The situation has escalated.
It was getting to the point, dare he say it, of ridiculousness, which was something , coming from him. Look, if there ever was something Shane had bled, sweat and cried over, it was the pride he had in his ridiculousness , but he had certain standards of ridiculousness. Not this-this, this... hullabaloo. This kerfuffle. Frankly, the whole thing was giving him traumatic war-esque flashbacks of High School. Not great , are the words Shane decides to settle with here.
They should talk, shouldn’t they? Not that Shane has ever gotten the opportunity to talk with Ryan for more than some passing greetings in the hallways. But in theory , he thinks, this is the basis of a healthy relationship. (Not that Shane has thought about Ryan in any context of any relationship whatsoever.) He knows this. He’s seen it in action. And look, Shane’s fucking 30. He works at Buzzfeed, where his job scope includes literally talking to humans in front of a camera. He’s volunteered to host a show where the entire basis is accosting innocent people walking down the wrong place at the wrong time to ask about weird-as-fuck questions. He’s gone to an improv class. How hard was it supposed to be?
The movies make it look so easy. Like hey, right now-with Ryan coming up the same stairs through the backdoor of the lobby.
“Hey!” Shane says, with enthusiasm.
“Hi!” Ryan says back, with equal breathless enthusiasm. Ryan’s face is dusted pink from his brief jog from what Shane presumes is his car, and he passes by Shane without so much as a backwards glance. So now Shane is standing in the middle of the concrete stairs like a dejected idiot.
‘ Hey?’ What the fuck?
He’s cool about this. It’s fine. When he sees Ryan again, he’s going to initiate a conversation, he’ll charm him so well with his communication prowess Ryan’ll be swooning over him by the end of the week.
Ryan bursts back out the door in a hurry, does a double-take when he sees Shane still standing there.
“Hi!” Shane says again, unprepared.
“Hey…?” Ryan mutters, and avoids his eyes to get back to his car. Probably left something behind.
Here it is, Shane, now’s your chance!
Ryan rummages through the back of his car. Shane shifts his weight from one foot to another, chickens out, and sprints for the door, the nearest hallway. Ryan passes by the door a full 3 minutes later, muttering harshly to himself.
As if the Universe thought it was going to be funny, they took him seriously, and has since thus created multiple opportunities for him to make good on this so-called communication he has promised.
It was almost comical. He was pretty sure Ryan didn’t even know his fucking name! Last week, Shane found himself going through the mortifying ideal of squeezing through a too-small doorway with him (he curses, not for the first time, the uncontrollable sprawl of his limbs, and a height most doors in America rarely considered designing for) as they were both in a hurry from one side of the bullpen to another, and Shane nearly drops the whole recyclable carton of gluten-free drinks some chief execs had ordered him to get on top of Ryan’s (pretty) head (of luscious, adorable, charming curls). Ryan catches on to the dilemma quickly, ducking quicker than Shane anticipates, and helping Shane right his load.
“Thanks, Ryan,” Shane breathes, gratefully. His right shoulder burns under his t-shirt and jean jacket, where their shoulders had pressed, briefly through the ordeal.
“No problem,” Ryan bobs his head awkwardly, the way people do when perceived by other people they do not know. Ryan bumps his fist against his shoulder, so now both his shoulders burn. Twinsies! “ Bro,” he continues, and ducks out of there faster than if his tail was on fire.
About two days after that, Shane had been in the Buzzfeed courtyard, laughing at the Zach, Keith and Jen toss about some red beach ball they’d somehow stolen from a shoot they had been doing right before lunch. Jen tosses the ball over to Andrew, who swats it away without looking up from his phone. They all make appropriate mock-awe noises, and Shane definitely spots the smile he usually tries to hide behind the impenetrable stoic facade.
They cheer for the man to throw it back, and he spots Shane trying to quietly enjoy the scene from behind his ham sandwich. Andrew must’ve made it a point, however, that if he was to participate in this improvised game, Shane must as well.
“Shane!” He shouts. “Think fast!”
Shane catches the ball Andrew kicks over, and takes a second to consider which of the three troublemakers he will have to choose from. In a plit second decision, he makes the gesture to throw the ball into Keith’s arms, double backs, aims for Jen, and hits Ryan in the face instead.
The group goes dead silent.
Keith, at least had the decency to look mildly sheepish. Zach and Andrew suddenly found a great sudden interest in their phones. Jen was trying, and failing, to hide an unapologetic grin, but it is Shane that Ryan has attention to, and Shane is about as frozen as a deer in headlights.
