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How to Befriend the Monster in Your Closet

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The next morning, Shane woke up refreshed and ready to become his best self. The Bergaras were damn inspiring people, and he was motivated to be Not An Asshole. He pulled on a black I'VE BEEN NAUGHTY sweater, which in hindsight, was clear foreshadowing.

Regardless, Shane bounded down the staircase and greeted the Bergaras with a big smile that grew even bigger when he discovered Steve had made pancakes! And eggs, and bacon, and cinnamon rolls... seriously, these people were amazing. Shane was happy to help clean up afterwards and chat with Ryan's parents while their sons dug out the snow gear from the basement.

Afterwards, Jake pulled Shane aside and mentioned Ricky was coming over again. Despite Jake's doubts, Shane was confident he could win Ricky over. He's charmed all of you, hasn't he? So when the doorbell rang, Shane braced himself and resolved to be kind and civil to the dude who tried to rat him out. Time to take the high ground.


The high ground lasted about thirty seconds.

Look, it's not Shane's fault this time! It’s really not!

Ding dong! The boys all crowded around the doorway to let their visitor in. Ricky stepped in, already dressed head-to-toe in red snowgear.

“Hi Ricky!” Shane said brightly. “How are you?”

Ricky crossed his arms. “Oh I’m pretty good! Thanks for asking, Satan.”

“...”

“SHANE MADEJ, YOU PUT YOUR FISTS DOWN THIS INSTANT!” Ryan yelled.

“HE CALLED ME MY FATHER, RYAN!” But Shane complied.

Ricky's eyes lit up. “Jake, did you hear that?! He just admitted his dad is the devil! What does that make him?”

Jake rolled his eyes. “It’s an expression, dude.”

"Uh, yeah," Shane clarified. "My dad's a douche, so I associate him with the devil."

Richard glowered.

"Hey guys, it's almost Christmas, and there's tons of snow outside, how about we try to, ya know, not kill each other and have fun?" Ryan suggested.

"Of course, Ry," Shane said sweetly.

"oF cOuRsE rY," Richard mimicked as the group made their way through the kitchen to the backdoor. Wow. Had Shane finally come across someone as petty as yours truly? He didn't know whether to be irritated or impressed.

He didn't have to decide, because any emotions towards Ricky vanished as soon as Shane stepped outside into his first snowfall. Tiny, white specks floated gently down from the sky, whirling all around them like that dumb snow globe on Beatlemania's desk. Jake and Ricky set off immediately to build a fort, but Shane stood there in stunned silence. Later on, he learned that's the thing about snow: if there's enough of it blanketing the ground, it absorbs soundwaves as effectively as God turning the volume down.

"Whoa."

Ryan's backyard was covered in sparkly, white frosting. The tiny ice crystals were too small to make out on their own, but together, they had a dazzling effect, reflecting the sunlight back at him from all angles. Shane had to squint in the bright light.

He was broken from his trance when something cold hit his nose, making him jump. He reached up to wipe it off, and was confused by the drop of water on his finger. That's not snow. "Ryan?"

He turned to see his human still at the doorstep, watching him in a way that was, terrifyingly, adoring. What would give anyone else butterflies sent chills down Shane's spine. Ryan's glowing smile highlighted the way his cheeks and nose were pink from the cold. Now, that's just unfair. He bounded over, leaving deep boot imprints behind him.

"You like it?"

"I love it! This is crazy!"

Ryan gave him another 10,000 watt grin before squatting down and scooping up a wad of snow and offering it to him. "Here."

Shane carefully took the strange material into his gloved hands, holding it as delicately as he would a baby bird. It was cold, of course, but it had this weird quality to it... The stuff was so lightweight, he barely felt like he was holding anything. Nature's Styrofoam. "Huh."

"Yo, check out our fort!" Jake called out from the back of the yard. They had somehow manipulated the snow like Play-Dough; the boys stood proudly behind a lopsided wall.

"Great job, guys!" Ryan yelled back. "We'll challenge you to a fight in a bit."

Shane looked back down at his hands and gasped. "Ryan!" he cried. "I'm so sorry; I broke it!" All that remained was a tiny puddle, sinking into his mittens.

Ryan laughed. "No, you didn't; don't worry. That's just what happens when snow comes into contact with your warm skin. It melts into its liquid form."

