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Water on Glass

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He didn’t get down on one knee for it.

He had tried to imagine that, thumb stroking over the smooth wooden surface of the ring box where it had lived for months in the pocket of his camel overcoat. He envisioned himself with his too-long limbs, pressing a bony knee into the hardwood flooring, and cringed. So, no kneeling. No grandiose scheme, either; no staging, no flash mobs, no filming family members, no sausage dog emissary with a ring tied to its collar.

No balloon arches, no confetti cannons, no skywriters.

He did buy a mid-range bottle of Sangiovese and spent the afternoon making pappardelle from scratch, dancing around an interested Obi, who was underfoot in the hopes of a treat dropped from great height.

The pappardelle actually looked pretty convincing, but Shane had failed to account for the fact that Ryan, returning home from an overnighter at his parents’, would find the sight of him in an apron and dusted from head-to-toe in semolina be so wildly attractive that their reunion kiss would turn into a reunion handjob against the fridge.

So Shane didn’t get down on one knee; his calf was jammed into the freezer handle while Ryan held the apron aside with one hand and pulled him off with the other.

Ryan was flushed to the ears and panting and dark-eyed, and the best thing Shane had ever beheld, and that was where the trouble started.

“I-Ryan, wait, Ryan.”

Ryan just pressed in closer, took Shane’s earlobe in his teeth. “You gonna come? Come on, Shane, I want it. I want you to.”

“Ry-” Shane was, in fact, going to come, actually, any minute now, with or without Ryan chanting at him encouragingly like a dick cheerleader.

Then Ryan dropped to his knees.

“Christ, Ryan.”

Still gripping Shane in one hand, Ryan shuffled in close and pressed his face against Shane’s thigh, handled his dick so it grazed along his lightly stubbled cheek. Shane shuddered.

Ryan looked up at Shane with a grin. “You wanna come on my face?”

The mere suggestion had Shane almost all the way there immediately, and when Ryan took up a punishing rhythm, and opened his mouth to drag his tongue up the side of him, Shane was powerless. He came in streaks over Ryan’s tongue and jaw and chin, and over his own hand where it cradled that incredible face. Ryan’s eyes twinkled when he opened them again, and Shane’s fate was sealed.

The next thing to come out of Shane was as unstoppable as the last, and twice as shocking:

“Marry me, God,” It tripped out, more guts than words. “Ryan. Marry me.”

Ryan laughed, running his tongue over his lips, catching a drop of Shane’s come from his cupid’s bow.

“Funny,” He said. “You’re easy, but you’re not ‘proposing after a handjob’ easy.”

“No, Ryan,” Shane brought his other hand up to cup Ryan’s face. “Ryan, listen to me.”

Ryan tipped back to sit on his heels, out of Shane’s grasp, and dragged the back of his hand over his own face. He’d rubbed the come everywhere and smeared it up his cheekbone in a way that had Shane biting back both laughter and a surge of arousal. Ryan’s eyes were so wide and watery-bright.

“Shane-?”

Shane was so far away, towering above Ryan, so he slid down the fridge, splay-legged, and took up Ryan’s hands.

“Ryan,” He hadn’t thought about what to say, except in the abstract, and confronted with the challenge of making Ryan understand, he was suddenly terrified, embarrassed, and hot all over.

“I’ve never been more serious about anything in my life when I say this: I love you, I never want to be without you,” Shane pulled one hand free to run through his hair. “Will you- Ryan, please marry me.”

Ryan still looked dubious, but he’d gone very red and slightly sweaty.

“Weird bit, dude.” He choked out.

Obviously the message wasn’t penetrating. Shane stretched to snag his jacket from where it was draped on their kitchen stool, and felt for the ring box hidden in its inner pocket. He fumbled with the latching mechanism and by the time he presented the ring, triumphantly, his hands were clammy and shaking.

“See? I’m not kidding, I’m-Okay. Ryan Steven Bergara, will you please, for the love of God, marry me?”

Twin tears leaked from Ryan’s eyes. “I want you to know that I know your dick is still out under that apron, Shane.”

Shane snorted, though his heart was in the vicinity of his tonsils. “Is that your final answer? Come on, Bergara, you gonna hang your man out to dry?”

“Fuck you, yes.”

Shane cupped Ryan’s face, cleared tear-tracks with his thumbs. “Yes, you’re going to hang me out to dry?”

“Yes, I’ll marry you,” The tears were falling faster than Shane could soothe now. “I have come drying on my face, and you’ve got your dick out, and yes I’ll marry you.”

Shane laughed, and pressed his forehead to Ryan’s, and kissed him until their tears mixed, and tried not to think about what the hell they were going to tell their mothers.

