Summary: Chad and Ryan decide to skip the prom, but Sharpay has plans of her own.
At precisely four o'clock on a Friday morning, Chad was jolted awake by the sound of his alarm clock going off.
"What the hell?" he said groggily as he scrabbled around in the dark for the clock. Just as he shut off the music, which was much louder than its usual setting, the door to his room opened. Chad sat up and squinted toward the door. "My alarm went off," he said apologetically as his mother entered the room.
"I know," she replied. "I'm the one who set it."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"I said I set the alarm," Ms. Danforth replied, turning on the light. "Get up."
"You need to shower and dress. You're going out."
"At this hour?"
"At this hour. Come on, Boo," Ms. Danforth demanded, tugging at the covers. "Get up." Chad grabbed them back.
"Am I awake?" he asked. His mother sat on the edge of the bed and kissed him on the forehead.
"You're awake. Now get up. You have to be ready by 4:30."
"Why?" he demanded, clutching the covers to his chest. His mother smiled back at him. "All right," Chad said, but he was still apprehensive. He waited for her to leave before he climbed out of bed and went into the bathroom. He took a quick shower, brushed his teeth and shaved. When he emerged from his bathroom he found a suit and shirt laid out on his bed. "Okay…" Chad said slowly. He went to the dresser and pulled out clean underwear, a belt and socks. He dressed and went down to the kitchen.
"Tuck in your shirt, Chad," his mother said, placing a cup of tea on the counter for him.
"No time," his father answered. "I'm sure you'll get something to eat on the way."
"On the way where? Where am I going and why aren't you two dressed?" Chad asked.
"We're not going with you," his mother replied reasonably as she adjusted his collar.
"Do I need a tie?" Chad asked, carefully lifting the cup and saucer to take a sip.
"He didn't say so," Ms. Danforth replied. Chad smiled. He'd already figured out that Ryan was behind this. He set down the cup and headed back toward the stairs. "Where are you going?" his mother asked.
"I'll be right back." Chad returned to his room, dug through the top drawer of his dresser for something and went back down to the kitchen loosely draping a scarf around his neck. His mother immediately took command of it.
"Where did this come from?" she asked as she carefully arranged the scarf.
"Ryan bought it for me."
Nice," she said approvingly.
"Here," Mr. Danforth said, handing Chad a plastic card.
"What's this?" Chad asked.
"It's a debit card. Your mother and I have been talking about setting up an account for you when you go to college," Mr. Danforth explained. "We decided to start it a little early. When you get back we'll talk about establishing a monthly budget, but that will give you a bit of spending money for now."
"Thanks, dad," Chad said, examining the card before he put it into his wallet.
"You're going to need a little cash as well," Ms. Danforth said, opening her own wallet. Chad gaped as she counted off ten twenty-dollar bills and handed them to him.
"Where am I going?" Chad asked suspiciously as he put them into his wallet.
"You'll find out soon enough," she said. "Do you have your phone?" she asked, walking over to the corner of the kitchen counter where everyone in the Danforth household charged the numerous electronic gadgets they carried each day. She disconnected Chad's phone from its charger and brought both items over to him. "You'll need this," she said. "You may also want to bring your laptop."
"Thank you," Chad said again as the doorbell rang. He glanced at the door and turned to his parents.
"You'd better not keep him waiting," Ms. Danforth said, pulling Chad into his arms. "Have a great time, but be careful."
"I will," Chad said, giving her a kiss on her temple. He hugged his father, too. "I love you guys," he said softly before kissing his father's cheek. Mr. Danforth returned the gesture.
"You'd better go," he said.
"Yeah," Chad replied. He ran upstairs to collect his laptop and iPod. He returned to his parents, who were waiting at the door. He opened it, expecting to find Ryan, but instead he saw a limousine idling at the curb. Calvin, Mr. Evans' driver, was holding the passenger door open. Chad kissed each of his parents again and jogged down to the car.
"Good morning," Calvin said as Chad slipped inside. He took the seat next to Ryan. The two seats opposite were already occupied.
"Good morning, Chad," Mr. Evans said pleasantly, lowering his paper to greet the newcomer.
"Good morning," Chad replied.
"Looking good, Danforth," Sharpay said, taking in his attire.
"Thanks, Sharpay," he said, turning to look at Ryan. "Hey gorgeous," Chad said softly. Ryan smiled warmly and rested his head on Chad's shoulder.
"Hey yourself," he replied, reaching for Chad's hand and closing his eyes.
"So what's going on?" Chad asked, looking around. "What's with the pre-dawn wake-up call?"
"Sorry about that," Mr. Evans said from behind his newspaper. "We've got a very early flight."
"Flight?" Chad repeated. "Flight to where?"
"You'll see," Sharpay said, crossing her legs and smiling smugly. Chad gave Ryan's hand a squeeze and Ryan squeezed it in return, but he didn't say a word. Chad sighed and settled in for the ride. In less than two minutes, he was asleep. Twenty minutes later the limousine arrived at its destination. As the car drew to a halt, Chad opened his eyes and peered out the window.
"Where are we?" he asked, trying to stretch without dislodging Ryan, who stirred and sat up of his own accord. Mr. Evans immediately got out of the car, but the three teenagers moved more slowly.
"Airport," Sharpay said, sliding over to the door and taking Calvin's hand to help her out of the car. Chad followed her out of the car and looked around. He could see the tower in the distance, but nothing else seemed remotely familiar. "We're in the private terminal," Sharpay explained as Calvin handed her the pet carrier he'd stowed on the front seat.
"Private terminal?" Chad repeated.
"For private planes," Ryan said in a voice that clearly belied the fact that he was still half asleep. He put on his hat and automatically reached for Chad's hand, but Sharpay pulled him out of Ryan's reach.
