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Teacher's Pet

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“Why did you stop?”

“The light’s not working.”

“Oh no!”

Despite his concerned exclamation, Ryan didn’t get up from his chair or even so much as lift himself off its comfortable back. Instead, he watched as the Professor disappeared behind the little stage and Shane lifted the curtain to examine the LED strip lights on the top of his new theater. As he reached up to touch them, a row fell down onto his hand. Shane looked at the lights and then at the camera before chiming, “technical difficulties!”

From behind the camera, Mark nodded and the little red recording light switched off.

Ryan leaned forward a little as Shane began taking curtains off the puppet theater. “You need help over there, big guy?”

“No, I guess I just forgot to secure this one down. It just needs a few screws and a bit of solder.”

Steven tsked and shook his head. “So unprofessional.”

Shane flipped the wooden theater box upside down and stepped out from his puppet workstation, his long legs easily maneuvering over the set’s few large props. “I won’t be five minutes. Everything I need’s in the van. Be right back.”

Ryan watched as Shane headed out the door, admiring Shane’s ability to roll with the punches while on set. His attention was quickly pulled back to the room as he heard another disapproving “tsk” from Steven.

“What?”

Steven tilted his head back slightly and side-eyed Ryan, as if he were speaking for the benefit of an audience. “We are now seeing your true colors, Ryan S. Bergara.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I never would have thought. You: a teacher’s pet.”

The accusation was so far off-base from any part of Ryan’s personality that it felt like it hit him with a physical force. “What?!”

Steven tsked for an imaginary audience again and shook his head. “I suppose you couldn’t hide it forever.”

“Me? A teacher’s pet?” Ryan asked, his eyes wide and his voice pitching higher than he would have liked, especially given Steven’s knowing smirk. “No. Now wait a minute here. What’s the point total so far?”

“I dunno. Shane’s keeping track of it, not me.”

“I’m losing, one to three. If anyone’s the teacher’s pet here, it’s you.”

“Nope, I’m the class clown.”

Ryan was appalled. “You wish you were the class clown. Every teacher’s pet thinks they’re the class clown.”

“I’ve been heckling him for the past twenty minutes. What have you been doing?”

“The same thing!”

“That is not true,” Steven said with a grin, putting his hand up before Ryan could contradict him. “When the Professor came out on stage I told him he looked like a Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street mashup. Do you remember what you said?”

“No. But probably something simil-”

“-‘I like your new hat,’” Steven said in a voice that Ryan guessed was supposed to be an imitation. “‘It looks so good on you, Professor.’”

Ryan looked to Mark for support but Mark was busy reviewing footage. “Well,” Ryan said, “That’s just one thing.”

“And then later,” Steven pressed on. “When he revealed that a lot of castration was recorded as a ‘pig attack’? I said ‘I wish I could go back to a time before I knew that.’ And you said, ‘That’s horrible, I love it.’”

Ryan rolled his eyes but started to feel his cheeks grow hot. “That’s called positive feedback. Shane and I give each other positive feedback sometimes.”

“Not to mention the constant flirting.”

“Look,” Ryan snapped. “How I talk to you and how I talk to Shane are very different. That doesn’t mean it’s flirting.”

“Giggling at every attempt at a joke. The compliments. Flirting,” Steven echoed. “Like a teacher’s pet.”

Ryan’s face scrunched like he just bit into something sour and he was unsuccessfully trying to hide it. “That’s… that’s not a teacher’s pet. That’s not what teachers’ pets do.”

“Yeah they do.”

“No they don’t.”

“Yeah they do.”

“You aren’t describing a teacher’s pet! You’re describing… I don't know the name for it. Someone who tries to seduce their teacher so they can get a better grade.”

“Isn’t that a teacher’s pet?”

“No!”

Steven shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “Well, maybe you should try that then. I mean, you’ve lost or tied every single History Cup last season.”

“That’s because I’ve been focusing on making sure that the guests are engaged. Shane can’t see what’s going on when he’s behind the screen. Or, at least, not very well. So I take a few Ls for the team.”

“Maybe you should take a D for the team. Know what I mean?”

Ryan stared at Steven in genuine shock. For as long as he had known him, Steven had always been the last to catch onto an innuendo and the first to blush. It was perhaps because of this that Ryan gave what Steven said the weight that he did. Coming from anyone else he would have shrugged it off, but in that moment he could almost see himself bent over Shane’s desk, books and papers tumbling to the floor with their movements. In Ryan’s mind there was the sound of metal drawers rattling as his imagined-self gripped the edge of the desk hard enough for his knuckles to turn white.

Ryan forced a laugh and shook his head, hoping that would dislodge the image. “Unbelievable.”

“Well, you should try,” Steven said. “I’m tired of seeing you lose every episode. Make an effort.”

“I’m not trying to lose,” Ryan snapped.

Steven smiled. “I bet if you start really flirting with him he’ll give you a point on the next fill-in-the-blank.”

"You don't know that there's going to be a -"

"-He always makes a fill-in-the-blank and we only had multiple-choice this episode," Steven said. "You just don't wanna bet because you know I'm right. Because you… are a teacher's pet."

"Okay, fine, what's the wager?"

"Other than history points?" Steven asked. "How about you wash my car in a wet t-shirt and let me post pictures on your Instagram?"

Ryan scoffed. "Whatever, creep. That's not even that creative."

Steven picked up his whiteboard marker and pretended to be very interested in the feather Shane had taped to it. "I mean, if you're scared to bet…"

"If I win you have to wear a Golden State jersey to the office every day for a week!" Ryan blurted out. "And keep it on for Watcher Weekly."

Steven gave Ryan a long, sideways glance before asking, "How do I know you're actually going to flirt? I think I should put up some penalty if you don't flirt enough. Or if you flirt like you did at the old city jail and just sort of thumb your bellybutton at him."

"I’ll actually flirt with him, but if it makes you feel better, fine; I'll give you twenty dollars if I don’t follow through enough, okay?"

"Fifty."

"I don't have fifty bucks on me! Besides, that's my money for lunch."

"And teachers' pets get their lunch money taken," Steven said, extending out a hand. "Deal."

Ryan shook on it and not a second later they heard Shane in the hall. “Wait, flirt with Shane or the puppet?”

Steven shrugged. “What’s the difference?”

“There’s a big-”

“-both.”

In that instant, Shane came back in, soldering iron and screwdriver in hand. Ryan wanted to sit back in his ornate chair in a way that was alluring but in a tasteful, subtle way; but in that moment he completely forgot how to and instead slouched into the back cushion and lightly rolled his hips. He heard Steven stifle a laugh and it took all of his self-restraint to keep from punching him in the shoulder.

“Back already, big boy?” Ryan asked. From the corner of his eye he could see Steven bury his face in his hand.

“I’m back,” Shane said, heading right for the upturned puppet theatre and seemingly nonplussed by the nickname. “This shouldn’t take long.”

Shane stepped back over the props and over to his puppeteering alcove.

“Such long legs,” Ryan commented.

“80% leg, Baby,” Shane said as he started plugging and unplugging things. “I’m like the Fresno Nightcrawler.”

Ryan wheezed a genuine laugh and immediately hated himself when he saw that neither Steven nor anyone on the crew had the same reaction. While Shane was turned away, Ryan undid a button on his shirt, showing off his chest and the ridge of his collarbone. “Do you need help?”

“Erm…” Shane picked up and put down his equipment a few times before finally saying, “Yeah, I think so.”

Ryan got to his feet, only looking back for a second to see Steven hide a smile behind his hand as his cheeks turned a bright pink. He discreetly flipped him off before carefully stepping around the props and back behind the table.

“Can you hold the set still for me?” Shane said, fishing a couple short screws out of his pocket. “It’s hard to get a good angle to fasten these things in place.”

“Of course,” Ryan said, taking a grip on the stage set. He watched as Shane carefully aligned the screws to hold a strip of LED lights in place. “You’re so handy.”

Shane made a soft little dismissive noise. “I’d hardly call this handiness.”

“This may not be, but that is,” Ryan said with a nod to the soldering iron.

“Soldering’s not hard,” Shane said. “You get a bit of lead and you heat it up until it melts. I’m not even connecting anything structural with it, I’m just making sure that the electrical connection is secure.”

Ryan shrugged. “Well, I’ve never done that before.”

This was, of course, a lie. When he was in college one of the first things he was instructed to do was to make his own microphone as part of his film class. But Shane didn’t need to know that.

“In that case,” Shane said, “would you like to hold the soldering wire for me?”

Ryan nodded and carefully let go of the stage as Shane handed him the spool of solder.

“Right here,” Shane said, pointing to the end of the LED strip and a thin wire that connected it to the other stage lights. “There won’t be much, I just need to make sure this connection is properly covered.”

“So, I put it like this?” Ryan asked, setting the wire in place.

“No, more like this.”

Shane’s hand closed over Ryan’s and guided him a few millimeters from where he was, taking his time as he made sure that it was exactly where he needed it. The longer Shane held onto him the more Ryan had to resist pulling away and the more his cheeks tingled with a heavy blush. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Shane to touch him, it’s that he never knew how to react when he realized that part of him enjoyed it. Shane’s hands were large, warm, and soft. For a moment Ryan thought of the handful of séances they had done together and how he was always afraid of what Shane would think if he held on for too long or too tightly.

“Good,” Shane finally said, letting go and soldering the electrical wire in place with a large, smooth bead of lead. “That’s it.”

“Oh.” Ryan handed the spool of solder back to Shane, embarrassed at how flustered he had become over a simple touch. Christ, he had known the man for years and they saw each other almost every day; there wasn’t any reason why doing something as simple as holding hands still had such an effect on him. “Do you need anything else?”

“No,” Shane said as he unplugged the soldering iron. “Thanks, though.”

“Nothing else I can do for you?” Ryan asked again, pitching his voice a little lower.

Shane turned to Ryan to repeat himself, but paused, his eyes now lingering on Ryan’s newly exposed chest. He smiled in a funny sort of way that made Ryan think that Shane was going to comment on it, but he ultimately said nothing and instead shook his head in answer to Ryan’s question.

Ryan turned back to the chairs and internally groaned when he saw Steven smiling dumbly at him. He sat back down and tried to ignore Steven as he got comfortable and Shane set the stage back up.

Steven leaned over the arm of his chair and whispered, “Hey, Ryan. Don’t forget t-”

“I know I need to flirt with the puppet too,” Ryan hissed back. “Although I honestly don’t know why.”

Steven grinned. “I was gonna say, ‘don’t forget that I expect you to clean my car’s tires too.’”

Ryan rolled his eyes but still settled back into place when the stage’s curtain rolled up and the lights came on.  

“We’re back!” the Professor said as he emerged from under the back curtain. “Where were we?”

“Right at the question,” Steven said.

“Although we can back up a few lines,” Ryan said. “It’ll be a smoother take. Besides, I like hearing you tell the story, Professor.”

“Oh! Why thank you, Ryan Bergara,” the puppet said. “Let me just… find my place here.”

Ryan scanned over the Professor, looking for something else to comment on before they went into the question. “Did you put new jellybeans in your satchel? It looks different.”

“I did! I refilled my jellybeans.”

“I’d love one of your jellybeans, Professor.”

“Sure. Help yourself,” the Professor said, looking up as Ryan approached the stage. “What about you, Steven? Do you want a jellybean?”

“No, thank you,” Steven said, leaning back in his chair. “I’ll get all the jellybeans I need when I win that history cup.”

“Ahh,” the Professor said with a tilt of the head. “Getting a little cocky now.”

“‘Little cocky’ is his middle name,” Ryan muttered under his breath as he took a jellybean. “Thank you, professor. I always love a jellybean.”

“I know you do.”

Ryan sat back down, munching on a jellybean. He leaned over to whisper to Steven, “Is that enough?”

Steven waved Ryan away. “Whatever. Keep your lunch money, nerd.”

“So where were we?” the Professor said, his voice making Ryan immediately sit at attention. “Ah yes, the career of Farinelli.

“Anyways, as can be presumed from his parade of fans who greeted him in England, he did quite well for himself at The Opera of the Nobility - despite that little rivalry with Handel that we were talking about. However, Farinelli did not stay in London long.

“In 1737 the great castrato was summoned to perform for the King of Spain, King Philip V. This not only terminated the contract, but it made things a little awkward, as England and Spain were at the brink of war at the time (one of the many trade wars that took place as both nations colonized the Americas). But, anyways, Farinelli’s little performance was such a success that he was able to stay on the royal court in Spain for twenty-two years.”

The screen behind the Professor turned red.

“Question time! What was the reason behind Farinelli’s initial summons to Spain? This is not multiple choice. Write down your answers now.”

Ryan tilted his head back and was about to wonder aloud what kinds of things people summon singers for, but Steven spoke first:

“Is this double points?”

“You want it to be double points?” the Professor asked. “I can make it double points.”

Ryan turned to Steven. “Why would you-”

Steven waved Ryan away again and scribbled down his answer. “Done.”

Ryan shrugged and wrote down the first thing that came to mind. “Me too.”

The red light turned off and the Professor looked out at Steven the best he could. “Steven Lim? What did you write?”

Steven turned his whiteboard to the camera. “I wrote ‘Wedding’ because, I dunno. It makes sense. You’re the king, the prince or princess is getting married. You wanna book the biggest name you can, right?”

“Sure. That tracks.”

“Now that’s interesting,” Ryan said as he turned his whiteboard around. “Because I went the other way. I wrote ‘Funeral.’ I don’t know why, but I always associate church music with kinda somber stuff and I thought ‘hey, we need someone to send this person off, let’s honor them by getting the greatest singer alive.’”

Steven leaned over. “He never said it was church music, though.”

Ryan swore under his breath. As much as he hated the thought of Steven gleefully arranging another photoshoot for him as a result of a lost bet, part of him genuinely wanted history points. He would never let Steven or Shane know, but it was frustrating to lose every single lesson the professor taught. By the end of last season, he was sure that Shane had it out for him.

“Interesting. Interesting,” the professor muttered as he considered the answers. “Well, it turns out that that ol' King Philip V of Spain suffered from what would today be referred to as severe depression. Allegedly, it would get so bad that he refused to leave his chamber for days (sometimes weeks) at a time.

“Queen Isabel de Farnesio, who was probably tired of running the country by herself, decided to hire Farenelli. Apparently, at the time, castrati were understood to have voices so beautiful that they could cure depression. Farenelli sang outside the king’s chambers and when he had finished the king offered the singer anything he could desire; to this, Farinelli said that he only wanted the king to ‘get up, shave, and take his place again as the head of state.’”

“Oh,” Steven said, cleaning off his whiteboard. “So nobody gets points.”

Shane made a pensive sound to catch their attention. The Professor stared at them, his mouth slightly open in thought before saying, “I’m giving the points to Ryan.”

“What?” Steven said, turning to Ryan in mock disbelief.

“Although there isn’t always an outside trigger for this kind of depression,” the Professor said, “I’m sure his condition was exacerbated by the death of his son, Louis, who he had already entrusted with the throne. Plus, funerals: very depressing occasion.”

