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Keeping Out the Cold

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“Today,” Ryan begins, “we’re investigating the Hotel del Coronado, just outside of downtown San Diego, California as part of our ongoing investigation into the question: are ghosts real? Here, the ghost of Kate Morgan is said to walk the hallways and appear before hotel guests staying in the room she once occupied, back in 1892, before her untimely death.”

“This place is too beautiful to be haunted,” Shane supplies as the camera pans over them in the outside courtyard, scanning up and along the red roof tiles.

“It’s actually out here,” Ryan continues, ignoring Shane’s comment, “that we’ll see the staircase where Kate’s body was found with a single gunshot wound to the head that police said was self-inflicted.”

It’s drizzling where they are, gray clouds as far as the eye can see, but Ryan turns and points towards the staircase in question.

“If I went on a nice vacation to San Diego, paid good money for a room with a view of the ocean, and it rained, I would probably do the same,” Shane jokes before he pauses. “Was that too dark?”

Ryan laughs, but honestly doesn’t know if it’ll make the cut when it comes time to edit the episode.

“Maybe it’s a good thing we’re filming in the offseason,” Shane says. “I doubt families would want us pointing out where people died when they’re trying to enjoy their happy little summer vacations.”

Ryan watches as a woman who’s passing by overhears Shane and shoots a half-intrigued, half-worried look over her shoulder. That makes him laugh harder than Shane’s comment, but Shane grins as though happy to take full credit.

“Not everyone believes Kate’s death was a suicide,” Ryan continues for the camera after collecting himself, and Shane lets out a fake gasp.

“Murder! Intrigue!”

Ryan barely hides his smile.

“In the 1980s, a lawyer looking into the case found that the bullet in Kate’s skull actually didn’t belong to her gun.”

“Shit,” Shane deadpans, “that’s kind of a big deal.”

“Not enough of a big deal for police to reopen the case after it had already been ruled a suicide.”

Shane pauses before saying, “That just seems wrong.”

Ryan shrugs. “Perhaps that’s why Kate still haunts this place — she’s trying to get someone to solve the case so she can finally rest in peace.”

The second he finishes the idea, Shane’s already shaking his head, his mouth turned down in derision. “Nope,” he says bluntly, which is exactly what Ryan was expecting, but it still makes him laugh.

“Okay,” he concedes, “well let’s go talk to someone who’s seen Kate around. Maybe they know more.”

*

They interview the shift manager and a handful of the concierge staff, who all confirm sightings of Kate, ranging from footsteps in the hallways, to ghostly apparitions. It sends a chill up Ryan’s spine, a mix of terror and excitement at the fact they’ll soon be sleeping in Kate’s old room.

He sees Shane roll his eyes a couple of times, but he’s apparently polite enough to keep quiet, of which Ryan is appreciative.

“So, tonight,” Ryan says to the cameras, after they’ve wrapped up the last interview, “we’ll be staying in Room 3327, which is the same one Kate stayed in, although at the time, that room was known as Room 302.”

The room is one of the nicest they’ve stayed in over the seasons of the show. There’s a queen-sized bed in the center that they can share and an en suite with a deep tub that he’s surprised Shane hasn’t talked about yet. Though he supposes maybe it’s not as impressive without spa jets.

“Are you actually going to stay all night?” Shane asks him with a raised brow, just to ruffle him and Ryan hates that it works.

“I — yes — don’t start, okay,” he stammers. “I have a whole selection of activities for us tonight.”

“Activities?” Shane asks. “What like coloring books? Twister? Strip Twister?”

The joke gives Ryan some unnecessary mental images of Shane in various Twister positions, in various states of undress, and it takes him a moment to remember what he was actually going to say.

“No, Shane,” he says, trying to sound disappointed in him. “I thought we’d perform a séance and see if we can have a chat with Kate. A little tête-à-tête, if you will.”

“If she has any tête left,” Shane says, and Ryan really shouldn’t find it funny because it’s beyond inappropriate for the show, but he can’t hold a glare when he’s laughing.

“Real funny, asshole,” he complains as he regains his composure. “Take a seat and zip it.”

From his bag, Ryan pulls candles — battery-operated ones because the hotel wouldn’t actually let them use real ones — and an assortment of knickknacks.

“Do you think they’ll know we’re faking it?” Shane asks as he helps switch on the candles, adding additional light to the dimly-lit room. “Is this like trying to use fake blood to summon the devil?”

“We can ask if we get through to the other side.”

Shane grins and then glances down at Ryan’s hands. “What else have you got for us?”

“Chips,” Ryan says and Shane fakes his excitement.

“I love chips and dip! Now this is a true séance!”

Poker chips,” Ryan explains to complete the joke for the camera, spreading out a handful of tokens between them within the circle of candles. “It seems the marriage between Kate and her husband, Tom, wasn’t a happy one. Tom was a card shark and Kate ended up here during an attempt to run away.”

“Next you’ll tell me Kate was seeing someone else,” Shane says and Ryan hides his smile.

“Kate was seeing someone else,” he starts, drawing a fist pump from Shane. “It was actually a relation of Tom’s stepmother.”

“Damn,” Shane says. “I wouldn’t want to be at that awkward family reunion.”

“I also brought a little model train, because this is how Kate and her not-so-secret lover got around.”

He sets it in the middle and Shane flexes his hand.

“It’s taking every ounce of strength not to play with that right now,” Shane admits.

“Okay, well let’s occupy your hands,” Ryan says, holding his own out for Shane to take.

“You always say the sweetest things,” Shane jokes, gently sliding his palms against Ryan’s own. His hands are warm and dry, just as they always are, and it’s oddly reassuring as Ryan’s heart begins to pick up speed at the thought of talking with a ghost.

Ryan takes a deep breath, and then begins.

“Hi Kate,” he says carefully. “I’m Ryan and this is Shane. We want to see if you’d like to come talk to us about your life. You can move the train if you’d like, or you can touch us.”

“You can go full Ghost with me if you’d like to combine the two,” Shane interrupts for comedic effect and Ryan wishes he had a hand free to sock him in the arm.

“Shut up, Shane,” he says instead of hitting him. “Ignore my colleague; he’s an idiot.”

Ryan leaves a silence, which he can review later, in case Kate uses it to talk to them.

“Were you murdered?” Ryan asks the silent room.

“Maybe by your jilted husband?” Shane adds.

There’s a gentle thud across the room and Ryan startles, flinching back from Shane’s hold, though Shane tightens his grip to keep their hands from separating.

“What the fuck was that?” Ryan asks, staring into the dark.

“Kate, is that you?” Shane asks. “They say you come back to visit guests. Are you angry that we’re in your room? Are you angry that we’re talking about your life?”

Something scrapes across the tiles in the bathroom and Ryan barely keeps from jumping up and out of the room entirely.

“What the fuck, Shane? Shut up!”

“I don’t think she likes us, Ryan. I think we’re getting too close to the truth.”

The ground seems to vibrate like someone’s stomping towards them and Ryan needs it to stop immediately.

“Shane,” he warns, still trying to pull his hands out of Shane’s grasp, but Shane ignores him, gripping tighter.

“Give us the sight, Kate,” Shane orders, closing his eyes and tilting his head back in theatrical histrionics. “Let us see what you saw the day you died!”

Ryan reactively rears back, his hands slipping away from Shane’s, but before the contact breaks, there’s a loud bang from the center of their séance circle and it feels like someone shoves Ryan, toppling him onto his back hard enough that it knocks the air from his lungs and slams his head on the floor.

Stars bloom in front of his eyes, even in the darkness, and Ryan finds himself gasping for breath, hands automatically going to the back of his head as pain spreads like fire across his skull. From the corner of the room, he hears Devon’s surprised exclamation and soon after, soft hands touch the center of his chest and the side of his face.

“Ryan?” she asks. “Are you okay?”

The overhead lights switch on and Ryan blinks against the sudden brightness. When he glances to the side, he can see TJ’s camera resting crookedly on the floor, but TJ himself is a few feet away, leaning down to help Shane sit up. There’s blood on Shane’s brow and he’s prodding at it with tentative fingers.

“I got hit with the train,” Shane says, sounding slightly incredulous.

With Devon’s assistance, Ryan manages to sit up, but his head throbs painfully.

“What the fuck just happened?” he grunts, staring down at what was once their séance circle. The candles have been scattered, the poker chips are the other side of the room, and the toy train is half-embedded in the wall just behind Shane. “Holy shit.”

Shane follows his line of sight and then slowly reaches out and pulls the train free. It leaves a hole the size of a silver dollar and Devon curses at Ryan’s side.

“We’re going to have to pay for that,” she murmurs, but Ryan is a little more worried about the fact that it could have been half-embedded in Shane’s skull.

“Are you okay?” Ryan asks and Shane glances from the train in his hand up to Ryan’s face.

“I don’t know. What about you?”

Shane shuffles towards him, his expression worried as Ryan tries to take stock of how he actually feels. Shane brings a hand up like he might touch Ryan's face, but then drops it away before it can make contact.

“How easy is it to get a concussion?” he asks, but he doesn’t actually think it’s that bad; he suspects it’s mostly shock. “Did we get that on camera?”

That’s what you’re worried about?” Shane asks, shoving Ryan’s chest lightly. Thankfully, Devon still has her hands on him, helping to keep him upright. “Thomas the Tank Engine almost tunneled his way into my brain and you’re worried we didn’t catch it on video?”

“This is the biggest thing we’ve ever caught!” Ryan reasons, but he knows that what they just experienced is way beyond anything they can control, and he doesn’t feel like poking an angry bear. “Why do you always have to goad the spirits?”

“Usually, they don’t fight back!”

Ryan rubs the back of his head again and double checks for blood, but there’s nothing, just a slightly raised egg that will sting for the rest of the night — probably the rest of the week, in all honesty.

“Are you admitting that this was a spirit?” Ryan asks, glancing down to check that his chest camera is still recording.

Shane catches the movement and reaches out, attempting to block the footage with his palm. Ryan laughs and bats him away, and Devon reaches between them to cooly break them up.

Beside them, TJ returns to his camera, his fingers dancing across the buttons before he pauses and seems to watch whatever it recorded. Ryan edges out from Devon’s gentle hands and scoots closer, peering down at the screen in TJ’s hands. It’s dark in the footage, but it captures their circle, including the candles and toys in the center. His own voice, tinny, tells Shane to shut up, just before Shane asks for the sight and then everything goes dark as the candles violently scatter. He hears their thuds of pain and then the camera tilts as TJ sets it on the ground, clearly the moment he heads to Shane’s side to check on him.

“That wasn’t you guys, was it?” Ryan asks, eyes darting between TJ and Devon, but they both shake their heads and he’s just seen the evidence for himself anyway. “I’m not staying in this room.”

“No, c’mon,” Shane immediately interjects. “What if this is only the beginning? This might be the one time for you to prove ghosts are real.”

“No,” Ryan says, pointing an accusatory finger, “you don’t get to pull that right now. We just got attacked by a ghost. There’s no way we should stay in here!”

“We owe it to the show to stay and capture as much as we can,” Shane tries and Ryan shakes his head.

“You are such an asshole,” he says, mostly because it’s true, but also because what Shane says is true, too. He’ll kick himself if he doesn’t stay and see if anything more happens, despite every instinct screaming at him to run and never look back. It’s worse — way worse — than being in the Sallie House.

“We’ll be fine,” Shane reassures. “We’ll stay together. I’ll be right here the whole night.”

“I have rules,” Ryan tells him with a glare and a pointed finger, trying to appear as serious as possible and not as though he’s practically shitting himself. “One, you keep your mouth shut the whole goddamn night. Don’t you dare try to talk to whatever it is in here.”

Shane actually nods in agreement as he mimes zipping his lips shut.

“Two,” Ryan continues. “You stay awake the whole night. I don’t give a shit if you’re dying of sleep deprivation. If I’m awake, you’re awake.”

“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” Shane quotes, not sounding the least bit serious, and Ryan darts a hand out and thumps him.

“Three, don’t be an asshole,” he adds as Shane laughs and rubs at the spot on his arm that Ryan just hit.

“Okay, okay,” Shane concedes. “I’ll even buy coffee in the morning; how’s that?”

“And breakfast,” Ryan pushes, and Shane actually nods in agreement, which means he really is trying to get Ryan to stay.

“Four — ” Ryan begins.

Ryan,” Shane interrupts, giving him a pointed look, but Ryan needs these. He needs something cling to.

“Four,” Ryan continues, “the bathroom light stays on and the door stays cracked.”

Shane’s shoulders slump, but it’s clearly a concession he can live with because he nods again.

“Sure,” he says. “The light can stay on. Is that it?”

Ryan pauses, wondering if he can think of anything else to squeeze into his rules, but his mind is blank. He eventually nods, but with his demands met, Ryan can’t help but feel like he’s fallen into his own trap. Now he has to stay and the thought alone makes him feel like puking.

“We’ll be right next door,” Devon says, pointing at the wall behind the bed. “If you need anything, just yell.”

“Need anything?” Ryan can’t help but ask incredulously. “Like salt or a crucifix?”

Devon laughs nervously, but doesn’t argue the point.

It actually feels like abandonment as they set up the cameras in various angles around the room and begin to head for the door. Ryan gets the horrible sensation that once they're alone, shit will truly hit the fan.

“You’ll be fine,” Devon reassures him quietly, but not even she looks back, as though thankful to be free of their horrifically haunted room.

TJ pats him solidly on the back as he leaves with a cheery, “See you in the morning.”

The door clicks shut behind them and Ryan turns to look at Shane, who’s rummaging through his own backpack. He pulls out a wash bag and then heads for the bathroom.

“Shotgun,” he calls out as he disappears, as though any part of Ryan wants to fight him for first access to the sink.

“Keep the door open,” Ryan tells him, prompting Shane to pop his head back out and frown at him.

“I’m not peeing with the door open,” he argues, but Ryan folds his arms.

“Those were the rules,” he reminds him. “Bathroom door stays cracked.”

Ryan just can’t help but feel that if the bathroom door closes between them, they’ll be separated forever. And as much as that would bring blissful silence into his life at any other time, tonight is not the night he wants to be alone, not even for the brief time it’ll take Shane to wash his face and brush his teeth.

Shane rolls his eyes, but leaves the door propped open, leaving a big enough gap that Ryan can see him when he stands at the sink and picks his nose.

“Gross,” Ryan grunts, but if Shane hears, he doesn’t react.

Ryan instead focuses on changing for bed, pulling on a soft pair of sweats and an old gym shirt, which hopefully won’t make him overheat while lying beside Shane all night.

By the time Shame reemerges, looking soft and ready for bed, his contacts swapped out for glasses and hair gently unstyled, Ryan feels ready to buzz out of his skin.

He can’t even bring himself to wash his face, because he thinks if he shuts his eyes while washing off the soap, he’ll look up and see something awful in the mirror. So he brushes his teeth, pops out his contacts, and pees, managing not to make awkward eye contact with Shane through the gap in the door the entire time.

He leaves the light on as he slips out, keeping the door open a foot or two before quickly shuffling to the side of the bed that Shane hasn’t already sprawled out on.

“Watch your ankles,” Shane says, idly scrolling through his phone.

“Huh?” Ryan asks, plugging in his charger because once he’s in bed, he doesn’t plan on leaving it.

“The monsters under the bed. They might grab your ankles.”

Ryan hates it, but he can’t help but look down as he jumps onto the mattress, fully avoiding the open space beneath the bed frame. He doesn’t even feel bad that the movement rocks Shane around enough to loosen the phone in his grip and send it knocking into the side of his face.

“You deserved that,” Ryan says as Shane picks it up again, a slight smile on his face as though he might agree.

“Get the light,” Shane tells him, but it’s all the way across the room, and Ryan isn’t budging.

“You get it,” he retorts, slipping under the sheets, and surprisingly, Shane does actually roll out to switch it off.

Ryan turns on the light on his side of the bed instead, which means the room is still softly lit as Shane climbs back in next to him.

“That was pretty weird,” Shane says after a moment of silence and Ryan turns to glare at him.

“No fucking shit, dude. You almost died.”

Shane rubs a finger over the new cut just above his right eyebrow. It’s no longer bleeding, but it’s crusted over and reddened around the edges, looking irritated.

“I think I need to keep the train as a reminder. How’s your head? You thumped it good.”

He reaches out and gently cups the back of Ryan's head with one giant palm. It hurts, but Ryan doesn't break the contact.

“I'll live,” Ryan tells him truthfully, and Shane rubs his thumb through Ryan's hair in a way that makes Ryan's stomach swoop before dropping his hand away.

After another long silence, Shane says, “You wanna turn your light off?”

“Not really. Don’t you dare go to sleep,” Ryan threatens, even as he shakily reaches over to switch off the lamp, the room falling darker, but not pitch black with the light from the bathroom spilling in. It’s comforting.

“I’m not gonna sleep,” Shane tells him. “I won’t break your stupid rules.”

