Summary: The fallout from Troy's betrayal begins to hit home.
The first time Chad stayed over at Ryan's house, Ryan awoke to the sensation of Chad crawling over him. He watched in confusion as Chad climbed out of bed, put on his pants and headed for the door. At first he was too stunned to respond, but he quickly rallied and stopped Chad just before he descended the stairs. Ryan had a word with Chad's mother about it later that day and learned that Chad had a history of sleepwalking when he became severely stressed. Ryan had never been particularly satisfied with her explanation. After all, he couldn't reconcile "severe stress" with spending the night together with full parental consent. Now, as he lay beside Chad, he felt dread knotting in the pit of his stomach. He turned onto his side, wrapped a leg and an arm around Chad and unsuccessfully tried not to fall asleep.
As soon as Chad showed signs of movement--shortly after the alarm went off--Ryan opened his eyes and sat up. He observed Chad closely and the moment Chad rolled over and slipped out of bed Ryan sprang to his feet, ready to follow him. Chad stumbled over an errant shoe on his way to the en suite bathroom. He reached the door and abruptly stopped, turning to peer at Ryan, who was inches behind.
"You want to get in there first?" he asked. Ryan shook his head. "You sure, because--."
"No, no; you go first," Ryan said sheepishly. Chad frowned at him and entered the bathroom. Ryan sighed and leaned against the wall, yawning hugely. Chad emerged a minute later and, giving Ryan another odd look, returned to bed. Ryan started to join him, but realizing that he actually did need to use the facilities, he hastily entered the bathroom. He was relieved to see Chad still lying in bed when he emerged.
Ryan climbed onto the bed and settled again, watching the steady rise and fall of Chad's chest. He knew that Chad wasn't asleep, in spite of the fact that his eyes were shut. He reached out and placed a hand over Chad's heart. Chad grasped the hand and held it.
"What am I doing here?"
Ryan's breath caught and he shut his eyes tightly. He took a calming breath before he opened them again and found himself staring into worried brown eyes.
"And why are you in bed fully clothed?"
"That's the easy question," Ryan replied. "I never got undressed last night."
"Let's go back to the first question, then. How the hell did I get here?"
Chad's voice and heartbeat were surprisingly steady, but Ryan's heart was racing a mile a minute. He had spent several hours thinking about how he'd answer that inevitable question. He hesitated nonetheless and posed one of his own.
"What's the last thing you remember?" he asked, trying to discern whether, in fact, Chad actually had no recollection of coming to the Evans house. Chad shrugged and thought for a moment.
"Getting a stern lecture from my dad about treating you like shit--which I did, by the way, and I'm sorry for it," Chad replied, giving Ryan's hand a squeeze. "I went up to my room right after dinner and went to bed early."
"I don't know," Chad replied, turning his head to squint at Ryan. "Stop evading my question."
"All right," Ryan said, bracing himself for a difficult discussion. "I called your folks after you showed up here around one in the morning. As best we can tell, you got up shortly after your dad went to bed at about midnight, got dressed, left the house--locking the door behind you--got into your car, and drove to my house. You buzzed at the gate, waking Maria. She let you onto the property. You drove up to the house, parked in the driveway, entered the house, marched up to my room, got undressed and crawled into bed."
Chad just stared at him.
"You have no memory of doing any of that," Ryan surmised. Chad shook his head. "Well, you wouldn't, if you were sleepwalking."
"You are not serious," Chad protested. "I can't have been sleepwalking. I know I have a history, but wandering around my house doing stuff is one thing. Driving sixteen miles in my sleep--."
"It's rare but not unheard of," Ryan replied gently. Chad sat up and leaned against the pillows, still shaking his head.
"You're really serious."
"You're here, aren't you?"
"You never spoke to Maria--she only let you in because she recognized you on the monitor. She said you looked possessed. And when you reached my room, I spoke to you and you completely ignored me." Ryan paused. "I'm sure we have the security tape footage--."
"I--. What did my folks say?" Chad asked, rubbing his eyes.
"To keep you here at all costs," Ryan said wryly. "Your mom is going to come over and get you. She wants to take you to a doctor."
"I'm not sick!" Chad ran a hand through a tangle of curls. "She's dragging me to a shrink, isn't she? This is a psychological problem, not a medical one." He threw off the covers and went over to the window. "I really drove all the way here?" Chad said incredulously. He opened the window and tried to lean out and get a look at his car. "My dad's going to kill me."
"There isn't a scratch on it," Ryan said reassuringly as he admired the view of Chad's naked body. "I went down and took a peek at it myself."
"Oh my god!"
