Something very peculiar is happening.
Ryan isn’t sure if it’s in the water, or an infestation of pod people. (The latter of which should be a genuine cause of concern, he feels. There has been a couple of false alarms from Pennsylvania again, unsettlingly similar to various cases he’s heard of back when he was rereading some of his favourite Illuminati articles in between his breaks.) People should be on high alert, is the point that he is getting to here.
Ryan was in the second-floor pantry, which is technically reserved for the accounting and research teams, but Ryan likes the coffee there better. He’s even managed to sneak a coffee mug in a few weeks ago, so he would stop needing to use up the disposable paper ones because Sam from the Try Guy’s financials had been giving him looks, and he’s on thin fucking ice with her already. Ryan burns a lot of metabolism, and he has found out very quickly, upon the discovery of the Good Company Coffee, that the only way he might get away with squirreling the amount of coffee he consumes is to arrive earlier than everybody else on the floor.
And so there was Ryan Bergara, sleepy as fuck on a Tuesday morning, making a sandwich as he attempts to squeeze every last bit of the coffee machine’s hard-work into his 2 litre thermos, in an almost deserted floor at too-fucking-early o’clock.
He had just put the bulk of it together; salad, two slices of tomatoes and ham, when he feels a presence approach him.
“I think he’s missing something,” says the tall dude, grinning too brightly for how early it was, and Ryan already hates him a little bit, cuteness be damned. He shuffles even closer, and oh wow, that’s fucking tall tall, unnescessarily tall, even. A height sleepy Ryan is not prepared to deal with. He blinks at White, Tall and Cute twice, and before Ryan knows it, WTC has a mustard bottle in his hand, and squirts yellow spectacles around the eyes of the smiley face Ryan had been drawing on his ham with tomato sauce.
WTC looks at him with his stupid bright smile, expectant.
Ryan squints at him. “I’m allergic.” he says, and watches how the smile decreases in megawatt in real time, breaking at it’s edges. Awake Ryan probably would have felt guiltier about it-it had been a cute attempt, whatever the fuck it was, but it was gross, for one thing, and he really, actually was allergic.
The coffee machine dings, raspy and tired, and Ryan hurries to grab his coffee. He thought about making another sandwich, but the pantry is out of ham, anyway, and after a single slurp of the fresh, hot, goodness of the Blessing on God’s Green Earth, he realizes he doesn’t feel all that hungry anymore.
He waves towards WTC, but the man isn’t looking at him, muttering angrily at himself.
Okay, thought Ryan, and hurries out of the pantry. No accounting for weirdos these days.
WTC’s real name is Shane Madej, is Jen is at all to be believed, and Ryan feels that the man is hiding something.
(He’s not saying it’s the pod people, but he’s way too early into his investigation to rule it out.)
For one thing, his hair? Unreal. Brown, silky, long enough into tempting Ryan to run his hands through it, just to see what it would feel like? Squirrel.
Ryan finds, through a bit of snooping, that he is new, and had been assigned to the very same floor, at the table next to Brent’s where Josh used to be. Ryan had been walking to his table after taking his lunch break at the park, at the benches where his favourite taco stand happens to be every Wednesday and Thursday, and in the name of Science, he has now come prepared.
He hides behind the pillar just a desk behind him, where new boy seems to be editing some of Kelsey’s new releases, due some progress by Friday. He is concentrating quite intensely, Ryan believes. He even has his headphones on, and Kelsey Darragh gives him a weird look when she passes him by. Ryan gives a wave, and does not react when she looks between him and an oblivious Shane Madej inquisitively.
What’re you doing? She mouths at him.
Nothing, Ryan says, like a liar. He thinks he’s pretty good at lying, generally, but Kelsey is better at telling them. She’s not paid enough to deal with his bullshit though, so she just rolls her eyes and walks on by.
Ryan turns back to face Shane Madej’s back, reaches into his pocket, aims, and throws a peanut-right at the man’s head.
Well, except for Shane yelling out in pain and surprise, whipping around to see who the fuck is throwing peanuts at him, of course. Ryan ducks down quickly, behind the relative safety of both the pillar and desk. He waits out a couple of minutes, listening to Shane swear and ask neighbouring coworkers the identity of his harrasser. He duck walks to a safe distance. Ned sees him, blinks, and turns back towards his monitor, muttering and checking for cameras.
