1. He’s Way Too Enthusiastic
If you work at BuzzFeed for more than four weeks, you learn to recognize three things:
- When someone is looking for victims to test something terrible on camera.
- When someone has burned out and hates the entire internet and everyone on it.
- When someone is so overjoyed to get paid to be on the internet that they’re about three months away from switching to category 2, because BuzzFeed isn’t exactly the internet-filled happy friend utopia Ben makes it sound like when you get the email.
Some people probably have Andrew down in their minds as a category 2, but he’s not. He’s just – careful. He’ll try things on camera, within reason. He’ll direct other people doing things on camera without limit, because then he’s not the one looking like an idiot. He’ll write a gif-laden article about any foodstuff people are tweeting about, even if it does, inside his own mind, make him feel like sense and reason have forsaken this once-proud land. So he’s not burned out. He still loves social media and video and writing and bacon.
He’s just not a category 3. It’s better not to be. They break.
That’s why he avoids Steven.
Steven’s so goddamn enthusiastic, is the thing. He’s a bona fide category 3. He’s so eager, so convinced he’s gonna find the thing that makes him a BuzzFeed star. (Andrew knows full well what BuzzFeed stardom is worth, which is basically the paper it isn’t printed on. Doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like it, of course. He’s just realistic.) Steven basically wants to be Keith, but better-looking, and one Keith is enough for any company. So Andrew works pretty hard to ignore Steven.
Steven, of course, doesn’t return the favor.
Andrew is just trying to do his article, which is his job, in his extremely tolerable workspace; he’s been here long enough to get a spot at one of the less-crowded tables, and he’s proud of that. But Steven waltzes right in like he belongs there. “Hey,” he says, nudging Andrew’s shoulder repeatedly, like the impatient ridiculous puppy he definitely fucking is. “Hey, you wanna be on my show?” He says it exactly like kids in grade school used to say “You wanna be my best friend?” It’s not cute.
“You don’t have a show,” Andrew says, hitting ctrl-S and swiveling around in his chair so Steven is farther away from him. Andrew, unlike some people, has personal space. “You have a half-decent concept and a Keith who is too busy to live, let alone eat expensive food with you.”
“I have a great concept,” Steven says. “I just need a great buddy. One who has time to film regularly.” He beams at Andrew, clearly waiting for him to do the math.
Andrew tilts his head, steeples his fingers, does his best considering face. “I think Connor’s pretty free,” he says. “Or, hey! We could break the grand old two-year tradition of one-gender teams and you could have Quinta. She’s great on camera.”
“Yeah, she is,” interjects Sara, who is watching this from her seat four feet away with completely unconcealed amusement.
“She is!” Steven agrees. Andrew hates that he can hear the exclamation point. “But I was thinking ...” and he pauses, like he’s drawing out the suspense, even though there is no suspense anywhere in here. You couldn’t find suspense at BuzzFeed HQ if someone offered you a million-dollar bounty and an office with walls. “You!” Steven says. He does jazz hands when he says it. Why the fuck would a rational adult do jazz hands under any circumstances whatsoever?
Andrew sighs and makes a show of thinking it over, but he already knows he’s gonna say yes. Steven does have a good concept, and Andrew does like being on camera. Also, he’s three items short of a listicle about Mountain Dew flavored desserts, and the whole concept is getting him down to the point where he might even have to skip lunch. “Okay,” he says. Steven jumps – actually jumps – delightedly, so Andrew holds up a cautionary finger. “But no hugging,” he says. Steven is so obviously a hugger, and Andrew is not about that.
“No hugging,” Steven repeats, nodding seriously. “I can respect your boundaries. I’m awesome at respecting boundaries!”
“Oh, this is gonna be great,” Sara says.
Andrew thinks she’s now recording this on her phone, for purposes of interoffice amusement, but he keeps his head in the game. “Great,” he says flatly. “When do you want to start?”
“Tomorrow. I’ve got it all set up for tomorrow, and we’ve got Adam coming with us on sound. But we have to film the intro today. You know, explain to the viewers why you’re there. Set the scene! Sort of like we just did, but more – video-y.”
“I’m not going to be any less grumpy on round two,” Andrew warns him.
“I’m thinking that’s good, actually. I’m thinking grumpy makes you an excellent foil for me, the nice happy friendly guy on the team.”
“Foil?” Andrew repeats, rolling his eyes. “Did you go to film school or something?” Andrew actually did go to film school, and he used that word a lot there, so.
“Of course not. I’m a good Chinese Malaysian son,” Steven says. “I got a degree in chemical engineering.”
“Oh my god,” Andrew says, and hauls himself out of his chair to go do the intro. With this ridiculous but apparently smart chemical engineer/puppy hybrid of doom.
Andrew’s life is really fucking hard, okay?
2. He’s So Goddamn Stubborn
So Steven maybe isn’t entirely a puppy. Andrew is tentatively revising his “pure puppy” diagnosis to “mostly puppy with a tiny touch of some kind of something else.” (He’s going to come up with a better phrase for it later. He’s a writer, he can do that.) For one thing, Steven’s tenacious. He doesn’t stop smiling, no, but he also doesn’t give up.
“The food cheers idea is stupid and I’m not doing it.” They’re on their way to get pizza, so Andrew is feeling decidedly pleased with his life, but you can’t let that kind of thing show.
“It’s brilliant and we’re doing it,” Steven says back confidently. He signals and merges, all while maintaining a speed exactly commensurate with surrounding traffic. It’s like being in a car with a driving instructor.
A driving instructor who wants to do awful things with food. “It’s gross. Food cheers is gross,” Andrew says.
“It’s not like we’re touching food together after our mouths have been on it. That would be gross, yes, but this is just food touching exactly the same food.”
“It looks dumb. It looks second-rate.” Second-rate is the worst thing to be around BuzzFeed. Well, no, “worthy of TMZ” is the worst thing to be, but second-rate is up there. Whatever it is they do at BuzzFeed, and Andrew honestly isn’t sure despite years of doing it, they want to be the very best doers of it in all of internetland.
“Food cheers is cute,” Steven says, still serenely confident in his own rightness. “It’s friendly. It’s gonna make people smile."
“What if I don’t want to make anyone smile?”
