Summary: Chad's little show and tell yields a surprise.
Author's Note: The second story in the new series, which is the sixth episode in the Chyan 'verse with a shiny new name: Coming to Terms. Sequel to Suspicion.
"So did you talk to her?"
Chad shut his locker and turned to look at Troy.
"Talk to whom about what?"
"Gabriella…about, you know."
Chad stared at him blankly.
"You know," Troy repeated, glancing around furtively. Chad made a show of looking around, before he resumed staring. "The gay thing," Troy whispered.
"Oh, that," Chad said, nodding solemnly. "No."
"Well, when do you think you're going to speak to her?"
"I have no idea," Chad replied. He shouldered his backpack and began to walk.
"I guess I thought you were going to tell her right away."
"Dude, you and I discussed this less than twelve hours ago. I haven't even seen Gabriella yet today."
"But you will tell her? I mean I could talk to her if you want, but I thought you'd--."
"What's the rush?" Chad demanded suspiciously. "Oh; you want to be able to dish about what you saw last night." Chad grinned and shook his head.
"No, no! I was just thinking--."
"Dude, you know that's not your forte," Chad teased. Troy glared briefly before continuing.
"I thought that with the weekend coming up and…well, you said that we should get together again. I was thinking that maybe you and--your friend might want to hang out with us."
"I'll have to ask my friend," Chad replied archly. He saw Ryan approaching from the opposite direction and nodded as he passed. Ryan curtly returned the nod before veering off into another corridor. Troy's eyes, rather than Chad's, followed him.
"Say, I've got to ask," he began. Chad stopped and turned a cold glare on him. "Well, I've always--." Troy sighed and returned to the topic at hand. "Will you talk to Gabriella today?"
"I should speak with my friend first, don't you think?"
"Well, will you speak with your friend today?"
"Undoubtedly," Chad replied with a smile that evoked memories of the previous evening. Troy saw once again his best friend's fingers entwined with Ryan's, the smiles they shared over pizza, their searing kiss at the door… Chad frowned and peered at his face. Troy was blushing. Amused, Chad smiled and shook his head.
"So why don't you talk to her now?" Troy asked as he and Chad approached the cafeteria three hours later.
"Maybe talking about my love life is not a good thing to do at a table with, oh, six or seven other people--not to mention the fifty or so others within earshot," Chad replied before he smacked Troy in the back of his head.
"Dude! I meant that you should take her somewhere else and talk."
"Oh," Chad said brightly. "No."
Chad squinted at him.
"What's in this for you?"
"I want to make plans for the weekend, that's all."
"I do!" Troy insisted. Chad folded his arms and barred Troy's access to two of his favorite things: food and Gabriella, not necessarily in that order. "All right," he confessed. "I want you to tell her so she'll understand that I'm not a jerk." Chad's laughter echoed down the hall. Troy shoved him but he kept on laughing, doubled over. "I mean it! She thinks that I'm--." Troy bent over to speak in Chad's ear. "She thinks I'm homophobic."
Chad straightened up abruptly and blinked at him. Troy shrugged awkwardly.
"What makes her think that?"
"It's your fault!" he replied accusingly. "You wouldn't let her talk to me, so whenever she made--." Troy shut his mouth abruptly and dragged Chad to a quiet corner. "Every once in a while," he said in a softer voice, "she'd make these comments about you and Ryan. I thought she was getting suspicious, but I couldn't figure out how. Anyway, every once in a while she'd say something like, 'Ooh, I think they're so cute,' or 'It's so sweet of Chad to help Ryan with his homework,' or something like that. And I'd try to ignore her or, you know, pretend I didn't notice whatever she was talking about and she'd give me this look and get all, 'Oh, you should be more compassionate,' or 'That's so not cool, Troy,' and--."
"All right!" Chad said, placing his hand over Troy's mouth. "I'll talk to her. Go and tell her to meet me out here."
"Great; we'll be right back."
"No, just send Gabriella. You stay behind and catch your breath."
"I want to be there," Troy said. Chad sighed. "It's important. I want her to know that I'm not a jerk." He punched Chad in the arm. "And stop laughing!"
"All right, all right," Chad replied. "Go get her. I'll grab a table out back."
Troy gave a little squeal and ran off to get Gabriella. Chad rolled his eyes and turned toward the door. But he immediately turned back; he wanted to let Ryan know what was going on. He started for the cafeteria, but heard a familiar voice and looked to his right. He saw Sharpay and Ryan approaching the cafeteria. Sharpay was talking to Ryan, who was paying her no attention. He only had eyes for Chad, who nodded a greeting.
