Summary: Chad discovers that he's got competition.
Author's Note: This story follows Revelations, although it can stand alone. It is part of the ever-expanding Coming To Terms 'Verse. Posted in two parts, due to length. A link to Part 2 is at the end of this post.
Chad leaned against the wall outside his classroom engaging in his favorite between-class activity--observing Ryan. He was a safe distance away, far enough away that he could reasonably claim to be looking at anything at the far end of the hall. He'd already decided that if anyone asked, he'd cop to staring at Sharpay's legs. She was wearing a skirt so short that Ryan had it declared positively indecent. Chad declared it to be an extremely wide belt.
As Chad looked on, he saw Ryan pull a book from his locker. A small piece of red paper fluttered to the floor as he did so and Sharpay bent with excruciating care to pick it up.
"Told you so," Chad sneered as she handed the paper to her brother. Ryan unfolded it and gasped. Sharpay peered at the paper and gaped. Chad straightened up and frowned as she snatched the page from Ryan's hands.
"Has anyone ever told you that your 'friend' Ryan does a great MacCauley Culkin imitation?" Taylor said. Chad shot her a dirty look, but she was busy staring at the twins. "What do you think that is?"
"I haven't a clue," Chad replied as he saw Ryan slam the door to his locker shut. He glared in Chad's direction and stalked off. Sharpay did the same. Taylor and Chad exchanged confused glances. "What the fuck?"
A moment later he got a text message.
Have you lost your mind???
Chad stared at the message until Taylor finally nudged him back into reality.
"I don't know, but I intend to find out."
Over the course of the school day he received two more terse text messages from Ryan. The first was in response to Chad's confused "Huh?" response, demanding that Chad come to his house after school. The second reversed the first and told him not to come. Neither Ryan nor Sharpay appeared in the cafeteria at lunchtime, either, so by the end of the day Chad was worried as well as confused.
He had every intention of going to Ryan's house to get to the bottom of the mystery, but when he emerged from the school, the crowd around his new car made it impossible for him to leave right away. He swore under his breath and strode over to the Wildcat red SUV.
"Man, this is so cool," Jason said as he eyed the vehicle. "I wanted an SUV but my folks got me a minivan instead. Used--this is brand, spanking new!"
"Hey, at least you have plenty of room to haul a crowd," another member of the basketball team said. "My car has no room in the backseat."
"And we all know how important backseat space is," Zeke said suggestively. A round of knowing laughter greeted his remark as Chad watched Sharpay and Ryan cross the parking lot and get into her convertible. He sighed, tempted to inform the crowd that his parents actually insisted that he restrict his sexual activities to the confines of his bedroom or his boyfriend's. He idly wondered what they would say to that.
"I thought you were going to buy used," Jason said, interrupting his thoughts. "How did you manage to swing a new car?"
"It was a gift," Chad said reluctantly as his eyes briefly met Ryan's across the lot. "Sort of early birthday, early graduation."
"He bought you a car?" Taylor blurted out as she arrived on the scene. Chad had become used to Troy occasionally spouting unintended and potentially damaging things out of the blue, but this was a first for her. He dealt with her as he'd done with Troy all the other times; he simply stared at her until she shriveled into silence. Troy looked on smugly.
"Who bought you a car?" Jason demanded.
"Yeah, I thought your parents bought it," Zeke said.
"My Uncle Mike bought it for me," Chad said, still glaring at Taylor, who averted her eyes.
"Is that the one who's a big record exec in Los Angeles?" Zeke asked.
"Yeah," Chad replied. He moved to get into the car, but opening the door only made the crowd of gawkers move in closer to check out the interior. Chad sighed and looked across the lot. The Evans twins were gone. "Guys, I've really got to book. Can we do this another time?"
"You owe me a test drive," Zeke declared. "I let you drive my new ride."
"Deal," Chad said as he threw his backpack onto the backseat and got into the car. "Sometime this weekend, okay? You coming Troy?"
"Yeah," Troy said as he opened a rear door for Gabriella.
"Me, too!" Taylor said as she made a grab for the other door. Chad sighed again and Troy gave him a tiny shrug before he jumped into the car's passenger seat. "They're coming over to my house to study," he explained once they were on the road. Chad didn't answer. He was preoccupied with figuring out Ryan's odd behavior.
"So tell me about this uncle of yours, Chad," Gabriella said. Chad rolled his eyes.
"My Uncle Mike is my mom's older brother," he replied. "Like Zeke said, he's a recording exec and I'm his favorite nephew."
"You're his only nephew," Troy corrected.
"Not since Maddie had her baby last year," Chad replied smugly. "Anyway, I came home one day a couple of weeks ago and mom was on the phone talking with him. They seemed to be arguing about something, but I didn't pay any attention to what it was about. When she got off the phone she told me that he was coming for a visit. He showed up last weekend with this." Chad gestured vaguely at the car. "Turns out that's what they were arguing about. Uncle Mike wanted to give me a flashy convertible and my mom thought that if he was willing to spend that much money on me he should put at least some of it toward college. And my folks didn't want me driving a really expensive car, anyway, so they set a strict price limit. As a result, I got this car and a nice little addition to my college fund for my eighteenth birthday."
"Cool!" Taylor exclaimed.
"And you got it early because--."
"Because my uncle was in town and he wanted to deliver it in person," Chad replied with a glance at Gabriella in the rearview mirror. "And Taylor--."
"I know, I know," she said sheepishly. "I had such a Troy moment."
"Hey!" Troy protested.
"I should have let you all take the bus home," Chad said teasingly.