Unbelievably, Steven goes full Dory voice. “Hey, there, Mr. Grumpy Gills,” he says, and it’s perfect, absolutely spot-on. Andrew can’t help laughing, which is just irritating. “I made you laugh, so I win,” he finishes in his normal Steven voice.
“Okay,” Andrew says. “You win. I will food cheers with you, under duress, so I don’t have to hear your vocal impressions of the rest of the ocean.”
Steven drives for maybe thirty seconds in pleased silence. Then he says, “Someday, when you least expect it, you’ll hear my Gil, and your life will be changed forever,” and snorts with laughter at his own joke.
Andrew stares out the window so Steven can’t see any unauthorized smiles that might happen to appear on his face, and he stays quiet in case Adam can somehow record amusement in his voice. Steven is, yes, mostly a puppy, but a puppy who pushes back. Andrew still doesn’t like him, of course. He’s just relieved that Steven has depths.
3. He Keeps Talking About Their Friendship
The best friend stuff, though. What is Steven’s thing with declaring their best friendship? Andrew’s been trapped in one-bed cheap motel rooms with people for longer than he’s known Steven, and already Steven’s ready to exchange bracelets.
“We’re not friends,” he says firmly to Steven, on the freeway somewhere, going from point A to point B, full of moderately expensive steak.
“We’ve shared meals,” Steven says, ticking the points off on his fingers, keeping exactly one finger on the wheel. “We’ve shared experiences. We’ve bonded. That makes us friends!”
Andrew squelches all the fond feelings in his heart, quickly and firmly. It’s a mercy squelching, really. “I don’t count anyone as a friend until we’ve spent a night in the same room without killing each other,” he says. It’s kind of true. He’s spent at least one night in the same room as basically all of his friends, because he’s done his time as a broke traveler and drunk guy, not to mention, uh, a very flexible one, but it’s also the first thing that pops into his mind.
Steven nods seriously, like he’s making a note. “Okay, so you’re not quite ready to embrace our new relationship level,” he says. “We will get there, my friend. We will. Get. There.” It’s horrifying to Andrew how he can always hear the punctuation in Steven’s speech.
The car falls silent – yeah, the part where they’re getting paid to eat good food is pretty sweet, but holy shit some of these places take a while to get to, and then to get back from, and Adam’s recording presence in the back seat isn’t exactly freeing. Andrew stares out the window and lets his mind wander. He imagines what kind of scenario Steven might cook up to get them both in the same room for a night so they can achieve True Friendhood. Then he remembers what happened the last, oh, fifteen times he slept in the same room with a dude friend, because once you’re in a room with a big bed it’s only natural to ask your friend if he’s horny and maybe into doing something about it, and with Andrew, at least, the answer is always yes. So that tends to lead places. But thinking about Steven that way – no. That is just wrong. Steven is way too big-eyed and good-natured and fluffy to think things like that about. So Andrew’s not gonna.
“Heavy sigh,” Adam notes quietly from the back seat.
“I’m reflecting on steak,” Andrew says, letting his mouth run by rote. It’s one of like four useful skills he got from film school, so he’s damn well going to use it. “Only by creating a true image of steakly perfection in my mind can I fairly and accurately evaluate our real-world steak offerings. In short, Adam, I am seeking the platonic ideal of steak.”
Steven snorts. “Platonic,” he repeats. “You couldn’t find platonic if it walked up and kissed you.”
“You know too much,” Andrew intones. “Watch your back.”
“You couldn’t possibly kill me,” Steven says confidently. “I’m too cute.”
Andrew adds another point to the Con column of his Steven: Puppy or No? mental chart. Steven really does know too much. Puppies know jack shit. It’s a conundrum.
Good thing Andrew has no interest in solving it.
4. Feelings Happen When He’s Around
The thing is, though, Steven uses his knowledge for good, and what the fuck is that about, even? He basically entraps Andrew in the alley on his way in from lunch. “I have a surprise for you,” Steven says. His voice is low, intimate, like he has a secret to tell.
“Oh god,” Andrew says.
“I know how much you like,” and Steven lets his voice trail off suggestively, and Andrew wishes he wouldn’t. No reason, really, except that it’s annoying as fuck. “PASTA,” Steven says suddenly and loudly, and Andrew has to rewind for a minute before he can remember what they’re talking about.
“I love pasta. Everyone loves pasta. What’s your point?”
“We need to go eat some pasta, that’s my point.”
Andrew’s not the kind of guy who would say no to that even if it wasn’t his job. But it does mean yet more time alone in the car with Steven, who is apparently on some sort of shtick Andrew is ready for him to drop any time. For one thing, his Italian accent is so bad Adam has flat-out declared that he will not be responsible for putting it on the air, even if the air in question is just the internet. For another, it seems like the only “Italian” he knows is from old Dean Martin songs. Andrew suspects visits to Olive Garden in Steven’s childhood, but he won’t ask. He knows some secrets are too dark and private to discuss.
“Dat’s amore,” Steven sings, for the eleventh time.
“Stop,” Andrew groans. “I’m asking you, I’m begging you, please stop.”
Steven shoots a sideways glance at him, fast because they’re on the freeway, and smiles. It’s kind of a weird smile, honestly. But he does stop. Andrew is so thrown by this victory that he messes up the pasta fact without even intending to, which leaves Steven mad at him for the whole rest of the trip, because he is somehow a man who actually cares about the perfection of terrible shticks in moderately acceptable internet videos.
“And someone honked,” Steven says, yet again, as they’re walking into the House of Expensive Pasta, which is how Andrew is thinking of it. He’s drunk on pasta, his whole body is zinging with carbs and glory, and he has to simplify right now.
“It’s Los Angeles,” Andrew says. “People honk.”
“Yeah, well, they shouldn’t,” Steven says grumpily. “Not during my pasta facts. Which you also managed to mess up, you dink.”
“Dink?” Andrew says, and cracks up. But Steven is still looking genuinely cross, and Andrew is, well, drunk on pasta, so he kind of – smacks Steven with his arm, but in a way where it kind of rests on Steven’s shoulder for a second. It’s absolutely not a hug. It’s just a shoulder smack, but with them walking next to each other. “Your pissed-off face is my favorite Steven face,” he tells Steven, in a fit of sincerity he’s also going to have to blame on the pasta.
