length. “Fair’s fair, big guy – it’s your turn now.”

Chapter Text

Shane tends to make dumb decisions when he's bored. Ryan tends to make dumb decisions when he's anxious. Hence why they both agree to participate in Buzzfeed's newest video during the lull between seasons of Unsolved.

A week without physical contact of any sort seems easy enough at first. Shane's not the most tactile guy anyway; he can refrain from touching or being touched for a measly seven days.

Of course, as is usually the way, the initial confidence he’d started the challenge out with starts to waver pretty quickly, to the point where he’s rethinking the whole thing by the middle of the week. It’s not a big deal or anything, it’s just – he kind of took for granted how often he engaged in casual human contact. It’s a bit of a monumental oversight when he takes into account the fact that he works at Buzzfeed, with colleagues who don’t necessarily have the best grasp of personal space. That shit rubs off on you, apparently, as Shane realizes with mounting horror the fourth time he goes to sling his arm over someone’s shoulder and has to physically restrain himself.

By the end of day four he’s seriously lamenting the loss of past Shane’s personal boundaries. What happened to the guy who used to keep such careful stock of his limbs, just to make sure he didn’t draw too much attention to himself? When did he become the type of person who reached casually for his friends’ shoulders and found no qualms with having his hip bumped or his hair ruffled by his more affectionate colleagues?

Also, when did touching his co-host become so second nature to him that he literally had to sit on his hands so he wouldn’t reach for the guy?

Yeah, that was a thing.

He hadn’t realized it until he was forbidden from doing so but yeah, touching Ryan? He did that. A lot.

Poking Ryan’s shoulder to get his attention or to drive a point home. Ruffling his hair when Ryan chose to come into work without his customary product, the dark strands falling soft and messy over his brow. Grabbing his shoulders to pull Ryan away from his laptop for food or a break whenever they hit an editing snag. Nudging Ryan’s sneaker under their desks just for the hell of it, just because he wanted to, just because he liked to glance over and catch Ryan’s smile whenever he did it.

… Fuck.

This blows, man, he sends Ryan a little after midnight on day five. He’s too restless to sleep and his skin feels weird and stretched too tightly over his frame. He understands what’s happening, knows that touch starvation is a thing and that humans need contact, no matter how small, in order to function properly, and that what he’s feeling right now is completely natural. It still fucking blows.

Tell me about it, Ryan sends back. Shane’s not surprised he’s still awake, but something settles in his chest anyway at the sight of his name popping up on his screen. Try living with former frat brothers. I’ve had to quarantine myself in my room.

Shane barks a laugh. Missing all those bro hugs, are ya, Ry? he asks, having met Ryan’s roommates and been subjected to more half-hugs and shoulder slaps than he can count.

Honestly? Yeah, Ryan sends back, and Shane’s laughter dies in his throat. It’s weird, man. I FEEL weird. All sad and shit.

That’s normal, though. Expected, even. We read up on it when they asked us to do the video, remember?

Yeah, I know. Just didn’t realize how often I touched people before all this.

Shane huffs a breath of scratchy laughter. Join the club, buddy, he sends.

It takes a while for Ryan to reply. Didn’t realize how often I touched you, either, he texts, and Shane kind of… does a thing. Makes a sound. A pathetic, kind of hungry sound. He doesn’t allow himself to analyze it for too long.


Yeah. Kind of miss it. A lot.

“Fuck,” Shane mutters, his skin flaring with an ache that’s almost too difficult to ignore. Me too, bud, he replies, his heart in his throat. It’s not a big deal; at least, it shouldn’t be. They’re friends, they touch each other, and they miss it now that they can’t do it anymore. So what? It doesn’t mean anything.

Or so he tells himself, until Ryan shows up at his door on day seven with a six pack and a nervous smile. They haven’t really talked since the other night, and Shane had been content to push their conversation to the back of his mind as he waited out the remaining two days of the challenge, but now that Ryan’s here all of those feelings that had flooded him at the other’s admission – that ache beneath his skin, the exhilaration and the nervousness and the fear – comes rushing back, leaving him strangely bashful and feeling a little unmoored.

“So,” Ryan starts, once they’d both drained a beer and spent a good hour staring unenthusiastically at the movie they’d put on, the space of one cushion between them feeling inordinately huge despite it only separating them by a few feet.

Shane swallows, wets his lips. “So?”

“It’s technically been a week already, right? I mean, we completed the challenge.”

Shane glances at his watch. “I mean, if you want to be technical we still have a few hours – “

Ryan gives him a look. “Shane,” he says, and there’s something tremulous in his voice, like he’s holding on to his last shred of composure with just the tips of his fingers.

Shane shuts up.

Ryan takes a breath and sets his empty can on the coffee table. “If this is too much or if you don’t – if I’m jumping to conclusions because of all of the – the past week, just, tell me, okay?” He scoots over, his movements slow, but even so Shane’s breath hitches audibly, the approaching heat of Ryan’s body settling closer to his making his skin tingle with a sense of awareness that he’s not used to, so strong that it makes him shake, just once, a full-body shudder that leaves goosebumps in its wake.

And then Ryan’s pressed against him, his arm sliding through Shane’s, their shoulders tucked together, and Shane just. Breathes. Says Ryan’s name, soft and a little strangled.

“Is this okay?” Ryan asks him, just as soft. He tilts his head so he can catch Shane’s eyes, and he looks – fuck, he looks terrified and relieved all at once, like this is all he’s been waiting for, and… Yeah, Shane knows the feeling.

“It’s more than okay, little guy,” he promises, and leans down to tuck his cheek against Ryan’s crown before he can second guess himself. He feels Ryan draw in a breath and let it out slowly, the tension easing from his shoulders until he’s basically slumped against Shane, and Shane smiles, the ache he’s been fighting all week finally settling into a soft, pleasant buzz beneath his skin.  

Chapter Text

“You’re doing this on purpose.”

Ryan hums, neither confirming or denying Shane’s claim. He’s too distracted for words anyway, most of his attention focused on the steady thrum of Shane’s pulse against his lips, the scent of skin and a faint trace of Shane’s cologne filling his nose as he mouths at Shane’s wrist. He fights a grin as he hears the thump of Shane’s other hand hitting the bed, and scrapes his teeth gently against the soft, thin skin covering Shane’s wrist.

Fuck you,” Shane breathes weakly, his fingers curling into a fist.

Ryan laughs, licking over the shallow marks he’d scored into Shane’s skin. “Patience, big guy,” he murmurs, following the line of Shane’s forearm up to his bicep, closing his eyes to enjoy the quickening beat of Shane’s heart, audible over the soft huffs of his breath and his occasional curses.

“I’ve been patient,” Shane hisses. “You’ve been at this for hours, you dick.”

Ryan laughs again, his breath puffing against the curve of Shane’s bare shoulder. “It’s been half an hour, max,” he says, nibbling teasingly at Shane’s skin. “Suck it up, you big baby.”

“Supposed to be your job,” Shane groans, arching feebly against Ryan and sucking in a breath as his cock rubs against Ryan’s stomach, smearing pre-come along his abs. “C’mon, already. You’re thirsty, aren’t you?”  

