It… it hasn’t exactly come at the most convenient time. At least, that’s what Shane tells himself as he makes one more check of his apartment to make sure he isn’t forgetting anything.
BuzzFeed wants him to cover something in New York… they are doing a lengthy documentary of sorts, and his work and his onscreen personality are just what they are looking for and so, they’re going to do some kind of exchange. Shane will 'work closely with new teammates…' that’s what the email had said, amping up the opportunity and all the while pussyfooting around the fact that he will have to uproot his life. Someone from New York will come here, sit at Shane’s desk, and Shane will go and sit at theirs, two thousand miles away. It isn’t going to be forever, it’s only six months.
Telling Ryan had been hard. He knew it would be hard, but maybe he just hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be. He told him one Friday night out, having to shout a little, over the noise of the bar, because he was coasting on that half-drunk, emboldened, warm feeling that alcohol brings, and Ryan had been laughing and he’d thought, stupidly, that they were both fine enough to deal with it.
Whatever they were doing, this Thing they had… it was precarious, still. It wasn’t so much that Shane thought it would shatter and break like he had spent so long thinking it would — but rather that it would… implode somehow, devastatingly, in a way neither of them expected. And so maybe it was because of that underlying feeling that it remained secret. Why they didn’t talk about this Thing a lot, why they didn’t touch at all at work. The whole thing felt sort of like it was on the brink of something else, and— and even when they were together, just them, there was this intensity, this waiting feeling — submerged and subtle, but humming away constantly, that maybe neither of them wanted to touch. Something that felt somehow vast in its intensity, something that made Shane’s chest feel tight, his breath come thin, when he lingered over it too long.
In the bar, Ryan had looked at him and Shane watched his eyes change, even in the low light, and thought shit.
“New York?” Ryan had asked and their smiles had both flickered out so quickly, and Shane was left toying with his glass on its coaster.
“Whoa. Okay… for how long?”
“Uh, six months?” Shane had offered, like it wasn’t set in stone.
Ryan floundered for a minute, and then asked: “What about Unsolved?” and he said it in this strange way, almost like it was pre-recorded, and Shane cocked his head at him, but Ryan looked away.
Shane licked his lips. “Um, well that’s really up to you. We can either extend the break, or… or you can find someone else to—”
“Do you still want to do it?” Ryan asked. “I mean,” his dark eyes flickered over the room without seeing it as he tried to find something to joke about in this situation. “You’re not going to come back all hot shot New York—”
“Well, yeah, Ryan, that’s the plan. With an accent—” Shane supplied, affecting a passable Brooklyn accent, latching onto this tiny thread of humour and just trying to pull it out as far as he could, get Ryan smiling again, take some of this weight off of his own chest.
“Yeah,” Ryan said, laughing a little. “You can’t be on the show, if that happens.”
“Okay, okay,” Shane acquiesced, “No New York accent…” And for a moment they looked at one another over the table, the noise of too many other people talking surrounding them, and Shane had suddenly wanted to cancel everything, just stay here in L.A. More than that, he wanted to reach out and draw Ryan to him by the back of his neck, press close, feel his heartbeat against his own chest.
Of course, he didn’t.
It was a lot. It was too much, but Shane wasn’t about to turn down a good job opportunity just to do this Thing. Neither of them could stay at BuzzFeed forever, he knew that. He would be stupid to just— just stay. What, would he just hang around BuzzFeed until Ryan left? The impracticality of staying here in Los Angeles, of just waving a hand and shrugging and saying You know what? Fuck it, and staying here where it was familiar, at his desk beside Ryan’s, doing Unsolved, sharing either one of their beds… staying here with Ryan just because it was good right now… That kind of impractical thinking had been foreign to Shane before now and, he reminded himself, it was ridiculous to let this opportunity go, and so he just pushed it all down. He reverted back to some safer place, all reason and logic, and said: “It’s only six months.”
“Yeah,” Ryan had answered, like he hadn’t actually understood the words that had just come out of Shane’s mouth.
“And then I’ll be back. Unsolved, ghost hunting… back to normal.”
“Yeah,” Ryan said again, pushing a hand through his hair, dropping Shane’s eyes again.
They both lapsed into silence. Shane’s mouth felt very dry. Swallowing, he tore his eyes away from Ryan, scanned the bar, their table, his hand around his drink. He realized he was holding it very tightly and he loosened his fingers.
Taking a breath, he asked, “You wanna get outta here?”
“Yup,” Ryan said, sitting a little straighter. Shane sort of nodded, downed the last of his beer, and then stood up to go and pay.
“Wait—” Ryan told him, reaching for his wallet, but Shane shook his head, reached out and, for a second, his fingers brushed Ryan’s collarbone through his shirt before, almost too quick, he sort of aborted the gesture, and clapped his shoulder instead, awkwardly.
“I got it.”
They had gone back to Ryan’s. Not because it was closer, but because it felt right. Fair. Shane was the one leaving, after all. They talked about it — Shane leaving — almost animatedly in the entryway, in the elevator, in the hallway to Ryan’s apartment, but as soon as Ryan shut the apartment door behind them, they both fell silent.
“Are you—” Ryan began and Shane already knew the question. “I mean you’re doing this for the opportunity, right? And not to—”
Shane had been caught so tightly between the truth, the practical solidity of it, and not wanting to hurt Ryan, that he acted too quickly to really know why he was doing it. Leaning forward, and down, he caught Ryan up and kissed him, hard.
Things followed sequentially from there, as might be expected.
He never answered the question.
For the last month or so, they carry on as usual, until the morning of Shane’s flight arrives.
He’d told Ryan already that he didn’t want any “tearful goodbyes”, and so they’d agreed to just… not. Not see each other in the evening before he flew out “It’s just easier that way, Ry, you know…”
He didn’t often use that nickname.
And Ryan had agreed, (but, Shane knew, he hadn’t really given Ryan much of a choice). Yesterday morning, Ryan had fucked him, twice. The second time had both of them spent and shaking, but desperate for something more than release. It was like they were searching for an impossible connection, a link between them that they could hold onto in one another’s absence, and Shane had clung to Ryan’s headboard and the sheets beneath him and pressed his face into the mattress as both of them gasped breathlessly towards something neither of them knew exactly how to hold onto, or how to name.
Afterwards, they had showered and gone to work, and when five thirty rolled around, Ryan started packing up to go home. That was it. He’d taken his time gathering up his things while Shane finished all his last minute paperwork, and Shane knew Ryan was lingering, and he bit down hard on the inside of his cheek to keep any other feelings at bay, to keep from saying anything stupid.
“Well,” Ryan said. “See you in six months.”
“See you in six months.” Shane swivelled his chair and glanced towards Ryan’s face, but he couldn’t— he couldn’t meet his eyes.
He heard Ryan take a breath, and then he was shouldering his bag and heading out the door into the sunset. Shane stared hard at his computer screen and didn’t know whether or not Ryan looked back.
And now the morning of his flight is here, and six months suddenly feels like a very, very long time.