“But wow,” Steven said in a monotone, still looking at Ryan. “Congratulations, Ryan. Two history points from that. Two nice, clean, shiny, freshly-waxed history points.”

“‘Waxed’?” the Professor repeated.

Ryan felt his cheeks burn as he remembered the details of the bet again. “Yeah, I don’t know what he means by that either.”

“Anyways,” the Professor continued. “Farinelli stopped performing publicly while he was employed by King Philip V. However, he did use his position on the royal court to encourage the development of opera companies in Spain and some even credit him as basically being responsible for bringing Spain into the Baroque era.

“Unfortunately, even though Farinelli had a relatively long tenure on the court, his and Spain’s breakup was pretty brutal. This next scene involves Farinelli, King Charles III, and the exiled Elisabetta Farnese.”

The Professor disappeared behind the stage and Ryan turned back to Steven.

“That was a fluke,” Ryan whispered.

Steven grinned. “My Tesla’s gonna be so clean.”

“No! I’m not a teacher’s pet! This doesn’t prove anything.”

“Don’t be a sore loser.”

“Double or nothing,” Ryan offered, leaning over to Steven’s chair. “I am not a teacher’s pet. I am not good at history. I will absolutely either tie or lose, just like I did every lesson before this.”

“So, by ‘double or nothing’ you mean I would do two weeks in a Golden State jersey? No deal.”

“A week in the jersey and the Watcher Weekly recording in a full uniform,” Ryan said. “And I… I dunno… I’ll wax your car and wear a speedo or something.”

“Fine. Deal,” Steven said, extending a hand.

Ryan shook it. “I think you agreed to that far too fast, but okay, fine.”

Ryan straightened back up as the curtain lifted, but he could barely focus on the skit. With Steven asking for double points it brought the score up to a tie. To be honest, he couldn’t care less about washing Steven’s car; he didn’t think it was remotely as humiliating as he would have several years ago. And part of him did genuinely want to come out with the most history points one of these lessons. However, it was the prospect of being labeled as a “teacher’s pet” that got to Ryan. He had never in his life been a teacher’s pet and he sure as hell wasn’t about to start now.

If Steven lost the bet then maybe he would drop the whole “teacher’s pet” angle. With Steven there was always the risk that he would try the same bet again, and that would just have to be a bridge that Ryan would cross when he came to it. However, if Ryan lost the bet then he knew he would never hear the end of it. Steven would bring it up whenever they competed anywhere else; and, outside of Watcher, competing is almost all they did. It would be relentless. Hell, maybe Steven would even drag Shane into it. Maybe the Professor would call him his “pet” or “star pupil” the next season and then Ryan would never be able to escape that reputation.

Ryan had to win the bet. He had to make sure that he somehow either lost or tied. Perhaps if anyone else was writing these questions, it would be easy enough to throw his final answer so he would lose. However, Shane had a particular way of writing questions where every single answer sounded equally wrong and equally right at the same time. Nearly every question was a crap-shoot.

“And that was the life of Farinelli,” the Professor said, the conclusive tone of his voice drawing Ryan’s attention away from his thoughts. “Interesting guy and often seen as the first ‘diva’ in the opera world, if only because of his incredible fame and influence.

“Not long after Farinelli passed, castrati began to fall out of favor. There are numerous reasons for this that varied from culture to culture. However, one of the major factors was Europe’s shifting view of gender, with more people viewing it as a binary instead of that spectrum of ‘heats’ we talked about earlier. So the castrati were no longer seen as the sexual beings who lay directly at the center of a spectrum, but they instead became men who did not fit the molds of masculinity and were therefore not held in high regard; which is just toxic if you ask me.

“It’s no surprise that, around this time, composers stopped writing roles for castrati and their voices were no longer seen as the valuable and rare instruments they once were. This in mind, I’ll ask my final question: When did the last castrato die? A: 1855; B: 1899; or C: 1922.”

Ryan shook his head. They all sounded like they could be right and they all sounded like they could be traps crafted to sound right. Picking one at random would still be a 33% chance that he would lose the bet and, again, that was the last thing he could ever want to happen.

Ryan’s eyes widened as he realized what he needed to do.

They were currently tied. The agreement was that if Ryan lost or tied then he would win the bet.

He had to cheat.

Careful to not be too conspicuous, Ryan stretched against the back of the chair and tried to catch a glimpse of Steven’s whiteboard. Not able to see it clearly, Ryan craned his neck and leaned just a little closer. Just enough to see over Steven’s shoulder. Just enough to make out the curve of the letter-

“Ryan Bergara!” the Professor shouted at him. “Are you looking at Steven’s answer?”

“No!” Ryan said, immediately settling back down into his chair.

“Yes you were!” the Professor said. “I saw you!”

“I-”

“-Get over here! In front of the stage. Right now.”

The Professor’s voice sounded more like Shane than the puppet in that moment and Ryan felt his cheeks sting with a humiliated blush. Still, he got up and went before the stage, awkwardly kneeling so he and the professor were eye-level.

“Bergara,” the Professor said. “I know you don’t always take my lessons seriously. Oh, you have your fun little jokes. You like talking to your classmates. You heckle the musical guests. For the most part, that doesn’t bother me. I may have thought you lacked academic enthusiasm, but I never for a moment thought that you lacked integrity.”

Ryan looked away. He was getting chewed out by a puppet. Before that moment, he would have thought that he would be laughing at the absurdity of this. However, there was something about the Professor’s blank stare and the harsh edge to Shane’s voice that made this feel much worse than it had any right to be. It wasn’t actual school, the history points didn’t actually mean anything, but in that moment everything was painfully real and a knot tied in his throat as he grew genuinely upset.

“I am very disappointed in you, Ryan Bergara.”

There it was.

“He was betting,” Steven piped up, the sing-song tone to his voice demonstrating that he clearly thought this was all hilarious.

“Betting?” the Professor asked, lifting slightly to address Steven. “What was the bet?”

“I bet that he would win and he bet that he would lose or tie,” Steven said. “If I win then he washes my car and if he wins I have to wear a Golden State jersey for a week.”

“It wasn’t just ‘wash your car’ it was-”

“Ryan Bergara,” the Professor said. “You bet against yourself?”

Ryan looked down again and nodded, saying “yes” when he realized that Shane might not be able to see that. He considered pointing out that Steven also bet against himself, but decided not to comment on that any more.

“I see,” the Professor said. “Well then, congratulations, Ryan Bergara: you lost. In cheating, you have sacrificed all of your history points to Steven. In addition to this, you have also lost your bet; I mean, as far as I’m concerned and as far as Steven’s concerned. If you want to continue being in my class I expect you to fulfill your end of the bet. Am I understood?”

Ryan nodded. “Yes, Professor.”

“Now sit back down.”

Ryan's cheeks were burning by the time he returned to his seat. Steven grinned up at him, looking smug as he sat back and crossed his legs. 

"And, obviously, I will be giving this last history point to Steven," the Professor said. "It's not like I'll need to tally the scores, but I did book a musical guest and-"

"Wait. What was the answer?" Ryan asked. 

"Oh… it's 'C,'” the Professor said. “The last known castrato was Alessandro Moreschi- 1858 to 1922. He was the only castrato to ever have been recorded, but I'm not going to play it because he was a mediocre singer at best. Also, there were some singing techniques from the late 1800s that he utilized that sound kind of strange today; they're more of an artifact of the time as opposed to a hallmark quality of castrati. Plus, they had him singing opera, and he sang mass in the Vatican. Really, a lot of things about that recording were a raw deal for poor Alessandro."

"Sucks," Steven said.

“Yeah. Well, not every singer can be Farinelli. With quite a few castrati it was a bit of a crap shoot if the operation would even affect their voice. It’s unfortunate how things ended up for Moreschi after he made that kind of a gamble,” the Professor said in a way that made Ryan think he was still scolding him. “Anyways, that concludes our history lesson. I… I won’t really need that much time to tally up the scores, but please enjoy this performance from our special guest: a pair of scissors from Italy in the 16th Century.”

Ryan tried to give Shane’s performance the response he usually did – somewhat disapproving, somewhat amazed, somewhat haunted by Hotdaga flashbacks. It at least gave him something to focus on other than the guilt that gnawed at him. It was a damn foolish thing to worry about and an even more foolish thing to get in trouble over. But knowing that wasn’t enough to make Ryan feel much better. Shane may have been doing a bit earlier, and Ryan hoped that’s all it was, but there was something in his voice that made Ryan think he was genuinely upset.

The sooner filming could end the better.

The song ended and Ryan half-heartedly joined Steven in applause. A few seconds later, the curtain rose and the professor appeared on stage again.

“Wow! Another fantastic song!” the Professor said. “What a great singer!”

Ryan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, not having the energy to yell at Shane for complimenting himself once again.

The Professor continued. “Well, it seems… like Steven Lim is our History Master with an unprecedented seven history points. Steven, please come up and claim the coveted History Cup.”

Steven got to his feet and collected the tiny plastic trophy filled with jellybeans. “I’ve earned this,” he said. “Probably the best trophy I’ve ever won. My car already feels cleaner.”

“Well, thank you for watching Puppet History, we will see you next time. Thank you for joining us, Steven. And Ryan… Ryan, see me after class.”

Ryan nodded. “Yes, Professor.”

Steven gloated for the cameras until Shane got to his feet, signaling Mark to stop recording.

“Is Friday good?” Steven asked. “For cleaning my car, I mean.”

Ryan rolled his eyes. “Fine. Now I just need to figure out where the hell I can buy a speedo.”

“I’ll get the car wax,” Steven said. “And hey, make sure you do it right. I don’t think the Professor will like it if you don’t do a good job.”

“Fine,” Ryan bit back. “I just want to know that you can plainly see that I am not a teacher’s pet. A teacher’s pet would never get called out like that.”

Steven nodded. “Alright. I guess you were right on that.”

“Good.”

Shane spoke up from behind the puppet theater. “Ryan, the Professor said he wanted to see you after class and he meant it.”

Ryan groaned inwardly and Steven laughed.

“Enjoy detention, Bergara,” he said as he got up. “I’m gonna head out early for lunch. See you back at the office.”

Ryan grumbled his goodbye and dragged himself to his feet, stretching. He approached the stage again but stopped when Shane beckoned him back into his puppeteering alcove. Careful not to bump into the props around the stage, Ryan joined Shane behind the puppet theater.

Shane half-looked up from his laptop as he closed things down for the day. “Do you want to tell me the details of your bet with Steven or do I have to ask him?”

Ryan leaned against the wall and looked around at the puppets, all laid out on the table. “I have to wash and wax his car wearing nothing but a speedo and a t-shirt and he gets to post pictures of it to my Instagram.”

“Because he bet you would win but I made you sacrifice your end of the bet. I get that.” Shane closed his laptop and put it in his suitcase. “What I don’t get is why you would bet you would lose or tie. Do you think it’s a safe bet? Have you been making this bet every time?”

“No!” Ryan rubbed at his face. “God, this is gonna sound so stupid.”

“Try me.”

“I did it to prove to him that I’m not a teacher’s pet,” Ryan said. “And I thought that, if I lost, that that would be the best way to do it.”

Shane stared blankly up at Ryan.

“He said that you give me special treatment sometimes,” Ryan continued. “And that… and… oh god it really does sound stupid, doesn’t it?”

Shane sighed and got to his feet. He picked up the Professor and fit him onto his hand, taking a few seconds to adjust before he made the Professor speak to Ryan.

“You know, Ryan Bergara, there’s no shame in being smart.”

“That’s not it,” Ryan said, not sure if he should address Shane or the puppet. “It’s that he thinks you only give me points because I’m your favorite or something. I mean, that’s not what he said, but it’s what he meant.”

“I don’t play favorites. Whatever points you got you earned. It’s a shame that you felt like sacrificing them by deciding to cheat.”

“I won’t do it again,” Ryan said. “I know you worked really hard on this and I’ll take it more seriously next time, I promise.”

“That’s good to hear.”

Shane put the puppet down and started packing up the rest of his stuff. From across the room Ryan could hear the camera boxes click as Mark sealed them closed. There wasn’t much time left in that room before they had to leave for the day; before conversations shifted to editing and whatever they would talk about for their next podcast. He needed to strike while the iron was hot.

“I need a tutor,” Ryan blurted out.

Shane looked over at Ryan for a second before putting the Professor back on his hand and saying, “I don’t really give tutor-able lessons. How well you do on questions are based on how good you are at guessing or how well you are able to apply what you know about general history. I can’t help you with the former and I don’t even know where to begin with the latter.”

“Oh,” Ryan said, feeling very foolish. “Of course.”

“However,” the Professor continued, “maybe my teacher’s assistant will be able to help you out. What do you think, Shane?”

“Well,” Shane said to the puppet, “I might have an idea. I mean, I can’t give too much of a preview for the lesson tomorrow. However, I think that if I can find a Netflix documentary on what we’re covering… you can ‘happen’ to watch it tonight at my place.”

“Your place?” Ryan asked, his cheeks beginning to sting with a blush again.

“Yeah,” Shane said. “Then I can give you a little quiz afterwards. How does that sound for a tutoring session?”

Ryan smiled. As often as he had been seeing Shane ever since they started Watcher, it felt like ages since they properly hung out together. “I’d like that.”

“Splendid!” the professor said. “You two shall have your lesson and I’ll stop by later to evaluate.”

Ryan wheezed and shook his head, but there was a certain persistence in Shane’s voice that prompted Ryan to concede. Perhaps it was Shane’s playful nature or perhaps it was how invested he could become in his more absurd projects; either way, Ryan decided to go along with it. Shane’s face brightened with his smile and Ryan instantly knew that that was the reason why he agreed to what he did.  

“Great,” Shane said, setting the puppet down into his suitcase. “I’ll see you at seven? I wasn’t planning on dinner so…”

“Seven’s fine.”

Ryan’s phone buzzed loudly in his pocket and he quickly slapped his hand over it, as if that could silence the humming drone. Shane looked disapprovingly down at Ryan’s hand before glancing back up into his eyes.

“You didn’t turn off your phone for the recording?”

“I forgot,” Ryan said as he fumbled it out of his pocket. It was just a text from Steven. “At least it didn’t go off earlier.”

“You’re lucky the professor wasn’t here for that. Then you really would have been in hot water.”

“Well,” Ryan said with a shrug as he looked back up at Shane and took a small step closer. “You wouldn’t tell him about that, would you?”

“I think we can keep that our little secret,” Shane said, his cheeks slightly pink. “Just make sure it doesn’t happen tonight.”

“It won’t.” Ryan cleared his throat and stepped back, looking around the little alcove. “You need any help or?”

“No, I got this,” Shane said. “I mean, it’s not too technical back here. I can handle it. You go get lunch and I’ll meet you back at the office.”

Ryan nodded and stepped over the props and into the room, all the camera equipment already removed. Before he walked out, Ryan stole one last look at Shane, who seemed to have been watching him in return. Shane quickly turned back to his work as he rolled up the curtains for the stage and busied himself with finishing packing the suitcase. Ryan smiled as he walked into the hall and checked his messages.

from [steven]

how’s detention? if you were a real teacher’s pet you probably would have found a way to get all of the answers for tomorrow’s episode already ;)

Ryan rolled his eyes and shoved the phone back into his pocket. However, judging by how flustered Shane could get when they were alone together and how willing he was to invite Ryan over, perhaps Steven wasn’t as far-off as Ryan first thought. In fact, he began to realize, if he just thought of the right way to ask, Shane might simply give him the script for tomorrow. And it would be an understatement to say that Ryan was tired of losing Puppet History every episode.