“Parched,” Ryan murmurs, nuzzling against the line of Shane’s throat. He can hear the blood rushing through Shane’s veins, feel the heat of it surging just beneath the thin barrier of his skin, and hunger flares in his gums and his belly. Still, there’s something to be said for delayed gratification, and Ryan’s enjoying Shane’s growing desperation far too much to give in now.

So he eases away from the temptation of Shane’s throat with a last teasing flick of his tongue, and grins as an annoyed sigh spills from Shane’s lips. Shane takes one look at him and rolls his eyes, though there’s no disguising the uptick of his heartbeat as he stares at Ryan’s toothy smile and the fangs on prominent display.

“You’re enjoying this far too much,” he says, his head falling back against the bed as Ryan’s mouth traces a line down the center of his chest, pausing every once in a while to nibble at an irresistible patch of skin.

“Don’t act like you aren’t loving this,” Ryan says, parting his lips around the curve of Shane’s hipbone and sucking a mark into the flesh. He can’t resist sinking his teeth in for a little bite, not enough to draw blood but enough to make Shane jolt and reach for him, long fingers spearing through his hair and tangling within the strands.

“If I say I’m not you’re just gonna spout some bullshit about reading my heartbeat,” Shane complains, his frustration tempered by the breathless quality of his voice. He tugs at Ryan’s hair, not hard enough to disrupt Ryan’s path, just enough to make him feel it, and now it’s Ryan that’s shuddering, his eyelids fluttering at the pleasant sting. “How long do you plan on dragging this out?”

“Until I find the perfect spot,” Ryan says, lips fluttering over Shane’s navel. He avoids brushing against Shane’s cock, straining thick and red against his stomach, purely for the sake of hearing Shane curse, and ducks down to nip at the soft skin of Shane’s inner thigh. It’s one of his favorite places to feed from, and Shane knows it, too, if the long fingers curling tightly in the bedsheets are anything to go by. “It’s not my fault there’s so much real estate to explore.”

“Har har,” Shane rasps, his thigh muscles twitching as Ryan sucks at the soft, pale skin. “Why don’t you just save us both some time and go for the jugular, huh?”

Ryan hides his grin against Shane’s thigh, admiring the pretty purple bruise he’d sucked to life there. “I don’t know. That’s kind of predictable, isn’t it?”

Shane tugs at his hair again, harder this time. “You can’t beat the classics, Ryan,” he says, and then adds, softer. “C’mon, I need it. Please?”

That’s the thing about Shane, the thing that gets to Ryan, hits him like a punch to the gut, every time. Ryan needs this – the blood, the thrum of someone else’s pulse racing beneath his lips and the give of skin beneath his teeth – to survive, but Shane – Shane, who never flinches from Ryan’s bite, who refuses to let Ryan wallow without blood for too long, who actively urges Ryan to feed during sex and moans like he’s being paid for it the moment Ryan gives in – seems to need it, too. Seems to crave it, just as badly.

It’s a heady feeling, knowing Shane wants this, too, feeling it in the arch of his body as Ryan settles over him and kisses his throat. There’s nothing better; not even the gush of blood as Ryan sinks his teeth into Shane’s jugular comes close to the knowledge that Shane’s here because he wants to be.

Though the long arms wrapping around his shoulders and the soft mutter of “Finally” sighed against his hair definitely comes close.

Chapter Text

“This is dumb.”

“Mm hm,” Ryan hums, hooking his fingers into the waistband of Shane’s chinos and grabbing for his briefs while he’s at it. Shane’s stomach jumps at the sensation of fingertips skimming his navel, and he lifts his hips with a soft grunt so Ryan can wiggle his clothes free of his legs.

“I’m serious. There has to be something against fucking on company property in our contracts.” Shane’s argument falls flat even to his own ears, but then again, it’s hard to sound admonishing when his voice is so goddamn breathy.

“It’s late, the door’s locked,” Ryan says, tossing Shane’s discarded clothes to the floor. “If there was ever a time… ”

“If there was ever a time to eat my ass at work, it’s now?” Shane finishes with a laugh, a laugh that edges into moan territory when Ryan grips the globes of his ass, idly squeezing and molding the flesh.

“Exactly,” Ryan murmurs, the wheels of his rolling chair squeaking as he pulls himself as close to the desk as possible, nestled in the splayed vee of Shane’s thighs.

Shane grips the edges of the desk with nerveless fingers, breathing hard as Ryan gropes shamelessly at his ass, his movements slow and teasing, like he has all the time in the world to take Shane apart.

“We do have to finish this editing sometime tonight, you know,” Shane reminds him, a thread of impatience in his voice, not geared toward Ryan but to the episode of Unsolved that they’ve been pouring over for the past week and struggling to put the finishing touches on tonight. He had been exhausted and frustrated and a little annoyed before Ryan had even grabbed their laptops and tugged him out of the bullpen, the quiet of the Unsolved set only marginally improving his mood. As the hours progressed and the episode took its sweet time in coming together in a way that satisfied them both, his frustration had only grown.

It was Ryan that suggested they take a break, unwind a little. As to who had nudged things along in this direction, to Shane sprawling himself over the desk in preparation for Ryan to fuck him silly, well. Who could say? Certainly not Shane, whose protests are more for show than any true desire to stop, and certainly not Ryan, who knows this to be true without Shane needing to say a word.

“Hush, Shane,” Ryan murmurs, and oh fuck, Shane can feel his lips, plush and soft and a little damp from his tongue swiping across them, pressing against his tailbone.

“Or you’ll what?” Shane asks, trying for snarky but only succeeding in sounding desperate. “Let me get back to work? Which is what we should be doing, I might add.”

He yelps as a light slap ripples across his left cheek, not hard enough to hurt, just enough pressure to sting. “The only thing you should be doing is shutting the fuck up, Shane,” Ryan returns. It’s monumentally unfair how even his voice is, only a faint waver giving away that he’s affected by their situation at all, though Shane knows that, if he were to glance over his shoulder, he’d see that Ryan’s eyes have grown dark and heavy-lidded, his gaze honey-thick as he strokes his fingers down the seam of Shane’s ass and bottom lip flushed red from worrying at it with his teeth.

“Fucking make me,” Shane growls, his fingers curling tighter around the edge of the desk as Ryan goes still behind him, tension seeping thick and syrupy between them.

“You’re such a fucking brat, Shane,” Ryan breathes, voice low and hoarse. Nearly dangerous, in the way it can sometimes get when Shane’s pushed his teasing just a little too far.

Not that it stops Shane, not at all. If anything it makes him want to act out more, show his ass in the figurative sense until Ryan’s flushed with anger or frustration or a tantalizing mixture of the two.

He doesn’t get a chance this time; calm as he seems, Ryan’s done playing, evidenced by the way he spreads Shane open without preamble and leans in to lick a stripe along the seam of his ass, making Shane shout and grit his teeth against the soft, damp pressure of Ryan’s tongue.

