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11 am

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The clock beeped angrily.  His head was pounding with the remnants of a hangover as warm light from the sun poured through the curtains of the window.  Shane blinked his eyes blearily as the pulls of sleep still clung strongly to his brain.  Fuck him for forgetting to turn the damn thing off.

7:00am

Somewhere outside, he hears the garbage truck as it backs up to pick up the bags that line the curb every Tuesday. Thank god he had the day off.   Memories from the night prior began to fill his mind, and Shane thinks to himself bitterly how ironic it is, because he may as well have tossed his relationship with Ryan into one of those bags along with the leftover uneaten pizza he had in his fridge.

***

“Hey big guy! You ready to finish editing?”

Ryan’s voice was cheerful as he opened the door for Shane who proceeded to step past the threshold.  The two had been running a little behind getting their latest Unsolved video posted, so Ryan had suggested Shane stop by his place that night after work to finish up the remainder of their work, along with the promise of movies and snacks to follow.

Shane had agreed with an easy smile and now he was here and casually sitting himself down on the couch, opening up his laptop.  Ryan wandered into the kitchen, returning with a giant bowl of popcorn and two beers.

“I figured we could start the snacks now.”

“Good call,” Shane replied, taking the beer from Ryan and opening it up and taking a sip.

The two then proceeded to start editing, occasionally discussing the various elements they wanted to veto and keep from their recordings.

Before long, the first beer was done.   Their editing was done shortly after.

“What are ya in the mood for?”  Shane had asked Ryan, who was already on to his third beer.  The man’s face seemed to already be sporting a pink tint from the booze and he chuckled as he tossed some more popcorn into his mouth, licking the salt and butter from his fingertips.

“I was thinking maybe we could binge the X-Files or something.”

Shane’s eyes focused on Ryan’s fingers as he sucked on them, watching his tongue rove the long golden limbs that were slick with the oils from the salty butter and saliva of his mouth.  Shane’s mind began to wander, wondering to himself why he never realized how nice Ryan’s hands were, or how pretty his lips were when they were wrapped around something as he sucked, and then Shane realized he was staring.  

A blush rose to his cheeks to match the flush on Ryan’s, though his was mostly from embarrassment rather than alcohol.  If Ryan noticed, he didn’t say anything.

“The X-Files sounds good to me, dude.”

His shorter companion nodded.

***

Shane groaned and rolled over to stare at the ceiling. Along with the rise of the sun came the sound of birds chirping.  It was like a jackhammer on his skull thanks to the hangover.   The night had started off so well.  

Shane sighed, wishing he could just go back.   Could someone maybe, hit rewind? It’s like the end of the movie already played out;  The credits are rolling but he wasn’t paying attention and missed the best part and he just wishes he could go back to the start.  

When did it start?  

Clearly, it wasn’t that night; This had to be something that had been building for a while.  It’s amazing how oblivious he could be and now it’s too late to fix it and Shane hates himself.  

***

“You know that this is just a work of fiction Ryan.  The Jersey Devil doesn’t actually exist,” Shane had been saying after they finished the episode.

“You don’t know that for sure, Shane.  For all we know, there could actually be one roaming that forest, but it’s too smart for humans to see it.”  Ryan had replied.  

They were now about 6 beers in and had begun to bicker about the validity of cryptids.

“You always say that about anything supernatural, but for once could you just have an open mind about things, dude?”

Ryan raised his beer bottle to his lips and took a long pull as he waited on Shane’s reply.  The taller man opened his mouth to say something, but eyes were drawn to the length of the neck of the bottle, and the bob of Ryan’s throat as he swallowed.  

Shane’s mouth went dry, his retort dying on his lips.  Why was Ryan so damn distracting tonight?  There was a pause between the two of them as Ryan lowered his drink and stared at Shane, waiting.   A slow smirk began to pull at the corners of his mouth.   Perhaps he thought he’d won.

“I keep my mind open to the possibility of logical explanations to things,” Shane finally said.  He felt a strange heat coil in the bottom of his stomach.