"Chad, you're with me. Daddy said that there has to be absolutely no canoodling on the jet." She wrapped an arm around one of Chad's and led him into the terminal. Ryan glowered at her and followed. Mr. Evans was already inside, speaking with someone.
"Your dad owns a jet?" Chad asked softly.
"Unfortunately, no," Sharpay replied with a pout. "He wanted to buy one a few years ago, but Ryan talked him out of getting it on the grounds that it's bad for the planet."
"Come on, sis!" Ryan cried in his own defense. "Sure, a jet may be cool, but it's also an albatross. A jet would cost huge amounts of money to house, maintain and operate, and every time dad used it the jet would use hundreds of gallons of fuel that--." Sharpay turned away from him, rolling her eyes.
"Long story short, daddy doesn't own one," she continued. "Of course, the company owns a helicopter that he uses to show clients various properties, but when he flies longer distances he usually books a charter rather than flying commercial."
"And that means…"
"Lots of companies and individuals own corporate jets," Ryan said before Sharpay could answer. "And as I tried to explain a minute ago, it's not fuel efficient to fly one or two people across the country. So lots of them allow people to buy the empty seats. It not only makes owning a jet more affordable, in some cases it's even profitable. The company can lease out the jet when it's not being used. Yachts, too--there are management companies that will do all the work so the owner doesn't have to lift a finger."
"But that's not the case today," Sharpay said, glaring at Ryan. "We'll be flying with a friend of daddy's this morning. He's letting all of us hitch a ride. Daddy has business in Boston today, but he'll meet up with us tomorrow."
"A ride to…" Chad prompted. Sharpay merely smiled. Ryan rolled his eyes as she dragged Chad off to meet the owner of the jet.
"And here are the young people," Mr. Evans said, reaching out to wrap an arm around Sharpay's shoulders. "You know Sharpay and Ryan, of course. This is their friend, Chad Danforth. He'll be attending the U of A along with Sharpay in the fall. Chad, this is Todd Browning--good friend, business associate, and a fellow U of A alumnus." Chad extended his hand and Mr. Browning shook it as Mr. Evans proudly boasted of Chad's athletic accomplishments.
"Will you be going out for basketball?" Mr. Browning asked inevitably.
"I'm really not sure I'll have time," Chad replied awkwardly. "I'm going to be pretty busy with my classes and I have to maintain a good average in order to keep my scholarship."
"Chad is this year's McMillen Scholar," Mr. Evans said proudly.
"Well, congratulations!" Mr. Browning said. "I spoke with Bob McMillen just last week and he mentioned being very impressed with this year's scholarship recipient. Hey, you ought to meet Jack. He's a VP at an engineering firm here in Albuquerque. Come here a moment…" Sharpay released her grip on Chad's arm and watched as he was led over to two other men and introduced. She turned to look at Ryan, who had slumped into a chair and pulled his hat down over his eyes. She went and sat beside him.
"Are you all right?"
"So you're talking to me now?" he said with a tinge of bitterness. Sharpay folded her arms and pouted. She hadn't spoken to him in days, since Chad let it slip that neither he nor Ryan would attend the senior prom. While she understood their decision in principle, she was angry with Ryan because he wouldn't change his mind about it or even entertain her proposed solution.
"You don't get it, do you?" he cried. "We don't want to go with other people!"
"We aren't 'other' people! Kelsi's one of your closest friends. She doesn't have a date for the prom and she's willing to do this. And I'm willing to be Chad's date. That way the two of you could be together at the prom," Sharpay reasoned.
"No, that way, I would be with Kelsi and you would be with Chad," he replied. "And how, by the way, do you plan on explaining that to people?"
"What? Chad and I are friends! Everyone knows that. Lord knows I've had to explain it to at least half a dozen people in the last two months," Sharpay said. "Oh, come on, Ryan! We've both been dreaming about the senior prom since we were freshmen. We've been talking about dresses, picking out potential dates--we even discussed prom themes! We've been planning for the big day for as long as I can remember! And now all of a sudden you want to back out? I can't go to the prom without you!"
"I'm sorry, Sharpay," he said sincerely. "We've made our decision. We're not going and that's final." She glared at him for a full minute before turning on her heel and storming out of his room.
From that moment on Monday afternoon until she woke him at three o'clock that Friday morning, she hadn't said a word to him or Chad. But she hoped that her surprise would smooth things over.
"Ryan," she said softly, leaning against his shoulder.
"You do realize that if you open the doors of the jet mid-flight Chad and I won't be the only ones who die, right?"
Sharpay sat up again and punched his arm.
"I didn't have daddy drag you out here to kill you!" she spat. "If I wanted you dead I would have murdered you in your sleep." She leaned against his shoulder again and took hold of his arm. "This is a peace offering," she said sweetly. Ryan lifted his hat and gave her a sidelong glance.
"Well, since you two aren't going to prom, I thought you should have some fun of your own."
"We already planned that," Ryan replied, although he straightened up in his seat and turned to give her his full attention.
"Yes, but you hadn't planned on this," she said, smiling impishly.
"A weekend in New York," she said triumphantly. The sight of Ryan's smile warmed her heart and she gave a little squeal of delight. Chad sat down on the seat beside hers and Ryan turned his attention to him.
"What's up?" he asked.
"See that dude with the grey hair and tan suit?" Chad said, gesturing with his thumb. "That's my dad's boss. He actually recognized me before we were introduced! I guess he's seen my picture; he said my dad talks about me all the time. Anyway, he just offered me a summer job."
"I thought your dad was in structural engineering," Ryan replied.
"Yeah; he's a thermal structural analyst for a corporation that develops aerospace technology for NASA and the Defense Department."