Chad spun around at the sound of Sharpay's voice and grabbed hold of the curtain to cover his nakedness. Ryan couldn't help but smirk at his comical reaction, but his twin just stared at Chad.
"Ryan," Chad said finally.
"Shar? Did you want something?" he asked belatedly.
"Aside from a better look at Mr. Hard Body over there?" Sharpay said puckishly. "I must say that since you discovered the wonder that is Frizz Ease and started a regular diet of hot boy sex with--."
"What's he doing here anyway? It's a weekday."
"If you let him get dressed we'll be happy to answer your question," Ryan replied. Sharpay appeared to give the offer some thought as she continued to ogle Chad.
"Nah, I'd rather see him naked," she said with a wink.
"Sharpay!" Chad and Ryan cried in unison.
"All right, all right," she sighed. "I had no idea a blush could travel so far down," she said with a wink before she shut the door. Chad sighed and banged his head against the wall. Ryan slipped off the bed and went over to lock the door before going to Chad.
"You should have done that in the first place," Chad said as Ryan drew him into his arms.
"I'm glad I didn't. It wouldn't have prevented you from leaving again, if that's what you're thinking. And I don't know what you would have done if you couldn't get in here last night," Ryan replied, knowing that his words provided no comfort. "Look," he said, pulling away after a minute so he could look Chad in the eye. "Why don't you get a shower? I need to go talk to mom." Chad nodded glumly and went off to the bathroom. Ryan watched him go before he went down the hall to his parents' suite.
"The first time it happened, Chad was a sophomore. He failed a test at school and was so upset about it that he just stared into space until Troy shook him out of it. By then, the teacher was gone. He came home and spent the evening sulking, but he wouldn't tell us why. It turned out that his teacher had accidentally transposed the number. His grade was actually 94 rather than 49 and it was fixed the next day. But late that night, my husband heard a noise downstairs and thought we had a burglar. He went into Chad's room to get a baseball bat, but noticed that Chad wasn’t in his bed. So he went downstairs and found Chad, fully dressed, with his backpack on his shoulder, ready to leave for school."
"Oh my," Ms. Evans gasped as she stirred honey into her tea. Ms. Danforth sighed.
"And last summer, after Chad fought with Troy, we found him standing in front of the open refrigerator eating ice cream with his hands at two in the morning."
"Have you taken him to a doctor?" Sharpay asked. Ms. Danforth looked up, unaware that she'd entered the room.
"We consulted one at the time," she replied uneasily. "But there's only been a handful of episodes."
"Nothing like this," Ms. Evans concluded.
"No," Chad's mother replied. "Certainly nothing that merited--." She rose to her feet as Chad and Ryan approached the breakfast room. "Are you all right, Boo?" she asked, caressing his face before pulling him into a hug.
"I'm sorry, mom," he said softly, melting into her arms to soak up as much love and support he could. "I know you and dad must have totally freaked."
"I'm just glad that you're safe," she replied. "At least we didn't have to wake up wondering where you were or what had happened to you." Chad reluctantly pulled away and she turned to give Ryan a hug. "Thanks, honey."
"Chad," Ms. Evans said soothingly as she hugged him in turn. "I've asked Maria to make your favorite pancakes this morning," she said, gesturing toward a seat. But Chad went over to the buffet where Maria was setting up breakfast and had a brief word with her in her native tongue.
"Show off," Sharpay said as she poured coffee into a cup. Chad shot her a look as Maria reached up and gave him a brief hug. "Do I get one, too? Now that I have a better idea of what I'd be up against--."
"Shar!" Ryan said sharply as he steered Chad away. He made Chad sit down and served him breakfast as the two mothers continued to talk.
"If there's anything I can do," Ms. Evans offered, "please don't hesitate to call on me."
"Well, I'd appreciate it if you'd let Chad's car remain here for the time being," Ms. Danforth replied. Chad opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off. "Where are your keys?" Chad shrugged petulantly. Ryan pulled the keys to Chad's car from his pocket and handed them over. Chad's mother, in turn, pulled her son's wallet and phone out of her bag. "It's a good thing you weren't stopped by the police," she said as Chad sheepishly collected his possessions.
"So where are you taking me?" he asked a bit later after Sharpay and Ryan went up to get ready to leave for school.
"I did a bit of research and found a few places," his mother answered promptly. Chad sighed as she described her findings. She was a research librarian by training, so he was not all surprised by the fact that she'd identified no fewer than five clinics within a twenty-mile radius that would do a walk-in intake. She'd settled on the U of A's Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy. "We'll get through this," she promised, reaching out to take hold of Chad's hand.
"Yeah," Chad said resignedly. "Look--." He abruptly rose from the table. "I want to say goodbye to Ryan." He left the breakfast room and caught up with the twins in the foyer. "Hey."