“Mmm,” Ryan just hummed, the smirk still present.   Still, if he realized anything off about Shane, he said nothing.

They started the next episode.

***

Shane continued to play the events of the evening over in his head again and again.  At some point, he may have passed out, but phasing in and out of consciousness was something that tended to happen when he drank too much.   At least sleep was preferable to the massive headache which seemed to be dissipating at the very least.

He always thought Ryan was attractive.  He just panicked is all.  So much was at stake and there was a lot to take in..  A lot to think about.   Did he even feel that way?   Shane knew that the odd flutter in the pit of his belly whenever Ryan laughed was something that had started happening long ago.  He would catch the man grinning and sometimes his mind would wonder what it would be like to taste those smiling lips.   He never intended to act on it.  It would complicate things too much.

The fuzzy memories of the man’s lips against his sent tingles down his spine and Shane resisted a shudder.

11:00am

You’d think he’d have gotten out of bed by now, but between the hangover and the shame he felt for being such a coward he’d decided that his bed was the one place he would be able to hide from it all;  As if his blankets would shield him from the heat of the choices he made.

Ryan was always the first one to jump to conclusions.  Shane could only wonder what the man was thinking as he had stumbled out of his apartment in a hurry.   Without a word.

Fuck he was such a coward.

***

Ryan had asked him a stupid question.

“What if I had the power to change my sex like the Kindred do?”  He took another damning swig of his beer and Shane’s mind went sideways at the thought, “You think I’d be hot?”

The lanky man had lost count of the beers he had consumed at this time, and along with that, he seemed to have also lost his filter with it.  Speaking entirely too honestly, Shane replied.

“Ryan, you’re already stupidly hot as you are.  Having the power to turn into a woman wouldn’t change that fact for the better or worse.”

The shorter man chuckled, reaching over to the bowl that was now sitting in Shane’s lap, tossing more popcorn into his mouth, a few kernels falling on to the front of his shirt.  Shane, who had subconsciously been inching closer and closer to Ryan all night leaned in to remove the offending morsels, picking them up and placing them into his own mouth without thinking.

Ryan watched him do this, his eyes following Shane’s fingers now, in a similar fashion to Shane earlier that evening.  The two made eye contact as Shane realized his face was inches away from Ryan’s.

Ryan’s lips were slick with butter and looked really soft.  He smelled of beer, popcorn and sweat from not having showered since morning probably.  It was a tantalizing mix that left Shane feeling slightly confused as that heat that coiled in his belly began to rise.   Ryan’s eyes were warm and beautiful as he stared at his best friend with a strange mix of curiosity, innocence and something else Shane couldn’t quite decipher in his beer-hazed mind.

Ryan’s voice came low and questioning, their eyes locked, “..Shane?”

At this point, his beer count, his filter and his inhibitions all seemed to be missing, and Shane’s curiosity got the better of him.  The man leaned in and took Ryan’s lips with his own, tasting him.

Ryan froze only momentarily before he started kissing back.  He tasted like salt, hops and popcorn and something that was just Ryan.  His lips- oh god his lips were so soft.   They were everything Shane had imagined they would be and he couldn’t help but let out a moan as his hands came to Ryan’s jaw to pull him closer, crawling now into the man’s lap.

Ryan pressed his lips harder against Shane’s, bringing his arms to wrap around the taller man’s neck as the kiss deepened, their tongues dancing with each other, battling for power over the other.  It was good.  Very good.  Quite possibly the best kiss Shane had ever had and how had he never thought about kissing Ryan like this before and why hadn’t Ryan told him he was this good at it and why did his co-worker have to be this hot and how had Shane never realized how much he liked Ryan like this?

Perhaps it was because they kissed, Shane realized, a lot like the way they bantered with each other on the show - constantly trying to one-up the other.  Competitive in nature, neither willing to concede their points or back down.  Neither giving in to the other.