"What does Ryan think of your new car?" Gabriella asked, getting back to the point. Chad sighed again. He'd answered all of these questions for Troy a day earlier.
"He hasn't seen it yet," Chad replied. "He was away last weekend at some yoga retreat with his mom and the Princess. I told him about it, but--." He reached into the pocket of his jacket and dug out his beeping cell. "Here; open that for me, will you?"
"You can't drive and read a text at the same time?" Troy chided. "That's like teen driving 101."
"It's also dangerous," Chad said.
"You're so safe," Troy teased. "I bet you use double con--." He cut off his planned remark and glanced at the rearview mirror. Taylor wore a slightly shocked expression. Gabriella seemed to be oblivious. Chad wasn't, however, and he glared in Troy's general direction.
"Just open the message."
"Suppose it's personal?"
"All right! It says Zeke."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"How the hell should I know? I'm just reading the damned thing."
"Troy!" Gabriella scolded.
"Maybe he means that Zeke's coming over to his house," Taylor reasoned. Chad made a growling noise.
"Trouble?" Troy asked with a look of concern.
"I don't know. First I got a message demanding that I come over after school, and then I got one telling me not to come over," Chad replied. "Probably because Zeke is going to be there. Oh, and this all started with a message this morning asking if I'd lost my mind."
"About what?" Troy wanted to know.
"Who knows?" Chad said exasperatedly. "All I can tell is that Ryan's pissed about something and I'm being jerked around while Zeke drools over Sharpay's legs!"
"What?" Gabriella and Troy said in unison. Chad sighed yet again and pulled to a stop in front of Troy's house. The trio got out of the car and Taylor bent to look into Chad's window.
"I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding, Chad," she said.
"Yeah," he replied doubtfully. He gave her a little wave and took off. He started for home, but when he reached his house he drove right past, headed for Palisade Hills. He was going to get to the bottom of things before they got worse.
Chad drove up to the gate of the Evans estate and leaned out to push the button on the intercom. Instead of the polite greeting he'd grown accustomed to--from one of the Evans family or the staff--he heard Ryan say, "What the hell?" But the gate opened, anyway, and Chad drove up to the house with no small amount of trepidation. Ryan awaited him at the top of the driveway.
"What part of 'don't come' didn't you understand?" he said, crossing his arms. Chad slowly got out of the car and leaned against it.
"I haven't understood most of what you've said today," he replied evenly. "What's up?"
"That's the one part I did understand. Why can't--."
"If you got that part, why are you here?" Ryan asked irritably.
"What the hell is going on?" Chad demanded. "First I get these confusing text messages and now you're out here behaving like Sharpay!"
"Don't!" Ryan spat. Chad immediately raised his hands in supplication.
"Just tell me what's going on and I'll leave."
"No time; I've got to get back inside," Ryan replied. "Zeke and I are working on a group assignment for music appreciation class."
"I thought Zeke took that class to get close to Sharpay," Chad replied with a frown.
"Yeah, well, no one told the teacher. He assigned me to work with Zeke. She got stuck with some loser kid."
"How long is this going to take?"
"I don't know, Chad, maybe hours," Ryan said sarcastically. "Depends on how much time I waste out here talking with you!" Chad's mouth dropped open. He straightened up and opened the car door.
"I won't take up any more of your precious time, then. You know where to find me."
With that he got into his car and started the engine. Belatedly, he noticed, Ryan was examining the car admiringly. Chad rolled his eyes and backed down the driveway until he had enough room to turn the vehicle around. Ryan stood on the driveway and watched him go. A minute later, Chad got a text. He pulled over to the side of the road and read it.
"Ryan Evans, you are certifiable," Chad muttered as he pocketed the phone and put the car back on the road.
He was finishing his homework several hours later in his father's study when he heard a knock on the door. He looked up as Ryan opened it and poked his head in.
"Ryan? What are you doing here so late?" Chad replied evenly as he saved his work and rose to meet him halfway. Ryan reached for him but when Chad didn't reciprocate, he dropped his hands.
"Mom and dad had dinner guests so I couldn't sneak away earlier. I came to apologize for my behavior this afternoon. I was very rude," he said apologetically. Chad shook his head and walked over to the loveseat. He sat down and patted the seat next to him. Ryan joined him reluctantly, but when Chad immediately placed a hand on his thigh, Ryan visibly relaxed.
"What's up, Ryan?" Chad asked mildly.
"I am really sorry. I was really stressed out when you showed up. Sharpay was in a pissy mood--."
"How could you tell?" Chad quipped. Ryan ignored the barb.
"Zeke was frustrated because Sharpay was working with the loser kid instead of him and the poor loser kid was so confused and useless she wanted to throttle him. I couldn't get anywhere because Zeke was too busy glaring at the loser kid to focus, and when he tried to focus she kept whining about how lame the assignment was. She wanted to work with me instead of the loser kid, Zeke wanted to work with her instead of me and I wish I'd taken something else instead of going for the easy A."
"Poor baby," Chad said sympathetically. Ryan rested his head on Chad's shoulder before he continued.
"So Shar insisted that we all work together so she didn't have to be alone with the loser kid. And naturally, Zeke was even more distracted, and Shar was distracted and I was driven to distraction… And speaking of being driven to distraction, your new wheels really rock! I just got another look at it outside; that baby's loaded!"
"Focus," Chad said, squeezing Ryan's thigh. "You told me why you were pissy this afternoon. What was up with you this morning?"
"What's up with me? What's up with you?" Ryan replied incredulously. "What's up with the notes?"
