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Bidirectional Interpolations of Newly Emergent Thirst Traps: A Study

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It's recursive, is what it is. Ryan posts thirst traps on Instagram (like, say, a photo of him sitting astride a giant plaster rooster statue) that are so obvious and ridiculous (he is a grown man sitting on a cock in public) that it's sort of effective, in a very weird and stupid way (Ryan is an adult sitting on a giant piece of sexual innuendo). Shane tells himself that pondering that particular sociological paradox is the only reason why he stares at the swell of Ryan's biceps in that picture for as long as he does.

He refuses to have a sexual identity crisis over a visual pun.

"Puns are the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree of wit," Shane tells his phone. "It would be undignified." His phone has nothing to say in response, which is probably for the best.

*****

It's not a big deal, though. If Ryan wants to ride a giant rooster all the way through 'Gram Town on his way to the suburb of Bone Island, well more power to him and Shane's just glad he's being environmentally responsible in getting there. Metaphorically speaking.

Not to mention that in their line of work, clicks and likes and eyeballs matter. Stick Ryan Bergara on a plastic barnyard animal, or have him lip-sync to "Africa" by Toto while wearing only boxers, socks and sunglasses like he was starring in a Millennial reboot of Risky Business, or photograph him wading out of the ocean with his swim trunks clinging to his thighs, and you're guaranteed to rile up Instagram and make the bean counters back at BuzzFeed HQ very happy.

Shane doesn't object to pragmatism.

He does however choke on his tea the morning that Ryan shows up to work once more wearing the Indiana Jones outfit.

"But why the hat," Shane says when he can speak again and his brain has decided that ignoring Ryan's bare sternum is the better part of valour. "I have questions, starting with: we're indoors?"

"Oh, you know," Ryan says with a grin as he sits down and switches on his computer. Sit is probably the wrong word here; that desk chair is definitely being straddled. "I figured I better get my money's worth out of it."

"Look at you, mijo, working that brown boy magic!" Curly proclaims. He's got a giant box of hair dryers tucked under one arm, but high-fives Ryan with his free hand as he walks past. "You better thank Jesus and all the ancestors for that ass!"

Shane is left with significant questions about the definition of fiscal responsibility and the theology of the butt. It's not great.

*****

Is it a generalised theory, or is it a Bergara-specific one? That's Shane's conundrum. He takes a gander at some of the more obviously be-filtered and be-Photoshopped hinterlands of social media, places he doesn't normally frequent, because any researcher worth their salt knows the value of establishing controls. Can any old ridiculous thirst trap photo tip over the line into being hot? Is there a ridiculosity limit? Inquiring minds, yadda yadda.

Unfortunately, even in a workplace as live-and-let-live as BuzzFeed, if you scroll through enough pictures of Kim Kardashian's butt, you will start attracting some awkward questions and giving some hurried, half-thought-through answers.

This is how Shane finds himself hosting an episode of Ruining History entitled "Great Thirst Traps of the Ages."

"Okay," Ryan is saying, jabbing a finger at the printouts spread across the table, "this has to be some bullshit. My parents dragged me to Sunday School for years, I had to learn the fucking catechism, okay, I'm pretty sure this guy would have come up at some point."

"Nuh uh," Freddie says. "This kind of weird-ass shit only happens in white folks' churches. These paintings are fucked up."

Admittedly, maybe Shane had gone a little overboard. He shifts in his seat. Maybe there wasn't a need for so many examples of Saint Sebastian writhing erotically across the page in his pre-modern booty shorts, smooth thighs akimbo and six-pack abs highlighted by the arrows piercing them. Tactical error.

"He was a real person!" Shane insists. "Or at least a real saint, the actual history is a bit foggy. Sebastian is the patron saint of soldiers, plague-stricken archers—"

"That's a very specific gig," Freddie says.

"—and athletes." Shane clears his throat and tries to put on his serious narrator's voice. "Artistic depictions of the saint's semi-nude body, not to mention the drama of the legends told about him, combined to make Sebastian a gay icon. One medieval author wrote how, quote, 'the archers shot at him until he was as full of arrows as a hedgehog is full of pricks—'"

"No," the others yelp in unison.

"It says so right here!" Shane says, brandishing the pages of his script. "Verbatim!"

"Bullshit. 'Full of pricks'?" Ryan shakes his head. "Are, are you kidding me? No, no fucking way, some medieval dudes were playing a long game dick joke and they're messing with you."

"Someone definitely is," Shane mutters to himself, because someone—TJ, probably—had suggested that they once more dress thematically for the episode. Shane had thought showing up with a 9-litre hydration pack strapped to his back was an excellent nod to the title.

Now, sitting dry-mouthed next to a shirtless Ryan who's covered in a thin sheen of actual, honest-to-Jesus baby oil, Shane feels like he's coming to a new understanding of the term "self own."

*****

The worst part—well, one of the worst parts; Shane hopes no one in Legal ever finds out that he just filmed most of an episode while sporting a semi—is that Ryan seems to have no fucking clue what he's doing.

Well, he knows, sure. Shane's heard enough stories about college keggers and dumbass fraternity pranks back in the day to know that Ryan isn't exactly a blushing virgin. But Ryan's not a tease. He's not trying to pull some kind of weird seduction thing where he's a siren promising to shiver the timbers of whatever sailor hears his song and jumps overboard, but is secretly planning to do something else much less pleasant to his brand-new ocean friend.

The worst part is that Ryan's not trying to get Shane to watch, yet Shane finds he can't look away.