-

Shane needn’t have worried about the moms and their reactions. In hindsight, creating a slightly more mom-friendly proposal story would turn out to be the least of their concerns.

(They stayed as close to the truth as they could, but left out any mention of viscous bodily fluids.)

Shane felt as if he had expended sufficient energy working up the nerve to get the whole thing going in the first place, and had hoped he might rest on his laurels for a bit as a triumphantly engaged ghoul-chaser and successful business owner.

Shane got just about one month of that engaged bliss. Said bliss comprised congratulatory thumps on the back, breathless accolades from their fanbase, and back-breaking bouts of sex that should have been impossible on their hectic schedule. Said bliss carried through to November.

In November, Shane came home from a run and nearly broke his neck slipping on A3 paper laid out on their Kitchen floor.

“Ryan?” Shane called, tugging off his headphones and bending to examine one of the sheets. It was a calendar; a single period of two weeks printed on A3 paper and covered in Ryan’s disordered scrawl.

Ryan?” He called out, stepping around the paper. “Are you doing that scene in A Beautiful Mind?”

He rounded the corner to the living room, where Ryan was sitting at the centre of a radiating circle of paper, Sharpie in hand.

“Obi had better not be in the bathtub, Ryan.”

“Hm?” Ryan scratched at his hairline with the base of the Sharpie. “Do you think you’re Jennifer Connelly in this scenario? Because if so I have some bad news for you.”

Shane snorted, stepped carefully over the paper mayhem to sit on the floor behind Ryan.

“I’m a dreamboat, baby,” He wound his arms around Ryan’s waist and peered over his shoulder. “But seriously, what am I looking at? I thought we’d settled on a release schedule.”

Ryan tipped his head back. “No, we have. This is for the wedding. I’m trying to find a date.”

Shane surveyed the blooming circle of paper. “I feel like you could have achieved that without the sacrifice of an entire redwood.”

“Redwood?” Ryan scoffed. “You don’t use redwood for paper. Terrible pulp yield.”

“Right, okay. Nonetheless.”

“Sometimes you just have to get in there with pen and paper and nut it out—Shut up, Shane, that’s not even funny.”

“So what have you nutted out then?” Shane asked innocently.

“I think I’ve found the optimal date. I’ve been looking at all the weekends from February to August, and weighing up temperature and the time of sunset, and reading up on shoulder periods, and I wrote a shortlist and from that shortlist, only a few dates work between our shoot schedules and… It’s April 25th. It’s gotta be, Shane.”

Shane sat back in stunned silence. Ryan craned his neck to look at him, eyes probing.

“That’s soon.” Shane rubbed a hand over his face, already tired in the face of that concept, of the work ahead of them.

Ryan scrambled to turn around, then, and took up Shane’s face in his hands.

“Don’t make that face. We can do it.”

Shane groaned. “It’s so soon, Ryan. What’s the hurry?”

“We can do it, though,” He shook Shane’s head gently. “What’s a wedding, anyway? It’s just a place to get married, and, like, 80 of our buds, and food and booze.”

“In 5 months.”

“People have done more in less time,” Ryan released Shane’s head to prop his chin in his hand. “What about the time-honored tradition of the shotgun wedding?”

“Neither of us are pregnant, Ryan.” Shane sighed. Ryan’s face was falling, reverting to the plaintive, wide-eyed expression that worked on Shane more than he liked to admit.

“I’m pregnant with, uh- with love,” Ryan stuttered. “and my desire to be married to you- don’t laugh!

Shane tipped over in silent, chest-clutching hysterics, and dragged Ryan with him.

“You’re crushing my calendars!” Ryan exclaimed, but he was laughing too; that full, loud, boisterous laugh that turned every head in a room.

They lay, clutching each other on a nest of paper, until their laughter subsided. When Shane opened his eyes he was close enough to Ryan that he could only see his individual features; fine nose, full lips, poreless, glowing skin, and twinkling brown eyes, sure. But also deep bags and lines and overgrown stubble. Evidence of the sacrifices they’d made this year- for the company, for their relationship. Testaments to Ryan, trophies for his industriousness.

Shane wasn’t sure why he’d been bothering to protest. He would give in to Ryan on this, he knew it already. Because Ryan deserved it, and because Ryan earned it, and because they could make this happen. Of course they could, they’d done so much more than this together.

“So April 25th, you say?” Shane asked, and maybe he dropped a wink to see that perfect face split into a flushed smile. Who could blame him.

-

Ryan had been worried about it from the outset. In late January, like some kind of bargain-bin Nostradamus, he had called Shane over to where he was laying on his stomach in their bed.

“Look, Shane.” Ryan shoved his phone in Shane’s face.