"What notes? The notes you left in my locker!"
"I haven't left you any notes, in your locker or elsewhere."
"Don't shit me, Chad. I got three of them today."
"I'm not shitting you, Ryan. I haven't sent you any notes," Chad said insistently.
"No notes. Read my lips."
"And such luscious lips they are," Ryan sighed. He leaned in to kiss them, but Chad held him at bay.
"Wait a minute. What made you think I sent them?"
"You have to have sent them. Who else would send me notes?"
"And with that infallible logic you don't think you'll get into Yale?" Chad teased. Ryan leaned in to kiss him and this time Chad indulged him. But he only allowed himself to be sidetracked briefly. After just three kisses--two tiny kisses and one that threatened to take up the rest of the evening--Chad gently pushed Ryan away.
"So cruel," Ryan said, pouting.
"One of us has to stay focused," Chad replied.
"Because I want to know who's sending you love notes." Chad squinted. "They are love notes, right? I mean that's why you assumed I sent them."
"You did send them and as much as I've enjoyed them it's got to stop. Kelsi saw one of them and now she--."
"Earth to Ryan--I did not send you any notes," Chad enunciated carefully.
"You really didn't send them?" Ryan replied suspiciously. Chad shook his head. "None of them?" Chad shook his head again. Ryan blanched.
"Why would I want to?"
"You adore me," Ryan replied reasonably.
"Yeah, and I can think of better ways to prove it than writing some sappy note," Chad said, leaning in to kiss Ryan, who abruptly drew away.
"Don't! I feel dirty," he said miserably. He slumped down on the couch. Chad slid down next to him and entangled their fingers.
"What did these notes say?"
"You really didn't--?"
"Gah!" He rubbed his eyes and pouted.
"It's just--I thought they were from you."
"What--did you jerk off to them or something?"
"No!" Ryan shouted. Chad grinned mischievously. "It's just that I've been keeping them in a special place and--gah!"
"All right," Chad said sitting up. "I want to see these notes and I want to know who's sending them to my man. It's probably some stupid sophomore girl with a mad crush."
"I don't think so."
"Let's go," Chad said, rising to his feet.
"To your house. I want to see these notes."
"Yes!" Chad insisted.
"No," Ryan whined. "Can't we just stay here and make out?"
"In my dad's study? You're lucky he hasn't blown in here and kicked us out already," Chad said. "This is like sacred ground. Come on."
"No," Ryan squealed as Chad practically dragged him out of the room, pausing only long enough to grab his backpack. As they stepped out into the hall they ran into Chad's father. Earl Danforth looked displeased.
"What were you two doing in there?"
"Homework," Chad and Ryan said in unison. Mr. Danforth's glare continued.
"Dad, I have to pick up something at Ryan's," Chad said as he continued to drag him toward the door.
"School night, Chad."
"I know." He smiled and dropped his backpack, which landed on Ryan's foot. He ignored Ryan's howl of pain and released his hand. "I'll be back before eleven."
"It's nearly 10:30 now," Mr. Danforth observed.
"Well, I could go up and grab a change of clothes and just stay over there," Chad said tentatively.
"Not on a school night," his father said stonily. Chad smiled his best "it was worth a shot" grin and started to lead Ryan to the family room. "Chad, don't leave your backpack in the middle of the hall." Chad turned back, smiled humorlessly at his dad and took the backpack up to his room, leaving Ryan to deal with his father.
Chad's parents had begrudgingly accepted the fact that their son spent at least one night a week with Ryan. Either he stayed at the Evans home or Ryan slept over their house. They decided not to question what went on when the two of them were alone. One peek at Chad's catalog satisfied Mr. Danforth's curiosity forever. His only comment on the subject was that Chad was underage to receive such adult material.
Ms. Danforth also preferred not to think too much on the subject. After all, she rationalized, Chad and Troy had slept over at each other's house countless times. She never worried about what her son did during sleepovers when she thought he was straight. She decided not to worry about it knowing that he was gay. She knew she was being naïve, but she also knew that her son was safe and happy and that was all that mattered.
Chad's parents had no clue as to how Ryan's parents felt about Chad sleeping in their son's bed. Ms. Danforth knew that she could ask Ryan and he'd answer honestly, but she hadn't gotten up the nerve to do so.
The Danforths would probably have been surprised to learn that the couple spent less time in bed than either of them dared to assume or that the extent of their sexual experimentation was actually rather limited. But other than occasionally goading Chad and Ryan into promising that they were taking every proper precaution, they preferred to remain blissfully in the dark.
It was precisely because of his parents' weird perspective on his relationship with Ryan that Chad chose not to mention the notes when he came back downstairs. Knowing about them would only cause them to worry and that would provoke them to launch into yet another round of interrogations that he had no energy to indulge, especially since his own questions had yet to be satisfied. Chad found Ryan in the kitchen and rolled his eyes at the quiet domestic scene. Ryan and his father were having tea at the counter and his mother was rinsing fruit at the sink. They were discussing Ryan's role in the fall musical. Chad gave him the high sign, but as usual, Ryan ignored him and Chad was forced to wade into the scene to sit with the family for an additional fifteen minutes. When Ryan finally finished his tea, Mr. Danforth suggested that it was time for Ryan to go home. The couple went out to the driveway, where Ryan's sleek Corvette rested beside Chad's new Honda-CR-V.
"Can I drive it?" Ryan asked shyly.
"I let you drive my car all the time. Please? I'll bring it back in the morning."