*****

thirst trap resistance methods, Shane googles.

how to thirst trap responsibly

how to know if in fact thirst trapped

workplace thirst entrapment

what to do when one of your best friends is low-key internet famous and attracting attention in part because let's be real here his bod may be little but it's bangin' and it's not that you're jealous exactly because his body his choices and you're not down with a controlling vibe but you've sort of realised lately that you've downgraded your straightness from 'largely' to 'situational' and you can't decide if you want him to realise that you can't look away from him because what if he thinks you're pathetic

Google isn't particularly helpful. Shane decides that day-drinking probably wouldn't be, either.

*****

And then there's the part where Shane knows that he's legit in trouble. Most straight men would probably admit to having a healthy admiration of the biceps of one Chris Hemsworth. A smaller but still sizeable proportion would 'fess up to having had at least one confusing pants reaction to Jeff Goldblum circa Jurassic Park. That's not weird. It's not concerning. For a dick to recognise extraordinary hotness regardless of gender and/or orientation just makes evolutionary sense.

What's troubling is this: Shane is lying on his couch scrolling through Instagram posts and finding that he's not just making oh no he's hot noises at videos of Ryan on a slip 'n' slide in a speedo, but also making oh no he's a cutie noises at photos of Ryan in a baggy sweater, hair mussed and eyes bleary, clutching at a to-go cup of coffee like his life depends on it. He's doing that meme in reverse in a way that sort of argues for the involvement of feelings and Shane's not engaging in any false modesty here when he says that he maybe doesn't have the best track record where the involvement of feelings is concerned.

The doorbell rings.

Shane has a sinking feeling even before he manages to haul himself off the couch. Maybe Murphy's Law has more to do with psychology than actual probability, but Shane can't help but feel that it's the law governing his life right now. He opens the door to find Ryan smiling up at him.

"I am less than one half of one per cent British and Irish by volume," Shane tells him solemnly, stepping to one side to let Ryan come in. "Why should the decrees of some random Irishman have any sway over me? And yet."

Ryan ignores that statement with the blitheness born of a couple of years spent working in close proximity with one Shane Madej. He wanders into the living room and sets down two six-packs of beer and a large plastic Chipotle bag. "I brought a Saturday brunch o' champions with me. You didn't forget about our Netflix marathon, right? I was thinking we could start with—"

Shane lets Ryan talk on about what series they need to finish, and about this cool Finnish horror movie he heard about where supposedly one of the cast members was actually possessed during filming, and how he got an extra order of chili-corn salsa for Shane, and where the fuck do you keep your forks, big guy, and dibs on his favourite spot on the couch, and oh, did you hear that Guillermo del Toro is planning to—

The whole time, Shane stands in the middle of his living room, hands curled at his sides, and lets the last of that ole sexual identity crisis wave just wash right over him. It feels like a kind of weird inner cleansing, even if Fr Thomas would probably start planning an exorcism if he knew the stuff Shane's been thinking about the theology of the butt.

"The thing is," Shane says, cutting across Ryan, his voice ringing loud and shaky even to his own ears, "the thing is that I have just admitted to myself and, uh, well, also now to you, that I have a pretty epic crush on you, buddy. I thought it was just the biceps, and then I thought it was maybe other body parts, but now I think one of those other body parts is the heart and I—I need to stop talking now. So, uh, thanks for stopping by, I'll see you Monday, just going to go stick my head under cold water or something."

Ryan blinks at him for a long moment with those stupid Bambi eyes of his, then says softly, "Whoa." He looks quickly around the room—looking, Shane realises with a sickening feeling, for the glowing light of a Go Pro. Shane's never expected that Ryan would reciprocate, but equally he never thought Ryan would think this of him.

"This isn't a bit," Shane says. Fuck, his hands are shaking. He jams them in the pockets of his sweats, hoping he can maintain some kind of plausible deniability, some bit of dignity. "Christ, Ryan, I'm not… I just thought you should know, okay, because I'm handling it but it's still a thing to handle and maybe it's better if we don't see each other that much until it's, you know…" Shane shrugs. "Handled."

Ryan's face goes weirdly blank, and then he turns and picks up the bag of food and the beer. Something bleats, small and afraid, in the back of Shane's brain, because he fucked this up—he fucked this all the way up with his best friend because he let his foot get caught in a trap that was never intended for the Illinois sub-genus of the Great North American Sasquatch and—and Ryan is standing right in front of him.

"Put 'em in the fridge to keep for later," Ryan says. He's so very close. Shane wants to take a step back but he can't seem to make his size 14s cooperate. "Okay, lay one on me."

"I say this with utter sincerity," Shane replies. "The fuck?"

"I'm asking you to make erotic contact between your mouth and my mouth," Ryan says. "Pretty self-explanatory, kissing. Unless you're, I don't know, some kind of big chicken?"

Shane squints at him. "Are you daring me to—"

"Yes."

"You come into my house on the day of my daughter's—"

"Oh Jesus Christ," Ryan says, exasperated, and because he's always been the braver one of the two of them, he reaches up and pulls Shane's mouth down to his. Ryan is, oh, he's a little bit mean when he kisses, he uses his teeth and he won't let Shane set any kind of rhythm and there are hands in new and fascinating places. Shane is delighted.

*****

Brunch burritos become very belated lunch burritos. Shane is down with that, especially since they're consumed while he and Ryan are in what can only be described as a flagrant state of undress. They're sitting on his couch, Shane's hair still messy and damp from the shower and Ryan's feet hooked around his shins.

"I don't know why you were freaking out about it, though," Ryan is saying. "I thought I was being pretty goddamned obvious, you know how often I get teased for mooning over the excessive amount of B-roll I take of you? You're like the world's most oblivious thirst trap."

Shane leans a little closer to him, because he can. "Not quite," he says.