As he got into his car, he began planning exactly how he could pull this off.


***

Ryan looked over himself in the reflection on the glass door at the entrance of Shane’s apartment building. He was slightly uncomfortable and dressed in clothes he hadn't worn or even seen in a while. The shirt was just a little too sheer, Ryan’s dark nipples visible through the white fabric. Ryan bought his slacks sometime before he started working out regularly, so they were now tight around the muscle. Back in Ryan’s apartment when he got dressed he thought he looked good, but now it just sort of looked like his clothes didn’t fit correctly and he didn’t know how to dress himself.

Ryan hit the bell for Shane’s apartment and was buzzed in. In the short walk down the hall he thought about his plan and how absurd it sounded in the bright lights of the building’s hallway. Did he get this idea from a fucking sitcom? Why the hell did he think this would work? Ryan groaned and rubbed his face in his hands. As much as Ryan wanted to win the History Cup at least once, he knew that what he was doing was ridiculous. In his head, he pulled the plug on all of it, although it was too late for him to go back and change clothes into something, anything, other than this.

Ryan knocked at Shane’s door.

“Just a normal visit,” Ryan muttered to himself as he waited for Shane to answer. “Just a normal visit where we watch some Netflix and chat and then you go home. Nothing more. Goddammit don’t make it weird, Ryan. You’ve already made things weird enough today.”

Shane opened the door and gave Ryan a pleasant smile that quickly faded as his eyes trailed down Ryan’s body.

This wasn’t the first time Shane had given him that look. Back when they were filming on-location for the Forest Fenn episode Ryan had directed Shane to look at him like Shane “couldn’t believe what a nerd he was” when they did their cosplay reveal. But that wasn’t what happened. There was something about Ryan’s outfit that rendered Shane entirely speechless; and there was something about the way Shane looked at him that made Ryan begin to ramble on awkwardly, trying to pull some conversation from the stupefied man in front of him. Shane had given Ryan that look again when the crew left after a long day of filming and they were alone together in the motel room. Ryan’s clothes were already disheveled from the long hike, but, if the disappointed hum from Shane after Ryan had changed into his sleep clothes was any indication, Ryan knew Shane wouldn’t have been satisfied until that entire Indiana Jones cosplay was in a crumpled heap on the floor.

“I, erm,” Ryan stammered, suddenly very unsure of what to do with his hands. “I’m ready for my history lesson.”

Shane smiled and forced a laugh. He scratched at the side of his nose as he looked Ryan up and down again before saying, “Yeah.”

Ryan cleared his throat, a heavy blush burning his cheeks. “May I come in?”

“Oh! Sure. Of course.”

Shane stepped aside and Ryan walked into the familiar apartment. Ryan had lost track of the number of times he had sat back on Shane’s couch to watch some Marvel movie or another, or maybe some obscure title that Ryan had never heard of, or an old Hollywood classic that Shane had never gotten around to seeing; all while eating a large bowl of freshly-made popcorn. The popcorn was on the coffee table, where it usually was, and the television screen read Rasputin: Man and Myth.

“Rasputin?” Ryan read.

“Know anything about him?” Shane asked as he closed the door and led Ryan to the couch.

“Other than ‘Ra-Ra-Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine’? Not really.”

“He had an interesting life,” Shane said, picking up the controller. “And an interesting death. I’ll get you started and right now I think I’ll have a beer, do you want one?”

Ryan nodded and settled into the couch as the video started to play. The image came up on empty, snow-covered fields and barren trees under a gray sky. The winter wind moaned over shot after shot of a small village, empty except for the occasional movement just barely visible behind closed blinds.

“Pokrovskoye,” the narrator said, “in what is now the Yarkovsky District of Tyumen Oblast, Russia. Western Siberia. It is perhaps appropriate that in this space, at the time so far apart from the rest of the world, that the strange Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was born. He was born on the 21st of January, 1869, on a day that was not too unlike what we see here.”

As the narrator continued Ryan had a hard time placing his accent. It had the cadence of a British documentarian, the matter-of-factness of an American, the perfect pronunciation of a Russian, and perhaps most notably, a droning monotone of a washing machine. Barely two sentences in and Ryan’s eyes already began to glaze over, his senses numbed by the constant sigh of wind over a white landscape.

Shane walked back into the living room, two beers in hand as he sat down beside Ryan. As he did, Ryan looked down at the small clock just under the television and nearly sobbed when he saw that only a minute had passed.

“Did I miss anything?” Shane asked.

Ryan pointed at the screen. “That’s Pokriv… Porkrahv… Par… that’s where Rasputin was born. Siberia. In 16-1860something.”

“See? You’re learning already,” Shane said with a nod as he settled into the couch, sipping his beer.

Ryan turned his attention back to the screen, the narrator now talking about the population of Pokrovskoye in 1869 as the images of snow faded into black and white photographs of men in heavy clothes, somberly drinking. A relief etching of horses in winter. A painting of the same village that was just filmed a few minutes ago, the buildings faded and gray. Ryan knew nothing about Rasputin, but the editor in him kept looking for ways to make the documentary at least more visually interesting.

Occasionally, Ryan remembered that he was there for a history lesson and tried to pay attention. Unfortunately, this was usually when the narrator had a lull in the script and the screen was nothing but snow and soft music. By the time the narrator started up again, Ryan had already lost interest.

“Can you?”

Ryan snapped out of his bored stupor and looked up at Shane, who gestured to the bowl of popcorn. He nodded, picked up the bowl, and set it between them, the bowl awkwardly tilting on the couch. Not wanting the popcorn to spill, Ryan moved closer to Shane so the bowl could balance between their legs. They shifted awkwardly in the new position, knees and elbows bumping against each other until finally Shane lifted his arm and draped it over the back of Ryan’s shoulders.

For a second, Ryan froze. Just like when Shane held his hand earlier, Ryan’s mind fogged with a vague panic. Ryan was always afraid that he was reading too much into little touches, but with the way Shane looked at him earlier, perhaps he wasn’t. He looked up at Shane, who was watching him, studying him.

“Is this alright?” Shane asked.

Ryan nodded and leaned into the half-embrace, his head against Shane’s shoulder. Shane laughed a soft, surprised, “oh” before relaxing into their new position.

The images on the screen changed to pictures of Russian Orthodox cathedrals as the narrator continued on. Ryan sipped at his beer and stared at the screen, his mind too preoccupied for him to consider the history he was supposed to pay attention to.

There was a time when Ryan would have resisted and tried to distance himself from what he felt towards Shane as much as he could. It was practically second-nature back when he was particularly concerned with how other people perceived his sexuality. But that part of his life had long melted away, thanks in no small part to Shane’s persistent affection and confidence in their friendship. There was no denying that Ryan was more content with himself now, but it did leave him with an uncertainty surrounding moments like this.

If any other man had his arm around him and made him feel this way, Ryan would have made a move. Ryan liked to think that, if he would be rejected, he would take that rejection in stride and move on. 

However, Shane wasn’t just any man.

Ryan didn’t know what would happen if Shane didn’t want this. The thought of Shane never looking at him the same way again terrified Ryan. Sometime over these past few years, Ryan had built his life on the foundation of their relationship and, if that crumbled, everything could come crashing down.

If given the choice, Ryan would prefer silently aching for Shane over that. Both futures were so bitter and certain that Ryan didn’t even let himself think of that other possibility: that this could ever be reciprocated.

That was why, after the popcorn bowl was empty and Shane set it aside, Ryan had an incredible jolt of panic as soon as Shane rested his hand on Ryan’s knee. Ryan coughed and fumbled his beer bottle, spilling the contents onto his shirt before he managed to catch it.

“Shit.”

Ryan set the nearly-empty bottle down on the coffee table and bolted to the kitchen. He grabbed a wad of paper towels off the roll, thankful for the distraction as he tried to dry off his clothes. The wet fabric turned translucent and Ryan swore quietly, trying to sop up as much of the beer as he could. The narration paused in the living room and Ryan immediately turned his back to the archway and kept wiping at his clothes as Shane walked in.

“Are you alright?” Shane asked. “I didn’t mean to startle you like that.”

“‘S fine,” Ryan said, still not turning to face Shane.

“Do… erm… do you want me to throw that in the laundry for you?”

Ryan sighed, knowing that even if he were able to clean it off he would still smell like beer all night. “I… maybe.”

“Or I could just hand-wash it in the bathroom sink. It’ll only take a few minutes.”

Ryan hesitated. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

“Not at all,” Shane said, stepping past Ryan and down the hallway. “I’ll get you something to wear in the meanwhile.”

Ryan nodded, even though Shane had already left the room, and leaned back against the kitchen counter. What he was feeling he hadn’t felt since the night after that Forest Fenn shoot. He had never been so tempted to tell Shane what was going on in his head until that night. Hell, as Ryan lay on his back in that little motel room part of him just wanted to climb into Shane’s bed, ready with some excuse about night terrors in case Shane wasn’t actually interested. Ryan wasn’t even entirely sure what he wanted to do with Shane. He wanted Shane to take the lead and tell him, “You want it sitting on my lap on the edge of the bed.” Ryan had palmed himself through his sweatpants that night, stopping before he stooped so far as to start masturbating in front of Shane. Looking back on it, Ryan wasn’t proud of himself for rubbing his cock even slightly while he thought about the man lying in the bed next to his – as if Ryan had neither the self-control nor the common sense to wait until he was alone.

Shane came back and Ryan tried to push the memory from his head, but it lingered. Everything he felt that night was still there, hanging in the air between him and Shane.

“There’s this,” Shane said, one of his red flannel shirts draped over his arm. “I don’t know if this will fit or be too big on you or…”

Ryan shrugged. “Well. Let’s find out.”

Ryan began to unbutton his shirt but paused as he looked up to see Shane quickly face away, his cheeks a bright pink. Once again Ryan found himself staring down the very real possibility that this was something that Shane wanted too. It was this that made Ryan want it all the more, despite the fear of one night potentially ruining not only their friendship, but everything they had made together. It was so tempting. Tempting enough for Ryan to think he would be a fool to let opportunity after opportunity pass him by.

He stepped back into Shane’s line of sight, unbuttoned his shirt, and shrugged it off his shoulders. The thin fabric slid down Ryan’s arms, loose as it fell off him only for Ryan to grab it by the collar before it could hit the floor. He straightened up and tried to flex his chest as much as he could, as much as he would have if there were a camera pointing at him.

“Oh,” Shane said, smiling in that sweet, playful way that made the corners of his eyes crinkle even as the bridge of his nose flushed. He took the shirt as Ryan handed it to him and offered him the flannel. “Here.”

Ryan pulled on Shane’s flannel but didn’t button it up, instead looking down at how the oversized clothes draped over him. Shane loosely wadded Ryan’s shirt in his hands, his eyes lingering on Ryan’s chest and the ridge of his exposed collarbones.

“I’ll… erm…” Shane cleared his throat and took a small step back, quickly meeting Ryan’s eyes before staring back down at the shirt in his hands. “I’ll get this cleaned for you. You can start the documentary up again.”

Ryan nodded. “Oh, um… may I have something to drink?”

“Another beer?”

Ryan arched his back as he stretched and pretended to take his time considering his options. “Was thinking something stronger.”

“There’s bourbon under the sink,” Shane said, nodding towards the cabinets. “I don’t know if you are thinking of anything elaborate or…”

“Bourbon’s fine,” Ryan said as he opened one of the cupboards and took down a tumbler. “I’ve got this. Do you want one?”

“N-no. I’m fine,” Shane said as he stepped backwards out of the kitchen. “I’ll make myself something later. You just get back to the documentary.”

Ryan nodded and smiled as he watched Shane steal one last glance at him before turning and heading down the hallway to the bathroom. Once he was alone he paused, nuzzled his face against the soft fabric wrapped around him, and breathed deep. He thought he smelled it when he reached for the glass and now there was no mistaking it; the shirt was scented with Shane’s cologne. Shane didn’t wear it often; usually Ryan was able to smell it on him when they went out for a night of drinking or to a formal meeting. It was a rich scent, earthy and warm. What’s more, this shirt didn’t smell like a strong cologne that lingered after a wash. Instead, it smelled new; freshly applied.

Ryan fished a couple ice cubes out of the freezer and poured himself a drink. As he poured the bourbon and returned it to its place under the sink, Ryan kept pausing to breathe in Shane’s cologne. Ryan was sure he was overthinking this, but he couldn’t deny the intimacy of Shane making sure that his cologne was so new on his shirt that it would rub off onto Ryan’s skin. So even when Ryan returned home he would still think of Shane.

Although Ryan knew he should get back to the documentary, instead he took several long sips of his bourbon before he set it down on the counter and followed the sound of rushing water.

Shane was in the bathroom, standing over the sink with Ryan’s shirt half-submerged in soapy water. Shane's sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and there was a little splotch of water on the front of his t-shirt. He either didn’t notice Ryan watching him from the door or pretended not to, focused on scrubbing at the beer spill. Shane’s large hands kept disappearing and reappearing under Ryan’s shirt- turned translucent in the water. Through the thin fabric, Ryan could see the outline of Shane’s long, slender fingers and the defined ridges of the tendons and veins that ran down the back of his hand.

Shane looked up at Ryan for a second before saying, “You don’t need to wait for me.”

Ryan shrugged and stepped into the bathroom. “I came here to watch the documentary with you.”

Shane laughed hoarsely, the sound not mocking and most likely from a lack of words. He scrubbed at the shirt a little harder. “You know,” he said. “You should wear more red. I like that color on you.”

Ryan looked down at himself, Shane’s flannel still wide-open; the larger cut of it draping awkwardly over his arms. He gave Shane the sort of smile that let him know that he knew Shane wasn’t looking at his clothes. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, I- ope.” Shane looked down as he accidentally sent the scrubbing brush he had set on the edge of the sink tumbling to the floor.

Shane stooped down to pick it back up and the moment was nothing short of serendipitous. For all the flirting that Ryan had planned to do that night, there was one setback he had to acknowledge: it is very hard to steal a kiss from someone a full head taller than him. Without stopping to analyze it any further, Ryan took advantage of the moment Shane had half-bent over and closed the distance between them. The kiss was soft and on the cheek, his hand reaching up to cradle Shane’s face along his jaw. The rough stubble of Shane’s beard scraped against his lips and fingertips, abrasive but not so much that Ryan wanted to pull away. However, as Shane froze Ryan did take a step back, his confidence immediately crumbling.

For a few seconds that seemed to stretch on for far too long Shane stared at Ryan, his eyes wide and mouth slightly agape.  Ryan felt his cheeks begin to burn again and he drew in a shaking breath, not sure if he should speak or just run away. He was about to come up with some half-assed excuse for doing what he did when Shane moved closer and kissed him in return. Shane kissed his cheek, but his lips landed closer to the corner of his mouth. An involuntary “oh” came out of Ryan’s lips as Shane’s warm hand, wet from the laundry, lightly caressed along the side of his neck.