“They’re not stupid,” Ryan argues pointlessly and Shane grunts as though he disagrees, but not enough to actually continue talking about it.

He doesn’t like the feeling of having his arms outside of the covers, so he plugs his charger into his phone and leaves it on the nightstand as he burrows down, watching instead as Shane scrolls through his Twitter feed.

“Go back down,” he murmurs when Shane passes a dog gif too quickly for him to watch.

Shane glances over looking annoyed, but actually complies, even angling the screen a little better for him.

“Everything's better with dog gifs,” Shane says aloud and Ryan grunts in agreement.

It’s a lot damn better than thinking about whatever else might be in the room with them. After a beat, Shane continues scrolling.

*

Ryan blinks awake and is immediately surprised that A) he’s still alive and B) he must have fallen asleep at some point in the night.

It’s early, he can tell, because the light filtering in through the shutters is still gray and it’s quiet — the kind of quiet that happens before the sun has fully risen and no one sane has woken yet. He sighs quietly and rolls over, pulling the covers closer around his shoulders as the cold threatens to seep into the warm cocoon he’s created.

Even without his glasses he can see Shane, who’s flat on his back, awake and scrolling through his phone again. He looks rumpled and tired, as though he hasn’t actually slept yet.

“Morning,” Ryan grunts and Shane’s reactions are slightly delayed as he blinks and glances over at him. “Did you sleep?”

“Someone had to stay awake and protect you,” Shane jokes, but his voice is gravely from disuse and Ryan shuts his eyes under the pretense of still being tired and lets the sound wrap around him.

“Very funny,” Ryan deadpans, opening his eyes again, but he gets the strange feeling there’s some truth to Shane’s words. “Did anything else happen?”

“Kate’s ghost showed up around 3am to tell us to get out, but then she saw you sleeping like a baby and decided to let us stay. She said you were cute.”

Under the covers, where the cameras can’t see, Ryan jabs him in the side with his knuckles, but Shane barely flinches.

“Why’s it so cold?” Ryan asks to change the subject. “That’s a sign of ghosts, right?”

“It’s the spooky sign that winter is here,” Shane quips. “And it’s raining outside.”

Listening closely, Ryan finally notices the quiet drumming of rain against the window, but it sounds as though it’s beginning to die off. He adjusts his head on his pillow, wondering if they can keep the room for another night and sleep the day away. He doesn’t want to leave the warm comfort of their bed, ghosts be damned.

“I think this is the comfiest I’ve ever seen you during an investigation,” Shane tells him, pushing himself into a sitting position and adjusting the pillows behind his back. “Are you secretly dying?”

Ryan honestly has no way to dispute it. He knows he should be freaking out, especially after the shit they went through the night before, but inside, he’s just not as terrified as he usually is.

“Maybe I do have a concussion,” Ryan says, stretching out his legs, though he thinks it might be because he's warm and tucked up next to Shane, who's calm and collected as always. “How’s your face?”

Ryan can see, even in the dim lighting, that Shane has a bruise forming around the cut on his brow. It looks sore, but suspects he’ll survive.

“Ghosty Kate has a hell of an arm on her. If there’s baseball in her ghost world, she’s probably the next...very fast pitcher, but I don’t know the names of anyone, so fill in the blanks.”

“Leave the sports analogies to those who understand them,” Ryan suggests and Shane pulls a face like maybe he will.

“People are going to think we had a fight,” Shane jokes, prodding at the cut.

“They might believe that more than if we tell them it was an actual ghost.”

Shane pulls a face and realization dawns on Ryan with a sinking sensation.

“Oh my god,” Ryan says, leaning up on one elbow. “You still don’t believe that was a ghost.”

Shane raises his hands in submission. “There are plenty of rational explanations,” he says and Ryan really does want to fight him now.

“What do you mean rational explanations? What kind of mental gymnastics are you doing to pretend there’s a rational explanation for what happened last night?”

“Literally anything is more plausible than it being a ghost,” Shane says. “Maybe it was an localized earthquake, or maybe you blacked out and threw the train at me and just don’t remember.”

Ryan finds himself going past the need to argue with Shane, straight into anger.

“What the fuck, man? Are you being willfully ignorant?”

No,” Shane says with emphasis, “I’m trying to apply scientific explanations because there’s no proof of anything else.”

“You’re unreal. We got video proof,” Ryan tells him, the cozy feeling all but gone now and he thinks it’s time to wrap things up. “Go find Teej and watch it again to get it into your thick skull. I’m going to shower.”

He climbs out of bed, ignoring the cold that quickly wraps around his body, and grabs his wash bag and clean clothes.

“Don’t forget to keep the door open,” Shane says, just as Ryan enters the bathroom, probably just to try to keep the atmosphere light for the cameras.

Just to make a point, Ryan slams it shut behind him and locks it for good measure.

*

True to his word, Shane actually does buy them all coffee and breakfast when they head downstairs with their gear. Ryan is still pissed off at him, but it helps that he can slip outside to the back decking, where he can watch the ocean roll against the sand, the sound of crashing waves an instant relaxer.

He sips his coffee and focuses on letting the frustration go, knowing he’ll have a few solitary minutes while the rest of the team gets B-roll shots. He has no idea where Shane has wandered off to, and honestly doesn’t care enough to find out.

The rain starts up again as he watches a handful of pelicans glide just above the surface of the choppy water, but it’s not heavy enough to deter him. He pulls up the hood of his coat and finishes the last of his coffee, shifting a few feet left to throw the paper cup in the nearest trash can.

He stares into the grayness for a moment longer, bracing himself to head back inside, but between one blink and the next, the view seems to tilt in a way it probably shouldn’t. He shakes his head to try to clear it, but it sticks, almost like a floater in his eye, blurring his sight. For a second, he worries it’s a side effect from hitting his head, but then it changes again, the scene in front of him becoming more opaque to the point where he realizes he’s actually looking at something, it’s not just a mashup of blobs.

The scene in front of him shows a hand — not his own — holding a coffee, and on the opposite edge of the vision, there’s a phone screen showing a list of emails. It looks familiar somehow, but before he has time to orient himself, the screen shuts off and the view changes. It dawns on him then that he’s actually looking through someone else’s eyes. He’s seeing what they’re seeing.

Everything shifts oddly, like whoever it is he’s watching the world through is walking around. He sees a handful of people milling around a large open foyer and then a stretch of glass doors, which the person heads towards. Through the doors he can see a figure, their back the only visible part of them. The walking stops and the view remains fixated, staring as though the lone person outside is the only thing worth looking at.

It feels like he’s intruding on a moment he shouldn’t. But eventually the watcher reaches out and pushes the door open, revealing an expanse of gray, not unlike what Ryan was staring at previously. It actually — he frowns because it looks almost the same. In fact, the figure looks a lot like himself; it’s almost the exact same cut of his coat and he’s pretty sure he recognizes those boots.

But then he blinks again and suddenly the image clears and he’s back to staring into the distance, the waves crashing loudly and bringing him back to the present.

“Ryan?” a voice calls out behind him and Ryan startles, letting out a yelp.

He spins around to find Shane watching him calmly, his cup of coffee still in one hand. Ryan stares at it, something in the back of his mind shifting like it's trying to trying to point out something obvious.

“You okay?” Shane asks, gaze tracing around him, as though trying to find something wrong.

“What?” Ryan asks, attempting to get his racing heart under control. “I’m fine.”

Shane pauses like he doesn’t quite believe it, but then the moment shifts. “Okay, well Dev and Teej are done with the extra shots, so we’re getting ready to head out.”

“Yeah, sure,” Ryan says. “Let’s go.”

He doesn’t wait for Shane to catch up, knowing his long stride will help with that, but finds himself glancing back, his gaze falling once more to the paper cup in Shane’s hands. But nothing clicks into place like he thinks it should. There’s no sudden realization or lightbulb moment.

He faces forward again and reaches out to open the glass door ahead.

*

No matter how long he’s away, whether it’s a night or a week, Ryan’s always happy to go home, returning to the comfort of his own bed and his non-haunted apartment.

They get back from San Diego on Friday afternoon, which means on Saturday, Ryan doesn’t move from his bed. He binges a couple of shows on Netflix and gets all his food delivered. It’s as he’s tucking into his third taco, midway through an episode of The Sinner, that his vision starts to blur around the edges, and instead of looking at Jessica Biel’s very beautiful face, he starts seeing the face of someone less human.

It’s a cat. An orange cat, to be more exact, and it’s purring and rubbing against the hand that’s outstretched, which isn’t his own.

He blinks, but it doesn’t fade, in fact it seems to get stronger and more details filter in, like the neutral colored rug on the floor and the row of photos on the wall in the background, which he swears he’s seen before.

The fingers stop scritching behind the cat’s ears and the cat chirps unhappily, as though to urge them to start again. There’s a huff of laughter, so breathy that Ryan almost feels it against the side of his face. He shakes his head at the mix of sensations, looking sideways for the source of the laugh, but there’s nothing there and when he glances forward again, the vision and the cat are gone.

He stares down at his takeout carton, half wondering if the local taqueria laced his food with acid and he’s tripping.

But the vision is eerily similar to the one he had on the beach, the vision he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He still can’t place anything, the whole thing far too quick and vague for him to nail down.

“You’re losing it, Bergara,” he tells himself, putting his half-eaten taco back in the container and setting the whole thing aside.

Maybe it’s like eating cheese before bed and he’s getting living nightmares now. But that doesn’t sit right with him, and he stares across at his phone, wondering how badly Shane will rip him a new one if he tells him he’s starting to see things. He’s not ready to start being labeled as insane, though, so he doesn’t bother texting, just focuses back on the TV screen and figures he can forget about his problems for another episode or two.

*

Voice overs start on Monday for him, which means he gets his favorite kind of work day — long hours spent alone in a VO booth with no one to bother him until he’s ready. Tuesday, he’ll probably bring in Shane to listen to a few sounds the editors caught on their overnight cameras, and record their banter, which is another of his favorite types of days.

“In eighteen-ninety-two, Kate Morgan was only twenty-eight, in the prime of her life when she met an early demise,” Ryan begins, reading his own script from his phone. “She checked into the Hotel del Coronado expecting to meet up with her secret lover, but was never able to check back out.”

He scrolls down a little further to see the next lines, but when he stares at his phone, the screen blurs, and he knows it’s coming before it happens — it’s another of the weird visions. Or perhaps a stroke.

He blinks quickly, which seems to help the scene materialize, but it takes a moment for him to figure out what he’s looking at because, strangely, it appears to be the inside of a burrito.

“What the fuck?” Ryan says aloud, and the scene shifts suddenly, as though his voice actually catches the attention of whoever it is he’s looking through.

Did you say something? the voice from the vision says, all too close and all too familiar, and someone steps into view, looking exactly like — Steven Lim?

I said the burritos here aren’t as good as that place two blocks over, Steven says, appearing confused, like he was never actually part of the conversation.

Nothing else? the voice replies and Steven shakes his head.

Was I meant to?

No, I mean— and it dawns on Ryan why the voice is so stupidly recognizable.

“Shane?” he asks and the vision shifts rapidly again, like Shane’s turning around, and then, just like that, the vision vanishes from Ryan’s grasp, fading until he’s left staring down at his phone again.

It’s in his nature to want to know what’s going on — it’s why he runs a damn unsolved-mysteries show. He tucks his phone into his back pocket and shoves his way out of the VO booth, startling a poor intern who’s being shown some of their equipment. But he ignores them as he heads out, walking fast enough and looking serious enough that he knows no one will stop him to talk, assuming he’s heading somewhere important.

But his final destination is the cafeteria, hoping he can make it there in time to prove his theory.

He jogs down two flights of stairs and almost skids around the corner as he enters, eyes immediately searching for something he thinks he should be able to see. And he does.

Across the way, Shane’s standing with his back to him, but still appears to be talking to Steven, and they’re both holding burritos, which is pretty damning evidence.

“You sure you’re okay?” Ryan hears Steven ask, but Shane waves a hand like it’s no big deal.

“I’m good,” he replies, “but maybe taking a second burrito was a bad idea.”

Moving closer, Ryan can see Steven isn’t convinced, but upon spotting Ryan heading towards them, he seems relieved, like he knows Ryan’s more experienced in handling Shane when he’s weird, which means he’s no longer responsible for the fallout.

“Shane’s being weirder than normal,” Steven says to him as he joins their two-man huddle, and Shane glances over, looking surprised to see him.

“I’m not,” he explains. “I’m just enjoying the feast that’s been provided.”

He waves a hand towards the spread of food and Ryan stares at it. He doesn’t know what the fuck is going on, but apparently he’s now seeing glimpses of Shane’s life, through Shane’s goddamn eyes. He must’ve hit his head harder than he thought back at the Hotel Del.

“Free burritos!” Shane announces as though Ryan hasn’t already figured that out for himself.

“Awesome,” Ryan says without feeling, and Shane catches on immediately. So does Steven, because he quietly excuses himself from the conversation.

“Are you okay?” Shane asks. “You look a little — ” He gestures vaguely and Ryan doesn’t know what that’s meant to mean.

“Have you —” Ryan begins before pausing, because what the fuck can he say? Have you been projecting your life onto me? Are you a parasite in my brain now, even more than you already are? Do you believe in the power of visions? It all sounds so dumb, and he knows Shane will immediately start looking for a rational explanation and he’ll force Ryan to go see a doctor and will think he’s crazy for ever and ever. And he realizes with a sinking feeling that he can’t actually ask Shane about any of it.

This is his own cross to bear.

“Have you, what?” Shane asks, looking even more concerned, and Ryan knows he has to give an answer to avoid more questions.

“Have you seen the newest season of Orange is the New Black?” Ryan blurts out, sounding weak to his own ears, but he knows Shane’s feelings on the show, which means his sigh of disappointment is a relief.

“Please don’t tell me you watched another season of that hot trash,” Shane complains, taking the bait without seeming to realize.

Shane devolves into listing all of the ways the show sucks, all reasons Ryan’s heard before. But he listens and pretends to roll his eyes in exasperation, and he tries to forget that for some reason, the universe has decided their lives need to be even more intertwined, just to make Ryan’s existence a little bit harder to live.

It sucks.

*

Ryan swings by the grocery store on the way home later in the week, mostly because he wants chips and dip, but partly because he’s run out of TV dinners and doesn’t want to starve.

He has a pot pie in each hand, one chicken and one beef, trying to decide which to put in his cart. It’s the hardest decision he’s had to make all day.

Why the fuck are you looking at pot pies? a voice says, sounding like it’s coming from behind him. For a second, Ryan thinks he’s accidentally blocking the aisle and has annoyed someone, but when he turns there’s nobody there. Is that Vons?

Ryan looks back down at his pies and wonders if he’s losing his mind and they’re talking to him.

“Hello?” he asks, giving one a gentle shake, just in case.

What? Can you hear me? the pot pie asks and Ryan blinks. He really is nuts, probably more so for the fact that he answers.

“Yes?

Ryan? God, the pot pie knows his name.

But then he pauses and actually thinks about it, slowly putting two and two together. This is oddly like one of his visions, except without the vision part.

Which means — “Shane?” he asks.

Can you seriously hear me right now, Ryan? Shane questions.

“Is this — are you seeing things right now?” Ryan asks cautiously, because he has no idea how much experience Shane has had with the visions and it might be his first one. “Can you see what I'm seeing?”

Yeah, I mean I can see some pot pies? I don't know why you wouldn't just make homemade ones.

“My eating habits aren't up for debate right now, Shane. I'm a little preoccupied by the fact that you can literally see through my eyes. Is this even real?” he can’t help but ask, part of him wondering if he's standing alone in the freezer section talking to himself. “What if it’s a brain tumor talking, or I'm stroking out?”

Shane falls silent for a moment and Ryan wonders if the vision has stopped, but then Ryan’s phone buzzes in his pocket and he finds himself pulling it out automatically. There’s a text from Shane.

Hello, it says, is it me you’re looking for?

“Goddamnit,” Ryan says, locking his phone and putting it away again.

C’mon, Lionel Richie is always relevant, Shane tells him.

“Why aren’t you freaking out. We are literally talking through our minds. This is nuts.”

What’s nuts is that you definitely thought I was a pot pie for a hot second there.

“No, I didn’t,” Ryan lies. “I just happened to be looking down.”

Okay, Shane relents, but there’s humor in his voice that Ryan doesn’t appreciate.

“We should talk about this,” Ryan tells him, his hands slowly getting colder as he holds the frozen pies. “Y’know somewhere that isn’t the freezer section of Vons. People are going to think I’m talking to myself.”

Or to the pies, Shane says, sounding serious.

“How do I switch off this power?” Ryan complains because he already has to deal with Shane enough at work. He really doesn’t need him in his head too.

I can come over, Shane says, if that’s what you mean by talking. Just text when you’re home and I’ll bring pizza.

It’s an offer Ryan can’t resist and it’s probably for the best if they figure out what the fuck’s going on before it gets any worse.

“Yeah, okay,” he agrees. “Can you get out of my head now? I don’t need you here judging my food decisions.”