Andrew pulls his arm back and puts a little distance between them, but when he looks over, Steven’s grumpy face is gone.
He made Steven happy. Andrew doesn’t know how to live with that.
5. He’s Annoyingly Reasonable
So, yes, Steven is a control freak puppy creature (Andrew considers “alpha dog” and rejects it immediately, because no, and also what would that make him?), but that doesn’t mean that Andrew isn’t also a control freak. Sure, getting surprised with pasta and pizza is something no reasonable human being would turn down, but Andrew is starting to feel the need to take the wheel. (The metaphorical wheel, since Steven is weirdly attached to doing the actual driving, and, quite honestly, Andrew already spends enough time trying to merge. Anyway, there’s no control to be found on Los Angeles freeways. )
Andrew schedules a meeting. The great thing about BuzzFeed is you can just do that. You book a room, you book people into your room, you can do it all on their schedules, and mostly they can’t even override you, because only like eight people have that privilege. So Andrew preps for his meeting, makes a PowerPoint presentation, even, and heads over to the conference room he booked to prepare.
Well, really he’s just preparing by enjoying having a door that closes.
Ten minutes later Steven walks in, laptop under one arm, coffee in the other hand. He looks around and blinks. “Am I early?” he asks.
“No. You are on time, which is good, because it would have been weird if I had to start the meeting without you.” Andrew pokes a button on his laptop and his PowerPoint starts running. The first slide, which is also the last slide, says:
ANDREW NEEDS MORE TO DO
-He is a content creator, not just talent
-He is also a control freak, not just along for the ride
It sums up the whole issue nicely, Andrew feels. He leans back in the super-plushy office chair that meeting leaders get to use.
“Wow,” Steven says. “You made slides!”
“I made a slide. Let’s not go overboard here.”
“I notice you picked Helvetica for it,” Steven says thoughtfully.
“Sorry, but I wasn’t able to get on your Times New Roman level. Let’s address the content now, Steven, please.”
Steven beams at him. “Sure! I’d love help setting up episodes.”
“Not help,” Andrew says firmly. “Creative input.”
“Yes, okay, I would love your creative input,” Steven says, and looks ridiculously pleased with himself. “We got the green light for season two, and I sort of have – uh, some ideas. But I wasn’t really thinking any further than season one.”
“I don’t know whether to be amazed that you were confident we’d get an entire season of this, or amazed that you don’t have six seasons and a movie planned out.”
“Community reference! Nice. But, no, seriously, it’s a lot of work. And there’s only so much I can do, so I just focused on making the first season the best it could be. But now I’m looking at season two and wishing I’d left a little in the tank, you know?”
Andrew feels his face smiling even though he doesn’t want it to. Again. He has no idea why that happens so much around Steven, and he’s worried it means Steven’s contagious, like he has Chronic Cheerful Virus or something. “You didn’t do ice cream and you think you left nothing in the tank?”
Steven lights up. “We have to do ice cream, you’re absolutely right, I’ve gotta put that down --” He puts down his coffee on the table and opens his laptop to make notes. After a minute of awkward, one handed typing, with the laptop tilting ever more ominously to one side, it starts to slide. Andrew saves it with a nifty leap-rush-grab thing.
“Maybe sit down first, just to minimize the potential for catastrophe.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Steven says, and plops himself down in the head-of-the-table seat. Andrew’s seat, which he claimed first, and also which is his by right of scheduling the meeting and making a slide.
The ensuing struggle, which is definitely not wrestling, just some dignified elbows and pushing, is one of those inevitable hiccups in the show development process. Ten minutes later, Andrew drags one of the other chairs around to the head of the table, Steven officially declares them meeting co-chairs, and they get down to planning.
Steven was right. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also kind of fun. Andrew’s always been into how the sausage gets made.
An hour of argument and Yelp reviews later, Andrew remembers that he had one other thing he wanted to cover in the meeting. There’s not really time left to introduce it casually, so he goes for it. “Hey, what do we have for the last episode of season one?”
Steven grins at him. Andrew spends a lot of time up in Steven’s face, and it’s basically the worst thing in the world, and the grins are at least 30% of the problem. “I’m not going to tell you, because I want to capture your reaction on camera. It’s going to be great. It’s the best food ever.”
Andrew eyes him for a long, long moment, letting the suspense build. He waits for it … waits for it ... “It’s cake, isn’t it?”
“What? You --” Steven looks around frantically. “I hate working in a paperless office! There’s nothing to throw at people who need things thrown at them.” He finally pulls a pen out of his pocket and throws that, and Andrew catches it neatly and puts it in his own pocket. “Yes, it’s cake. How did you know?”
“When I went into your calendar to schedule this meeting, I noticed you had CAKE APPOINTMENT in it.”
“I’m gonna start putting things in code from now on.”
“I’m just going to warn you, I know Pig Latin already.”
Steven smirks. He opens up his schedule and deletes CAKE APPOINTMENT, replacing it with Chinese characters that presumably mean the same thing, although they could mean “Andrew is a surprise-ruining jerk,” too.
Andrew, against his better judgment, reaches over and tries to noogie Steven, so their meeting ends the same way it started, with the two of them wrestling in a manner appropriate for a chemical engineer and a film major who are trying to respect rules about professional demeanor.
Well. BuzzFeed appropriate, anyway.
6. He Genuinely Believes That Sharing Is Caring
The good news about season two is that Andrew gets some creative input. The other good news is that they’re now successful enough to have a real travel budget, and they’re going to New York. Sure, he complains about it – “You couldn’t find another country that has food we need to eat?” – but traveling on the company’s dime is always great.
It’s not until they’re on the plane heading east that Steven says, “So. I was thinking about what you said, about how you only consider people friends if you’ve shared a room with them --”
No. No, Andrew is not going there. It’s a bad idea on multiple levels. “Don’t fucking tell me you let them put us in one room,” he says, suddenly a lot less into this idea.
“Look. I love you. You know that,” Steven says, with total sincerity. Andrew will never understand how he just says shit like that, right out loud. Apparently he comes from Feelingsville, Ohio. “But I can’t share a room with you. I need my beauty sleep.”
“In other words,” Andrew translates, relaxing, “you’re too much of a control freak to be in a room with me even for one night.”