"Hey yourself," Sharpay said with a sly wink. Chad rolled his eyes and turned to Ryan, who pulled him into his arms for a tight hug.
"I've got to go. We're already running late. Call me when you get out," Ryan said. Chad nodded. "Love you, Boo."
"Love you, too," Chad replied as Ryan cupped his face in his hands and kissed him three times. Ryan gave him what he hoped was a reassuring smile and trudged out to the car after Sharpay. He was so tired he could barely think, much less muster up what he thought was a smile worthy of his very troubled boyfriend. Ryan slid into the passenger seat and immediately shut his eyes.
"So spill," Sharpay demanded as she neatly maneuvered around the car Chad had parked diagonally across the wide driveway. "I heard Chad's mom talk about him sleepwalking in the past. What happened last night?"
"He came here," Ryan said, pulling the brim of his hat down over his eyes.
"In his sleep?"
"In his sleep," Ryan repeated, yawning. Sharpay continued to pepper him with questions until she realized that he'd dozed off. She waited until he opened his eyes at a stoplight before she spoke again.
"You don't look too good," she observed worriedly.
"I got maybe an hour of decent sleep last night," he explained. He avoided mentioning what had kept him awake prior to Chad's arrival. "Once Chad showed up I was afraid to take my eyes off of him lest he up and leave again."
"Poor Chad," she replied sincerely.
"Yes, poor Chad," Ryan repeated. "And can you stop with the sexual harassment? It'd be funny at any other time, but at the moment he's feeling rather vulnerable."
"Yeah." Sharpay turned onto the road leading to the school. "But damn, Ryan--the guy is seriously hot."
"I know," Ryan said smiling smugly. He pulled the brim of his hat a bit lower and slept the last five minutes of the ride.
"You should have stayed home today," Sharpay said as she pulled into her usual parking spot. "You really look like hell warmed over."
"I wish I could," Ryan replied as he reluctantly emerged from the car and stretched. "But the show is two weeks away--."
"I could run the rehearsals for you. I know all the choreography."
"I've also got a project to hand in," Ryan continued as he turned and spotted Troy standing by the school entrance, apparently waiting for him. "And I need to speak with Troy."
"Well you have fun with that," Sharpay said distastefully. "If you change your mind, though, text me and I'll take you home."
"Thanks, hon," Ryan said. Sharpay came around the car and reached up to hug him briefly.
"He'll be okay," she promised. Ryan nodded and she kissed his cheek before she strode away. Ryan sighed and went to meet his fate.
"I should warn you," he said as he neared the spot where Troy was leaning against the wall, "that if you hurt me Chad's likely to kill you. Moreover, even if you were to beat me to a pulp, I'm not going to retract one single syllable of what I said last night, so you'd be wasting both our time as well as signing your own death warrant."
"I have no intention of hurting you," Troy replied, a mixture of amusement and confusion on his face. "I was looking for Chad." Ryan relaxed visibly. "I thought a lot about what you said last night," Troy admitted. "You were right. I have treated him pretty badly of late." Ryan literally bit his tongue to prevent himself from blurting out the words that sprang to his lips. He listened with forced calm as Troy proceeded to explain his desire to apologize to Chad and repair the breech that had developed between them.
"You can't fix this," Ryan said tiredly. "What you've done--it's too late. Maybe you guys can be friends again. Chad obviously has a weak spot in his otherwise well-functioning brain that keeps him from kicking you to the curb where you belong. But don't expect to make it up to him."
"Why not?" Troy asked, humiliated and confused. Ryan rubbed his hand over his eyes.
"Trust me on this. Just don't."
"All right," he said with a shrug. "I tried calling him last night but his phone was off. And I went by his house this morning, but it looked like everyone had already left. Have you seen him today?"
"He has to go to the doctor," Ryan answered cryptically. But that was enough to satisfy Troy, who led the way inside. Ryan was still angry with him, but he was too exhausted to bother with the exertion required to escape his company. He simply forgot that Troy was there, so he was slightly surprised when he found himself being addressed again by the lanky teen.
"You really care about him."
Ryan turned his head and frowned at Troy curiously. Once again he bit back a response, but Troy continued before he would have been able to say a word, anyway.
"Jumping in to defend him like that--. He doesn't know you called me, does he?"
Ryan shook his head.
"He'd be proud," Troy said with an awkward smile. "He'd probably tease the shit out of you for acting like a mother hen, but deep down inside he'd be really pleased." Ryan fixed him with a tired glare.
