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How to Befriend the Monster in Your Closet

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The dark laughter turned into something more natural, something more familiar: soft, low chuckling. Ryan knew whose laugh that was.

"Relax, human," Shane said fondly, releasing Ryan's waist to stroke down the sides of his arms comfortingly. "It's just me."

Ryan exhaled. He wasn't sure if he was more relieved or annoyed. That asshole almost gave me a heart attack. That gave him an idea. I'll show him.

And with that, Ryan gasped dramatically and clutched his chest.

Shane's hands stopped moving. "Ryan-?"

Ryan closed his eyes and went limp, falling backwards in a true trust fall. His guardian demon caught him, like he knew he would. "RYAN?!" He stumbled back with his hands under Ryan's armpits, struggling to right him in such a cramped space.

"Fuck!" Shane swore frantically. "Ryan, wake up!" He shifted to support Ryan's dead weight with one arm so he could feel around in the dark. "Where's the exit to this thing? Is this the wardrobe to fucking Narnia?!" Shane's breath hitched as he realized Ryan wasn't stirring.

"RYAN, YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW CPR! ALL I KNOW IS THE FREAKING HEIMLICH MANUEVER!" Ryan's mouth twitched. He was so close to losing it. "C'MON MAN, IF YOU DON'T WAKE UP RIGHT NOW YOU'RE GONNA HAVE TO GO LIPS-TO-LIPS WITH BRONT-"

Ryan burst out laughing. "Gotcha back, demon!" The arms around him fell away.

It was too dark to see, but Ryan could clearly picture Shane's appalled expression. "Not funny!"

Ryan was still cracking up. "No, you're right. It wasn't funny; it was hilarious! You were gonna Heimlich my heart attack away?"

"No, I said-"

"What exactly did you think I was choking on?”

"I'll give you something to choke on," Shane growled. "My foot!"

"Sure, I'm sooo scared," Ryan said while pushing past some coats. "Now, where's the exit?"

Shane stepped in front of him. "Oh, I don't think I can let you leave after that."

"Step aside, demon!"

The demon blocked his path.

"Hey!"

Ryan and Shane giggled as they each felt around for the exit. Ryan's hands slid over cold, flat walls, warm fleece, and the even warmer flannel of Shane's shirt. Shane's large hands did the same. His warm fingers skimmed over the bottom of Ryan’s shirt, making him shiver. His thumb even dared to brush the small patch of exposed skin at Ryan’s hip-

"Hey! You stepped on my foot!" Shane exclaimed. (Ryan had jumped involuntarily, because he just had to go and ruin the moment.)

"That was on accident."

"OW! You did it again!"

"THAT was on purpose,” Ryan laughed. Nothing like provoking the antichrist.

"Why you little... I'm gonna get you!"

Even though Ryan was quite literally backed into a corner, he wasn't afraid. "Like you'd ever hurt me."

Shane paused. "You're right; I wouldn't. But that doesn't stop me from doing this!"

Ryan squealed as his friend's long fingers tickled down his sides. He couldn’t stop himself from laughing as he squirmed to get away. He ended up with his back pressed to the nearest wall as a fucking demon fucking tickled him. (God, this story is ridiculous.)

That is, until the wall gave way beneath him.

Apparently, Ryan had been leaning on the door, which Brent had opened, sending the giggly boys sprawling onto the floor. Oof.

“Are you guys okay?!” Clavis rushed over to help.

"It's about time you two came out of the closet."

“What?” Ryan responded. “No, we were just-” What were they doing?

“We came over because we heard screaming,” Clavis explained as she helped Ryan up. “We were going to help, but then the yelling turned into giggling, so, um, we weren’t sure what you were doing in there...” She looked away with a blush.

If only.

“No, uh, I was scaring him,” Shane clarified, “to get him back for earlier.”

Brent raised his eyebrows. “Didn’t we agree scaring is wrong? And we’re not going to do it anymore?”

“Enough with the judgment, Baby Shower!”

“Especially to Ryan,” Clavis added, crossing her arms. “That’s not okay, Shane.” She looked as stern as her demon boyfriend now.

Shane’s face fell. “But I didn’t mean, um...”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Ryan interjected. “He was just being a little shit.” Ryan didn’t know why he felt the need to defend Shane, but he did. Why was it okay? He thought about it for a moment before coming to his conclusion: “There was no shapeshifting or bringing up childhood trauma or anything like that. Shane scared me... like a human.”

Even Shane looked surprised. No one spoke for a moment.

“If you’re sure you’re okay...” Clavis finally said.

Ryan nodded.


Clavis and Brent said their goodbyes with several hugs and promises to visit again soon. Only Ryan and Shane were left.

Shane rocked on his heels by the door. He couldn’t seem to look Ryan in the eyes.

“You okay, dude?”

“Yeah. Yeah I am.” Shane finally made eye contact. “Um, I wanted to apologize. They were right. I’m sorry, Ry. I wasn’t thinking about it like that, like a scare assignment for work. I didn’t mean... I guess I kinda, like, forgot what my job was for a bit?”

“That’s okay,” Ryan said gently, touching Shane’s arm. “It’s fine, it really is. I promise.” Shane didn’t respond. “I accept your apology, though,” Ryan added. “And I’m sorry, too. I scared you first, and then I took it too far with the fake passing-out. Sorry I made you worry.”

His best friend still looked uncomfortable.

“Shane?”

Shane shifted on his feet. “Um, I know we’ve talked about this vulnerability thing...”

Was he saying what Ryan hoped he was saying?

Shane exhaled. “I guess, what I’m trying to say, is I forget I’m a demon when I’m with you.”

Ryan was stunned. He wasn’t sure what to say. “Um, is that a good thing?”

Shane’s hazel eyes brimmed with a sadness that seemed too old for him. A pain that surpassed his 31 years. Ryan thought about the self-proclaimed “worst demon in Hell” in front of him. A scarer who doesn’t want to scare, but he’d never really had another choice. Does he have one now?

“I don’t know.”