Well, that was a bust. Ryan didn’t get where he is, however, without spite and stubborn determination, and this only proves that further investigations are to be conducted.
Shane Madej also seems confused of some general, social practices.
Friday, 2.30 pm; Ryan is editing through some compilation videos the Eugene had been asking him to help with since two days ago, when he is approached.
“Hey,” a hand lands on his shoulder, unfamiliar and broad, and Ryan may have stared at it a second too long before turning to face Shane.He is a little bit more unshaven today, and the beginnings of a beard dusts his upper lip and jaw. Ryan finds he wants to know what it feels like, possibly by his lips, and feels upset with himself.
“I think you, uh,” Shane clears his throat. “I think you dropped this,” he says, and hands Ryan a varsity jacket, and holy shit.
“Wait, hold on-is this an Premium Lakers Basketball Varsity Jacket?” Ryan states aloud, surprised, running fingers through quality felt and cashmere-lined interior, it’s silky smooth exterior. “They’ve only made, like, 15 of these,” he tells Shane, and does not mention that 12 of them are worn by NBA players. Ryan is currently holding up to 5k in his hands, and someone was just leaving it lying around?
“I don’t know,” said Shane, almost coquettishly. “Asked around; think it’s yours though, right?”
Ryan stared at him, horrified.
“Are you-fucking-no, what the fuck, dude? Someone must’ve been losing their mind for this.” He hands the jacket back over to Shane, like hot potato. He gives Shane another scathing look, and turns back to his screen, scrolling the volume of the video up exponentially. Nothing was playing, but Shane didn’t need to know that.
There is a five second shuffle, and Ryan sees Shane sigh in frustration before moving away. Probably annoyed to have to go 2 floors down where the Lost and Found was, instead of just heaping the responsibility away to someone else.
Alright, so, Ryan has the evidence stacked against him here.
Shane Madej was a little bit of a douchebag, sure (Like, why else would he just give someone else’s stuff away?), but general assholery does not a cryptid, make. It would be an overall disservice to them, Ryan feels. He pouts, scrolling through the notes he’s made on his phone, compiling them on his laptop and attempting to cross reference them to his admittedly limited knowledge of the supernatural. Sweet smile, very tall, shiny hair, pretty face…
Ryan sighs in frustration. He’s a paranormal investigator. He should be so much better at calling out obvious characteristics, lining the facts, connecting the-
Hold on a second.
Ryan straightens from his lousy slouch, spilling cheeze balls, popcorn and almost dropping the laptop off of him entirely.
Does…does Shane Madej like him?
He feels very close to an answer, googling the symptoms into the search bar, and after the 8th result procuring teen vogue articles, he feels stupid for overlooking the facts as it was blared right in front of him.
Oh my God, Shane has a crush on me.
Which, Ryan feels obligated to clarify, is first and foremost unprofessional.
It was kinda embarrassing if you think about it. Had Ryan lead him on without realizing he was doing so? He might’ve. He’d spent 5 years in a fraternity after all, and such long-term exposure of no-homo vibes and close physical contact had broken his gaydar beyond repair, and Steven had often said he might come off as too flirty and affectionate to strangers. Is that what this is about? Ryan feels, abruptly, ashamed, and yet still surprised that he is quite averse to communicating this revelation to him at work next week, and letting him down gently. Shane might’ve been trying to ask him out on a date.
Not that it might be all that bad to be on a date with Shane.
Hold the phone.
Did Ryan have a crush on Shane?
What constitutes as a crush, really? Is the question plaguing him into burning dinner that night, and it takes Jordan whacking him across the head and screaming about the smoke alarm to shock him into realizing. Could it be, perhaps, the acknowledgement of feelings, sexual attraction, or romantic potential? A certain balance of all three? How much of each requires the need of communication, sitting someone down and telling them hey, we might need to have a talk about this. Ryan keeps in mind that he has no obligation for either. How long of a time period is required between point of revelation and obligation is too short, (as to prevent from looking too eager) or too long (for romantic potential to have grown boring, or stale) before one might begin the courtesy of Flirting Back? Or is it perhaps calculated in the period of the First Flirt, and present time, instead? What if Shane had given up on Ryan?