"He won't hear about it from you," he said firmly. He didn't wait for a reaction. They entered the classroom and took their seats just as Ms. Darbus entered. When she called Chad's name Troy volunteered that he was out sick. Ryan felt a strange prickling at the back of his neck and looked around. Zeke, Taylor and Gabriella were all looking at him pointedly. Ryan turned back to the front of the room and tried to be as invisible as possible.
Chad stared at a liver spot on the bald head of the psychologist as he made a note on his pad and absently wondered why his father decided to shave his head.
"Are you going to be my counselor?" he asked when the man looked up.
"No, I'm just doing the initial assessment."
"Good," Chad answered. "I want a gay counselor." He fully expected the doctor's response and smiled when it came.
"I'm a board-certified, trained psychotherapist with fifteen years of experience in--."
"Are you gay?"
"I want a gay counselor."
"Why do you think a gay counselor would be better for you?" the doctor persisted.
"Duh," Chad replied bluntly, rolling his eyes.
"Does an obstetrician have to be a mother in order to be qualified to deliver babies? Or does a neurosurgeon have to have endured a brain injury in order to be able--."
"You know as well as I do that there's a difference between medicine and psychotherapy," Chad replied impatiently. "We're not dealing with a physical condition here. Psychology is more art than science and it requires the development, to some degree, of a rapport between the counselor and the counseled. No offense, but I don't see you and me sharing any deep, dark secrets."
The doctor blinked at Chad, who sat back and crossed his legs in a manner that would have made Ryan proud. The smug look, however, was all his own.
Ryan managed to make it through his morning classes in a stupor. As soon as it was free period, he went off to the library to find a quiet corner. He slept for about a half hour until his phone began to vibrate. He opened it and saw that Sharpay had called. He slipped it back into his pocket and settled in for another few minutes of shuteye, but the arrival of a text made him sit up again. The message was from Chad, who was on his way to school. Ryan yawned and left the library. He went to the boy's room to splash some water on his face. When he emerged, he nearly ran into Gabriella.
"Sorry," he said. "I'm not operating on all cylinders today."
"I noticed. Maybe you have what Chad's got," she replied. Ryan looked at her quizzically. "Well, if Chad's sick and you two--."
"Chad's not sick. He just had to see a doctor," Ryan replied before she could finish the thought. She frowned at him, but instead of asking the obvious question, she averted her eyes.
"I was hoping to talk with him today."
"About Troy?" Ryan guessed. She nodded. "Well, he should be here shortly, but frankly, I don't think he's going to want to discuss Troy with you."
"Well, after they fought yesterday--."
"Well, maybe that's not the right word. They argued--." Ryan sighed. "Actually, I really don't know what transpired between them. All I know is that they met up at some point yesterday and afterward Chad refused to talk about it."
"Oh," Gabriella said glumly. "I hoped--." She looked up at Ryan. "Have you got a few minutes?"
Ryan wanted to refuse her. He wanted nothing more than to go back home, climb into his bed and sleep for eight hours, preferably wrapped around Chad Danforth. But he could see that Gabriella was hurting and needed to talk to someone. And given Chad's current situation, Ryan didn't want that someone to be his boyfriend. He took Gabriella's arm and led her over to a quiet area.
"Please don’t tell anyone what I'm about to say--not even Chad," she began. Ryan silently drew an "x" across his heart. "I'm really worried about Troy. He's determined to go to California but--." She sighed and shook her head, looking out over the railing. "All he talked about last year was playing basketball and getting into U of A. Last summer he threw all of his energy into getting that scholarship. I know he loves me and I love him, too, but that was the most important thing in his life and he's suddenly decided to throw it all away. I can't help thinking--."
"That he'll eventually come to resent you for it?" Ryan supplied. Gabriella shrugged.
"He claims he's thought it through, but I'm not so sure. He's pinning all his hopes on getting an offer from a good program out there in his sophomore year. But colleges tend to offer scholarships to local talent and the competition is likely to be much tougher out there. If he can't get a scholarship--."
"Gabriella, did you know about this from the beginning?" Ryan asked curiously. She shook her head. "So you were as surprised as Chad." She shook her head again.
"I've known about it for a few weeks. Troy told me as soon as he got his acceptance letter. I assumed he'd told Chad, too, until Saturday," she revealed. "Frankly, I was hoping that Chad would talk him out of it. There's still time--he hasn't spoken to the coach at the U of A yet."
"I don't think you can count on Chad to do any talking to him at all right now."
"Oh." Gabriella was silent for a moment. "He must be pretty bummed."
"Have you any idea what Troy's done? Even an inkling what he's cost me and Chad?" Ryan asked, his anger renewed.
"I know Chad was angry about Troy keeping the news about Foothill College from him."