"You know you're making me crazy today," Chad said as he tossed him the keys. Ryan tossed his keys to Chad, who promised to put the Corvette into the garage overnight. "Bring the notes with you tomorrow."
"No," Ryan said distastefully. "Now that I know they're not from you I'd just as soon toss them."
"Don't you dare!" Chad said more loudly than he'd intended. He cringed, realizing how far voices carried at night. "Look; don't you dare destroy those notes!" Chad whispered. "I want to see them and I want to know who's been writing them."
"Chad--. All right," Ryan said reluctantly, fingering Chad's car keys. Chad reached out and lifted his chin.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Neanderthal and off someone in the halls of East High." He smiled impishly. "At least I don't think I will."
Ryan leaned in and kissed him lightly, gently pushing him back into the shadows of a tree so that they would be out of sight of casual passersby. He kissed Chad more insistently then, pressing their bodies together and tangling their tongues. But they didn't allow themselves to get carried away. They both knew they were engaging in risky behavior and they pulled apart before either of them were satisfied.
"I'd better get out of here before your father comes out and has my head," Ryan whispered.
"Yeah," Chad sighed. He stole one more kiss and backed away. "Three days to the weekend," he sighed. Ryan winked at him.
He got into the Honda and backed down the driveway. Chad watched him go before he put the Corvette in the garage and went back to his father's study to print out his homework. He went up to his room to wait for Ryan's call. It was a nightly ritual; one of them called the other just before they went to sleep. As Chad laid there on his bed, he couldn't help thinking about the notes. He resolved to get to the bottom of the mystery of Ryan's secret admirer no matter what it took, although he was very careful not to raise the issue when he spoke to Ryan a few minutes later.
Chad galloped down the stairs and dropped his backpack on the floor before heading to the kitchen. When he saw his parents, he smiled and started to greet them, but froze when he saw their stony expressions.
"Where is he?" his father said.
"Who?" Chad asked in confusion.
"Ryan," Ms. Danforth replied. Chad looked from one parent to the other and then checked his watch.
"He's probably on his way over. Why?"
"Try again," Mr. Danforth said sternly. Chad blinked at him.
"We saw Ryan's car in the garage."
"Yeah, I put it in there last night," Chad said, frowning. "Wait--you guys think I snuck him up to my room?" He laughed at the notion, but his parents were not amused. "Dad, Mom--Ryan's car is in the garage because he took my car home last night."
"You let him take your brand new car?" Ms. Danforth said apprehensively.
"Yeah," Chad replied. His father was about to go ballistic so Chad hastened to explain. "He wanted to drive it and it was time to leave. I didn't think it was a big deal to let him take it home. And hey, he left a $75,000 car behind as collateral. Now, had it been Troy it would have been an entirely different story."
His parents were still not amused, but the sound of Chad's car pulling up the driveway distracted them. A few seconds later, Ryan let himself in at the side door.
"Good morning," he said amiably.
"Good morning, Ryan," Ms. Danforth replied.
"Good morning, Ryan," Mr. Danforth said. Ryan frowned at the scene.
"What's going on?" he asked Chad.
"Got my keys?"
Ryan tossed them across the kitchen and Chad caught them in his left hand with the grace of an experienced outfielder.
"See?" he said, holding them up for his father's inspection. "You can go out and feel the hood if you want," Chad suggested to his father smugly, dropping the keys on the table. Mr. Danforth shot him a look of warning and sat down. "My folks think I snuck you up to my room last night and hid your car in the garage to hide the evidence of your presence."
"Next to your mother's car," Ryan replied doubtfully. Chad shrugged. "Why would we do that?"
"I'm so irresistible you lost all reason," Chad replied with a disarming grin. Ryan closed the distance between them and gave him a proper good morning kiss.
"Oh yeah, right," he said before kissing him again. Mr. Danforth glanced up and rolled his eyes as the pair rubbed noses.
"Would you like some breakfast, Ryan?" Ms. Danforth asked, smiling fondly.
"No thanks, I ate at home," he said, reaching for the carafe of coffee. He took a seat at the table next to Chad's father and Chad joined him, carrying a plate laden with eggs, sausages, and toast. Ryan snagged a piece of the toast, ignoring Chad's mock indignation. "So what's on tap for today?"
"School, basketball practice, dentist appointment," Chad replied around a mouthful of eggs. "You?"
"I've got another after-school session with Zeke. We're meeting in the library, though. I'm not going through another afternoon like yesterday."
"Did you bring the--?"
Ryan shook his head before Chad could finish the statement.
"Come over later and look at them."
"What's this thing you two aren't mentioning?" Mr. Danforth asked suspiciously. Chad looked slightly alarmed, but Ryan was oblivious.
"Oh, someone put a few love notes in my locker this week," he said easily. "I thought they were from Chad until he told me that he had nothing to do with them."
"Someone is sending you love notes?" Ms. Danforth asked as she took a seat at the table.
"Oh, here we go," Chad said, pushing away his plate.
"Chad Everett Danforth, you finish that," his mother said automatically.
"Yes, ma'am," her son replied dutifully. Satisfied, she turned her attention back to Ryan.
"Now, who's sending these messages?"
"I have no idea," Ryan replied, beginning to sense that it had been a mistake to speak so freely.
"I intend to find out," Chad said grimly.
"Look, it's no big deal," Ryan insisted. "I think we should just forget it."
"I'm not sure you should," Mr. Danforth said, weighing in with his opinion. "Do we know if these are real messages or is someone playing some sort of game?"
"I don't know," Ryan said, growing concerned.
"Don't worry, Dad," Chad said. "We'll figure it out."