Only an idiot would pick a beef pot pie over a chicken pot pie, Shane says with feeling.

“You know what?” Ryan says, ready to tell him exactly how he feels about his shitty food choices, but then he gets the odd sensation that’s he’s alone again and Shane has slipped out of his mind without a word of warning. He doesn’t know how to check, but just in case he does happen to still be watching, Ryan puts two beef pot pies in his cart as a final fuck you.

No one tells Ryan Bergara what to do and gets away with it.

*

Shane shows up with two pizzas, buffalo wings, and cheesy bread and Ryan feels like instantly forgiving him for anything bad he’s ever done in his entire life. Ryan hasn’t seen his roommates since he got back from work, but he doesn’t feel bad about taking over the living room, spreading their feast out across the coffee table and sprawling on the couch.

He thinks it should be strange looking at Shane and knowing there’s something really fucking weird going on, but part of him takes comfort in the fact that he’s not alone as he thought previously. Shane is in this with him now and it feels like sleeping next to him in a haunted room; he may not like it, but he feels a little safer knowing he has company.

Shane glances back at him, the corner of his mouth quirking up and Ryan finds himself looking away, feeling caught.

He manages to get through half a pizza and most of the wings before Shane finally breaks the silence.

“So,” he says grossly around a mouthful of crust. “There’s no pamphlet at the doctor’s office about what to do if you’re seeing stuff through your coworker’s eyes. I don’t even think Google can help.”

Which, as annoying as it is, is actually a fair point that Ryan hasn’t even tried yet.

“You’re thinking about Googling it right now, aren’t you?” Shane asks. “I don’t even need the Vision to know that.”

“Shut up,” Ryan complains, but wipes his greasy fingers on his pants and pulls out his phone to look it up.

Unsurprisingly, there are no real answers, just pages and pages of psychology sites offering insight on empathy and seeing from another’s perspective. Shane peers over his shoulder and whistles lowly.

“Is this a hint?” Ryan asks tentatively. “Are we getting called out on being polar opposites?”

“Doubtful,” Shane says says. “Life is never that self-aware.”

“Okay, so where did it come from? Why is this happening now?”

“I don’t have any of the answers,” Shane points out.

“I’m just saying things aloud,” Ryan admits, feeling so outside of his researching depths.

“That’s helpful,” Shane quips, tossing the remains of his crust back into the grease-stained box.

“How are we supposed to know anything about what’s happening? This is like the plot of some sci-fi movie. How can this be real? It’s physically impossible for this to be happening to us.”

“Yeah, but it is,” Shane points out. “This is the kind of stuff we need in the show if you’re ever going to prove to me that ghosts are real.”

Ryan rubs his forehead, knowing Shane is going to give him a headache if he keeps it up.

“How many times has this happened to you?” Shane asks after a moment, and Ryan shoots him a look.

“Pretty sure I’d remember if I’d seen through someone else’s eyes before this,” he says sarcastically and Shane rolls his eyes.

“I mean how many visions have you had since this started, you idiot.”

Even annoyed as Ryan is, the insult sounds borderline fond.

“I don’t know? A few?”

“Okay, and when was the first?”

“Um, Friday,” Ryan admits cautiously because it says a lot about how long it’s taken him to talk to Shane about the issue. “In San Diego.”

Shane blinks, looking predictably surprised. “You didn’t say anything.”

Ryan gestures broadly. “What was I meant to say? ‘Hey Shane, just want to let you know I can see everything you’re seeing. No biggie’? Totally easy since you believe in so much of the supernatural.”

It’s probably the amount of sarcasm that gets the point across because Shane pulls a face like maybe Ryan is right. Ryan would feel smug if not for the mess they’re in.

“What did you see?” Shane asks.

“I saw,” Ryan begins, thinking back, recalling the first vision he had. But now he knows he’s been seeing from Shane’s perspective this whole time, the first vision seems private. He remembers being watched, but it was Shane doing the watching, standing without calling Ryan’s attention, just taking in the view. It seems heavy, like he shouldn’t share. “I saw you checking emails on your phone,” he says instead, because it’s not a lie. “And I think I saw Obi on Saturday.”

“You saw me at home?” Shane asks and Ryan half shrugs.

“I didn’t see anything else. It was just Obi in your lap. It was early on in the visions — I thought I was going mad.”

“You didn't say anything,” Shane points out, “I mean, I didn't hear you in my head.”

Ryan shrugs and says, “It happened pretty quickly. I didn't really get the chance. What about you?”

“What about me?”

“How many visions have you had? God, it’s like pulling teeth with you.”

Shane scratches the side of his face like he’s thinking, but eventually he just shrugs.

“I dunno,” he says vaguely. “A few.”

“Okay,” Ryan says because Shane is ever unhelpful, “and when did they start?”

“Hard to say, I guess.”

Ryan pinches the bridge of his nose and tries to remind himself that murder is illegal in all states.

“Shane,” he says, dropping his hand and looking over at him. “This life-changing thing starts happening, but you can’t remember when?”

“Well, if we’re linked, it probably started around the time yours did,” Shane points out. “So, the trip to San Diego?”

“That narrows it down,” Ryan says, “so we just have to figure out why San Diego was different.”

Before the sound of the words even fade the realization hits him like a brick to the face.

“Holy shit!” he starts. “The séance! We got attacked by Kate and now we’ve got some discount Freaky Friday shit going on.”

Shane stares at him silently and Ryan can feel the lecture brewing. Shane is about to rattle off all the ways in which séances aren’t real and can’t cause people to suddenly share visions.

“C’mon,” Ryan argues before Shane can. “What else would it have been?”

“Okay,” Shane humors, “let’s say it was Kate. How did she do this?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan complains, “I don’t know how ghosts work.”

“Probably in an office with an elevator,” Shane says nonsensically. “Ghosts like those because they raise their spirits.”

Ryan pauses, but knows he can’t acknowledge the joke or it’ll only encourage him.

“Before she kicked our asses,” Ryan continues instead, even as Shane laughs to himself, “you asked her to give us the sight. I’ve seen enough movies to know that people get exactly what they ask for before they’re cursed.”

“I’m gonna stop you right there because we’re not in a movie and we’re not cursed. That doesn’t make sense and you’re an idiot.”

“You’re the idiot!” Ryan argues, hating that it sounds like I know you are, but what am I? “No part of what we’re experiencing makes sense, but who gives a shit about how it started — how do we make it stop?”

Shane seems to deflate at that and he slouches and puts his head in his hands.

Ugh,” he complains with feeling and Ryan really relates. He drags his hands down his face and then looks back up at Ryan. “Maybe it’ll just go away?”

“Like a headache? What if it’s actually a tumor? I was joking last time, but seriously.”

“It’s not a tumor,” Shane tells him and Ryan knows he doesn’t know that for sure, but the finality of his words is comforting. “We’ll just wait and see if anything changes.”

“If it doesn’t go away in a month, I’m going to see a doctor,” Ryan tells him, because if it goes on that long, he might actually go nuts and will need to see a professional anyway.

“Okay,” Shane agrees gently. “But we need to keep this under wraps until then.”

“This is the worst idea we’ve ever had.”

Shane nods in agreement, looking faintly green like the implications of the entire situation are finally dawning on him.

“It wouldn’t be as bad if they weren’t so random,” Ryan admits. “It feels like I’m going to be on edge all the time now, cause what if you see something I don’t want you to see?”

“Like if you’re planning a secret party for me?” Shane retorts, but Ryan was mostly thinking about the horror that would consume him if Shane saw him jerking off.

“No, I mean, I don’t want you seeing me in the shower.”

“Oh, huh,” Shane says and then pauses, like maybe he’s thinking about it. The tips of his ears pinken enough for Ryan to notice, but the rest of Shane’s face stays resolutely neutral. “Would it really be the end of the world if I saw something?”

“Well, uh,” Ryan starts, because it feels like a test that he might not pass. “No?”

Shane watches him for a beat, and then another, before saying, “Don’t worry; I promise to shut my eyes.”

His tone is unreadable, but Ryan finds himself saying, “Thanks?”

“If you can’t talk, you can always use hand signals,” Shane tells him and Ryan makes the mistake of looking down at the hand Shane shifts to rest on his own thigh. He belatedly realizes Shane has made a circle with his thumb and forefinger. Whatever moment he thought was passing between them has rocketed away, out of Ryan’s desperate grasp.

“Oh my god,” Ryan complains, even as Shane laughs and gives him a light punch on the arm. “No one’s done that to me since middle school.”

“Always gotta be on your toes,” Shane warns and Ryan really hates that he’s actually amused by the whole thing.

“Of all the people to get stuck with, and I get you,” he says in fake indignation and Shane grins at him with his ridiculously endearing crooked smile.

“Try to contain your excitement,” Shane tells him and Ryan rubs his eyes, already feeling exhausted by the situation.

“We really need to find a way to control this,” he says. “Like, maybe if we concentrate enough we can stop them before they happen?”

Shane frowns and says, “Can you sense when it’s about to happen?”

“No,” Ryan says in quiet disappointment, “but maybe one day we will?”

“Maybe they’re only random because you can’t control it?”

“What are you talking about, Shane?”

“I mean, what if it’s like a sōzu.”

“A what?”

“A sōzu,” Shane explains from who knows which part of his brain where he stores useless information. “It’s a Japanese fountain. Basically, it fills a tube of bamboo with water and when it’s full, it tilts enough to spill the water, and then starts refilling itself again.”

Ryan tries to make sense of it from the perspective of their visions. “So you’re saying, without control, the need for a vision builds and builds until a vision happens, resetting the need for another until it builds again?”

“Uh, yeah,” Shane says hesitantly like he can’t believe the simile actually worked.

“So, if we control them, it eliminates the need for random visions?”

“Yeah, but I mean, that’s totally hypothetical. I don’t actually know anything about them.”

Ryan sighs because it’s the truth, but he wishes it wasn’t. He wants something concrete, some part of these visions where he doesn’t have to guess.

“We can still try,” Shane points out quickly, as though not wanting to outright stomp all over Ryan’s hopes and dreams. “You could try now if you want.”

“Try to see through your eyes?”

“Uh, yeah, Ryan, I don’t know what else you’d try.”

Ryan shoots him a quick look of annoyance, but it softens when he realizes that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.

“How?” he asks and Shane shrugs.

“Still don’t have any of the answers. Just think real hard?”

Ryan sighs, knowing he’s going to look like an idiot trying, but he sits up straight and angles himself towards Shane like that’ll help. Without even thinking about it, he brings two fingers up to his temple and Shane immediately starts to laugh.

“Okay, Professor X, let me know when you see what I see.”

“Shut up,” Ryan snaps, mostly in embarrassment, and drops his hand back into his lap.

“No no, don’t stop on my account,” Shane continues, voice definitely not serious in the slightest. “It might help.”

Ryan pretends to bring his hand back up to his head, but gives him the finger instead, making Shane laugh again, eyes crinkling in the way that Ryan enjoys more than most things in life these days. When he stops laughing, Ryan takes another steadying breath and shuts his eyes.

“How can you see the vision if your eyes are closed?”

“Holy shit, Shane!” Ryan exclaims. “Shut the fuck up!”

He can tell Shane is endlessly amused, but Shane mimes zipping his lips and holds his hands up in surrender.

“My lips are sealed,” he says, and the irony of him still talking isn’t lost on Ryan.

Ryan shuts his eyes again and tries to center himself, attempting to locate the tiny part inside that might lead to his vision abilities. He wonders if it’s like finding the end of a piece of string and he’ll just have to follow it across into Shane’s mind.

Shane, he thinks, show me what you see.

But there’s no hint of anything and after a long moment of silence, he huffs in frustration and opens his eyes.

Shane’s expression isn’t one of mocking; he’s just quietly observing now and somehow that seems worse.

“Give it time,” Shane tells him. “Maybe keep trying? Not just today, but y’know, during the week?”

“You try,” he complains, feeling salty that he’s the only one who seems to be frustrated. “I really don’t want to be stuck with random visions.”

“I don’t either, buddy, but maybe practice makes perfect. Just don’t pull a muscle trying. We still have weeks of Post Mortems to get through.”

“That really doesn’t help,” Ryan points out.

“Wasn’t really trying to,” Shane responds and it’s such a Shane thing to say that it comes around full circle and actually does make Ryan feel comforted.

“I’m not doing all the heavy lifting,” Ryan says. “You’re in this too.”

“Yeah yeah,” Shane agrees without feeling. “I’ll let you know if I find the answer to life, the universe, and everything in between.”

Ryan’s too tired to argue the matter, but he knows Shane’s a smart dude. He’ll probably try it in his own time; Ryan isn’t actually too concerned that he won’t.

“It’s weird,” Ryan tells him, settling back into the couch and propping his feet up on the coffee table. “You could get inside my head at any point and I wouldn’t even know unless you said something.”

Shane glances over at him and lets out a laugh. It sounds slightly forced.

“Yeah, weird,” he says. “Guess I’ll always have to let you know if I’m all up in your noggin’.”

“It’s only polite,” Ryan jokes, but Shane’s returning smile is weak.

It’s been a long week, Ryan reasons, and maybe all the cheese is getting to Shane’s delicate stomach. With his foot, he nudges the lid of the pizza box until it flops over and closes. It’s probably time they called it a night anyway.

“Is that a hint that I should go?” Shane asks, but Ryan shakes his head.

“You know I have no problem just telling you to leave. I wouldn't be subtle about it.”

Shane snorts, probably because he knows it’s true.

“Yeah, well, I should go anyway.”

Ryan doesn’t put up a fight, partly cause he’s too full to move. He’s happy to continue sprawling while Shane pulls his coat on and finds his car keys.

“Remember to text if you figure anything out,” Ryan tells him and Shane stares down at him blandly.

“I thought I’d just bottle it up,” Shane lies. “Have fun figuring it out alone.”

He waves as he disappears down Ryan’s hallway and Ryan rolls his eyes despite knowing Shane can’t see. He hears the front door click shut and Ryan lets out a quiet breath, suddenly worn out by their conversation. He tips his head back against the couch and stares at the ceiling, wishing that for once in his life, things could be simple.

*

Ryan wakes in the middle of the night from a deep sleep with no idea why. He blinks into the darkness, wondering if it was a noise outside, but even through his open window, the sound of L.A. traffic is a low woosh, less than it is most nights.

He rolls onto his back and rubs his eyes, fighting back a yawn. It takes him a moment to realize that his room seems to be getting brighter, but before he can question it, a full vision starts and Ryan finds himself transported out of his bedroom straight into what appears to be Shane’s living room.

He knows they kind of made a pact to let each other know when visions were happening, but Ryan can’t help but keep quiet, listening to Shane breathing in the almost-silent room. He’s staring at nothing in particular, and Ryan wonders if the creepy fucker has fallen asleep with his eyes open. But then Shane shifts and glances down at the laptop on his thighs.

“Oh my god,” Ryan mumbles tiredly, which seems to startle Shane if the jump in movement is anything to go by. “I got woken up by a vision and this is what I get to see? Why are you awake and working on your stupid hot dog story?”

No sneak-peeks, Shane tells him, covering the screen with one large hand. The lengths you’ve gone to find out what happens before the next season.

“These visions aren’t so I can read the Hot Daga,” Ryan tells him, exasperated.

How can you prove they’re not?

The stupid part is that Ryan actually can’t.

“I can’t believe you're still writing this,” he says instead to distract him.

I have to give the fans what they come to the Post Mortems for.

“They don’t — ” Ryan begins to argue, but knows Shane will only ask him to prove that fans don’t actually come to the Post Mortem for the Hot Daga. “Why are you awake?”

Shane glances at the clock in the corner of his laptop screen. It reads 2:37am.

A hand blocks Ryan’s view as Shane rubs his face and he sighs gently.

I couldn’t sleep and I wanted to get my ideas out before I forgot them all.

“Please forget them,” Ryan quips as he rolls onto his side again, his body relaxing slowly.

Go away, Shane says without heat. I preferred it when you were asleep and I was alone.

“Yeah, whatever,” Ryan replies, but he really is tired and ready to fall asleep, if the vision will even let him.

It falls quiet between them, but it’s comfortable, and after a moment, Shane goes back to typing, the gentle tapping of keys oddly relaxing. Ryan shuts his eyes, but the noise stays with him, and he doesn’t even notice the moment he slips out of the vision and drifts back to sleep.

*

Ryan, a voice loudly says out of nowhere, midway through Ryan washing his hair.

He shoots an arm out as he spins around in his shower, accidentally knocking down a row of shampoo and body wash bottles, trying to locate the source before he realizes it’s Shane having a vision. All he can think about is Shane’s joke about hand signals.

He looks down and gives the stupid finger circle signal before he even realizes he’s fucked himself over by accidentally showing Shane his dick in the process.

“Oh my god,” Ryan complains aloud. “It happened. You’re having a vision while I’m showering.”

I can see that, Shane replies, but his voice sounds slightly strangled. I broke my promise.