"It's not just that," Ryan replied. "At the end of last summer, after the two of them made up they decided to go to U of A together. Troy was offered that basketball scholarship and Chad applied for early admission. Even after he was accepted at U of A and won an academic scholarship, he considered applying to a number of other colleges. He was thinking about schools in the southwest until he learned that I wanted to go to Juilliard. Then he started talking about schools in the east, too. But he never applied to any of them. Chad had agreed to go to U of A with Troy."
"And he felt obligated to fulfill that commitment."
"So not only did Troy willfully deceive Chad for months, he also cost him the opportunity to apply to a school closer to New York," Ryan said angrily. Gabriella shut her eyes and rubbed a temple.
"Troy," she sighed.
"So don't count on Chad's help this time," Ryan said bitterly. Gabriella reached out and gave his hand a squeeze.
"What are you two going to do?"
"We're going to follow through on our original plans."
"I'm sorry," she said, pulling him into a hug. "I wish--."
"Yeah; me too."
"Hey, Danforth," Sharpay called when she spotted Chad at his locker. "How did it go?"
"I'll find out tomorrow," he replied as he put a few books into his locker. "That's when I'll see a counselor. Where's Ryan?"
"I don't know," she said. "Probably asleep somewhere. He didn't exactly get any rest last night because of you," Sharpay replied before she realized what she'd said. "He was worried," she added hastily. But she knew that didn't make Chad feel any better.
"I know." He leaned against his locker and sighed. Sharpay watched him sympathetically. After a moment, he pushed off the wall and hoisted his backpack. "I've got to go see Darbus."
Chad found Ryan about ten minutes later, sitting under a tree behind the school.
"Aren't you eating lunch?" he asked as he sat down beside him, shoulders touching. Ryan let his head fall to Chad's shoulder for just a few seconds.
"I'm too tired to eat," he confided. Nonetheless, when Chad pulled out the deli sandwich he'd picked up on his way to school and handed him half, Ryan readily bit into it. "So how did it go?"
"What a drag!" Chad said, shaking his head. "First we spent about an hour filling out forms and getting a referral from dad's health insurer. Then I spent another hour with some old dude who wanted to know everything that's happened in my life since birth--as if any of that was relevant. He finally got around to asking about my sleepwalking about forty minutes in and I told him to talk to my mom."
"Chad," Ryan said reproachfully.
"I don't know anything except what you guys have told me! The sleepwalker doesn't remember anything, remember? As a trained psychologist he should have known that whatever I said would just be hearsay."
"I think he was probably more interested in your perceptions of the experience, rather than its admissibility in a court of law."
"You think?" Chad said impishly as he handed Ryan his drink. "Anyway, all I could tell him about last night was that I woke up in your bed. That got him started on the gay thing."
"Not surprisingly," Ryan replied before taking a sip. "What did he say to that?" Chad gave him a rundown on the discussion that ensued.
"I finally told him I wanted a gay counselor."
"And did you get one?"
"Yeah; I've got an appointment with him tomorrow after school," he said. "Don't worry; the center's not far and I'll come back for rehearsal." Ryan nodded dully, staring out across the lawn. Chad studied Ryan's face as he finished his half of the sandwich. "Sharpay said you didn't get any sleep last night."
"Not much, no," Ryan confessed. "I was still in my clothes when you arrived because I'd been lying on my bed all evening staring at the ceiling."
"I'm really sorry--."
"Hey, I'm glad you showed up at my house rather than just go driving around the city."
"I meant about before that," Chad said, gently bumping shoulders. He scooted a few inches away, putting a safe distance between them in case they were spotted. "I was out of sorts last night and I took it out on you."
"Yep, that's about it," Ryan said sardonically. Chad looked at him and pouted.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but you look terrible."
"I know. It's been a rough day. I'm seriously thinking about accepting Sharpay's offer to let her run today's dance rehearsals and go home right after class. The Wildcats will rightly hate me for it, but--"
"They'll forgive you--eventually," Chad replied. "You didn't drive, did you?" Ryan shook his head. "Well, I don't have my car, you don't have yours and Princess is going to stick around for rehearsals." Ryan pulled out his phone.
"When all else fails, call--. Hey, mom," Ryan said cheerfully as he climbed to his feet. Chad began to gather the remains of their lunch and looked up to see Zeke approaching. "Hey, want to come with?" Ryan asked. Chad nodded as he also rose. "Okay, we'll meet you out front. Thanks, mom." He closed his phone and picked up his bag. "See you after last class."
"Yeah," Chad said as Ryan walked away. "Hey, Zeke."
"I thought you were sick," he said, studying Chad's face.
"Nah, I just had a doctor thing. What's up?"