“Yup!” Steven agrees, and he’s so happy about it. “See? I have boundaries, too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a beautiful, joyful best friendship.” Annnnnd he’s back to the overshare.
“You’re right,” Andrew says, and Steven blinks in surprise. “That’s not what means we can’t have a beautiful, joy – god, I can’t even bring myself to say it.”
Steven sighs. “It’s okay, buddy, pal, friend. I know you’re a victim of toxic masculinity and that’s why you can’t express your feelings verbally, even though you are actually paid to make words happen. We’re gonna work on it.” And then, in the lowest blow ever, he reaches over and massages Andrew’s shoulder supportively. He’s got good hands, strong and warm, with a great reach, and no. No.
Andrew nudges him with an elbow. “Getting into hug territory there,” he says.
Steven desists. Andrew is definitely relieved and not at all sad.
7. He’s Bad for Andrew’s Mental Health
Traveling with Steven brings up another thing that Andrew hates about him. He doesn’t mind being a tourist. He walks down the sidewalk slower than everyone around them, and he pauses to stare up at things. He doesn’t feel weird about doing pieces to the camera while the New Yorkers roll their eyes and try to get around them.
Andrew finally – okay, like two hours into their first full day, but that’s definitely a sign of extreme patience on his part – breaks. “Act like you’ve been here before, jeez,” he says.
“But I haven’t been here before,” Steven says, shrugging, like – hey, that’s it, that’s who I am. A person who has not been to New York City before.
Andrew opens his mouth to make him pay for this honestly ridiculous level of self-acceptance, but before he can get the words out, he hears an echo of one of his professors in his head. She said, “The greatest gift an actor can have is confidence. You need to look at them and know that they belong wherever they are, doing whatever they are doing, simply because they are themselves.”
Andrew has kind of a mini freakout, wondering if maybe Steven is actually a supremely gifted natural talent, and if he’s been looking like the awkward weirdo in the car this whole time. The bout of self-consciousness/career crisis lasts Andrew all the way to the pizza place. Fortunately, most of his crises can be cured by pizza.
That night, in Adam’s room, they do their half-assed version of dailies, quickly sorting through the stuff they shot to make sure no one had a battery die and didn’t notice, and Adam says, “We’re not going to be able to use any of this walking footage.”
“Yeah,” Steven says. “You were walking like your stomach hurt. You feeling okay?”
“Yeah, fine,” Andrew says automatically.
“You’re not getting gluten intolerant, are you?” Steven says. “It’d be the end of everything you love most.”
Andrew blinks. “I really expected you to say ‘the end of the show,’” he says.
“It wouldn’t be the end of the show. In college I dated someone who couldn’t eat gluten, and we always found things to eat, and that was in Ohio. In LA we could do the show for 15 years and never run out of material. Oh, hey! Gotta add vegan food to the Possibles list.” He pulls out his phone and starts typing.
Andrew yanks it out of his hand. “No. Overridden. Vetoed. Nyet. We are not eating fucking vegan food. What would the expensive option be? SEVEN kinds of kale, wow. No.” Andrew deletes the V, E, and G from the list.
“But seriously, let us know if you’re not feeling great, okay?” Steven says, taking his phone back, pointedly typing something five letters long, and then locking it and putting it in his pocket. “We can build in some rest time.”
“Okay, no. First, we can’t, because we scheduled this thing to the hilt and you’ll have a breakdown if we deviate from it by a microsecond. Second, we don’t need to, because I’m fine. And third, I am not five OR seventy-five.”
Steven brightens. “Good to see you back to normal, friend!” And he gently punches Andrew’s shoulder.
Later that night, though, well. Andrew always has trouble sleeping on his first night in a hotel, and his body thinks it’s three hours earlier than it actually is, which doesn’t help. Also not helping: how New York City hotels are small and also very close to the street. Which means street sounds. Which means, around two in the morning, Andrew is yanked out of near-sleep again, this time by a siren wailing past his window.
He puts the pillow over his head and moans. He has to spend the whole next day on film. He does have emergency makeup in his bag, because he’s not someone who would tempt fate like that, but he doesn’t want to wear it. Steven will probably notice, for one thing. For another, it always feels like his face has been shellacked. It’s gross. BuzzFeed filming allows the on-camera talent to be au natural, and that is how Andrew prefers to be.
But he’ll need concealer for the giant bags under his eyes if he doesn’t. Fucking. Sleep. So he’s gonna. He rolls over, settles in, takes a deep breath, closes his eyes.
From the street comes a noise like someone dropping eighteen garbage cans over a cliff.
“Fuck it,” Andrew says. He reaches into his bag, finds his tiny travel sized lotion, and shoves his hand in his boxer briefs. It doesn’t take him long to get hard, and it doesn’t take much longer than that for him to get into it. He goes for it, mindless and fast, and it’s not until he’s pretty close to orgasm that Andrew makes the mistake. His sex brain is in charge at that point, and for some reason it chooses to combine a number of unrelated events – Steven massaging his shoulder, him almost hugging Steven, the various thoughts Andrew’s never had about him – into a single, terrible narrative. Just for a minute, Andrew’s fantasizing about Steven’s hand on his dick, his hand on Steven’s dick, he doesn’t know what all and for sure will not remember anything specific later. And he comes.
Thirty seconds pass and the knowledge of what he just thought about – in general terms, of course, because he has naturally already forgotten the details – hits Andrew like a brick. “Well, shit,” he says to
the ceiling. He gets up, pulls off his underwear, and washes off. He avoids looking at himself in the mirror.
He does go right to sleep as soon as he’s back in bed, though it’s not all that comforting, later on, to think that he destroyed his own sanity in exchange for some sleep.
8. He Makes Andrew Weird
Sleep helps. Next morning Andrew wakes up cranky, but with his head in the right place. So he had some stray, random, unimportant thoughts. It happens to guys. It’s probably happened to Steven, maybe even last night.
Andrew seamlessly edits that out of his thoughts and mentally calls for another take. He did a thing. It wasn’t important. He won’t do it again. Instead, he’s going to eat cheesecake.
And he does. He thinks he’s doing great at being normal, treating Steven completely normally, and sounding like a normal guy doing normal food eating – he is, after all, an actor – until Steven heads to the bathroom at STK and Adam pauses the recording.
“Hey,” he says, “you okay?”