“Uhhh,” Shane stutters. “Sorry?”
Jen loses it, doubling backward in laughter, and Keith seems to lose the sense of shame he previously had. It pulls Ryan’s attention, away from him, and Shane was simultaneously relieved and disappointed at the same time. Which, to be fair, was a whole emotion more than he ever enjoyed to experience at the same time ever in his entire life.
He snaps two weeks later, on a horrible, terrible, no good, godawful Monday. He was hungover, overdue some editing projects he should be submitting in 5 whole hours, and was wearing his absolute least favorite shirt-the vomit green one with the yellow solid specks on the hems that makes him look sickly, because he’d been way too preoccupied with work to do laundry that week, and lo and behold the absolute last person he is mentally unequipped to deal with, making a protein shake by the breakfast bar of the bullpen kitchenette.
“Oh for crying out loud,” Shane accidentally says loudly. Ryan looks up, eyebrows raised. He pauses in his shaking motions, biceps bulging obscenely through his maroon-red sweater. Shane needs to be fucked or struck by lightning right this fucking moment, whichever comes first, and if that thought wasn’t workplace inappropriate, Buzzfeed should get fucking sued.
“I swear I’m not stalking you.” Shane feels the need to clarify, because while Buzzfeed might, by all accounts, afford a lawsuit, he certainly cannot.
“I didn’t think you were,” Ryan says carefully. “But now I do.”
Well that’s just great, isn’t it? Shane leaves before he can make more a fool of himself.
How did he even deal with this when he was as a closeted bisexual kid in Chicago? He used to be a whole lot smoother than this. Granted, he had been depressed, odd, lonely and psychologically stunted through undiagnosed mental disorders, but man, that kid could ignore feelings like nobody’s business.
Shane stops typing on his keyboard, struck with revelation.
Denial! That’s the real ticket! Perhaps that was the lesson the Universe had been trying to tell him all along! Faking it until he makes it, none of this silly talking business. Empires have flourished on the grounds of blissful, blissful ignorance. Energised by this epiphany, he finds that the day goes by a whole lot easier. He can find no flaw in this plan. It was foolproof. What could possibly go wrong?
A swimwear photoshoot.
That’s where it can go wrong.
“Amazing! Work it, Bergara! Now flex!”
Ryan giggles, flustered, as a (lucky sonofabitch) intern gets to help him adjust the shawl barely covering the front of his black strap bikini bottoms, patting it down so it might help cover his private bits from the internet, and make it easier for editing. To his credit, Shane only almost drops the lighting gear once, because Jonah insists for Ryan to bend down and show off his cleavage to the b-roll camera, and Shane had been treated to the full scale of Bergar- ass in skin tight black straps and possibly a portion of dick.
He looks beautiful, is the thing. A wider expanse of skin is being exposed to the undeserving eyes of the internet; swathes of tan brown-tinged golden under the bright camera lights. The spandex stretches over his curves like a clingy lover; nooks and valleys Shane would get lost in. Shane will murder a man in cold blood for the privilege of cupping his tiddies. He never imagined himself to ever be so green with envy over two straps of black lycra but hey, no one does.
Shane is, understandably, half-mast throughout the entirety of the shoot, and trying to simultaneously not let that hinder his work nor let show to the rest of the crew. This, unfortunately, results in some combination of creepy movements where he sticks himself to the back of the room adjusting equipment unless addressed or absolutely necessary. Devin tells him to help tie the red ribbon behind Ryan’s neck, and every brush of fingers on bare skin is electrifying. Ryan thanks him, eyes twinkling in embarrassment from under long lashes, and Shane gives him two thumbs up, tongue in knots, like the fucking disaster bisexual he is. Curly, who’s helping with sound, gives him a look.
Well, ok. Denial wasn’t gonna work anymore.
Shane spends the rest of the day trying to hide his half-chub under the table, and googling gross images and articles on corrupt politicians and war to calm himself down. Brent looks once, raises an eyebrow. To his credit , he holds himself back from saying anything about it until 5, at least, a whole 30 minutes before Shane usually pencils his hours at the end of the day. Shane was beginning to even think he was going to be let off the hook completely, when Brent speaks up.
“So,” he starts, and Shane buckles himself up for a talk. “Ryan, huh?”