"Well, be careful, both of you," Ms. Danforth said, reaching out to grasp Chad's hand and give it a squeeze. She did the same to Ryan's and rose. "I've got to get to work."
"And we've got to get to school," Chad said, stuffing the last piece of sausage into his mouth. Ryan claimed the last bit of toast and rose to put the plate into the dishwasher. Chad grabbed his keys, fetched his backpack and sweater and, with a quick goodbye to his parents, slipped out the front door. Ryan went straight to the garage from the side entrance with Chad's mother. They got into their respective cars and she opened the door. Chad's SUV was blocking both cars.
"Sorry," Ryan said sheepishly. They waited for Chad to reach the vehicle and clear the driveway. He led the little caravan to the first major intersection where they stopped for the light. Ryan pulled up beside Chad and grinned mischievously. As soon as the light turned green, he peeled out and took the lead. Chad could practically hear his mother's admonishment about speeding even though she was in the car behind him, so he maintained his speed and drove sedately until his mother turned onto the highway a mile from the house. Then Chad relaxed a bit and closed the distance between the two cars.
"Damn!" he said, suddenly. He came to a stop and turned the car around. Not unexpectedly, his phone rang.
"What the hell are you doing?" Ryan demanded.
"I forgot something important," Chad replied.
"Troy!" Chad shut the phone with Ryan's laughter still ringing in his ears. He made a turn that took him to Troy's house and pulled up out front.
"Hey, buddy," Troy said as he emerged from the house and got into the car. "Just talked to the garage. My truck will be ready this afternoon."
"I can drop you off on my way to the dentist if you want," Chad replied as he turned toward the school. He smiled when he saw Ryan's Corvette idling at the curb up ahead. "Aw, aren't you sweet?" he muttered. Ryan pulled out and once again, began to lead the way.
"What does he think of your new wheels?"
"I let him drive it home last night," Chad replied, neglecting to mention that he actually let Ryan take the car alone. Chad hadn't let Troy drive the SUV alone and he didn't want to start a pissing match. "He gushed about it for five minutes."
"You'd think he wouldn't be all that impressed after driving that," Troy said as he watched the car up ahead.
"Ryan's no snob," Chad protested defensively. "Besides," he said, his smile returning as easily as it had faded, "he's easily impressed."
"That would explain a lot," Troy teased.
Ryan stepped on the gas and Chad had to speed up to stay with him. As the less experienced driver he was afraid of being stopped by the police but they didn't encounter any along the route. Nonetheless, Chad was relieved when they reached the school.
Ryan tossed a casual wave at Chad as they passed in the parking lot and went to join his sister. Chad got his backpack out of the back and walked into the school with Troy, who never ceased to be amazed by the ease with which Ryan and Chad were able to switch their relationship on and off. They were practically flirting on the road, with Ryan playing hard to get and Chad giving chase. But as soon as they arrived at school they became casual friends.
Chad and Troy followed the Evans twins into school and Chad kept one eye on Ryan as he approached his locker. Ryan opened it and reached in to get his books, but a moment later he turned to look at Chad, piece of paper in his hand. Chad immediately started to walk toward Ryan, but Troy grabbed his arm.
"Where are you going, dude? Classroom's this way," he teased as he dragged Chad in the opposite direction.
"Silly me, forgetting after all these years," Chad deadpanned as he allowed Troy to draw him away. His eyes met Ryan's and he nodded curtly. He would get to the bottom of the mystery before the day was out.
Chad took his seat in and stared at the back of Troy's head as he tried to figure out who was sending the notes and how she was managing to get them into Ryan's locker. She apparently arrived early. Chad made a mental note to stake out Ryan's locker first thing in the morning. He was deep in thought, figuring out the best vantage point for his stakeout when he was abruptly slapped across the back of his head.
"Ow!" he yelped, turning around to confront an angry Sharpay. "What the hell was that for?"
She strode past him and took her seat, refusing to even acknowledge him. Ryan gave Chad an apologetic look as he took his own seat. Chad demanded an explanation for Sharpay's behavior, but the arrival of Ms. Darbus prevented him from pursuing the matter. He glowered at her through homeroom period with Ryan occasionally glancing at him worriedly. When the bell rang and everyone rose to go to first period, Ryan leapt out of his seat to block Chad from reaching Sharpay.
"Move," Chad said bluntly. Ryan sighed.
"She saw the note," he said softly.
"I know," Ryan said gently. "I haven't had a chance to tell her yet."
"Well, when you speak to her, tell her that if she ever hits me again--."
Ryan gently grabbed Chad's arm and he immediately fell silent. Chad swallowed hard and nodded. Ryan released him and left to catch up with his sister.
"What was that all about?" Taylor asked. Chad turned and saw that Troy, Zeke, Jason and Kelsi were also staring at him.
"She hit me," Chad said simply. That didn't seem to be a sufficient excuse for his outburst, but he didn't care. Chad grabbed his bag and left the room. Troy quickly caught up with him in the hall.
"What's going on? Are you guys fighting?"
"She hit me," Chad repeated, emphasizing the first word. "Sharpay."
"I have no idea," he lied. He saw her up ahead and bristled. Ryan was speaking to her but she was too busy glaring at Chad to actually be listening. Ryan reached out and turned her away from him. Chad walked by the pair and into the classroom.
Not unexpectedly, Ryan stayed far away from Chad for the rest of the day, probably as a means of keeping Chad and Sharpay apart. That was fine by him. Chad had come dangerously close to saying something he shouldn't have when he confronted her and he didn't want to see her again in public until he learned to school his temper.