Suddenly, the gravity of everything that was happening hit Shane like a cold splash of water.   This was his best friend.  He shouldn’t be doing this.  What would it mean for the show?  What would happen in the morning if things escalated?  What if Ryan regretted it?  What if Shane regretted it? What if it was just the alcohol fueling this and it was a big mistake and he had to stop and had to get out of there right now before he ruined everything and fucked up and oh god why did he do this?

Shane immediately broke the kiss and stared back at Ryan, eyes wide and scared.

“I.. I should go,” The taller man said, and proceeded to almost yank himself out of Ryan’s arms and off the couch, practically diving for his shoes at the front door.

“Shane, wait!  We… We can talk about this.” Ryan had said, looking alarmed and as walleyed as Shane.  Maybe a little sad?

“I’m sorry Ryan, I didn’t mean… I .. We.. I fucked up I’m sorry I got to go.”

Ryan stood off the couch and tried to make his way towards Shane by the door but the taller man was already out and running down the hall to the elevator.  

Ryan, chasing after him continued to call, “WAIT!”  as the elevator doors closed and Shane dialled for a Lyft and asked them to meet him down the block.

***

Shane pressed the heal of his palms into his eyes at the memory, feeling the shame roll over him in waves.   Once more the memory of Ryan’s lips on his returned to him.  He remembered their softness.  The salty-sweet buttery taste of popcorn mixed with hops and that sweet indescribably wonderful taste that was just Ryan.  He remembered the feel of Ryan running his arms around his neck and pulling him closer.  Kissing him harder.  The feel of his tongue sliding against Shane’s, pressing and battling his own.  He remembered the way it made the heat in his belly coil and how it made him moan, hard in his chinos.

He realized he was hard now.

Fuck.

So this was a thing… The worries he had in the moment had all but faded now, as the minutes ticked by and he replayed it over and over again and again.    Now all Shane could replay in his mind was the sad look on Ryan’s face as he pulled and ran away like the coward he really was.  

Shane always said Ryan was the braver of the two of them.

It was time to be honest with himself.  Every smile, every laugh, every joke; everything.  He had wanted Ryan from the moment he laid eyes on him.   From the very moment he got to know the little guy and the two had become fast friends he had wanted him.  Shane never thought he could want someone so much, and it sucks because Ryan’s not here and the truth was that he was a coward and too scared to actually face his fear.

Too scared to take a risk.  

He had always been too scared to break the status quo between them and it had all lead to this.   All because he didn’t follow through.   He bailed and ran off and now Ryan probably hates him.

“Forgive my indecision… I am only a man..”  Shane found himself mumbling into the empty room.

He closed his eyes and continued to listen to the sounds outside when suddenly he heard his phone buzzing.  Opening his eyes he glanced at the clock.

12:00pm

Someone was calling him.  Head heavy on the pillow he reached for his phone, absentmindedly praying that it’s Ryan.

Sure enough, it is.

Shane’s finger hovers over the accept call button before pressing it.

“..Hello?”

The line is quiet for a moment before an unsure voice speaks on the other end of the line,

“..Hi..  Hi Shane, I.. um.  I was just calling to see how you were.”

Shane closes his eyes and hardens his resolve.  It’s time to face the music.   It’s time to get off this ride.

“Hangover, but that’s to be expected.   Look.. I’m sorry for bailing on you last night dude.  I just… I panicked.”

“I can see that.   Look, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.  We can pretend it didn’t happ–”

“No.  We should talk about it.   I need to be honest with you.  It’s a little late in the day for breakfast but.. did.. did you want to grab lunch with me?”

Once more there was silence on the other end of the line before Ryan’s reply came, his voice sounding hopeful.

“Yeah dude.  I’d love to.   Meet me in thirty at my place?”

“Sounds good,” Shane replied.

Maybe it was time for Shane to be the brave one for once.   Ryan was always first to be the one to jump into things.  It’s about time, Shane figured, that he step up to the plate and be the one to take the risk.   He didn’t know where it would go, but then again how else would he find out?