When the kiss ended Shane didn’t pull away. The two of them stood there in silence, listening to the sound of each other’s needy breaths and the drip of the sink’s faucet. Ryan hesitantly reached up, ready to stop as soon as Shane looked even slightly uncomfortable. He laced his fingers into Shane’s soft, thick hair and held him still. With only the slightest turn of his head, Ryan was able to bring their lips together. Shane’s mouth was warm and soft, his kiss gentle. Adoring. Shane hummed contentedly into it, his thumb lightly rubbing over the sensitive patch of skin right under Ryan’s ear.

“What are we doing?” Shane whispered against Ryan’s mouth as he slowly let go of the laundry so he could wrap an arm around his waist.

Ryan only kissed him in response, moaning softly as Shane backed him up against the wall.

“This is dangerous,” Shane said between kisses.

“I know.” Ryan draped his arms over Shane’s shoulders and pulled him down into another kiss. “Do you want to stop?”

“No.” Shane tilted his head to kiss and nip along Ryan’s jaw, stopping to bury his face against Ryan’s neck. “We can stay professional,” he said, muffled against warm skin and the folds of his own flannel shirt.

“Have we ever been?”

Shane pulled back and looked down at him, eyes hooded as he gently traced over Ryan’s full lips with the pad of his thumb. “We’re professional. The quality of our work doesn’t slip the closer we get to each other. We know how to balance this.”

Ryan’s eyes fluttered closed as Shane kept moving his thumb against his lips and he tilted his head back against the wall with a soft ‘thump.’ He moaned, unable to resist pressing needy kisses along Shane’s thumb and the side of his hand. Shane breathed a quiet laugh and Ryan looked up at him, Shane’s cheeks still a bright pink and his lips parted slightly as he watched Ryan kiss him.

“We can try it,” Ryan said before he turned to kiss Shane’s fingertips. “See if it’s something we like for us.”

“And if not,” Shane continued, “we’ll just go right back to being what we were before tonight. Unrequited romance isn’t gonna drive some impossible rift in our friendship that will torment us and eventually cause one or both of us to leave the company. We can handle this.”

“Do you have any idea how relieved I am that you over-analyzed this too?”

Shane smiled and pulled his hand away from Ryan’s lips, immediately bending down to kiss him again. Ryan let Shane pull him away from the wall a little bit, arching his back as they kissed.

When Shane finally pulled back Ryan cleared his throat. “Should we-”

“-get back to the tutoring session?” Shane finished. “Of course. Start it back up and I’ll be right in after I hang your shirt up to dry.” Shane let go but immediately paused when he saw the look on Ryan’s face. “Unless wanting to learn history was just pretense.”

“No! No, it wasn’t. I mean, I want to learn more history and I need a tutor. I just thought that… since we’re… like this we might as well…”

“Finish the lesson first,” Shane said, leaning down to give Ryan a quick kiss to the cheek. “At least before we move things to the bedroom. It’ll be a while before this is dry anyways.”

Ryan was about to remind Shane that he really wanted this and was a quarter undressed already, but stopped when he saw a familiar look in Shane’s eyes. It was that same playful look he had when they were about to start filming when they were on the road. So instead Ryan only smiled and stepped towards the door, still looking at Shane and the handsome blush that colored his face.

Ryan made his way back to the living room and sat down, still in a daze. He resumed the documentary and settled into the couch, one knee pulled up to nearly his chest. The screen moved from one sweeping shot of a cathedral to the next, the narrator talking about monasteries and holy wanderers. As he watched, Ryan fiddled with the collar of Shane’s too-large shirt and breathed in the cologne again. How many times over the years had Ryan sat with Shane in the backseat of an Uber, his eyes closed as the scent of that cologne and sweat sweetly merged in the heavy air? There were nights when Ryan was nearly drunk enough to ask if Shane wanted to go home with him.

Shane stepped into the living room and Ryan looked up.

“You, erm…” Shane said as he looked down at the glass of bourbon in his hand. “You forgot this.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

Shane carefully placed it in Ryan’s hands before sitting down beside him, his arm once again draped over Ryan’s shoulders. “What did I miss?”

Ryan leaned into the half-embrace and took a sip of the bourbon, drawing in a soft, sharp breath as it warmed his throat. “Talking about his pilgrimage. Cathedrals and stuff.”

Shane gave an affirmative little hum as he rested his hand on Ryan’s bicep. He slowly massaged along Ryan’s arm and shoulder, his fingertip drawing curving, lazy flourishes over loose fabric. Ryan still watched the screen, but his mind was entirely preoccupied by the tiny little movements Shane was making against his arm. He wondered if Shane would be that slow and deliberate with everything they would do that night. Trying to distract himself, Ryan took another sip of his bourbon, starting to regret agreeing to wait.

By the time Ryan finished his drink, Shane had already been absently kissing his hair for a few minutes and had just started to turn his attention to Ryan’s knee again. Ryan pulled away from Shane to set his empty glass on the table, only to immediately get back on the couch and kiss Shane on the lips. Ryan could feel Shane melt into the couch as he straddled Shane's lap, Ryan’s arms wrapped around the back of Shane’s neck. Sitting like this he was finally the same height as Shane and it was like seeing him for the first time. His large, dark eyes and small mouth made him look sweetly innocent from this angle; or perhaps it was the nervous way that Shane rested his hands on Ryan’s hips that gave that impression. Either way, Ryan was captivated by Shane in that moment and lightly touched Shane’s lips with his fingertips, watching as Shane’s eyes drifted closed. The breaths against Ryan’s fingers trembled as Shane held still, allowing Ryan to caress along the curves of his mouth. With each shaking breath the blush returned to Shane’s cheeks and darkened as Ryan watched.

Ryan drew his hand away from Shane’s lips to tangle his fingers in his hair again. “Wow,” he finally whispered.

Shane’s eyes opened at that as he laughed, breathy and nervous. He tugged Ryan a little closer and brought their lips together again. His kisses were quick and warm before he finally rested a hand against the back of Ryan’s head, holding him still as his tongue slipped into Ryan’s mouth.

Ryan moaned against Shane and shivered as their tongues slid against each other. It had been a long time since a kiss was able to make Ryan feel so weak, but there he was. Ryan sank against Shane’s body and he tightened his grip on his hair as the sensation and taste of Shane surrounded him. As soon as the kiss ended Ryan breathed deep and kissed a trail along Shane’s jaw before burying his face in his neck. If Shane were anyone else Ryan would have simply kissed him deeply in return, but with Shane Ryan was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to hold back helpless moaning. As honest as he now was with Shane, that kind of eagerness still would have humiliated him; so, instead, he placed worshipful kiss after worshipful kiss against warm skin.

“Ryan?” Shane whispered, kissing Ryan on that sensitive spot right under his ear and making him whine in the back of his throat. “You’re still listening to the documentary, aren’t you?”

Ryan placed another kiss right under Shane’s jaw. Fuck the documentary. However, even though Shane wasn’t doing much as a “tutor,” he did seem to enjoy playing the role of one as much as he could. So, unwilling to cut Shane’s game short, Ryan played along and answered Shane with an affirmative hum.

“Uh-huh,” Shane answered in turn, his tone incredulous. “What did the narrator just say?”

“Khalist… Calyp… Khlysty,” Ryan said, trying his best to echo the word the narrator had been repeating for the past minute. He also added the one other word in the documentary that managed to get through the needy haze of Ryan’s mind: “Orgies.”

“Good,” Shane said, turning his head and catching his mouth in another kiss. “Very good. Just keep listening.”

Ryan listened as he kissed Shane again, although his attention drifted away as soon as Ryan discerned that the narrator was no longer talking about orgies. They mustn’t have been that important, although Ryan was moderately sure that it would be the only historical fact he would actually be able to remember about this tutoring session. Khlysty something something orgies. 

Although their kisses began as needy and insatiable, the two of them slowed down as soon as they realized that they both intended to stay on the couch for the entirety of the documentary. Shane’s kisses were measured and purposeful, dizzying in their affection. As determined as Ryan was to hold back wanton moaning, he was helpless as a few of his soft whimpers hummed against Shane’s lips. He dragged his fingers through Shane’s hair, every once in a while eliciting a contented, breathy sigh. Shane toyed with and lightly tugged at Ryan’s hair in response, other hand massaging over his shoulders and down his back.

Ryan backed Shane further into the full couch cushions until Shane had to tilt his head up to kiss him. It was a strange and satisfying sensation to have Shane under him like that, reaching for him. Shane’s grip on Ryan grew weak and clumsy, no longer grasping at him and instead caressing along his back. Ryan pressed his tongue into Shane’s mouth and lightly tugged on his hair as Shane moaned around him. Shane brushed the loose fabric of his red flannel shirt out of the way and slowly rubbed along Ryan’s back, his large warm hands pressed against Ryan’s sensitive skin.

Slowly, Shane’s hands travelled along Ryan’s spine and massaged his shoulder blades under his palm. Ryan’s breaths came out in quavering gasps that grew louder as Shane let go of his hair to reach down and grab his ass. The effect that had on Ryan was immediate and he shifted uncomfortably as his hard cock pressed against the restrictive fabric of his clothes. He kissed Shane deeply as he reached between their bodies and rubbed against Shane’s crotch. The sizable bulge in Shane’s tight chinos was as pronounced as it was when they filmed their Forest Fenn episode and Ryan drew in an unsteady breath as he felt just how thick Shane was.

Shane murmured something against Ryan’s lips, but what he said was lost as Ryan’s mind drifted – lost in the sensation of Shane’s hands against him and his erection pressed against his palm.

“Come again, Big Boy?” Ryan murmured, stroking Shane through his clothes.

Shane forced a wheeze of a laugh before he repeated, “What did the narrator just say?”

Ryan squeezed his eyes shut and tried to remember what he had just heard but was unable to process. After a few seconds he shook his head. “I… I don’t know.”

“This part’s important,” Shane said, lightly kissing Ryan. “It’s about Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina.”

“You know,” Ryan said, pausing to kiss Shane again as he continued groping him. “Most men would be flattered that they’re so distracting.”

“Most men aren’t trying to give a history lesson on top of this.” Shane stroked over Ryan’s shoulders. “Maybe you need to see the screen. You’re a visual person.”

Ryan sighed, getting a little frustrated with this game. “Shane, I don’t think th-”

“Don’t you want to make your tutor proud?” Shane asked against Ryan’s lips, his voice a low whisper that made Ryan’s blush sting his cheeks. “I would love to see you perform well.”

Ryan’s breath hitched and part of him hated himself for it. God, maybe Steven was onto something and he really did want to be a teacher’s pet. Or perhaps he just loved the thought of Shane praising him, complimenting him, rewarding him. Ryan never wanted that so badly from a teacher before… just Shane.

“I would love to see you excel as a history student,” Shane said, gently taking Ryan by the waist. “I designed the history cup with you in mind.”

Shane sat up, shifting Ryan down his lap a little bit. Ryan stopped palming Shane through his trousers and clung to his shoulders as they adjusted to their new position. The couch dipped awkwardly as they moved; bodies not even settling before Shane bowed his head to kiss Ryan’s neck.

“Do you want to see the screen, Ryan?” he asked, pressing a kiss against Ryan’s jaw. “Would that help you focus on the history lesson?”

“Y-yes.”

The words were out of Ryan’s mouth before he could give them a second thought. He was so caught up in doing whatever he could to earn Shane’s approval that he completely forgot how boring he thought the documentary was. But before he had the chance to reconsider, Shane had shoved him down on the couch. Ryan gasped as he fell back onto the cushions, Shane’s legs still between his own as he lay on top of him. Ryan closed his eyes and moaned in his throat as he got used to the weight on top of him. Shane took Ryan’s face in his hand and gently turned it towards the television screen.

“Pay attention,” Shane whispered against Ryan’s ear before kissing his hair.

A boy dressed in a sailor’s suit and with a very serious expression filled the screen. The narration carried on, the voice speaking with somehow even less inflection, as if it was starting to get bored with itself. But still Ryan tried to listen, knowing that Shane was going to quiz him again. As more pictures of the boy appeared on the screen Ryan let his eyes drift closed, succumbing to the sensation of Shane pushing the flannel shirt out of the way so he could kiss his shoulder. His breaths shook as he lightly grasped onto Shane’s hair, guiding him back to his neck and then his shoulder again.

“What did the narrator just say?” Shane asked, his voice breathy and teasing smile audible in his tone.

“That’s Tsarevich Alexi,” Ryan said. “He’s sick. He has some… I missed it, but some blood disease.”

“Very good,” Shane said. “He plays an important role in Rasputin’s story. Keep watching.”

Ryan nodded and considered saying more but stopped as he felt Shane suck a mark onto his shoulder. His grip on Shane’s hair tightened as he held him in place for several long seconds. When Shane finally lifted his mouth away from Ryan’s skin he left a dark mark and the shallow impression of teeth. Ryan whined and turned his head to catch Shane’s mouth against his, but all Shane did was turn Ryan’s face back towards the screen.

“You’re doing well,” Shane praised, kissing his cheek. “I’m proud of how well you’ve taken to your lesson.”

Frustrated again but not wanting to make Shane regret complimenting him, Ryan took Shane’s hand in his and brought it to his lips. One by one he kissed Shane’s fingertips and along his thumb, his own callused hand resting over Shane’s knuckles as he held him in place. Shane buried his face in Ryan’s shoulder and moaned contentedly, his breaths growing short and heavy as soon as Ryan began sucking a mark onto his wrist.

Ryan kept kissing Shane’s hand as more photographs appeared on the screen, most of them of the royal family. Gradually, Ryan found himself actually watching the documentary. Shane must have noticed because his kisses slowed too and he rested his head on Ryan’s shoulder, watching the screen. Ryan rested his hand in Shane’s hair; soft, thick strands lazily curving around his fingers.

“They didn’t say how he did it,” Ryan said, his voice soft and slightly muffled against Shane’s wrist.

“How he healed Alexei?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, nobody knows for sure how he did that.”

“What? Wait so this was a faith-healing? Were his other doctors poisoning him?”

Shane lifted his head and propped himself up on his arm. “The prominent theory is that the other doctors gave Alexei aspirin for the pain while Rasputin did not. And, because of how haemophilia works, we know now that taking aspirin tends to make the bleeding way way worse.”

“But that doesn’t explain the times that Alexei seemed to instantly get better.”

“I know it sounds crazy but most people think that Rasputin was just a very calming person. I have no idea. Maybe he happened to be good with kids.”

Ryan turned back to the screen and the image of Rasputin that then filled it, the mystic’s sunken and intense eyes staring back at him. “No fuckin’ way is that it.”

Shane kissed Ryan on the divot where his throat met his chest. “I’m glad you’re invested in the history but you’re going to make me give the entire lecture right now if you ask too many questions. Just lie back and enjoy the documentary, knowing I’ll tell you more tomorrow.”