Andrew shrugs, suppressing horror. “Just a little off, I guess. Jet lag or something.”
Adam nods and stares at the tabletop for a minute. “You seem stressed,” he finally says, which from Adam is basically the equivalent of filling out FMLA forms and calling Andrew’s mom.
“Head’s not in the right place,” Andrew says, because it’s basically true. It’s like he said, “I jerked off thinking about my coworker last night and it’s making today awkward,” but without the sexual harassment training that would inevitably follow that disclosure.
Adam nods again. “Hang in there,” he says, and switches the recording back on.
Steven comes back to the table a minute later. “Greetings, my pretties!” he says. “Are you ready for more cheesecake?”
“I used to think I was always ready for cheesecake, but this show is breaking me down,” Andrew says, pretty much truthfully.
“This is a cheesecake that takes two days to make,” Steven says. “You have to call ahead and give them notice for this cheesecake. It’s got a fancy French name. You have to be looking forward to this!”
Andrew admits he is, to a certain extent, maybe possibly looking forward to it. He hauls himself back out to the car, and they head cheesecake-wards.
It is entirely possible to have weird occasional thoughts about your coworker without that making anything else weird, and that is now Andrew’s game plan.
Yeah, ideally, he wouldn’t even need a game plan, but at least he’s got one he can be confident in. That has to count for something, right?
9. He’s a Cuddly Drunk
If Andrew had known he was going to need a Not Making Things Weird game plan, he might have planned the first episode he’s entirely in charge of slightly differently.
“I am looking forward to this,” Steven announces, as they head down to his car, which he is, of course, not allowed to drive for this episode, since he’ll be drinking. Instead, they’ve got New Production Assistant Guy driving them. Matt, Andrew reminds himself. His name is Matt.
Back when he was planning this, Andrew thought that was really clever. Literally getting Steven out of the driver’s seat! He was overwhelmed by his own genius. Now, though, he wants to go back in time and punch last-month-Andrew in the face. For one thing, Adam decided that the camera angles would be best if Steven sat in the backseat, sandwiched in between Andrew and Adam. That’s a lot closer than Andrew is comfortable being to – to anyone, actually. It’s not like Steven is special. Yeah, Andrew does end up pouring his coffee all over the floor of Steven’s car before they’ve even had the first drink, but that’s something that could happen anywhere, to anyone, and is totally unrelated to anything to do with Steven.
Also, back when Andrew was planning, he thought it’d be fun to see Steven drunk. He wondered if he’d go super puppy, or if he’d be one of those happy dudes who gets mopey after three drinks. Well, now Andrew knows, and he wishes he didn’t. Steven stays at his usual level of happy, but he gets … relaxed. On the one hand, that’s a good thing – turns out Steven does all the planning because he cannot stand not knowing exactly what’s going on, so relaxed is what he wasn’t, heading into this – but he will not. Stop. Touching. Andrew. And that’s not okay.
“Heyyyyyyy,” Steven says at the first bar, partway through their first drink, because he’s a total lightweight. He nudges his weird macrame swing contraption over into Andrew’s, even though Andrew specifically vetoed the two-person swing. He reaches out to hang onto Andrew’s swing and ends up sliding his fingers along Andrew’s side. Andrew shoves him away, of course, but he keeps coming back. It’s awful.
Then, on the next car ride, Steven somehow gets confused about which thigh is his. He keeps his hand on Andrew’s thigh all the way to West Hollywood; Andrew stares out the window and tries not to think about it, which works great for about five minutes. But Steven’s also a talky drunk.
“Cock,” Steven says, like he’s sounding out an unfamiliar word. “Cock … tail. Is that, like, about roosters?” And he squeezes Andrew’s thigh a little as, like, emphasis or something. Andrew is going to go to hell for the thoughts he’s having on camera, but that’s fine. He always expected to, and anyway, hell will probably be better than this moment right here. He’s looking forward to it, in fact.
The last bar of the night is the fanciest, most grown-up fucking bar Andrew has ever been to, and Steven acts like a little kid. He pokes Andrew. He makes little “pa-POW” noises when he eats the cheese. He also moans audibly when he takes a sip of the cocktail, which is a painful experience for Andrew, who considers pouring some of the drink down his shirt in retaliation. It’s 30-year-old Scotch, though, and he just can’t. Instead, he sips it and practices feeling nothing. He’s a machine. A drinking machine. A drinking and tasting machine. His mind is a reflecting pool, and all that bullshit.
“Wow,” Steven observes. “I’ve had kind of a lot to drink!”
“You’ve had three cocktails,” Andrew points out. “That only counts as a lot to drink if you weigh 92 pounds.”
Steven blinks at him, considering. “I weigh more than that,” he says, “but I’ve still had a lot to drink. Carry me back to the car?”
“No,” Andrew says.
In the car, Steven curls up against Andrew’s side, puts his head on Andrew’s shoulder. It’s ... it would be nice if Andrew had had a few more drinks and was a complete fucking marshmallow. As it is, he can feel Steven’s breath against his neck, and Steven is warm next to him, and Andrew has one astonishingly stupid moment of thinking, hey, this is what it’d be like to sleep in bed with Steven, except sitting up!
Then he gets his brain back on track. Sort of. Though he isn’t even really managing to kid himself anymore.
10. He’s Just Way Too Understanding
The season three kickoff meeting opens with two exciting pieces of news. The first one, Steven delivers to Andrew and Adam as they sit grouped around the smallest conference table. “Andrew, I really took on board your criticism last season,” Steven says with great sincerity. “When you said going to New York City and Korea were beneath you.”
“I did not say that. I said it would be better if we got to leave the country, but a) I didn’t say New York was awful or in any way beneath me and b) that was before we even planned Korea.” Andrew is determined to set the record straight, although he doesn’t know why he’s bothering. The cameras aren’t on; it’s just Steven here. He doesn’t care what Steven thinks. Steven can scrunch up his face in that judgmental way all he wants to; Andrew is unmoved by that. Or he’s supposed to be, anyway.
And right there is when the second exciting piece of news is delivered, and it’s by Andrew, to Andrew: he’s got to stop lying to himself. There comes a time when you cross from denial over into pathetic, and honestly, that line might already be in Andrew’s rearview mirror. So he’s gonna stop this car and get on the being honest, at least with himself, train.