Fuuuuck,” he breathes out, pressing his cheek into the hard surface of the desk and panting as Ryan begins to lap at him, the strokes of his tongue slow and measured, his breath puffing hot against Shane’s flesh. “God, Ry. You gotta – gotta fucking warn a guy, shit.” His fingers creak around the edge of the desk as Ryan’s tongue flutters teasingly along the rim of his hole, barely dipping in before retreating again, taking his sweet time in tracing a line from Shane’s perineum to the heavy weight of his balls, drawn up close to his body. Ryan spends a devastating amount of time flicking his tongue over the sensitive skin there, humming in contentment and digging his fingers into the swells of Shane’s ass when Shane moans raggedly and tries to arch back against his mouth, keeping him in place and forcing him still.

Shane wants to rage, or whine, or scream, whatever it takes to make Ryan pick up the fucking pace, but he grits his teeth and swallows against the rising tide of frustration instead. Much as it kills him, there’s something addictive about the soft, shallow passes of Ryan’s tongue and the slow spread of heat through his limbs. Ryan’s a goddamn wizard with his mouth – no wonder, with how often he runs it – and despite the slow pace it isn’t long before Shane’s slumped against the desk in a dead sprawl, moaning softly and weakly pumping his hips in search of some relief.

“Please,” he murmurs, his voice a low rasp as if he’s been screaming all this time. Ryan’s lips twitch against his ass, and Shane huffs as he feels a soft kiss pressed to the swell of his cheek.

“Alright, baby,” Ryan says softly, his voice just as wrecked as Shane’s. His fingers dance along Shane’s ass, readjusting, sinking in, and Shane jumps at the sudden sensation of wet heat as Ryan spits on his hole, spreading the saliva with quick, eager flicks of his tongue before, oh god, easing inside.

And okay, up until this point Shane had made a concentrated effort to keep his voice down. It might be late and the door might be locked but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones left in the building and their set isn’t exactly soundproof.

The moment Ryan stops playing around and sets to enthusiastically eating Shane out, though, all bets are fucking off. Shane can’t even be fucked to care about the truly ridiculous noises spilling from his mouth or the creaking of the desk as he writhes on top of it. He can’t be bothered to care about anything, not unless it features Ryan in the starring role – Ryan and his strong, clenching fingers and his noises and that fucking mouth. Shane would like to meet the person who could be subjected to any of that and not lose their fucking mind, but that’s a pipe dream if there ever was one because that person? Can’t fucking exist.

So no one will blame Shane for getting a little mouthy, for begging Ryan to fuck him deeper, give him more, make him cum. No one will blame him for the promises that spill from his lips, each more eager and filthy than the last. And certainly no one will blame him for cumming without his dick even being touched, his loud, broken moan – some amalgamation of Ryan’s name and a few strangled expletives – echoing around their set long after he slumps, exhausted and wrung out, against their desk.

And no one will blame him for the dopey smile that spreads across his face as Ryan sighs against his ass, rubbing his stubbly cheek over one cheek while he pats softly at the other.

“Feel better, big guy?” he asks, a note of smugness to his voice.

Shane will let it slide, this time.  

Ryan’s kind of earned it. 

Chapter Text

They’re blurry-eyed and reeking of fast food tacos by the time they stumble into their hotel room, and though all Shane really wants to do is collapse on their bed and pass out for the next eight hours he knows they’ll both regret it if they don’t shower first.

“C’mon, bud,” he says, gripping Ryan’s shoulders and pushing him toward the bathroom. Ryan’s a little less glassy-eyed than he’d been earlier in the night but it’s still concerning that he doesn’t bother to put up a protest as Shane helps him out of his clothes and tugs him into the shower. The water’s hot enough to fill the room with clouds of steam, hotter than how Shane usually takes his showers, but he knows it’s how Ryan prefers it, especially after an investigation like this one.

Shane hadn’t felt anything at the mission himself, malevolent or otherwise, but he knows Ryan had been affected by the place and that it would take a while for the feelings it had stirred up to recede.  

He also knows that what Ryan needs in this situation tends to vary – sometimes he wants to talk, sometimes he wants to lose himself in mindless television or social media, and sometimes he wants to collapse in a heap on the nearest bed and not surface until morning.

Judging by the tired slump of his shoulders and his minimal grumbling as Shane works shampoo through his wet hair, Ryan seems to need the latter tonight, which is just fine. Shane can give him that.

So he tosses one of his own worn tees at Ryan after their shower, and gathers the pillows and sheets from both beds while Ryan watches him quietly, scrubbing at his damp hair until it’s a fluffy mess on top of his head.  

“Your chariot awaits, good sir,” Shane tells him with a flourish once he’s done, gesturing to the bed by the window with its mound of plumped, fluffy pillows and extra blankets. Ryan doesn’t laugh, but his lips twitch and his eyes crinkle as he shakes his head, dropping his towel on the extra bed before joining Shane under the covers.

It’s well past midnight by the time they finally settle in, and Shane can feel his earlier exhaustion making a comeback now that he’s stretched out beneath soft sheets with Ryan pressed against him, smelling like hotel soap and warm skin and mint. Judging by the pliant curve of his body as he settles against Shane’s side, the shower had worked its wonders on what remained of his tension from the shoot, just like Shane had hoped it would, and he smiles as Ryan snuffles against his shoulder and tosses an arm over his waist.

“Thanks,” Ryan breathes, his voice soft against Shane’s throat.

“No problem, Ry,” Shane murmurs against the crown of his head, planting a smacking kiss against his dark hair that makes Ryan huff before he closes his eyes, fingers curling in Shane’s sleep shirt.

It’s a testament to Ryan’s own exhaustion that he’s the first to fall asleep, though Shane’s glad of it. They’ve had their share of bad nights on location, when Ryan’s too keyed up to drift off despite both of their best efforts, and it always leads to miserable mornings with Ryan struggling to run on fumes and sheer stubbornness alone.

Shane huffs a laugh at the reminder, careful to be quiet about it, and runs his fingers gently through Ryan’s hair. “The most stubborn little ghostbuster I know,” he mumbles to himself, watching the way Ryan’s dark hair shifts through his fingers, soft and clean smelling and a little damp in spots Ryan had missed with the towel. “Stubborn and obstinate and so goddamn frustrating, especially when you keep striding all willy nilly into these places. I mean, you know how you get, Ryan.” Jumpy and loud at best, shaken and glassy-eyed and too quiet for Shane’s comfort at worst. “Your lack of self-preservation skills is alarming, little guy,” he adds, sighing against Ryan’s crown as he’s rocketed back to earlier in the night, listening to Ryan’s voice crack as he sought out some response from the mission’s alleged demon.

He usually loves when Ryan gets a little shook up during their investigations, but when his fear and unease crosses the line from screaming at flashlights to being driven to tears, Shane always wants to step in, call time out, curl his arm around Ryan’s shoulders and steal him away to some place that won’t give him fucking nightmares.

He’d had to settle for jokes and a too brightly lit Taco Bell tonight, but he’ll take just about anything so long as they can wind up like this, with Ryan’s face smooth in sleep and his breaths deep and even.