“I don’t really wanna talk about it,” Shane mutters, trying his damndest to not let the conversation derail him from his work, hoping if he exudes enough Do not perceive me vibes, Brent would simply go away.
He knows, ok?
“Neither do I, man, this really isn’t my forte,” Brent admits. “But look, you’re a nice dude, and the sexual tension has been getting really fucking distracting.”
Shane flinches, not realizing that his blatant horniness and moping has been driving his deskmate off the bend.
“Have you tried talking to him?”
“I have tried talking to him!”
“Something normal,” Brent says, gently. He’s not very good at it, and it comes out sounding a bit like exasperation “Like a compliment?”
Shane goes quiet, thinking.
Brent pats him on the shoulder, packing up his things for the day. “Food for thought, man. And hey, if it still doesn’t work-fish in the sea, right?”
He is probably implying that Shane should get himself laid, preferably sooner rather than later. Shane does not bother to tell him that he’s tried that too, hasn’t been able to bring himself off, or clear his infatuation for months of a dry spell for a reason, but Brent’s got a point with the compliment thing, maybe.
Coincidentally, Shane and Ryan are both in the lounge, sometime the following Thursday. Shane has been in there since 11 am that morning, because he needed the change of scenery and a little bit more peace and quiet to work on some sound-editing he’s trying to get a head start on, and by the time he looks up to stretch his neck around 2 pm, Ryan is sitting on the opposite couch, fingers tapping away, absorbed in his own work.
He is looking extra gorgeous today; tufts of hair curls rebelliously from under his snapback, over his ears. A dusting of a cleanly trimmed five-o’clock shadow accentutates the line of his jaw, and the stretch of an old white hoodie complements the breadth of his shoulders, hunched over the screen of his laptop.
Something normal, his subconscious reminds him, sounding suspiciously like Brent. A compliment!
Shane searches for something noteworthy, something to bring attention to that wouldn’t be as creepy as say, the line of his nose, or the little scrunch between his eyebrows he makes when he’s thinking of something really, really hard, like right now for example.
Shane tries very hard to look like he’s checking him out without making it clear that he’s checking him out-observes the odd, and likely expensive design of his shoes.
Here goes nothing.
“Hey man,” Shane starts, almost losing his cool when Ryan looks up, regarding him neutrally. “Nice shoes.”
And Ryan absolutely beams.
Shane’s heart absolutely does not attempt to bust out of his ribcage.
“Thanks man!” Ryan says, attempting to sound a little modest. “They’re from the 1974 design I got off for cheap through some circles 3 years back. It took a while for me to look for some quality ones, but they’re totally worth it. You a big sneakerhead too?”
Shane shrugs, trying to look like he’s not completely out of his element. “I mean, I don’t gotta be to know some good shoes, right?”
“Oh totally,” Ryan rolls his eyes, like he’s about to get into it, and Shane ignores how his heart practically leaps at the very idea. “Like, Chloe almost spilled coffee on it just yesterday, we were coming back from the Try Guys shoot, right, and she called me a wimp for almost freaking out about it.”
“Dick of a thing to do, man.”
“I mean, she apologized about it, obviously, but come on, sometimes I feel like Zack’s the only person worth talking to who can tell Jordans away from pumps. You know Zack Evans?”
“We get together with Steven for Tiki bar Tuesdays every other month or so.”
“Oh sick,” Ryan says, and there’s an assessing look in his eye, as if he is just now really seeing him, after so long simply brushing shoulders in the hallways. “Wonder why I haven’t gotten a good look, then. You’re Shane, right?”
“Yup,” Shane says, bobbing his head maybe a little bit too enthusiastically. “I-uh,”
“Oh shit, is it lunch break already?” Ryan says, cutting him off. He must’ve spied the time on the bullpen clock, and Shane’s heart plummets, so quickly that he feels a little sick. He hadn’t even gotten time to work himself up into a proper conversation, and it was getting so, so good.
Ryan stands, and before Shane could burrow any more miserably into the couch cushions, Ryan turns to look at him, expectant.
“You wanna go get lunch together? I’ve been meaning to try the taco truck special down the road, and now seems like to be as good as a time as any.”
Shane blinks, and his mouth moves without any more input from his brain. “Only if you’re paying, Bergara.”
Ryan laughs, and it feels like an even bigger achievement than before. Shane’s soul is floating lighter than the clouds.
Maybe this whole talking business isn’t that big of a deal after all.