"He looks sick," Zeke said, nodding at Ryan's retreating figure. "But you're the one seeing the doctor?"
"Well, it's like this," Chad said, wrapping an arm around Zeke's shoulder. "One of us is pregnant. But we can't figure out which one, so we drew lots and I had to go pee in a cup first." Zeke pushed him away laughingly. But he quickly sobered.
"Have you talked to Troy yet?"
"Haven't seen him today," Chad answered as they headed back into school. "And frankly, today is not a good day for me to take him on."
"Is that why Ryan was in his face this morning?" Zeke asked. Chad stopped and looked at him doubtfully.
"When I was walking in this morning I saw Ryan talking to him. I don't know exactly what went down but I distinctly heard him say the words, 'wasting both our time' and 'signing your own death warrant.'"
"Ryan? Ryan Evans?" Chad sputtered. Zeke nodded. "Whoa. Note to self: sleep-deprived Ryan is a very cranky boy."
Taylor cornered Chad as soon as he entered his advanced calculus class. He fended off her questions by promising to call her later. Gabriella's sad eyes were more difficult to reconcile. There was no evading her, either. She not only sat next to him in calculus, she also partnered him in physics lab last period. Between classes, they walked together.
"We should probably talk," he began hesitantly.
"Ryan spoke to you," she surmised.
"About you? No," Chad replied. "Why?" Gabriella shrugged.
"You look tired. Ryan said you had a doctor's appointment."
"Yeah; I've been having sleeping problems and my mom wanted me to get checked out."
"That must be going around," she said wryly. "I haven't slept well these last few days, either." Chad stopped and turned to her but she wouldn't meet his eyes. "This isn't a good time," she said softly. "We've got to get to class."
"Later," he suggested. She nodded and they went in to the lab together. As soon as class ended, however, Chad practically bolted from the room. He made his way out to the front of the school and smiled when he saw a sleek silver Mercedes at the curb. Chad sent a quick text to Ryan saying that he'd meet him in the car and slid into the back seat.
"How did it go?" Ms. Evans asked as he settled in.
"It was okay, I guess. I have to go back tomorrow for my first session."
"You need to approach it with an open mind," Ryan's mother warned, peering at the building and smiling at the sight of her son descending the steps. She lowered the window and gave him a little wave. "Therapy will only work if you're willing to make an effort. You really need to--. Hello, honey," she said as Ryan slid into the backseat. Ryan reached out and gave her shoulder a squeeze. She touched his hand in return but he was already sitting back and slumping against Chad, who enfolded him in his arms as soon as they were away from the school entrance.
"Hey," Chad said, leaning in to kiss him. Ryan kissed back with more interest than energy. Chad kissed his forehead and within minutes both of them were asleep.
Ms. Evans woke them when they reached the house and the couple retired to Ryan's bedroom, where they went straight to bed and slept for a couple of hours. Chad woke up and slipped out of bed. He went out into the hall and sat on the floor outside Ryan's room to call Taylor.
"I assume that whatever's going on has something to do with the fact that Sharpay's here torturing the Wildcats instead of your honey," she said when she answered the phone.
"Talk to me."
As usual, Chad told her everything. As they spoke it occurred to him that Taylor had replaced Troy as his confidant over the last several months. He smiled when she offered her usual advice.
"Troy is Troy. He's a dork, but he's your best friend. Don't throw that away. But don't let him get away with what he's done, either."
"Taylor, this time--."
"This time is no different, Chad. You know, if you really wanted to go to New York with Ryan you should have applied to RPI or Stevens or some other school out there."
"I want to--."
"But you didn't apply because you put your commitment to Troy first. Never do that again. Your first allegiance should always be to yourself."
"That would make me just like him," Chad protested.
"Chad, you've got more common sense in your pinky. You'll never be that stupid."
"Thanks." Chad glanced up at the door when he heard a noise from the bedroom. "I've got to go." He scrambled to his feet as he ended the call and slipped back into the room. Ryan was sitting up and on the verge of a mild panic. "Hey."
"Don't do that," Ryan said with a sigh.
"Sorry," Chad replied, sitting on the edge of the bed to caress his face. "I promised to call Taylor and I didn't want to wake you." He leaned in and slowly kissed away Ryan's pout. "How do you feel?"
"Fine," he replied. Chad kissed him again. "Take your clothes off."
"I love it when you go for slow and seductive," Chad replied grinning. He reached for the buttons on his shirt as he leaned in to kiss Ryan again. But he couldn't manage both at the same time and Ryan grew impatient.
"Don't make me rip that off you," Ryan said as he pulled off his polo.
"Hey, this is your shirt, dude," Chad replied, looking down at the buttons.