Which means he hasn’t shut his eyes and he’s seen everything.

“Oh my god,” Ryan repeats, staring at the white tiles to keep him from seeing anything else. He can barely feel the warmth of the water spraying at his back.

You said it wouldn’t be the end of the world, Shane says and it doesn’t help like Shane probably thinks it does.

“It’s not,” Ryan gets out. “It’s just not how I pictured my day going.”

Shane makes a noise as though maybe it’s a good point. He probably didn’t wake up expecting to see everything Ryan has to offer.

“How is this our luck?” Ryan asks and Shane hums like he has something to say on the matter, which can’t be good.

That, uh — that might be my fault.

“Your fault?” Ryan questions. “I’m the one who looked down.”

I think I figured out how to turn the visions on and off, Shane admits. My timing really sucks.

“Did you do this on purpose?”

No, Shane says, voice heavy with emphasis. I didn’t know you’d be showering when I turned it on.

Ryan is somewhat relieved, mostly because it puts them on level footing — they’ve both fucked up this one.

“Can we talk about this when I’m less soapy?” Ryan asks as his eyes begin to burn as diluted shampoo drips into them. He turns his face into the spray of water to rinse off, and he thinks he hears Shane agree above the noise, but his head goes quiet like Shane does actually know how to turn the visions off. It’s an eerie sensation.

Despite knowing Shane’s gone, he keeps his eyes up and refuses to look in the mirror when he gets out and starts drying himself off. He figures it’s only fair.

He has enough time to dress and flop on his bed with his phone, starting to write out a text to let Shane know it’s safe, before Shane’s voice comes out of nowhere again.

I’ve got my eyes shut, he says. Are you still naked?

Ryan deletes his half-written message and tosses his phone onto the pillow beside him.

“No,” he grunts. “You can look.”

For some reason, it seems strange to just stare across the room at nothing while they talk, so he rolls onto his side and stares into the mirror on his closet door.

“Hi,” he says, feeling weird, but he can hear the smile in Shane’s voice when he says Hi, Ryan in return.

Sorry, Shane apologizes. I didn’t actually mean to see anything.

“Yeah, I know,” Ryan accepts. “It was just bad timing.”

Not that you have anything to be embarrassed about, Shane tells him and Ryan blinks.

It hangs between them for a moment until Ryan realizes Shane’s either talking about his muscles or the size of his dick. The thought of Shane making any reference to the state of Ryan’s naked body is enough to send his entire blood supply into his face and he turns to look at the ceiling to keep Shane from seeing his telltale flush. The very unhelpful part of his brain wonders if Shane liked what he saw, but it’s really not the time for a personal crisis.

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Ryan tells him, because he has no clue what else he can say while sparing both of their dignities. “So, how about you tell me how you’re controlling these visions instead.”

It’s more stable if I hold something of yours while I try to see through your eyes.

“Something of mine?” Ryan questions. “What did you steal from me?”

Take a look, Shane says, and pushes through his own view of what he’s looking at. It feels weird, like a feedback loop.

“Wait,” Ryan says, “you can show what you’re seeing? Since when?”

Uh, yeah, it’s a two-way street, Shane calmly responds, as though he hasn’t just cracked a secret code. Surprise!

It’s not the kind of surprise Ryan enjoys.

“So, what, you just think about sending me your view and it happens?”

Yeah, I guess. That’s how it’s working right now.

Ryan files the information away for later and then finally lets his eyes adjust to take in what he’s actually being shown. Belatedly, he realizes he’s looking down at Shane’s hand holding a pen — the pen Ryan has been looking for at work for the past two weeks because it’s his favorite for note-taking.

“I’ve been looking for that!” he complains as the view disappears again and he’s left looking at his own reflection.

It’s a nice pen, Shane tells him.

“I know, asshole! That’s why I kept it hidden!"

Shane laughs openly. Well, it’s now going to be used to call you whenever I feel like it.

It’s possibly even worse knowing the visions are under Shane’s control now. It’s an ominous threat.

“Oh god,” he says, pulling a face of horror and Shane laughs again. “I don’t have anything of yours. You better give me something tomorrow in the office.”

Sure, Shane agrees, still laughing, and Ryan frowns.

“Go away,” he orders. “You’re on time-out.”

Yeah, okay, that’s fair, Shane tells him and suddenly his presence disappears, leaving Ryan staring at himself.

Everything is officially the worst.

*

On Monday, Shane drops beside him at his desk, heaving out a sigh like he usually does after climbing the stairs to their floor. Ryan forces himself not to look over expectantly, trying his best to play it cool, even though he wants to shake Shane and force him to give him something of his so that Ryan can test out the visions.

Slowly, Shane boots up his laptop and begins checking his emails, which makes Ryan want to put his hands around his neck. Instead, Ryan stretches his arms over his head and yawns. It’s one of the least subtle things he’s ever done in his life, but Shane glances over, finally seeming to realize where he is.

“Did you get here early?” Shane asks as Ryan finally drops his arms back down.

“A bit,” he lies — five minutes early solely because he didn’t stop for coffee on his way in doesn’t really count.

“Nice. I brought you something like you asked,” he says, widening his eyes like they’re talking in a secret code to avoid anyone around them listening in. It’s stupid and so like Shane that Ryan’s stomach flips.

Under the cover of their desks, Shane reaches towards him, his palm open, offering up a watch. It’s one Ryan actually recognizes because he’s mentioned liking it before to Shane. He’s even tried to get one himself, but Shane couldn’t remember where he’d got it when he’d asked.

“I remembered you wanting this,” he says. “I figured you'd enjoy wearing it until we figure out what's going on.”

“Thanks,” Ryan says feeling off guard. “That's actually thoughtful.”

“I can be like that sometimes,” he points out, which isn't a lie, but Ryan doesn't know how to act when that thoughtfulness is directed at him.

He accepts the watch and stares down at it.

“You're meant to wear it on your wrist,” Shane tells him, sounding slightly sarcastic, and Ryan glances at him with a frown.

“If I wear it, I might accidentally send you visions.”

Shane blinks as though that hadn't crossed his mind, but then he shrugs and says, “Suit yourself.”

But even knowing it could lead to disaster, Ryan rolls up his sleeve and fastens the watch around his wrist, and when Shane looks over and notices, he smiles.

“Looks good on you,” he says casually, like it's not the secret code to make Ryan's life crumble down around his ears.

Ryan feels his face heat and he turns back to his screen to hide it the best he can.

“Thanks,” he grunts and ignores the way he can still feel Shane staring at him.

*

Is this a little bit like putting out the bat signal? Shane asks, startling Ryan while he’s in the middle of answering an email.

Shane’s no longer sitting beside him at his desk, but Ryan gets the sudden view of the breakroom as Shane refills his Hydro Flask.

“Oh my god,” he complains as quietly as he can to avoid detection. “Go away.”

Shane’s laugh is the last thing he hears and the vision quickly disappears, returning him to his email.

Shane returns to his desk a few minutes later and he grins at Ryan when Ryan makes the mistake of glancing up at him. Ryan frowns to make a point, which only seems to further amuse him.

“You’re the worst,” he tells Shane, and doesn’t mean it in the slightest.

*

Check out this video, Shane tells him, just after lunch.

Ryan doesn’t even get time to argue before he gets a front row view of Shane’s computer screen — the one Ryan is sitting directly next to — finding a video of a cat chasing its own tail.

“Jesus christ, Shane,” Ryan complains, jabbing out a hand to hit Shane, who laughs even harder than before.

The vision fades and Ryan hates that he can’t help the laugh that escapes him.

“I knew it!” Shane crows. “You love it.”

“I don’t,” Ryan argues feebly, which would be much more believable if he could stop smiling. “Stop doing that. You’re abusing the system.”

“This is what the system was made for,” Shane counters, pushing through a vision of a different cat video, this time one where the cat tries to fit itself inside a vase.

“One day someone is going to murder you and I won’t be surprised in the slightest.”

The vision fades and Ryan is left staring at Shane’s stupidly-happy and stupidly-attractive face.

“It’ll give you an extra exciting story for True Crime.”

*

Okay, Shane says when Ryan is halfway up the stairs to his room. Which tie should I wear for drinks out tonight?

Ryan trips over the next step and barely catches himself on the railing to keep himself upright.

“Get out of the way, asshole! I’m trying to walk, but I can’t see where I’m going.”

Use my watch to push your own vision back at me, Shane suggests, but Ryan is tired from a long day of edits — and watching stupid YouTube videos from Shane’s perspective — and just wants to shower and get dressed for the work event they’re both going to.

“Some things in our lives should be left a surprise,” Ryan tells him and the last thing he sees is the reflection of Shane’s thoughtful face in his bathroom mirror.

Mindful of the possibility that Shane could take over his vision at any second, Ryan carefully climbs the rest of the stairs and heads into his room.

*

The worst part is that Shane listens because he shows up to the bar wearing a tie Ryan’s never seen before, and even worse than that is the fact that he looks really good in it. Honestly, Shane wearing a tie in general is enough to give Ryan issues, because outside of weddings of mutual friends, he never sees Shane in one. But the one he’s wearing now is skinny and navy and isn’t really anything to write home about, except that it does things to Ryan.

Ryan himself is wearing the outfit he was given for the Ladylike styling shoot — the pink accented blazer, white shirt, and gray pants. He suddenly feels very aware of his own bare ankles as he crosses the packed room, his sights set on the general vicinity of the bar where people — namely Shane — are milling around.

“Hey!” Shane greets as he turns, something that smells very alcoholic in one hand. “What do you think?”

“Who are you trying to impress?” Ryan asks as a backhanded compliment, that usually gets Shane to smile. But this time, Shane frowns and turns defensive.

“No one,” he answers, which means he totally is. “The invite said professional attire.”

“Sure, but this is BuzzFeed,” he points out, making eye contact with the nearest bartender and giving the nod to place himself in line for service. When he turns back, Shane’s eyes are below the belt, but quickly making their way back up Ryan’s body in the way they do when he’s caught red handed. “I’m not here to impress anyone,” Ryan says before Shane can comment on his outfit in return. “I’m just here for the free drinks.”

“Sure,” Shane mimics. “Have you tried using the watch yet?”

“What? No, I haven’t had time,” Ryan says and Shane’s mouth twitches

“Of course you have time — it’s a watch.”

Ryan rolls his eyes, but the truth of the matter is that he worries he won’t actually be able to do it and he’s been putting off trying. He has the watch tucked into his pocket, just in case he needs it, but also to avoid accidentally sending anything until he's ready to try.

“Well, you just ping me whenever,” Shane tells him, tapping the side of his head in a completely unsubtle way, but before Ryan can complain, another handful of coworkers show up and they’re inevitably drawn into separate conversations.

Ryan glances over at Shane as he’s finally served his own drink, but Shane isn’t paying attention.

*

Ryan shouldn’t drink as much as he does, but he can’t take it back and he does actually feel pretty good. It’s been a while since he was last able to let loose. He probably shouldn’t have chosen to do it at a work event, but he’s never been one for great ideas when it comes to alcohol.

Somewhere in the middle, Evan sets him up with a row of shots, and it’s a lost cause after that, especially when he breaks the seal and spends a good chunk of his time going to and from the bathroom to pee. He bumps into Kelsey on one such trip as she’s leaving the ladies room looking loose-limbed and well on her way to not being sober.

“Oh, Ryan!” she says, mouth spreading into a wide smile that he can’t help but return. “Shane’s looking for you.”

“Where’s he at?” he asks, but she shrugs and gestures vaguely back towards the bar. “Okay, thanks, I’ll find him.”

She offers him a wave and disappears, but Ryan still needs to pee beforehand, so he continues on to the bathroom.

There’s a man inside that Ryan doesn’t recognize, but he’s using the middle urinal because apparently he’s the worst kind of person to exist, so Ryan uses one of the stalls instead. He’s partway through peeing, wondering what Shane wants when he remembers he still has his watch in his pocket. He’s sufficiently drunk enough now to feel like it’s a good idea to try using a vision to locate him, which means after he flushes, he pulls the watch out and carefully holds it in one hand.

He’s not entirely sure how it’s meant to work, but he repeats a mantra of show me what Shane’s seeing as he squeezes it, trying his hardest to believe it’ll work. Nothing happens for a long minute, and he gets distracted at the sound of the man outside his stall washing his hands, but then his own vision starts to waver, and not just in a too-drunk-for-this kind of way.

Sounds from the bar sharpen in his ears like he’s actually there, and then he gets the first view of the inside of Shane’s almost-empty glass.

“Oh my god, it worked,” Ryan says aloud and immediately hears Shane cough as he chokes on his mouthful.

I’m happy and all for you, Shane starts in a strangled voice, pausing to clear his throat again, but you couldn’t have picked a worse time.

“Sorry, dude; Kelsey said you were looking for me, but didn’t know where you were. Thought these visions might finally have a benefit.”

Who are you talking to? someone to Shane’s left asks and Shane makes a noncommittal noise at them and gestures at his ear as though trying to play it off as a call via Bluetooth earpiece, which Shane isn’t wearing — and has never in his life worn before. He edges out of the crowd as Ryan laughs the entire way.

Where are you? Shane hisses and Ryan pulls himself together just long enough to say he’s in the bathroom.

Shane changes course and Ryan figures he’s heading in his direction, so he finally leaves his stall, stumbling blindly towards where he’s sure the sink is because Shane’s vision is blocking his own.

“I’m gonna cut the vision,” he tells Shane, “mostly because I can’t see to wash my hands. I’ll meet you outside.”

He doesn’t wait for Shane’s response, just focuses on withdrawing from his perspective, and slowly it fades away and returns him to the bathroom where he’s staring at the soap dispenser.

By the time he wanders outside into the hallway, Shane’s already waiting, arms crossed as he leans his shoulders against the wall at his back. It makes him look even taller and as drunk as he is, Ryan wants to put his hands all over him.

“Hey,” he says instead, drawing Shane’s attention, getting him to stand up straight and take two looming steps towards him.

“Hey,” Shane replies, but his intonation is slightly off, giving away that he might not be as sober as he looks.

“You were looking for me?”

“Yeah,” Shane says, running his fingers through his hair and mussing it completely. “When are you thinking of bailing? Want to share a Lyft?”

Ryan squints at him and asks, “You couldn’t have just texted me that? Or asked in the vision?”

“I guess. I haven’t seen you in a while anyway.”

“You missed me,” Ryan jokes, but feels his body heat at the thought of it being true.

“You haven’t been dancing,” Shane says, avoiding the question, which is a whole other kind of trouble. Shane’s been watching him throughout the night.

“What are you? The dancing police?”

“Come and dance,” Shane orders, which really isn’t like him, because usually it’s Ryan telling Shane to dance whenever they’re out.

He thinks if he wasn’t so drunk, he’d actually ask Shane if he’s okay, but now all he wants is to see Shane’s stupidly lanky body moving to whatever beat is playing. Shane grabs his forearm and tugs him back in the direction of everyone else, and Ryan feels disappointed when he lets go as they join the crowd.

Everyone is shoved together, bodies pressing close, and Ryan finds himself resting a hand between Shane’s shoulders as a guiding point as he follows. He doesn’t know where they’re heading, but eventually Shane stops and Ryan slips alongside him to find a collection of familiar faces, Kelsey amongst them looking far more inebriated than when he last saw her.

She smiles when she notices him and above the sound of the music, yells, “He found you!”

“I’ve been forced to dance,” he replies and she reaches out to grab his waist and jostle him.

“Then dance!”

Ryan does. He lets the music wrap around him and the alcohol loosen his limbs. He thinks he probably looks like an idiot, but he feels great, and every now and then Shane presses against his back, whether intentional or not, Ryan doesn’t know, but he’ll take what he can get. He can feel the long line of his body and sometimes gets the ghosting of Shane’s hand on his hip. It drives him nuts and he doesn’t do a thing about it, just keeps dancing in the hope that it continues.

He doesn’t know how long they actually dance for, but their group gets significantly smaller as the night goes on and Ryan’s passed a bottle of water at some point, possibly by Shane himself, and he drinks the entire thing in a few long draws. It takes the edge off his buzz and the next time Shane touches him — his hand somehow managing to find bare skin at Ryan’s waist — Ryan has to call it quits.

He turns against Shane’s grip, finding Shane staring down at him in a way that makes Ryan want to put his fingers in his hair and drag him down to his level.

“Let’s go home,” he yells over the music and Shane nods, putting up no resistance as he immediately turns and starts to wade his way back through the crowd.

“I gotta pee,” Ryan says, catching up to him at the bar. “Go ahead and order a ride and I’ll meet you outside.”

It’s easier to think with space between them and Ryan does actually have to pee again.

“Sure,” Shane agrees, “see you out there.”

When Ryan glances back, halfway across the room, Shane hasn’t moved and he’s watching Ryan with an expression he can’t read.

*

The ride home is way more awkward than Ryan thought it would be. He’s sobered up significantly and the backseat of the Prius they’re in feels simultaneously too big and too small. Shane loosens his tie, and Ryan rubs his clammy palms against his thighs.