"But you want to study computer engineering."
"Yeah, but that doesn't matter; the experience would be great and it would give me a chance to earn some--."
"Forget the summer! Let's focus on the present, shall we?" Sharpay said, abruptly cutting off the discussion.
"Shar was just telling me that we're going to New York," Ryan translated. Chad smiled.
"New York? Wait--you mean you're the one behind this?" He glanced from Sharpay to Ryan, who shrugged.
"I had nothing to do with it. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, out of my bed in the wee hours of the morning, same as you."
"Wow!" Chad grinned at Sharpay. "New York! Wait--I don't have any clothes."
"No worries--it's all been taken care of," Sharpay replied smugly. "I took the liberty of asking your mother to pack a few things." She turned to Ryan. "And I packed for you. And whatever else you need, you can buy when we go shopping."
"Cool!" Chad exclaimed.
"We?" Ryan replied suspiciously.
"I'm coming with you," Sharpay declared.
"What about prom?"
"I'd rather go to New York," Sharpay declared. "It's been ages since I've been to Bendel's or Bergdorf's or actually seen a Broadway show on Broadway. And I--."
"We aren't going to spend the whole weekend shopping, are we?" Chad protested.
"What about your date? Do you really want to miss prom?" Ryan asked gently. Sharpay looked away.
"What you really mean is you don't want me to come," she said softly.
"No, what I really mean is do you really want to miss prom," Ryan said carefully, taking hold of her face and turning it back. "You've refused to speak to us for the better part of the last four days because we wouldn't go to the prom with you. From the way you've been behaving--."
"I don't want to go to the prom without you," she replied. "I spoke to Jared and he understood. I'd rather spend this time with you and I just thought it would be fun if we went to New York--even with Danforth tagging along," she added impishly. "But if you two would rather be alone…" Chad reached over and took hold of her hand.
"I can't think of a better way to spend prom weekend than in New York with you guys," he affirmed. "Both of you; this is a great surprise, Sharpay," he said, leaning in to kiss her cheek.
"Me either," Ryan said with a smile. He gave Sharpay a hug just as his father called the teens. "Time to board."
"So this is why we had to dress up," Chad said mostly to himself as he followed Sharpay up the steps and entered the luxurious cabin.
"We're traveling with a bunch of businessmen," she replied. "Daddy said we should look the part," she said, indicating her simple sheath dress and sling-back pumps. She drew him toward the back of the cabin and sat down on a leather sofa, leaving the seats up front for the four executives. She set her pet carrier in the third space on the sofa, leaving no room for Ryan. He took the seat opposite them and bristled as Sharpay made a fuss over Chad's seatbelt.
"Stop yanking your brother's chain," Chad said as he gently but firmly pulled her hands away and fastened the belt himself. Sharpay smiled innocently and dug around in her purse until she found a camera.
"Here, Ryan, take our picture," she demanded as she handed it across the aisle and pressed her cheek against Chad's. Ryan did as he was bidden, taking one picture of the two of them before reeling off a half dozen pictures of Chad's face as soon as Sharpay sat back. He smiled and returned the camera to her.
"I'm going to send all of these to Sharon," Sharpay announced smugly as she looked at the photos. "If that doesn't convince her that he's mine, I don't know what will."
Ryan rolled his eyes and started to reply, but Chad's smile silenced him. Ryan relaxed and fastened his seat belt as the flight attendant came to the back of the cabin to check on them.
"We'll be taking off in a few minutes. As soon as we're airborne I'll be serving a continental breakfast," she said. "Would you care for coffee or tea?"
"Coffee," all three teenagers replied in unison.
"No one ever asks for tea on an early flight. I wonder why?" she said archly as she retreated to the front of the cabin.
"So when my mom said 'he' this morning, she wasn't talking about you," Chad mused aloud.
"If I'd been plotting with your mother we'd be sitting on the same side of the aisle," Ryan said pointedly. "On second thought, I take that back. We'd still be in bed, anticipating getting up about an hour from now for a flight at a more reasonable hour."
"Daddy did all the negotiating with your folks," Sharpay revealed. "I took care of all the planning on the other end."
"On the other end of what?" Chad asked warily as the plane began to taxi. Sharpay turned her attention to her whimpering dog.
"He hates takeoffs and landings. I think it bothers his little ears," she said with a pout as she took the Yorkshire terrier out of its bag and held him in her arms. "Oh, it's all right, Boi. We'll be off the ground in a few minutes and it'll stop." Chad rolled his eyes and smiled at Ryan, who shook his head and turned to look out the window. Chad stared at him until the plane leveled off and the flight attendant returned.
"The boss said to feed you three first," she said, setting up the table in front of Ryan's seat and placing linens on it. "I'll be right back with that coffee. And would you like something for the dog?"
"Oh yes, please. He gets very dehydrated when he flies. Can you bring him some water?" Sharpay asked. The flight attendant nodded and withdrew, returning a minute later with a tray bearing a carafe of coffee, three cups, saucers, and a bowl of water. She unloaded the tray and went away again. Ryan poured a cup of coffee, added a dollop of milk and handed it to Chad, who accepted it gratefully.
"What about me?" Sharpay said with a pout.
"Do you really want to hold a cup of hot coffee while you've got Boi in your lap?" Ryan asked reasonably. Sharpay sighed and handed Chad the empty carrier as she placed the dog on the seat beside her. Chad had no idea what to do with the bag and shot Sharpay a look of confusion. Ryan snatched it from him impatiently and stuffed it under his seat as the flight attendant returned with a platter bearing fresh fruit, muffins, pastries, butter and jam. The flight attendant handed each of them a cloth napkin and offered to serve them. Sharpay asked for a chocolate croissant and some fruit.