He tries it out in his head. You’re setting the record straight because you actually care what Steven thinks of you, you dumbshit. You broke the golden rule. You fucking care. It doesn’t feel great, but Andrew’s sure he’ll get used to it in time.
A hand passes in front of Andrew’s face. “You with me?” Steven asks.
“Sorry,” Andrew says, hating himself a little. “I was busy growing as a person.”
Steven, being Steven, declares a break from their meeting. “We should give Andrew the space he needs to become his best self!” he says.
“Also, we need coffee,” Adam says. “It’s fucking nine in the morning.”
“Okay, and also we need coffee. Andrew? Does your new self drink coffee?”
Andrew’s pretty sure his new self is going to need coffee even more than his old self did, so he nods.
Fifteen minutes later, Steven slides a mocha (Keurig, but Andrew understands that he didn’t have time to go out for real coffee) in front of Andrew. Adam takes a big gulp of his coffee and says, “How are you feeling?” to Andrew.
“Great. Better than great. I’m definitely ready to create top-of-the-line internet content for the teeming masses.” His new policy is internal honesty, external lying like a rug, and he thinks this is in line with that.
Steven beams. “Excellent, because we have some amazing news that is definitely going to help with that goal.” He pauses, and he actually has built up a modicum of suspense, and Andrew cannot believe this is his life. He has some kind of – minor thing – for a guy who attempts to bring suspense into a work meeting. “We’re going to ... Australia! And Japan!”
“Wow,” Adam says, shifting his laptop and phone around on the tabletop, which is about as close as he ever gets to excited flailing.
“Holy shit. You got this authorized?” Andrew can feel his face doing a thing, possibly a smile, but that is okay. Steven deserves that, for having the balls to ask for this, and the wiles to get what he asked for.
“Yup! And it basically doesn’t get a lot further away than that. We are going to spend so much time on planes. So I don’t want to hear any more complaints about me not going the distance.” Steven pauses, looks around, makes a disappointed face, and says, “Because it’s such a long distance away, guys, get it? Come on, it was a good joke.”
Andrew somehow finds that cute. He hates himself and everything he’s become.
After the meeting, Andrew convenes another meeting, with himself. Of course, he still works at BuzzFeed, which means there are exactly two places he can go to think, and he refuses to contemplate the accidental disaster of crushing on his coworker in the men’s room. He tries for option B, the supply cabinet, but Eugene is already in there on his phone, and Andrew isn’t strong enough to withstand Eugene’s death glare. (Literally no one is. At least, no one who works at BuzzFeed. Probably there are some trained assassins somewhere who could do it.)
Andrew is forced to walk to the bagel place, where he gets a cappuccino muffin and another mocha and thinks about his life. Rationally, this isn’t so bad. He’s probably had a minor thing for Steven for several weeks.
He reflects on the past in the light of the present and revises that statement. He’s probably had a minor thing for Steven for several months, and it never fucked things up before. Okay, there was that one, uh, issue in New York, but even that didn’t really screw things up. Sure, what kept him from not screwing things up was denial, which he’s kind of not doing anymore, but he’ll find a new way.
By the time he gets back to work, he has so much caffeine in his system that he’s mildly concerned he’s going to reach out and touch the face of god, but he’s feeling better about his life. He has a plan, he has a strategy, he has a way of dealing. He’s going to be fine.
When Andrew opens up his laptop, he finds an email from Steven to the Worth It group. The subject line says ITINERARY FOR OUR SUPER AWESOME TRIP TO AUSTRALIA :) :). He scans down the email and sees “in a gorgeous, scenic outdoor location – MATT, BRING YOUR BEST BOYFRIEND LENS.”
Maybe he’s not going to be fine. Maybe this is all going to end in disaster.
In Australia. Or, if he lives that long, in Japan.
11. He’s a Threat to Andrew’s Financial Good Sense
Andrew has a new mantra. “Just act natural and eventually this will end.” It’s not exactly going to make him rich in the self-help publishing industry, but it does get him through eating both mac and cheese and barbeque with Steven.
Then comes Australia.
Australia is a problem for three reasons:
- Andrew got to set up half the locations, and he’s always weakest when he’s getting to show Steven stuff. It’s just … kind of nice to put that expression of surprised glee on his face. It puts Andrew in a susceptible place.
- Australia is ridiculously fucking beautiful. Andrew knew it wouldn’t be all deserts and kangaroos, but the vistas! The oceans! It weakens his resolve. He’s so, so weak.
- And then, as a capper, they fucking drink a bunch of wine. It’s was Andrew’s idea, and he has no idea what he was thinking. Was he testing himself? If it’s a test, he fails it.
He does okay through the first wine location, but then they hit the second one, and it’s like.
It’s like a date, is the thing.
That’s what kicks Andrew in the head. He’s not even thinking about, like, Steven holding him down and making him beg for it – he’s thinking about holding Steven’s hand, which is something he left behind in high school, along with zits and an embarrassing boner for the Peruvian exchange student.
But, like, what is he supposed to think about? He’s sitting in the great outdoors, staring at a beautiful view, with an amazing drink in his hand, sharing amazing food with the person he spends half of his life with, and … and he’s enjoying himself. He wants to do it again. He wants to do it off camera.
He’s so disgusted with himself that he’s tempted to lie down right here and never move again, just become one with the glorious Australian landscape until some part of it kills him. Except that if he did that he’d be on camera, and he’s not entirely in condition where he wants a close up on his face. Or his pants.
The pants thing? That’s Steven’s fault. He’s had two drinks, and he’s getting handsy, and honestly Andrew would feel better about everything if there was a table for him to hide behind, just for security’s sake.
And then they get to the third winery, and Steven says the phrase “like a lover,” and that’s it. Andrew’s brain shorts out. He knows he’ll have to argue, later, for them to edit out his expression, and the nonsense that came out of his mouth. He manages, after a few seconds of babble, to say a coherent sentence, a forced-out “I kind of get what you mean.” But after that, it’s just babbling, including a lengthy digression about Harry Potter, even though Andrew tries not to be obviously a nerd on camera. He’s in a haze, basically, which is probably why he buys two bottles of the most expensive wine he’s ever tasted.