Ryan growled and roughly pushed him down on the bed, pulling the laughing teen's hands away so he could undo them himself. But in spite of that burst of aggression, he undressed Chad slowly. Their lovemaking, too, was unhurried, sweet and playful. For the first time in days, they were able to devote their full attention to one another without worrying about college or Troy or anything else that existed beyond the four walls of Ryan's bedroom.
"We should have done this last night," Chad said, pulling Ryan into his arms sometime later. "According to the stuff mom gave me to read about sleepwalking, the best treatment, aside from psychotherapy, is stress reduction. Sex was mentioned prominently in every article."
"It must be fun living with a librarian," Ryan mused.
"Yeah, especially if you like having your parents start every confrontation with a literature review on whatever subject they plan to bitch about," Chad said drowsily.
"But this time they'll have to side with us," Ryan said with a giggle. "Having sex will prevent you from sleepwalking!"
"That's true; I certainly don't feel like going anywhere else right now," Chad teased.
But after another hour of napping they did leave their bed. They dressed and went down to the lounge to do their homework. Sharpay came in and got Ryan caught up on the show while Chad called Gabriella. She was with Troy, so she couldn’t talk. He shut the phone just as Maria summoned them all to dinner. When the three of them entered the room, they found the Danforths at the table.
"Whoa!" Chad said. "Where'd you guys come from?"
"Hello to you, too, Chad," his father said in a slightly reproachful tone. Chad went over and sheepishly gave him a hug. He hugged his mother as well before taking a seat.
"Am I late for dinner?" Vance Evans said as he strode into the room. He bent to kiss his wife and then greeted the Danforths and the young people. Not unexpectedly, Chad was the subject of the dinner discussion. He wanted no part of it and tried to steer the conversation in another direction. But both fathers persisted and Chad was forced to endure their questions.
"I'll meet my counselor tomorrow," he concluded, twirling the water goblet in his fingers. "The HMO said I could have up to twelve sessions, but I'm not sure how many the counselor will think I'll actually need."
"Forget about the numbers," Mr. Danforth replied. "You just go in there and try to work through whatever brought this on."
"I just hope you sleep through the night," his wife said. Chad looked up.
"I slept through last night, mom," he said with a tinge of exasperation. "Frankly, I'd rather not 'sleep through the night' if this is going to happen again.''
"It won't," Mr. Danforth said confidently. "You won't have access to your car."
"And what--you'll nail all the doors shut?" Chad said doubtfully.
"Why don't you just let him stay here tonight?" Mr. Evans asked. All heads turned in his direction. "If you're worried about Chad leaving your house and trying to get here again, why not simply let him stay here?" he reasoned. Ms. Evans smiled in agreement.
"That would be a good idea, at least until he's seen his counselor tomorrow," she said. "Once he's had a session he may be fine to go back home."
The Danforths reluctantly agreed to the scheme. Ryan hid his face to suppress a grin. Chad kicked him under the table. After dinner, they returned to the lounge and Chad tried once again to reach Gabriella. Her phone was off, so he left a message.
"I guess Troy must still be with her," he concluded. He suddenly remembered something Zeke said and looked up. "Hey, Ryan? What's this about you threatening Troy?"
"What?" Ryan looked up sharply. "I didn't--. Well, not exactly."
"Spill," Chad demanded. Ryan sighed and fidgeted with the pen in his hands.
"Last night--geez, that seems like so long ago! Last night when I left your house I was pretty ticked off. I was annoyed at you but I was more pissed at Troy for all the trouble he's caused everyone. You, me, Gabriella--," Ryan said, tossing the pen onto the coffee table. "She's in the middle of all this, too, you know."
"Yeah," Chad sighed. "Go on."
"Well, the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. By the time I got home I was furious. I was going to call you but I figured I was in no state to deal with you so I--. I called Troy instead."
Chad's mouth fell open. Ryan glanced at him and continued, leaning against him for comfort.
"I told him in no uncertain terms what a shit he'd been to you and how lousy a friend he'd been to both of us."
"What did he say?"
"He just let you chew him out without saying a word?" Chad said doubtfully. Ryan shrugged.
"I guess he was stunned. Come on, the last thing he expected was for me to go after him. Anyway, when I ran out of steam, I hung up. Then I realized that I'd probably put my foot in it and spent half the night trying to figure out what kind of trouble I'd caused. When I got to school this morning, he was outside waiting for you. Seems my little rant made him realize a few things."
"And the threat?" Chad asked amusedly. Ryan shrugged again.
"Insurance," he quipped. "I told him that if he hurt me he'd have you to answer to. I was right, wasn't I?"