"Ryan? You aren't listening to a word I--. Oh. Danforth," she said wearily. It was a bit of an act; although she and Chad got along fine in private, Ryan insisted that she not change her public attitude toward the jock.
"Hi Sharpay!" Chad said in a falsely cheerful tone. "Kiss, kiss! You look fabulous! New shoes? Those earrings are so you," he continued in a perfect imitation of one of Sharpay's acolytes. She rolled her eyes as Chad turned to Ryan. "Hey, we're going outside to eat. Care to join us?"
"Sounds like a good idea," Ryan replied, smiling.
"What about me?" Sharpay said with a pout.
"I suppose you're welcome, too, Princess," Chad replied with a wink. Sharpay rolled her eyes again, but allowed him to lead the twins out to the patio.
"So who's this 'we' you mentioned?" Ryan asked as he sat down beside Chad, who nodded toward the doors. Ryan looked over and saw Troy and Gabriella. "Cool."
"Ugh," Sharpay said, but before Chad could respond to her remark, she turned on the charm and greeted the newcomers warmly. "Troy, Gabriella--welcome to our little picnic." Troy looked at Chad worriedly, silently trying to say something Chad didn't understand.
"Hi, Sharpay, Ryan, Chad," Gabriella said cheerfully as she sat down beside Sharpay. Troy gave Chad another meaningful look before he sat down.
"Hey Sharpay," Troy said as he claimed the space beside her. "This is nice; just the five of us."
"Uh, yeah," Ryan replied, frowning at him in confusion. But Chad caught on, and smiled.
"Chill, dude. It's cool."
"What's cool?" Ryan asked.
"Well, you see, after last night, Troy thought it was time we let Gabriella in on our secret."
Chad turned to look at him. Ryan shrugged.
Chad smiled that smile. Ryan melted. Troy squirmed. Gabriella smiled sweetly and propped her chin to gaze at the couple. Sharpay just rolled her eyes again.
"They're so cute together," Gabriella sighed.
"You think so?" Sharpay asked curiously. "They kind of make me want to barf."
"Dude!" Troy cried. Chad dragged his eyes away from Ryan to glare at him. Troy frantically gestured with his head.
Troy leaned across the table to whisper.
"What about her?" Chad asked, bluntly.
"Does she know?"
"Do I know what?" Sharpay asked. Gabriella sat back, averting her eyes.
"All right," Chad said with a sigh. "Here's the deal." He paused to make sure they were far from potentially prying ears. "Each of you knows something about me--us," he corrected, gesturing between himself and Ryan. "I asked you all out here to let you know that…well, you all know."
"What?" Ryan spat. Troy slapped his palm over his eyes.
"Okay, that didn't come out as neatly as I wanted it," Chad admitted. "But you all get the picture."
"I hope you did a better job of telling Gabriella you were…gay," Troy replied, whispered the last word. Chad shrugged. But Gabriella was beaming.
"Oh, Troy! I've been dying to tell you that I knew about them. But I didn't know whether Chad had told you and I couldn't--."
"Has everyone lost his ability to speak plain English today?" Ryan asked. Chad gently nudged him with his elbow.
"We understand each other perfectly," he said softly.
"Gabriella, I've been worried that you thought I was some sort of--." Troy glanced at Chad self-consciously, not that Chad was paying attention. "I was afraid you thought I didn't approve of Chad and Ryan," he explained.
"I admit I was a bit worried," Gabriella confessed. "And I couldn't talk to you about it because Chad made me swear not to tell anyone else what I knew."
"That part still stands, Gabi," Chad interjected. "We're still on the DL."
"That's okay," Gabriella said. "As long as I know that Troy is okay with this, nothing else matters. I was so worried about you," she said, turning doe eyes to her boyfriend.
"I do think I'm going to throw up," Sharpay deadpanned. She looked into her lunch bag. "You two haven't told Zeke, have you? I could use a cookie."
"Hey," Troy said eagerly. "Now that we all know and we're all--."
"One big happy family?" Sharpay asked, reaching for Ryan's lunch. Troy glared at her.
"I was thinking that it would be fun if we double dated this weekend," he said. His suggestion was met with silence from everyone except Gabriella, who immediately seconded the idea.
"What did you have in mind?" Ryan asked reluctantly.