Adam tilts his head as Andrew hands over his credit card. “Christmas gift?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Andrew says.
Adam looks across the room to where Steven is currently inspecting red wine vintages. “He’ll like it,” he says, and wanders off to shoot some more background footage.
Andrew is a little worried that Adam is some kind of mind-reading sorcerer. Would explain why he’s always so quiet. Andrew shivers a little.
So Australia is destroying his ability to be comfortable around both his teammates. Fucking Australia, man.
12. He’s a Sneaky Long-Term Planner
Then they go to New York.
“Maybe we overdid the travel this season,” Andrew says. They just stepped out of JFK and he’s already sweated through his shirt. It is so hot and so humid and he’s pretty sure this weather could kill a man.
Steven shakes his head. “If it’s not one thing with you it’s another, wow.”
“I’m just saying,” Andrew says. “We came to New York City in a heat wave to eat fried chicken, that notably cooling food.” He almost says they didn’t plan this right, but he can’t bring himself to. Steven loves planning this shit.
“No bad time for fried chicken,” Adam points out.
“Exactly!” Steven says. “You’re going to eat that fried chicken, and you’re going to love it.”
Andrew just sighs and helps Adam put their millions of bags in the cab. The hell of it is, Steven’s probably right. Andrew’s learned to like cake, he’s learned to like oysters, and he’s learned to like Steven. “That’s this whole show,” he says, having a sudden revelation.
“What is?” Steven asks, sliding into the cab first so he can be sure of a window seat.
“You making me like things I didn’t want to like.”
Steven smiles at him brilliantly and says, “Aw. That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Andrew’s heart skips a beat. Just one. But it does. Well, fuck it, he thinks. I already knew I was doomed. Now I guess I’m gonna wallow in it.
But then comes the moment, there in Red Rooster, a restaurant he will never forgive for this no matter how delicious it is, when Steven casually admits – casually! like it doesn’t even matter! – that he’s never had sex, but he hopes it’s like this chicken.
And Andrew blinks, stunned. “Really?” falls out of his mouth like he’s a common idiot.
“I haven’t,” Steven says, like it’s no big deal. He’s doing that thing where his confidence somehow makes him admitting that totally cool and fine. Andrew hates it. Although that’s mostly because his brain is now producing a lot of frosted-lens sequences involving a surprising number of flowers and Steven’s face of pure pleasure, which Andrew is, unfortunately, way too familiar with.
That evening, back at the hotel, they review the footage of the day. “We ate a lot of fried chicken,” Andrew says, watching from the lone desk chair that he fought Adam tooth and nail to get. No way he’s sitting on the floor.
“And I’d do it all again tomorrow if I could,” Steven says, stretching out full length on his bed. Andrew would think he’s doing it on purpose, that fucking classic sexy pose, but maybe he’s just some kind of sexiness savant. Who has never had sex. Holy God.
“All good?” Adam says, looking up at each of them in turn as he packs his gear away.
“I feel great about the work we’ve done,” Steven says, still utterly relaxed on the bed.
“We can probably eventually edit it into a functional episode,” Andrew agrees.
“Gonna go call Allison,” Adam says, and slips out of the room.
The cool thing would be not to bring it up, of course, but Andrew has accepted in his heart that Steven brings out his uncool self, so he goes ahead and asks. “Seriously? You’ve really never had sex?”
“Nope,” Steven says. Andrew is watching him closely, and he doesn’t tense a single muscle when he says it.
“Why not? I mean, you’re – attractive ...” Andrew lets his voice trail off, because he’s pissed at himself for saying any of this.
Steven sits up on his elbows so he can look at Andrew. “I want it to be special,” he says. “Something I remember forever.” Then he flops back down.
Andrew thinks about that. “I mean, I’m going to remember my first time forever,” he says.
“Was it special?”
Andrew thinks back on that spectacular cocktail of nerves, hormones, and clumsiness. “I think there’s a certain virtue in starting at the bottom and working your way up,” he says, and why does everything that comes out of his mouth suddenly sound like a double entendre?
“I’d rather start at the top and then get better,” Steven says.
“Uh, that’s not how it works,” Andrew says. “You start out young and dumb and like, wow, my hands are touching actual naked flesh! That isn’t even mine! And then eventually you’re not as young and not as dumb and you know what you’re doing.”
“Or you wait to find someone who you care about, and who cares about you, and then you wait more, until you know each other so well that you just fit together naturally,” Steven says confidently. “You might still have to work at the details or whatever, but you have that fit. So you know you’ll get there.”
Steven’s still lying down, still apparently gazing at the ceiling, and so Andrew finds himself looking at him, really looking – the long stretch of his abdomen, his thighs, his bare fucking feet. Andrew’s almost mad about that – who takes off their shoes and socks and just flaunts their, their foot nudity in their own hotel room? And then he hears his thoughts. “Whoa,” he says.
Steven apparently completely missed Andrew’s bizarre mental break. “Yup,” he says confidently. “It’s going to be great.” And it’s the voice, maybe, the slightly lower timber of it, combined with that same Steven certainty, that pushes Andrew over the rest of the way.
“So, uh, we’ve known each other a pretty long time,” he hears himself say, and then screeches to a stop, horrified.
But Steven picks up his cue like Andrew didn’t fumble at all. “And I’ve taken you on about a hundred dates this year,” he agrees.
“Uh, excuse me?”
“I took you to fancy dinners. I bought you fancy desserts. I took you to Australia!”
Andrew blinks, considering this one carefully. “That’s … not how I understood it at the time.”
Steven does a lying-down shrug that looks more like a shimmy. “It’s not my fault you’re a traditionalist.” He pauses. “And completely clueless.”
“Wait. Have you been flirting with me the entire time we’ve been doing the show?” Andrew’s heart rate is picking up and he can feel himself flushing, but he’s so thrown by this revelation that he doesn’t even care.
“I tried flirting with you before that, but you weren’t paying attention.” Steven sighs. “You’re kind of dense sometimes. But, you know, really, really pretty.”
“You’re propositioning me, complimenting me, and insulting me, all at the same time?” Steven makes a wavy hand gesture of assent. “That’s … pretty hot, actually.”
Steven looks up, catches Andrew’s eye, and smiles, and it’s that smile of pure delight that Andrew knows so well. Andrew stands up. “You wanna scoot over, maybe?” he says, but Steven’s already moving.