Ryan nodded and watched as the screen finally faded away from photographs and gave a slow, sweeping shot of Alexander Palace as the narrator started talking about affairs of state. He kept weaving his fingers into Shane’s hair as Shane kissed his neck and over his collarbones. Shane’s large hands caressed over Ryan’s chest, massaging his pecs and brushing the unbuttoned flannel shirt out of the way. His fingertips moved in slow circles and Ryan bit his lip and moaned contentedly as his nipples began to harden under Shane’s touch. A sharp flick over them and Ryan gasped in pleasure, arching his back into the touch.

“Focus,” Shane said as he kept rubbing Ryan’s nipples. “You need to focus.”

“Focus,” Ryan absently repeated as he tried to keep his attention on the screen, his voice tense.

“That’s right,” Shane said, soft and distracted as he kissed Ryan’s neck.

Ryan tried not to make a sound but wasn’t able to keep his breaths from growing heavy as Shane kissed a trail down to his left nipple. Rough stubble brushed over the tip of Ryan’s nipple just before he felt Shane’s mouth on him. Every small movement of Shane’s lips and tongue was amplified, their touch electric. The attention sent involuntary jolts of pleasure through Ryan’s body, making him try to twitch away before he could be too overwhelmed. Despite this, Shane kept kissing and nipping at him, now wrapping his arms around Ryan to hold him still. The sensation too much, Ryan cried out. He balled his hand into a fist in Shane's hair and gripped tight, unsure if he wanted to pull Shane away or hold him there until he came: without being touched and rutting needily against Shane.

“Focus,” Shane said again, although he sounded more teasing than scolding.   

Ryan moaned in response and let out a groan of a whine as Shane blew cold air over his nipple. His cock had turned soft when he was watching the documentary a few minutes ago but now he was as hard as a pipe again. He grinded against Shane's stomach just for some friction, hating himself for wearing something so tight. Shane reached between them and groped Ryan, feeling the defined outline of his straining cock through the fabric. Ryan moaned again and rolled his hips against Shane's palm. Shane laughed low, as he sucked on Ryan’s nipple, the sound a vibration that made Ryan want to sob in need. 

"What did the narrator just say?" Shane asked. 

"Oh, fuck you, Shane."

"What did the narrator say, Ryan?" 

Ryan whined again as he searched his mind for whatever words he managed to remember. "'Accepted bribes and sexual favors,'" he finally echoed. 

"M-hmm," Shane hummed against him, causing Ryan to grip his hair even tighter. "The rumors should come next, pay attention if they do."

Shane shifted his attention to Ryan’s other nipple and Ryan arched his back again. Ryan’s cheeks were flushed a dark red and each uneven breath was vocalized with a quavering moan. Nearly every woman Ryan had been with had noticed how sensitive his nipples were, but none of them gave them much more attention than an occasional flick or pinch. Ryan had never known how dizzying this sort of lavished attention could be. He thrust against Shane’s palm and was roughly groped in return. 

It felt like it went on forever, Shane’s mouth relentless no matter how much Ryan whined or pulled his hair. After so long Ryan would have thought that he would have calmed down, but what Shane was doing to him sent constant sparks through his body. He was grinding hard against Shane’s hand and was sure that he had a small stain of pre-come on the front of his tight slacks.

“What did the narrator just say?”

“Felix Yusupov,” Ryan said, repeating the name that had been said only a few seconds ago.

Shane lifted his head and looked at the screen. He too was breathing heavily, his cheeks tinted a soft pink and his lips slightly swollen. Ryan loosened his grip on his hair as Shane stopped to watch the documentary for a few seconds before shifting up along Ryan’s body to kiss his lips once more. Ryan’s eyes drifted closed as he sank deeper into the couch cushions, his body still overly sensitive.

“Sit up,” Shane said against Ryan’s mouth, kissing him one last time before pulling back and sitting on his heels. “You need to actually see his part. It’s important.”

Ryan was about to complain that he just got comfortable when Shane took him by the arms and pulled him into a sitting position. Ryan grunted at the change in blood flow and rubbed at the bridge of his nose as Shane positioned him so he sat facing the screen again.

“Pay attention,” Shane reminded him. “Just… pay attention.”

Ryan settled back against the couch cushions, waiting for Shane to sit next to him again; heart beating even faster when he saw Shane step off the couch and get on his knees between his legs. Ryan’s breath hitched as Shane carefully unbuttoned Ryan’s slacks. Shane looked up at Ryan, his eyes large and pleading, as if he needed to beg for Ryan’s permission. Ryan tried to speak but in that moment could only silently nod and run his fingers through Shane’s hair. Shane gave Ryan a shy, pleased smile before slowly pulling the zipper down over Ryan’s pronounced bulge.

Ryan drew in a slow breath through his teeth as Shane reached into Ryan’s briefs and exposed his stiff cock. Shane pumped him slowly, pausing to toy with a bead of pre-come and the bit of foreskin at Ryan’s tip. Ryan groaned and rolled his hips into Shane’s touch, trying not to embarrass himself and immediately come over Shane’s fingertips. He couldn’t remember that last time he was so needy with anyone. Judging by the smile Shane was giving him, Shane knew that Ryan was barely hanging onto what control he had. Ryan breathed a shaky sigh of relief as he realized that Shane wasn’t the sort of man who would mock him for being so desperate. Instead, Shane slowly stroked him, studying the way Ryan’s cock twitched at the attention.

“Watch the screen,” Shane said patiently.

Ryan groaned in reluctance as he looked up at the screen, realizing that with enough poorly-made documentaries Shane could keep edging him indefinitely; intense desire and stimulation broken up by a droning historian bored by their own subject. However, this may only have been a testament to Ryan’s slipping control over his own desires. Either way, Ryan knew that Shane would take every opportunity to test his stamina.

“When consumed,” the narrator said as the camera slowly spun around a mound of white powder that could easily be anything from flour to ground coconut, “cyanide causes weakness, dizziness, headaches, and difficulty breathing. Death by consuming cyanide follows a slip into unconsciousness and cardiac arrest.”

Ryan took a deep breath and tried to control his own racing heart as Shane continued to slowly stroke him. His touch was aggravatingly light and Shane’s movements were careful and exploratory, tracing the pronounced vein that ran along Ryan’s thick cock. Just the slightest pressure around him and Ryan was already moaning and rolling his hips against Shane’s hand.

The narrator kept talking, although Ryan could hear little of it over the roaring pulse of his own need. However, he did hear fragments occasionally. “… and three glasses of Madeira wine, which Yusupov had also poisoned.”           

Shane looked up at Ryan and subtly bit his lip as he moved even closer to him. He stroked Ryan a little rougher, earning him a soft grunt before he leaned forward, tilted his head, and kissed the side of Ryan’s shaft. Ryan tightened his grip on the couch cushion as he watched Shane slowly kiss up his length, each kiss dizzyingly wet with a teasing tongue and soft lips. He sucked and licked along the edge of Ryan’s tip, mouth on sensitive skin and working against him in a way that made Ryan’s cock twitch and bead with pre-come again. Ryan whined and brought his hand to his mouth to bite down on his knuckles and muffle the moans that threatened to come out of him. Shane looked up at him through his lashes and when he kissed down Ryan’s shaft again Ryan nearly sobbed in frustration. He needed to feel the full warmth of Shane’s mouth.

“Shane?” Ryan whispered, his voice strained.

“Shh. Pay attention.”

Ryan was about to complain but stopped as Shane licked back up his shaft and took the head of his cock into his mouth. He sucked on him, tongue swiping away pre-come before toying with the sensitive underside of Ryan’s tip. Ryan’s breaths were shallow and vocal and he tightened his grip on the couch cushions to keep himself from grabbing Shane’s hair again and holding him down on his cock. He could exhibit some restraint; he wasn’t some horny teenager unable to control his impulses. However, it quickly became too tempting and Ryan instead forced his focus to the television screen for just a few seconds.

“… shooting Rasputin in the chest. The Mad Monk fell and then Yusupov and the others were able to continue their plan in concealing the assassination…”

Ryan’s patience was rewarded as Shane tilted his head forward and took more of him into his mouth. Ryan gasped as Shane’s tongue pressed against his length, moving warm against him. Instinctively, Ryan buried his hand in Shane’s hair again, the gentle curl of it surrounding Ryan’s fingers like a wave. The muscles in Ryan’s legs strained as he resisted thrusting up into Shane’s mouth. Ryan bit his lip as he watched Shane’s lips glide over him, his head bobbing rhythmically as he kept sucking on Ryan and rubbing against him with his tongue. Steadily, Shane took him deeper and deeper into his mouth as Ryan whined in his throat, each of his breaths a guttural moan for air.

Shane pulled back, a small line of saliva drawn between his swollen lips and the tip of Ryan’s cock. Before Ryan could say anything, Shane tugged at the waist of Ryan’s slacks. “Off.”

No sooner had the order left Shane’s mouth than Ryan lifted his hips off the couch so Shane could pull off his clothes. In two rough movements, Ryan’s slacks and briefs were pulled down to his thighs, fully exposing him. Ryan gasped as Shane pushed him back down onto the couch, the upholstery fabric coarse against his bare skin. Shane kept pulling down Ryan’s clothes, stopping to remove Ryan’s shoes. As he unlaced them, Shane gave Ryan a stern look, which was all the prompt Ryan needed to look back at the screen.

“For an unknown reason, perhaps as part of the weight of dealing with such a grievous act, Yusupov decided to return to the basement of the Moika Palace to make sure that Rasputin was truly dead. One cannot begin to imagine the horror and confusion that came upon Yusupov when he was attacked by the man he was so sure he had killed.”

Ryan was about to get pulled into the narrative again when Shane finally got his shoes off. Ryan had been stripped of everything but Shane’s flannel by the time Shane took him back into his mouth. Ryan arched his back as his cock slid deep enough into Shane that he hit the back of his throat. Shane gagged for just a second before backing off and stroking Ryan’s cock, looking up at him with heavy-lidded eyes and gasping for breath.

“Sorry,” Ryan whispered as he reached down and stroked Shane’s hair.

“No, it’s alright,” Shane assured him, although his blushing pink cheeks were now distinctly red and his eyes watered slightly. “It’s been a while since I last did this.”

Ryan was about to assure Shane that he didn’t need to take all of him, but stopped as Shane wrapped his lips around him. Ryan tightened his grip on the couch again and his toes curled as he tried to resist bucking into Shane’s wet mouth. Ryan moaned, vocal and interrupted by shaking breaths. With each slow bob of his head, Shane took Ryan deeper and deeper until he was able to swallow him down completely. Ryan’s eyes closed and he tilted his head back, lost in the sensation.

Ryan grabbed a fistful of Shane’s hair, tugging on it but not hard enough to force Shane’s rhythm. Shane moaned around Ryan’s cock and Ryan gasped at the vibration. Large hands caressed along Ryan’s thighs, groping muscle and lightly rubbing between his legs. Shane trailed his fingertips over Ryan’s balls, down to circle his hole and, for the first time, Ryan cried out. With his other hand, Shane reached up and caressed over Ryan’s chest, brushing over his hard nipples for a moment before his fingers finally reached up to Ryan’s mouth. Obediently, Ryan parted his lips and let out a muffled cry as Shane pushed his fingers into Ryan’s mouth.

Shane’s fingers were in Ryan’s mouth up to the second knuckle. He moved rhythmically over Ryan’s tongue, quickly lubricated with spit. Ryan sucked on Shane’s fingers, suddenly all too aware of how much control Shane had over him in that moment. It was far more intimate than the quick, filthy sessions his imagination had offered to him. He had so often thought that if he would ever be with Shane then it would be fumbling, drunken sex or something fast in a hotel’s hot tub. He never could have seen himself sober on Shane’s couch; weak, blushing so hard his face stung, and overstimulated nearly to the point of tears. He was so sensitive that when Shane pulled his spit-covered fingers out of Ryan’s mouth, Ryan could do nothing but whine as he finally opened his eyes to look back down at Shane.

“… shooting him again as he tried to escape the palace grounds. He was then tied in a blanket and thrown into the Neva River, where he was shot again as he…”

Shane lifted his mouth off of Ryan and stroked him, looking up with an innocence that was so misplaced that Ryan wheezed a laugh.

“Can I finger you?” Shane asked. His voice was soft and slightly hoarse and he punctuated the question with a soft kiss to the tip of Ryan’s cock.

Ryan nodded and slid lower down the couch, raising his hips for Shane. In the new position, Shane could easily lick and suck on Ryan’s balls, making Ryan whine again. It was a brief distraction from the pressure and dull pain as Shane pressed his two slicked up fingers into Ryan’s hole.

“Oh fuck, Shane,” Ryan gasped as Shane worked his fingers into him, stretching and loosening him.

Shane kissed his way back up Ryan’s shaft and licked the pre-come that was beading at his tip. As he took Ryan back into his mouth he thrust his fingers harder into Ryan, stretching and loosening him.

Ryan tossed back his head again and whimpered as he carded his fingers through his hair. He had never been with anyone who gave him anything like this before. In Ryan’s mind, everything about the apartment and the documentary fell away, leaving only Shane, whose name he finally moaned. Ryan immediately covered his mouth, hating how needy he sounded; humiliated by the soft, knowing laugh that came from Shane’s throat. He was about to tell Shane to shut up, but stopped as Shane turned his fingers inside of him, curling them so he stroked Ryan’s prostate.

“Fuck!”

The teasing pressure and promise of release was torturous. Ryan clenched his jaw and reached down to pull Shane’s hair again as he tried to keep holding back just a little longer. Shane must have had an idea of how little experience Ryan had with this, but he’d be damned if he lost control that easily; it wasn’t like he didn’t know the sensitivity of his own body. However, as Shane kept rubbing against that one spot and sucking on him, Ryan knew that he couldn’t hold on much longer.

“Fuck, Shane. I’m… oh fuck.”

Ryan pulled away and Shane immediately let go and pulled his fingers out as Ryan sat on the edge of the couch, looking down at him. Ryan reached down and stroked himself, slick from Shane’s tongue. He raked his eyes over the man before him, running his hand through Shane’s hair before he grabbed a fistful and dragged Shane close to his cock again.

“Open your mouth,” Ryan ordered. “Open your mouth for me, big guy.”

Shane obeyed, his lips swollen and pink. His cheeks were a bright red and he moved just slightly with the slow, steady rhythm of heavy breaths. Ryan moved forward just enough so the tip of his cock brushed over the curve of Shane’s lower lip as he pumped himself. Seeing Shane like this was too much and Ryan gasped as he came. Come fell into Shane’s mouth and splattered against his cheek. Shane closed his eyes and stuck out his tongue as a second wave of Ryan’s orgasm hit, spilling more come onto Shane’s face.

“Oh fuck,” Ryan hissed, stroking his spent cock.

Shane licked his lips and swallowed down what landed in his mouth. He looked up at Ryan as he wiped the come off his cheeks, only to suck it off his fingertips.

Ryan bit his lip. “Fuck, Shane.”

Still watching Ryan, Shane leaned forward and took the very tip of Ryan’s cock back into his mouth, sucking on him.

“Shane!”