"I'll have a blueberry muffin, please," Chad said, smiling up at the flight attendant, who put a muffin on a plate next to a helping of fruit and gave it to him. "Thank you," he said gratefully.
"Give him a chocolate croissant, too," Sharpay commanded. "He's voracious in the morning."
"I'll have a plain croissant," Ryan said, squinting at his sister, who was holding Boi's water bowl so he could drink. The flight attendant served Ryan his food as Sharpay set the bowl down on the table and took a bit of Chad's muffin to feed the dog.
"Hey!" Chad protested as the flight attendant took the tray and went off to serve the other passengers. Ryan turned to his sister.
"You said something about plans for New York?"
"Oh!" she said eagerly. "Well, I thought we should see a show and there's that great Gauguin exhibit at the Met… And I suppose that at some point you'll want to show Chad your beloved Juilliard…"
"My beloved has already seen Juilliard, remember?" Ryan replied, roguishly twisting her words. Sharpay ignored the comment, but Chad winked at him.
"Oh, and daddy got tickets to some ballgame he thought you and Chad might like, but--."
"What game?" Chad asked.
"The Yankees and someone or other," Sharpay replied insouciantly.
"The Yankees and the Red Sox," Mr. Evans clarified, lifting Boi and taking his seat. "How are you young folk doing back here?"
"We're fine, daddy," she said. "I was just laying out our itinerary."
"I thought we agreed to let Ryan and Chad make their own plans," Mr. Evans said in a slightly reproachful tone.
"Well, they couldn't very well make their own plans if they didn't know they were taking a trip, daddy," she reasoned. "So I did a little planning for them."
"They're aware of the trip now, aren't they?" her father countered. Sharpay made a face.
"They'll just want to wander off and do boy stuff."
"Well, given that we are 'boys' I'd say that's a safe bet," Ryan replied sardonically.
"Look; your dad is right," Chad said. "We know where we're going now and we've got three hours until we get there. Why don't we spend that time planning a weekend we can all enjoy?"
"I think that's an excellent idea," Mr. Evans agreed. He rose and handed his daughter the Yorkie. "By the way, Chad, Todd said that if you'd like a tour of the jet, he'd be glad to show you around."
"Cool!" he said eagerly. "Maybe after breakfast." He turned his attention back to the twins and ate as the two of them negotiated. In truth, he didn't care about the itinerary; he was psyched about the prospect of a weekend in New York. He and Ryan had planned to spend the long weekend together at Lava Springs. Since they had no classes on prom day (lower classmen had departmental exams), they decided to make the most of the long Memorial Day weekend. Had things gone as planned, Ryan would have picked up Chad late that morning and driven out to Lava Springs in time for lunch. Spending a weekend in New York would be even better. Chad was pleased that Sharpay would be joining them. She's been subdued lately and he'd been feeling a bit guilty about it, since things had been steadily improving for him. He recalled his last session with Chris.
"Chad, if your smile were any wider we'd need to move to a bigger room," Chris said when she took in his infectious grin. "What's going on?"
"I overslept this morning," he declared smugly.
"And that's good why?"
"Because it means that I slept eight hours last night."
"Ah," Chris said, intrigued. "What brought that about?"
"It's been an interesting week."
"You have forty-nine and a half minutes to elaborate."
"All right, all right," Chad said, stretching out his legs. "I've been following your advice and it's beginning to pay off."
"Which advice was that?" she asked as she sat down and opened her case file.
"You suggested that I reach out to other people to help me deal with my stress. I reached out to my dad," Chad began. "I had a nightmare a couple of weeks ago. The next morning I discussed it with my dad. It was the start of a good dialogue with him. We've been running in the mornings since then--well, walking and running. But it's become our time to connect; just to talk."
"What do you talk about?"
"All kinds of stuff," Chad said. "The first couple of days it was about stress and stuff. But the last few days we've talked about college, girls, sports--."
"Girls?" Chris interrupted. Chad smiled.
"Yeah; my dad married his high school sweetheart, but he once told me that he was a bit of a player. I wanted him to come clean."
"And did he?"
"Sorry; I've been sworn to secrecy."
"So this is what you're like well rested, huh?" Chris said amusedly. She studied his body language; Chad was relaxed and more at ease than she'd ever seen him. "What about your mother? Have you reached out to her as well?" Chad shook his head.
"We let her sleep in. She really needs it. But we've all been getting more sleep these days."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that things have improved. Of course you realize that this doesn't mean that everything's all better. Why don't you tell me about this nightmare of yours?"
"Way to kill my buzz, Chris," Chad teased.
"What's going on in your dirty little mind?" Sharpay asked, interrupting Chad's reverie. He smiled enigmatically and rose to go to the front of the cabin. Todd took him on a tour while Ryan settled back in his seat and covered his eyes with his hat.
"One last thing," he said softly.
"Yes?" Sharpay asked, her eyes on the sleeping terrier in her lap.
"Before you drag us out anywhere, I want two hours to catch up on my sleep."
"You mean you want two hours alone with Chad," she quipped.
"So maybe I'll multitask," he said with a shrug. Ryan lifted his hat and sought out Chad with his eyes. He was sitting with Ryan's father and the VP of the engineering firm that employed Mr. Danforth. Ryan observed them thoughtfully.
"He's a natural suck-up, your Chad," Sharpay said. "But you probably know that." Ryan shot her a look and resumed his observation. "What are you plotting?"
"I'm not plotting anything," Ryan said, veering his eyes again.
Sharpay was somewhat put out when she realized that Chad had been to the Plaza on his previous visit, which meant that she wouldn't be able to show off the hotel's luxury accommodations. She could show him off, however, and took hold of his arm as soon as the doorman helped her out of the taxi. She refused to let go until they were inside the elevator. Ryan rolled his eyes, but Chad just smiled and reached for Ryan's hand. When they reached their room, Ryan shut the door in Sharpay's face.