Ryan, for his part, was feeling fairly drained by the end of the day. Running interference between Chad and Sharpay was exhausting. She refused to believe that Chad hadn't written the notes and was convinced that it was all part of some huge joke. She complained about Chad all day, which was both annoying and worrying to Ryan. He tersely reminded his sister of her promise. That silenced her, but it didn't alter her opinion.
To make matters worse, Zeke began asking Ryan questions. He'd witnessed Sharpay's assault on Chad and he wanted to know what had provoked it. When Ryan wasn't forthcoming with a suitable answer, Zeke began to importune Sharpay, who was in no mood to indulge him.
When Ryan finally got a moment to himself at lunch, he sent a text message to Chad.
Chad read the message and smiled.
What do you think?
I suppose lunch is out of the question.
Sibling on a spit…flambé?
You love me.
You're still evil.
True dat. Later?
My house. Heavy make-out session.
Chad slipped his phone back into his pocket, anticipating his date with Ryan. Of course, fun with Ryan would follow a thorough examination of those notes--and a serious discussion with Ryan's sister.
Ryan greeted Chad at the door and led him to what was formerly the twins' playroom. It was now referred to as "the lounge" and the twins usually did their homework there.
"Here," he said, handing Chad a sheet of red paper. "I'll go get the others." Chad's mouth fell open as he read the note.
That's what you are to me.
He was still gaping at it when Sharpay entered the room.
"What's wrong with you?" she cried. "Are you trying to out yourself to the entire school? You've been leaving those hideous, corny notes all over the place like a trail of crumbs. Hello! You said you were going to keep your relationship a secret."
"News flash, Princess! I didn't do this!" Chad shouted back.
"Oh, right!" she spat back, invading Chad's personal space. "Who else would send Ryan sickeningly sappy love notes?"
"I don't know, but I have every intention of finding out," he replied, angrily. She gasped and stepped back.
"You really didn't send them?" she asked meekly.
"Got it right in one," Chad replied. "And what's with hitting me in the middle of homeroom?"
"I--. All right--I thought you'd been sending the notes. At first I thought they were just sappy and silly, but I lost it this morning when I saw how upset Ryan became when he read that note. I knew he'd asked you to stop so I thought you were just being a dick."
"Why would I want to do anything to upset Ryan?" Chad reasoned. "You know me better than that," he added, turning to look back at the door. "Where is he?" He stormed out of the lounge and up the stairs, pausing only to offer Sharpay's parents a polite greeting when he passed them in the hall. He reached Ryan's room and found him sitting on his bed, an open box at his side. He was staring at the notes disconsolately. "Ryan?"
"I can't believe--."
"Don't start that again," Chad growled as he crossed the room and snatched the colorful pieces of paper from his boyfriend's hand. As he began to read, he sneered. "Did you really think I'd write such cornball bullshit?"
"You've said cornier things," Ryan replied timidly. Chad glared at him.
"Well--all right. Sometimes I say--we say sappy things. Sometimes we do sappy things. But sappy things take on a whole new level of 'ew' when you commit them to paper. Speaking of which, pink? Blue? Yellow? Red? Come on!"
"Well, the colors sort of go with the notes," Ryan said, rising to make his point. One look from Chad and he backed away.
Eyes blue as the sky make me float in the clouds.
Pink lips so kissably soft. I want to taste them.
Golden blond hair, kissed by the sun. I long to run my fingers through it.
"I don't know if I should be angrier at you or the sophomore," Chad grumbled. "You really think I'd actually write things like that?"
"What sophomore?" Sharpay asked from the doorway. Ryan turned and waved her over.
"Chad thinks some lovesick sophomore wrote the notes," he said sullenly.
"Ryan?" she asked suspiciously.
"He's heartbroken," Chad sneered as he sat on the bed and laid each of the notes out. Ryan quickly grabbed the box and shut it. Chad frowned up at him, but shook his head and turned his attention back to the notes while Ryan took the box back to his walk-in closet. Sharpay followed her brother into the closet and a brief argument ensued.
"Show him the rest, Ryan!"
"No! It's bad enough--."
"You show him or else I will."
"Oh, suck it up, Ry! You ought to be glad Chad didn't write those things. You thought they were awful."
"Yeah, but if Chad wrote me awful, sappy notes--."
"Ryan! Sharpay!" Chad said from the doorway. "Give." He gestured with his fingers. Ryan averted his eyes and pretended not to notice. Sharpay rolled her eyes and snatched the box from his hands and tossed it to Chad before he could react. Chad opened the box and his mouth fell open. He looked Ryan in the eye and then left the closet.
Ryan emerged from the closet and found Chad glaring at him, hands on his hips. He opened his mouth and shut it again when Sharpay emerged and stood next to him expectantly. After a moment she realized that they weren't going to speak in front of her.
"Oh," she sighed wearily. She turned and left the room, closing the door behind her.
"How many?" Chad said, nodding at the box, which he'd thrown onto the desk.
"I don't know," Ryan said.
"Maybe a dozen."
"A dozen? How long has this been going on?" Chad demanded incredulously.
"About a week."
"You got a dozen notes in a week and you just thought to mention it to me yesterday?"
"Well, I found the first ones in my textbooks," Ryan confessed. "That's why I assumed they were from you."
"Fair enough," Chad conceded, calming a bit.
"It wasn't until they started showing up in my locker on Technicolor paper that I started getting weirded out."
"Why didn't you say something sooner?" Chad said softly as he pulled Ryan into his arms. Ryan nuzzled Chad's throat and shook his head slightly. "You liked them, didn’t you? You liked getting stupid sappy notes, admit it."