Shane ruffles his hair, grinning as it fluffs up like a startled cat. “My brave little ghost hunter,” he muses quietly, because that’s exactly what Ryan is even if he scowls whenever Shane calls him that. Stubbornly, tirelessly brave. Braver than someone like Shane, who walks into all of their haunts secure in the knowledge that nothing is there, could ever be. “The bravest, the best. Possibly the hottest. Probably not the biggest. Definitely not the biggest.” His chest shakes as he laughs softly, amused at his own antics, knowing that if Ryan were awake he’d get a pinch to the arm for that last one. “Definitely my favorite, though,” he adds, feeling more ridiculous for the warmth in his cheeks than the fact that he’s holding a conversation with his boyfriend while he’s dead to the world. “Oookay, Madej,” he mumbles to himself, shutting his eyes and dropping his cheek to rest against Ryan’s dark hair. “That’s enough sap for one night.”

It’s easy to drift off once he shuts up, his earlier exhaustion dragging him right under as soon as he gives it the chance. Lost to a deep, dreamless sleep, he misses the clench of Ryan’s fingers in his sleep shirt, the soft perusal of warm, dark eyes, and, after a moment’s hesitation, the kiss dropped to his chest, lips pressed sweetly to his heart.

Chapter Text

“I might have to bail on tonight, big guy.”

Shane doesn’t even need to ask why, because Ryan sounds fucking awful.

“You sound fucking awful,” he says.

Ryan laughs, a burst of raspy static through the phone. “Gee, thanks,” he croaks. Literally croaks, harsh enough that Shane’s throat aches in sympathy.

“A little under the weather, are ya, Ry?” he asks unnecessarily, if only to hear Ryan sigh down the line.

“Understatement of the fucking century, dude,” he says. “I feel like death. Actual death. Also? Fuck Portland.”

Shane snorts, though he can’t help but agree. They’d gotten caught in a rainstorm halfway through their investigation of Cathedral Park and been soaked to the bone by the time they’d gotten back to their hotel. Ryan had been shivering up a storm, his hair plastered to his forehead and his shoes squelching on the carpet, and had stolen Shane’s sweater to sleep in.

And kept it, come to think of it…

“Do you need anything?” he asks, letting Ryan’s act of thievery go for now. “Meds? Food?”

“You don’t have to bring me anything,” Ryan deflects, a sentiment immediately undermined by the harsh rasp of his voice and the fact that Shane has seen the contents of his fridge before.

“Already on my way,” Shane says, tucking his cell against his ear as he slips into his boots. “Get some rest in the meantime, and for God’s sake stay away from whatever leftovers are probably growing legs in your fridge.”

A raspy laugh echoes down the line. “Don’t think I could get out of bed even if I wanted to.”

“Music to my ears,” Shane breathes, grinning as Ryan squawks in his ear, probably blushing bright red.

“You’re an idiot,” Ryan tells him, soft and exasperated.

“You love it,” Shane says, closing and locking his door behind him.

Even with the sickness wreaking havoc on his vocal chords, there’s no mistaking the fondness in Ryan’s voice as he murmurs, “God help me, I do,” nor is there a chance in hell of erasing Shane’s dopey smile after hearing it.

Ryan makes it worse, really, when he opens the door in Shane’s stolen sweater, messy-haired and sleepy-eyed and sniffling miserably.

Fuck, Shane thinks happily.

Ryan squints at him. “What?”

“Nothing,” Shane says, biting the inside of his cheek to quell his smile. Judging by the look on Ryan’s face, shrewd and adorably grumpy, he fails. “Nice sweater,” he adds, slipping off his boots by the door and heading towards the kitchen.

“You’re not getting it back,” Ryan mumbles, slumping into a stool at the island and pillowing his chin on his arms. His glasses slip down his nose but he looks too tired to care, and Shane feels something wrench in the vicinity of his chest.

“Eh, it looks better on you, anyway,” he says, popping the lid off the cold medicine he’d brought and pouring out the recommended dose. He pushes it toward Ryan. “Bottoms up, buttercup!”

Ryan gives him a look before swallowing the medicine, his lips twisting at the taste. “You’re awfully chipper today,” he says.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Shane deflects, busying himself with starting on the soup he’d bought.

Ryan makes a face. “You like this, don’t you?” he asks, waving a lazy hand toward himself. “Taking care of me when I’m sick and gross.”

“I mean, I don’t dislike it,” Shane admits, grinning when Ryan huffs. “It’s not because you’re sick, though.”

Ryan laughs and then grimaces, rubbing at his throat. Shane wordlessly grabs a bottle of water from the fridge and passes it to him. “But that’s part of it,” he says after a few grateful swallows. “Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’d be stewing in my own misery if you hadn’t shown up, so.”

Shane shoots Ryan a grin over his shoulder. “It’s a good thing Nurse Madej is here, then.”

“Oh god, don’t even start with that,” Ryan groans, though there’s a wobble to it that means he’s trying not to laugh. “Please don’t make me picture you in one of those uniforms, I’m not strong enough.”

“It is a pretty powerful image,” Shane concedes, mock-serious. “I mean, these gams in one of those skirts?” He sticks out his leg and shimmies it a bit, clicking his tongue. “All that blood rushing to your dick would not be a good thing in your condition.”

Ryan snorts into the circle of his arms, his eyes crinkling behind his glasses. “Yeah, my dick would be my main concern in this scenario, sure.”

Shane turns his nose up. “You laugh now, but you know I’m right,” he says haughtily, passing Ryan a bowl and claiming the stool next to him. “Now eat, and then it’s straight back to bed with you. Nurse’s orders.”

Ryan rolls his eyes but reaches gamely for his soup, pausing with the spoon halfway to his mouth. “You’re staying, right?” he asks, deliberately casual, as though the answer doesn’t matter to him one way or the other.

Shane smiles, reaching over to push a few messy strands of hair off of Ryan’s forehead. “You bet, baby.”

He doesn’t even care that it’s only mid-afternoon by the time they clean up and slip into bed, or that Ryan’s practically a furnace against his side, his flushed cheek resting on Shane’s collarbone and his breath rattling as he sleeps. He’s perfectly happy right where he is.

Chapter Text

“A hot tub filled with popcorn, huh?”

Shane glances over at Ryan, the sound of the crew packing up equipment and calling their goodbyes fading to a hum in the background.

“Back on that pleasure boat, are we?” he asks, coloring his words with the same ridiculous voice he’d used during the Postmortem.

Ryan grins, holding up his hands. “You were the one who was so fixated on it, remember?”

“Maybe,” Shane concedes, because hey, the idea was solid once you took out the whole murder subplot. “But not for the reasons you were thinking.”

Ryan dips his head in acknowledgement. “That’s really all it would take to make you happy, isn’t it?” he asks, softly exasperated and terribly fond. Shane hears that tone from the little guy a lot, and it never fails to light him up from the inside out. “Just some jacuzzi jets and corn, huh?”

“I mean, I wouldn’t say no to a little company.” He’s edging dangerously close to flirtatious with those words, though the little voice that usually tells him to cool it is conspicuously absent for now. Maybe it’s as tired of the same old song and dance as Shane is.

It’s no secret – least of all to their coworkers, their friends, and… well, anyone with eyes – that he and Ryan have been dancing around this whole attraction thing for months. It’s been fun, honestly, their familiar banter and playful bickering expanding to include casual touches and soft-eyed stares that no one, least of all Shane, can mistake for platonic. He’s had to stop himself more than once from taking things further – allowing a friendly arm tossed over Ryan’s shoulder to linger, tucking the shorter man against his side whenever he gets spooked on location, pushing his fingers through Ryan’s messy hair to soothe him to sleep, or, honestly, just for the hell of it. Just because Shane wants to.