"Thank god. Can we fix it?"

"Not without a snow machine. But it's totally fine, big guy! We're not running out anytime soon."

Shane sighed in relief. Ryan Bergara really is the most forgiving human, isn't he?

"Wanna see something cool?" Ryan reached out to catch a snowflake. "Hold your breath for a second." He held up his black glove close to Shane's face.

Shane looked closely and had to repress a gasp when he noticed what Ryan was pointing out. An impossibly tiny crystal, frozen into a translucent symmetric shape with jagged edges, delicate and sharp at the same time. It was no wonder it fell from the sky; this intricate, twinkling little star was as dazzling as the ones above.

Ryan noticed his expression and grinned. "Pretty, huh? Snowflakes form when water molecules attach onto specks of dust in the atmosphere. The shape slowly takes form as the temperature changes up and down, so each one is unique! Every single one! They all have six points, though."

Shane was amazed. "You're telling me these aren't man-made?!"

At his exclamation, the snowflake immediately melted. Shane covered his hands with his mouth, knowing it was far too late. "Oh, no! I'm so sorry!"

Ryan laughed. "It's okay.” He frowned when Shane didn't respond. "Really buddy, it's fine..." He touched Shane's arm. "Hey, look at me, what's wrong?"

Shane sighed. It was a stupid thing to be sad about, but he knew Ryan wouldn't judge him for it. At this point, he trusts you won't make fun of him, either. "It was so pretty, and I destroyed it... There's never going to be another one like that again."

"Oh." Ryan had his thinking expression on. "Well, did they teach you about the water cycle in demon school?"

"Yeah, of course. We didn't learn about snow, though."

"That's fine; it works the same way. The snowflake you just melted? It's water now, which will eventually find its way back to a lake or stream. Once it's there, it'll evaporate and condense into clouds, and the next time it snows, it'll make another snowflake! So by destroying something, you were actually creating something new!"

That made Shane feel a little better. "But that doesn't change the fact that the first one's gone."

"Hmm. Well, snowflakes are really beautiful, right?"

Shane nodded.

"I think..." Ryan caught another snowflake and held it up. Shane held his breath carefully this time. "Sure, it's pretty aesthetically, but part of its beauty comes from how fleeting it is. It's only here for a moment. There was never a snowflake like this one before, and there'll never be another one like this again. If they were all the same and we got to keep them forever, I don't think we'd appreciate how special they are."

That was beyond cheesy, but Shane burst into a smile. "That's deep, Bergara."

Ryan nudged him playfully. "Don't look so surprised, Madej. I can be deep!"

"Mhmm." Now that today's existential crisis was over, Shane was back to enjoying his first snowfall. He inhaled. The air had a muted scent to it, crisp and clean, with just a hint of salt. But when he exhaled deeply...

"RYAN, LOOK!" he yelled excitedly, even though Ryan was right beside him. "I'M A DRAGON!" He exhaled again, delighted with the wisps of visible air tumbling out from his mouth up into the sky. He could see his breath!

Ryan laughed. "Wow, look at that! You sure are, big guy."

"Hey Ricky, are ya gonna accuse him of being a dragon, too?"

"Shut up, Jake."


Day turned into night without anyone really noticing. Time flies when you're in a winter wonderland with Ryan Bergara. “Hey Shane, wanna learn how to make a snow angel?”

The demon looked around in confusion. “You guys have those here?”

Ryan laughed. “No, not real angels! Here, I’ll show you.” The human flopped down on his back, waving his limbs in the snow like a spider that had fallen onto its back and couldn’t get up (Shane knew from experience.)

Shane put his hands on his hips as he stood over his human. “What on earth are you doing? You look like an idiot.”

"I told you, I'm making an angel! And you're gonna make one, too!" Apparently Shane had no choice; he yelped as Ryan sat up and yanked at his belt loops, sending him tumbling down on top of him. Shane had to brace his elbows on the snow to avoid totally crushing the puny human, who just giggled, either unaware or uncaring that he'd almost been squished by the antichrist.

Shane sat up, inadvertently straddling Ryan's hips in a suggestive position. His entire body had gone numb a while ago; all he could feel was the heat where the top of Ryan's thighs met his. "Y'know, we really need to stop meeting like this," he said with a smirk.