"Oh, I know! How about a real picnic?" Gabriella suggested.
"You'll bring the brownies?" Troy asked hopefully.
"A picnic," Chad said dully.
"Come on, Chad, it'll be a lot of fun!" Gabriella said cheerfully.
"And after we eat, we can play badminton and dodge ball!" Sharpay said with mock enthusiasm. Everyone looked at her. Her smile faded. "Oh. I'm not invited."
"Well…" Troy assayed.
"Of course, you're invited, Sharpay," Gabriella replied.
"You said double date," Sharpay said, her eyes on Troy.
"Well," he began, glancing at Chad and Ryan for support. "Why not? Sure you can join us. Right?"
"A picnic." Chad sighed. Ryan elbowed him in the ribs. Chad gave him a look and Ryan returned another; an entire conversation transpired in a matter of seconds. "A picnic," Chad said, smiling. Ryan returned the smile.
"Oh, here we go again," Sharpay sighed, turning to Gabriella. "So where should we go?" The two of them began to speculate about locations as Troy stared at the couple across the table. They weren't touching or talking. They weren't even looking at each other any longer, but Troy knew that there was something passing between them and was amazed that he could suddenly discern with ease what had been completely invisible just twenty-four hours earlier.
"And who else is coming besides the six of us?" Sharpay asked. A silence fell over the table. Troy coughed awkwardly.
"Troy?" Chad said around a mouthful of sandwich.
"She said 'six."
"Well--." Gabriella fell silent and glanced at Sharpay, who glared back at her.
"What? Are you saying that I can't bring a date?"
"No one's saying that," Ryan replied.
"But you are," Sharpay surmised.
"Well, no one else at school knows about them except Taylor," Troy explained.
"I'm not going," she said looking stricken. "Sharpay Evans will not be a fifth wheel."
"Sharpay, if you want to bring a date, you go ahead and bring one," Chad said easily. Ryan nodded.
"Oh, but she can't!" Troy cried. "I mean--. The whole point of the picnic--."
"…Is to let Gabriella see us on display?" Chad replied caustically. Gabriella averted her eyes and Troy glared at him.
"Dude, please," Chad said.
"I just wanted the two of you to be able to be yourselves," he replied.
"Feel like dating Taylor?" Ryan quipped at his sibling. She rolled her eyes.
"I do know people--men--outside of East High, you know."
"And a few of them are still willing to date you," Ryan and Chad said in unison.
"You know, ever since--." She shut her mouth firmly and exchanged a guilty look with her brother. He reached out and took hold of her hand. She smiled weakly and glanced over at Chad. He winked at her and shifted the discussion back to the point.
"Sharpay, you are welcome to come with us on this--picnic," he said, barely managing to sound enthusiastic. "And you're welcome to bring a date."
"Thank you, Chad," she replied sincerely.
"Just make sure he's open-minded," Ryan said firmly.
"Duh." Sharpay reached into Ryan's lunch bag and stole his dessert.
Chad entered the auditorium and made his way down the aisle as Ryan and Sharpay argued about a script change. A handful of students stood waiting on the stage for them to resolve their dispute. Ryan glanced up and saw Chad coming. He frowned and waited for him to draw close enough so that he could speak quietly.
"Chad? What are you doing here?"
"Can I borrow your laptop for a few minutes? I left mine at home today," he replied, dropping his backpack on a seat.
"Sure," Ryan said. He handed his script to Sharpay and walked Chad over to where he'd left his bag. "What's up?"
"I need to find a book."
"There's an entire library just two flights up," Sharpay said impatiently.
"I know," Chad agreed. "But this isn't for me and it's not something I'd like to be seen borrowing, either." Ryan peered over his shoulder as he typed. Sharpay stomped over to fetch Ryan, but couldn't resist taking a peek at the screen when she heard Chad's comment.
"Who do you want that for?" Ryan wanted to know.
"Troy; he's driving me crazy with all the questions," Chad said with a sigh. "Ever since I came out to him he's been asking questions. And now that he really knows I'm gay he can't stop pestering me."
"What do you mean 'now that he really knows'?" Ryan asked.
"What kind of questions?" Sharpay demanded, intrigued in spite of herself.
"Shar!" Ryan cried, gesturing at the students on the stage. She turned and told them to take a five-minute break before returning to shamelessly eavesdrop on what Chad was doing.
"So what's he asking?" she prompted.
