Title: caution: contents may be hot
Pairings: Sean/RyanJ, Alex/Greta, mentions of others
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~11,000
Summary: Coffee shop AU. RyanJ works at Joe's Coffee Shop during the day and takes classes at night, and sometime in between he finds himself falling for his coworker.
Disclaimer: I admit it! I made it up! Also: Don't google yourself.
Notes: For bandomficathon. Huge thanks to my lovely beta readers, simplemitosis and soloecal, and also to atomichatred82 for the hand-holding and cheerleading when I really needed it. This fic wouldn't have happened without them. ♥

Ryan J. Luciani has worked at Joe's Coffee Shop for the past two years, and he has never once thought about quitting. He loves his coworkers like family, the customers are generally pretty friendly, and Jon lets him take off work whenever he has a lot of schoolwork to get done.

He remembers the first time he discovered he could take time off for test days. He had packed up his ten-pound psychology textbook and gone to work, then kept slipping into to the back room to read it. About thirty minutes into the work day, Jon caught him trying to sneak off.

"Sorry," Ryan had said, "I just have this huge test tonight. I just... it won't happen again." He dusted his hands on his uniform and headed back toward the sandwich station.

Jon stood in front of him, blocking his way. "Ryan, seriously. Just go home."

Ryan looked at him in horror. "Come on, man! I was just going to study, it's not like there are any--"

"No!" Jon interrupted, holding his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. "Nothing like that, just. Take the day off! We don't have that many customers, you know."

"Oh. Wait, really?"

Jon nodded, and that was when Ryan knew he wanted to work here as long as possible.

Everything about Joe's is more or less perfect, and then Jon hires Sean Van Vleet.


Approximately six minutes into Sean's first day, Ryan's favorite customer comes in. He saunters up to the counter, tosses his hair, smiles at Sean, and says, "I'll have a vegan latte!"

Sean stares at him. "Um," he says, eloquently. Ryan admires him for not snapping right then and there. Thinking about his first day still leaves Ryan with a dull ache. There may have been an Incident with the toaster oven, but even if there was, everyone has promised never to speak of it again.

"You must be new here!" the guy says, sitting on the counter next to the register. "I'm Alex. Greenwald. Or Salpeter, if you prefer." He flutters his eyelashes at Sean, offering his hand to be kissed.

Sean gives him a dubious look, and Ryan thinks he'll finally get to hear him speak. But as soon as Sean opens his mouth, Jon reappears from the back. "Alex," Jon says, exasperated, "must you harass all my employees? Is it blonds? Is that your thing?"

Alex hops off the counter with a flourish. "Nonsense, Jonny Walker! You know Miss Greta is my One True Love. Besides," he adds, pushing his hair out of his face, "I'm mostly straight."

"Mostly?" Jon asks, already pouring his coffee. "Who's your exception, then?"

Alex's smile turns wicked. "None other than our own Ryan Ross."

Jon smirks and shakes his head. "He has a girlfriend," he points out.

"Ah, but soon, so will I. The point is moot!" Alex announces, addressing the empty room with his arms wide. "Moot, ladies and gentlemen."

Ryan wanders over, tired of being left out. "The girl who works opposite you, Greta Salpeter," he explains to Sean. "Alex has been bothering her to go out with him for months now." He then adds in an undertone, "It's kind of pathetic."

"I prefer the term courting, thank you," Alex says, ignoring Ryan's aside.

"She hasn't said no yet," Jon points out.

"She hasn't said yes, either," Ryan counters.

"She will, though. She will!" Alex insists.

Sean just shakes his head. "I think you're all crazy."

Ryan smiles at Sean, but Sean misses it as he is momentarily distracted by Jon showing him which buttons to press on the register. Ryan thinks he's going to fit in just fine.


Ryan doesn't speak to Sean again until almost a week later. It's not that he doesn't want to, but whenever business is slow, Ryan likes to try out new sandwich recipes, and Sean never comes over. Ryan has considered offering one of them to Sean to try, as a kind of peace offering. Wait, that's not right. Friendly gesture? Yeah, that sounds better. Whatever it is, Ryan talks himself out of it every time. Knowing his luck, Sean is a vegetarian, or he's allergic to mayonnaise. Making someone throw up for the rest of the day doesn't exactly make the best first impression. Not that Ryan would know.

Besides, Sean only works every other day, and Ryan is too busy planning out his next short film between sandwiches to really notice. He's busy telling Jon all about the props he's going to get for his newest film assignment when Sean wanders over for the first time.

"Uh, Jon? I just had a question about the specials?"

"Hey!" Ryan exclaims, suddenly aware that Sean has never spoken to him. "We haven't actually been introduced! I'm Ryan. You can call me Ryan J, if you want. The J's for good luck."

"Don't use the J," Jon says, the traitor. He's just jealous because Ryan's name is so much cooler than his. "If you humor him, it'll just get worse."

Sean laughs, and Ryan is momentarily stunned into silence. Sean has a gorgeous smile. "I'm Sean," he says, holding out his hand. Ryan wastes no time ripping off his work gloves to shake his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Ryan J."

And just like that, the quiet guy that has been working on the other side of the room for a week becomes Ryan's new favorite person.

Jon, however, is unfazed. He rolls his eyes and takes Sean away to explain the specials. Ryan pouts at him from across the room while Sean's back is turned, and then thinks fuck it and goes over to interrupt their conversation.

"...yeah, that makes sense now. Thanks," Sean says to Jon. Ryan tries to think of a way to change the subject, but before he can think of anything, Sean says, "Sorry for interrupting you earlier. What were you guys talking about?"

Ryan brightens, already excited to share his ideas. "It's this film class I'm taking. Half the time it's just an excuse to goof off with my friends, but it's really interesting. Like, I used to just wander around with my camera and bother people with it, but now I know what I'm doing."

"In theory," Jon adds. Ryan glares at him.

"Okay, so I'm still figuring out the framing," Ryan admits. "But it's totally awesome. I walked around downtown one day last week and just filmed people walking around town. People are so interesting. It's all about being in the right place at the right time, you know? Catching things on film that happen every day, but you just don't notice."

Sean nods earnestly. "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean! I was just reading this book where the main character kept wishing for all this stuff, like with a wishing well and everything, and in the end you realize that he could've had everything he was asking for if he'd just paid attention and pursued opportunities. It was really inspiring."

Watching Sean is absolutely mesmerizing. Ryan looks to Jon to see if he has anything to say, but Jon is nowhere to be seen. Huh. "That's exactly what I love about film! You can either film people acting normally, or you can purposefully film something you made up."

"Like a movie," Sean adds, eyes bright with interest.

"Right, like it's just an act, so it's the opposite of what you could film walking down the street."

"Which is more organic," Sean says, nodding. "That's totally cool," he says, and he sounds like he means it.

"And like, the best part? Is when you get somebody on film acting normally, and then they see your camera and they completely change their behavior. Girls usually fix their hair," he says, mimicking the action, "and guys... Well, some of them act all macho, but then others just do something goofy."

"You should do a documentary where you study how people change in front of the camera!" Sean suggests, making Ryan laugh.

"You say that like I know what I'm doing."

Sean makes a disbelieving noise. "I'm sure you're not giving yourself enough credit. I bet-- oh. You have a customer," Sean whispers, leaning into Ryan's space.

Ryan stares at him for a second, processing his statement. He can smell Sean's cologne from here. But then Sean's statement registers, and he turns his head to see an elderly woman standing at the counter, looking impatient. "Shit," he mumbles. "How long has she been standing there?"

"I'm not sure, I just now saw her giving me a death glare," Sean answers. "Hurry, go!"

Ryan hurries over and apologizes profusely. "I'm so sorry, ma'am, I thought we had someone else out here, what can I get for you?" He silently curses Jon for fucking off in the back. He wouldn't have had to end his conversation with Sean if Jon had been out here. He rushes through the woman's sandwich, still careful to make it exactly how she wants it, then sends her on her way. She gives him a smile when he hands over the sandwich, so he counts it as a win.

Of course, as soon as the bell signals her leaving the building, Jon returns from the back room. "What? You actually did work and I missed it? That can't be right." Ryan glares at him, knowing that it was a slight warning, but also knowing that Jon knows it's unnecessary. He hasn't worked here two years for nothing.

Jon wanders over to Sean and says something Ryan can't hear. Sean nods, looking toward Ryan, before heading over to the sandwich side. "So, do you live at the school?" Sean asks, leaning against the counter.

Ryan nods, shakes his head, then nods again. "I live in an apartment right off campus. It's not too far from here."

"What's it like there?"

"It's sufficient for a coffee shop salary," Ryan admits. "And I know every single person that lives in my complex, which is awesome. Makes parties easier."

"Parties?" Sean asks, raising his eyebrows.

Ryan laughs. "Yeah, we have enough people living close by that there are parties pretty much every Saturday. We have a Rule for Complete Silence on Sunday mornings. Jon actually comes a lot of the time," he adds, pointing in Jon's direction.


"Yeah, maybe you can stop by one week," Ryan suggests, then feels like an idiot. Is he asking Sean out already? Is that okay? Can he play it off as a joke?

"That'd be cool, yeah," Sean says, nodding. Oh. Well, that works too.

"So, uh, where do you live? Near here?" he asks, trying to sound nonchalant.

Sean shakes his head. "Across town. It's not too far really, but in the morning traffic it takes an unreasonable amount of time."

"Ah, that sucks. Is it nice, at least?"

Sean coughs and laughs at the same time. That's the only way Ryan can think to describe it. It sounds kind of painful, but Sean doesn't seem to be bothered. "My heater works about twenty percent of the time, the door doesn't lock, and I'm pretty sure there's something living behind my closet wall. But other than that, yeah, it's nice."

Ryan smiles. "Sounds a lot like my place."

"It's really not as bad as I make it sound. Well, other than the heating." Sean runs a hand through his hair and looks away, laughing quietly. "There's this great homeless guy that lives right outside, and he'll sing any Beatles song you can think of. I can't start my day without at least hearing 'Eleanor Rigby' or something."

"Does he know 'Blackbird'? Because I think that would make it totally worth the trip."

Sean laughs, saying, "I'll ask him next time I see him." He pauses, looking around the coffee shop. "Hey, can I ask you something? How does this place stay in business? I mean, I know we have a lunch rush, but it really doesn't seem like enough people to--"

"We actually make a lot more money at night than during the day," Ryan informs him, adjusting his work apron. "Other than Jon, there's a whole different group that works most nights. I think they're more responsible. They get paid better, at least."

"Really. How do you know all that?"

"'Cause they just started letting me work on Friday nights last semester," Ryan confides, quietly. He's still not sure why Jon hired him for the night shift, but he's not complaining. "Seriously? If you have time on Friday, stop by for the show. It gets full in here."

"Is it any good? I mean, I saw the fliers, but. Open mic night makes me think too much of bad karaoke."

Ryan tries his best not to cringe, because Sean is definitely right about some of the people they get on stage. "It can be hit-or-miss, but if you're discreet about it, you can have just as much fun with the bad acts as the good ones."

Sean tilts his head back and laughs, completely genuine. "I guess I'll have to check it out, then."

"Sean!" Jon calls over, then points at the clock. 10:45.

"Sorry, curfew," Sean says, shrugging. He jogs over to Jon. "Coming, dad!"

Jon cuffs the back of his head, but Sean just laughs and winks at Ryan. Ryan's joke about father-son relationships dies on his tongue. He blinks over at Sean for a second, working out a proper response, but then a customer comes in. Ryan watches her order a vanilla latte and wonders why he's suddenly in such a good mood.


A few days later, Ryan comes in to work feeling great. His classes are going well, he slept better than he has in ages, and he has an awesome idea for a new sandwich for the menu.

But then about five minutes after he clocks in, he sees Greta behind the counter and his mood falls just a little. He loves Greta, of course he does, but... he forgot that Sean only works every other day. He sighs, already angry at himself. He usually doesn't fall this hard this fast, okay? He has standards. But fuck, Sean is amazing.

At Greta's cheerful "Good morning!", he leans heavily against the counter and sighs. "What's new, pussycat?" Greta asks with a smile.

"Greta, what d'you do when you have a killer crush on someone?"

Greta hmms and taps her fingers on the counter. "Well, you could let him pine and do goofy things for your attention until you're sure it's for real."

Ryan wrinkles his nose. "It's been done." Greta giggles, and he can't help but ask, "If you really like him, why don't you just say yes when he asks you out?"

"I don't know what you're talking about! I was just giving advice, you know. Just a random suggestion."

"Of course you were, how silly of me. But hypothetically..."

"Hypothetically, if there were some guy, let's call him Shmalex, that asked me out on a regular basis and didn't give up and I did like him, then... I'd maybe be worried that it's just the thrill of the hunt that he likes so much, and not the girl."

Ryan shakes his head. "I know this Shmalex guy pretty well, and trust me, he's crazy about you."

A soft smile crosses Greta's expression. "Maybe I should give it a shot," she admits.

Ryan does a mental fist pump for Alex. Maybe she'll even tell him today, and Ryan will be able to celebrate his persuasive prowess with Sean tomorrow. "But-- I mean, your crush already likes you. What do you do when... he doesn't?"

Greta shrugs, then pulls him with one arm into a hug. "You pine."

Fuck. That's what he was afraid of.

"Ryan Luciani! That's right, no J for you. Hands off my woman!" Alex demands, hurrying in from the frozen outdoors.

Ryan rolls his eyes. "C'mon, Alex, you know I don't swing that way. Not that you're not lovely," he tells Greta, who leans forward to give him a kiss on the cheek. Alex makes an indignant noise, and Ryan hurries back over to the sandwich bar before Alex can hop over the counter and start throwing punches.

"And what's with this 'my woman' business, huh?" Greta asks, hands on her hips. "I'm pretty sure there's no ownership going on here."

"Aww, Greta, you know I didn't mean it like that. You're the light of my life! My one and only. I just don't want to walk in one day and find out you got a boyfriend while I wasn't looking. That would break my heart, Greta." He leans into the counter, but Greta takes a step back. "Don't go breakin' my heart," Alex begins to sing, and Ryan can see Greta trying to hide a smile even from across the room. He knows Alex can see it, too.

"What can I get for you?" she asks, not looking him in the eye. Alex has been here long enough to know only to answer that question with a coffee order, or he could very well get kicked out by whatever employees or customers remain in the room. He doesn't say anything, though, instead waiting for her to look up at him. She doesn't. "Well?" she prompts, the ghost of a smile gone just like that.

The bell chimes as another customer comes in, and Alex only says, "Greta?"

Greta looks at the woman that has just entered the shop. "Good morning, ma'am! Welcome to Joe's Coffee Shop. What can I get for you? Oh, don't mind him, he was just leaving," she says, glancing briefly at Alex before smiling again at the woman.

Alex casts a pleading look toward Ryan, who unfortunately has nothing to say. He will never understand women. His heart hurts for Alex as he trudges out, looking completely crestfallen.

That pretty much ruins Ryan's good mood, especially since Greta starts feeling guilty as soon as Alex leaves. She doesn't say anything to Ryan, but he can see it in the droop of her shoulders and the fact that she doesn't sing during the downtime.

During the lunch rush, though, something happens to turn it all around. Ryan is busy trying to remember if the guy he's making a sandwich for asked for banana peppers or bell peppers when he hears the sound of a guitar filtering through the noise of restless customers in line. He looks up to discover Alex on the stage, stool but no microphone, guitar on his knee. During the week, they set up two tables on the stage to create more seating, but Alex apparently moved the two tables to the far side of the stage while no one was paying attention.

The guy with the peppers clears his throat, and Ryan has to ask him to please repeat his order. Ryan is too busy to really pay much attention to Alex, but he can hear him singing and he definitely hears the word "Greta" in there more than once.

"Alex, knock it off! You're disturbing our customers," he hears Greta yell a few minutes later, and looks up just as she throws a coffee cup lid at him (and misses by a mile). She's definitely smiling this time.

"Let him play, Greta! He's got a nice voice," one of their regular customers, Bob, shouts back. He shoots a wink at Alex where Greta can't see.

"Aww! You're Greta?" a girl that Ryan recognizes from school asks, beaming. "That's so sweet!"

Greta hisses, "Don't encourage him." Jon tells her the next order, and she goes back to work with a song back on her lips. Ryan catches Alex's eye and smiles. Alex winks at him, making him think of Sean, and fuck, there goes his concentration.


Ryan spends most of late Friday afternoon feeling anxious. Sean worked for most of the day, but his shift ended almost two hours ago. Ryan's going to be working, sure, but Sean's going to be here as a customer instead of a coworker and Ryan is thinking about it a little more than he probably should.

The performances start at 7, and it's 6:50. Ryan keeps watching the door, but it's always really busy until slightly past 7, so he can't exactly camp out on it. He starts to worry that Sean isn't going to show, and then he looks at the next customer only to see Sean standing there, all smiles and wearing a white button-up shirt that looks great on him.

"Hey! I didn't see you come in," Ryan says, then wonders if that sounds like he was watching for him. He decides he doesn't care. "How are you? I mean, since I saw you two hours ago. Anything interesting happen?"

Sean laughs. "Well, it's incredibly cold outside, and my space heater takes half an hour to heat up, so I'm pretty happy to be back here already."

"Glad we can be here to keep you warm," Ryan says, waggling his eyebrows, then blanches. "That sounded..."

"...pretty bad, yeah," Sean says, biting his lip to hide a smile. Ryan finds his eyes drawn to Sean's mouth. "So I guess I should order before I get murdered by hungry customers."

"Right! Of course, what would you like?"

Sean shrugs. "Whatever your latest compilation is. Surprise me. Is it going to be this busy for you the whole time?"

"It dies down in about half an hour," he says, already putting together Sean's sandwich, "when almost everyone gets some food and settles down for the show." He puts the finishing touches on the sub, secretly hoping that he doesn't accidentally give Sean food poisoning.

"Great," Sean says, taking his sandwich. "I'll be back at 7:30, then."

Ryan's stomach does this weird flip-flop thing, but he manages to address the next customer with a completely normal voice.

He stays busy for a while, careful not to look over at Sean very often. Sometimes he hates having a crush; it makes him feel like he's back in middle school. But one time, he glances over and Sean isn't there. He looks toward the guy butchering Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" at the mic, then back across the room, but he doesn't see--

"Hey!" Sean says, startling him.

"What are you, part ninja?" Ryan asks, trying to return his breathing to normal.

"Sorry, I thought you heard me walk up."

"I know you think very highly of yourself, Sean, but here's a new thought: it's not all about you," he says, whispering the last part. Shit, that's such a lie. He's going to get struck down right here, and then Sean will know that he died trying to hide a pathetic little crush.

Sean just rolls his eyes and takes it in stride. "At least I don't tell people to call me 'Sean V'."

Ryan clutches his hand to his heart, feigning hurt. "But Seanvee, I though you loved the Jay!"

"Seanvee?" Sean asks, snickering. "Is that like a Humvee?"

"Something like that. The new model, not so well-built for terrain. Great for book storage, though!"

Sean punches Ryan on the arm, but Ryan doesn't let that get him down. He knows that was a good one. "So did you hear that last guy? Horrible."

"Yeah, most of the good acts come on after 8. I probably should've warned you."

Jon walks over and tells Ryan he can take a break for now. Ryan waits for the catch, but Jon walks away, so Ryan gladly takes the opportunity. He and Sean watch the next few acts, quietly making comments on the "quality" of the performance every now and then. After a while, they start to improve, and then Tom walks on stage.

Ryan glances at Jon, who's beaming at Tom and giving him a thumbs up. "That's Tom," Ryan explains to Sean. "Jon's best friend. They're pretty tight, I guess. Tom's in my film class."

"Oh," Sean says, interested. "Small world, I guess."

"Small town," Ryan says. "He's never played here before, though."

"Hello, everyone," Tom says into the mic, waving awkwardly. "Um, I don't actually sing. All that much. So I'm just gonna play something for you, and, you know, if you like it, maybe you can find me a singer."

He settles onto his stool and strums a few chords, then starts to play in earnest. Ryan thinks he's pretty good, and when he looks, Sean is completely captivated. Well, that's good, at least. They both appreciate good guitar playing. Ryan tries not to think about Sean anymore, closing his eyes and listening to the notes. He finds himself tapping out a rhythm against his side in time with the music, and that reminds him that he should go by the practice rooms for a little while tonight after work. He'll have plenty of nervous energy to bang away after this. His mind immediately takes that a different way, and then he completely misses what Sean says to him. "I'm sorry, what'd you say?" Ryan shouts over the applause.

Sean handwaves as if it wasn't important, but dammit, Ryan wants to know. "No really, what?"

"Nothing! He's just... really good."

"Oh. I mean, yeah. I liked his sound." He doesn't know why, but that doesn't settle well. As Tom comes off the stage, Jon waves at Ryan to take over. "Back to work, I guess," he says, but Sean just nods, obviously lost in thought. Ryan makes a face at him, but he's completely gone. Whatever.

"Hey, man," Jon starts with that soft smile that means he's probably going to ask for something. "D'you mind closing up tonight? I think I'm gonna head out soon."

Ryan hates closing up. There are too many things to check, and he's pretty sure Friday nights are the worst of them all. He considers asking Jon to make someone else do it, but the fact that Jon asked him makes him feel a little bit proud. Plus, maybe Sean will stick around and keep him company. "Sure, I guess."

"Thanks, man. I owe you one," Jon says, clapping him on the shoulder. He's not sure why Jon owes him one - part of his job is closing up when necessary, but if it means getting a favor later, then he's cool with that. Jon says something to Tom, who nods as he loads his guitar back into its case.

Ryan goes into the back to wash his hands, but then he can't find his work apron, even though he's sure he left it right here when he took his break. He hears a new singer go through an entire song before he gives up, heading back out to tell Jon. Of course, as soon as he gets back, he finds it folded up under the counter, and remembers leaving it there. Oops.

"There you are," Jon says, but he doesn't look too annoyed. He looks pretty happy. "I'm gonna go; will you be okay manning the fort?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine, go ahead."

"The list is on the back door. Make sure you do every--"

"I know, Jon. I've done this before. Go."

Jon beams at him. "Okay. Thanks."

Ryan rolls his eyes at him as Sean walks up. "He was in a good mood," Ryan says.

Sean laughs. "Maybe you should've asked for a raise."

"Dammit, I should have. Did you? I don't know if he can even do that, but. Man, I should've asked!"

Sean shakes his head. "I'm pretty sure Jon can't afford to just hand out raises when he's in a good mood, but if you find out that he can, make sure you pass that valuable information along, yeah?"

"He does owe me a favor," Ryan says, considering.

"Well," Sean says, stretching. "I think I'm going to go on home. Get my heater going before I'm ready to collapse into bed."

Ryan stares at him. "Dude. It's, like, 8:45. We don't even close until 10."

"I know, but. I don't know. Do you think I should stay?"

Ryan thinks, I want you to stay. Instead, he shrugs and says, "I guess if you have things to do, now is probably a good time?" He doesn't mean to make it a question, but it comes out that way.

"Okay," Sean says, sticking his hands in his pockets. "Well, this was actually really fun. Thanks for telling me about it." Ryan's pretty sure Sean would've found out about it eventually, but he nods anyway. "I'll see you on Tuesday?"

"Yeah, Tuesday. Sounds good," Ryan says, waving as Sean walks away. He tries not to feel annoyed when he spends the next hour bored and leaning on the counter. He gives out the leftover cookies to the last few customers, says goodbye as the other employees clock out, then cleans up in a daze. He thinks about the hectic week he's had, with his classes and work and Sean. It's going to be a hell of a year.


On Monday night, Ryan sits in class and stares at the clock. He's got Film next, but he feels like he's been sitting in Business for five hours. He scribbles ideas for locations to film in the margin of his notes, and then his mind wanders. He wonders if Sean would be bothered if he set up a camera during work. That could be cool, even if he couldn't use any of it for class. Then he wonders if that's creepy. He'd tell Sean about the camera, so it can't be that creepy.

Finally, the professor finishes his lecture and Ryan rushes out of the room. He's been antsy all day, waiting for Tuesday. He knows exactly what the reason is, and he's not too proud of it, but he feels good about this thing with Sean. He thinks it's definitely going somewhere.

"Hey, Ryan, right?" Ryan looks up, startled, to see Tom standing in front of his desk.

"Yeah. Hey, Tom. I didn't get a chance to tell you, you did great on Friday," Ryan says, smiling.

Tom smiles like he's surprised. "Thanks, man. I didn't really want to play, but Jon talked me into it. It turned out to be a really good thing, because now I probably have a singer."

"Oh! That's great. Are you, like, starting a band?" Because Ryan wants to drum with someone; he really wants to play more than three times a week in the practice rooms.

Tom shrugs, taking a seat next to Ryan. "I don't know, I haven't thought--"

Tom is interrupted as the professor comes in, but he gives Ryan a smile. Ryan thinks that Tom's a pretty cool guy.


Ryan gets to work a little bit early on Tuesday. Completely by accident, because he certainly doesn't want to wait outside in the cold until Jon gets there with the key. And it's starting to snow. Ryan fucking hates January.

Of course he gets there early on the coldest day of the year and also the first day in history that Jon is late.

"Oh my god, please don't tell me it's locked," Sean says as he comes up behind Ryan.

Ryan nods, teeth chattering. "Yeah, he's late." His eyes widen when he realizes, "Why don't you have a coat on?!"

Sean looks miserable. "I was in a hurry! I thought I was late! Fuck." He has a scarf, at least, but only a long-sleeved shirt under that, and Ryan can't stand it. At least Ryan has a sweater under his coat.

"Here, wear this," he insists, handing his coat to Sean.

Sean looks at him with wide eyes. "Don't give me your coat, dumbass, you'll be the one to freeze."

"At least I dressed for the right weather! Take it or we'll both freeze."

Sean sighs, but takes the jacket. "Thanks."

Two and a half agonizing minutes later, Jon shows up. "I'm so sorry, guys, Tom lost his keys and--fuck, why don't you have a coat?"

Ryan ignores him and pushes the door open.

"Oh god, that's amazing. Heat," Sean says, holding his hands out in front of himself. Ryan stares at Sean, with his eyes closed and head thrown back, and then catches himself and goes to get ready for the work day.

They spend most of the morning talking about movies. Sean apparently really loves indie films, and Ryan loves to hear him talk about them like each one is its own world. It's completely captivating.

During the lunch rush, they play a game where they have to name a band whose name starts with the same letter that the last band ended with. They make up more rules as time passes, including Jon's mandatory one that they not scream band names into the customer's ears. Ryan just didn't know his voice was that loud, alright?

After business slows down again, Sean comes over with two caramel macchiatos. "So how was your weekend?" he asks, offering one to Ryan.

Ryan accepts the drink gratefully, quickly putting together a sandwich for them to share. "Completely boring," he admits. "Absolutely nothing to tell."

"What, no parties?" Sean asks with a smirk. "I thought it was like Guaranteed Party over at your place."

Ryan shakes his head, laughing. "I may have exaggerated a bit." Sean hmms, so Ryan rushes to defend himself. "Seriously, it seems like every week sometimes. Nick's throwing another party on Saturday; it should be awesome."

"Oh, Nick! I think Tom mentioned something about that."

Ryan looks at Sean in confusion. Tom?

Sean sets his drink down, looking excited. "Oh, I haven't gotten a chance to tell you! I talked to Tom after the show on Friday, when you were in the back, and we started working together! He's really great at what he does, and it's amazing to get a chance to sing."

Ryan's mouth goes a little bit dry. "Wow. Uh, I didn't even know that you, you know, sang."

"Yeah! I mean, I dunno, I've taken voice lessons. I just love the art of music, you know? I told you about the lyrics I've written, d'you remember?" Of course Ryan remembers; he was hoping Sean would show him one day. "I showed some of them to Tom, and we're already working on a song. It's so exciting."

"Wow," Ryan says again. He doesn't know what else to say, but he really wants to hear Sean sing.

From then on, the rest of the week seems to concentrate itself on Tom Conrad. Jon mentions him more often because of Sean, Tom starts sitting next to Ryan during Film, and Sean won't stop talking about him. By the end of the work day on Thursday, Ryan's starting to get tired of it.

He knows exactly what's going on. He's not blind. Sean has a thing for Tom. He'd been hoping that he was wrong, but then Tom came in earlier in the afternoon and Ryan was able to witness first-hand the way Sean got such an earnest look on his face as they talked in the corner. The worst part was that Tom looked just as taken with the conversation.

Ryan realizes it's only a matter of time before they hook up and he has to face it every other day. He hates his life.


Ryan finally makes it to Saturday night, and he's ready for it. He's actually been looking forward to this party for a while, but over the last few days, Saturday felt like it was never going to come. After the week he's had, Ryan's ready to get smashed and forget about Sean's pretty face, at least for a few hours.

"You look like shit," Spencer says when he shows up at the door.

"This is actually a mirror," Ryan says, pointing to his face. "Where's the beer?"

Normally Spencer would have a bitchy comment in response, but Brendon bounds in from the kitchen, beers in hand, and hooks his chin over Spencer's shoulder. "Hey RyanJ. How's life?"

"Life sucks, and then you die," he says, taking the offered drink. "Cheers."

Brendon and Spencer are the closest thing Ryan has to best friends. Ryan's roommate, Al, used to be around to listen to him complain about whatever was on his mind, but lately Al has become more popular with the ladies, and he spends most nights in someone else's apartment. Brendon and Spencer welcomed his angst with open arms, because their other best friend, Ryan Ross, had abandoned them for his True Love, the lovely Keltie Colleen. They usually call him their "replacement Ryan", but Ryan knows it's a term of endearment.

Nick appears suddenly, as he often does, and pulls Ryan into a hug. "Welcome! Make yourself at home, et cetera. Make sure no one has sex on my bed this time, okay? Can you guys do that for me?"

Spencer rolls his eyes, but Brendon nods earnestly. Ryan thinks that Brendon secretly prides himself on being close friends with the most renowned Party Guy. "We've got it covered, boss!" Brendon promises.

Nick is known for throwing the best parties, basically, for two reasons. The first is that his apartment is huge. Not only is the living room three times the size of Ryan's whole apartment, but it actually has hallways and rooms. The first time Ryan saw the place, he thought five people must share the space. Apparently Nick knows a guy. The other reason is that, somehow, Nick always has plenty of beer. Ryan suspects that he makes a fortune off the cover charge, because he clearly already has the resources.

For the first hour, Ryan unloads on Brendon and Spencer. He really appreciates the fact that they listen to him, no matter how pathetic he sounds. They have an unspoken rule about not giving each other a hard time about stuff until it's had at least a couple of days to settle.

By the time it starts to get crowded, Ryan's on his third beer and the noise level is starting to get significantly higher. He hears the chorus of voices that signals someone new showing up, and realizes that the reason he can't understand them is that some are saying "Jon" and others are saying "Tom". Ryan is still staring at the door a few seconds later, so he immediately sees Sean wandering in behind them, looking a little bewildered.

"I'm going to go make sure Nick's bed is being neglected!" he shouts in Brendon's general direction before taking off toward the hallway. He's not sure that made sense, but he wasn't going to take the chance of Sean spotting him.

He spends several minutes in Nick's room, alone, imagining Tom and Sean hooking up tonight and what if he walks in on them or what if he has to hear about it next week and pretend he's happy for Sean? He vows not to leave the room for the rest of the night until he knows Sean is gone.

He kind of forgot to lock the door, but that's okay because Brendon and Spencer are the ones that come barging in, scaring the shit out of Ryan. They lock the door behind themselves when Ryan splutters protests at them about unwanted people.

"Was that him?" Brendon asks, excited. "We went and introduced ourselves. Well, I dragged Spencer over because he's an anti-social jerk, but still. He's totally cute; I approve."

Spencer glares at Brendon. "I am not a jerk," he says.

"Oh, you're just mad because I said someone else was cute. Don't worry, I still think you have the best hips on this earth."

"Fuck you," Spencer says, pushing Brendon. Ryan's pretty sure there was a laugh in there somewhere, though. The great thing about Brendon and Spencer is that they don't flaunt their relationship. They never make Ryan feel like a third wheel, even though he'd understand if they wanted him to fuck off every once in a while.

"Anyway," Brendon continues, "Sean's totally awesome. I don't see why you don't just go for it."

"I told you, he's interested in someone else. And I don't exactly want to have to face him every other day at work after he turns me down."

"He asked about you," Spencer says.

Ryan sits up suddenly. "You didn't tell him I was back here, did you? Fuck, do you think I should go out on the balcony?"

"Dude, chill," Brendon says, handing him a fresh beer.

"We told him we thought maybe you'd gone home or something," Spencer tells him.

"He looked pretty disappointed," Brendon points out.

Ryan tips up the bottle and wills the alcohol to work faster. "Let's talk about something else."


The next week is pretty rough. Ryan does his best to act normal around Sean, but every time he mentions Tom, Ryan can feel his resolve breaking a little bit more. On Thursday, Greta consoles him, and then Alex shows up and they work together to sing him a Cheering Up Song. It's probably the highlight of Ryan's week.

On Friday night, Sean shows up with Tom. Ryan suddenly realizes why Sean was acting so anxious all day - they're going to perform tonight. Ryan finds it kind of odd that Sean hadn't mentioned it to him, but he figures he hasn't been the best of friends lately.

Right before they go up on stage, Sean approaches Ryan at the counter. "Do me a favor, okay? If we suck, write down your comments on, like, a napkin or something so at least we can laugh about them together later."

Ryan doesn't look down at Sean's hand on his, even though he's tempted to make sure he's not imagining it. "You're gonna sound great, Sean. Don't worry so much." Sean smiles, but he's obviously still nervous. Ryan immediately feels awful, because earlier he had hoped they would sound terrible together and Sean would change his mind. He doesn't deserve a guy as cool as Sean.

They don't suck. Sean has a beautiful voice, just like Ryan knew he would, and with Tom on guitar the music just works. Ryan tries to focus on the words that must be Sean's, sound like Sean's, but he finds himself caught up more in Sean's expression as he gets lost in the music. After their performance, Ryan wishes that he'd brought his camera and filmed it so that he could watch it again, could play it so Sean could see how perfect he looked up there.

"You play drums, don't you?" Jon asks Ryan while Tom and Sean are coming off the stage.

Ryan looks at him, surprised. "I--yeah, I do. How did you...?"

"You were drumming on the counter during the song," Jon explains. "You should talk to Tom, you know. He's been toying around with the idea of a band."

Ryan really, really hates his life. "Nah, I don't know if that's really my thing." He is a lying liar who lies, but this time he hopes he gets struck down.

Jon just shrugs and lets it go, and Ryan is grateful for that. The last thing he needs is to actually witness Tom and Sean flirting on a regular basis. In a few months, maybe. But now, no way.

He scribbles amazing on a napkin and then hides out in the back for a while. When he comes back, Sean is gone, but the napkin is still there with not your funniest written below his note. Ryan hopes that Sean knows he wasn't joking.


Life goes on, or so Ryan keeps telling himself. He spends most of Tuesday morning trying to convince Sean that he has the most amazing voice Ryan's ever heard, but Sean doesn't look particularly swayed. Tom clearly isn't giving Sean the praise he deserves, and that really pisses Ryan off.

The next day, he rants to Greta for a good twenty minutes about the whole situation, and she's nice enough to listen without judging. After the lunch rush comes and goes, Ryan starts to worry about Alex. He hasn't been in all day, which is extremely abnormal.

He finally shows up around 3, but he doesn't have his usual confident stride.

"Hello, sweetheart. Is everything okay?" Greta asks sweetly.

That seems to give him some energy, because he does smile. "I, uh. I have a gift for you," he states, very matter-of-factly.

"Oh, you really shouldn't spend any money on me," Greta insists.

"Well, it isn't exactly store-bought," Alex explains, lifting a bag onto the counter.

Ryan can't help himself; he walks over to see what's going on. He keeps a bit of distance, sensing Alex's nervous energy, but he's only human. Greta pulls three books out of the bag. "Journals?" she asks carefully, not opening them.

Alex clears his throat. Ryan's never seen him this on edge. "Yeah, uh. This one, the red one? That's got lyrics in it. The green one has letters. Not just letters to you, but, you know. Letters to people in my life. And the other one's blank. It's for you."

"Alex," Greta begins, but Alex interrupts her.

"You can do whatever you want with them. Throw them away, tear them apart, burn them, read them, put them in a safety deposit box, post them on the internet for the world to see. But they're yours now, so the only rule is that you can't give them back to me."

"Why?" Greta asks softly, flipping through the green journal.

Alex shrugs, hands in his pockets. He looks smaller than Ryan's ever seen him. "I have nothing else to give you. This, these are me. So just... I hope you don't decide to burn them." He smiles, and Ryan can almost believe he's willing to joke about it, but not quite.

Alex nods, mostly to himself, and turns to leave. "Alex," Greta says.

"Yeah?" he asks, not turning around.

"What are you doing next Saturday?"

Alex turns very slowly to face her. "Next Saturday like February 14th?"

Greta nods, looking completely solemn except for the way her eyes brighten, betraying her smile.

"Well, my original plan was to sit in the back of a theater, see a chick flick, and cry at the end when the female lead gets everything she's always wanted, but I can totally cancel on her."

Greta smiles. "I'd hate for you to break her heart."

Alex shakes his head, insistent. "It's alright, I think she's seeing someone else." He approaches the counter and looks at her intently, like he can read something in every part of her expression, the tilt of her smile.

"Okay," she says.

Alex reaches out so that his hand rests in the middle of the counter that separates them. "Okay? Like okay, I get your joke? Or okay, Alex, you actually get to use those reservations you've had for 5 months, just in case?"

"I'd be honored to find out what those reservations are. With you," Greta says, taking his hand and squeezing softly.

Alex smiles so wide that his face almost cracks in half. "Okay. Yeah. Okay. I'm gonna... go. Before I do something to make you change your mind."

Greta giggles at him as he walks out, backwards, always keeping his eyes on her. "Oh, shut up," she says to Ryan after Alex is gone.

"I didn't say anything!" Ryan exclaims, trying not to look guilty. "It was pretty cheesy, though; you've gotta admit."

"He has letters to his hamster in here, alright? How can you resist that?"

"I think maybe I'd find a way," Ryan says. He gives her a hug, though, and congratulates her. After all this time, watching the never ending courting process, he's truly happy for them. Really.


It doesn't last.

It's not that Ryan isn't happy for them anymore, it's just that he doesn't want to hear anyone ever mention the word "couple" ever again. And the closer it gets to Valentine's Day, the worse it gets. Love is in the air, and Ryan really wishes there was an insecticide he could buy to fix that problem.

Two days before the dreaded day, a couple comes in that is just too icky-sweet. They finish each other's sentences, smile the whole time, and don't even extricate themselves from each other long enough to order their sandwich. Ryan purposefully leaves their sandwich in the toaster for too long, but then he feels bad about it and slips a few extra cookies into their bag.

"Jon," he says, "you don't have a date for Valentine's Day, do you?" He knows he's whining a little bit, but if he can at least find one single person that can feel his pain, he'll totally feel better.

"Uh, yeah, I've had plans for a while." Jon looks at him like he's crazy, and Ryan would resent him for that if he wasn't so miserable. "Actually, Tom said something about double dat--"

"Oh my god I so do not want to hear about that. Never mind, forget I said anything!" Fuck, fuck fuck fuck, he should have known, Sean said they were practicing all the time, of course something had happened in the meantime. He should have seen this coming; hadn't he been waiting for it this whole time?

"Ryan," Jon says, quietly. "You seem really stressed lately. Why don't you just... take the rest of the day off."

Ryan sighs. He would argue, but right now, a nap sounds like the greatest thing in the world. "Yeah, okay. Thanks."

When he gets back to the apartment, he finds himself hoping that Al will be around. Of course, he's not, and there's a note on the counter that says he's gone out for the night. He probably expected Ryan to get it around 6, not 3. Ryan sighs and throws the note in the trash.

He grabs his cell phone and deliberates over who to call. He scrolls through his contact list, and finally decides to call Ryan Ross. Everyone he knows is paired off, and Ryan Ross may be the worst of them all, but at least he's been the worst for a while. Maybe he'll have some words of wisdom.

"Hello?" a familiar voice answers.

"Hello Ryan Ross. How goes married life?"

"I'm not married," Ryan Ross says.

"You might as well be. Listen, I have a dilemma."

Ryan Ross doesn't interject at all while he explains the situation, but as soon as he's done, Ryan Ross simply says, "So find someone else."

Ryan laughs. "You make it sound so easy."

"If it's just a crush, then you'll get over it. And you'll get over it quicker if you hook up with someone else."

Ryan sighs. "Yeah, maybe, Ryan Ross. Thanks for your help."

"No problem. And Ryan?"


"Stop calling me Ryan Ross."

"But--" Ryan protests, but Ryan Ross has already hung up on him.