“What am I looking at? China?” Shane pushed Ryan’s hand back, down, trying to focus on the screen.

“It’s an infection heat map. This thing’s getting kind of out-of-hand over there.”

“Is it? I vaguely recall an article…” Shane frowned. “Not great, but probably nothing to get too worked up about.”

“Hm,” Ryan rolled onto his back. “They’re shutting down a whole city. I’m just worried about the office, and-and merch deliveries, and the economy, I guess.”

Shane hummed, pushing his finger around an interactive map with angry red circles radiating out ominously. Ryan snagged the phone back.

“-And,” He hesitated, biting his lip. “I don’t know, I’m worried about the wedding.”

Shane had laughed at him then, perhaps cruelly, and kissed him quiet.

Shane had laughed at him right up until the start of March, and even then—

“It’s just way too early to make a call.” He told his mother on the phone, and their celebrant, and their caterer, and—

“We’ll make it work,” He told a college friend. “But, I don’t know, maybe don’t buy the plane ticket. Give it a couple of weeks.”

It had been like background noise to Shane, a low rumbling; he had been half-watching news stories, and scrolling past tweets until suddenly the rumbling was more of a roar, and he wondered how he hadn’t noticed it before, when it was all he could hear now.

-

Early March made the city properly warm again, but Shane was wandering around with a lump in his throat the size of a bowling ball. He side-stepped all ‘What about the wedding?’ questions directed at him by well-meaning friends and strangers. He gained a sixth sense for impending sympathetic smiles, and gave most humans a wide berth.

Ryan, conversely, couldn’t stop talking about it. Ryan strategized constantly, plotted backup plans, called his mother to walk through the various grim possibilities over and over and over and-.

Ryan talked through the shutdowns of every major country in the car on the way home from their office, as Shane shrunk into the passenger seat and tried to be the calm to Ryan’s frantic.

All the while, a buzzing kind of despair grew in Shane’s head, increasingly difficult to ignore.

It said “This grows too big.”

It said “You will not escape it.”

It said “You’ll be lucky to make it to year’s end with your life and your company.”

It showed him a barge, unmoored and leaking and floating out beyond reach, and it taught him to not to plan for things you never deserved in the first place.

He refreshed news feeds and case counters until his shoulders ached from sitting, hunched and tense, over his phone. He ground his teeth at night and told himself to wait for more information and quietly, he suffered.

Still, every time he’d blink back to himself, Ryan was pragmatically drawing up more battle plans, scripting out scenarios, forging ahead, changing tack, chattering away.

-

Shane was willing to put up with it, but only to a point.

“Do you think it’s worth just booking a second date with the venue,” Ryan said, late one night in their bedroom. “getting the jump on everyone else in case we have to reschedule?”

They’d had this conversation before. They’d had it this week, and sure, he was prone to indulging Ryan, but—

“I’m wondering,” Shane gritted out. “If you wouldn’t mind tabling that for another time, perhaps when you don’t have your fingers in my ass.”

Ryan had the good grace to look chastened as he took up Shane’s flagging erection in his other hand.

“Sorry, I got distracted.”

“I can see that.”

Ryan eased his fingers out and back again, working with the kind of terrifying efficiency that came only from trial and error and time. He forced a groan out of Shane with a clever twist that Shane had been trying to get the hang of for months.

“I’m paying attention now,” Ryan said, and he ducked to press his mouth to Shane’s, curling his fingers in the process, coaxing Shane’s back into an arch. “How’s this?”

“I don’t want to sound ungrateful,” Shane breathed in reply, reaching out to still Ryan’s hand with every ounce of his willpower. “But if you’re- I don’t want your attention to be diverted.”

“I’m not diverted,” Ryan’s fingers were still in Shane, still bringing sweat to his brow, but Ryan was pressing in closer, pressing their chests together. The movement forced Shane’s legs up and back even further.

“I’m present,” Ryan whispered, and Shane felt himself flush, full-bodied, as Ryan’s dick nudged the inside of his upper thigh, and left wetness there. “I’m so present, Shane. I can be so much more present, though. Does that sound okay?”

“Yeah.” Had he even spoken aloud? Ryan was pressing against him, easing his fingers out inch-by-inch to make space, and Shane felt like he was going out of his mind.

“Yeah?” Ryan’s twinkling eyes were back, and Shane had to let his head fall back on the pillow. It was too much.

“Yes, Ryan, come on. Please.”

Just as Ryan’s fingers receded, leaving Shane wanting, his cock was pressing in.

Ryan set his teeth on Shane’s collarbone with a great groan, and set to the work of gently tearing Shane apart until his vision blurred.

He was present, alright. Shane had to give him that.