He only got to enjoy Ryan's blush for a moment before his mother was calling him inside. Ryan sat up on his elbows and turned his head. "Coming, mom!" He turned to Shane. "Alright, now get off me, demon."

"Hmm, I don't know if I should." Shane grinned wickedly as he leaned forward to press Ryan's upper body into the snow. "After all, you're the one who dragged me down here." Damn, what he'd do to have Ryan Bergara in this position in a different context.

"Ha ha... very funny..." When he couldn't sit up, Ryan wrapped his hands around Shane's wrists and tugged, only for his eyes to widen when his captor didn't budge. "What the fuck?" he said breathlessly. "You're-you're stronger than you look, bean pole."

Shane winked as he stood up and brushed the snow off his knees before helping Ryan up as well.

Ryan turned around, looking at the amorphous dent in the snow below them. "Uh, it usually turns out better than that, but we kinda ruined it."

"We ruined it?"

"Oh, whatever." Ryan's mother was calling him again, more insistently now. "Make your own while I'm gone. You'll see; it'll actually look pretty cool. Just do what I did!" he instructed before running off.

Shane crossed his arms. Did Ryan Bergara just expect him to follow his every command? Doesn't he know he's speaking to a prince?

Predictably, Shane got down on the ground and started making a snow angel. He didn't know what he was doing; the only thing he did know was he looked like a fool. Still, the soft, cool ground felt good against his back, and it was beautiful looking up at the snow fluttering down from the starry sky.

After a few minutes, Shane figured he'd flailed long enough. He got up to inspect his art. Huh, it really did look like an angel, with a dress, and wings, and... horns?! Shane didn't have horns! He gripped his head to double-check and only felt the fluffy pom-pom on the hat Jake lent him. Regardless, two horn-shaped indents were burned into the snow.

Ricky came up behind him. "Uh, Jake and I saw you earlier. Can you, like, not molest my friend in front of everybody?" He froze when he noticed the scorch marks. Shit.

"No, c'mon Ricky, please don't-"

The traitor cupped his hands around his mouth. "GUYS, COME LOOK AT THIS!"

All four Bergaras were headed their way. Shit, shit, shit. Ricky smirked at Shane's panicked expression. Fortunately, at the last moment, Shane had an idea: he kicked a pile of snow over the offending horns.

"What is it?" Jake asked Ricky.

Linda looked down and smiled. "Aww, Shane made his first snow angel! That's adorable!"

Steve grinned as he dug his phone out of his pocket. "We need to remember this! Shane, want to pose with your angel?" (Shane's angel was standing right beside them, actually.)

"Um, no thanks..." Shane smiled and stepped back awkwardly. "I'm, um, not comfortable with being in pictures." (Demons don't show up on camera, remember?)

"No worries, bud." Ricky frowned suspiciously and pointed his phone at Shane while Steve took a picture of the snow.

Shane held his hands up. "No, please don't-"

"RICKY!" Linda yelled so loud that both Steve and Ricky dropped their phones. "Didn't you hear what Shane said?! He doesn't like being photographed! How dare you try to make our guest uncomfortable? I should take your phone away!"

Yup, Shane would die for this woman.

Ricky picked up his phone sheepishly. "Um, no disrespect Mrs. Bergara, but I'm 28 and you're not my mother-"

"You're right, Ricky," Linda said in a dangerously sweet tone. "I'm not your real mother, so how about I call her? I'm sure Maria would love to hear about this."

"Oh jeez, Mrs. Bergara, please don't! I'm sorry, okay?"

Linda put her hands on her hips. "Why are you apologizing to me?" She turned around and gestured at Shane pointedly.

Ricky sighed. "Sorry, man." He winced as Linda's tirade continued. Steve, Jake, and Ryan slowly backed away into the house, apparently knowing nothing good can happen when Mrs. Bergara gets like this.

Behind her back, Shane's eyes went jet-black, demon style. Ricky noticed.

"MRS. BERGARA, LOOK WHAT HE'S DOING!"

Linda turned around to see Shane standing there innocently with bright hazel eyes. She turned back to Ricky. "Ricardo Lopez, you are getting on my last nerve-"

Over her shoulder, Shane's eyes went black again. He might've shot Richard a little wink.