But that’s the thing, really. That’s always been the thing. Closeness, comfort, soft touches, warmth – Shane wants all of it. But that’s all he wants. It’s the possibility of Ryan wanting more, needing more, and Shane not being able to give it to him, that’s kept them locked in this will theywon’t they limbo for so long.

But this is Ryan, who’s never judged or condemned Shane for anything other than a certain food-related epic, and, regardless of where their relationship stands by the end of this conversation, Shane doubts he’s gonna start now.

“Company, huh?” Ryan asks, arms crossing loosely over his chest, his eyes dark and very warm. “Got anyone in particular in mind?”    

Beneath the table, Ryan’s sneaker brushes up against his boot, a move that Shane would consider unintentional if it weren’t for the secretive curl of Ryan’s lips.

“I might,” he admits, nudging Ryan back and smiling as Ryan huffs a soft laugh in return. “What do ya say, Bergara? Would you join me on my hypothetical pleasure boat?”

“I might,” Ryan mirrors, grinning. He hesitates for a moment before reaching for Shane’s hand, folding it between both of his on the tabletop. He plays idly with Shane’s fingers for few seconds, as though giving them both the chance to get used to this new closeness, before adding, “I mean, if that’s something you want, big guy,” in the softest voice Shane has ever heard him use, cautious and affectionate and downright shy.

Shane melts. Ryan’s hands are so warm around his, all smooth palms and strong fingers, sensations Shane has thought about but never really believed he’d ever experience for himself, and it’s easy, suddenly, to look at Ryan and say, “What if that’s all I want? If this is all I want?” He gestures to their hands, squeezing at Ryan’s fingers, and adds around the lump of his heart in his throat, “What if this is as far as I can go?”

He fingers shake a little in Ryan’s hold, expecting… well, he doesn’t know what – questions, maybe, or confusion, but all Ryan does is squeeze at his hand and nod, almost to himself, and say, “I’ve never really needed anything else, you know? Every moment with you is great already, big guy. You know that.”

Shane is never going to be able to record another Postmortem without remembering this moment and the way his heart flipped at those words. “You don’t want more?”

Ryan shakes his head, thumbing at the ridge of Shane’s knuckles. “I mean, I wouldn’t say no to more of this,” he says, nodding at the tangle of their hands. “If that’s okay with you.”

Shane grins, and though it wobbles at the edges, there’s no mistaking the delight in it. “That’s more than okay, Ry.” He curls his free hand over Ryan’s, fingers smoothing over tan skin, and smirks. “You know, smoochin’ is fine, too. Just putting that out there.”

Ryan’s eyes light up, his, “Is that so?” so deliberately casual that Shane can’t help but laugh, tugging lightly at Ryan’s hands until Ryan gets the hint and meets him in the middle.

They don’t really need words after that.

Chapter Text

Shane comes back from the kitchen to find Obi sprawled on his side beside Ryan, head tucked against Ryan’s thigh and tail swishing lazily.

“Oh, now you want to be cute,” he scoffs, even as he melts a little at the picture the two of them make, Obi purring softly while Ryan scratches at his ears. “When you were practically squirming to get out of my arms earlier. What gives?” He takes the seat on Ryan’s opposite side, careful not to disturb his snoozing cat, and settles their beers on the coffee table. “Could it be?” He mock-gasps, as if coming to a ghastly realization. “Do you – do you like Ryan more than me?”

Ryan snorts, glancing away from his phone – where he’d been compulsively checking the stats on their latest Postmortem – to shoot a look at Shane. “You say that like it’d be hard,” he teases, grinning as Shane glares. “He’s just a little camera shy, big guy, no need to worry. I’m not stealing his affections.”

Obi chooses that moment to let out an enthusiastic purr, butting his head against Ryan’s fingers, and Shane gives them both a dry look.

“Debatable,” he mutters, biting the inside of his cheek to smother the helpless smile he can feel pulling at his lips.

Ryan rolls his eyes good-naturedly. “Oh my god, c’mere then,” he says, dropping his phone to his lap and reaching for Shane, fingers slipping into his hair.

“I’m not a cat,” Shane grumbles, his ire mostly – okay, entirely – for show as Ryan scratches lightly at his scalp, sending pleasant shivers down the length of his spine.  

Ryan tugs at his hair in lieu of a response, until Shane gets the picture and tips over, resting his head against Ryan’s thigh and allowing his eyes to slip closed. He probably looks ridiculous with his long legs tossed over the arm of the couch, but who the fuck cares when Ryan’s fingers are working their magic against his scalp, drifting lazily through his hair and brushing his fringe back from his brow.

He lets out a sigh, his body sinking into the couch as Ryan ruffles his hair, strong fingers carding idly through the strands. Vaguely, he hears Obi do the same, his tail thumping against the cushion.

Ryan laughs at them both. “Spoiled,” he says disbelievingly, though he doesn’t stop with the pets so it must not be such a terrible thing. “The both of you, Jesus Christ.”

Shane hums noncommittally, feeling drowsy and content. “Your fault,” he breathes, half-asleep already and sure that, if he could purr, his engine would be running full blast right about now.

“Bullshit,” Ryan says, tugging lightly at his hair. When all that does is make Shane shiver and arch into the caress, he amends, “Well, maybe,” with a little laugh that makes Shane grin sleepily in response. “You know I can’t keep doing this forever, right?” he adds after a few moments.

“Just a little longer,” Shane pleads, not at all desperately. On Ryan’s other side, Obi lets out a single plaintive meow as in agreement, and Ryan scoffs incredulously.

“You’re insufferable,” he complains. “Both of you. How did I get roped into this?”

“You love us,” Shane murmurs, his breath evening out as he nears sleep, hands folded over his stomach and head tilted back against Ryan’s thigh.

A sigh echoes from above him, though it’s swiftly followed by the press of soft lips to his brow. The last thing he hears before he slips under is Ryan’s voice, low and fond around an exasperated, “Yeah, yeah. I guess I do.”

Shane falls asleep smiling.  

Chapter Text

Ryan figures it out pretty early on. 

Steven and Andrew are out for a week with a bad case of food poisoning, and the morning they're slated to return to the office, Ryan walks into the bullpen early enough to catch Shane leaving a pair of gift bags on their desks.

"Whatcha got there, big guy?" he asks, taking a small measure of satisfaction in the way Shane jumps at the sound of his voice, clearly startled.

"Nothing," Shane hedges, falling into his seat and making a show of being busy with his morning setup, booting up his laptop and slinging his headphones around his neck.

Later, when Andrew and Steven open the bags and find a pile of their favorite goodies inside - snacks and tea and a copy of their favorite comfort movie, but no indication of who left it – Ryan shoots Shane a knowing grin and delights in the way Shane can’t quite meet his eyes.

“What?” Shane asks finally.

“Oh, nothing,” Ryan hums. “Just didn’t realize you were such a sweetheart, that’s all.”