“This is weird, right?” he can’t help but ask, trying to ignore the fact that their driver is definitely listening in.

“Which part?” Shane replies and Ryan really can’t unpack that.

“Do you ever feel like we’re sharing more than just, y’know,” Ryan asks, gesturing to his eyes to mean their visions.

“Like what?”

“Like maybe you’re picking up my habits?”

“Isn’t that normal for people who work closely together?” Shane questions with a frown and Ryan really doesn’t think he’s picking up on what he’s suggesting.

“No, I mean, back when this first happened, after the —” he lowers his voice to a barely audible whisper “— séance. When we stayed in that room, I felt less scared. Like maybe you not believing in whatever was in that room spilled over into me.”

“Are you finally admitting you don’t believe in ghosts?” Shane jokes, but it just frustrates Ryan that he’s not taking it seriously.

No,” he emphasizes. “I’m telling you that while I’ve been reviewing the footage from that night, I saw the difference in myself. Shane, I slept for like five hours after we got attacked by a spirit. I would never do that, but you do it everywhere we stay. And now, tonight, you sudden decide dancing is your thing? The thing you hate and that I love. Isn’t that suspicious to you?”

Shane’s smile slowly disappears and he sighs as though about to deliver bad news.

“We’re not sharing habits or feelings or whatever it is you’re suggesting. It’s okay to feel weird about this — it’s an invasion of privacy for both of us, but we can’t start blaming everything on it.”

“So you just felt like dancing?” Ryan asks sarcastically, but Shane just shrugs.

“What can I say, I’m an easy drunk.”

It’s a lie because Ryan has seen firsthand multiple times how well Shane can and cannot hold his alcohol and he’s never once reached the point of wanting to dance more than Ryan. He shakes his head.

“There’s something else,” he insists and Shane rubs his face and looks out the window. Ryan notices they’re only a few streets away from Shane’s place now.

“Stop pushing it, Ryan,” Shane tells him, which means there is something and Ryan just has to find out what.

“If there’s some other fine print in this stupid curse we’ve got, we should know about it. How can you prove this isn’t something new?”

“Because I know my own feelings, Ryan,” Shane insists. “Tonight, I really just felt like dancing.”

“Why would I believe that any other time?” Ryan asks and he really hates that the car’s slowing down and pulling up to the curb outside of Shane’s apartment. Shane’s going to slip away and Ryan won’t be left with any answers.

Shane pops his door open and gets out and Ryan thinks that’s it, that’s the end of the conversation because Shane doesn’t want to entertain the idea that there could be something more to what they’re experiencing — maybe it’s getting worse, but they’ll never know if Shane just straight up ignores it.

But Shane peers in through the doorway and stares at Ryan without a word until Ryan slowly gets the image of his own disappointed face peering back at him in the form of one of Shane’s visions. He doesn’t understand why Shane would project his view when they’re right next to each other and can talk, but Shane slowly takes in the entirety of Ryan — from his now-rumpled blazer and shirt, and the tightness of his pants across his thighs in the way he’s sitting. He doesn’t know what he’s meant to be looking for when Shane interrupts.

“When you showed up looking like that, all I wanted to do was put my hands on you. You made me want to dance, but it wasn’t because of the visions.”

The vision fades and Ryan finds Shane staring at him as though he’s about to ruin everything they’ve ever had. The moment passes in a blink of an eye and Shane shuts the door and knocks on the roof of the car. The Lyft driver pulls away and Ryan turns in his seat to watch Shane begin to head into his place.

“Hey, hey, wait!” he calls out, turning to catch the driver’s gaze in the rearview mirror. “Stop!”

“Buddy, I have other rides to pick up,” the man says, but he stops the car regardless. “You can get out now, but I’m not waiting.”

Ryan cranes his head to see if Shane is still around, but he’s gone because he’s an asshole who apparently thinks he’s in a movie and can just drop something like that and not give Ryan an explanation. Ryan fumbles for the pocket of his blazer, knowing that if he has Shane’s watch, he can make his own vision and force Shane to talk to him. But the watch isn’t there.

He pats the rest of his pockets in a panic, but gets the slow, sinking sensation, remembering placing Shane’s watch next to the sink when he washed his hands after his first vision of the evening, but he doesn’t remember picking it back up again afterwards. It definitely hadn’t been there when Ryan had gone back into the bathroom just before they left.

Not only does he not have a way to contact Shane, he will now have to explain how he lost one of Shane's favorite watches. Ryan’s life officially sucks.

“Hey, are you getting out or not?” the driver asks, drawing him from his thoughts, and Ryan leans back in his seat and rubs a hand over his eyes.

“No,” he says, suddenly exhausted. “Let’s go.”

The driver pulls away again and Ryan feels like he’s missed every step on the way down a staircase and now he’s falling and falling and just waiting to hit the bottom. He can’t help but worry that it’s going to hurt.

*

The first thing Ryan does when he gets home is try to call Shane. It goes directly to voicemail seven times before he stops and tries texting instead. He suspects Shane has just turned his phone off completely, but he thinks it’s worth trying.

Call me asshole, he sends in his first text, followed quickly by, turn your phone back on because i lost your watch and can’t get into your head.

I can do this all night, his next text says, which devolves into a string of eight individual texts that just repeatedly say, shane.

It’s not his finest moment.

We need to talk, he tries. You can’t ignore this.

He has a million and one things he wants to type out; how Shane is the one to blame for the mess they’re in, how he can’t just drop information like that on Ryan and expect to get away with it, how he needs to turn his goddamn phone back on so Ryan can tell him exactly where he can put his stupid, oversized hands.

Instead, he texts, please talk to me, and then drops his phone on his nightstand, already knowing deep down that he won’t get a response from him.

*

Brushing his teeth that night at the sink, the back of Ryan’s neck prickles, like he’s being watched. He glances over his shoulder, but there’s nothing beyond the open bathroom door, just his messy closet opposite and his TV, still paused on the episode of the Great British Baking Show he’d been watching.

He stares at his own reflection, brushing slowing as he takes in the tired bruises under his eyes and the way his hair has flopped out of its careful styling from earlier. He looks exactly how he thinks he should for having his world tilted on its axis.

But the feeling of being watched doesn’t fade and he blinks, pulling his toothbrush out and spitting into the sink.

“Shane?” he asks the quiet room, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Are you there right now?”

There’s no sound, no hint of Shane's presence, but for some reason, Ryan can’t shift the feeling that he's there.

“Just call me back,” Ryan tells him quietly. “You can’t just ignore me forever. I don’t want you to ignore me forever.”

There’s no response, and after a moment of Ryan staring into the mirror, there’s a shift in the atmosphere like Shane has slipped away. He waits, wondering if Shane will take his advice and call, but his phone stays disappointingly silent in his bedroom and eventually Ryan knows it’s not coming.

He washes away any remnants of toothpaste from around his mouth and stares one last time at his reflection, but nothing’s different. He sighs and turns away, knowing that Shane won’t be back anytime soon.

*

When Ryan was nine, he’d found a hornet’s nest attached to the side of his garage, only a few feet away from the house. It hadn’t been very big — barely the size of a softball — but he’d spent a handful of hours watching hornets buzz around and disappear inside, and he’d eventually made it his goal to figure out how to knock it down to find out what it would look like inside if he smashed it open.

At the time, he’d figured the hornets would fly off and he’d be left to inspect their little hornet tunnels. In actuality, the second he’d nudged it off the side panels with the end of his mom’s gardening broom, the hornets had swarmed him like stink on shit and the pain of being stung had blown his little child mind.

After a trip to the ER and enough benadryl to knock him off his feet, his mom had sat at his bedside with a gentle expression on her face — not disappointed, just knowing it was a learning moment for him.

“Sometimes, it’s best not to interfere,” she’d said calmly, wiping his swollen, tear-stained face with a cold washcloth. “We can watch, but we need to know when it’s not safe and when we should leave things alone.”

He likes to think that now, at twenty-eight, something has stuck from his mom’s lessons, but it feels a lot like he’s grabbing another broom to swat at another hornet’s nest when he texts Shane just after lunch on Saturday.

I’m coming over, he sends. You can’t keep ignoring me. We need to talk.

He waits twenty minutes, just to give Shane time to answer, but when he isn’t told to stay away, he requests a Lyft and decides this bad life choice can’t be worse than being stung twelve times by angry hornets. He won't end up in the ER this time. Probably.

The street is quiet, but Shane’s car is parked at the curb outside, meaning he’s most likely home after all. Yet, Ryan rings his doorbell three times and knocks twice, but he doesn’t answer.

I’m at your door, he texts. This is really petty now.

He wonders if he can be petty in return by sitting on the doorstep and waiting until Shane’s eventually forced to emerge and face him. His texts remain unread, though he isn’t entirely surprised, but it annoys him that he’s so easily ignored. He needs to get inside Shane’s head — he wouldn't be able to ignore him then — but to do that, he needs something that belongs to Shane.

Glancing around, he realizes how bare the outside of Shane’s place is, but the one thing he does have is a doormat. It’s just some cheap one from Target, but he remembers Shane complaining about having to buy it after his parents visited and told him his apartment didn’t look homey enough.

He doesn’t know if it’ll work, but he scoops it up, dirt and all, and carefully thinks about getting into Shane’s mind.

“You can’t ignore me now,” he says as the vision begins to manifest, and Ryan expects Shane to be sitting on his couch, maybe watching TV or maybe scrolling through his phone.

Instead, he’s hit with a vision of Shane’s laptop screen and for a second he wonders if Shane is working on the Hot Daga again, but his eyes adjust and — oh boy — it’s definitely not the Hot Daga. It’s a video, though more precisely, a porn video, and as the title of the clip suggests, frat-boy Mike is definitely getting the pounding of his life from some new pledges. There are backwards caps and letterman jackets, and it’s all a little much for Ryan.

What’s worse is that in his panic Shane lets out a sharp intake of breath and glances down into his own lap, giving Ryan a very clear image of his dick and the way he has tight fingers curled around it, his strokes faltering out of sheer shock even as Ryan watches. He expects Shane to throw a hand over his eyes to keep Ryan from seeing, or maybe try to push him out of his mind completely, but instead he lets out a softer noise and comes all over his hand.

“Oh, fuck,” Ryan blurts. “Jesus Christ, I’m so sorry.”

He finally has the presence of mind to break the connection between them and it leaves him horrified, still standing on Shane’s doorstep, doormat held pathetically between his hands.

“Holy shit,” he says aloud to himself, dropping the mat and taking an unsteady step away from the front door. He stares up at the apartment and hates that he knows exactly what’s going on inside. He needs to get away before Shane regains enough sense to come after him.

He honestly didn’t think things could be worse than hornets, but life has a funny way of making sure to remind him that it can always be worse.

He scrubs at his face, his skin feeling heated and tight with embarrassment. He thinks it’s in part from seeing something he never should have, but he also thinks it’s partly because he’s had one or two fantasies that were vaguely similar. Ridiculously, he’s half hard in his jeans, his body betraying him at the worst possible time.

He pulls out his phone, ignoring the fact that his texts to Shane are now on read, and opens the Lyft app to request a ride. He sets the pickup point at the end of Shane’s street and hopes that's far enough away for him to escape unscathed. He quickly heads for the sidewalk, praying that Shane knows better than to try to get into his head. They should just pretend the entire mixup never happened.

There’s an old bus stop bench at the end of the street. He doesn’t think it’s used anymore given that there’s no actual signage, but it’s the perfect place to wait for his ride, which is apparently twelve minutes out. It’s going to be the longest wait of his life.

He can’t even stomach the thought of using his phone in case a text from Shane comes in. He stares across the street at a dog sniffing around the front yard of its home. It catches sight of him after a moment and barks twice, but then seems to realizes Ryan is the least threatening person around and turns to pee on its owner’s rose bush instead.

He drops his head down, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes as he rubs at them, feeling wrung out.

He looks up as a car briefly pauses at the stop sign to his right, hopes rising that maybe time has gone quicker than expected and it’s his ride, but what’s worse is that it’s Shane’s elderly neighbor, Mrs. Schaeffer. She moved in just over a year ago and lives alone, but always drops dishes of food at Shane’s doorstep as though he can’t feed himself. She also knows Ryan on a first-name basis and every time she sees him, asks if he’s caught any ghosts. Shane had laughed almost to the point of puking after she’d once pinched his cheek and called him handsomely exotic in a casually racist way.

“Please don’t see me, please don’t see me,” he murmurs, which means she of course sees him because that’s the way life goes.

She waves and winds down her window.

“Ryan!” she calls out. “Yoohoo!”

“Hi, Mrs Schaeffer,” he says, forcing a smile.

She laughs like he’s teasing her and says, “How many times do I have to tell you to call me Patty? I can’t stop to chat today, dear, but I saw Shane heading this way. Can you tell him I’m going to drop a pie around later? It’s pecan — his favorite!”

Ryan’s stomach sinks at the knowledge that Shane is coming to find him. He can feel his smile falter and he really doesn’t want to explain anything to her.

“Sure!” he says with a wave. “I’ll let him know.”

It seems to pacify her. She smiles and says, “Thank you, dear! I’d better be on my way before I cause traffic!”

She laughs, head thrown back, before winding her window back up and making a smooth right turn out of the neighborhood. His smile drops as soon as she leaves and he throws a look over his shoulder, but there’s a building blocking the view of the sidewalk, which means he can’t see if Shane is near or not.

He glances at his phone, his Lyft now only four minutes out, and he has no clue if that’ll be faster than Shane and his stupidly long legs. He doesn’t think he can justify hiding in nearby shrubs, but he stares at them longingly nonetheless. He hunches over, elbows on his knees as he focuses on the ground, willing his heart rate to finally slow down and wishing he was home already, away from this whole mess.

Less than two minutes to go and a soft voice from behind says, “Hey.”

Ryan wants to die. He wants the ground to open up or the sky to cave in, just to keep him from having to look up. But it doesn’t, and he does.

Shane’s standing on the street corner, hair wet like he’s taken the world’s fastest shower, and he looks more unsure than Ryan’s ever seen him.

“Ryan?” he says carefully as though half expecting him to self-destruct.

“How did you know where to find me?” he can’t help but ask and Shane slips his hands into his pockets, looking apprehensive.

“I used a vision,” he admits, which is surprising since Ryan never felt or heard him in his head. “I recognized the corner. Can we talk?”

“My ride is almost here,” Ryan says, meaning no, I don’t want to.

“Cancel it,” Shane insists. “I’ll drive you home.”

Ryan shakes his head and looks out towards the road for any sign of salvation in the form of — according to the Lyft app — Julian driving a Honda Accord.

“Please, Ryan,” Shane says and it sounds as though he’s about to crumble apart.

“It’s five bucks to cancel,” Ryan tells him, “and it’s almost here. I’m not going to be that person.”

“I’ll pay the damn fee,” Shane snaps unexpectedly. “Just come inside for a minute.”

At the sound of Shane’s raised voice, the dog across the street starts barking again and Ryan really doesn’t want to make a scene. As much as it pains him, he sighs and cancels his ride, accepting that he’ll probably be given a one-star rating from Julian in return.

“Fine,” he says sullenly, unable to meet Shane’s gaze as he hefts himself upright and moves towards him.

They walk side-by-side in the direction of Shane’s apartment, but the second their elbows brush accidentally, Shane lengthens his stride just enough to be one step ahead of him. Ryan’s okay with that; it’s easier to look at the back of his head anyway.

He waits patiently for Shane to unlock the front door, ignoring the skewed placement of his doormat from where he’d dropped it earlier, but Shane doesn’t say a word as heads inside and leaves Ryan to close the door behind himself. It feels like sealing his own terrible fate.

His feet feel as heavy as lead as he heads towards the living room where he finds Shane perched on the edge of his couch, hands carelessly raking through his hair. Ryan’s buzzing too much to sit, so he stands by the TV and folds his arms, knowing he must look as closed-off as he feels.

“So, uh,” Shane starts awkwardly, but Ryan finds himself needing to speak.

“Mrs Schaeffer says she has a pie for you. I, uh, saw her earlier.”

“Yeah, she called this week about it. She seems to think pecan is my favourite.”

There’s a long pause where Shane probably thinks about the merits of pecan versus other kinds of pie and Ryan just feels nauseous. After a moment, he can’t stand the silence.

“I’m really sorry,” he blurts before he can stop himself. “I really didn’t mean to see that. I didn’t expect you to be, y’know — ”

“Yeah,” Shane replies softly. “I should have known better. I saw all your texts and heard you at the door. I knew you were going to get into my head and I should have stopped you, but I didn’t.”

“That doesn’t make me any less accountable. I doubt you actually believed it would happen like that.”

Shane rubs the back of his neck and Ryan purposely doesn’t let himself focus on his fingers, trying his best to avoid thinking of how good they looked wrapped around — He stops the thought before it can fully form.

“I don’t know what I believed,” Shane admits, “but it wasn’t fair on you.”