“Take off your shoes,” he says. “You’re not getting them all over anywhere I’m going to sleep.”
Andrew sits on the edge of the bed to take off his shoes. “Okay, just to be really clear – we’re about to have sex, right?”
Andrew kicks off his other shoe and lies down next to Steven. “We’re going to absolutely wreck this bed,” he says, and he’s smiling so hard it hurts. “Shoes are going to be the least of your worries.” And then he rolls over to grab Steven and kiss him.
“You’re suspiciously good at that,” he says a few minutes later. “For such a sweet little innocent.”
Steven rolls his eyes. “I’m a virgin,” he says. “Not a hermit monk.”
“Then I’m just going to propose that we maybe explore a couple of bases at once, here,” Andrew says, mostly because he can tell that in about five more minutes his jeans are going to go from uncomfortable to outright painful.
“Great idea.” Steven slides his hands under Andrew’s shirt. “Am I doing this right?” he asks, scraping his fingernails gently over Andrew’s ribs, and he’s using a teasing voice, but Andrew has no problem hearing the sincerity underneath it.
“Uh,” Andrew says, and leans in to kiss Steven again.
Andrew’s not really sure how long they spend on that, but eventually he snaps out of the sex haze long enough to notice that his lips are tingling, his dick is throbbing, and his shirt is gone. Steven’s lying next to him, but he’s got one leg slung over Andrew’s. There’s about two inches and a few layers of cloth separating Andrew’s dick from Steven’s, and he wants nothing more in this world than to close that gap. “Let’s --” he says, and shifts and pulls.
“Oh, you mean like --” Steven says, and then Andrew’s lying on his back with Steven straddling him. “Oh fuck,” Steven says, very quietly, and that sends a jolt through Andrew that makes him arch up. “Oh, fuck,” Steven says again, and rolls his hips, and this isn’t going to last very long, Andrew knows. They’re going to come in their pants like they’re both back in high school, and there is nothing else he wants right now.
“Yeah,” he says, and pulls Steven down to kiss him.
Steven gasps, and moans, and Andrew feels his hips jerk, and that’s all the encouragement he needs to let go.
Five minutes later, Andrew moans, “Jesus, I’m disgusting, and I can’t even take these clothes off because all of mine are next door. This is your fucking fault, because you needed your space and wouldn’t share a room with me.”
Steven laughs. “Oh my god, I didn’t think you’d whine more after you got off.”
“You’ve discovered my secret: I’m a whiny cuddler,” Andrew says, curling tighter around Steven.
Steven laughs. Then he unpeels Andrew’s arms from around him. “Okay, like, I love cuddling, I really do, but I need to change before this situation gets any worse,” he says, gesturing vaguely at himself. Then he hauls himself out of bed and starts to strip off, totally unselfconsciously. And, well, Andrew can see why. He’s all long lines and soft skin, and Andrew finds himself equally drawn by the swell of Steven’s ass and his awkward, knobbly knees.
Steven goes to the bathroom and comes back with two hand towels, and the front view is even better. “I was going to complain some more but now I’m distracted,” Andrew says, staring as Steven cleans himself off.
He doesn’t even notice when Steven offers him a towel, so Steven shakes his head and cleans Andrew off himself. And that’s – that’s somehow more intimate than everything they’ve just done, and Andrew feels like he should be telling Steven to cut it out, but he doesn’t want to. He wants to enjoy this. So he does.
Steven takes the towels back to the bathroom and stares at Andrew sprawled in the bed for a long, long moment. He makes a soft whimpering noise and reaches for his boxers. “I am a nice guy and also a gentleman, and that’s why I am going to take your room key and go get you clean clothes,” Steven says, like he’s reminding himself more than Andrew. He pulls on some yoga pants and a t-shirt and stumbles out the door, his hair still sticking up on one side. Andrew kind of wishes he had a picture, though not to show anyone else.
Ten minutes later, Andrew’s clean clothes are draped over the one chair along with Steven’s yoga pants and t-shirt. Andrew’s got his arms wrapped around Steven and is as comfortable as he’s ever been. And then Steven says, “So, it’s nice that we can cuddle here.”
“Mmmm,” Andrew says.
“In my totally clean bed that we in no way got dirty, despite your predictions. Not such an expert now, huh?”
Andrew sits up, grabs his phone, and sets an early alarm. “There,” he says. “Tomorrow we’re going to destroy this bed. Now go the fuck to sleep.”
“I love you, too,” Steven says, and does.
13. He’s a Fucking Romantic
Japan is amazing. It’s so hot it’s like living in a sauna, but Rie is great and the food is fantastic. Steven and Andrew still have separate rooms, but it’s only so that the team can do dailies in the one they’re not having sex in.
“You’ve gotta stop saying ‘kiss’ on camera. And … moaning like that,” Andrew says after their first day of filming. He’s so jet lagged that he got partway through undressing and now he can’t remember what comes next.
Steven takes Andrew’s shirt out of his hands and puts it in the laundry bag. “You’re really tired, huh?”
“I don’t think I’m tired at all, actually. I think I’ve just switched to a different speed than everyone else.”
Steven hauls Andrew up. “Take off your pants.”
“Such a sweet-talker,” Andrew says, and does.
“Okay,” Steven says as they settle into bed. “I have a great new idea for another Worth It show.”
Andrew makes a wordless noise that he hopes indicates that he’s listening. Which he is. Mostly.
“Worth It: Couples! I figured we’d start with cruises, romantic getaways, couples massages, that kind of stuff.” He pauses for a second to shoot a glance at Andrew and continues, “Then we’d move into wedding venues, caterers, cake tasting.”
“Mmm,” Andrew says, and lets his eyes close. Five minutes later, an alert goes off in his molasses brain, and his eyes snap open again. “Wait,” he says. “Did you just fucking propose to me with a Worth It concept?”
Steven laughs. “Yeah,” he says. “But we’ll do a better one for the video, okay?”
Andrew thinks about it for a few minutes. “Okay,” he says. “But not until we’ve been together a year. I don’t want our audience thinking I’m easy or anything.”
Steven kisses the top of Andrew’s head. “Don’t worry,” he says. “No one would ever think that.” And he turns out the light.