Shane scoffs, though the tips of his ears are a bright, bright red as he turns back to his laptop, and Ryan can’t wipe the grin off his face for the rest of the day.

Months later, as they’re wrapping up a Postmortem and the crew are packing away their equipment, Shane still wearing a shit-eating grin because he’d just blown Ryan’s entire fucking mind on camera, Ryan lets out a disbelieving laugh and says, “I can’t believe you. I literally can’t fucking believe you right now.”

If anything, Shane’s wiseass grin grows even wider. “The fans asked for it, buddy. I had to deliver.”

Ryan shakes his head. “How long did it take you to go through all those audio files?”

Shane shrugs his shoulders and says, “Eh, a few hours.”

Hours, Ryan marvels. Hours of combing through audio files of his voice. His.

“You’re incredible,” he breathes, because what else can he say against that kind of dedication?

Shane’s smile falters, his brow furrowing as he searches Ryan’s face for a hint of sarcasm. When he finds none, he mutters, “Uh, well. Yeah. You bet your ass I am, Bergara,” and scratches at his nose as if that will hide the way his cheeks have turned a ruddy pink.

Ryan stares at his face and feels his heart trip as realization strikes. Shane’s always been the first to embrace the various quirks and oddities that make him him, from his long legs to his big ol’ noggin’ to his tendency to break into showtunes when he’s had a few too many drinks, but he’s always shied away from anyone else doing the same, and now Ryan thinks he knows why.

You like it, he thinks, warmth filling up his chest as Shane makes an excuse about needing to get some work done and hightails it from Ghoul HQ.

You really like it, he thinks a few weeks later, when they’re both a little drunk and Shane’s wearing that goddamn pink shirt with half the buttons undone, taking what remains of Ryan’s brain-to-mouth filter and obliterating it completely.

“You look good in that,” he says, his words slurring and his heart in his throat.

Shane chokes on his drink, looking so much like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck that Ryan has to bite his lip to smother a laugh. It’s rare that he ever catches Shane genuinely off guard. “I what now?”

“You look good in that,” Ryan repeats, confidence lending a hint of flirtatiousness to his voice. “You always do.”

Shane gapes at him – literally gapes, his mouth open and eyes wide and a little glassy. “Are you – you’re drunk,” he accuses, eyes narrowing suspiciously.

“Yep,” Ryan confirms, and then nudges his sneaker against Shane’s boot, lips curled in a smile. “But it’s still true.”

Even under the dim lights of the bar Ryan can see Shane’s cheeks and the tips of his ears flaring a dark, angry red. It’s kind of fucking adorable.

Shane mutters something unintelligible and turns back to his drink, and Ryan spends the rest of the night feeling like he’s walking on clouds.

Shane’s shit out of luck if he thinks that Ryan’s going to forget about that night after everything’s said and done, especially after they finally get their shit together and start dating. Knowing how it makes the big guy react is enough of an incentive to pile on the praise, and that’s not even factoring in how much Ryan loves it, too, because he does. He loves Shane’s goofball personality and sleepy eyes and soft voice; loves his fluffy hair and long legs and weird sense of humor; even loves his stubborn skepticism and stalwart composure in the world’s most haunted places.

But what Ryan loves most, above all of that, is the look on Shane’s face whenever he tells him so.

“Look so good like this, Shane,” Ryan pants, palms slipping along the heated skin of Shane’s chest, feeling the frantic beat of his pulse as they move together. “So fuckin’ pretty.”

Shane groans beneath him, hips jerking, and Ryan gasps breathlessly as the movement causes Shane’s cock to drag right up against his prostate, pleasure ricocheting up his spine and spreading molten through his veins.

“That’s it,” he breathes, blinking sweat out of his eyes and drinking in the sight of Shane with his head tossed back, hair dark with sweat and face ruddy with exertion. “Fucking perfect, Shane, fuck – !” His voice breaks on a moan as Shane’s grip tightens on his hips, yanking him down into each brutal thrust. The creak of the bedsprings and a chorus of Shane’s heavy breaths and strangled whimpers fills his ears, drawing him closer to orgasm, and with more coordination that he’d known he was capable of, Ryan reaches for Shane’s hands, tearing them away from his hips and pushing them to the bed on either side of Shane’s flushed face.

Shane,” he rasps, hips grinding against Shane’s in tight little circles that make them both cry out, eyes fluttering and breaths hitching. “Baby, you’re so – mmm! – you’re fucking me so good, Shane, you always do – “ He curves over Shane’s heaving chest, pressing their foreheads together, and squeezes at Shane’s hands until Shane opens his eyes, the brown nearly swallowed by black. “You take such good care of me, big guy,” Ryan murmurs, voice catching on a whimper as his body strains towards release, cock twitching against the swell of Shane’s stomach.

Shane’s face crumples, his mouth falling open on a sob as he slams into Ryan and starts to cum, fingers clenching spasmodically in Ryan’s hold and a red flush trailing from his cheeks down the long line of his throat.

The sensation of Shane spilling into him is all Ryan needs to trigger his own orgasm, and he keens as it crashes through him, smearing Shane’s stomach and chest with thick spurts of cum, his body aching and trembling and so, so hot.

Shane breathes his name, his voice barely more than a low rasp, sweaty and pink-cheeked, hips twitching gently with the aftershocks of his orgasm.

Ryan wastes no time in telling him how fucking beautiful he is, not just now but all the time.

“Ry, c’mon,” Shane murmurs, ducking his head and flushing sweetly, but Ryan just grins and keeps going, loving the bashful expression on Shane’s face too much to ever, ever stop.

Chapter Text

"This is bullshit."

Shane chortles – chortles; what kind of self-respecting monster chortles these days? – and bumps Ryan’s hip with his own. “Lighten up, Bergara,” he says, voice rumbling softly in the dark.

“Lighten up? Lighten up?! How the fuck am I supposed to work in these conditions?” Ryan gestures to their current predicament, the both of them crammed under the same bed, whispering furiously – well, Ryan’s whispering furiously, Shane can barely get a word out around the chuckles that keep spilling from his throat; it’s a goddamn miracle the kids haven’t woken up yet.

“You’re the one that picked this house, baby,” Shane points out, not unfairly.

“I didn’t know about the bunk beds!” Ryan snaps, bristling like a spooked cat. “And don’t call me baby while we’re on the job,” he adds, eyes flaring a fiery red in the darkness beneath the bed. All Shane does is snort and curl their fingers together, their claws raking gently over each other’s skin as he squeezes Ryan’s hand.

“Easy now, little guy,” Shane murmurs, dragging the point of a claw over Ryan’s knuckles, his eyes turning into gleaming half-moons when Ryan shivers. “Save the tough act for the kiddies, hmm? It’s their fear we need, not mine.”

Ryan snorts, his ire melting away despite his best attempts to cling to it. Stupid Shane. “You’ve never been afraid a day in your life, least of all of me.”

“Sure I have. You’re downright terrifying when you put your mind to it.”

Ryan narrows his eyes. “I can literally see you grinning. You realize that, right?”

“I thought you liked my smile,” Shane teases, shifting closer, not that there’s much space between them to begin with. Fucking bunk beds. “I mean, it’s got nothing on yours – “

“Damn right,” Ryan says, baring his teeth in his patented grin, brilliantly white and frighteningly sharp.