"Of course," Chad said, wrapping an arm around him and kissing his brow. "No one touches my Ducky and gets away with it." Ryan laughed, but only briefly.
"What went down between you two, yesterday, anyway?"
"Not much. I let him talk and then I walked away. I was too hurt and angry to engage with him."
"You two are going to have to deal at some point."
"I know," Chad replied as his parents came in to say goodnight. Chad rose and escorted them to the door. He assured them that he'd call in the morning and refused his mother's offer to bring a change of clothes. He hugged the Danforths and said goodnight.
He slept peacefully in Ryan's arms.
Chad was staring at a print on the wall when his counselor entered the room.
"Are you Chris?" he asked expectantly. "I mean can I call you that?"
"I'm Chris, and you're welcome to call me that," the counselor replied. She gestured for him to take a seat. He smiled as he took in her androgynous attire. "Not what you expected, eh?"
"I'm good," Chad replied sitting back.
"Well, let's begin there, then." She set down his file. "You specifically asked for a gay counselor. May I ask why?"
"Aside from the fact that I'm gay?" Chad replied. He shrugged. "Truth be told, I did it just to piss that dude off. He seemed to jump to all sorts of conclusions about me the moment I told him I went to my boyfriend's house the other night."
"How long have you been out?"
"I'm not; well, it depends on how you define it. I'm out to my parents and a few close friends, but not at school. It's too much of a fishbowl, if you know what I mean."
"How long have you known you were gay?" she continued. Chad thought about it for a moment.
"About eight months, I guess. I had an idea before then, but that was when I put two and two together."
"And how did your parents deal with you coming out to them?" Chris asked. Chad's reaction surprised her. He started laughing, but not in an awkward or evasive way.
"I have the most wonderful parents in the world. Really. They weren't thrilled, of course, and my dad's still a little uncomfortable with it. But they immediately told me that they loved me and there hasn't been a single second when they were anything less than supportive and loving."
"You're very lucky," Chris replied.
"I know. One of the few things my mom insisted on after I came out to them was that I find a support group. She wanted me to touch base with other gay teens. So I found a group online." He paused and shook his head sadly. "I know how truly blessed I've been."
"I watched your intake video and read about your argument with…Troy?" she said, opening her file again. Chad nodded. "What was that about?" Chad sighed and related the story once again. It seemed to him as though that's all anyone wanted to talk about lately. First his parents and Ryan's, then Troy, Taylor and Zeke at school. Chad still hadn't spoken with Gabriella. She was suddenly even more attached to Troy at the hip than previously and Chad could sense her desperation. He knew she was unhappy, but she couldn’t tell Troy, whatever it cost her.
At first he answered all Chris' questions by rote. He told her about his anger, his feelings of betrayal, about how Troy had hurt him on numerous occasions in the past. As the session progressed, however, he found it oddly comforting to be able to speak openly and honestly to a neutral party. He was able to let go; there were no one's feelings to protect, no need to hold back for fear of alarming anyone. When he was done relating his tale, he told Chris how he felt at that moment. She sat back and nodded before turning to a new line of questioning.
"Good. Tell me about Ryan," she suggested.
"We've known each other since we started high school, but we only became real friends last summer. He was already out and he saw me struggling with my sexuality. In fact, he probably knew what was going on before I did. He offered me a sympathetic ear and we talked a lot about it before I told my parents. We started seeing each other shortly after I came out to my folks."
"So you were friends first."
"Yes; I'd say more like acquaintances, most of that time."
"Are your parents aware of your relationship?"
"Oh yeah; they treat Ryan like a second son."
"And his parents?"
"Pretty much the same. His parents are really cool."
"How is Ryan feeling about your forthcoming separation?"
Chad began to answer her, talking about Ryan's amazing talent and his dream of going to Juilliard. But he abruptly paused mid-sentence and looked up.
"Why are we talking about Ryan? He's got nothing to do with my sleepwalking."
"I'm just trying to establish who you are and what makes you tick. Apparently, Ryan's very important to you," Chris said as she closed her notebook. "You didn't say much about him during your intake interview."
"True enough, but Troy's the one I was stressed over that night," Chad protested.
"Chad, I'm not at all convinced that Troy has anything to do with your sleepwalking."
"What? I'd been stressed out over Troy for the last four days," he insisted. "He dropped a bomb on me Saturday. We argued Monday at school. He outted me to his dad and Lord knows who else. What else would I be stressed out about?"
"I have no doubt that Troy was a focus of your emotions at that time," Chris said evenly. "But Ryan's the one you got into a car and drove all the way to Palisade Hills to be with that night."
Chad sat back in his chair, stunned.
On to Part 3