Why was this bothering him so much?
“Just fucking ask him out, man,” Jordan advises somberly over dinner. They are both having takeout Lo Mein, because Jordan is craving, and he got to pick due to the whole, y’know, the Dinner Incident.
“I feel so fucking stupid. He’s been flirting with me for weeks, what if he’s gotten bored or something?” Ryan frets; a reasonable question, he feels.
Jordan stares at him. “After flirting with you forweeks?”
He’s got a great point.
It is Monday morning at Buzzfeed Inc, and Ryan Bergara is motivated.
A quick phone call with an amused Brent informs him how Shane takes Starbucks coffee, and Ryan is whistling as he bounds out of the car, carrying two takeaway venti cups, feeling spirited, feeling right. Shane Madej is about to get his man, and Ryan is going to climb that tree like King Kong up to the Empire State. He is going to do this.
Shane is in the lobby, next to Sara Rubin. She whispers something into his ear, and Shane throws his head back, laughing.
Ryan is not going to do this.
Kelsey spots him, sees him right as he breaks down, sees him freezing and double backing and Shane bumping heads together with Sara, and oh God, Ryan did get it wrong, didn’t he? It was-was-High School and Dwayne Smith all over again, because he’s straight, and now it’s Ryan with the unrequited crush on a straight, white, 6 foot tall man, and she leads him over to the unisex bathrooms to have his panic attack in peace.
Kelsey informs him that Shane is bisexual. Ryan finds that this doesn’t resolve his questions at all.
His day does not go so well, after that.
“Hey,” Ryan hears someone pant to catch up to him in the parking lot, and he does not need to turn to know who it is. “Hey, Ryan, won’t you hold on a second?”
“No,” Ryan says, and does not find the need to justify himself. It’s been a long fucking day, he doesn’t need Shane rubbing his disinterest in his face, alright? He’s got it.
Ryan slams the door of his car behind him, jams the keys into the ignition, and frowns to discover that Shane has managed to catch up to him anyway, breathing heavily and he holds onto the car door for dear life.
“Kelsey told me,” Shane begins. “With the Starbucks thing.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Ryan groans. He hadn’t even released the handlebreak for fear of driving and, like, driving over Shane’s toes or whatever, but now he is seriously considering the risk if it would save him from this godforsaken conversation.
“I don’t like Sara,” Shane continues. “I like you,”
Ryan blinks at him, surprised. His face slackens from his tight, scrunched up expression of malice.
“I’ve been trying to get you to notice me for weeks,” Shane says, a lot quicker now, as if he had realized his opening and is trying to take it before Ryan changes his mind again. “Up until literally this morning, I hadn’t even been sure if you’d even known my name. I’m no good at this, I’m from Chicago, it’s this stupid midwestern thing and I’ve been trying to work up the courage to ask you out for weeks and the one fucking time you’d actually tried to respond, I was just talking about a new debatable skeptic episode Sara’s tryna help me produce, I wasn’t flirting with her, I swear, and for God’s sake, would you give me something to work with here?”
Ryan realized he had made this man ramble on and fumble with this opening all on his own and said absolutely nothing on his part. Which wasn’t fair, of course, romance should be a two-way street. Ryan had no idea what to say to it, though.
So he kisses him instead.
It wasn’t a good kiss; the car door digs into their chests, Shane’s forehead knocks twice over the overhead, and Ryan almost bites Shane’s lip, and not in the sexy way. It wasn’t fireworks or anything, but for a kiss through a car door at ass o’clock in the evening after a horrible day and an altogether confusing week, Ryan finds he won’t mind trying again.
(and again. And again. And again.)
They part for air. Ryan is so close that he even notices the tiny beauty mark by the side of his left eye. He gets the overwhelming urge to kiss it too.
“So,” Ryan says. “Are you free for maybe movies on Saturday?”
Shane beams, and ducks down to kiss him again. Ryan can’t say he minds.