This Christmas time Shane would like to thank Jesus for being born and then dying and allowing BuzzFeed to exist and continually produce viral content that pries into its employees’ pasts and private inner lives, with their consent of course. Shane likes to think himself somewhat a gifting maestro, thinking outside the gift box and giving his loved ones something different but personal. He has quite frankly knocked it out of the park every holiday season since starting at BuzzFeed, from secret Santa’s to small gifts to his desk mates and closest work friends, he’s killing the gifting game.
A combination of his calm and warm demeanour, a tendency to eavesdrop and a genuine want to make others happy means he’s full to the brim with the necessary skills required to be the crown prince of presents.
If there’s one person that he struggles with every year it’s Ryan. The little guy has almost everything the beefed up little nerd could possibly want or need. The moment there’s a niche item tailored to his equally niche interests available, 9 times out of 10, he buys it almost immediately, lacking impulse control when the pure excitement of finding a Paddington bear alarm clock completely overwhelms him.
Ryan is also the most difficult to buy for because it has to be right, it has to be the best. It’s not that he thinks he has to buy his place, prove his friendship, prove he’s worth the popular dork of a former frat boy’s time. It’s just that he’s the one Shane wants to see smile the most ardently, desperately, achingly. Thankfully, Ryan’s smiles aren’t rare, they’re quick to spread and bright. But Shane is only satisfied with the rarest of his smiles, the ones reserved for quiet moments of joy and gratitude, with a soft gaze and pink cheeks. Shane wants to hoard those intimate moments, selfish and drowning in affection that’s not strictly platonic. It’s far from platonic, it’s ass over tit mushy stuff affection and by God will he snatch every glimpse of it he can get.
BuzzFeed has given him a gift this holiday season in the form of a video idea inspired by The Santa Clause 2, because if it involves Tim Allen it’s definitely an idea worth stealing and doing infinitely better, improving. Both he and Ryan are asked to participate and thanks to the handy filming schedule, Shane is billed to film his part straight after Ryan’s which means it isn’t weird for him to sit in on filming whilst he waits. Ryan manages to somehow look both small and larger than life on alone on camera, but the Christmas cheer is clearly getting to him and his grin is broad and blinding.
Of all the things Shane would have thought little Ryan Bergara would have asked for for Christmas a Furby would not have been one of them.
“Yeah I just remember being totally mesmerised by them.” Ryan laughs and Shane feels the butterflies hammer hard at his ribcage as he follows the movement of Ryan’s hands as he pulls the sleeves of his hoodie over his fingertips. “They really didn’t seem creepy at all to me back then. They were just cute lil' guys.” The more Shane listens to Ryan talk about them the more he starts to think seriously about getting the guy one as a gift. He really seems attached to the mechanical creatures, amused by their weird sounds and grumbles and delighted at their primitive means of communicating with each other not to mention the cute, if slightly unnatural, wiggling of their body and ears. Ryan’s delight is infectious and he finds himself smiling fondly at his nostalgia for the strange toy, he might even get himself one so that Ryan’s will have a friend to talk to. He zones out for a little while, daydreaming about their inevitable Furby play dates, it’s tough being a single Furby father.
Ryan finishes his segment and Shane takes his place in front of the camera. He nudges his glasses back up his nose with his fingertips and tries to ignore Ryan’s curious eyes watching his every move.
“So,” Kelsey starts from behind the camera, “What did little Shane Madej want for Christmas but never get.
“A trampoline.” Shane says with solemnity to a chorus of laughter from behind the camera, Ryan’s so loud and distinct he can pick him out from amongst the noise. “For a variety of reasons I didn’t get one, but mainly because no 8 year old string bean child should be propelled airborne by only their own will and kinetic energy. It’s against God and nature.”
It’s only been two days since Shane left for Illinois for the holidays and Ryan misses him. They’d had a movie night the day before Shane was due to fly out to spend Christmas with his family, exchanged their gifts each with strict instruction not to open them until the big day on pain of death. Shane’s gifts are always special, something he clearly puts immense thought and care into and they’re always the gift Ryan is most excited to open. It’s no secret that Ryan loves receiving gifts, small and silly or large and heartfelt, the thought that someone thinks so highly of him to spend time and often money to give him something they think he’d like warms his heart.
Shane’s gift sits delicately wrapped under the small tree in his apartment, beckoning him with Christmas cheer. The gift even looks enticing, and Ryan can imagine all too easily the endearing look of concentration on Shane’s face as elegant, long fingers fold the paper meticulously, tying red ribbon by hand with deft movements. Part of him feels Shane’s presence here in California with him would be a greater gift than whatever waits for him under the tree but it’s a present he can’t will himself to ask for.
At this festive time of year he feels Shane’s absence more sharply, no longer greeted each morning by his smile, warm brown eyes crinkling at the corners as he grins at him from his adjacent desk. The nights are devoid of his comforting presence, sprawled out lazily next to him on the couch. Ryan sleeps uneasily with his best friend in another state, unwilling to interrupt his time with his family by calling when anxiety mounts or another nightmare keeps him awake. More than anything Shane’s gift to him this year has simply been his friendship, in the most cliche and saccharine way possible, it’s enough to have him in his life. Which is why Ryan can’t bring himself to ask for more. Wanting them to be something more than just friends feels greedy.