Ryan grabbed Shane by the shoulders and shoved him away before losing his balance and sliding off the couch. He fell more-or-less on top of Shane, whose long legs were folded awkwardly under him. Ryan still felt weak and was surprised at how sturdy Shane was as he leaned against him and caught his breath.

“Sorry,” Shane whispered, resting a hand on Ryan’s back. “Too much?”

“After how long you teased me?” Ryan asked, his mind still foggy with pleasure. “Yeah, too much.”

Shane chuckled low and kissed Ryan’s temple. Ryan moaned as he let Shane gently lift him off his lap and onto the floor, his back against the couch. Ryan absently ran his fingers through his hair as he tilted his head back, hardly believing what had just happened. He wondered how long Shane had planned to do that to him and was about to ask, but stopped as he saw Shane get to his feet. Shane’s erection was undeniable, pressing against denim and along his thigh. Seeing it made Ryan lick his lips and he half-expected Shane to pull it out and fuck his mouth right there on the floor. Instead, Shane picked up his PlayStation controller and closed out of Netflix as the credits rolled.

“Come on,” Shane said as he reached down and took Ryan by the hands. “Bedroom.”

Ryan nodded and let Shane drag him to his feet. It wasn’t until Shane pulled Ryan against him that Ryan fully realized that Shane was still dressed while he was only wearing Shane’s unbuttoned flannel. The flush covering Ryan’s cheeks darkened as he realized that he was more than likely a vision that was lifted directly from Shane’s fantasies. Shane leaned down and kissed him deeply, hands tangling in Ryan’s hair and sliding down the curve of his back. Ryan could taste himself on Shane’s tongue and moaned into the kiss as he wrapped his arms around the back of Shane’s neck. For a moment, Ryan expected Shane to lift him up and carry him to the bedroom; but instead Shane simply groped and lightly swatted at his ass.

“Bedroom,” Shane repeated.

Ryan nodded and let Shane lead him out of the living room and down the short hall. As soon as the door opened, Ryan was immediately reminded of the small handful of nights where he was too drunk or just too exhausted to drive home. Shane had let him sleep there, the bed large enough for them to sleep without even feeling the dip the other made in the mattress. Each time Ryan saw Shane’s bed he quietly wondered how many people Shane planned on sharing it with simultaneously; a thought he quickly pushed aside, reminding himself that Shane probably liked the king-sized mattress because he was so damn tall. However, the thought occurred to him again in that moment and Ryan allowed himself to imagine Shane falling back onto the white duvet with two other men climbing on top of him. The quick little pang of jealousy surprised Ryan and was immediately quelled as Shane pulled him into his arms again.

“I think you’re overdressed,” Ryan hummed, kissing Shane’s neck.

“You’re absolutely right,” Shane said as he guided Ryan to the mattress and pulled back the covers.

Ryan sat on the bed and lounged back against the headboard, watching Shane intently. Shane stood in the middle of the room, fingers toying with the buttons of his shirt and his cheeks flushed a soft pink as he suddenly looked very unsure of himself.

“I didn’t anticipate putting on a show.”

“But yet here you are, big boy,” Ryan said with a grin and a shrug.

Shane rolled his eyes and started to unceremoniously unbutton his shirt.

“Slowly,” Ryan heckled.

“Will you just lie down and get comfortable?”

Ryan giggled and arranged pillows behind him as he kept watching Shane. Shane didn’t lean into the performance as much as Ryan prodded him to, which, Ryan realized, was probably a good thing. There was no way in hell Shane would have resisted turning a striptease into something absurd with his inflatable tube man limbs. Ryan was sure that that sort of thing was why he fell for Shane to begin with. Shane had his bits, both on and off camera; and although Steven once told him that he would get tired of it, he never did.

Even something like this Shane had to wrap up in a little game; this tutor/student fantasy that Ryan found himself all too willing to play along with.

Shane shrugged his shirt off his shoulders and tossed it on top of the hamper near the door. He glanced back at Ryan before turned away, blush darkening as he joined him on the mattress to take off his shoes and socks.

“At least you aren’t wearing shoes to bed this time,” Ryan quipped, eyes raking down Shane’s body.

Shane forced a small laugh but other than that didn’t respond to Ryan’s observation. This was fine. Ryan didn’t need a volley back in order to drink in the sight of the man in front of him. As slender and awkwardly tall as Shane was, he did have a slight muscle to his arms and chest that Ryan undeniably found attractive. Although, god knows where that muscle came from – the man had never willingly done any exercise other than a bit of running. His arms and back flexed as he unlaced his boots, sending a quick, intrigued flush down Ryan’s body as he sat up a little straighter. He considered crawling over to Shane and grasping onto his broad shoulders, kissing the back of his neck and sucking marks onto pale skin, even though he knew that it would delay this further. But before Ryan had the chance to lean forward any more, Shane stood up and nudged his shoes and socks against the dresser.

“It doesn’t matter that much to me how we do this,” Shane said, turning to Ryan as he unbuckled his belt. “I would enjoy it either way.”

Ryan bit his lip as Shane slowly pulled his belt free from its loops, the sound of leather against denim a soft hiss.

“But seeing you like this…” Shane continued, “God, I wanna fuck you.”

Ryan backed up against the headboard as his cock started to harden again. The way Shane looked at him was focused and calculating. If he was fully clothed he would have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that Shane was undressing him with his eyes. But like this… Shane was manipulating him in his head; figuring out if he wanted Ryan braced against the wall or bent over the mattress.

“Do you want that?” Shane asked.

Ryan nodded and bit his lip as Shane opened his pants and shifted them off his long legs. The way Shane’s hard cock strained against the thin fabric of his boxers made Ryan feel so weak that he almost wished Shane didn’t step out of them as quickly as he did.

Almost.

Shane’s cock was massive. Even in proportion to the rest of Shane, it was sizable, Ryan realized as he watched Shane stroke himself. Ryan always knew in the back of his mind that Shane had an impressive length, but he had never considered the thickness of it until that moment. Thinking about taking it made Ryan instinctively shift his hips and grip onto the sheets.

In an instant, Shane was on the bed with his hands on Ryan. Ryan gasped as he was pulled away from the headboard and fell back flat onto the mattress, Shane kissing his chest and then up to his neck. Shane laced their fingers together, pinning Ryan’s hand down against the pillows. Ryan moaned at the sudden manhandling and Shane brought their lips together. The kiss was rough and needy and Ryan gasped helplessly as Shane slipped his tongue into his mouth. With his free hand, Shane caressed down Ryan’s chest and traced slow, lazy circles around his nipples. Ryan whined against Shane’s tongue, the sound muffled and hidden under Shane’s contented sighs.

As they kissed, Shane pressed his knee against the inside of Ryan’s thigh, gently coaxing his legs apart. That was all the encouragement Ryan needed to spread his legs and let Shane get comfortable against him. Shane broke the kiss to kiss down Ryan’s jaw and suck a mark onto his neck. Ryan moaned between heavy breaths as he stared up at the ceiling and reached between their bodies to stroke Shane’s cock.

It was thick, cut, and sensitive, a bead of pre-come forming at the tip after a few slow strokes. Shane hissed against Ryan’s skin and gave Ryan's nipple a sharp pinch, which made Ryan’s cry out in pleasure as his partially-hard cock became even stiffer.

Ryan whined in his throat as Shane took his hand off his chest and reached into the bedside table. After a moment of rummaging he took out a notably large bottle of lube and set it down beside Ryan. He put his hand back into the drawer but paused before he looked down and asked, “Do you… do you want me to use a condom?”

Ryan was already short of breath and flushed from Shane’s kissing and rutting against him. He tried to process the question but couldn’t entirely and instead just stared up at him, unsure what to say.

“I mean, I’m clean,” Shane said. “I know I forgot to ask you earlier but…” Shane cleared his throat. “I mean, I won’t make assumptions if you want me to wear one; there is more than one reason to want that. I was just say-”

“Leave it off.”

Shane nodded, his blush notably darker than it had been seconds ago. He closed the drawer and ran his fingers through Ryan’s hair as he kissed him deeply. Ryan squirmed his hand out of Shane’s grasp and wrapped his arms around him, holding him close before Shane sat up and positioned himself between Ryan’s legs. Ryan lay back and watched Shane as he opened up the bottle of lube. Ryan was thankful for Shane’s flannel shirt, which was a little bunched under him but was still warm and soft over his shoulders and around his arms. If he were completely naked this would have been almost clinical to lie there with his legs spread and hole exposed, but in Shane’s shirt he felt like it was where he was supposed to be. He worried the soft fabric of the collar between his fingers as he stared up at the ceiling, waiting to feel cold lube against him.

Shane put a hand on Ryan’s thigh and ran slow, oval patterns over warm skin. “Have you been with a man before?”

Ryan shook his head. Shane’s movements didn’t even hesitate, but the question still made Ryan too self-conscious to look into Shane’s eyes as he answered.

“Have you ever taken anything inside you before?”

Ryan’s cheeks stung as he nodded. He knew that Shane wasn’t judging him and that there wasn’t anything wrong with experimenting like that, but he still felt like there was something depraved about his answer. “One of my ex-girlfriends asked me to house-sit once. She had this dildo that I… used on myself.”

Ryan stole a quick glance down at Shane before going back to staring at the ceiling. Shane was clearly imagining Ryan shoving that toy into himself. Hell, Shane could probably even hear the moans that came out of Ryan as he fucked himself against the shower wall.

“A-and you?” Ryan asked, trying to sound casual as Shane slowly stroked along his inner thigh. “How many men have you been with?”

“Three.”

Ryan nodded. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. Perhaps more. However, Shane had always admitted to being rather aloof when it came to things like this.

“None of them lasted long,” Shane continued as he reached to grab a pillow, shoving it under Ryan’s hips. “By the time they got to me, I already had eyes for someone else anyways.”

Ryan smiled at the sentiment, flattered despite its corniness. He considered teasing Shane and asking “who,” but stopped as he felt Shane’s fingertip circle around his hole. His eyes fluttered closed and he gasped, coarse and wanting. He tensed around Shane, who only thrust it in a few times before quickly adding a second finger.

“Fuck, Shane,” Ryan whined, sounding a bit more pathetic than he anticipated. “I already want you, you don’t need to stretch me agai- fuck!”

Shane wasted no time massaging Ryan’s prostate again and Ryan nearly sobbed when he realized that Shane wanted him hard.

“Jesus Christ, Shane. Give me a little more time, I’m not that young anymore.”

Shane scoffed. “You’re in your twenties.”

“I’m 29, that shouldn’t coun- oh fuck, Shane.”

Shane laughed low as he maneuvered one of Ryan’s legs so his calf was resting on Shane’s shoulder. He turned his head and kissed along the muscle as he kept rubbing at that one sensitive point. “You’re already getting hard for me again, Baby.”

“Don’t call me ‘Baby’ when your hand’s up my- oh fuck. Holy shit, Shane, you’re fucking relentless.”

“God I love seeing you like this,” Shane said, his breath warm against Ryan’s calf as his fingers inside Ryan fell into a slow rhythm. “For all your heckling and clowning around during the lectures, of course you look gorgeous being put in your place. You know, while I was waiting for you I was thinking of what kind of punishment would be appropriate after you cheated on your little quiz today. I thought about having you write something a hundred times. Or perhaps I could just spank you until you promised to behave. But I think I like this better – seeing you all needy like this.”

“Shane!”

Shane looked down, thrusting his fingers as deep into Ryan as they could go while he admired the sight before him. “There, that wasn’t so much of a trial, was it?”

Ryan’s cock was stiff and his breaths were shallow. He grunted softly and tightened his grip on the pillow as Shane pulled his fingers out of him. The lube bottle opened again with a soft click and Ryan watched as Shane stroked himself.

“You know, I can do this as slow as you would like. I mean, since you haven’t been with a –”

“Oh, will you just fuck me already? I- ahh!” Ryan was cut off as Shane lifted his hips and Ryan felt the head of Shane’s cock against the rim of his hole. He tensed in anticipation. Again, Shane pressed against him and Ryan whined, loud and helpless. Shane wheezed softly and Ryan cursed himself for how desperate he must have sounded – how he must have sounded like all he knew about sex he learned from cheap pornography. Ryan brought his hand to his mouth and bit down on his knuckles to muffle the cry as Shane pressed against him again.

Shane placed his hand on the back of Ryan’s thigh and lifted his leg so he was nearly folded in half, adjusting his position before he tried again. For a second, Ryan couldn’t breathe as Shane pushed past that tight ring of muscle and slowly sank into him. When he could finally draw in a breath Ryan could only let it out in a loud, involuntary moan. He gasped for air and Shane kept slipping in deeper. With a needy groan, Ryan turned his face to the pillow, muffling his voice as Shane persisted until he was buried up to the hilt in him.

“Good?” Shane whispered.

Ryan moaned. That self-assured tone of Shane’s voice and small curve of his smile was nearly enough to make Ryan want to punch him. It hurt to take something that thick that deep, but in that moment he was so sensitive that every motion inside him made his cock throb. However, the teasing lilt of Shane’s voice couldn’t just go unanswered.

“Fuck you,” Ryan managed to gasp out.

Shane laughed in response before he leaned down and placed a gentle kiss to the corner of Ryan’s mouth. Ryan reached up and wrapped his arms around Shane, letting his fingers lazily tangle in Shane’s hair as he turned his head and kissed him between shaking moans.

“Are you just going to lie there on top of me?” Ryan asked, his voice stilted as he tried to speak casually with Shane’s cock in him. “Or are you expecting me to do all the work?”

“I was waiting for you to adjust and get comfortable, you jackass.”

“Well, it seems to me like you- ahh!”

Shane gave Ryan a little self-satisfied smile before he once again pulled out halfway and drove in, forcing another moan out of Ryan.

Ryan barely had time to get his breath under him before Shane began fucking him in a steady rhythm. The sound of Shane’s hips colliding against Ryan’s ass punctuated the space between Ryan’s near-involuntary whines. Shane’s cock sunk in deep, opening Ryan in a way his ex-girlfriend’s toy couldn’t. With each thrust, Shane shoved Ryan back along the mattress and it wasn’t long until Ryan had to put up his hand to keep from colliding against the headboard.

“Fuck! Shane!”

Shane laughed low as he leaned back down to kiss Ryan. As he did, Shane slowed his pace, content to simply press against Ryan’s body and roll his hips while his tongue swept into Ryan’s mouth. Ryan moaned around the intrusion and wrapped a leg around Shane’s waist, trying to pull him in even deeper.

“Good?” Shane asked again in that same smug tone, his lips brushing against Ryan’s as he spoke.

Of course it was good. Shane had Ryan nearly bent in two, was fucking him into the headboard, and Ryan could do nothing but moan and try to somehow take in even more. Ryan usually hated basic missionary position sex, but, then again, he had also never been the one on his back before. He was surrounded by Shane, half-in his perfumed shirt and overwhelmed as Shane lowered his head to press a line of kisses along his neck. Ryan whined in his throat as Shane dragged a hand down Ryan’s chest again, fingertips brushing over his hardening nipples.

Shane kissed Ryan’s jaw before humming a prompting, “Hmm?”