"What isn't he asking?" Chad replied, glancing up at her. "Which one of us is the 'girl,' am I going to start showing up at school in pink, if I ever wanted to dress up in my mom's clothes--. Yesterday, he actually asked if I was into whips and chains."
"You're kidding right?" Ryan said. Chad looked up, pouting.
"He said I had to be the girl because I look more like one than you do."
"You do not look like a girl," Ryan said earnestly. But Sharpay nodded.
"It's the hair," she concluded. Chad looked crestfallen. Ryan leaned closer, pretending to show Chad something on the laptop.
"If you looked like a girl I wouldn't want anything to do with you," he whispered breathily. "And you know I want to do everything with you." Chad smiled briefly but promptly resumed complaining as he typed.
"The dude is hopelessly misinformed," he said. "At least my parents did their homework before they started asking embarrassing questions."
"Your parents asked you stuff like that?" Sharpay asked incredulously.
"No; my parents asked even more embarrassing questions--with a surprising amount of knowledge of their subject," Chad replied with a tiny shudder. Ryan briefly rested a hand on his shoulder. Chad glanced up again and smiled.
"So you're giving Troy The New Gay Teenager?" Sharpay smiled.
"I ought to give him the Ultimate Gay Sex Guide," Chad grumbled, "but I'm not sure he could handle it."
"Your dad certainly couldn't," Ryan said with a small chuckle.
"Hey, I only ordered a catalog. That was on the cover. And it serves him right for opening my mail," Chad muttered, recalling his father's look of horror.
"Just be sure Troy's full name on the package," Ryan suggested. Chad nodded.
There was certainly a disadvantage to sharing his father's initials. "Charles Earl Danforth" and "Chad Everett Danforth" sometimes got each other's mail when it was addressed simply "C.E. Danforth." Chad's middle name was his paternal grandmother's idea--she was a big fan of the actor back in his heyday and the fact that her son and daughter-in-law only capitulated because Everett means "strong as a wild boar" didn't diminish her joy one bit.
"Wouldn't it be more fun to hand it to him personally?" Sharpay asked mischievously. Chad paused, one click away from transmitting the sale via Paypal. "I'll pick up the book for you after school if you Google a store that sells it," she said. "And you have to give it to him at the picnic."
Chad smiled and clicked the Paypal button. He wasn't going to publicly embarrass his best friend. But he silently vowed to someday acquire the Ultimate Gay Sex Guide and show it to Troy no matter what it cost or how much it squicked his dad.
"Leave it to Sharpay to arrange a picnic in her own backyard," Chad said looking across the lawn at the spot where a table was being set up under a tent.
"I know," Ryan commiserated. He rested his head on Chad's shoulder. "We should have stopped her."
"We? You said you'd do it," Chad replied. "I told you this was Troy and Gabriella's thing."
"I know, I know," Ryan sighed, wrapping his arms around Chad's waist. "But she got permission from Gabriella."
"She said she did."
"Right." Chad shook his head, causing Ryan to protest at being dislodged from his comfortable position. "Sorry," Chad said soothingly, turning in Ryan's arms to kiss him.
"Will you two get a room?" Sharpay said shrilly as she stepped onto the patio and descended on the couple.
"Still jealous, aren't you?" Chad said, smiling at Ryan.
"For your information, Mr. Danforth, as perfectly adorable as my brother seems to think you are, there are other fish in the sea."
"But who cares?" Ryan said dreamily. Chad returned his smile and Sharpay put a hand up between the two of them before they could kiss again.
"Don't make me get a crowbar," she warned. "My date is a very open-minded guy, but I'm not sure he'd be comfortable with the two of you being all kissy-faced every three minutes. And I am sure that Troy and Gabriella won't be. Now, everyone will be here shortly. Why don't you two go over there and do something--something that doesn't involve groping."
"We don't grope," Chad said distastefully.
"At least not when anyone can see us."
"Go!" Sharpay commanded. The grinning couple left Sharpay to oversee to the last of the arrangements. They wandered across the lawn and sat down on the grass.
"This is going to suck," Chad declared after a few minutes.
"Why?" Ryan turned to look at him. Chad shook his head and laid back on the grass. Ryan scooted a bit closer and pulled Chad's head onto his lap.
"I don't know," Chad confessed. "I just have a bad feeling about this."
"Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't want it to work, but--. Well, the other night, it was just three guys hanging out, you know?"
"So you don’t want Gabriella--."
"No, no! What I mean is the other night it all happened naturally. This is a staged dog and pony show. It's forced. I can't help feeling that Troy told Gabriella what he saw the other night and she's all eager to see us together, you know?"