"Dude! That was cold."
"She's been a pain in the ass from the moment she woke me up this morning," Ryan replied unrepentantly as he took off his hat and tossed it on the dresser. "I need a nap."
"You do seem a bit cranky," Chad said teasingly as he drew off his jacket.
"I am cranky. We've been together for nearly five hours and I've yet to kiss you," Ryan replied as he pulled Chad into his arms.
"Feel better?" Chad said lightly a few moments later as he toyed with a strand of Ryan's golden hair.
"It's a start," he replied. They both stripped down to their underwear and crawled into bed. Chad would have fallen asleep immediately, but Ryan had something on his mind.
"Are you really going to take that summer job?" he asked as he snuggled into the warmth of Chad's arms.
"Yeah; it'd look great on my resume. I was offered a job with McMillen, but that firm's based in Santa Fe and I didn't want to spend the summer up there. Mr. Broward said he'd talk to Mr. McMillen about it so there wouldn't be any misunderstanding."
"I thought you were going to work at Lava Springs again with Troy."
"No way," Chad said, shaking his head. "That would be awkward. Not that I have anything against being a waiter and serving you and your folks," he said hastily. "But going back there and working with Troy would be a bit too much déjà vu. Besides, he's going to work as a golf pro and I'd never see him, anyway."
"But you want to spend some time with him this summer, don't you?" Ryan asked. Chad lifted his head to peer at him.
"Why are we talking about Troy?"
"We aren't talking about Troy."
"We aren't," Chad said doubtfully.
"No," Ryan said with a sigh.
"So we're really talking about…"
"I guess I just assumed you'd take a job at Lava Springs when he did," Ryan said, shutting his eyes. "And I thought we'd be able to spend the summer together."
"I want us to spend the summer together, Ryan, but I still need to work."
"Why?" Ryan asked curiously. "This is your last summer of freedom before everyone scatters to the four winds and--." Chad propped himself up on an elbow and sighed.
"Look, I could probably get away with goofing off this summer. Mom and dad have been putting money aside to send me to college since I was born and they talked my Uncle Mike into putting a nice chunk of change into the pot, too. I lucked out and won a scholarship that will pay my tuition and give me a monthly stipend, which means that my parents only have to pay for my room and board and a few fees. I had some savings of my own, too; I was saving up to buy a car, remember? But I lucked out again when Uncle Mike gave me the CR-V. Given all of that--."
"You're a very lucky guy."
"Yeah," Chad said, momentarily distracted. He went with that notion for a moment, leaning over to rub noses with Ryan before kissing him between the eyes. "Sometimes I think I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I've got a great family, a hot boyfriend and brains to die for, too--not necessarily in that order," he added with a radiant smile. Ryan lifted his head for another kiss.
"You sound like you're nicely set up for cash," he said, pulling Chad into his arms. "So why not take the summer off and play with your hot boyfriend?"
"I have to work, Ryan," Chad said with another sigh.
Money was not an issue the couple often confronted directly. It was a given that they were born into very different socio-economic circumstances. Ryan's father was the CEO of a privately held multi-million-dollar corporation and his mother had a seat on the board of directors. Chad's parents, on the other hand, were employed by others--his father at an engineering firm and his mother at the University of New Mexico Medical School library. Ryan knew that the Danforths earned a very comfortable income and lived in a very nice section of town (Ryan spent his early years there before his father's company took off). Among their immediate circle of friends, Chad's family was among the most well off, along with Gabriella's mother (a business consultant) and Kelsi's father (a dentist).
That said, it was difficult for Ryan to grasp--as Chad readily could--the true import of having one more zero on his father's paycheck. From the beginning of their relationship, Ryan respected Chad's rather pragmatic attitude toward money. While he allowed Ryan to pay their way or to buy him things without argument, Chad paid nearly just as often. He obviously couldn't afford what Ryan could, but that was never an issue between them. Ryan didn't care whether he ate at Earline's or at a four star restaurant as long as they were together. He knew that he was naïve about money, and he knew that he needed to develop better money sense before he took off for school in New York. But at the moment, money wasn't even on his list of priorities. His only concern was spending as much time with Chad while he still had that luxury.
"Why do you have to work?" he asked, pouting. Chad smiled patiently.
"Why? Because my hot boyfriend will be traveling to the other end of the country this fall and I'll have to fly all the way to New York for 'conjugal' visits."
"Hey, your hot boyfriend is willing to travel all the way back to Albuquerque for regular booty calls."
"My hot boyfriend is a nice guy," Chad replied, grinning. He rested his head on Ryan's shoulder and nestled against his body. "But I plan to come to see you, too. I can probably get a flight or two out of dad's frequent flyer program but I don't want to use up all his miles. Just because I got a scholarship that will spare my parents the cost of tuition that doesn't mean I want to sponge off of them for everything else. My folks taught me to be self-sufficient. I'd like to give them a break--I want them to use some of that money they saved for themselves."
"Chad, you don't have to worry about the cost of--."
"I know, I know--your folks have offered to fly me to New York, but I'd like to be able to do it on my own--at least part of the time. Besides, as I said earlier, working at my dad's firm would be a great opportunity for me."
"Yeah," Ryan said glumly. Chad placed a hand over Ryan's heart and snuggled in deeper.
"Are you planning to spend the entire summer out at Lava Springs?"
"Maybe just the weekends," Ryan said, toying with a strand of Chad's hair. "If my boyfriend isn't going to be around…"
"Your 'hot' boyfriend?"