Moving perhaps a little rougher than he intended, Ryan grabbed a fistful of Shane’s hair and tugged hard. He intended on dragging Shane’s lips to his own again, but stopped when the pull seemed to elicit a low, rough moan. It was the first undeniably sexual sound that had come from Shane’s mouth all night and the satisfied tone of it was more than enough to make Ryan’s cock throb. The sound must have caught Shane off-guard too, his movements stilling as he looked down at Ryan, quietly catching his breath.

“Good?” Ryan teased.

Shane brought their mouths together, Ryan’s fist still balled in his hair. As Shane’s tongue pressed into Ryan’s mouth, he started pounding into him again. Clumsily, Shane grabbed a nearby pillow and tried to wedge it between Ryan’s head and the headboard. It took an awkward few seconds of adjusting and lost rhythm, but it wasn’t long before Ryan was propped up on so many pillows and blankets that he was nearly sitting on Shane’s lap. Shane was still more-or-less on top of him, but Ryan no longer felt that Shane could fuck him into a concussion against the headboard.

“God, Ryan,” Shane gasped as he kissed along the defined ridge of Ryan’s collarbone. “You’re so tight.”

Ryan moaned as Shane shifted in his new position and dragged his cock against Ryan’s prostate. Ryan’s cock twitched and a bead of pre-come formed at the tip, falling onto his stomach as his body moved with Shane’s rhythm. In the back of his mind, Ryan was dimly aware of the moans and whines that came out of him, growing louder and louder whenever Shane hit home. There was something about those cries that occasionally made Shane laugh low, the vibration of it humming against Ryan’s lips as Shane kissed him.

Ryan hooked his legs around Shane’s waist and tightened his grip on his hair. For a split second his mind went back to his ex-girlfriend’s shower and the toy he had found and suction cupped to the wall. He remembered the way the hard shower floor dug into his palms and knees, so solid that it left red marks and shallow bruises on him. He remembered muscles giving out as soon as he found the right angle and rhythm, Ryan nearly sobbing in frustration as pleasure crumbled to pain. His inexperience was as blatant as his maddening need to bring himself to completion with that toy inside him.

It was worlds apart from this, Shane pounding into him like a piston and his body figuring out how to better accommodate him with every thrust. He felt boneless, save for the soft crack of joints when he reflexively curled his toes and the breathy gasp that came from Shane as Ryan scraped his teeth against his neck. Shane moaned and his grip on Ryan’s shoulder slipped, short nails leaving red tracks along his skin. Ryan’s eyes fluttered closed as he sank into the pillows under him, basking in the burn and the neediness and the Shane of this kind of pain.

“I-” Shane muttered, his face buried in Ryan’s hair. But whatever he was about to say died on his tongue, discarded as he kissed his way to Ryan’s lips again.

As he was kissed, Ryan wondered what Shane was going to say. At least, until Shane grabbed him by the wrist and held him against the mattress. He whined as Shane lightly bit at his lip before sloppily kissing along his jaw, stubble scraping against stubble.

“C’mere,” Shane mumbled as he kissed Ryan’s neck.

Ryan was about to say something along the lines of him not possibly being able to be more “here”; but as soon as he opened his mouth, Shane leaned back and slipped out of him. Ryan moaned at the sudden loss of contact, watching as Shane got off the bed. He panted and squirmed slightly as he tried to get used to the sensation of being loosened and opened, lube a mess around his hole. He was still trying to get used to the sensation when Shane grabbed him by an ankle and dragged him to the side of the bed, the shirt bunching up under Ryan again. Ryan barely had time to register his new position, lying on his back with Shane standing between his legs, before Shane stuffed himself back in.

Ryan arched his back and cried out, as if he were trying to tug away from the overstimulation of being filled so quickly. Shane answered this by gripping onto Ryan’s hips, pinning him down as he fucked into him. Each thrust was accented with Ryan moaning “oh!” in a steady crescendo until it crumbled into an unintelligible whine. Ryan’s hands scrambled against the taut-pulled sheets, nails bending slightly as he tried to tighten his grip on them. Unable to find purchase, Ryan instead carded his fingers through his hair and gripped at the flannel shirt as he surrendered to Shane’s rhythm.

There were a few times when Ryan felt his orgasm begin to crest, only for Shane to back off before Ryan could go any further. It seemed that Shane was able to read Ryan when he was laid out on the mattress just as well as he could read him on set or on the road. The second time Shane loosened his grip on Ryan and slowed his pace Ryan almost sobbed with need.

“Shane,” Ryan said, his voice tense and weak.

“Let’s slow things down,” Shane said, running his hand along Ryan’s thigh. “Don’t you want this to last a little longer?”

“You’re fucking torturing me.”

Shane laughed, shaking his head as his eyes glistened in the lamplight. “Oh no,” he said. “Not yet.”

“What?”

Ryan looked down as Shane let go of him and leaned over to reach into the bedside table.

Then he saw a flash of blue.

“Oh no,” Ryan said, unable to stop the confused smile that played at his lips. “Shane, no. Not like this.”

“He said he’d stop by,” Shane said, fitting the Professor onto his hand. “Are you ready for your evaluation, Ryan?”

Ryan was about to object but was cut off when Shane shifted his angle and dragged his cock over Ryan’s prostate. Ryan cursed himself for even considering playing along with this, but he had a sneaking suspicion that Shane would reward him for letting him play his little game.

However, ground rules needed to be set.

He doesn’t get to fuck me,” Ryan said, indicating the puppet.

Shane let out a gasp that could rival any southern belle who had ever crossed a stage. “Ryan Bergara, the Professor is an academic and a professional. What you’re suggesting is just uncouth.”

“No no. I need to hear you promise that you’re not going to touch me with him.”

“Can he give you a lil’ smooch if you do well on your evaluation?”

Where?

“Just here,” Shane said, leaning forward a little so he could lightly tap a finger against Ryan’s cheek.

Ryan groaned. “Fine, he can kiss me once, but that’s it.” He thought for a second before quickly adding, “And no musical numbers! For the record, you are never to sing an encore of ‘Castration Nation’ when my dick’s out.”

“You don’t have to worry about that, Ryan,” Shane said fondly. “It doesn’t sound as good without the backup vocals anyways.”

“Shane. Promise me.”

Shane set the Professor aside before he leaned down and kissed Ryan, soft and chaste on the lips as he grinded against him. Ryan moaned against Shane’s mouth, the kiss so gentle that Ryan felt like he could melt into the bed.

“Of course I promise,” he said, the playful tones of his voice replaced by an affectionate tenderness. “You know I wouldn’t actually want you to be uncomfortable; right, Baby?”

Ryan nodded, cheeks warm at hearing Shane’s pet name for him. He hummed contentedly as Shane kissed him again, Shane’s fingers combing through his hair.

“Do you want me to put him away?” Shane asked.

“No,” Ryan said, and he meant it. “I’m too curious about where this bit is going.”

Shane smiled. “It’s just a few questions. And I know you’ll do well.” Shane caressed Ryan’s cheek with the back of his hand before dragging his fingertips down Ryan’s chest and over his nipple, drawing a gasp from him. “You’ve been such a delight to tutor.” He paused and then looked far too pleased with himself. “A pleasure to have in class.”

Ryan groaned and hid his face in his hands. For whatever reason, that was what made him flush in that instance – not Shane’s hands or the absurdity of his situation or even the dick stuffed up his ass – he was blushing over a stupid pun that didn’t even entirely work. He was blushing over the small giggle that came as Shane saw his reaction. It was the Shane-ness of it that overwhelmed him. When he took his hands away Shane was looking down at him, his smile gently curving the lower lids of his eyes. It was like in that moment Shane wasn’t looking at a lover; he was looking at his best friend.

The emotion that followed this hit Ryan like a pile of bricks.

They were in perhaps the least romantic position Ryan could imagine. He was on his back, sweat was making Shane’s flannel cling to him, he was harder than he wanted to admit, a cock was in him, there was a bit of come still clinging to Shane’s right sideburn, a puppet was there. It was an absurd time for Ryan to realize that this wasn’t just two people experimenting with a long-standing sexual tension. It was an absurd time to realize he was in love.

Ryan tried to backpedal his thoughts, internally shouting at his own brain, “Not now! Not now!” Not because he didn’t believe it or didn’t want it, but because he could feel every detail of that moment brand itself onto his heart and it would follow him for quite possibly the rest of his life. People will wonder when he fell in love, people will ask. There was now the very real danger of one night getting too drunk and turning to his brother or Shane’s brother and saying, “When did I fall in love with Shane? Well, the first time we had sex he decided to put on a puppet show in the middle of it. That’s when I knew he was the man for me.”

At some point during this revelation Ryan had covered his face again. He was shaking as he tried not to laugh at his very specific problem, his ears and shoulders blushing a dark red.

“Ry?”

Ryan lowered his hands again and laughed. He was at that point where love was so new he didn’t even care if it was reciprocated, it was just so blindingly wonderful all on its own. Wiping his laugher’s tears out of his eyes, Ryan looked up at Shane and god he was in love. As unromantic as things were seconds ago and as embarrassing as he may think they would be in the future, in the present it was everything Ryan could ever want.

Realizing that he had just spent about half a minute trying to compose himself, Ryan tried to answer, not even attempting to hide his wide grin. “Yeah?”

“You alright?”

“Never better, big boy,” he volleyed back in their usual manner and with a slightly manic giggle.

“We don’t have to do the evaluation.”

“No, no! I want to.” He looked down at the professor, lying face down and looking a little deflated on the nightstand. “I wanna hear what your little pal has to say.”

“Really?”

Ryan nodded, his cheeks still stinging with his blush. Shane gave him a warm smile, the kind he gave when he knew there was something Ryan wasn’t telling him. He leaned down and kissed Ryan again, this time his chaste kiss deepening as Ryan gently swept his tongue over his lips.

Ryan grasped Shane’s hair as they kissed, moaning needily into his warm mouth. Shane’s tongue moved against his, clumsy and hesitant, as if he still wasn’t sure how much Ryan wanted from him. Ryan wrapped his legs around Shane’s waist, trying to take him in even deeper, trying to ask him to not hold anything back. Shane’s tongue swept into Ryan’s mouth as he reached between them and wrapped his fingers around Ryan’s cock, stroking and coaxing another bead of pre-come out of him. Ryan squirmed under him, wanting more but at the same time knowing that this was far too much for him. With how much Shane meant to him in that moment, Ryan knew that he couldn’t keep this up without his affection bubbling over into either laughter or tears – both capable of bringing this to a stop and neither a thing he wanted to explain.

When Shane righted himself again he was a little short of breath, flushed a soft pink, and his hair was a mess. He picked the Professor off the nightstand and set him back onto his hand and then gave Ryan a single, deep, rough thrust.

Ryan cried out in pleasure, a shiver rushing down his spine as he looked up at him in waiting.

“There are some questions I need to ask you,” Shane said as the Professor, “to gauge the effectiveness of this tutoring session. My assistant, Shane, will ask you the questions. Are you ready?”

Ryan nodded.

“Then let’s begin.”

Shane pulled nearly all the way out of Ryan and then slammed back in until he was buried up the hilt in him. Ryan cried out, his hips lifting off the mattress with the force, only for Shane to drag him back into place with his free hand. The rhythm he set was slow but rough, the bed creaking and their bodies colliding in such a way that Ryan was sure there would be red marks between his legs and on Shane’s hips.

As he thrust, Shane spoke. “What was Rasputin known for as a child in Pokrovskoye? Talking backwards, faith healing, or talking to horses?”

Ryan blinked in surprise, not expecting actual questions despite knowing in the back of his mind that Shane would do nothing less. Now the challenge was paying attention. He nearly asked for Shane to repeat the options when he recalled something mentioned in the documentary.

“Faith healing?” Ryan guessed.

Shane slowed to a stop, shook his head, and answered as the Professor. “Incorrect. The correct answer is that he allegedly talked to horses. A horse whisperer. I’d elaborate, but I’ll spare you tomorrow’s entire lecture. Let’s just move on.”

“So nothing happens if I get it wrong?” Ryan asked, an excited smile pulling at his lips.

“I don’t really believe in negative reinforce- erm… hold on. Let me…”

Shane hesitantly reached out and lightly touched Ryan on the chin, as if he were trying to calculate his next move very carefully. For a second Ryan thought that Shane would have actually struck him across the face before Shane’s fingertips trailed down to his chest. He brushed them over Ryan’s nipples and Ryan gasped, sensitive with the memory of the attention Shane gave them earlier. Slower than necessary, Shane pinched one between his fingers, clamping down much harder than Ryan would have thought pleasurable. Ryan grunted in pain, a sound that grew into a shout as Shane tugged. Then he let go, perhaps a little sooner than he needed to, but Ryan wasn’t about to say anything. He just looked up and waited for the next question.

Shane thrust into him again, setting a rhythm that wasn’t as rough. Ryan didn’t have time to wonder if that was a hint or not before Shane asked the question:

“At the time, what were the Khlysty not allegedly known for? Whipping each other, massive orgies, or demon worship?”

Ryan closed his eyes tight as he thought back. He remembered being on Shane’s lap when the narrator was talking about this. Nobody said anything about demons. At least, he didn’t think. Ryan wasn’t entirely positive that he would have remembered the documentary mentioning demons as clearly as he remembered it talking about orgies, but he supposed it was worth the shot.

“Demon worship?”

“Correct!”

Shane didn’t even slow his pace this time as he leaned forward and kissed Ryan. It was soft and brief, a quick little thing before Shane kissed his way down to his abused nipple and slowly ran the flat of his tongue over it. Ryan gasped and his toes instinctively curled as the touch sent what felt like an electric pulse through him.

“Next question,” Shane said as he lifted his head, his lips beautifully swollen. “What was the tsarevich Alexi’s condition? Hemophilia, tuberculosis, or Spanish flu?”

“Hemophilia,” Ryan said, feeling for the first time that he actually knew the answer.

“Very good,” Shane praised as the Professor.

Ryan lay back and watched Shane scan over him as he grinded into his body. Shane bit at his lip, reached down, and pushed the flannel aside, his eyes settling on the marks he had already left on Ryan’s shoulder and neck. Humming decisively, he leaned down and gave Ryan an identical mark on his opposite shoulder. Ryan gasped as his eyes fluttered closed, hands gripping Shane’s hair and holding his mouth to him as he was fucked. Shane slowly rubbed along Ryan’s arms, fingers massaging muscle though soft fabric.

“God, you feel good,” Shane whispered against bruised skin. He lifted his head, pausing to look down into Ryan’s eyes for a brief moment before righting himself. “Next Q: Who was tzarevich Alexi the brother of? You don’t get multiple choice for this one, you have to guess.”

“Anastasia,” Ryan said before immediately backtracking. “No. Anya? Or am I thinking about the cartoon?”

“You gotta pick one.”

“Anastasia.”

“Correct,” Shane leaned down and brushed his lips over Ryan’s. “You need to be more sure of yourself. You know more than you think.”

“I’m flattered, but I don’t think that’s true,” Ryan said, reaching up and pulling Shane in for another kiss.