"I liked getting stupid sappy notes," Ryan said without hesitation. Chad hugged him tightly and kissed his temple.
"I'll send you all the stupid sappy notes you can handle--discreetly," Chad promised. "Right after I throttle the sad little drooler who thinks she can take you away from me."
"Not going to happen," Ryan said into Chad's neck.
"Promise?" Chad whispered, kissing Ryan's hair.
"Promise," Ryan replied.
The next day Chad arrived at school extra early and staked out Ryan's locker. But no one approached it while he was on surveillance. Nonetheless, Ryan found another note in his backpack. Chad was seething with anger.
"Look, forget about it," Ryan said as they sat together at an outdoor lunch table. "Whoever it is will eventually get the message that I'm not interested and stop." He sounded more hopeful than confident and either way, Chad wasn't buying it.
"First of all, she has no way of knowing that you're not interested unless she actually makes an attempt to gauge your interest. Second, that means that she's likely to escalate her attempt to gain your attention, not--." Chad's mouth fell open.
"What?" Ryan demanded, worried about the gleam in his boyfriend's eye.
"Third, why the hell did I ever assume--?" Chad grinned broadly. "I know who's sending the notes." He collected his things and rose.
"Are you planning to tell me or are you just going to make it a surprise?" Ryan said, scrambling to follow him.
"Surprise!" Chad called as he picked up the pace and began to run. Ryan gave up and stood in the hall watching him rush off.
"Where are you going?" Ryan called. Chad stopped and turned around.
"I'll talk to you later," he said before he turned and disappeared up the stairs.
"Chad says he's figured out who's sending the notes," Ryan said conversationally as he walked to class with Sharpay. She glanced up at him, carefully schooling her features.
"Oh, really? Did he say who she was?"
"He wouldn't say," Ryan replied with a pout. "I hope he doesn't do anything rash."
"Me, too," Sharpay said. "Say, Ry, are you and Zeke meeting up today?"
"Yeah; we're nearly finished with our project. Zeke's doing the written part and I'm assembling the music--."
"Great; you'll be working at the house, right?"
"No; we planned to meet at the library. Why?"
"Why?" Sharpay rolled her eyes dramatically. "You've left me alone with Russ three days in a row now. He's utterly--."
"Russ? Who's Russ?"
"You know, Russ--the geeky loser I'm stuck with on this project."
"Oh. Well, you're on your own, sis. Zeke and I--."
"I'm sure Zeke would rather come to our house than sit in a stuffy old library."
"You've got me there," Ryan admitted, knowing that Zeke was not happy at the change in venue. "But you said that having Zeke mooning over you all afternoon was a distraction."
"At this point, I'd welcome it. Russ is such a slug I can almost see his slime trail as he crosses the room."
"What? Has he--."
"No, no, not that kind of slime," Sharpay said hastily. "He's just such a dweeb. Please, Ryan; bring Zeke home today or I'm going to freak!"
"Why don't you just come to the library?" Ryan reasoned.
"Ryan! I don't do library, you know that."
Ryan rolled his eyes and reluctantly agreed to the scheme. He text-messaged Zeke and literally heard his shout of joy from somewhere down the hall before Ryan got his electronic response.
"He said okay," Ryan deadpanned before he walked away. Sharpay watched him go and as soon as he was out of sight she rushed down the hall to Chad's class and gave him a thumbs up.
Chad pulled up to the gate of the Evans estate and pulled out his phone. He sent a quick text message before pushing the button and gaining access to the grounds. When he reached the house, he smiled at the housekeeper.
"Hi, Maria," he said amiably. "Where are the twins?"
"They're having refreshments on the deck," she replied. "But Miss Sharpay said to tell you to look in the kitchen." Chad thanked her and went directly there. He emerged a few minutes later smiling and saw Ryan, Zeke, Sharpay and her work partner heading back toward the lounge. Chad rushed down the hall and just managed to grab Sharpay's arm before she entered the room. She would have shrieked, but Chad quickly covered her mouth and dragged her into the lavatory next door.
"Ouch!" Chad hissed after he turned on the light. "What's up with the biting?"
"If you didn't want to be bitten you shouldn't have put your hand in my mouth," Sharpay whispered back. Chad gave her a look, which she dismissed with a roll of her eyes. "Did you find anything?"
"Solid evidence," Chad said, producing sheets of colored paper from inside his jacket. "Loser boy is Ryan's note sender."
"Are you going to tell Ryan?"
"Sure--after I eviscerate that little punk," Chad said, reaching for the door. Sharpay grabbed his wrist to stop him.
"Leave that to me," she said. Chad opened his mouth to protest, but she raised her hand and ticked off her reasons. "First, we can't do anything in front of Zeke. Second, we don't want loser boy knowing about you and Ryan, in case he decides to get revenge. And third, this boy really upset my brother and no one messes with my brother and lives to talk about it. Well, except you, but that's another matter," she concluded with a wink. "You put that back and leave everything to me. I have an idea."
He took a little convincing but Chad reluctantly agreed to the scheme. Sharpay's reasoning was flawless, even though Chad wanted to be the one to set the kid straight. He only made one request of Sharpay. He wanted to be witness to the loser kid's smack down. She readily agreed.
"This is going to be fun," Sharpay said. "I haven't had a good bitch-out in a while."
"Maybe you're mellowing out," Chad said teasingly. He opened the door a tiny bit, and seeing that it was safe, he stepped back to let Sharpay out of the room first.