"You're the one with the hot boyfriend," Ryan replied. He poked Chad in the ribs before he had a chance to respond. "My boyfriend is absurdly gorgeous."
"Oh," Chad replied, his cheeks glowing, "well, if your 'absurdly gorgeous' boyfriend was to spend the summer at Lava Springs, he'd be working and you'd be taking yoga classes or getting facials or following Sharpay around like a--."
"Would you like to sleep on the floor for the rest of the weekend?" Ryan threatened. But his smile belied his intentions. Chad lifted his head to kiss him and then rolled over, facing away from Ryan. Within seconds, he was asleep. Ryan wrapped himself around Chad's body and fell asleep a moment later.
"So I called Brenna and Megan but they were both at school. They want to meet us at Serendipity for frozen hot chocolate later, but I don't know. We said we'd go shopping this afternoon and I kind of wanted to just chill, but Brenna's going out to the Hamptons this weekend so if I don't see her today I won't see her at all this visit."
Ryan turned over and lifted his head.
"Guess what? There's yet another revival of 'Phantom' on Broadway," Sharpay declared as she entered the room with her face buried in a copy of The New York Times. Sharpay sat on the edge of the bed and pouted. "I guess they figured the six or seven thousand people who haven't seen it deserved a shot."
"You should have brought my mom to New York instead of me," Chad said groggily. Sharpay gave a little yelp and leapt off the bed.
"Oh! I forgot he was here," she said, her hand clutched to her chest dramatically. But she quickly recovered. "So do you want to see the girls this afternoon? They'd adore Chad, although I don't know if he'd be into them. But Megan's all about the eye candy. Remember that lunkhead she dated last year? He was dumb as toast but what a body! And he apparently knew how to use it, too. She said he--."
"Sharpay," Ryan said as he threw back the covers and sat up. She yelped again but relaxed when she realized that he was wearing boxer shorts. Ryan glared at her and stalked over to the bathroom.
"Is he wearing undies, too?" she asked, lifting a corner of the bedcovers.
"Out! Now!" Ryan snapped. She left the room, giggling.
Ryan was styling his hair in front of the bathroom mirror when Chad appeared in the doorway.
"Get out," he said bluntly. "I have to pee."
"You're always so cheerful when you wake up," Ryan replied smiling. He gave Chad a peck on the lips on his way out. "Sharpay wants us to meet up with some friends of hers this afternoon," he said through the door. The toilet flushed and the door opened.
"I heard," Chad said as he turned on the tap to wash his hands. "Let's do it."
"It'll be another one of her dog and pony shows," Ryan warned. "She wants to show you off."
"So? Look, I know what we agreed to on the plane, but I think we should make this weekend all about her."
"Why should we?" Ryan asked, pulling on a pair of jeans.
"She won't get to fly to New York for conjugal visits," Chad quipped, opening his bag. "Look, she said she was doing this weekend for us, but it's clear that she wanted to be a part of this. She's been really bummed lately. And--." He paused to reach for his phone. "It's my mom," he said, opening it. As he spoke with his mother, Ryan selected a shirt and went down the hall to speak with his sister. He returned a short time later just as Chad put the finishing touches on his hair.
"Let's do this," Chad said, reaching for his shades.
"So we would have been here a bit earlier but Ryan insisted that he had to buy something for Chad at Saks," Sharpay said, glancing across the table at her brother, who was studying the menu. Ryan looked up innocently.
"It's an inside joke," he said with a shrug.
"And I still don't get it," she said with a pout.
"You had to be there," he said dismissively. "Besides, we still would have been on time if it weren't for you."
"Me? It wasn't my idea to buy him a present."
"It was your idea to make him try on five shirts."
"Sounds like fun," Megan said, eyeing Chad flirtatiously. He was oblivious to the flutter of eyelashes that accompanied that pronouncement, however. He and Ryan were sharing a menu despite the fact that the waiter had left five on the table. They were sitting elbow to elbow and both smiling conspiratorially, which made Sharpay suspicious even though all four of their hands were in plain sight.
"You know it," Sharpay replied with an impish smile. "I wouldn't let him use the dressing room, either. If you think Ryan's boy toy looks good now, you should see him shirtless." Chad glanced up and gave her a slightly withering look.
"My name is Chad, remember?"
"You know," Megan said, "when Sharpay told me I was meeting someone named Chad you weren't at all what I imagined."
"I get that a lot," Chad deadpanned. "Which surprises me since Chad is the name of a country on the African continent. But you know," he added, sitting forward and pasting on a dazzling smile, "whenever I meet a 'Megan' I'm never disappointed."
Megan smiled coquettishly as he sat back and resumed reading the menu. She was apparently the only one at the table who didn't get the joke. Sharpay smiled into her menu unsuccessfully suppressing a tiny snort. Ryan poked her with an elbow.
"So, are you from Africa?" Megan persisted. Ryan and Chad exchanged looks of bewilderment as Sharpay threw down her menu and rolled her eyes exasperatedly.
"Megan, Chad is from Albuquerque," she spat. "And stop flirting with him. He belongs to Ryan!" She picked up her menu again and glared at it. Brenna quickly changed the subject and the tension dissipated as quickly as it had developed. The waiter appeared to take their orders.
"What is it about New York that makes every man, woman and child flirt with you?" Ryan asked Chad, glaring at the waiter as he departed.
"Ryan, he flirted with everyone at the table," Brenna said reasonably. "All the waiters here do that." Chad placed his hand over Ryan's.
"There's no point in trying to reason with him," he said. "Ryan gets very peevish on this subject."
"I am not 'peevish,'" Ryan protested. "I'm just tired of watching you get hit on."
"Get a paper bag to put over his head on the way out," Sharpay suggested. "Or yours." Chad gave her a reproachful look.