“I just don’t want to speculate forever, Ryan,” Shane said, later, as he was getting back into bed from the shower. “Speculating over whether or not we can have the wedding, and if we don’t, what then, and if we do, what we’ll have to compromise. I’m so exhausted. I don’t want to have to make a plan B and then just go through this whole thing again.”

“Okay, so, what do you want? If I handed you the reins, what’s your plan?”

Ryan tucked himself in against Shane’s side. Gone was the confidence of the man who had fucked Shane into incoherency not 20 minutes ago.

“What I want, Ryan,” Shane whispered into Ryan’s temple. “Is to get married. My plan would be to drive out as far as we can in one direction, until it doesn’t look like LA, until it doesn’t even look like America, and climb a big old rock and just… be married.”

“Sounds great.” Ryan turned his face into Shane’s armpit, and Shane felt the skin there grow wet. He cupped the back of Ryan’s head. His stomach churned.

“I’ll make it happen,” Shane found himself promising. “Maybe it works out how we planned, or maybe we just run away, or maybe we wait. I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.”

Ryan surged up, then, and kissed him, and Shane promised himself he’d make it work.

The very next morning he slept in, and when he woke Ryan was sitting up already, looking at his phone with resignation and tears in his eyes. Shane’s heart sank. His own phone told him that bars and restaurants were closing. His email app pinged. His phone lit up with a call from his mom. Shane closed his eyes.

It was the longest summer of Shane’s life. Longer than any of those that lived in his memory from childhood. It was hot, and endless, and they were busier than ever, but still going out of their minds.

At night, with his sweat-sticky skin pressed to Ryan’s, Shane lay awake and thanked the black void in front of his eyes that he had Ryan in this. That Ryan had him.

They suffered, sure, but they worked, and they plotted, and they waited. They waited, and as they waited Shane woke up to the slightest chill in the air—what passed for chill in Los Angeles—and red leaf litter.

In October, triumphantly, the gears groaned and heaved and started moving, and their plan along with it. They flew to Chicago on the 18th of October, with Scott and the Bergaras in tow. Shane had never been so happy to see a tiny packet of peanuts in his life. They met Shane’s parents at Midway and piled themselves and their families and their garment bags into a couple of vans and drove, doubling back, forging west.

Shane drove with the moms and Scott, Ryan with the dads and Jake, and every mile of road was like fresh blood in Shane’s veins.

By the time they stopped, just a few hours later, Shane could have run a marathon; the air out here was fresh and sharp and it brought real tears to his eyes.

They’d hired a cabin near the national park. It was advertised as a log cabin, though Shane thought it was the kind of log cabin that had been constructed entirely without the involvement of logs. All hot tubs and bunk beds. Shane, he preferred them rough around the edges, with a wood-burning stove and overstuffed bookshelf. Still, it was just 5 minutes from the trailhead, and they had an early start in the morning.

The celebrant was waiting at the trailhead for them at 5:30am. It hadn’t been hard to find someone to marry them who would go the extra mile for the right price, not after so many months of cancelled and postponed weddings.

They’d picked a low-grade trail, easier than Shane would normally enjoy, but his parents weren’t as young as they had been, and after all, he was climbing it in his ghoul-stomping boots and suit pants.

Ryan had insisted on a separate bedroom last night, and he’d driven out with Jake first to ‘scout’, so it had been hours since Shane had seen his face. He was so close, so close to seeing Ryan, so close to marrying him. Shane’s heart knew it, and his pulse spiked accordingly as they picked through the underbrush at the end of the trail, where Jake led them to a huge, flat boulder. They were set a little above the surrounding parkland here, just enough that Shane could make out a view illuminated by the predawn light.

There, crouched and buffing dirt from his boots, was Ryan. Shane’s eyes prickled instantly, and he blinked, mindful of the merciless ribbing he was bound to get from all sides if he cried so soon.

If Shane took a step forward in that moment, it was involuntary; Ryan looked incredible, magnetic in this setting. He was in his shirtsleeves, cuffs rolled up to his elbows and his jacket folded over one arm despite the morning chill. The sun lit more of their surroundings with each advancing second, and every watt made Ryan’s face more luminous to behold than the last.

Still, the rising sun paled in comparison to Ryan’s smile as he spotted Shane, and stood, and held out his hands. Shane moved like a man possessed then, striding through leaf litter and onto the step-smoothed surface of the boulder. Ryan’s hands were cold when Shane finally got to them. From here, Shane could see how Ryan’s nose was pink from the morning air, and his eyes were bright, so bright. Shane’s body ached to close every remaining inch between them now, but he held. In his peripheral vision, their families hung back.

“Are you ready?” Shane asked.

“Born ready, baby.” Ryan replied, smiling tearfully.

The sun broke the horizon.