“On me? You’re giving yourself too much credit for this fuck-up.”

Shane drops his head into his hands and Ryan thinks he’s said something wrong, that he’s truly upset Shane somehow.

“Hey,” he says gently. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Shane says into his palms, but that’s all Ryan has to offer.

“But I —” he tries again and Shane shake his head before lifting it again.

“Ryan, shut up for one second, okay?”

Ryan’s mouth clicks shut and he feels slightly insulted. He can usually tell when Shane is joking around, but he’s definitely not now, and he can’t figure out where else he’s fucked up, other than everywhere.

He watches Shane roughly card his fingers through his hair, his lips thinning as though he doesn’t want to say whatever it is he’s about it say and he looks terrible.

Fuck,” Shane curses as he stands, like the force of it has propelled him to his feet. He paces the space between the couch and the wall, though it’s barely even a step and a half with how long his strides are.

“Shane?” Ryan questions softly because he’s never seen Shane like this before and it’s worrying. He wants to know how to make it better.

Shane pauses and turns to look at him, but his expression isn’t one of anger like Ryan expects; it’s sad, his mouth turned down in the corners, and that’s possibly worse.

“You can talk to me,” Ryan tells him, trying to be as less threatening as possible. “Whatever’s wrong, we’ll fix it. We always do.”

Shane somehow looks even sadder at that and he rubs his forehead and drops down onto the couch again. He tips his head back to look at the ceiling and says, “I’m the reason the visions are happening.”

Ryan blinks. It’s not the direction he thought their conversation was heading. He’d wondered if Shane had been trying to find a way to talk about his admission the night before, or about what Ryan caught him doing less than half an hour ago.

“What are you talking about?”

“You seeing things?” Shane says. “You got it from me.”

“From you?”

Shane drops his head to meet Ryan’s gaze, “The visions are my fault.”

“Uh,” Ryan says intelligently.

“I’ve had the visions for a long time,” Shane explains, which clarifies precisely nothing for Ryan.

“You mean like since San Diego?”

No, Ryan, I mean like since I was five years old and thought I could see the future.”

Ryan can’t seem to get his brain to work the way it should.

“They work on anyone, not just you,” Shane says. “It depends on what I can steal from people to create the connection, but it’s not usually contagious.”

Ryan finds himself reaching out a hand to grip the nearest surface, which happens to be one of Shane’s bookshelves. It's solid enough to keep him upright.

“Are you joking around right now?” Ryan asks carefully, but he thinks he already knows the answer from Shane's body language. It's pretty clear he's being serious.

“No, Ryan,” Shane replies, sighing like he's exhausted from the admission alone. “This is the truth.”

Ryan takes a breath, and then another, feeling unsteady. “Does anyone else know about this?” he asks eventually, and Shane’s shoulders visibly loosen as though just glad Ryan is still speaking to him and hasn’t run screaming for the hills.

“Not really. I made the mistake of admitting it to my parents when I was seven,” Shane says, looking away as though the memory is uncomfortable for him. “They thought I was having hallucinations. I was on medication for a long time and I never really mentioned it again.”

Ryan can’t even begin to imagine what that loneliness must have felt like, what it must still feel like.

“You’ve never said anything,” Ryan says. “You could’ve told me.”

He’s not trying to accuse, but it sounds like it anyway. What’s worse is that when he looks up, Shane’s expression says he gets it. He understands why Ryan feels slightly betrayed.

“I didn’t think you’d believe me.”

“You rib me literally every day of the week for believing in too much bullshit as you like to call it. But you think I won’t believe you on this?”

“When do you think would have been a good time to tell you?” Shane asks. “‘Oh hey, Ryan, by the way, I have visions. Have a good weekend! See you Monday!’”

“Probably around the time I somehow got them too, came to you for help, and you pretended the entire time that you had no idea what was going on,” Ryan points out firmly and Shane actually looks guilty about that. “You implied that it could be contagious? Is this how I ended up with them? Did you do this on purpose?”

“No,” Shane says quickly. “I wouldn’t do this to you on purpose.”

“Then how are they contagious?”

Shane hesitates before he speaks again, like he doesn’t want to admit to anything. “I’ve accidentally given it to someone before, but they only had it for a day or two. The circumstances weren’t the same.”

“You mean there was no crazy séance that mild-melded you together?”

“It wasn’t the séance,” Shane says in the same way he usually says that ghosts aren’t real.

“It was definitely the séance,” Ryan insists before focusing on the more important issue. “Who did you give the visions to?”

Shane shifts awkwardly where he’s sitting, clearing his throat and looking like the poster boy for pure discomfort.

“Was it someone awkward like a teacher?” Ryan presses and Shane shakes his head.

“No,” he says quietly. “It was the first girl I slept with when I was eighteen.”

A sudden, shocked laugh escapes Ryan and Shane glances up at him in surprise.

“She rocked your barely-legal world,” he jokes. “I mean, it was enough that you temporarily gave her your secret magic powers.”

“They’re not magic powers,” Shane argues and Ryan lifts both brows at him.

“That’s the hill you want to die on?”

“I want to die on a lot of hills,” Shane admits unsurprisingly.

“Okay, well whatever you want to call them, you gave them to her like an STD.” Shane pulls a face at the comparison. “But I think — I mean I’d hope I’d remember having sex with you.”

It’s not an admission he’d expected to make when he woke up, but he supposes that’s the way life goes. Shane freezes and stares at him, and after a moment, he turns a little pink around the edges.

“What?” he asks quietly, as though he’s not sure he heard Ryan correctly. “You’d hope?”

“Isn’t this a Catholic’s confessional wet dream? We’re all just throwing stuff out there to see what sticks? I mean, unless you didn’t mean what you said last night?”

“No, uh, I probably shouldn’t have said what I did, because I was drunk, but it’s out there now, I guess.”

“Is that a yes?”

“Ryan,” Shane says carefully and Ryan will admit it’s a bit brutal of him.

“Okay, well if it wasn’t sex that caused the visions, what was it? How did I rock your world?”

Shane rubs the side of his nose and admits, “I think you do it a little bit each day.”

It answers both of his questions.

“Oh, you’ve got it bad, Madej,” he says when Shane falls silent and Shane rubs his face with one hand.

“Why are you like this?”

“Are you saying I’m wrong?”

“No,” Shane admits, making Ryan’s stomach flip happily, “but I still hate everything about you.”

It sounds fond and Ryan finds himself grinning wide enough that his cheeks ache, even as Shane watches him as though questioning the validity of his own feelings.

“You’re taking this surprisingly well,” Shane tells him, which means he must have been envisioning a very different outcome for everything. Ryan doesn’t blame him — he pictured something with a little more angst when thinking about it at the old bus stop.

Ryan shrugs casually and says, “You’ve just proven to me that paranormal shit is real.”

“No, Ryan, that’s not what I’ve done.”

“Oh yeah? Then where’s the scientific reasoning behind it?”

Shane stares at him and looks annoyed that he doesn’t have a response.

“It doesn’t prove that ghosts are real,” he argues and Ryan shrugs again.

“No, but it opens the door to it.”

“There is no door and if there ever were, it would be firmly shut.”

“It’s like my rule from the Hotel Del,” Ryan says, “the door always stays cracked.”

“I hate every single thing about you,” Shane tells him and Ryan laughs, feeling lighter than he ever believed he could.

“No you don’t.”

The smile Shane shares with him is soft and makes Ryan flush with happiness. “No I don’t,” he agrees and pushes himself to his feet.

Ryan doesn’t know what to expect, but the moment Shane takes a step towards him, he thinks he might have an idea. He holds Shane’s gaze, despite having to crane his neck to watch the closer he gets. A foot away, Shane stares down at him, his expression serious enough that it sends a shiver down Ryan’s spine.

He reaches a hand out as though to cup Ryan’s jaw and asks, “Can I?”

“You really don’t need to ask, dude. I think we’re both on board with this plan.”

The last thing he sees before he shuts his eyes is Shane rolling his own, but then his warm palm is on Ryan’s face and he’s being drawn into possibly the most gentle kiss he’s ever experienced. And just as quickly as it begins, it ends and Shane pulls away.

“Hey, what, no — ” Ryan complains, pulling a laugh from Shane as though he planned it all along. “I hate you.”

“No you don’t,” Shane tells him, dragging him back in for a better, more fulfilling kiss, one that pushes Ryan onto the balls of his feet, just to try to get more. Not that he has to worry about that because Shane’s other hand slides into the small of his back and pulls him closer, giving Ryan exactly what he wants. He opens his mouth and Shane doesn’t hesitate to deepen the kiss, licking into Ryan’s mouth in a way that’s downright dirty.

This time when the kiss breaks, Ryan can’t even collect his thoughts enough to speak. All he can do is stare at Shane’s mouth, at the way his lips are reddened and wet now.

“Need a minute?” Shane jokes, but Ryan honestly thinks he does.

He finally drags his gaze back up to Shane’s own and he feels himself flushing all the way down to his toes.

“Uhh,” he says and Shane huffs a quiet laugh, which means he gets distracted by his mouth again. He doesn’t know what’s got into him; it’s like he opened Pandora’s box in admitting his feelings. Shane probably thinks he’s an idiot — more than he already does.

“You okay?”

“I, uh, yeah, I think so.”

“Is your robot brain rebooting? I need to remember this. It could be useful in a pinch.”

“You can’t just kiss me silent,” Ryan tells him and Shane licks his lips as though to make an embarrassingly blatant point. “Not all the time,” he corrects, just to make Shane laugh, which it does.

Shane leans into his space to give him another quick kiss and Ryan gets a little stuck on the thought that it’s something they can do now.

“This has been a really fucking weird day,” he admits and Shane makes a face like he’s not wrong. “I think I still have a lot of questions.”

“Would it help if you made a PowerPoint presentation and sent it to me? I can fill in the blanks.”

Ryan shoves him gently, but it’s not worth arguing about. They have plenty of time to figure things out. Ryan’s not sure he even knows what he wants to ask yet anyway. So instead, he just enjoys the warmth of Shane’s hand on his back and the way he looks at him as though he actually enjoys the weird days with Ryan.

*

Shane does eventually drive him back home, even going so far as to stop at Chipotle on the way to keep Ryan from starving. Ryan isn’t about to call it a first date, but he thinks it’s close when Shane pays for them both while offering Ryan a wink. Ryan almost chokes on his burrito twice when he can’t stop thinking about it and the stupid butterflies it gives him.

Pulling up at the curb outside his place, Ryan thinks very seriously about leaning over the handbrake and just pulling Shane into a kiss. Shane even looks like he might accept it, his gaze dropping briefly to Ryan’s mouth. But Ryan isn’t sure he’s ready to go full PDA; he’s never been one for it. He smiles instead and reaches for the door.

“I’ll see you Monday?” he says, as though Shane will be anywhere else but at work, but Shane doesn’t call him on it.

Instead, he reaches into the backseat and pulls out a sweatshirt that has probably been tucked in the footwell for three weeks after the last time he visited the gym. He offers it to Ryan who has no idea what it’s meant to mean.

“Is this your attempt at giving me your letterman jacket?” he asks. “Is this a kink?”

“You lost my watch, idiot,” Shane explains. “You need something else of mine for the visions.”

“Oh,” Ryan says gently, taking the sweatshirt and unthinkingly bringing it up to his nose to breathe in the scent of Shane’s faded detergent and sweat. “How long do you think I’ll have them? Do you think they’ll wear off like with your lady friend?”

Shane shrugs. “No idea, but try not to lose my stuff this time.

Ryan rolls his eyes, opening his door and climbing out.

“Get out of here,” he tells him, shutting the door behind him, but Shane smiles even as he puts the car into drive and carefully pulls back into the street.

Ryan watches until he makes a left and disappears from view, feeling a lot like a teenager with a hopeless crush. Yet, now he knows his hopeless crush is reciprocated in a wild twist of events. He takes another breath of Shane’s sweatshirt and then heads for the front door.

*

Nothing else in Ryan’s life actually changes. The earth hasn’t stopped spinning after their admissions of feelings and he still has to get up for work on Monday. Shane doesn’t even shoot him any sidelong glances, at least no more than he usually does, though Ryan thinks that’s pretty damning evidence that Shane’s been crushing long enough that it’s no longer noticeable.

Tuesday morning, Ryan wakes up to his ears ringing. He’s known for a while that through his headphone usage and the excessively loud music listened to in his teenage years he’ll eventually end up with tinnitus in his old age, but this seems different. He takes a hot shower and lives on the edge by cleaning his ears with cotton swabs, just in case it’s some weird buildup of wax. But it doesn’t seem to help.

He tries yawning as much as he can on his way into the office and as he crosses Lincoln Boulevard, both ears pop simultaneously and the ringing stops. It feels like a sensation he’s never meant to experience. He sits in his car, just testing to make sure it’s actually gone, and as he takes it in turn to cover one ear and then the other, there’s a sharp knock in his window.

He startles sideways and peers out to find Shane looming beside his window.

“Playing the bongos with your head?” he asks, voice muffled through the glass and Ryan sighs and gets out, only just remembering to grab his security badge as he goes.

No,” he says firmly, “my ears were ringing this morning.”

“Were?”

“Yeah, they popped and it’s stopped now.”

Shane scratches at his jaw, his nails raking audibly across his stubble, as he says, “Huh.”

It sounds like he knows something, but when he fails to elaborate, Ryan shoots him an expectant look.

“Oh, I think that’s what happened with Maggie,” he says as though it’s a name Ryan should recognize. “Y’know, the last person I shared my you-know-what with. That’s when the visions stopped.”

Ryan’s eyebrows raise of their own accord. “Am I free?” he asks. “Can we go find out?”

He doesn’t actually wait for Shane to reply, just starts heading towards the employee entrance. He checks over his shoulder on the way up the stairs to their floor to be sure Shane’s still there, and he is, but his gaze is low, like he’s clearly just watching Ryan’s ass. Ryan swats at him, but Shane doesn’t seem to show remorse.

At their desks, Shane starts booting up his laptop, but Ryan reaches over for the ghost-emoji shaped stress ball Shane received from a fan at the beginning of the year and now keeps on his desk.

Let me see Shane’s view, he mentally pleads, squeezing the stress ball, just because it’s there, but his vision doesn’t shift and he’s left just staring over at Shane. He shuts his eyes and tries again, worried that maybe he’s not focusing enough, but there’s still radio silence.

“I think it’s gone,” he says, not really knowing how to feel.

“Hm,” Shane replies unhelpfully. “You’re not feeling anything?”

“No, there’s nothing in my head.”

“I could’ve told you that,” Shane jokes, a cheap shot, and Ryan tosses the stress ball towards him, which he deftly catches and sets beside his keyboard. “Guess you really are free.”

Ryan doesn’t know what to do with that. He’s had Shane in his head for less than two weeks — it shouldn’t feel lonely, but it kind of does.

“This is weird,” he says, which earns him a look from Shane.

“I thought you wanted this? Weren’t you trying to figure out how to get rid of it?”

“Well, yeah, but…” he trails off and Shane shakes his head.

“So contrary.”

“It’s almost like people are multifaceted.”

“Looks like it’s back to the dark ages for you,” Shane tells him, leaning backwards in his chair to the point where the frame creaks ominously. “You’ll have to use your phone to contact me like everyone else. That’s what happens when you get a taste of Madej. It’ll always leave you wanting more.”

“Don’t refer to yourself in third person,” Ryan complains, turning to his computer, ready to ignore him, because his face is starting to heat and he thinks Shane might actually be right. He got a taste and he certainly wants more.

*

On Thursday, Ryan wears Shane’s sweatshirt to work and enjoys the way Shane trips over his own feet when he walks in and sees him.

“Smooth,” Ryan teases. “You okay there, big guy?”

Shane doesn’t answer, just sits at his desk and aggressively signs into his computer. Ryan grins to himself, patting himself on the back for a job well done, but as he refreshes the YouTube page for the stats of their latest episode, his ears pop in an unfortunately familiar way.

“Oh my god,” he murmurs, turning to look at Shane, who’s still pointedly ignoring him, despite his ears being the reddest Ryan’s ever seen them. “Are you kidding me?”

Shane gives him a sidelong look, but doesn’t respond and also doesn’t seem to know what Ryan is talking about. Ryan suddenly feels justified in wearing Shane’s sweater as he curls one hand into the material and thinks about seeing through Shane’s eyes.

After a moment, his vision swims and then the view of Shane’s monitor slowly materializes.

“Does my outfit rock your world?” Ryan asks quietly enough that he knows no one around will hear, but that it’ll echo in Shane’s head.

He lets the vision fade and then turns to glance at Shane, whose face twitches. Color settles high on his cheeks, meaning he definitely heard Ryan and Ryan was definitely right. He grins, feeling like that cat that got the canary.

“Every time I think I’m free are you going to pull me back in again?”

Shane sighs like it pains him to actually respond as he says, “I’m not doing it on purpose.”

Ryan’s smile widens further. “I know. That’s what makes it even better.”