"Chad, I think you're overreacting," Ryan said, toying with a ringlet.
"I'm not overreacting. Mark my words--." Chad paused when he heard Sharpay's voice. He lifted his head and saw Gabriella and Troy come through the French doors, headed their way. "And so it begins."
"Pessimist," Ryan replied. He patted Chad's shoulder and made him rise to greet the newcomers. "Welcome," he said graciously. "Gabriella, you look great."
"Thank you, Ryan," she replied, doing a little spin to show off her sundress.
"Troy, Gabriella," Chad said flatly. Ryan shot him a look. "You do look nice, Gabi," he added.
"Thank you, Chad."
She squeezed his arm, gave him another of those "I'm here for you" looks that had nauseated him for the past 48 hours and took Troy's hand. Ryan offered to take them on a tour of the expansive grounds and led the way, with Chad trailing behind the couple.
"Dude," Troy said softly, letting go of her hand. She immediately caught up to Ryan and took his offered arm. "What's up?"
"Nothing," Chad replied glumly.
"You two didn't have a fight, did you?"
"Dude, where do you get this stuff?
"You just look kind of unhappy," Troy said earnestly. "You looked so happy the other night. I've never seen you look like that before. And now--."
"How did I look?" Chad asked curiously. Troy stopped and turned to him.
"It's hard to describe. The word that comes to mind--." He shrugged awkwardly. "You looked radiant."
"Radiant?" Chad asked dubiously. Troy flushed with embarrassment.
"If I had to put a label on it, yeah," he said sheepishly. "I mean you and Ryan seemed so comfortable and at ease and happy with each other and now you look all--." He frowned sympathetically.
"We were comfortable and at ease and happy the other night," Chad replied.
"So what happened?" Troy asked worriedly. Chad shook his head.
"Troy, this is new ground for me. Other than our parents and a very few other people, no one's seen us together. Especially not our friends--I'm feeling a little exposed," Chad confided.
"I'm sorry," Troy replied. "Maybe it was too soon."
"Hey," Chad said, throwing an arm over his shoulders. "It has to happen sometime. I'm just glad you and Gabi and Sharpay are all here for us." A few seconds after the words escaped his lips, Chad realized that he actually meant it. The knot in his stomach began to loosen a bit. The two friends caught up with the others and toured the gardens, the pool and the tennis court before returning to the house, where Sharpay was waiting impatiently.
"Where have you all been? My date arrived ten minutes ago! I brought him out here and there was nothing to introduce him to but the lawn."
"I just took Troy and Gabriella on a tour of the grounds," Ryan explained apologetically.
"So where's this date of yours?" Chad asked, looking around.
"He's inside using the--. Oh, here he comes," Sharpay said, peering back into the house. "Come and meet him."
Troy and Gabriella joined hands and immediately moved to join her. Chad and Ryan exchanged a look and a shrug of resignation and followed them, arriving on the patio just as Sharpay's date stepped outside.
"Everyone I'd like you to meet my date," she declared. Chad and Troy gasped and exchanged a glance as she drew him forward. "This is Brent Matthews. Brent, this is Gabriella Montez, Troy Bolton, Chad Danforth, and last but not least, my brother Ryan."
Gabriella returned Brent's smile and extended her hand as the three male members of the party gaped at the newcomer. Brent smoothly went from her to Troy and then said hello to Chad as though he'd met him for the first time. Even Ryan was too stunned to do anything more than shake hands. Sharpay suggested that they all sit down. Chad looked over at Ryan, who wouldn't meet his eyes. He shoved his hands into his pockets and started to follow the others but Troy grabbed his arm and pulled him in the opposite direction.
"What's he doing here?" he cried as soon as they were out of earshot.
"How the hell should I know?" Chad replied. "I'm as surprised to see him as you are!"
"How could he be Sharpay's date? He's gay!"
"I saw him ogling you," Troy insisted. "I saw him looking for you after that game. That guy wanted to get into your pants."
While Chad wanted to tell Troy that what he knew about being gay wouldn't fill a thimble, he wasn't about to question his best friend's read of the matter. Chad knew that Brent was into him, even if he'd refused to admit it to himself at the time.
"Look, being gay and dating women isn't exactly mutually exclusive, you know. I dated Taylor, remember?"
"Yeah, once or twice," Troy replied. Chad shrugged.