"That's what I get for falling for someone who's absurdly gorgeous," Ryan muttered. Chad gave his hand a squeeze and kissed his temple.
"Oh, here they go," Sharpay said with a dramatic roll of her eyes. "First one of them says something dopey, then Chad does the goofy grin and Ryan gets all dreamy eyed. Then they start exchanging sappy platitudes and they get kissy and start cooing at each other and--. Ugh! It's so nauseating." Ryan and Chad stared at her. "Well, it is!"
"We have got to get her a boyfriend," Chad declared.
"Or at the very least, laid," Ryan agreed. "Too bad Zeke finally gave up on her."
"What about that guy who was ogling her at Saks?"
"I only saw him ogling you," Ryan said stonily.
"Marshall?" Sharpay cut in. "Please! He's gayer than you two combined. Of course, he'll deny it until he gets his hands on his trust fund. And I was not ogling him. I do not ogle gay guys."
"Hello? You were ogling Chad, too," Ryan protested.
"Oh, Chad doesn't count," Sharpay said dismissively.
"Why not?" Ryan and Chad said in unison.
"And now they're talking together," she said, rolling her eyes again.
"Why doesn't ogling me count?" Chad persisted.
"You're Ryan's boyfriend! Besides," she said with a sweep of her hand, "according to Ryan, everyone ogles you so it hardly signifies." Chad sighed and released Ryan's hand.
"I need to use the facilities," he declared, rising. He paused on his way to the restroom to whisper something in Sharpay's ear. "Don't ever change," he said impishly before he kissed her cheek and slipped away.
"Mine," Ryan said petulantly.
Chad rose early the next morning and dressed to take a run in the park across the street. The hotel's concierge helped him select an easy route and Chad headed into Central Park. When he returned an hour later, he found Sharpay watching television in the living room.
"You're back," she said.
"Good morning, Princess. I'm glad to see that you haven't lost your gift for stating the obvious."
"Very funny," she said, patting the space beside her. But Chad shook his head and when she got a closer look at his sweaty form she made a little face and gestured him away. "Come back after you've had a shower." She resumed watching her show and opened a bottle of nail polish to touch up her pedicure. "Ryan won't be up for hours," she said when Chad reappeared fifteen minutes later. "So I took the liberty of ordering room service for two."
"Cool! What did you get?"
"I thought we deserved a real breakfast today, especially since we burned off so many calories dancing last night. How do you feel about Belgian waffles?"
"I feel pretty good about Belgian waffles," Chad said as he took a seat beside her on the sofa.
"But you'd feel better about steak and eggs," Sharpay said teasingly. Chad shrugged. "Well, I hope so, because that's what I ordered." She returned his smile as he reached for the remote to change the channel. "And we're not watching cartoons."
"We aren't watching some goofy reality show on MTV, either," Chad said.
"No shopping channels."
"Deal," she replied, grabbing the remote from his hand. "How about the Food Network?" Chad nodded his approval. Sharpay leaned against him and they settled in to watch Paula Dean prepare a calorie-laden brunch.
"This is just like Saturday morning in Albuquerque," Chad observed, extricating his arm from under her and throwing it over the back of the couch.
"Totally," she replied, looking up at him. "Are you having fun?"
"Yeah; I love New York. And it's even fun with you," he said with a wink.
"Did you guys go to that club last time you were here?"
"No; we were here for Ryan's college orientation, remember? And your mom was here. We went to out to dinner our first night and to a show the second night."
"Oh; I forgot about that," Sharpay replied. "But I'm still surprised Ryan didn't take you dancing. He loves that place."
"He would probably have liked it a lot better if you'd actually let him dance with me more than once."
"On the contrary, he told me he was happy to let me monopolize you. I'm better at fending off unwanted admirers than he is," Sharpay gloated.
"I don't know, I think he's got a pretty good technique."
"You mean growling at people who get within five feet of you or attaching his mouth to yours and sucking face till the interloper gets the hint?"
Chad gave Sharpay a playful shove. She grabbed a pillow and began to retaliate, but a knock on the door interrupted the battle before she could mount a decent attack.
"Food!" she squealed, rising to answer the door. She let the waiter in and he set up the table and served their meal before departing. Chad turned off the television and joined her at the table. They shared their food as they continued to talk about their evening at the dance club.
"Want some more steak before this disappears?" he asked.
"Go for it," she said, spearing the last of the potatoes off of his plate. "I wanted this weekend to be really special for Ryan," she said a moment later. Chad looked up and she smiled and wiped a bit of food off his face with her napkin.
"For Ryan? What about me?" Chad said teasingly.
"You know what I mean. This could be our only chance to do something like this. I want him to really enjoy the experience."
"What do you mean? We could fly to New York for a weekend with Ryan any time."
"Yes, but the next time we come, Ryan will be living here. He'll be knee deep in school and he'll be--."
"What?" Chad prompted when she averted her eyes.
"He'll be eager to spend every minute with you, all right?" Sharpay said.
"He'll be just as eager to see you, too."
"It won't be the same."
"I certainly hope not," Chad teased. But he reached out and took hold of her hand. "We're not going to do the 'Ryan loves you best' thing again, are we?" Sharpay jerked her hand away and stuck out her tongue at him. "Look, if you really feel as though you'd be a third wheel, maybe we should visit separately. But I'm actually having a lot of fun with you here. And I know Ryan is, too. He said so last night."
"He did not."
"He did," Chad insisted. "In fact, he said that he was sorry you didn't come last time. The three of us would have had a blast." Sharpay was quiet for a moment.
"I just couldn't."
"He knows." Chad reached for her hand again. "The important thing is that you're here now and we're having fun and we'd really like to do this again sometime." She looked up and smiled, giving his hand a squeeze.