Shane turns and frowns at him then, which only delights Ryan more.

“Stop instigating,” Shane tells him and Ryan cocks an eyebrow.

“This is what happens when I get a taste of Madej,” Ryan reminds him and Shane gets up from his desk and actually walks away. He’s probably only going to get coffee and wants to annoy him, but Ryan throws his head back and laughs all the same. He already knew he’d fallen for Shane, but now he’s realizing he’s fallen for the stupid visions too.

*

“You wanna grab dinner?” Shane asks casually over lunch on Friday as Ryan is midway through a bite of salad.

“When? Tonight?” he asks around his mouthful, wiping dressing from his chin with his hand. He suspects it’s very attractive.

“Yeah, or are you hanging out with the cool kids instead?”

“Cool kids? Who do you think I’m hanging out with these days other than our coworkers?” Ryan asks and Shane shrugs.

“I don't know. Some of them are cool probably. That’s not my point; are you busy or not?”

Ryan sighs and hates that he has to admit, “Yeah, I’m busy. I’m meeting up with a trader after work.”

“For your stupid sneaker collection? So, it is a cool kid you’re hanging out with.”

“It’s not stupid, but yes, it’s a vintage pair I’ve been looking for for a long time.”

“Vintage just means old and stinky,” Shane instigates, which Ryan ignores for the sake of their future relationship. “How long will a trade take? Five minutes tops?”

Ryan rubs the back of his neck and admits, “We’re meeting in Ventura.”

“You’re an idiot,” Shane says fondly and Ryan thinks at this point it could be considered a pet name.

“What about tomorrow?” Ryan asks instead, but Shane shakes his head.

“I’ve got a thing with a college friend and his new wife. Sunday?”

“There’s a Chargers game,” Ryan says sadly, which is a first. He’d snagged tickets that were going around the office and it’s been way too long since he was last able to go.

“Wow,” Shane says, leaning back in his chair.

“Yeah,” Ryan agrees, because he knew dating as an adult was hard, but it wasn’t meant to be this hard.

“Raincheck for next week?” Shane suggests and Ryan nods. He’s going to clear his entire fucking calendar to make it happen.

He takes another sad mouthful of his lunch and sighs heavily. Under the table, Shane nudges his foot against one of Ryan’s own.

*

An hour before the end of the workday, Shane sends him a meeting invite. Shane’s not at his desk, which means he can’t ask him about it, but there’s a brief message attached that mentions wanting to discuss the upcoming Post Mortem. Ryan accepts it, grabs his phone, and goes to find the conference room Shane reserved, which turns out to be one in the back of the office, one of the weird ones that looks more like a janitorial closet.

“Why’d you get this one?” Ryan asks as he walks in, immediately spotting Shane lurking in the corner.

Shane doesn’t actually reply, he just somehow gets from across the room to right in front of Ryan in under a second, and backs him against the door as it shuts behind him.

The kiss is unexpected but not unwelcome, and Shane’s mouth is as insistent as every other part of him, deepening the kiss and immediately turning it filthy. Ryan raises his hands, planning on looping them around Shane’s neck to keep him exactly where he is, but Shane pulls back and steps away.

“Fuck,” Shane says with feeling. “I’m sorry.”

Ryan blinks and belatedly remembers to close his mouth. “Yeah, probably not safe for work,” he says once his brain is back online, “but I’m sure people have done worse here.”

Shane rakes his fingers through his hair and looks a little wild around the edges.

“I think I’ve lost my mind,” he admits and Ryan laughs.

“How the hell did you ever keep this secret?”

Shane shrugs and says, “You can be pretty oblivious sometimes.”

Ryan thinks he might actually be right.

“Did you really want to talk about the Post Mortem?” he asks, just in case, but he can see the answer in Shane’s expression before he answers.

“No,” he admits quietly and Ryan laughs again, his heart swelling happily.

“Well, you reserved this room for thirty minutes,” Ryan points out, tapping his chin with one finger as though thinking. “Got any ideas for how we can fill that time?”

“For the record,” Shane says, even as he takes a step closer, putting them almost hip-to-hip, “this is a really bad idea.”

“Yeah, we should definitely never do this again at work,” Ryan agrees, but he still slides a hand over Shane’s shoulder and pulls him down to his level.

It definitely doesn’t stop Shane from kissing the ever-loving life out of him and Ryan loves every second of it.

*

Ryan’s ears pop again Saturday night and it’s not that he needs to contact Shane via vision, he just likes to know that he can if he wants. It’s not his finest moment, he’ll admit, but knowing he has to blow Shane’s weirdly large mind to get it back, he sends him a series of texts.

I lost the visions :(

Please reinstate all privileges asap thx

His last text is just a photo that he may or may not have taken just after he’d showered. It’s a neck-down shot showing off his proudly-maintained muscles and his hand, resting low against his stomach, his fingertips tucked invitingly into the waistband of his boxer-briefs. It’s a flattering photo, he thinks, mostly because he’d been sporting a semi at the thought of Shane seeing it.

He figures Shane won’t actually see them until later, after his evening out with his college buddy, which means he has no shame in shucking his underwear and crawling into bed to get a hand around his unignorable and persistent dick. A party for one is still a party, he reasons. Not that it’s going to last long when his brain keeps unhelpfully — or perhaps helpfully, depending on the perspective — replaying the brief vision he saw of Shane jerking off.

It’s still not Ryan’s finest moment for shutting his eyes and letting it fill his memory, but he likes to think Shane would be supportive, though in the sense that if he were there, he’d put his hands all over Ryan and support him via orgasms.

His breathing turns shakier with each stroke and he glances down, just to watch the reddened head of his cock disappearing into the tight circle of his fingers. He wonders briefly if that’s the kind of photo he should send Shane instead to really get him going, but that thought forces him to look away because he wants to come, but not that quickly. He stares at the ceiling instead and keeps his hand steady.

Jesus, Ryan, comes Shane’s voice, unexpectedly in his head. Warn a guy. I’m at a dinner party.

Ryan freezes and keeps his eyes focused on the blank ceiling. He takes a breath and then another.

Ryan?

“Yeah, I’m here,” Ryan gets out. “I hope you’re alone because you definitely shouldn’t see what I’m doing if you aren’t.”

He can practically sense Shane shifting in intrigue.

I’m hiding in the bathroom, Shane admits before pausing, and Ryan mentally starts counting down from ten because he knows — What are you doing? I can’t see much.

He’s as predictable as ever.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to share,” Ryan insists, despite his dick twitching in his hand, trying to tell him that, yes, he definitely should share.

Oh god, Ryan, Shane says after a brief pause. Are you —?

“Would it make this a vision booty call?” Ryan asks, still refusing to look down, and he can almost hear the whirring of Shane’s mind through the connection.

Can I — Shane starts, before swallowing, which Ryan notices only because he hears the clicking of Shane’s throat. Can I see?

Ryan hesitates, mostly because he knows it must be some kind of faux pas to show someone your dick when they’re halfway through dinner. Though perhaps that boat has already sailed with the photo he sent Shane earlier.

He thinks he waits too long to respond because eventually Shane says, Please, Ryan, and his voice is so soft and yet insistent, that Ryan can’t say no.

“I’m not responsible for any consequences,” Ryan tells him before finally dropping his gaze.

He doesn’t try teasing Shane by going slow, but instead gives him an immediately front row view of the sprawl of his legs and the hand that’s slicked with precome and gently working his cock.

A punched out noise escapes Shane, though it sounds slightly muffled like he’s got a knuckle in his mouth.

Ryan gives himself a few firm tugs, twisting his hand against the head of his erection and thumbing at the leaking slit.

Oh, Ryan, Shane says sounding weak, I think you broke me.

Ryan huffs out a laugh that’s half the breath he’s been holding in, and feels slightly proud.

“I warned you,” he says and wonders if Shane is getting hard in his chinos.

I don’t know what I expected, Shane admits. I can’t go back out there now.

Ryan looks back up at the ceiling to keep from ruining Shane’s life any more than he already has. It’s only fair.

No, no, Shane complains. If we’re doing this I’m going all in.

“Please don’t jerk off in your friend’s bathroom,” Ryan pleads, but it sounds like not even God can save Shane now.

Too late, Shane tells him, meaning he probably already has a hand down the front of his pants. It’s going to be the death of Ryan, but the worst part is that Ryan can’t see it. Show me again.

And Ryan is powerless to resist him. He glances down, hand moving with more purpose now, giving Shane exactly what he wants to see. Ryan never thought he’d be into being watched, but hearing Shane breathing heavily in his head, almost enough that it sounds like he’s right beside him, his cock twitches.

How does it feel? Shane asks and Ryan bites his free hand to muffle his noises lest his housemates hear. Ryan?

Ryan unclenches his jaw enough to say, “G-good. It feels really good.”

Do you think it would be better with my hand?

“Jesus christ, Shane. Do you always have to be like this?”

Are you worried what you’ve got yourself into? Shane asks, voice strained, breath hitching

“No,” Ryan tells him honestly, drawing a ragged noise from Shane. “But you’re going to make me come way too quickly.”

Yeah? I think that’s the point. God, you look so fucking good.

Ryan speeds up his hand and wants to blame how stupidly close he is to coming on the fact that he’d been toying with himself before Shane got into his head. He thinks it’s quite possibly the hottest encounter of his thus far short life. It’s going to ruin him for anything else, though he wouldn’t be surprised if Shane had a few other curve balls up his sleeve.

I want to get my mouth on you, Shane tells him. Would you like that? Do you want to come in my mouth?

“Holy shit,” Ryan curses, finding it hard to keep his eyes open as his hand blurs with the movement of his fist, his balls drawing up as he hovers on the edge of the abyss.

Yeah, c’mon, Ryan, Shane says, and there’s no way he could stop it even if he wanted.

He tips his head back and comes all over himself; even his chin gets caught in the crossfire. But the part he isn’t expecting is that his ears pop as he comes.

“Fuck fuck fuck,” he says quickly, limbs refusing to help as he rolls sideways off his bed to grab at where he’d left Shane’s sweatshirt on the floor by his closet.

He quickly pleads with his brain to show him Shane’s view and gets the sudden image of Shane hunched over the sink, his belt unbuckled and pants undone. His hand is moving in a blur and Ryan can see how close he is.

“Show me,” he says and Shane’s whole, stupidly long body tenses as he comes messily into his palm. There’s no chance of Ryan getting hard again any time soon, but his cock twitches valiantly at the sight. “Oh my god, Shane.”

Shane glances up into the mirror and Ryan gets a view of his flushed face and the glazed look in his eyes.

“They’re going to know exactly what you did the second you leave that bathroom,” Ryan tells him as Shane raises his hand, staring down at his own come as though wondering how it got there.

Fuck, Shane says with feeling. I need to clean up.

He isn’t the only one; Ryan can feel the mess on his stomach slowly becoming tacky as it begins to dry.

“Good luck with that,” Ryan tells him, not wanting to stick around to see the awkward fallout. “Text me later after you’re caught.”

I don’t regret this, Shane admits after a moment and Ryan feels himself soften around the edges.

“I don’t either,” he replies.

Shane offers him a small smile and Ryan slowly retreats from his mind, knowing his presence won’t help in the slightest. He slumps backwards on the floor and stares at his ceiling, his chest feeling tight with a fullness he hasn’t felt in a long while. He grins to himself and tries to find the strength to get up and wash again.

*

On Monday at work, the first time Ryan sees Shane is in the breakroom as he’s making coffee. Shane meets his gaze and goes pink and Ryan really wants to get his hands on him.

“How’s it going?” he asks instead because there are other people buzzing around. “Good weekend?”

“Yep,” Shane says, turning back to stare at the coffee machine. “You?”

“Can’t complain.”

There’s a slight pause before Shane asks, “Are you busy tonight?”

“Nope,” Ryan says in a rush. “I am definitely free. Nothing on my calendar at all.”

“Cool,” Shane replies in a way that says he’s holding back as much as Ryan is. “Can I come over?”

Yes,” he says, a little too loudly to be casual. “Dear god, yes.”

Beside Ryan, Andrew Ilnyckyj pauses. “That’s weird,” he says, and the coffee cup in his hand is empty, but he still turns around and leaves. Ryan will admit it’s a bit much for a Monday morning. They should tone it down.

“Okay, yeah,” Shane agrees, picking up his coffee, looking about ready to follow Andrew and flee in the same way. “What time?”

“Just come over from work,” Ryan tells him because he thinks he’ll go insane if he has to wait any longer. Shane nods, pauses as though about to say something else, but then leaves instead.

“Are you getting coffee or not?” an intern beside him asks and Ryan realizes that he can’t just stare at the machine to make it work.

“Yeah,” he says. “Sorry.”

*

Ryan almost wears a groove into the kitchen floor as he paces while waiting for Shane to arrive. He’d be embarrassed if not for the fact that he’s too full of other emotions to even begin to feel shame.

I’m outside, Shane texts him a little after five-thirty and Ryan almost drops his phone in his haste to reply.

Then quit texting and get INSIDE.

The knock on the door startles him, though he knows, reasonably, to expect it, but he cards his fingers through his hair, hating how clammy he feels. It’s only Shane, but now it’s so, so different.

“Hey,” he says, tugging open the door to find a slightly frazzled-looking Shane. He’s glad he’s not the only one having a meltdown.

“Mrs. Schaeffer gave me pie,” Shane says, which means the pie dish in his hands containing leftovers makes a lot more sense. “Figured you'd want some.”

Right at that moment, Ryan couldn't give any less of a shit about pie if he tried, but he takes the offering and gestures Shane inside with a sweep of his hand. It takes four steps to set the dish on the closest surface, but then he's back next to Shane, staring up at him and wondering if he can just grab his hand and drag him upstairs.

“Can I—” he starts before Shane interrupts.

“Please do,” he says, not even knowing what Ryan was about to ask, but clearly not caring when Ryan manhandles him towards the stairs. Ryan feels like a teenager again, trying to sneak someone up to his room before his parents catch him.

When the bedroom door closes behind them all Ryan can think about is how much he wants — everything, anything. He'll take whatever Shane will give him, and when Shane stares down at him like he wants to devour him whole, Ryan is completely okay with that.

“Come here,” Shane orders and Ryan does exactly that, stepping into Shane's space and finally getting his hands on him.

When Shane stoops to kiss him, it's soft, like a secondary hello, but the moment he opens his mouth, it deepens into an I'm about to blow your mind and possibly other things kind of kiss. Ryan is completely onboard with either, but he gets his hands under the hem of Shane’s shirt because that’s all he can think to do and the lure of Shane’s skin is just too much.

Shane’s own hands shift: one to Ryan’s waist and the other sliding around to firmly grab his ass. Ryan laughs against Shane’s mouth and wonders how long he’s been wanting to do that. In retaliation, Shane gently nips his bottom lip, but if it’s meant to be a punishment, it doesn’t work because it only turns Ryan on more.

He just can’t wrap his mind around the fact that he actually has permission to touch now. He can dig his fingertips into the soft flesh around Shane’s hips and rub his thumbs along the light hair below his belly button. They’re entirely new sensations for him, but he can tell he’ll quickly become addicted.

He doesn’t want to break the contact, but he draws away solely to pull his own shirt off over his head because they both need to be 100% more naked. He tosses the shirt into a corner and watches as Shane carefully takes in every inch of his chest.

“Which way to the gun show?” Ryan asks, flexing just enough to make Shane laugh, but he puts his hands on Ryan’s biceps like he might actually be all about that. Ryan grins and flexes again, and Shane goes a little pinker around the cheeks.

“You’re indecent,” he says, but doesn’t sound the slightest bit upset.

“You gonna do something about it?”

Shane actually does. He twists Ryan around to put his back to the bed and then lays him out on it like he weighs nothing at all, which means it’s Ryan’s turn to flush. He’s definitely developing a thing for Shane bossing him around.

With deft fingers, Shane unbuttons and unzips Ryan’s pants, looking half as though he might tear them straight off Ryan’s body if they don’t cooperate; luckily they do, and Shane easily tugs them down and off Ryan’s legs, throwing them over his shoulder to god knows where.

He stares down at Ryan like he’s a feast and he doesn’t know where to put his mouth first. Ryan gives him a hint by hooking his thumbs into his underwear and shoving them down his hips. Shane gets the idea and helps pull them off before setting one knee on the bed and leaning over enough that Ryan knows he can’t escape — not that he wants to at all with the direction Shane is heading.

The first time Shane gets his mouth around him, Ryan wonders if this is how he dies. He spends years hunting ghosts and taunting demons, but Shane’s mouth is what gets him after all that.

He presses his head back and grabs two handfuls of his bedsheets, solely to keep from yanking Shane’s hair out at the roots.

Shane,” he pleads, but he’s not entirely sure what he’s asking for, just knows he needs more of everything.

Shane’s tongue is a goddamn menace and it’s insistent in its mission to break Ryan apart in the best of ways. When he looks down, Shane’s lips are stretched around him crudely and he’s watching Ryan as though he’s the only thing that matters.