“ – but it’s always worked on you,” Shane finishes, a note of smug satisfaction in his voice.

Ryan scoffs. “You’ve never scared me.” At Shane’s raised eyebrow, he amends, “Alright, fuck you, you’ve scared me, but it was because of your weird blank face and those long limbs flailing around, not your smile. Also that shit doesn’t work on me anymore so don’t even fucking try it, asshole.”

Shane laughs, a soft rasp of sound against the ball of Ryan’s shoulder. “You’re right, my smile doesn’t scare you. It does something better.”

Ryan shifts onto his side, curious despite himself. “Oh? And what’s that?”

Shane reaches over with his free hand and touches the sharp point of his nail to Ryan’s nose, making it scrunch up and his eyes nearly cross. “It makes you happy.”

For a moment, all that penetrates the silence beneath the bed is the quiet rustle of the kids as they move about in sleep.

“… wow, “ Ryan finally breathes. “You… are the worst monster I’ve ever met.” The tone of wonderment in his voice isn’t even for show; he’s actually that fucking gobsmacked by the disaster he’s fallen in love with. Fuck, what does that say about him?

Shane grins, and damn it, Ryan can feel his own lips twitching in response. “Fuck, stop,” he whines, pushing his hand against Shane’s face to block that soft, goofy smile from his field of vision. “Gotta keep my head in the game and you’re fucking up my concentration. The night’s already half over!”

Shane licks at his palm, making him squawk and yank his hand back with a disgusted, “Gross, dude.”

Shane rolls his eyes at his whining, squeezing at Ryan’s hand once more before letting go. “Alright then, enough talk, Bergara. Let’s get this show on the road, why don’t we?” He rakes his claws down the bottom slats of the bed with a challenging smirk. “Unless you’re nervous that these kiddos will be more afraid of me than they are of you.”

Ryan scoffs, “In your dreams, Madej,” eyes flaring hotly in the darkness as he curls his hand around the frame of the bed. Metal screeches beneath his claws, paper thin shavings falling to the carpet, and above them, soft and nervous, a childish voice murmurs, “Sis? Did you hear that?”

The monsters under the bed share a sharp, sweet grin. They’ll end the night in a pile of tangled limbs and full bellies, but for now –

For now, they get to have fun.

Chapter Text

“Please, for the love of god, just go talk to him.” Jen looks physically pained as she pushes at Shane’s shoulder, her other hand wrapped around the neck of a beer bottle.

“I can’t,” Shane deflects, his eyes drifting toward the booth across the room where more of their coworkers are gathered. Ryan sits between Andrew and Steven, too far away for their conversation to be heard, though it must be a funny one considering how he’s laughing, head tossed back and eyes squinted shut in mirth. Fuck. “He’s… busy.”

Jen snorts. “You’ve already used that excuse, and about a thousand others. They’re gettin’ old, buddy.”

Shane glares at her. It must not be a terribly remarkable glare considering how unimpressed Jen looks, but still. He tries. “What do you want me to do? Go over there and tell him all about the big soppy crush I have on him?”

Jen smacks the bar with the palm with of her hand. “Yes! Yes, that is exactly what I want you to do!”

Shane scoffs, throwing back the last of his drink and gesturing at the bartender for another. “Jen, there’s no fucking point. We’re not – we wouldn’t even be compatible.”

Jen sucks in a deep breath – bracing herself not to strangle him, by the looks of it. “What, pray tell, the fuck are you talking about? Have you watched the show? The one that you two host? Together? Your chemistry is half the appeal of the damn thing!”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Shane asks, ignoring the warmth flooding his cheeks and blaming it on the alcohol he’s consumed once he realizes he can’t ignore it. “We’re friends. Friends get along.”

Jen buries her face in her hands. “Oh my god, oh my god,” Shane hears her muttering, before she rubs at her face and blows out a breath, eyes suddenly fiery with determination. “Okay, look. You’re pining. You’ve been pining. It was sweet at first, but now it’s sad. You are making me sad, Shane Madej, and you are making the world sad. Don’t ask me how, but you are. Now – ” She reaches for his collar and drags him down to her level. Up close, the sheer purpose blazing in her eyes is twice as intense and twice as terrifying. “Listen to me. Are you listening?”  

Shane nods, gulping.

“You’ve somehow gotten it into your head that you and Ryan aren’t compatible in a romantic sense. Is that right?”

Shane nods again, a feeble shake of his head that makes Jen sigh.

“Why is that?” she asks him, as patiently as she’s able in her half-drunken state.

Shane opens his mouth to rehash all of his old excuses, every one he’s cultivated and clung to in an attempt to avoid confronting this thing – this massive, confusing, delightful thing – that he feels for Ryan. That he wants with Ryan. They settle on the tip of his tongue, at the ready, but instead of the familiar deflections, all that comes out of Shane’s mouth is a soft, desperately honest, “He’s Ryan, Jen. Fucking – look at him.”

They both turn as one to the booth housing their coworkers. Ryan is saying something to Steven – something that requires a lot of animated hand gestures and an exaggerated frown that almost immediately breaks into a grin when Steven pretends to brace for a fight. Light from the hanging fixtures overhead pours down onto his dark hair and spills over his face, emphasizing the soft curves of his cheeks and the strong line of his jaw.

And that smile, good lord. Even from across the room it’s like a punch straight to the emotional gut, brilliant and so goddamn bright and absolutely devastating when accompanied by the sound of Ryan’s laughter, loud and infectious and totally unselfconscious in a way Ryan so rarely is. An ache, deep and persistent, settles in the pit of Shane’s belly at the sound of it, and he feels his lips lift in a helpless smile.

“Oh, Shane,” Jen practically sighs, tugging at his collar until he turns to look at her. She’s holding her phone in her other hand, and she lets him go to tap at the screen. “You big dummy,” she adds, more fond than insulting. “Check your phone.”

As if on cue, Shane’s cell lights up with a text. He swipes it from the bar and opens the new message to reveal a photo of himself and Ryan, taken from across the office just yesterday, judging by their clothes. Shane’s been caught mid-laugh, his eyes scrunched up and his hands holding his stomach, and Ryan – Ryan is grinning, but it’s small and soft in a way Shane’s not wholly familiar with, and he’s looking at Shane like – like –

“Yeah,” Jen says, sweet and smug at the same time. “That thing you do? Where you look at Ryan like he’s a little ray of sunshine whose face you want to smooch?” His phone pings with another message – a photo of himself taken just a few moments ago, his face the picture of helpless longing. “Ryan does it, too.”

Shane stares at the photos, stares at Jen. His heart’s going a mile a minute, jumping around in his chest like a loon. “How long… ?”

Jen shrugs, her lips tilting into a grin. “Long enough.”


She laughs, an incredulous bark that makes Shane’s lips lift unintentionally in response. “All the fucking time.”

She sounds so sure. Shane tries to imagine it and can’t, even though he has the evidence sitting right in front of him. He glances over at Ryan, contemplative, and his heart leaps into his throat as he finds Ryan already looking at him.

He looks startled for a second, his shoulders twitching like he’s about to turn away, but then he… stops. Swallows. Smiles.