"The number doesn't matter. Some guys aren't out; some are like me, and some feel they have to lead a double life. Some guys switch-hit. There could be lots of reasons why he's dating Sharpay."
"Maybe he wants to get into Ryan's pants," Troy said, peering over Chad's shoulder to observe the man in question. Chad immediately turned and saw Brent staring back at him as Sharpay, Gabriella and Ryan spoke with the twins' mother. Brent nodded surreptitiously. "Did you see that?" Troy cried.
"Calm down," Chad said. "And lower your voice. Look, we've got to spend a few hours with this loser. We can deal, right?"
"Right," Troy said doubtfully. Chad glared at him. "Right," Troy repeated firmly. He grasped Chad's arm. "I've got your back."
"Never doubted that for a second," Chad replied, completely confused as to why Troy thought he needed protection. He was glad to have it nonetheless. He returned to the patio and greeted Ms. Evans.
"Hello, Chad. And Troy, how nice to see you again," she replied. "Have you met Brent?"
"Yeah," Chad said easily, turning to the smiling man. "Haven't seen you since homecoming, dude." He glanced at Ryan, whose expression was shuttered. Chad would have sat next to him, but Gabriella had claimed that space so he took the chair closest to Ryan.
"You two know each other?" Sharpay asked guardedly.
"Sure," Chad replied. "Brent's a Wildcat fan."
"Of course," Brent replied. "As an East High alum, what else could I be?"
"We aren't going to spend the whole afternoon talking about basketball, are we?" she said, pouting.
"No, I'm sure Brent and I could find a lot of other things to talk about," Chad said, earning an unreadable look from Ryan.
"I want to know about the University of Albuquerque," Gabriella volunteered. "Troy may be going there next fall."
"Only Troy?" Brent said, turning to Chad. "Not both of you? U of A has a great basketball program."
"Not for me," Chad said shaking his head. "I'm hoping to go to New Jersey." Troy shot him a look.
"New Jersey?" Brent said blankly.
"Yeah, Big East basketball--Rutgers, dude!"
"I would have thought you'd prefer to stay in the Southwest."
"And Sharpay prefers that we not spend the afternoon discussing ball," Chad replied smoothly. She gave him a grateful smile.
"Yeah, but why do you want to go east?" Brent persisted.
"I have my reasons," Chad said with a look at Ryan that was impossible to misinterpret. Brent's face registered mild surprise, but Ryan didn't notice either his expression or Chad's. His eyes were on the sunglasses in his hands. Gabriella turned the discussion back to the programs at Albuquerque. Since the others seemed to be engrossed in conversation, Chad propped his chin and leaned on the arm of his chair. He stretched out his legs, gently kicking Ryan's foot as he did so. Ryan glanced up.
"Hey, cutie," Chad said softly, bringing a smile to Ryan's face. "Did you know Sharpay knew this guy?"
"He does look kind of familiar," he replied, shaking his head. "He may have been one of the multitude of admirers in Shar's realm, but I was as surprised as you were to hear that name."
"Maybe he was one of your admirers," Chad teased. "That's Troy's theory, anyway."
"Please," Ryan scoffed. "He's not my type."
"That doesn't mean you're not his type," Chad suggested puckishly. Ryan glanced over at Brent, who was observing the couple.
"No, I believe Brent and I have similar taste in men. Think I should I go over there and scratch his eyes out?"
"And have to listen to your sister bitch about you mauling her boyfriend?"
"Hey, he wants to maul my boyfriend," Ryan shot back. "Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that you chose me over him?"
"Have I mentioned what an idiot you were to ever think that I wouldn't?" Chad countered. They giggled conspiratorially, drawing Troy's attention. He looked over at the pair, frowning with concern. He remembered Chad's words earlier and hoped that Brent's presence didn't ruin the afternoon for the two of them. Things seemed to be all right at the moment, but Ryan kept glancing over at Brent, which troubled Troy.
Brent, for his part, was growing confused. On the one hand, Chad made his interest in the blond guy (Ryan, was it?) blatantly clear. Ryan seemed friendly enough with Chad, but seemed to be completely oblivious to Chad's crush. In fact, Ryan seemed to be checking him out. Brent shifted in his seat and crossed his legs. Ryan Evans was not the one he wanted to ride hard and put away wet. Sharpay laid a hand on his arm and he refocused his attention on the discussion. But a moment later he was distracted again when he noticed that Troy was staring at Chad.
In fact, Troy couldn't seem to take his eyes off him, in spite of the fact that Troy was sitting beside a gorgeous brunette. The irony of the situation was not lost on Brent; he would have preferred Chad's company to Sharpay's, too. He smiled to himself and wondered if Chad had any idea that two of the men in their group wanted him and the one he wanted did not.
"Why don't we move to the table," Sharpay suggested, rising to her feet. She waited for Brent to offer to escort her, but when he failed to pick up on her cue, she gave a little huff and stalked off across the lawn to the tent. Brent looked at Chad and shrugged as Ryan ran ahead to mollify his sister.
"So Chad," Brent said, sidling up to him after allowing Troy and Gabriella to precede him. "I'd like to hear more about your college plans."
"Well, they aren't firm yet," Chad replied. "I've applied to a number of schools."
"On the east coast," Brent said, noting Troy's glance back at him. "You know, you really ought to reconsider and apply to U of A. You'd find a lot to like there."
"Yeah," Troy said. "I'll be there."
Chad smiled and sped up a bit. He caught up to Gabriella and said something that made her laugh. She wrapped her free arm around Chad's and they chatted the rest of the way to the tent. When they reached it, Chad quickly claimed a seat beside Ryan. Brent took a seat on his other side, a fact he almost regretted when he looked up and confronted Troy's icy glare.
"So, Princess, what's on the menu?" Chad asked conversationally.
"Will you stop calling me that?" Sharpay asked, rolling her eyes.
"Why? Your father calls you Princess. I think it's a good name for you," he replied affably.
"I do, too," Troy said bravely.
"It does suit you, Sharpay," Brent said smoothly. She smiled up at him and forgot all about Chad and Troy's teasing remarks.
"Well, aren't you sweet to say so?" she cooed. A server came over and began placing plates in front of each person on the table. "I hope you remembered to bring your swim suit, Brent."
"Hey, when I heard I'd have a chance to see you in a bikini--." He broke off the statement when Ryan, Chad and Troy glared at him and laughed awkwardly.
"Oh, I forgot to bring one," Troy said, frowning.
"I'm sure I can hook you up," Ryan replied. Troy nodded his thanks.
"Did you bring one, Chad?" Brent asked.
"Yeah," he said. "I wanted to avoid the obvious cliché about wanting to get into Ryan's shorts."
Brent gaped at him and then at the others around the table. No one seemed to take any particular notice of the comment.
They began to eat, with Ryan, Chad and Troy teasing Sharpay about her choice of fare. The food was elegant and more appropriate for a tea party or ladies' luncheon than a picnic, so although it was delicious, they couldn't let it pass without comment.
"I've never had Cornish game hens at a picnic before," Chad observed when it was his turn to torment his hostess.
"I've never had Cornish game hens anywhere, before," Troy replied. "Aren't picnics the raison d'etre for fried chicken?"
"Did he just speak French?" Ryan asked.
"He did," Chad said, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin. "Gabriella's here."
"What does that mean?" she asked, looking at the pair curiously.
"Well, Troy wouldn't dream of speaking French if you weren't," Chad explained. "He knows better."
"Actually, he knows nothing about French," Ryan corrected.
"Hey!" Troy protested.
"Troy took two years of French at school," Gabriella said in his defense.
"And he sucked at it," Chad replied. "I was there."
"Sorry, Troy; he's right. You did suck," Ryan agreed. Sharpay nodded in agreement.
"Well, we can't be all things to all people," Brent said amiably. Troy glared at him again and he quickly averted his eyes.
After lunch everyone went inside to change into swimsuits. Sharpay took Gabriella to her room, Brent used the guest room and Ryan led Chad and Troy up to his room, where he offered Troy his choice of suits. But Troy's mind was elsewhere.
"Who does he think he is, fawning over your sister as though she was the center of the universe one minute and ogling Chad the second she turned her back?" he groused. Ryan pulled off his shirt and turned to Chad, who was in the process of doing the same.
"Was he ogling you?" he asked with mock outrage.
"How the hell should I know?" Chad replied, tossing his shirt on the bed. "I was busy ogling you."
"You were not," Ryan replied, rolling his eyes and choosing a suit from among the half dozen that were spread across the bed. "Look," he said seriously, "Shar knows this guy is disposable. She said as much before we ate. She specifically invited him for that reason."
"Good," Troy replied. "He's a loser and if he sticks around he'll just try to use her to get close to Chad." Ryan looked at him oddly. "What?" Troy said. "Doesn't it bother you that this Brent guy wants your boyfriend?"
"I think I might be a bit more disturbed about how much it bothers you," Ryan confessed. Chad intervened before Troy could get defensive.
"I told Troy I was stressing over our little thing today and he just wants it to go well," Chad said. "But no worries, dude," he said, turning to Troy as he undid his belt. "Ryan's not threatened by Brent, are you?" He dropped his pants as Ryan shook his head. But Troy never noticed. As soon as Chad's jeans began to fall, he grabbed his suit and fled to the bathroom.
"I thought you jocks were all used to changing in the same room," Ryan said as he stepped out of his slacks.
"We are," Chad replied, kicking off his boxers and reaching for his trunks.
"Then what's up with--? Oh," Ryan said shrewdly. "Now that he knows you're--."
"Hey, don't pin this on me. We still shower and change together."
"And he's not afraid you'll check him out?"
"Dude, don't start," Chad warned. Ryan rolled his eyes.
"So you're suggesting that Troy thinks I'll check him out."
Chad finished tying his drawstrings and stepped into Ryan's personal space. He grabbed the drawstrings on Ryan's trunks and used them pull Ryan closer. He began to tie them as he spoke in a low voice so that Troy might not overhear.
"First of all, that's not it," he said. "Secondly, there's nothing to check out." His brief grin faded. "It's more like--. I think the thing with Troy is that he's not ready to see me see you naked--or vice versa--if that makes any sense." He tucked Ryan's cords into the waistband of his trunks and stepped back, allowing his hand to lightly trace over Ryan's taut abdomen.
"You know," Ryan said, after he took a second to recover his power of speech. "He's a lot more complicated than I generally give him credit for."
"Welcome to my life," Chad replied, nodding. Ryan smiled and kissed the tip of his nose. He went into his closet and returned with a clean tee, a different hat and a couple of bottles of sun block. Troy emerged from the bathroom and the trio repaired to the pool. Chad volunteered to put sunscreen on Ryan, who smiled gratefully and sat on a chaise lounge to make it easier for him. Brent arrived a minute later.
"I'll do you," Brent offered to Chad, hoping to get his hands on the sculpted physique before his eyes.
"I've got it, dude," Troy said before Chad could answer. He'd been slathering himself with lotion and came over, prepared to do Chad's back.
"I called it first, hotshot," Brent replied. "And you missed a spot," he said, pointing at Troy's shoulder. Troy immediately tried to look for the spot and Brent took the opportunity to pull the bottle out of his hands. But Ryan rose and glared at both of them.
"I'll take care of Chad," Ryan said, taking the bottle from Chad's hands. "After all, he's my boyfriend, remember?"
"Your boyfriend?" Brent said, looking from Ryan to Chad to Troy. "I thought--."
"I thought you were on a date with my sister," Ryan said calmly. He turned to Chad, who suppressed a smile and sat down. Ryan started spreading lotion onto his shoulders as Brent continued to stare incredulously.
"Now I know how Sharpay feels," Chad said. "I've never had anyone fight over me before…well, not guys, anyway."
"I'm getting a gun," Ryan muttered. Chad looked up at him and returned a smile that made him weak in the knees. He climbed onto the chaise behind Chad and wrapped his arms around him.
"They're together?" Brent asked Troy, continuing to stare at the couple.
"Anyone with eyes could see that," Troy replied, grabbing the lotion from Brent's hand.
"Ryan's right; you're with Sharpay--stop drooling over her brother's boyfriend."
"Look who's calling the kettle black," Brent sneered. "You've been checking him out all afternoon!"
"He's my best friend! I've been worried about him," Troy snarled.
"Yeah, because he's obviously sick and in need of your attention," Brent spat back. "Try again, Golden Boy! You're so delusional you can't even admit you're--."
"I'm delusional? Listen, buddy, you're the one who's deluding himself! I saw--."
"What's going on?" Sharpay cried, her voice piercing the air like a javelin. Ryan looked up and smiled.
"They're fighting over Chad," he said and then resumed kissing his boyfriend.
"What?" Sharpay shrieked.
"Aw, aren't they cute together?" Gabriella said dotingly.
Everyone turned and looked over at the chaise lounge, where Chad was holding Ryan's face and kissing him for all he was worth. Brent stared at them open-mouthed. Troy quickly turned away, but he was smiling for his friends. Sharpay, of course, rolled her eyes.
"Boys? Don't make me get the hose."
On to Revelations