“You’re— ” Ryan tries before Shane takes him deeper, letting the tip of his cock rub against the roof of his mouth. “You’re really fucking good at that.”

Shane gives a lopsided shrug like it’s no biggie and keeps sucking, his hands rubbing along Ryan’s thighs. However, as much as Ryan is happy to lie back and let Shane work his magic, and would definitely not be opposed to just coming in Shane’s mouth, it feels decidedly one-sided. Shane hasn’t even lost a single piece of clothing and he looks far too put together.

“Shane,” he gets out around an exhale. “Shane.”

Shane pauses and then pulls off altogether, though his hand immediately resumes what his mouth started, circling his cock in a firm grip and stroking to keep him interested.

“You good?” he asks and Ryan takes the opportunity to curl his fingers into the shoulders of Shane’s shirt to drag him further up his body.

Shane loses his grip on Ryan’s cock, but uses it instead to hold himself up and keep from flopping on top of him. He seems more than happy to be pulled into a kiss and Ryan sneaks a hand between them to palm the front of Shane’s pants. He’s definitely interested and Ryan plans to assist in any way he can.

“You need to be more naked for this to work,” Ryan tells him when Shane breaks the kiss to let them catch their breaths, and Shane stares down at him as though he has a million and one suggestions for what they can do exactly.

“Can I fuck you?” he asks, and Ryan has to cover his face with both hands and take deep, calming breaths before he comes all over himself from the thought alone.

“Yeah,” he says, already beginning to half-crawl out from under Shane, needing to find his lube and condoms immediately. “You can definitely do that.”

Shane gets the hint, and Ryan’s a little disappointed he doesn’t get to help undress Shane, because when he finally finds what he’s looking for in his nightstand, he turns back to find Shane naked, looking like a tall drink of water. He has to take a moment to pause and appreciate what he’s been given. Never in his wildest dreams did he think this would be something he was allowed to want, let alone have.

“Which way to the gun show?” Shane jokes, attempting to flex, but mostly just sticks out his pooch of belly instead. It’s stupidly endearing and Ryan reaches out to grab his arm and pull him back down to his level.

“Do I have to show you?” Ryan asks, slapping the bottle of lube into Shane’s palm, but Shane shakes his head.

“Nope,” he says bluntly and Ryan lets himself flop backwards into his pillows, bending his knees and placing his feet flat on the bed.

It opens him up enough for Shane to kneel between the splay of his legs and he doesn’t know what kind of sight he makes, but Shane looks very much into it. He slicks his fingers and presses a palm to the underside of one of Ryan’s thigh, pushing it up and out a little more for him to reach in and get exactly where Ryan wants him.

The first press in is cool and exhilarating as Shane watches his expression closely. If he’s looking for any sign of discomfort, he won’t find it there. Ryan always knew Shane’s stupidly long fingers would be good at this, and he can’t quite get his brain to connect the dots between what he’s wanted for so long and what he’s finally getting. It seems a little surreal.

“Is that—?” Shane asks, and Ryan nods because he can't talk but he's more than okay with the proceedings.

Shane gets his free hand back on Ryan's cock and strokes him slowly, not enough to get him anywhere close to coming, but enough to keep him hard and thoroughly interested.

Ryan reaches down just to touch Shane and keep himself grounded, and Shane leans in and presses a kiss to the inside of Ryan's knee. It's stupidly intimate in a way he thinks shouldn't be.

The act of being fingered solely to be fucked seems like it should be perfunctory, but Shane deftly opens him up, making him take each finger like he was made for it, and he finds himself flexing his toes against the sheets and grinding down against Shane's hand.

Shane keeps staring between his legs, like he can't get enough of watching his fingers disappearing inside, and as he slips in a third, he briefly stops jerking Ryan off to touch himself. It's an image that will burn itself into the backs of Ryan's eyelids and he's more than happy with it.

Seeing Shane like this is nothing like how it was in the accidental vision. He has Shane’s full and enthusiastic consent this time and it’s not just a brief glimpse of how Shane looks when he’s overwhelmed. Now he gets to see the nuances of Shane’s expression, the way his eyebrows jump when he thumbs messily at the head of his cock, the way he wets his bottom lip like he's focusing on getting the twist of his fingers inside Ryan just right.

He’s seen Shane in a lot of different situations — both from the show and just from their day-to-day lives, but he thinks this might be one of his favorites. The soft flush on his cheeks makes him want to reach out and trace it with his thumbs, and the wild disarray of his hair sends a warm fondness through his chest.

“You need to get up here,” he tells him. “If you finger me any more, I’m going to turn to putty.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Shane says, but he crooks his fingers one last time before slowly withdrawing them. Ryan feels thoroughly loosened and open, but Shane hooks his thumb against Ryan’s hole and tugs gently as though to make sure. Ryan’s cock jerks against his stomach.

When Shane crowds over him, all ridiculously long limbs and eager hands, it’s exactly what Ryan wants. Mostly, because it means he can use the muscle he has to take Shane off guard and flip them, rolling him over onto the other side of the bed and sitting on his thighs. Shane blinks at him, but doesn’t seem upset about the change in positions.

His hands naturally fall to Ryan’s hips, but he traces them up Ryan’s sides and says, “You planning on doing anything up there?”

Ryan trails his gaze down Shane’s body, letting it linger on Shane’s cock, which bobs under the scrutiny.

“Maybe,” he says and then leans sideways to grab one of the condoms he’d discarded earlier.

It opens easily under his fingers and when he rolls it onto Shane, he savors the thickness of his cock in his hands. He strokes him once, and then again, just to give him something since it’s still been a little one-sided, but he realizes then that he’s definitely not slick enough. It takes him a second to find the lube, which has tucked itself behind one of Shane’s knees, but he messily drips it across Shane, some of it actually landing on his cock, but most just sliding down his thighs.

“Jesus, Ryan,” Shane complains, but Ryan distracts him by tossing the bottle aside and giving him another firm pump with his hand.

“You’re going to get messier,” Ryan promises, and then he’s lifting himself up and guiding Shane into him.

Ryan really isn’t ready for the thickness of Shane, and he pauses at the head, wondering seriously if he can actually take it. He takes a calming breath and carefully fucks himself with just the tip, making a note to himself that it’s an easy way to wreck Shane, who looks like he’s had his life flipped upside-down.

“Oh, you are — ” Shane gets out, but doesn’t seem able to finish the thought, but that’s okay because Ryan nudges down past the thickest point of Shane and can’t breathe, let alone reply.

It’s not even a bad burn of sensation, it’s just overwhelming, especially when Shane gets a hand on him and he can’t figure out whether to buck forwards into his grip, or down onto his cock. He settles for both, switching between the two until he finally, finally, settles on Shane’s hips, fully seated and more than a little impressed with himself for succeeding.

He rests there for a moment before sliding his palms up to Shane’s shoulders and leaning down for a kiss that’s more gentle than it has any right being. He stares down at Shane for a second longer before using his body as leverage as he slowly grinds against him.

Shane groans roughly and begins stroking him faster.

“How often have you thought about this?” Ryan asks him, knowing it’s unfair even before Shane has time to react.

“Are you trying to kill me?” Shane gets out eventually, his hips bucking and pushing Ryan deeper onto him. The sensation is everything Ryan needs.

“No,” he promises, picking up the pace. “Just trying to make you come.”

“That won’t be a problem, trust me.”

Being able to take Shane apart is Ryan’s new favorite thing. His hair is every-which-way and his face is a sweaty mess, and Ryan loves every part of it. He loves the trembling of Shane’s hand on his thigh and the way he keeps glancing down to watch where their bodies meet. But most of all he loves that when Shane catches his eye, he sees that same feeling reflected back at him.

Ryan lets his head tip back and focuses on every touch and sound as he lets his body float towards the lure of coming. He didn't think it would be so easy — he'd wondered before if he would be too nervous to actually get off with Shane or if he'd keep losing his erection. But it's clear now that it's not the case. His body is primed from every look and every touch from Shane. It's addictive.

His hips ache, only because he's not particularly in the habit of straddling people, but it takes a back seat to the way Shane starts consistently rutting up into him like he just can't help it. He glances down to find Shane already watching him, his gaze unwavering and his hand flexing against his skin.

Ryan,” he breathes and Ryan wants to hear him sound like that all the time.

“Yeah?” he agrees, though he’s not entirely sure what he’s agreeing to. He thinks it’s just more.

He rocks his hips, trying to give Shane everything he wants and needs, and pleasure licks up his spine with every thrust from Shane. He’s getting close, which means he doesn’t feel bad when he brushes Shane’s hand away from his dick so he can touch himself exactly as he likes it. Shane clutches Ryan’s side with his now-free hand and urges him on faster with gentle pushes.

The flush on Shane’s face has spread down to his neck and part of his chest, and Ryan finds himself following the edge of it with his fingers. He wonders if it means Shane’s as close as he is.

“I’m gonna — ” Ryan gets out and Shane nods like he knows what he’s trying to say.

And maybe he does, because he says, “You can come on me,” like it’s nothing at all.

“Oh my god,” he complains, though he’s anything but upset; he just needs Shane to know that his stupid, seemingly offhand comments are going to ruin him. He figures he could always just show him.

He speeds up his hand but loses rhythm in his hips as he rushes towards release, his fingers digging into Shane’s skin as he curls forward and struggles to keep his eyes open to watch Shane below him.

“Fuck,” he curses, thinking of all the times he’s thought of Shane while jerking off, the time he caught Shane watching porn, the time he listened to Shane breathing heavily in his ear while he touched himself. It’s too much.

He drops enough to press his forehead to Shane’s shoulder and just concentrates on keeping Shane inside him as he comes messily between them, the feeling punching out of him like it’s all his body knows how to do. He can feel himself clenching around Shane’s cock, and he knows it must be torture for him now that Ryan’s stopped moving, but Shane patiently waits him out, his hand encouragingly rubbing his side.

When he catches his breath enough to sit back up, he finds Shane’s stomach a mess of sweat and come and the caveman part of his brain wonders if it’s like marking his territory. He swipes a finger through it, just because he can, and Shane grunts as though to remind Ryan that he’s still very interested in having an orgasm of his own. Ryan isn’t about to deny him that.

Despite his oversensitive body, he grinds down on Shane, circling his hips to give him the sensation he craves. When he's not sure that'll be enough for him, he raises himself up until only the head of Shane's cock is inside him and stares down at him.

“Go for it,” he tells him, meaning use my body in whatever way you want and Shane's face does something complicated that Ryan can't fathom.

But Shane grips the backs of his thighs and starts fucking up into him in deep, ragged thrusts, like he can't help himself. He's more coordinated than he has any right to be, but he quickly reaches the point where he pulls Ryan back down onto his hips, as though not wanting to be anywhere else but inside him.

Ryan gets his clean hand into Shane's hair and tugs lightly, enough to get his attention.

“Are you gonna come for me?” he asks and Shane makes a noise he's never heard escape him before, but his fingers dig further into Ryan's sides and he tosses his head back.

He thrusts valiantly a handful more times before his whole body tenses under Ryan's. Ryan plans to lean down and kiss him through it, but has to throw a hand out and catch himself instead when he's hit with a sudden rush of everything.

He gets a sudden flash in front of his eyes of skin and sweat and come, which he thinks is coming from Shane's weird powers, but instead of just the usual vision, he's blindsided with feelings.

It's like he's suddenly slipping into Shane's body and feeling every touch, every pleasure that he's experiencing, and his skin feels too tight like he's about to come apart at the seams. But he can also still feel Shane's hands on him, pinching and keeping him right where he is, clutching at him like it's the only thing keeping him tethered to his body.

And deep within the chaos of everything else, Ryan feels an all-encompassing love that rocks the foundation of his life.

Almost as quickly as it begins, the vision and feelings disappear and Ryan slips out of it like breaking the surface of a pool, drawing in a gasping breath as his body locks up and he comes for a second time. It's not as messy as his first orgasm, but he stares down at his cock, feeling half like it doesn't belong to him.

“Huh,” Shane pants, as though it's weird but not the weirdest thing he's ever experienced. Ryan blinks down at him, still taking in shuddering breaths.

“What the fuck was that?” he asks as Shane loosens his grip on his sides enough that he feels less like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed. “Has that happened to you before?”

Shane shakes his head slowly and says, “No, that’s a new one.”

“Will that happen every time we — ?” he asks and he’s not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing.

Shane raises his brows. “I dunno. Guess we’ll have to try again and find out. Y’know, for research.”

He thinks it’s a softer way for Shane to admit he wants to continue this and Ryan finds himself leaning down to kiss him — his own soft reply. When he pulls away, Shane follows him as though not quite ready to stop, but then he flops back into the pillows and glances down at the mess on his stomach and chest.

“I might have to shower,” Shane admits, which is fair enough, but Ryan doesn’t feel guilty for making a mess of him.

Carefully, Ryan lifts off of Shane, his whole body seeming to ache as he rolls facedown into the open space of the bed and wonders if he can just fall asleep then and there. Shane pats the back of his thigh and the mattress shifts under his weight as he moves.

“Got any towels?” Shane asks from across the room and Ryan doesn’t even lift his head to answer.

“Drawer by the sink.”

Shane grunts and Ryan hears the click of the bathroom door. A few minutes later, the shower starts up and Ryan begins to doze. He doesn’t realize he’s fallen asleep until a warm hand rubs along his shoulders and wakes him up.

“I wore you out,” Shane jokes and Ryan grunts in answer and it’s meant to sound like a complaint, but it sounds a lot like Shane’s actually right instead.

Shane laughs quietly and then encourages Ryan to roll onto his back with gentle hands.

Ryan, tired and pliant, goes easily, and he startles at the sensation of a damp cloth passing over his skin, cleaning him up enough that he might be able to put off showering until the morning. When he opens his eyes, the overhead light is off, replaced by the gentle glow of Ryan’s bedside lamp, and Shane’s hair is wet and flopped to one side. The only thing he’s wearing is a pair of gym shorts, which are definitely Ryan’s.

“Are you — ?” Ryan starts, trying to find the right way to ask if Shane plans on staying the night. It’s a weekday and he really doesn’t expect him to. But as though in answer, Shane climbs into bed beside him, fixing the sheets around them as he goes.

“Quit taking up so much space,” he complains like he has any right to tell Ryan what to do in his own bed, and Ryan retaliates by starfishing out. It quickly devolves into them jabbing at each other, but eventually, Shane gets his ridiculously long limbs around him and pins him down. Ryan thinks he’s the real winner, though, because he’s essentially being held just the way he wants. If Shane realizes, he doesn’t say anything, but he softens his grip and lets Ryan fit himself against the line of his body.

“You know it’s like six-thirty, right?” he points out, despite being 100% ready for sleep.

“There’s nothing wrong with an early night,” Shane argues and Ryan snorts and adjusts against his side until he’s truly comfortable, his head resting on Shane’s shoulder. They’ve been sharing beds for years now, but this is by far his favorite time. He mostly just enjoys the fact that he can turn and press kisses to Shane’s skin like it’s a thing they do now.

Shane glances down at him, his expression soft and borderline teasing. “All this time we’ve been sharing beds and I’m only just learning what a barnacle you are?”

“At least this time I’m not shitting myself thinking there’s a ghost in here.”

“There could be,” Shane tells him. “People die everywhere. Nowhere is safe.”

“Thanks,” Ryan says sarcastically. “Though that’s still the missing piece of this mystery.”

“What, dead people?”

“Yeah, actually,” he says, leaning up on one elbow to stare down at Shane. “‘Cause you’ve been saying that the visions were from you, right? Which mean they would have started at some point, regardless of that séance? So, what happened during that séance?”

Shane rubs a hand across his eyes and sighs. Ryan feels the shifting of his chest under his hand and it’s oddly intimate. “Are you still stuck on that?”

“Stuck on that?” Ryan repeats before reaching up and prodding the faint mark still on Shane’s forehead. “You almost got murdered on camera — yeah I’m still stuck on it.”

Shane rubs a hand up his back as though to soften the blow when he says, “I thought that’s why you created a ghost-hunting show? Aren’t you the one that gets to decide if what we experience is a ghost or not? You’ll have to figure it out before the episode airs.”

“Yeah, but what do you think? You experienced it with me.”

Shane shrugs. “It was pretty unexplainable.”

Ryan freezes and stares at Shane for a long moment. “You think that was a ghost?”

“Ryan, it knocked us on our asses and gave me a scar. I’m not saying the G-word, but I think you’re never going to get better footage.”

“You said you didn’t believe me after it happened,” Ryan points out. “I was so pissed at you.”

“It’s a schtick, Ryan. I’m the skeptic, remember. Plus, you were literally about launch yourself out the window and I didn’t want to be responsible for that. The fans would be insufferable.”

Ryan sits up fully, sheets pooling around his waist as he meets Shane’s gaze.

“We found a ghost,” he says aloud, the realization finally dawning on him. “Holy fucking shit.”

*

FIN