Shane moaned into the kiss, his rhythm faltering as he tried to bring their bodies closer together. As he broke the kiss he left a line of parting kisses along Ryan’s jaw. Shane sighed, breath gentle against Ryan’s ear. “You’re too much for me like this, Ryan.”

Ryan was about to ask what Shane meant by that when Shane pulled away and slipped out of him. He was tempted to ask if he had done something wrong, but stopped when Shane grabbed him by the leg and flipped him around so he was on his stomach, legs pressed against the side of the bed. There was no resistance as Shane pressed back in deep. Ryan grabbed one of the bunched-up blankets and moaned into the fabric as Shane started fucking him from this new angle. It was different, hitting deeper and dragging against him in ways he hadn’t felt before. For a while neither man said anything, the air filling with their grunts, the harsh sting of skin against skin and the creak of bedsprings.

“Next question?” Shane asked, a sort of breathlessness coming through in his voice as he ran his hand under the flannel and along Ryan’s back.

Ryan nodded.

“What was Rasputin’s greatest scandal? Was it his affair with the Tsarina? Was it his influence over political appointments? Or was it when he declared himself Pope?”

Not being able to see Shane made it all the more difficult to concentrate on the questions. Shane’s blankets smelled like Shane’s shampoo and Ryan’s sweat. There was a hand caressing along his back. Each thrust made Ryan’s hips lift off the mattress. There was so much to get lost in.

“Ryan?”

Ryan grunted and rubbed his forehead against the sheets, leaving a small, damp mark. “The pope thing?”

Shane drew in a slow breath through his teeth. “Incorrect. It was in fact his influence over political appointments.”

Ryan clenched his jaw and tried to steel himself for what he was sure to come. However, Shane’s hand didn’t slip under him to pinch or twist his nipples. Instead, Ryan heard a very harsh slap, skin against skin, followed by a distinct stinging pain on the side of his ass cheek. He gasped and glanced over his shoulder, only to see Shane’s hand come down on him again.

The sensation of a large palm striking tender skin was juxtaposed with the way Shane’s cock dragged inside of Ryan. Ryan shouted, but even he wasn’t sure if it was from pain or pleasure. The more Shane hit that same spot the more Ryan bucked against him, trying to take him rougher and deeper. 

“You getting off on this?” Shane asked, smile audible in his voice.

Ryan only whined in response, trying to shift his hips in such a way to make Shane brush against his prostate again.

“You masochist,” Shane growled, bringing his hand down harder.

Ryan yelled, an incoherent jumble of syllables as he tried to say “yes,” “fuck me,” and “harder” at the same time.

“Little slut,” Shane hissed.

“Yes! I- Oh!” The last word was forced out of Ryan as Shane’s hand collided against him again. The gradual building of stinging pain had finally come to its breaking point and the red, welted flesh felt like it was burning. At that, Ryan dropped his head into the blankets and whined pathetically. “Shane…”

The loud rhythm of Shane’s hand against his ass suddenly stopped, his long fingers gently trailing over the hot, abused skin. Ryan whined again, tensing as the pain dully radiated. Shane kept caressing over that spot as he leaned forward, pulled the flannel aside, and kissed Ryan’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“Ow.”

“Oh, Baby,” Shane cooed and pressed another kiss against him. “I’m sorry.”

Ryan turned his head as far as he could and clumsily managed to catch Shane’s mouth in a chaste kiss. “I’m okay. Just give me a minute before the next question.”

“Okay.”

Ryan squirmed against Shane’s cock. “And I didn’t say ‘stop doing that.’”

Shane chuckled softly against the pack of Ryan’s neck and rolled his hips in a languid rhythm. “Better?”

“So good.”

Ryan closed his eyes as Shane rocked into him, distracting him as the pain subsided. As they lay there, Shane gently took Ryan’s hand and kissed along his knuckles and fingertips. Ryan hummed contentedly, glancing back at him when the stinging died down enough to be overshadowed by what Shane was doing to him.

Shane kissed his cheek. “Next question?”

A nod.

“What was the rumored feature of Rasputin’s genitals? It had healing powers? It was th-”

“-It was thirteen inches long,” Ryan finished. He hesitated before looking back at Shane. “That’s one of the options, right?”

Shane laughed breathlessly and picked up the pace. “Yeah, you would remember that, wouldn’t you?”

Ryan gasped as Shane cored him out, fucking him rough and deep. Shane pinned him to the mattress, his hand large enough for his fingers to more than completely wrap around Ryan’s wrist. In their movements, Ryan’s shin collided with the edge of the bed and he bit through the pain as he shifted to bring his leg onto the mattress. The new position sent a shock of pleasure through his body; something Shane must have felt too, as his hand flew to Ryan’s hip to hold him in place. Shane groaned in need as he lifted Ryan’s other leg onto the mattress, Ryan’s knees digging into the sheets. Each thrust hit Ryan hard and with a movement that traveled along his spine, ending in a feverish grunt into the blankets.

“I felt the way you reacted when you heard that,” Shane said, voice straining for control between pleasured gasps. “Do you want to take a dick like that?”

Ryan only moaned in response, his entire body moving to Shane’s rhythm.

“Look at you. You’d be a mess with thirteen inches stuffed into you.”

“Mess,” Ryan echoed with a strained laugh, trying to stay present as he could feel another orgasm begin to build.

“Oh, Ryan. You don’t even know how to handle nine and a half.”

“Oh God, Shane.” Ryan’s hands shook as a blush swept down his body. He knew that if he was stroking himself in that moment that he would have come hard. As he was, Ryan’s cock dripped pre-come and throbbed, his hole spasming around Shane and coaxing out a low, rough moan. “C-close.”

“Close, Baby?” Shane repeated, his stilted voice and occasionally erratic rhythm making Ryan think that he was nearly there too. “Last question?”

“Please.”

Shane wheezed a laugh. “I might make a real history student out of you yet. Excited to finish your exam?”

“Shane!”

“Okay, okay.” Shane paused for a few brief seconds, his breaths a rough pant under him. “What was the actual cause of death for Grigori Rasputin? Poisoning, gunshot, or drowning?”

“Fuck.”

“Not an option.”

“Shut up, Shane. Let me think.”

Although Shane wasn’t as rough with him as he was only a few seconds ago, he was still distracting enough to derail any train of thought.

“Was poisoned,” Ryan murmured quietly. “Didn’t work.”

Shane hummed, neither an affirmation nor negation.

“Then he was shot and thrown into the river and… fuck, that mouth.”

Shane wheezed another laugh.

Ryan nuzzled his face into the blankets. When he tried to remember what happened next all he could think of was Shane on his knees, fingering and sucking on him. As far as Ryan was concerned, the documentary ended as soon as that body hit the water – the remaining few minutes a blank screen and white noise while Shane made him unravel. And he was so close now. Perhaps it was ridiculous for him to even try to get this correct; but, as with most things in his life recently, he wanted to do better mostly because it would make Shane happy.

Ryan turned his face so he wasn’t muffled by the bedding. “They shot him ‘til he was dead?”

“That is absolutely right.”

Shane slipped out, only to flip Ryan onto his back and slide back in. The manhandling was rougher than it was before, Shane leaning down to kiss Ryan and ball his fist in his hair. Ryan muffled a moan into Shane’s mouth as he wrapped his legs around Shane’s waist. Without wasting any more time, Shane let go of Ryan’s hair and slipped his hand between their bodies, wrapping his fingers around his cock.

Ryan hissed with the slight pressure and friction, more pre-come spilling onto Shane’s hand. “Fucking finally.”

Shane laughed, the sound lost beneath the rough panting that came with every breath. “Close.” He teased his fingertips along the ridge of Ryan’s cock, making him shiver before he leaned down and kissed him again. “Let me come in you.”

The words clouded Ryan’s mind and jolted through his body; a reaction so overwhelming that he knew Shane must have felt it. His breath hitched as he arched his back, trying to hold on long enough to answer. “Yes.” He moaned a quavering “oh” as he clung onto him, short nails digging into pale skin. “Yes, Shane.”

Shane’s eyes fluttered closed at the sound of Ryan’s voice, weak and frayed. He moaned softly, his voice lower and rougher than Ryan was used to hearing. Clumsily, Shane shook the puppet off his hand and immediately pinned Ryan’s hips to the mattress. His breaths became unsteady and rhythm faltered as he leaned down and kissed Ryan’s neck, groan muffled.

Ryan gasped, his heart racing and breaths shallow as he felt Shane come inside him. Shane pressed in as much as he could, lightly thrusting and grinding as he pumped even more inside Ryan. Tightening his grip on Shane’s shoulders, Ryan thought he could feel every pulse of Shane’s thick, twitching cock. Come spilled out of Ryan’s loosened hole from around Shane’s cock, a line of it trailing along the curve of his ass.

That was too much. Hell, everything about Shane was too much, but Ryan couldn’t even try to hold back any longer. Moaning loud and needy, Ryan’s hands trembled as he came. Shane kept fucking him and stroking him as his orgasm hit him in waves. Ryan’s cheeks were hot as his sex spilled onto his stomach and up to his and Shane’s chests.

For a few seconds the world was a blur of bedsprings, flannel, and Shane’s warm body pressed against him, everything else a haze of euphoria. The first thing that came back into focus was Shane’s lips as they pressed a chaste kiss against Ryan’s. Ryan opened his mouth and let Shane deepen the kiss, sighing contentedly against him. He was so dazed that he hardly even registered Shane getting onto the mattress with him and backing him up against the headboard again. It wasn’t until Shane pulled back and finally slipped out that Ryan sleepily opened his eyes. Shane looked exhausted and satisfied, his chest moving with heavy breaths and his hair a mess from the countless times Ryan had tangled his fingers in it.

“Hey,” Ryan said.

Shane wheezed a laugh before returning a simple, “Hey.” He leaned forward and kissed the corner of Ryan’s mouth. “Good?”

“Very good.” Ryan gently took Shane by the side of the face and guided him to another quick, soft kiss. “Good?”

“Amazing.”

Shane wiped his come-coated hand on Ryan’s chest, which earned him an indignant whine before he collapsed to Ryan’s side and onto a mound of pillows. Ryan smiled as he looked over at him, his shoulders blushing and pink scratch marks from Ryan’s nails crisscrossed over his back.

“And how do you think I did?” Ryan asked the discarded puppet as he picked it up. “What’s my score?”

Shane crossed his arms under his head as he turned his face to Ryan. “Five out of seven. Quite good, to be honest.”

“Well, I had a good tutor,” Ryan said, smoothing out the professor’s little uniform and straightening his glasses.

Shane hummed contentedly before tapping Ryan on the shoulder. “Don’t get them all correct tomorrow, okay?”

Ryan pouted and adjusted the puppet’s satchel. “He doesn’t think that I would be smart enough to get a hundred percent on your quizzes, Professor.”

“I’m serious, Ry. People will absolutely think you’re cheating if your scores jump from forty to a hundred. Steven will call you out during Watcher Weekly.”

Ryan sighed. “I suppose. Then he’d really call me a teacher’s pet.”

Shane reached over and took the Professor out of Ryan’s grasp and put his hand in him. “Ryan Bergara,” he had the Professor say, “you have made a lot of progress today with only one tutoring session. Given, it was very focused on only a few pages of the heavy heavy book of history, but I’m proud of you nonetheless.”

Ryan smiled at that.

“However, I should let you know that, although you weren’t earlier today, as of right now you are absolutely a teacher’s pet.”

Ryan groaned and rubbed his face in his hands, knowing that there was no way he could possibly refute that anymore.

“Don’t worry, we’ll keep this between us. And we’ll carry on in class the same as we always have.”

Ryan closed his eyes as Shane had the Professor lean in and kiss his cheek, blue fur dusting against his eyelids and nose. As soon as the Professor pulled away, Ryan took his small head in both hands and dragged him back down to kiss him full on his nonexistent lips. Fur tickled along his cheeks as Ryan showered the puppet in little kisses, a blush creeping up Ryan’s neck as he heard Shane laugh softly.

“Getting a little weird there, Ryan,” Shane said as Ryan held his hand still, continuing to kiss the Professor.

Ryan pretended not to listen. After all, the rim of those tiny glasses needed a kiss.

“Ryan.”

Another kiss.

“Ryan.”

“Oh, Professor.”

“That’s enough, Ryan!”

The Professor was pulled away from Ryan and tossed off the bed, landing with a soft poof on the floor. Ryan lay on his back, trying to look innocent as Shane gave Ryan a maddened, ruffled smile.

“I will not be made a cuckold by my own creation!”

Ryan burst out laughing and the next thing he knew Shane was on top of him once more, stealing kiss after kiss until they were again breathless. Their foreheads and noses touched as they lay there, messy and blushing.

Ryan tilted his head as he gave Shane another quick kiss. “I love everything you make.”

Shane blinked down at him, clearly surprised, which was enough to make Ryan’s heart hurt. Ryan never once thought that Shane didn’t know how much Ryan appreciated what he did. Every story, every song, every show, every dumb bit… of course Ryan loved it. After all, it all led back to Shane.

“Even the hotdaga?” Shane asked.

Ryan shrugged. “What can I say? It grew on me.”

As much as he hated to admit it, it was true. For an instant he was reminded of one day when he was venting about it to TJ and heard him refer to it as “a fantastic piece of pigtail pulling.” He wondered how long he and Shane had been written on the proverbial wall in their coworkers’ minds.

Shane kissed Ryan’s cheek and sat up a little. “Shower? You’re a mess.”

Ryan groaned, mourning the comfort of the bed before he nodded in agreement and righted himself. Shane took him by the hand and gently guided him off the bed.

Of course “I love everything you make” was shorthand for “I love you.” And judging by his reaction, Shane wasn’t quite ready for that yet. He could say it as a friend. Hell, they had been best friends for years.  But they had only just become… what? Boyfriends? Lovers? He wasn’t sure yet, but whatever they were, it was too new. Like everything in his relationship with Shane, this was something that needed time to sweeten around them.

As they reached the door to the bedroom Shane stopped and backed Ryan up against the frame. He looked down at him and Ryan thought he looked like he was going to say something before deciding against it and giving him a quick, deep kiss. Ryan shivered as Shane’s hands slipped under his flannel shirt and gently slid it off his shoulders and down his arms. Shane bunched the fabric in his hands before tossing it into the hamper beside the door.

“Stay the night?” Shane asked, his voice a soft murmur as he nuzzled against Ryan.

“I mean, I kinda took that as a given,” Ryan said, kissing Shane’s chest. The soft dusting of hair there tickled his nose. “I’d be a little upset if you kicked me out.”

“Stay the night and be my ride to work?” Shane tried.

Ryan wheezed and nodded. “We’ll have to stop by my place so I can put on real clothes.”

“Can we get breakfast on the way?”

“Yeah, we can get breakfast.”

“Yess.”

At that, Shane let go of Ryan and walked a little ways down the hall to his bathroom. From inside Ryan could hear things move around and the drag of a curtain across a metal rod before the static-like sound of running water. Still against the bedroom doorframe, Ryan smiled and  moved to follow Shane, glancing back for just a moment at the disheveled bed, strewn clothing, and, lying face down on the floor, the Professor.