"All right. We'll do it again in the fall. We can come east and do our Christmas shopping."
"That's the spirit," Chad said, releasing her hand and reaching for his cup. He filled it with coffee and held it out. Sharpay frowned in confusion, but a second later Ryan reached out from behind her and took it gratefully.
"Thanks," he said, dropping into the chair beside his sister's. "So what's on tap for today?"
"Well, you two have that baseball game this afternoon," she said, "but before you head up to the Bronx, I think I'd like to see Juilliard." Chad winked at her.
Sharpay ordered a light breakfast for Ryan while he showered and changed. Chad and Sharpay watched TV until he was ready to leave, then they all headed over to Lincoln Center. They weren't able to fully tour the school as they'd done on Ryan and Chad's previous visit, but they were able to see enough of it to give Sharpay some sense of where her brother would be spending the next four years. Chad and Ryan kept a close eye on her throughout the tour, trying to gauge her reaction. She seemed genuinely happy for Ryan, but they both noted that she was a bit subdued, so much so that, after consulting Ryan with a look, Chad suggested that they blow off the game so the three of them could spend the afternoon together.
"No!" Sharpay protested. "Daddy's going to the game and he'll be expecting you to show up. Besides, I have a date for a facial at Georgette Klinger. So you two go play. We'll meet up later."
"Well, if you're sure," Ryan said reluctantly.
"I'm sure," she insisted. "We'll all go out together tonight." She gave Ryan a hug and then pulled Chad into her arms, too. "You're very sweet, you know that?"
"Yeah," he quipped. "Ryan tells me that all the time." She shoved him away and went to hail a cab. They watched her go and then Ryan turned to him.
"That was close. She almost said yes."
"I know," Chad replied, heaving a sigh of relief. "But sometimes you have to make the sacrifice."
"Dude! Yankees, Boston, last year in the old stadium--what were you thinking?" Ryan cried. Chad slapped him on the shoulder.
"Dude, you're beginning to sound just like me."
Ryan smiled happily as he reached out to hail a cab.
The three teens were inseparable the rest of the weekend. On Saturday night they went to dinner and a show with Mr. Evans. Sunday was spent wandering around the city, to shop, to eat, but mostly to show Chad some of the twins' favorite haunts. Mr. Evans took them out to dinner at a fancy restaurant on their last night in town. When they got back to the hotel, Sharpay headed straight for her room to catch up on her text messages. Ryan and Chad spent a bit of time with Mr. Evans before he claimed fatigue and sought out his bed.
Ryan and Chad retreated to their room, glad to have some alone time. Ryan locked the door--as he'd learned to do after their first day in the city--and walked over to pull Chad into his arms.
"Do we have to go back?" Chad asked holding him tight. Ryan snorted and then began to tickle him. Chad cried out but Ryan had him exactly where he wanted him. He hooked a foot behind Chad's leg and tripped him. They landed on the bed ungracefully, Ryan bumping his forehead with Chad's.
"Ow!" Chad protested, rolling Ryan over so that he could catch his breath. "Where did you learn that?"
"I picked that up from all those action/adventure movies you make me watch."
"Yeah? In that case we're going back to your sappy musicals. No one ever gets hurt in those movies," he said, teasingly, before leaning in to kiss Ryan senseless. As soon as he was free to move again, Ryan reversed their positions again so he could unbutton Chad's shirt.
"I'd better take advantage of this opportunity now. I may not be able to touch you tomorrow once we leave the hotel."
"Your dad said we were flying back on a commercial airline," Chad said, although he was content to allow Ryan to have his way with him.
"Sharpay still won't let us within two feet of each other," Ryan replied. "She's got rules about public displays of affection."
"Gee, I'd never noticed that," Chad said breathlessly as Ryan blew across the spot he'd just nibbled on his chest. Sometime later, when they were both sated and drowsy, Ryan laid his head on that same spot and inhaled the scent of Chad's warm skin.
"Maybe I should get a job this summer, too," he said, shutting his eyes.
"Yes, me," Ryan said defensively. He felt rather than saw Chad suppress a giggle. "Hey, I've had a couple of offers, too, you know."
"Where?" Chad asked curiously.
"Well, one is at the studio where I take dance lessons. They always have an influx of kids during the summer and they asked if I'd lead a beginner class. The other one is at Lava Springs. They want to have a theatre program for the kids there."
"You'd be perfect for that," Chad said approvingly.
"Yeah, well, I was going to say no to the first one because it would be more trouble than it's worth, and I thought the second one would allow me to spend the summer hanging out with you. Of course, I assumed you would be taking a job at Lava Springs with Troy."
"Actually, I had a job lined up at my mom's library," Chad said. "The basic pay is better, I wouldn't have to trek out to Lava Springs every day and I wouldn't have to deal with Fulton's histrionics."
"Oh yeah--Fulton," Ryan said with a small groan. "Maybe I should take that job at the dance studio."
"Or I can talk to mom about that library job," Chad suggested. "If I take the job with my dad's company the library will still have an opening. And that way we'd both be in town and be able to spend more time together."
"That'd be cool," Ryan said, lifting his head to give him a kiss.
"Do you think your folks would mind?"
"Would they mind me getting a job? Why should they? In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, I believe they'd both be pretty impressed."
"Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of you staying in the city alone. But if they're willing to send you to New York on your own, staying at home should be no big."
"No, they won't mind that, I'm sure."
"Sharpay isn't going to like it, though."
"As if I'm worried about that right now," Ryan said, turning over so that he could kiss Chad more easily.
"You're going to have to deal with her sooner or later."
"Later." He pulled Chad closer. "Much later."
"Where were you all weekend?" