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FIC: Who Knows? - Hotitudinosity
fiction by jalabert
jalabert
jalabert
FIC: Who Knows?
Title: Who Knows?
Author: Jalabert
Fandom: High School Musical
Rating: Teen
Summary: Ryan and Chad unwittingly out themselves to women in their lives. (Part of the Coming to Terms Series)


Ryan! I know you know it's me calling. I can see you looking at your phone. Be a good boy and call me back. Oh, and clear your schedule for Friday night. Homecoming game, 6:00.

**

Ryan, come on, man! Talk to me. You know you want to. Not talking to me is driving you insane, isn't it? Well, it's driving me insane. Shit, I didn't mean to say…

**

All right, look. You seem to be hung up on this Brent Matthews thing. I'm sorry I ever mentioned it because you've suddenly got it in your head--. Look, I'm just going to bottom-line it for you: I already have a boyfriend and I'm not looking to trade up. Now, stop being such a dick and call me back!


Ryan smiled and replayed the last message again. He decided that it was probably the best voicemail message he'd ever received, even if Chad had called him a dick. He reached for a USB cable and hooked his phone up to the computer. He wanted to save the message for posterity. Once it was uploaded, Ryan listened to it again. He disconnected his phone and hooked it onto his belt. Then, feeling like a complete dork, he listened to the message one last time before he turned his attention back to his homework.

**

"Mom, can I stay over Ryan's house tomorrow night?"

Chad's mother looked up, a look of horror etched upon her face. Fortunately, she was facing away from him at the time and had a second to school her features before she turned around.

"Chad--."

"Since Ryan will be driving, he agreed to pick up and drop off a few people to Martha's party," Chad explained. "After he drops off me, Jason and Kelsi he'll have to drive all the way back to Paradise Hills by himself. That's a twenty-minute drive and it'll be pretty late. I'm afraid he might fall asleep at the wheel or--."

"Well, why doesn't he just stay here instead? Then he wouldn't have to make that long drive at night," Ms. Danforth said before she could stop herself.

"That's an even better idea," Chad said leaning in to kiss her cheek. "Thanks Mom." He picked up his backpack and left the kitchen, leaving his mother frozen in place once again. She found her voice before Chad reached the front hall.

"Chad!"

"Mom?" he said, turning back.

"Wait a minute," she said uncomfortably. "About this sleepover…"

"You want Ryan to sleep in the guest room," Chad concluded. Ms. Danforth's mouth opened and shut. "It's okay, Mom. He can do that." Chad turned to leave and then turned back. He set his backpack down and thought for a second before he spoke. "You know, I can understand you not wanting us sleeping together under your roof and I respect that. But you do realize that if we wanted to have sex, making us sleep in separate rooms isn't going to prevent that."

Chad's mother looked deep into his eyes and wondered when her son had developed the confidence to confront her in that manner. Just a few weeks earlier he was cringing at the mere mention of--.

"You've already had sex," she said, blanching. Chad rolled his eyes.

"I'm not going to answer that," he replied, turning away. The color of his cheeks spoke volumes about something that his mother decided not to interpret. "I'm merely trying to make a point."

"Point taken," she said. "I just--." Chad looked up and her doubts withered in the face of her son's earnest gaze. "You and Ryan decide where he'll sleep tomorrow night," she said with more confidence than she felt. Chad returned the smile and kissed her forehead. He reached for his backpack. "Chad?" she said hesitantly. He looked up. "Whatever happens tomorrow night--your father and I don't want to hear it." Chad could only nod, unable to look his mother in the eye. "We're not quite ready to deal with a physical relationship," she explained. Chad smiled, a twinkle in his eye.

"I thought you and Dad already had a physical relationship," he quipped, as Ryan knocked on the door. He went to answer it, leaving his mother smiling at the joke.

"Hey, I've been waiting out there for three minutes," Ryan said, stepping inside the house and closing the door behind him to properly greet his boyfriend without exposing their relationship to the neighbors. He leaned in and lightly kissed Chad's mouth. Chad returned the kiss, deepening it slightly as Ryan wrapped an arm around him. A gasp and a muffled, "oh," quickly separated the pair. "Good morning, Ms. D," Ryan said hastily.

"Bye, Mom," Chad said as he pulled the door open and made a speedy exit.

"Did you bring the script?" Ryan asked as Chad buckled his seat belt.

"I brought it," Chad said, sighing. "I still can't believe I let you talk me into this."

"It's just a tiny, tiny part. You'll be great."

"I'll be terrible, but it'll make you happy, so I'm willing to endure the humiliation," Chad replied. Ryan reached over and gave his hand a quick squeeze before he started the car.

"You're going to be awesome."

"Says you."

"Says me."

"Oh! Mom said you could stay over tomorrow night," Chad said as Ryan put the car into reverse and started backing down the driveway.

"I thought you were going to stay over at my house," Ryan replied as he turned the car into traffic. "What happened?"

"Well, I started to explain to her why I thought I should go home with you and she suggested that you stay over at our house instead," Chad explained. "Do you mind?" Ryan shrugged. "Cool!"

"Frankly, I'm surprised your dad agreed to that, though."

"Dad's in Oklahoma at some conference on critical incident analysis," Chad replied. "But he'll be home sometime today. Mom will be the one to break the news to him, since it was her idea. Anyway," he said, returning to the topic at hand, "it makes sense for you to stay over--if we were worried about you driving out to the edge of town on your own late at night it makes more sense for you to sleep at our house."

"We weren't really worried, remember?" Ryan said, knowing that he'd used Chad's minor concern about the length of the drive as an excuse to invite Chad to spend the night at his house. "I bet they make me sleep in the guest room," Ryan said as he brought the car to a stop at an intersection. Chad shook his head.

"Mom said you could sleep wherever we decided," he replied, averting his eyes.

They hadn't discussed it, but both Ryan and Chad assumed that tomorrow night would be the first time they engaged in anything more serious than a little exploratory groping. While they had talked about sex much earlier in their friendship, they hadn't broached the topic since their first "real" date. After Chad and Ryan spent a half hour making out in Ryan's car on the grounds at Lava Springs. Ryan had teasingly declared Chad to be a normal, teenaged boy after all but assured him that they needn't rush things if Chad felt at all uncomfortable. The issue hadn't come up again, but when Chad readily accepted Ryan's invitation they knew they were ready to move forward in their relationship.

Ryan didn't respond directly to Chad's comment about the sleeping arrangements, but a tiny smile played across his lips for the remainder of their ride to school. They arrived at East High and parked before joining their friends at the lockers. Troy and Taylor were still the only members of their circle who were aware of Chad and Ryan's relationship, although they both knew that Gabriella was growing suspicious. Chad and Ryan were in negotiations about whether or not to tell her. Ryan thought that she should be told, but Chad--who was initially determined to out himself to the entire student body--was inexplicably reluctant. Ryan suspected some deep-seated resentment on Chad's part, although he never said as much. He respected Chad's wishes, though he still occasionally nudged Chad on the subject. After all, it was only a matter of time before she figured things out for herself.

"Hey, Ryan," Gabriella said as the pair strode toward her. "Hey, Chad."

"Hey, Gabi," Chad said, with a small smile. He moved past her to go to his locker and she followed him with her eyes before turning to Ryan.

"Did you get him to agree to do the part?" she asked.

"He agreed and he's even rehearsed it a few times," Ryan replied. "I don't know why he thinks he can't act."

"Chad?" Troy said, turning to glance at his best friend. "You've got him acting now, too?" Ryan glared at Troy, who belatedly realized what he'd said and shut his mouth firmly.

"What else have you got him doing?" Gabriella asked curiously.

"He managed to talk Chad into painting scrims the other day," Taylor said hastily. "I saw Chad come out of the auditorium covered in blue paint."

"Well, I wouldn't have had to beg for help with the scenery if someone hadn't snuck out of the drama club meeting early," Ryan said accusingly. Troy and Gabriella shared a guilty look while Ryan gave a quick nod of thanks to Taylor. They both knew that they couldn't keep Chad's secret for much longer and Ryan silently vowed to speak to Chad about it again.

"So are we giving you a ride to Martha's?" Troy asked Chad when he caught up with his best friend at his locker.

"Ryan's bringing me, Jason and Kelsi," Chad replied, shaking his head. He started to say more and thought better of it.

"And are we playing hoops tomorrow?" Troy asked, already knowing the answer.

"I don't think so," Chad said smiling impishly. Troy returned the smile.

"You are so lost," he teased softly, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Gabriella was out of earshot. Chad closed his locker and they began to walk to home room.

"Oh, like you didn't blow me off to be with Gabriella for the first…I don't know; how many months has it been now, dude?" Chad teased. Troy elbowed him in the ribs.

"Hey, I've been ready to play ball the last three weekends and you blew me off!"

"Turnabout is fair play," Chad said as they reached the door to the classroom. He let Troy enter the room first and turned back to look at Ryan. Gabriella and Taylor slipped past him as Chad and Ryan shared a brief but intense stare. "Later, dude," he said softly before he went to take his seat.

Once inside the classroom, Chad and Ryan barely acknowledged each other. To anyone other than Taylor and Troy, the two were simply friends. Troy continuously marveled at their ability to pretend that they weren't involved. He'd had trouble keeping his eyes off of Gabriella even before they became an item and it was still hard to concentrate on his work when she was ten feet away in the same room. He couldn't imagine how Chad managed to focus on anything with the object of his affection near enough to reach out and touch. Of course, Troy had yet to actually see Ryan and Chad together as a couple. To his knowledge, the only people who had were Chad's parents. Troy still couldn't wrap his imagination around the idea of the Danforths sitting down to dinner with their son and his boyfriend, even though Chad insisted that Ryan ate dinner with his parents once or twice a week.

He was distracted from his reverie by Sharpay, who was arguing with her brother about something using those clipped, cryptic half-sentences that only an Evans sibling could fully appreciate.

"What?" Ryan demanded when his sister glared at him over her shoulder.

"As if!" Sharpay shot back sarcastically.

"Just a clue."

"Abandonment issues, Ryan."

"Shar?"

"Ryan?"

"Come on!" he said, throwing his hands up in exasperation. Sharpay rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically before turning around to confront him.

"I had to drive myself to school today--again!"

"You drive yourself to school every day!"

"Alone?"

"What, are you suddenly afraid to drive alone?"

"As if!"

"What, then?"

"You know what!"

"This is where I came in," Ryan said with a sigh.

"Why didn't you wait for me?" she demanded, pouting.

"Did you want to drag race or something?"

"Huh?"

By this time the entire class was openly observing the pair--except for Chad, who was reading his script and pointedly ignoring the twins. Ryan took a calming breath and folded his hands neatly on the desk.

"If you're driving and I'm driving, why should I wait for you?" he said as though speaking to a five year old.

"Why do you need to drive?"

"Well, I've had a car as long as you've had one. I figured it was time I actually used it," he replied reasonably. Ms. Darbus entered the room at that moment and Sharpay turned away, her hair slapping Ryan in the face as she spun around in her seat. Ryan sat back, smiling, knowing he'd won the round. He glanced to his left and Troy gave him a quick "thumbs up" before glancing back at Chad, who looked up innocently.

**

"I can't believe Ryan talked Chad into doing it," Gabriella said over lunch, nearly causing Troy to spit his milk across the cafeteria.

"What?" he sputtered. Taylor handed him a napkin.

"I thinks she's talking about Chad's theatrical debut," she said wryly.

"I know that," Troy replied, shooting her a dark look. "I hardly call doing a couple of lines in a drama club exercise a 'debut.' And what's the big deal?" he asked turning to Gabriella. "Anyone could have done the part."

"It's a performance," she replied. "So it's a debut. Kelsi and I had a bet on whether or not Chad would do it. She won. I never thought Ryan would get Chad to agree to it."

"I bet Ryan dared him. You can get Chad to do anything on a dare." Troy felt a hand grip his thigh and squeeze it like an orange. His eyes opened wide and he turned to Taylor, who was sitting on his left. She smiled innocently and released him. He acknowledged the threat with a curt nod and looked over at Chad, who was sitting between Ryan and Kelsi, ostensibly to rehearse his lines. He once again wondered how the couple managed to pull it off their apparent nonchalance. Maybe they weren't that into each other. Or maybe Chad was as good an actor as Ryan and Troy had just never noticed.

"See something you like?" Taylor asked, after a few seconds. Troy reached under the table to prevent her from attacking him again, but her hands were wrapped around her sandwich.

"I do," Zeke said, sighing at Sharpay. The group at the jock's table rolled its collective eyes.

**

"You were great, Chad," Kelsi declared, giving his arm a squeeze. "You should totally try out for the winter musical."

"Thanks," Chad said doubtfully. He handed Ryan his script and rose to his feet. "It was fun, but I think my acting career is over."

"Hardly," Troy muttered, glad that he was out of Taylor's hearing. Kelsi hoisted her backpack and repeated her praise before she departed, leaving Ryan, Sharpay, Chad, Taylor, Gabriella, Troy in the auditorium.

"She's right, Chad," Gabriella insisted. "You should try out. Being in the school play is lots of fun! And you'd be able to spend a lot of time with Ryan." Everyone around her froze for a second, except for Sharpay, who eyed her curiously.

"Why should he want to do that?" she asked with characteristic candor.

"Well, they had a great time rehearsing together at Lava Springs last summer," Gabriella replied easily. "I just thought it might be fun to do it again."

"Yeah, it was fun," Chad admitted quickly. "But that was just a goof. I've got basketball practice and… Besides," he said with a quick glance at Ryan. "You won't be doing this play, right? So you don’t need me."

"Oh, I'm sure we can find something for you to do," Gabriella insisted.

"Everyone's headed over to Gabriella's house, right?" Troy said, attempting to distract his single-minded girlfriend.

"We're there," Taylor said helpfully. "Come on, Gabi; a good host should be on the premises when her guests arrive." But Gabriella wasn't done yet.

"Come on, Chad! It'll be a blast."

"I'll think about it," Chad said noncommittally.

"I dare you to show up for the tryouts."

Troy felt a death grip on his shoulder and didn't have to look to know that Taylor was glaring at him, even though it was Gabriella who'd issued the dare. He grabbed Gabriella's hand and dragged her away before she could cause him greater injury. Taylor left with them and Sharpay watched them go before she turned to her brother.

"What was that all about?"

"I have no idea," he replied as he packed his bag.

"She's up to something," Sharpay insisted. "And I don't think it's because she thinks you have talent," she said nodding her chin in Chad's direction. "Even though you do, surprisingly enough," she begrudgingly admitted. "But you're right--we won't be doing Frankenstein this fall, so we won't need anyone to play a sympathetic, misunderstood, tragically hirsute monster." Sharpay smiled at her own wit and gathered up her things. "Are you ready to go?" she asked her brother.

"I drove in today, remember?"

"Yes, but you're headed over to Gabriella's, right?"

"Actually, I have to drop off Chad, first," Ryan said,

"Why?" Sharpay demanded, eyeing him suspiciously.

"Everyone's been wondering how he got me to agree play that part today," Chad said, stepping forward. He wrapped an arm around Ryan's shoulders. "He promised to drive me to and from school every day for a month."

"A month?" Sharpay squealed. Ryan and Chad nodded in unison. "An entire month? Really, Ryan, you should leave the manipulation to me. You're a total pushover," Sharpay declared as she turned and strode off. Ryan and Chad exchanged smiles.

"You're brilliant," Ryan declared proudly.

"And you're a total pushover," Chad replied with a suggestive wink, dropping his arm to reach for his backpack. "I've got to remember that," he said. They walked out to the car.

"What's up with Gabriella?" Ryan asked once they were on the road.

"I don't know," Chad replied with a shrug.

"Do you think she's on to us?"

"How could she know?"

"She's a very bright girl, Chad. Besides, Troy--."

"Troy did not tell her," Chad insisted. "He would never betray me like that. Gabriella is just being Gabriella. She wants everyone to be together and happy, like a big stinking Disney musical," Chad said wearily. "She doesn't have a clue about us."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that. We really ought to tell her, Chad."

"And destroy her whole picture-perfect, candy-coated, happy-happy, joy-joy, My Little Pony, Never-Never Land view of the world?" he replied laughingly. "I think not."

"Chad, Gabriella's very sweet, but--."

"If we tell her we may as well take out an ad in the school newspaper," Chad interjected. "I like Gabriella and I know how you feel about this, but she keeps a secret about as well as I act."

"You were terrific today!" Ryan exclaimed. "Everyone thought so."

"It was just a reading! I can read really well! It was nothing to get excited about."

"You didn't just read, Chad. Sharpay was right--you really came across as sympathetic and misunderstood. You breathed life into the character--pardon the pun. Anyone else would have gone for the typical, campy knock-off of Boris Karloff. You went for the character Shelley created and played the monster with pathos and--."

"Hey, I just did what you told me to do," Chad said self-effacingly.

"Nevertheless, your performance was excellent."

"Maybe," Chad replied. "Maybe you're just saying that just to get into my pants."

"Is that the price of admission?" Ryan asked teasingly. Chad blushed and averted his eyes. Ryan glanced over at him and wondered how long Chad would manage to be both provocative and shy in the same moment. He rather enjoyed that ability in his boyfriend.

"Let's get back to my point," Chad insisted. "You're the one who told me not to out myself to the school because I'd come to realize how much I valued my privacy."

"Actually, I only said that to convince you," Ryan confessed. "You were insisting on coming out and I was afraid that if I didn't say something dramatic you'd do something you might later come to regret," he said, recalling the night he spent two hours on the phone listening to Chad cry. "To be honest, Chad, your reason for not coming out in the first place made more sense to me. You said that telling people wouldn't really change anything. They'd know what you were. They still wouldn't know who you were."

"Okay, whatever," Chad said dismissively. "But if Gabriella finds out about us, the whole school's going to know I'm gay. And we decided that would raise more problems than it would solve for either of us." Ryan nodded, but he wasn't convinced.

Ryan dropped Chad at his house and drove on to Gabriella's. Chad would meet him there later. He lived only a short distance from her and it was an easy walk. The couple had decided early on that showing up together everywhere would invite unnecessary speculation. Even when they could easily justify being together they opted for being careful. Ryan had to admit that Chad's explanation to his sister was pure genius and looked forward to using that excuse to chauffeur Chad everywhere he could for the rest of the semester.

**

Chad's father was a bit shocked to hear that his son's boyfriend would be spending the night under his roof. Chad heard his parents discussing the sleepover when he entered the house, so he slipped in and out as quietly as possible so as not to be drawn into the conversation.

"What on earth were you thinking, Jess?"

"I was thinking that it would be safer to have the boys stay here rather than drive out to Palisade Hills after midnight," Ms. Danforth replied.

"That's not what I meant and you know it. I'm talking about letting them sleep together."

"If you want them to sleep in separate rooms, you tell Chad. He said he'd respect your wishes. But he made a very good point this morning."

"And what was that?"

"He said that if he and Ryan wanted to have sex, nothing we say or do is going to stop them."

"That doesn't mean I have to tolerate it under my own roof," Mr. Danforth said grumpily.

"It's our own roof and as I recall, I spent a night or two in your bed in your parent's home."

"That was different!"

"How?"

"We were practically engaged at the time, for one thing. And you weren't a seventeen year old boy."

"Are you saying you don't approve of Ryan?" Ms. Danforth asked in a shocked tone.

"Of course I'm not saying that! Ryan's a great kid…and I have to admit that he's made me feel a lot more comfortable about Chad, too. But I'm a parent! I want to protect my boy."

"Have you seen your 'boy' lately? He's not a child anymore, Earl!"

Chad gently pulled the door shut and made his escape. His father's reaction was exactly what he'd expected, so he wasn't surprised to hear him object to Ryan staying over. Other thoughts entered his mind and he focused on them as he walked to Gabriella's house.

While he was looking forward to spending the night with Ryan, Chad began to have second thoughts about the prospect of doing so in his own bed. He was so surprised by his mother's suggestion that he accepted it without really thinking it through. His parents would be home in their own bed less than thirty feet from his own. While any noise they made probably wouldn't carry that far (Troy always liked staying over Chad's house because the Danforths were never awakened by the sounds coming from their son's room) his parents would know that Ryan and Chad were in bed together. They would know that their son had become someone's lover. They'd know that their son was engaging in what Chad assumed his parents thought of as aberrant sexual behavior. Chad suddenly began to have second thoughts about his invitation. He had to wonder whether having his parents just down the hall might affect his libido.

"What's wrong?" Ryan asked him shortly after he arrived at Gabriella's house. They were sitting in the living room with several other people, so Chad couldn't speak freely.

"Dad's home," he said. "He was talking with Mom when I got there." Ryan raised an eyebrow.

"Problem?"

"No," Chad said too hastily. Someone called his name and Ryan allowed him to be drawn away. But at the first opportunity, he cornered Chad and drew him out to the backyard to talk. Chad wouldn't answer any of Ryan's questions, insisting that everything was fine. When Ryan pressed the issue, Chad distracted him with a quick kiss before returning inside.

**

Chad's father never asked his son to put his boyfriend in the guest room. Instead, he only insisted that Chad do his homework Saturday morning and clean his room before he left for the party. Chad readily complied with his father's demands. He wanted nothing to ruin his chances of spending the night with Ryan. They'd only spent a few minutes alone together at Gabriella's and about a half hour afterward at Chad's house. Chad succeeded in deflecting Ryan's questions, then, too. By the time Ryan left, he was no longer worried about his parents.

They'd come so close to having sex right on the family room sofa that only the insistent ringing of Ryan's phone (it was Sharpay, wanting to know where he was) kept them from spontaneously combusting. The fact that Chad's parents were in the master suite almost directly above their heads had been no deterrent at all. Chad couldn't wait to experience that heady rush of sensation again. Tonight, he and Ryan would have all the time in the world and Chad intended to make the most of it. He checked his watch and called Ryan.

"Hey," he said when Ryan answered.

"What's up?" Ryan asked. Chad could hear the smile in his voice and returned it.

"Almost done with my calculus homework. After that, I'm free."

"I'm almost done, too," Ryan replied. "Want to come over here for a while before we go to the party? We can hang out and watch a few movies."

"Sounds like a plan," Chad said, inwardly relieved. He wasn't sure he was ready to deal with having Ryan and his father in the same room today.

"Shall I come pick you up?"

"Let me see if my dad can drop me off. He's heading out that way this afternoon to visit a friend."

When he got off the phone, Chad went down to his father's study and asked his father for a ride out to Palisade Hills. He returned to his room and put the finishing touches on his math homework, then took a shower and got dressed. He returned to his desk to grab his phone, keys and a pair of sunglasses. As he headed down the stairs his phone rang.

"Can't wait, Evans?" Chad muttered as he pulled the phone out of his pocket. But when he glanced at the caller ID he saw that it wasn't Ryan as he'd initially thought. He briefly considered ignoring the call, but gave in and answered it, anyway.

"Hey, Gabriella; what's up?" Chad asked as he went to his father's study to let him know he was ready. His father was typing something on his computer so Chad just gave him a high sign and went into the living room to wait for him.

"Can we talk?" Gabriella asked tentatively. Chad suppressed a small sigh.

"Sure."

"I meant could we talk face to face. It's important."

"Well, I'm kind of on my way out," Chad said. "Can it wait until tomorrow?"

"It won't take long. I just--."

"All right, Gabi. I'll come by, but only for a few minutes, okay?"

"Actually, I'd rather we spoke somewhere neutral…without prying eyes or ears."

Chad rolled his eyes and headed back to his father's study.

"Hold on a sec," he said. "Dad? I need to speak with Gabriella about something. I'm going to run over and see her. I should be back shortly and then you can take me to Ryan's. Okay?"

"Sure," Mr. Danforth replied. Chad uncovered the phone.

"I'm heading your way," he said, reaching for his shades. "Want to meet in the middle?"

"Okay. Thanks, Chad," Gabriella replied. Chad ended the call and punched in Ryan's number as he headed toward Gabriella's house.

**

"My printer's out of ink," Sharpay declared from the entrance to Ryan's bedroom. He glanced up at her.

"Don't look at me. I don't have a spare cartridge," he replied.

"Just let me print out my essay, then," she said. Ryan pushed his chair back and rose from his desk.

"Knock yourself out," he said. "I need a break, anyway." He reached over to save his file before allowing her to sit down. Sharpay gave him a brief smile of thanks and sat down, moving her brother's watch and phone out of her way before she took hold of the mouse and got to work.

It only took Sharpay a few seconds to bring up her file and send it to the printer. She sat back to wait for the printout just as Ryan's phone came to life. There was no electronic ring or music. Instead, a familiar voice abruptly began to speak:

Look, I'm just going to bottom-line it for you: I already have a boyfriend and I'm not looking to trade up. Now, stop being such a dick and call me back!


Sharpay's mouth fell open and she leaned over to peer at the phone. It seemed to be recording a voicemail message. She glanced at the door, tempted to do something, but she knew it was too late. She could only stare at the phone apoplectically until Ryan returned. She leapt out of her seat to tell him what she'd heard.

"Omigod! Chad Danforth just called," she said, flailing her hands. "And he said he was gay!" Ryan's eyes opened wide and he shook his head.

"No, he didn't," he replied more calmly than he felt.

"Yes, he did! I was right here and I heard him! Oh--my--God! Chad Danforth just outted himself!"

"Sharpay," Ryan said worriedly. "I'm sure you're mistaken. You didn't hear what you think you heard."

"I heard Chad Danforth say he's got a boyfriend."

"No," Ryan replied hastily. "You just--"

"I just heard Chad Danforth say he's got a boyfriend, Ryan. Omigod!" she cried gleefully. "Chad Danforth is gay!"

"Sharpay!"

"Listen to your messages! I swear! I didn't make it up, Ry. He just called and said--."

Ryan reached for his phone and listened to the message, attempting to remain calm and desperately trying to figure out a way to salvage the situation.

Slight change in plans. Gabriella just called. Troy's apparently in the dog house again and she wants to talk. I'll call back when I'm done.

Ryan sighed in relief and turned to his sister, who was still hyperventilating over her revelation.

"He most certainly did not just call here and announce that he was gay," Ryan said confidently. He brought up the message again, turned the volume up and held up the phone.

"That's not what I heard!" Sharpay exclaimed, grabbing the phone. "I'm telling you, Ryan, Chad said--." Ryan grabbed the phone back from her and held it out of her reach.

"No, he didn't," he said firmly.

"He did! He definitely did! I don't know why he'd call to tell you about it, but--."

"Shar--."

"And he's got a boyfriend! Who would ever believe it?"

"I would," Ryan replied seriously. "And you have to promise never to tell a soul."

"Why not?" she demanded. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't tell the world?"

"He's not out to all his friends yet," he began, feeling a mild panic swell up in his chest.

"Well, I can solve that little problem for him," Sharpay said smugly.

"Sharpay, please," Ryan said, grabbing her arm when she turned to leave. "Don't!"

"What?" she said frowning in confusion. "Oh. Oh, Ryan," she said gently. "I forgot about your little Danforth obsession. Oh, poor baby," she said, pulling him into a hug. "It must be devastating to find out he's gay." Ryan pulled away from her.

"What?"

"You've been mooning over him since the first time you saw him."

"That's a bit of an exaggeration," Ryan said, not that Sharpay was listening. She was too caught up in spinning her tale of woe. "Shar..." He rolled his eyes as she prattled on.

"…And then to find out that he's already with someone else--that's just the ultimate in cruel irony." Sharpay reached out to caress her brother's cheek. "And the cheeky bastard called to gloat about it, too. Wait until I get my hands on him."

"Listen, Sharpay--."

"I'm sorry, Ryan. There's someone out there who wants you and is perfect for you and he's a lot more deserving of your devotion than Chad Danforth," she insisted fiercely. "But right now your poor little heart must be broken into a million pieces. I'm so, so sorry about this." Ryan sighed dramatically and slapped her hand away.

"Don't be," he said exasperatedly. "I'm his boyfriend."

"What?" Sharpay squeaked.

"I said I'm his boyfriend," Ryan said, returning to his desk.

"You're his boyfriend."

"I'm his boyfriend," Ryan confirmed.

"I don't understand."

"Obviously," Ryan said wryly. "Look, what you heard wasn't a message from Chad. Well, it was a phone message from Chad, but he didn't just call to tell me he was gay and that wasn't the entire message."

"But--."

"I knew it was probably a mistake to use that as Chad's ringtone, but I couldn't resist," Ryan admitted, coloring slightly. "I just--."

"Wait," Sharpay interjected. "You and Chad--."

"Yes, Sharpay, me and Chad," Ryan said, smiling guiltily.

"I don't believe it."

"I could offer proof."

"If it's a hickey, spare me," Sharpay said with a look of disgust.

"Very funny."

"I don't get it."

"Why is it so hard to believe? Is it so inconceivable that he'd find me as desirable as I find him? You just--."

"If you're with Chad, why would he call you and tell you you're his boyfriend?" Sharpay asked, confusion writ plain on her face. Ryan rolled his eyes.

"Because I'm and idiot and a little dense," he replied, smiling goofily. "Suffice to say--. Never mind," he said rising from his seat. "Just accept the fact that we're seeing each other and leave it at that."

"How did this happen?"

"Shar! Look," he said, "please don't tell anyone about this."

"Why not?"

"Shar!"

"Stop yelling at me and explain," she sat down and patted the bed beside her. Ryan sighed again and sat down.

"I shouldn't tell you about any of this," he said. "Chad's not out yet and we'd like to keep it that way for the time being."

"But that doesn't include me," Sharpay insisted. Ryan was silent. "Ryan? I'm your sister! I know your most intimate secrets! Why didn't you tell me about this?" He averted his eyes and cast about for an answer.

"Chad--."

"I'm not talking about Chad! I'm talking about you and me!" Sharpay cried. "I can't believe you'd keep this from me! We've always shared everything, Ryan! You and me against the world, remember? Even if Chad didn't want you to tell me--."

"Chad wasn't averse to me telling you, Shar." Ryan sighed and averted his eyes. "I'm the one who decided against telling you."

**

Chad walked approximately three blocks west of his home and stopped on the corner when he saw Gabriella approaching from the opposite direction. He shoved his hands into his pockets and waited for her. She usually called Chad when she had a problem with Troy. He had no idea why--it wasn't as though Chad had any particular insight into that aspect of his best friend's behavior, but he always indulged Gabriella's request to talk. Their occasional chats, in person or over the phone, had helped to break down his initial resistance to her and they had become real friends. But although Chad liked Gabriella he still couldn’t quite reconcile himself to the power she continued to wield over Troy. He knew that he was giving her too much credit--after all, the events of the past summer had proven that neither Gabriella nor Chad could influence Troy when he was of a mind to be a jerk. But he still found her somewhat intimidating, though he'd never admit it.

Chad removed his shades and pitied her for a moment. He hoped he had the good sense to do better by Ryan if a similar situation ever presented itself. He hoped that he'd never put Ryan through what Gabriella had endured. And whatever infraction Troy was currently guilty of, Chad hoped it could be resolved quickly. He smiled as Gabriella reached him and tucked an arm around one of his. They started walking.

"Where to?"

"You said you didn't have a lot of time, so let's head back your way," she suggested. They crossed the street to keep their conversation away from Chad's house and walked east.

"So what's up? What has Troy done this time?" Chad asked lightly.

"This isn't about Troy," Gabriella said, her smile fading. "I saw something last night and--well, my mother always said that eavesdropping was its own punishment because you were destined to see or hear the wrong thing, but sometimes you can't help it. Either you overhear something you weren't meant to hear or you hear something and you can't help but look because--."

"Gabi," Chad sighed.

"I'm sorry. I feel kind of funny even bringing this up with you. I'm not trying to make trouble. In fact I wish I could go back in time and just--."

"Gabriella, breathe," Chad commanded, turning to her. He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. "What did you hear?"

"Well, I went into the kitchen because it was really hot in the living room and--."

"Gabi?"

"I opened the door to get some fresh air and I heard a voice out in the yard," she said, averting her eyes from Chad's earnest gaze. "He said, 'You're full of questions tonight,' which in and of itself wasn't anything, but I was curious as to who he was talking to--."

"Who I was talking to, you mean," Chad said calmly, knowing what came next. Gabriella nodded, her eyes fixed on the pavement between them.

"I haven't seen you with anyone since you were with Taylor--." Gabriella paused and shrugged awkwardly. "And I knew I shouldn't have been nosy, but I was curious to know who you were talking to. You've been spending a lot of time with Kelsi lately with the play and everything and I know she has this little crush on you, so I followed the sound of your voice around to the side of the house and--."

"You saw me kissing Ryan Evans," Chad concluded. Gabriella looked up.

"Yes." She stared at him in shock.

"What? Did you expect me to deny it?"

"Well, I didn't--. I don't know. I mean I didn't know you--."

"That I was gay? It's okay to say it, Gabi," Chad replied gently. "I'm not ashamed of the word. I'm gay; and yes, I am seeing Ryan Evans."

**

"Why would you not want to tell your own sister?" Sharpay asked meekly. Ryan sighed and shook his head.

"This is new for him, Shar. I've got to respect that. He's all for being open and honest, but he's still adjusting to this and it's going to take time for him to--."

"This isn't about Chad, this is about me," she said perceptively. "Why didn't you want me to know?"

"This is about Chad, Sharpay," Ryan replied.

"You just said he wasn't averse to me knowing about your little relationship."

"I know what I said."

"So why did you keep something from me when your own precious boyfriend wasn't opposed to telling me?" she said, growing angrier as the pain of Ryan's words sunk in. He'd deliberately kept his relationship with Chad from her. She grabbed his arm in an effort to force an answer from him, but Ryan shrugged her off and stood.

"All right, Shar. You know why I didn't want you to know? I'll tell you why. I know you, that's why," he said, beginning to pace. "I know exactly what you're capable of." Sharpay opened her mouth but Ryan raised a hand to cut her off. "I've seen you do it time and time again, Sharpay."

"Seen what?"

"I've seen what you can do to people. I've watched you slay them with just a single word--on a bad day, maybe two. You open your mouth and strike like a cobra, fast and deadly. You don't even think before you speak; just open your mouth and zap! You'll say anything, do anything to win an argument, Shar. I've seen you do it to your enemies. I've seen you do it to your friends. Hell, you've done it to me countless times."

Sharpay's mouth fell open as she sought the words to defend herself. But Ryan wasn't listening. He wrapped his arms around himself and sat down again, trying hard to suppress the pain that clutched at his heart.

"You've spent years perfecting your little talent. I don't even think you realize what you're doing, anymore. It doesn't matter. You hurt people, Shar."

"Ryan?" She said softly.

"You hurt people with words. Careless, stupid words you never bother to think about before you fling them like throwing stars." He rose again and walked away, putting as much physical and emotional distance between them as he could while remaining in the same room.

"Ryan?" Sharpay repeated as tears began to flow from her eyes. Ryan turned around and folded his arms, his expression cold and stoic.

"I'm not going to let you do that to Chad."

**

"Is that why you broke up with Taylor?"

"I didn't break up with Taylor. We were never involved," Chad replied, rolling his eyes.

"You were such a cute couple."

"We were never a couple," he sighed. "We went out maybe twice and then hung out as part of a foursome with you and Troy because that's the only way either of us ever got to spend time with one of you."

"Oh." Gabriella looked down again and Chad smiled. She really did believe in fairytales, he thought with a sigh. "Maybe that's why Taylor wasn't that surprised when I told her."

"You told Taylor?" he cried. Just as Chad was beginning to think that Ryan had been right about Gabriella, her words jarred him back to reality. He shoved his fists into his pockets as he sought to control his anger.

"I had to tell someone," Gabriella admitted. She looked up sharply. "But I didn't tell Troy."

"Who else did you tell?" he demanded.

"No one else! Chad, I wouldn't do something like that! I only told Taylor and I made her swear not to tell another soul," she insisted. "But I--. I do think you should tell Troy. That's why I called you. I've been thinking about it since last night. I think--. You have to tell him, Chad. It would kill him to find out the way I did. Imagine how hurt he'd be if he found out about you and Ryan by accident and discovered that you'd been keeping the truth from him all this time!"

"What makes you think he doesn't know?" Chad asked.

"He never mentioned it," Gabriella reasoned.

"Well, maybe he's just better at keeping secrets than you are," Chad replied archly.

**

"I'm sorry, Ryan," Sharpay said miserably. Ryan walked over to her and she practically leapt to her feet to bury herself in his arms. He hugged her to his heart.

"I know you are. You always are," he said bleakly. "I know you don't always mean to do it. And I believe you when you say you won't do it again. But you will. You always do, Sharpay. It pains me to say it, but I know that some day, some time you're going to do it again." He drew back a bit so he could look her in the eye. "And I swear to you, Sharpay, if you hurt him, from that moment on--as far as I'm concerned--I'll be an only child. I will never, ever speak to you again."

**

"Look, Gabriella," Chad said, turning away from her pleading eyes, "we're not out. And we'd like to keep it that way. We were kind of hoping to keep our relationship to ourselves for the time being, actually."

"Chad, you know I'd never do anything to hurt you or Ryan," Gabriella said, reaching out to grasp him by the sleeves. "I support your decision to go for what makes you happy, whatever it takes."

"Thank you."

"But you will tell Troy? He's your best friend, Chad!" she pleaded. "I know he thinks the world of you. In fact, he's been worried about you lately and it would probably--."

"Can we focus here, Gabi? I'm not worried about Troy right now. I'm worried about you."

"I won't tell anyone! I promise!"

"You've already told someone," Chad reminded her.

"Only Taylor!" she insisted. "I won't tell anyone else and I'll make sure that she doesn't either." She looked up at Chad with beseeching eyes. "But promise me you'll talk to Troy."

"Gabi."

"Please, Chad," she begged.

**

"He must be pretty special to you," Sharpay said wiping away the tear that had escaped her eye. They were sitting on his bed leaning against each other for support.

"He's very special," Ryan replied, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and burying his face momentarily in her sweet-smelling hair.

"When did you two--?"

Ryan shifted a bit and got comfortable. Then he told Sharpay how he and Chad got together. Sharpay listened with great interest to every detail of his frustrations and obliviousness to Chad's interest in him and laughed when Ryan told her of his joy and relief when he finally figured it all out.

"He's right," she said, giving his arm a gentle squeeze. "You are an idiot."

"I know," Ryan said sheepishly. "But I'm his idiot and that's all that matters."

"You are such a sap."

Ryan shrugged happily, but he quickly grew serious.

"You cannot tell anyone about this," he said firmly. "And I meant what I said earlier."

"I know," Sharpay said seriously. "You're so cute and protective," she added, her smile instantly returning. "So is he a good kisser?" Ryan rolled his eyes.

**

"Let's make a deal," Chad said, smiling. "I'll speak to Troy. You don't say another word about this to anyone. Oh, and I'll let you keep that pretty little nose of yours, too. Okay? Now, I've got to go. My dad is waiting for me. I'll see you at Martha's party." Gabriella looked up at him. "Oh, I can guarantee that I'll know the minute you break your promise. Not another word to anyone, Gabi." She nodded solemnly. Chad said goodbye and jogged back to the house, eager to get over to Ryan's place.

"Impatient much?" Chad said when he spotted the silver Mercedes in his driveway. He'd never seen it before, but the "EVANS8" license plate was enough to tell him who he'd find waiting for him in the living room. He tucked his sunglasses into the neckline of his tee and strode into the living room with a snarky comment at the ready. But Chad froze when he saw Sharpay standing beside his mother.

"Oh, here he is," Ms. Danforth said, making a hasty retreat. She gave him a questioning look as she passed him but Chad was too confused to enlighten her. He waited until she was out of earshot before he spoke.

"What are you doing here?" he asked bluntly.

"Is that how you greet all your company?" Sharpay replied challengingly. Chad started to reply, but something occurred to him and he forgot about his intended response.

"Wait a minute--where's Ryan? Is he all right? Has something happened to him?" he demanded as he descended upon her. "Sharpay! Tell me! Is he all right?"

"You really do care about him, don't you?" she said, frowning at him. Chad heaved a sigh of relief and ran a hand over his face.

"Is that why you're here? You found out about us and came to check me out?" Chad surmised. "No, you came here to tell me to stay away from Ryan, or threaten me with bodily harm if I screw up. I should have expected that," he said, sitting down and gesturing for her to sit. "Well, you're wasting your time, but go ahead and say your piece."

"You think you're so clever," she said.

"And you think you get to call all the shots," Chad replied. "News flash, Princess. We can handle this without any help from you." Sharpay folded her arms and huffed.

"Look, I didn't come here to make trouble," she said.

"So why did you come?" Chad demanded, staying on the defensive. "Oh wait--I know. Ryan told me that you two saw eye to eye on nearly everything. You came to get a good look at what you missed out on," he said, smiling as he sprawled a bit in the chair to make his point.

"What? Are you insane?" Sharpay cried.

"Come on, you know you want this. Too bad Ryan beat you to it," he teased as his father came to the doorway behind him. Sharpay glanced up at Mr. Danforth and Chad blanched. He sat up straight and coughed.

"I'm ready to leave whenever you are," Mr. Danforth said, frowning suspiciously. He nodded at Sharpay and disappeared.

"If you're done making an ass of yourself," she said, "I'll get to the point." Chad sat back.

"Why don't you do that? I've got a date I'd like to get to sometime this afternoon."

"I found out about you and my brother today," Sharpay began. Chad was tempted to make a sarcastic remark, but the look on her face stopped him. "It was accidental; I overheard something I was never meant to hear, although I don't know how the big dork expected to prevent that from happening when he--."

"What did you hear?" Chad interrupted curiously. Sharpay sighed in exasperation.

"I was in my brother's bedroom using his computer and his phone rang. It was you calling him to say you were going to see Gabriella."

"So?" Chad gestured with his hands to show his continued bewilderment.

"I'm trying to explain," Sharpay said snappishly. "I didn't hear your message; my idiot brother decided to create a special ringtone for you. So what I actually heard was your voice telling Ryan that you had a boyfriend and that you weren't' looking for another one--or something like that." Chad's eyes went wide. "Am I right? If you were trying to keep your relationship secret would you use that as your boyfriend's ringtone? So anyway, after I heard that I demanded an explanation."

"I don't blame you," Chad replied laughingly. "But that still doesn't tell me why I'm entertaining you instead of your brother."

"He told me everything," Sharpay said. "From the beginning. I was stunned, really. I had no idea--." She rose and walked over to the mantle. She couldn't look Chad in the eye, so she scanned the pictures of him on the bookcases to the right of the mantle. "He didn't want me to know about you and it hurt him to keep your relationship a secret. I think it hurt him even more to tell me that he didn't trust his own sister not to hurt someone he cares so much about."

Chad frowned, but he waited for her to explain.

"You were a really cute kid," she said distractedly, smiling at Chad's third grade portrait. "He's afraid that I'll out you."

"You won't do that," Chad replied easily. Sharpay spun around.

"He thinks otherwise," she said, unwilling to question Chad's confidence in her. "He rightly accused me of using my knowledge to hurt people in the past. And it didn't help that I forced him to betray you and reveal your secret."

"I have no problem sharing it with you, Sharpay," Chad said, rising. "As for Ryan, well, I guess we all have trust issues. Look, you want to give me a lift over to your place? I'm supposed to be spending the afternoon with Ryan."

"Sure," Sharpay said with a weak smile. Chad excused himself and went to speak to his father. When he returned he found Sharpay staring at another picture. "When was this taken? I don't recognize it," she said, holding up a framed picture of Ryan and Chad leaning against Ryan's car.

"Mom took it last Tuesday," Chad said, smiling. "I'm beginning to think Ryan's right--my folks do like him better than me. Come on. I'm already late."

On the way out to Palisade Hills, the two talked about Ryan, his relationship with Chad and about the others who were part of a small but growing circle of people who knew about the couple. Sharpay's anxiety lessened a bit. She hadn't expected Chad to react any better than Ryan had, but she knew that talking to Chad was the only way to reassure her brother. She hoped it would work; she'd never seen Ryan so upset and never wanted to cause him that kind of pain again.

"So why aren't you worried that I'll out you?" she asked. "You'd have far more reason to expect that than Ryan ever would."

"I guess--." Chad shrugged. "I guess I'm just more willing to trust you."

"More than my own brother?"

"I think Ryan's lack of trust stems from the fact that he's your brother. Because you're family, you have a greater ability to hurt him than me. Just as I'm more afraid of Gabriella outing me than of you doing so."

"Gabriella?"

"Well, I don't call her 'Gabi' for no reason," Chad said archly. "But she's part of Troy's life and Troy is part of my life--she's like extended family."

"And Troy's really okay with you and Ryan?" Sharpay asked.

"I think he's still trying to wrap his head around it," Chad said with a grin. Sharpay shook her head.

"I can't believe I never noticed anything. I even fell for that line about Ryan agreeing to drive you to school so you'd do the reading. I should have known something was up."

"You weren't supposed to notice anything," Chad replied.

"I know, but I've known how Ryan felt about you for ages. I've watched him lust after you since he reached puberty. You would think I'd notice when he stopped lusting from afar and started lusting close up and personal." Chad shifted uncomfortably. Sharpay found his blush hysterical.

When they reached the house she directed Chad to Ryan's room. He found Ryan sitting at his desk, staring at his computer screen.

"Ryan?"

"Hey!" Ryan said, turning at the sound of Chad's voice. He rose and met Chad halfway across the room. Their lips met briefly, then Ryan reached up to brush back Chad's hair before kissing him again, but after a few seconds, he drew back.

"Go away," he said.

"What?" Chad cried.

"Not you; her," Ryan said. Chad turned and saw Sharpay at the door, smiling. She reached for the doorknob and drew it closed. Chad turned back to Ryan just as she opened it again.

"You know, Chad, maybe you're right. I should be a little jealous." She winked and shut the door. Ryan frowned at Chad.

"Do I want to know what that means?" he asked. Chad shook his head and pulled Ryan into a hug. "Where have you been?" Ryan asked after inhaling the scent of Chad's freshly showered skin. "I was expecting you sooner."

"Sorry," Char replied, pausing to nibble at Ryan's throat. "I had woman trouble."

"You're a little male for PMS, aren't you?"

Chad's response to the quip was an assault in the form of tickles. Ryan immediately recoiled and tried to escape. Chad had him pinned to the floor and begging for mercy in a matter of seconds.

"Apologize," he demanded. Ryan lifted his head and squinted up at Chad, who was sitting on his back.

"You do realize that breaking my back might put a damper on our plans for the evening?" he said. Chad promptly rose to his feet and pulled Ryan up from the floor. "Now what's this about woman trouble?" Ryan asked. Chad sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. Ryan sat beside him frowning in concern.

"Gabriella knows about us. She spied on us last night while we were outside," Chad revealed.

"That doesn't sound like Gabriella."

"Hey, that's what she told me."

"So she knows."

"Yes, she knows," Chad said, sighing again. "And she marched right back into the house and told Taylor."

"Well, she already knows about us," Ryan replied, slightly confused by Chad's tone.

"Yeah, but don't you see? She told someone, just like I said she would."

"Well, she was probably shocked."

"I know, but--." Chad shook his head and smiled impishly. "She promised not to tell anyone else if I spoke to Troy." Ryan's frown deepened.

"Troy already knows, too!"

"But Gabriella doesn't know that."

"So why didn't you--."

"She made me promise," Chad said as his smile blossomed into a toothy grin.

"I don't get it."

"Well, it may not make sense on the surface, but it gives me a way to make sure she can be trusted."

"Uh…okay."

"Look, it's simple. She promised never to mention it to anyone. That means that she can't even tell Troy that she knows."

"Why not?"

"Because!" Chad replied. "She just can't. If she does, she's broken her promise."

"Well, that's…"

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it," Chad said playfully, wrapping an arm around Ryan's shoulders. Ryan tried his best to kiss away Chad's smug grin but it proved to be irrepressible. He gave up finally, and pulled away. "Hey! What's wrong?" he asked when abruptly Ryan rose from the bed and walked over to the desk.

"You told me about your woman trouble. I've had a bit of my own," he said glumly. "Sharpay found out about us today, too."

"She told me," Chad said easily.

"She did?"

"Yeah; she told me what went down and wanted to reassure me that we'd be safe."

"And you believe her?"

"Why shouldn't I?"

"Chad--."

"Look," he said, rising to his feet. "I was all for you telling her from the beginning. I knew she'd be pissed when she found out that she'd been kept out of the loop."

"Well, you know my reasons," Ryan said, sitting on the edge of the desk and picking up his phone.

"Yeah, I guess we both have trust issues," Chad said, taking it from his hand. "You have to learn to trust Sharpay and I have to trust Gabriella. And dude, your sister was right. My ringtone?"

"My phone's always on vibrate when I'm out of the house," Ryan explained. "I only put the sound on when I'm home and expecting you to call."

Chad gave him a disbelieving look, and Ryan tried to snatch the phone back. Chad held it just out of his reach, using his longer arms to his advantage. Ryan countered by lightly punching him in the midsection and the two began to wrestle for the phone. A knock on the door interrupted them and they turned as Ryan's mother opened it.

"Ducky, we were just about to--. Oh, I didn't realize you had company. Chad, isn't it?" Ms. Evans said, extending her hand.

"Yes, ma'am," Chad replied. "Hi."

"It's nice to see you again, Chad," she said graciously. "We were about to play a movie in the theatre downstairs. Perhaps you two would care to join us."

"Oh, well--."

"That would be cool. Thanks," Chad replied before Ryan could think up a reason to refuse.

"We'll be down in a minute," he said. He waited until his mother was gone before turning to Chad. "We don't have to go downstairs, you know. We can watch a movie up here."

"And miss out on a chance to see your home theatre? I've been dying to see it since you told me about it."

"Why didn't you say so before? I would have invited you over ages ago," Ryan replied. "But really, we could watch movies in there another time. You didn't have to say yes just because my mom asked."

"What's the big deal? You watch movies with my folks. Why shouldn't I watch movies with yours?"

"Your folks are cool. I can totally be myself with them. My folks are--."

"I know your folks, remember?" Chad said smiling. But his face fell as realization dawned. "They don't know about me, do they?"

"They know I'm seeing someone new. It's high time they found out who he was," Ryan replied. "Come on." He kissed Chad and grabbed hold of his hand. He led Chad down the stairs to the theatre, where they found Mr. Evans speaking to a couple at the back of the room. Chad started to withdraw his hand, but Ryan merely tightened his grip. "You didn't tell me we had other guests, Mom," he said as he practically dragged Chad over to the couple. "Hey, Dad."

"Ryan," his father said, peering beyond his shoulder. "And I know this young man..."

"Chad Danforth. You met at Lava Springs this summer," Ryan replied as he drew Chad a little closer. "And Chad, I'd like you to meet Marjorie and John Upshaw. They're very dear friends of the family. This is my boyfriend, Chad."

"So this is the young man you threw us over for last weekend," John said, clapping a hand on Chad's shoulder and shaking his hand.

"Well, if I had to choose between a handsome young man like your Chad and a couple of old fuddy duddies like us, I'd throw us over, too," Marjorie said laughing. Chad managed a smile, although the entire scene was too surreal. Mr. Evans wrapped an arm around his shoulder and started bragging about Chad's accomplishments as an East High Wildcat as though Chad was a long lost son. Marjorie grilled Ryan about his new boyfriend and everyone in the room was completely at ease except for Chad, who tried to imagine a time when he wouldn't feel like a fish out of water in a social setting.

"Chad?"

He frowned and turned to look around to where Sharpay was sitting on a plush leather seat. She patted the one next to her and he gratefully excused himself to join her.

"Evans tradition dictates that, as the newest guest, you get to choose the movie," she said. She handed him a list of films and his head reeled at the selection. He was a bit hesitant to pick, unsure of what the others would want, but Ryan's mother assured him that anything he chose was fine. He selected a movie and Ryan sat down in the chair beside his. When he lifted the armrest that separated his seat from Chad's, Sharpay warned the couple that no necking was allowed.

"Aw, shucks and here I thought we were going to have some fun," Marjorie teased her husband. Ryan stuck out his tongue out at his sister and wrapped an arm around Chad's shoulder. Chad smiled and nestled closer to him.

"Comfortable?" Ryan whispered as the lights dimmed.

"Just…Ducky," Chad replied, grinning from ear to ear.

"You got a problem with my nickname, Boo?"

"Hey, you've got to admit that Boo's a bit more dignified," Chad replied.

"No, I don't," Ryan said grinning.

"Boo? Ducky?" Sharpay's voice made them both wince. "Be quiet or I'll have to separate you two."

The couple slid down in their seats and watched the movie in silence. After all, they could do all the talking--and anything else they chose to do--later.


The End

On to Suspicions

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Comments
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[1] [2]
akari_hayashi From: akari_hayashi Date: February 27th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel kinda bad for Sharpay and Gabi. :/
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Uh... I don't understand why you'd feel that way, but okay.
author_abz From: author_abz Date: February 27th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
D'awww! That's so completely adorable. I love it. And it's so long! I can't help but love it then! :D I love your Sharpay... and the Evans family. Plus guests. :D Completely lovely. I can't seem to find fault with it. :D
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, it was very long, but I couldn't shorten it. I was barely able to keep it within the 30 page post-length limit.
coloursofsouls From: coloursofsouls Date: February 27th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm running late to class because I sat here and read this but I just had to let you know that I absolutely loved this!
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Love your icon!

I'm glad you enjoyed the story!
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 28th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Great story again, in the trilogy + 1.
Framed photo of Ryan at Chad's place? Wow.

I'll have to admit I don't love it as much as I LOVE LOVE LOVE the first story in the series -- Assumptions. But it's still a wonderful story...
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
The picture just seemed like something Ms. Danforth would do--she took a picture--she'd frame it and put it on display.

I admit that Assumptions and Dad Knows are my favorites, but I had to work with those phone messages...

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the trilogy + 1.
pinkielephant From: pinkielephant Date: February 28th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Cute cute cute!! Uhm.. Troy didn't have a big part in this but he was totally my favorite part. And the conversations about him.. just... yay, Troy! That doesn't happen to him a lot in this fandom, so good job.

Also, weird question, but am I allowed to ask what part Chad played in the show and what (maybe) movie he chose? I don't know if you even thought about that, but I just was curious. :)

I also loved the nicknames...
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed writing that little bit from Troy's perspective. I think that he'd be doing a great deal of thinking about his best friend, under the circumstances and he'd not only have a little trouble grasping the whole concept of gay Chad, but also want to be there for him--with Taylor as back-up. ;)

I dropped a few subtle clues about the performance. The Drama Club did a reading of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Chad played Frankenstein's monster. Presumably, Sharpay was Elizabeth and Ryan was the good Doctor F. As for the movie, who knows? I usually think about such things when they occur in the middle of the story, but I really didn't think about it. I'm guessing that he chose something with a fairly broad appeal. But he wasn't there for the show, anyway...
(Deleted comment)
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much! I have a lot of fun writing them and it really makes my day to hear that people enjoy my stories.

And oddly, Troy emerged as a really fun character to write. I may have to do more with him in future.
crumbfreebread From: crumbfreebread Date: February 28th, 2008 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)
WOW. I just read all four parts. This was really, truly amazing. Chad and Ryan are absolutely adorable. OMG, happy family situations! that is like my one true love, and this was just full of them. Not like sickly sweet stuff, but families just getting through stuff together and showing how much they love each other through their troubles. Like, even the Sharpay and Ryan stuff I loved, because Sharpay IS mean, even to Ryan but they are dealing with it!

Well, anyway, this is one of my favorite Chad/Ryan fics ever! Amazing job!
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for that wonderful praise and thank you for taking the time to read upwards of 85 pages of my work. It was a lot of fun to write this series and I'm delighted to know that you enjoyed it!
kalimai From: kalimai Date: February 28th, 2008 12:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awesome as usual!! I love Taylor threatening Troy discretly in public places.
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 28th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I love the idea of Taylor as thought police. I can just imagine her being one step ahead of every thought in Troy's brain, waiting for him to open his mouth so she can pounce! ;)

Thank you, hon!
From: ry_girl Date: February 28th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awww its over but all good things must come 2 an end ...I was expecting great but I got amazing...great writinng, sharpay's last line priceless :)
jalabert From: jalabert Date: February 29th, 2008 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I have to admit that I'm happy to be done with this series. On to the next challenge...

silver_fic From: silver_fic Date: March 4th, 2008 06:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Awww, that was just marvelous. I just read the whole series in one go. ANd I have to say I love it ^___^ Are you planning on continuing it? I think I will friend you btw, if you don't mind ^__^
jalabert From: jalabert Date: March 5th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thank you! It was a pleasure to write. There will undoubtedly be more of this; while I'd like to think I've got a new storyline in me I keep being drawn back to this 'verse.

And welcome, friend!
desinere From: desinere Date: March 6th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
xD I liked this. Good job!
jalabert From: jalabert Date: March 7th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
writerfreak721 From: writerfreak721 Date: March 9th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)
"He would never betray me like that. Gabriella is just being Gabriella. She wants everyone to be together and happy, like a big stinking Disney musical," Chad said wearily. "She doesn't have a clue about us."

Haha! That's brilliant. I really loved this =]
jalabert From: jalabert Date: March 9th, 2008 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)
You're the only one who mentioned that. I'm glad two of us got a good laugh out of it. ;)

Thanks for the lovely comment!
elvensorceress From: elvensorceress Date: March 10th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, gosh! I'm so sorry, bb. Somehow I missed this which is so terribly bad of me :( Anyway. *sends extra big loves*

This is what always happens to me when I write a "trilogy" ;) Gah. But this story was so wonderful and it just makes me so happy to read anything you write.

I loved seeing the boys at the beginning of their relationship - Ryan is so very cute, but so verrrrry (what did Shar say?) idiotic. *facepalm*

I loved that Chad still has some issues with Gabriella. I think that's so in character and I adored how you wrote them interacting. And goodness, the Ryan-Sharpay thing tugs at my heart like you wouldn't believe. It's so them and the way you handled everything was amazing.

What else... hmm. Oh! Troy and Taylor being all knowing and sneaky! *giggles* They were brilliant and it made me want to squish them.

"Boo? Ducky?" Sharpay's voice made them both wince. "Be quiet or I'll have to separate you two."
XD XD XD

*happysigh*

Ok, I must get back to my work now >.< but expect commentlove for your new story very soon!

xoxoxox
jalabert From: jalabert Date: March 11th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Hey, I'm behind in my reading, too! I've got Fever Pitch in my bag now, only half read. Life is short and there's so much to read...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this. To be honest, I have to go back and read what I wrote because I can't remember the story at the moment... :P


The boys are beginning to write themselves --I just sit back and take notes!

<3

lizbuf From: lizbuf Date: March 22nd, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was so cute!
jalabert From: jalabert Date: March 23rd, 2008 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad you enjoyed it!

Edited at 2008-03-23 01:51 am (UTC)
nonemohead From: nonemohead Date: December 22nd, 2008 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)
:)

*sigh* You know, I'm really glad there are good authors in this fandom. I can't believe I lucked out!

Chad's mom cracked me up. I would probably do the same thing if Chad was my son. Chad is so freaking lucky. I love his parents (I want to hug his father too!).

I understand the Ryan not trusting Sharpay touch but I really liked how you touched on Chad not really trusting Gabi yet. It's totally in character.

And Ryan! I would totally use that as my ringtone if I was him. He's so adorably in love it makes me want to go out and get my own boyfriend right now!
jalabert From: jalabert Date: December 22nd, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
The trust issue is an important on in this story. I think Chad clearly has issues with Gabriella, even if they've never shown. She became a big impediment to Chad's relationship with Troy initially and after what he did to break up her and Troy, Chad had good reason to fear what Gabriella might do with her secret.

I love the idea of Ryan being romantically dorky. They both are, actually. ;)

Thank you!
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