So Ryan settles for Shane’s friendship and his heartfelt gifts. He smiles at it, sitting wrapped neatly beneath the small tree in his living room. It’s right at the front, one of the last he’d received before leaving the office for the holidays but he can’t decide whether he wants to open it first or last come the arrival of the big day. He’ll be transporting himself and his gifts over to his parents on Christmas morning but he contemplates leaving Shane’s at home to open in private, somewhere no one will tease him for smiling besotted at whatever Shane will have gifted him.
It’s only been three days since Shane left for Illinois when Ryan first hears it. An almost inaudible groaning can be heard in his apartment. He walks all of the rooms and can’t for the life of him figure out where it’s coming from. He chalks it up to being the distant sound of his neighbours having a little too much fun.
Except he’s pretty sure if they’re having this much fun they have a problem. Also the now garbled sounding hell speech doesn’t sound at all like ‘fun’ it sounds like someone is cursing him and his entire family intermittently, 24 hours a day. He’ll hear it randomly at 4 AM and then again in intervals, anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours between each string of menacing growls.
During the day it’s easy enough to ignore, he’s either out, or if he is at home, he’s watching or listening to something that drowns out the sound when it occurs. Night time is a different story. At night the noise is terrifying. There’s nothing that can quite accurately describe the pants shitting feeling of hearing what sounds like a jumbled demonic lullaby when you’re caught between sleep and wakefulness.
He jolts upright in bed, staring unseeingly into the darkness as the ominous growls continue to sound in the distance. He reaches over and hesitantly turns on the lamp. His room looks as it always has done but the demonic chatter continues, and Ryan’s spine goes rigid with fear. Maybe Curly was right, he thinks as he tip toes out of his bedroom and into the living room, the sound seemingly a little louder now, maybe he should get the place cleansed. He flicks on the light, and chasing away the shadows by employing electricity has him feeling a little less anxious. He checks the room, looking for anything out of place and trying to find the source of the noise. He edges toward the tree in the corner and the ungodly gurgling seems louder. It occurs to him that it might be coming from one of the gifts beneath it.
He checks each one until finally he picks up Shane’s, still front and centre though he’d been hoping it wouldn’t be his gift that’s the cause of such a cacophony. Oh but it is. The moment Ryan picks up the gift it screeches gratingly, a garbled almost mechanical noise emanating from it.
He really needs to open it. The noise is near constant, ear splitting in how incessant it has become. He hesitates. It’s not Christmas yet! He can’t open it, they have an agreement! He sits there for a while, cradling the box as it continues to wail like the souls of the damned in his arms. Although he’d sworn not to open it before Christmas Ryan knows that Shane values Ryan’s sleep more than he would any Christmas present. He sets it down and rips the gift open, revealing not one, but two Furbies. The new Furby is black and thankfully silent, nestled safely in its box with its eyes closed. It’s older brother is wide awake and staring up at Ryan as it wriggles in the confines of its box and yelling as if it’s desperate to be freed.
Part of him is truly touched at such a gift, many of the older models aren’t cheap and knowing Shane he only bought the best. It just so happens that the ‘best’ in Furby terms probably equates to ‘extremely cursed if not possessed’. He quickly swaps out the batteries in the little guy but there’s no improvement but that the hellish warbling just strikes back up in earnest this time. Unable to contain his amusement he snaps a quick video and sends it to Shane. Not even three minutes passes between Shane seeing the message and Ryan receiving an invite to Face Time. Ryan answers grinning broadly as Shane’s sleepy face smushed into his pillow fills his phone screen, he must have woken up in the middle of the night and checked his phone to see Ryan’s message.
“Why did you open it?!” He starts indignantly, looking more and more awake with every word he hisses out. “What have you done to our son?!”
“Our son? I didn’t do anything to him- it!” Ryan laughs, gasping out the words between each bout of laughter. “He’s been making this noise for over 3 days! I thought my apartment was fucking haunted, turns out it’s just the Furby that’s haunted, you gave me my very own cursed object for Christmas, how thoughtful!” Ryan’s cheeks hurt from smiling so hard but Shane winces, looking sheepish from where he lies, states away.
“He didn’t sound like that when I tested him. Fuck, sorry Ry. I just wanted to get you something fun and- I dunno- special. You- you deserve it.” He says sadly and even in the dim lighting of his bedroom in Illinois Ryan can see the faint dusting of pink spreading across his cheeks.
“Don’t be sorry,” Ryan feels his own cheeks start to warm “it’s a sweet gift, possessed or not. Anyway, his younger brother turned out alright. They say the first kid is the test kid.” Shane laughs, the sound sleep deep and fond and Ryan melts at the tenderness in his brown eyed gaze.
“I’ll be back for New Year’s. I’ll make it up to you then.” Shane whispers.