"Wait for me upstairs," she said softly. "We'll be done by five." Chad nodded and impulsively bent to kiss the top of her head.
"Thanks, Princess," he whispered before returning to the kitchen. Then he went up to Ryan's room to wait.
Sharpay entered the lounge grinning smugly. Ryan and Zeke eyed her suspiciously, but she ignored their stares and got back to work. When they were done, she escorted Russ back to the kitchen to collect his book bag. Ryan was already in the kitchen getting a bottle of water. Zeke had left the moment they finished their project.
"Oh, can I have one of those?" Sharpay said casually. "Want some water, Russ?" He looked up, surprised by the offer. Sharpay had been cold and distant the entire week they'd been working together.
"Uh, sure," he said, setting down his backpack. Sharpay had timed it perfectly; Russ was in the process of shoving his notebook into his bag when she drew his attention. He went over to Ryan to get the water and Sharpay moved over to the bag.
"Oh!" she cried. "I gave you my copy of the assignment, didn't I? I'm going to need that if I have to type up the final report." She reached into his bag and pulled out the notebook, making sure to grab a piece of the colored paper in the bag. She let it slide onto the counter as she flipped through the notebook, ignoring it as she retrieved her handout. She put the book back and pretended to notice the piece of blue paper for the first time. But Ryan had already seen it.
"What's that?" he asked curiously. Russ looked over and gasped. He reached for the paper as Sharpay picked it up.
"That's just a flyer someone gave me in the hall today," Russ replied hastily. Sharpay turned the paper over and looked at the back.
"There's nothing on it," she said. She caught a movement in her peripheral vision and saw Chad lurking in the doorway to the dining room. "Are you sure it was a flyer?"
"That looks like the paper someone used to send me a note today," Ryan said, setting down his water bottle to reach for the paper. Russ lunged to intervene, but Sharpay neatly dodged him and handed the paper to Ryan. "This isn't a full sheet. It's been cut by hand and I bet if I get that note, the pieces will match up."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Russ said, snatching the paper out of Ryan's hand. Ryan was staring at him incredulously. "I've got to go."
"It's you!" Ryan said accusingly. "You're the one who sent the notes."
"I didn't send you anything," Russ protested. He made a move for the door but Sharpay jumped to bar his way. He turned around and found himself nose to nose with Ryan.
"What the hell were you trying to do?" Ryan demanded angrily. He opened his mouth to continue, but Sharpay cut in, not sure what he might say in the heat of the moment.
"Well, at least stalker boy, here, has good taste," she sneered, forcing Russ to turn his attention to her. "I had no idea you were queer, Russ. It must be pretty awful to be rejected by both sexes."
"I'm not queer," Russ spat back.
"No? Then why have you been sending my brother love notes?" she demanded. "We've saved every single one of them, so there's no use pretending that you haven't."
"You can't prove I sent those!"
"No? Have I mentioned that my father plays golf with the police chief regularly?"
Russ blanched and backed away from her. He bumped into Ryan and leapt away from him, too. In the dining room, Chad itched to join the twins, but held back.
"It was just a joke!" Russ insisted. "Just a joke!"
"Why?" Ryan demanded stonily. Russ didn't seem to have an answer. "What's the joke?"
"I--. I mean I--."
"I want to know why you did this to me."
"It just--. It was harmless, I swear! I didn't do any harm, did I?"
"Get out," Ryan said softly. He just stared at Russ, who backed away, blindly grabbing for his backpack. Sharpay grabbed him by the back of the collar. She escorted him to the door, giving him a piece of her mind as she went. Ryan shut his eyes and just stood there. Chad entered the room and wrapped his arms around him from behind. Ryan didn't flinch; he knew Chad's touch and welcomed it.
"I got you," Chad whispered into his ear. He held Ryan for a moment, neither moving nor speaking. Then Ryan turned in his arms and hugged Chad tightly.
When Sharpay returned to the kitchen, they were gone. She went up to Ryan's room and peeked in; she saw them curled up on the bed together, Ryan speaking in hushed tones as Chad lightly stroked his hair. She shut the door and, smiling, returned to her room.
The next day, Sharpay submitted her group project. Russ was absent from school. Zeke and Ryan submitted their assignment as well. After class, Zeke encountered Chad in the hall.
"How did it go?" Chad asked.
"How did what go?"
"Your project; I heard you and Ryan were working together on it."
"Oh yeah; it went well," Zeke said noncommittally.
"Glad to hear it. Hey, I promised you a test drive," Chad said, smiling. "Let's get together tomorrow."
"I'll call you, dude," Chad said as he spotted Ryan and Sharpay down the hall. "I've got to go." Zeke sighed and shook his head as he watched Chad run down the hall to catch up with the twins. Sharpay looked up when Chad threw his arms around the twins' shoulders. "Hey."
"Hey, yourself, Danforth," she said, peeling off his arm. "What are you so cheerful about?"
"It's the weekend," Chad said, dropping his arm off of Ryan as well. Ryan slipped away to speak to Kelsi. Chad kept one eye on him as he and Sharpay talked.
"Oh," she replied knowingly. "You're coming over tonight."
"Anime marathon," Chad replied.
"I can hardly wait," Sharpay said sarcastically. "What time should I expect you?"
"I'll be there as soon as I've done my homework."
"Don't rush on my account," she teased. "I wouldn't want you to jeopardize your academic scholarship opportunities in your rush to get laid."
"Sharpay!" Chad replied, shocked by the comment. She smirked and strode away, with Chad shaking his head.
On to Part 2