Ryan manages to survive Valentine's Day, but unfortunately, the couples hold on past the holiday. Ever since Ryan found out that Tom and Sean were together, he has treaded carefully around Sean. He can sense Sean's confusion whenever he avoids him, but he knows he needs some distance before he can move on. After only a few days, Sean stops trying, and that maybe hurts worse than having to avoid him.

So Ryan counts down the days until Saturday, Nick's next party. There will be plenty of people there, and he'll know most of them, but there will probably be someone new to him, someone to at least make out with for a little while after a few drinks. Maybe that will make him feel better.

When the night of the party arrives, Ryan takes a ridiculous amount of time deciding what to wear until Brendon and Spencer show up at his door and drag him to the party. His plan to find someone new doesn't go so well, because he winds up back in Nick's room with Brendon and Spencer. This time, though, they're actually doing most of the talking. Brendon is pissed at his piano teacher because she's a "fucking idiot," and Spencer thinks Brendon is just being impatient.

"Impatient?" Brendon repeats, indignant. "She's the impatient one! I can't even get through one page of music before she cuts me off and makes me start over! How in the world am I going to get the flow of the music if I can't get my head into it?"

"Just learn how to play it her way first, and then when she's not around, you can do what you want."

"Oh sure, let me just go do that. How am I supposed to learn her way if--"

"Oh my god," Ryan interrupts, laughing. "You two are so married." Brendon and Spencer turn in perfect sync to stare at him. Ryan stares back. "What?"

A smile stretches across Brendon's face, like he was just let in on the joke. "Yeah, well if we were married, we all know who would wear the pants--"

"Brendon," Spencer cuts him off. His face is really red. "Don't."

"Why are you two acting so weird?" Ryan asks, bewildered.

"Ryan," Spencer begins, his tone completely calm, "do you think Brendon and I are dating?"

Ryan giggles at him. "What, you're not?" He suddenly can't stop laughing, but Brendon and Spencer aren't laughing at all.


Ryan stares at them both in disbelief. Brendon starts fidgeting, and Spencer isn't looking at either of them. Ryan tips his bottle straight up, downing the rest of his beer. "Would you look at that, all out. I'll just--I'm gonna get some more."

He practically trips over himself trying to get out the door, and then he runs right into someone in the hallway.

"Whoa, sorry," he says, rubbing his head. He gets his footing back and then looks up.

"Hey," Sean says, his hand still on Ryan's arm to steady him.

"Hey," Ryan answers, a little bit breathless. "Where's Tom?"

Sean shrugs, letting go of Ryan's arm. "I got Alex and Greta to save my spot on the couch out there. D'you want to come hang out for a little while?" They way he says it gives Ryan the impression that he expects him to say no. He doesn't really want to say no.

"Alex and Greta are here?" he asks. Wait, fuck, that's not what he was going to say. "I mean, yeah, let's go hang. Out."

Sean gives him a dubious look. "How much have you had to drink?" he asks wearily.

"Fuck. Not enough to have an excuse for being so awkward. Come on," he says, walking out front before he says something else stupid. Seriously, he's only had two beers. It's Sean that makes him act like this.

Just as Sean said, Alex and Greta let them take their spots on the couch while they dance around the room, making new friends. Ryan isn't sure what to talk about, but then Sean asks him about Film and he immediately goes into all the intricate details of his newest idea. Sean listens and expounds on his idea and before long, Ryan has a completely new, much better approach.

"I think you're my muse," Ryan says, disbelieving. He writes down notes on his hand with Sean's pen.

He sees Tom across the room, but Sean doesn't seem to even notice. "So, how are things going with Tom?" he asks, unable to help himself.

"Oh, we've been working on a couple new songs. I dunno, though. Tom's a great guitar player and everything, but I feel like there needs to be more, you know?"

Ryan nods, feeling confused. Maybe Sean thinks the relationship stuff is none of his business.

"Here, I actually have it," Sean says, reaching into his pocket.

"You have your lyrics with you?"

"Shut up," Sean says, laughing. He pulls out a tiny memo pad, then flips a few pages back. "Read this, tell me what you think."

Ryan feels a little awkward reading Sean's lyrics, especially in this kind of setting, but he reads anyway. They're really impressive, but he's pretty sure he doesn't get everything Sean's trying to say. He tells Sean this, but Sean shakes his head.

"That part doesn't matter. What kind of sound would you put with it?"

Ryan thinks about it. "I think this first part would be pretty steady, calm. But then here, it would come alive, like. With cymbal crashes."

"Yes, yes, exactly! That's exactly what I thought. But there's only so much you can do with one guitar player and a singer."

Ryan bites the inside of his mouth, considering. Sean opens his mouth to say something else, but then there's a yell from across the room. Ryan looks over, and Pete Wentz is apparently challenging Nick to some kind of drinking contest that is quickly gathering an audience.

"It's kind of loud in here, d'you want to go in the back?" Ryan asks Sean.

Sean looks at him, surprised, then nods. They get up and make their way through the sea of people until they reach the door. Ryan stops dead, though, once he sees who is in the hallway.

It's Tom, and it's Jon, except they're pressed together so tight that they could really be considered one person.

"Ugh," Sean says, throwing his lyric notebook at them. "Get a room, you two. Seriously."

Tom pulls back abruptly when the notebook hits him on the head. He glares at Sean. "Are you kidding me? We had a room until you two came barging in."

"This is a hallway, Tom. This is where people go to get to rooms."

Ryan finally gathers his thoughts enough to say, as calmly as he can manage, "Will somebody please tell me what the fuck is going on?"

All three of them look at him in surprise. "Ryan?" Sean asks, clearly worried.

"Why are you two making out?" he demands, his hands shaking a little bit.

"Because... we're dating?" Tom looks at Jon. "Is this a trick question?"

"Since when are you dating?"

Jon's expression goes from amused to worried. "Ryan, Tom and I have been dating for like two years. You knew we were going out."

"No, I definitely did not know!"

"You walked in on us like a year ago."

Ryan racks his brain. "I'm pretty sure I would remember--Wait. Are you talking about--I thought you tripped!"

He hears Sean choke on a laugh, but he so does not have time to worry about Sean right now.

"What, and fell on each other?" Tom asks, disbelieving.

"We're really quite talented to keep our mouths connected during that long fall," Jon says to Tom.

Ryan is seconds away from snapping at them when the door down the hall clicks and then opens, and then Brendon and Spencer come stumbling out into the hallway.

"We were really enjoying making out," Brendon says, "but if you all insist on causing a scene, we'll be glad to watch from out here."

"Well at least I was right about somebody," Ryan says, exasperated. "I need some air," he says, ignoring Sean's protests and going back out into the living room. He ignores the circle of people and walks out, down the stairs, and back to his apartment.

He lays in his bed and stares at the ceiling for a very long time. Slowly, things start to make sense. He's pretty sure it's going to take a while to sink in, though.

What he doesn't get is that Sean knew about Jon and Tom. And if Sean knew, then that means--well, he's not exactly sure what it means, but he knows he's an idiot.