It’s a new smile – soft, and a little tremulous, but the way Shane responds to it is familiar, the same giddiness and warmth bubbling up in his chest that he always feels whenever Ryan grins at him, or because of him, all teeth and scrunched eyes and braying laughter. Small at it is, this smile makes Shane’s knees a little weak, his pulse hitching, especially once he realizes – it’s not new at all. He’d seen it himself in the photos Jen had sent him, first on Ryan’s face, and then on his own.

Oh,” he breathes. Across the room, Ryan is easing out of the booth, making his way across the floor.

Jen laughs softly, reaching over to pat his shoulder. “Yeah, oh,” she agrees. She leans up and presses a smacking kiss to his brow, her smile wide as she asks, “Well? What are you waiting for? Go get him!”  

Ryan’s nearly there. His hands are stuffed in the pockets of his jeans, his smile a little nervous now, a little smaller, but never faltering, not even as Shane rises to his feet.

They meet in the middle.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure about this, Ryan?”

Shane’s asked him the same question about a thousand times since Ryan first said yes to the proposal – hell, he’d asked immediately after, and the relief and cautious hope in his eyes when Ryan had said he was sure had been… well, it had done some funny things to Ryan’s heart.

That’s Shane, though. He’s always done funny things to Ryan’s heart, which is why it’d been so goddamn easy to agree to this arrangement in the first place. It was just marriage, after all. No big deal. Ryan would have done a lot more to keep Shane with him, to keep him from having to leave, if Shane had asked.

And Shane had asked, red-faced and stumbling over his words in a way Ryan rarely ever saw him, repeatedly telling Ryan that it was okay to say no, that he could ask someone else, that there was no pressure to go through with it and they could get a quickie divorce later even if Ryan said yes now, if that’s what he wanted –

All Ryan wanted was for Shane to stay. Shane had told him to think on it, but Ryan had known his answer the moment Shane had asked.

It doesn’t seem real until they both sign the marriage license, and Ryan stares at his signature next to Shane’s with the same nervous anticipation he usually feels before a ghost hunt – fear of what’s to come mingling with the excitement of what he might find, so long as he sticks it out.

Staring up at Shane, whose eyes are fixed on the license like it’ll disappear the moment he looks away, Ryan knows he’ll have no trouble seeing this thing through to the end. There’s a warmth in his belly, fizzing up into his chest and throat like a fountain bubbling over, a warmth that only grows as they make an appointment a few days out for a quick ceremony.

His mom’s not gonna be thrilled about it, and Ryan’s not looking forward to the look on her face when he tells her all about the Ghoul Boys’ latest scheme, but Shane’s looking at him like he’s never seen anything like Ryan in all his days, laughs of disbelief spilling from their lips every time their eyes catch, and nothing else matters in light of that.

He commandeers Curly and Steven to help him get dressed on the morning of the ceremony, a task they both take to with boundless enthusiasm, enthusiasm that Ryan appreciates more than he can express, considering they both know how far gone he is on Shane and have yet to tell him he’s an idiot for going through with this. Their genuine happiness for the occasion eases his nerves, actually, so that by the time he’s standing in front of his mirror, adjusting his cuffs and admiring the cut of his suit, he’s more excited than anything about what he’s about to do. Who he’s about to commit to.

Because he is committed, has been for a while. One look at his face is enough to tell Steven and Curly as much, not that they needed more evidence, and Curly’s voice is suspiciously wet as he wraps an arm around Ryan’s shoulders and tells him, “Go get your man, baby boy.”

Ryan goes.

The ceremony isn’t much, only a handful of their closest friends present, but all Ryan really cares about is Shane, anyway, and if he stumbles over his “I do” a little, the slim fit of Shane’s suit and his artfully tousled hair are to blame. Both are nothing compared to the radiantly soft look on his face as he says his own, “I do,” though, his hands wrapped around Ryan’s in a hold Ryan’s none too eager to break.

They’d talked about what came next already, Shane not wanting to cross more boundaries than they already have, not if Ryan’s uncomfortable with it, but there’s nothing but eager butterflies winging through Ryan’s belly as the officiant announces them wed, and he doesn’t need to be coaxed into the soft kiss Shane bends to give him, their lips pressing together with nothing but gentle pressure until Ryan makes a quiet noise and surges up, fingers wrapping in Shane’s collar and mouth parting to taste his breath. He can hear Curly and Jen and the others applauding and wolf-whistling in the background, but it’s all faint in comparison to the huff of Shane’s breath and the twitch of his lips against Ryan’s, like he’s struggling not to smile.

They wind up back in Shane’s apartment after they’re treated to dinner and drinks by an increasingly emotional circle of friends – Jen nearly bruises a rib when she draws Ryan into a tight hug at the end of the night, leaving a smacking kiss on both of their cheeks before she lets them go.

Ryan is warm and flushed as he slips out of his shoes by the doorway, reaching down to pass his hand over Obi’s fuzzy orange head as he winds his way through both their legs in greeting. There’s a lightness in him that he can’t explain, a sureness that sees him through the short trek from Shane’s front door to his couch, where they both fall with twin sighs of exhaustion and relief.

“What a day,” Shane says, his arm tossed over the back of the couch, a line of warmth along Ryan’s shoulders. His collar gapes around his neck, skin flushed from alcohol and heat, and Ryan loves him with such a wild, aching tenderness that he can barely get his next words out around the lump in his throat.

“A good day,” he says. It isn’t a question. Ryan can’t be anything but honest in this moment, sitting here with a band around his finger and the look on Shane’s face when he’d said “I do” fresh in his mind.

Shane tilts his head to look at him, lips curling in a small, soft smile. “The best day,” he amends, and he means it. Ryan feels his heart trip, skipping a step before it’s off again like never before, racing within the cage of his chest, but Shane’s not done. “You doing this… It means a lot, Ryan.” His eyebrows furrow, his teeth sinking into his bottom lip for a moment before he adds, “It means… Fuck, it means more than I can say.”

Ryan swallows, reaching for Shane’s hand. It’s a novel experience, curling his fingers through the gaps in Shane’s, but one that he’s quickly becoming addicted to. “It wasn’t for entirely selfless reasons, you know,” he says, looking at the tangle of their fingers rather than Shane’s face. His heart is pounding.

Shane squeezes at his hand, his wedding band brushing soothingly against Ryan’s skin. “Yeah?” he asks, and something about his voice, something raw and honest, forces Ryan to meet his eyes. He’s caught then, frozen, by the look on Shane’s face. He’s seen it before, he realizes – that soft, searching look. He’s seen it on his own face, in photos and on film. It’s the way he’s been looking at Shane for months now, maybe even longer than that, and to see it reflected on Shane’s face now, to see it directed at himself, makes Ryan’s breath hitch.

“Yeah,” he says, breathing it into the shortening gap between them. Shane smells like cologne and booze and skin, his eyes dark and soft and amazed, and with their rings gleaming in the low light of the room, it’s easy, it’s so goddamn easy, to breach that gap and kiss him without worrying about what the consequences might be.

Judging by the way Shane kisses him back, his fingers warm against the curve of Ryan’s jaw, they have nothing to worry about, anyway.