Ryan sucks in a sharp breath, the urge to ask for what he really wants overwhelming. “How ‘bout you make it up to me by being my kiss at midnight?” He smiles shakily, waits for the dazed look of surprise to melt from Shane’s face into a blinding grin.
“Yeah, yeah Ry of course, I can do that.”
“Merry Christmas big guy.” Ryan says, the two of them just smiling softly at each other, miles apart but finally home.
“Merry Christmas baby.”
They say their goodbyes and Shane clutches his phone to his chest, grinning at the dark ceiling of his childhood bedroom. His present, for once, has failed him spectacularly but it has bought him something even better. Ryan wants him to be his New Year’s kiss. Sure it’s just a kiss but it’s gotta mean something right? Friends don’t just ask their friends to kiss them at midnight. A nauseating mix of giddy excitement and fear starts wiggling uncomfortably in his belly and he eases himself out of bed and down to the kitchen for some water, for something to do as his tired brain ticks away frantically.
“Fuck!” Shane curses as he flicks on the lounge light to see his mother sitting alone in the dark watching some black and white holiday special.
“Language Shane Alexander Madej.” She scolds him with a smile.
“You scared the living daylights out of me what are you doing sitting in the dark like a serial killer?”
“What are you doing skulking around the house in the middle of the night, vibrating like you’re in shock?” Shane sinks down into the armchair opposite her and rubs his forehead. Sherry’s expression morphs into one of concern, leaning forward to place a comforting hand on his knee. Shane fights the urge to flinch.
“Ah, good news?” She asks, but there’s a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth that suggests she already knows the answer.
“Good and bad. His Christmas gift is possessed but I think I might have scored.”
“Attaboy!” Sherry crows, laughing. Shane smiles but stays quiet.
“You’re in your head sweetheart, what’s the problem?” Shane flicks his eyes up to the ceiling, sighs deeply like he can simply exhale all his worries and fears.
“It feels like the start of something but I don’t know what , and I’m miles away. I wish he’d waited until Christmas, then it would only be two days until I see him in person.”
Sherry pauses for a moment before she grins, lighting up like their Christmas tree.
“Then just go back to L.A!” She says as if it’s that simple.
“It’s not that simple.”
“It’s Christmas and-”
“Aaaand Christmas is a time to be with loved ones. You always spend Christmas with us! You’ve been waiting for this opportunity for years. Don’t give me that face Shane Alexander I am your mom I know your little heart’s been pining over Ryan for forever!”
“I feel called out.”
“You think you’re real slick Shane but you ain’t.” She says as she gets up from the couch, and heads toward the stairs. She squeezes his shoulder as she passes. “Book a flight Shane.”
Christmas Eve is a quiet day for Ryan. He heads over to his parents’ home on Christmas morning solely so he has one day before the chaos that is a Bergara family Christmas begins. Don’t get him wrong, he adores it, but it’s also nice to be alone and savour the feeling of quiet anticipation, to curl up in his apartment and watch holiday movies with a beer. Okay so it may be several beers and he may be watching It’s a Wonderful Life and crying as his Furby sons sit beside him on the couch in silent battery-less judgement.
He startles when there’s a knock on his door. He didn’t order any food and God damn it it’s Christmas Eve! People should be at home with their families or their dogs or their adopted mechanical children! He shuffles toward the door and opens it with an irritated huff. It swings open to reveal a sheepish looking Shane, rumpled and tired looking, his hands clasped behind his back.
“What-“ Ryan breathes out, confused but incandescently happy to see Shane there on his doorstep.
“Hi” Shane replies simply. The grin stretches slowly across his mouth, crooked and boyish and Ryan feels his heart do a somersault at the sight of it. “Surprise!” Shane’s laugh is nervous, his feigned nonchalance cracking at the edges.
“What are you doing here? What about Christmas? Your family-“
“My mom was actually about 3 seconds from booking my flight herself.”
“What Sherry? Why?” Ryan asks breathlessly. Shane simply shrugs.
“She didn’t want me to miss my chance.” Shane sighs and from behind his back produces a small sprig of mistletoe. He looks down at it, spinning it idly between his fingers. “I bought this at a gas station and now I kinda wanna throw it in the trash. I don’t want you to think this is just some Christmas bit. I don’t wanna wait till New Years or risk that you’ll forget, fail to mention it and sweep this back under the rug.” He dangles the mistletoe mockingly above their heads. “I’m all in baby! A Shane isn’t just for Christmas!” His smile is shaky and nervous and Ryan is endlessly endeared. He tugs him over the threshold and into his apartment before stepping into his space, leaning up on tiptoes.
“You can’t walk out on me now. Not with Greg and Phineas, our darling sons to think about.” Shane snorts, wrapping his arms around Ryan’s waist the mistletoe forgotten and dangling from his fingertips at the small of Ryan’s back.
“Ryan,” Shane whispers sultrily, “I want to have your Furbies.” Ryan throws his head back with a cackle. He’s still laughing even as he presses a kiss to Shane’s mouth, smiling against his lips and tasting nothing but peppermint and Christmas cheer.