Eventually, he goes back to the party. A significant number of people have already fallen asleep in various spots on the floor, but Sean is still around, talking with Alex and Greta. Ryan goes over and sits on Alex's lap.

"Hey gang," he says cheerfully, hoping to keep the mood light.

Sean gives him a worried look. "Are you okay?"

Ryan laughs, despite himself. "Yeah, I'll be fine. Hey," he says, poking Alex in the shoulder, "I'm sorry I called you all those horrible names."

Alex looks at him in disbelief. He glances at Greta, who shrugs. "I don't remember any horrible names."

Ryan shrugs. "Well, I didn't say them out loud."

Alex laughs, and then Greta laughs with him, and soon they're all laughing and they aren't sure why it's so funny.

"I'm sorry I've been acting so weird," Ryan finally says, staring at his shoes.

"Oh, Jay," Alex says, trapping him in a hug so that he can't move his arms. "You've always been so weird; it's why we keep you around."

Sean laughs, and he's still smiling when Ryan looks at him, and Ryan hopes that means he's forgiven.


By the time Ryan goes in to work on Monday, he's finally got it all worked out. The short version is that he's an idiot. The long version has more curse words in it. Either way, though, he's going to start over with Sean and this time, he's going to do it right.

His first step is to stay calm, but that goes out the window about five minutes into the day. "Oh my god, I had the best idea for a film project, if you don't mind working with me." Sean shoots him an amused look, so he takes that as a sign to keep going. "Okay, we use your lyrics, and we run around town and find the perfect sounds to match up with the different parts, even if it's just birds chirping or, like, when you can hear gospel singers from the street on Sunday mornings."

Sean's eyes widen significantly. "That sounds so cool. When did you think of this?"

"Last night at, like, 3 in the morning. I couldn't really sleep," he admits. "But then I was thinking--"

He never says what he was thinking, though, because at that moment, Alex shows up. He takes one look at Sean and his face falls.

"Great to see you, too, Alex," Sean says, amused.

"Sorry, I just, I forgot you work Monday-Wednesday-Friday this week. I can dance you around the room if it'll make you feel better?"

Ryan doesn't like that idea very much, but he doesn't say anything. Alex gives him a knowing look, though, and says, "C'mon, Ryan J, you know I don't swing that way." His wink is exaggerated and Ryan is definitely not blushing.

"I thought you had a Ryan exception," Sean points out.

Alex clicks his tongue. "No, no. I have a Ryan Ross exception. Completely different."

Sean hums and raises his eyebrows at Ryan, who mirrors the expression. They stare at each other like that for about ten seconds before they both burst out laughing. They're still laughing when a real customer comes in and they have to focus enough to get to work.

The rest of the day goes amazingly well for Ryan, but he can tell Sean is still... something. Hesitant? Worried? Confused? Probably. Ryan hasn't really been the most stable of people for the past few weeks. He only hopes he can convince Sean that he's not crazy before Sean works up an interest in someone else.

All during his business class that night, he thinks about things to talk to Sean about on Wednesday. He's determined to do it right this time.


The next day, he and Greta are both in great moods, so they collaborate on various spontaneous songs throughout the day. He provides the beats, she carries the melody. When Alex is there, he even sings harmony. It's a pretty slow day, so Jon stays in the back to do paperwork most of the time.

Ryan is using coffee spoons to accompany Greta's latest song when the bell chimes the arrival of another customer. Ryan turns around to put his work apron back on - their first guideline of goofing off is that they have to get to work immediately when customers show up - and he hears Greta's surprised, "Oh, hey!"

He turns around quickly and Sean is standing right there, behind the counter, wearing normal clothes. Basically, he scares the shit out of Ryan. "Gaaah, I told you you were part ninja, you've gotta stop--"

Ryan really would have finished that sentence, but he decides Sean attacking his face is probably a better alternative. Ryan clutches at Sean's shirt and pulls him closer, intent on making this a kiss worth remembering. Sean pulls back before it can get particularly interesting, though.

Ryan relaxes his grip on Sean's shirt. "Fuck, I got oil and vinegar all over your," he says, gesturing at Sean's shirt and laughing nervously.

Sean bites his lip to hide his smile. "It's just a shirt," he says. Ryan nods, staring at Sean's mouth. He leans in again, and this time Sean deepens the kiss, his tongue sliding forward to meet Ryan's.

"How did you--" Ryan starts to ask, but Sean cuts him off.

"Please stop talking."

"Okay," Ryan whispers, surging forward. He lets Sean guide him back until he's against the counter, and then Sean's hands rest on his hips. Ryan gasps into Sean's mouth, his hips twitching involuntarily. "Fuck, sorry, I'm really ticklish."

"Uh huh," Sean mumbles, his fingers already rubbing slow circles under Ryan's shirt as he licks his way into Ryan's mouth.

Ryan hums into the kiss, completely in his own world.

"Whoa-kay!" Jon yells, affronted. "I think that's quite enough for the workplace." When Ryan manages to look away from Sean's mouth, he sees that Jon looks pretty annoyed.

"Hey, Jon," Sean says, sheepish. God, he's so adorable.

"Ryan, I think maybe you should take a personal day before I have to fire you both for scarring our customers for life."

"Personal day," Ryan mumbles, still intent on Sean's mouth.

Sean laughs, then licks his lips. So not helping. "Go get your stuff. They fixed the heat in my apartment last weekend."

"My apartment's closer."

"Go get your stuff," Sean repeats.

Ryan nods, then manages to actually extricate himself from Sean. Of course, because Sean wants to torture Ryan, he follows him into the back room. Ryan knows that his job is on the line if he kisses Sean again before they leave the premises, but it's a close thing. "Seriously, not that I'm complaining, but why--"

"Why did I show up and assault you?"

"I was going to say 'attack my mouth,' but yeah."

"Jon figured it out, why you've been acting so weird. You thought Tom and I were a thing, didn't you?"

Ryan doesn't feel particularly embarrassed, but his face heats up anyway. "Well, I mean--"

"I can see where you'd get that impression," Sean admits. "I was so caught up in the thought of making music that I probably talked about Tom more than strictly necessary. But I was never interested in him."

Ryan swallows, walking up to Sean. "Yeah?"

Sean nods, biting his lip. He looks back at Ryan for several long seconds, then says, "We should probably go before I do something that makes us both lose our jobs."

Ryan nods, but they're standing so close, he can't help but lean forward and press his lips to Sean's briefly. "For the road," he whispers. His apartment has never seemed so far away.



"You play drums?" Sean asks, disbelieving.

"Yeah, I've played for like 6 years."

"What the fuck, Ryan? Why didn't you mention this sooner?! We can start a band."

Ryan pulls at the hem of his shirt, uncertain. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

Sean looks at him like he's crazy. "Don't you want to be in a band?"

"Well, yeah."

"And can you stand the thought of seeing me for work, for band practice, and after hours?"

Ryan swallows, meeting Sean's gaze. "Yeah, I think I could handle that."

Sean throws his hands in the air, exasperated. "I'm gonna call Tom."


Go here if you'd like to comment on this fic. ♥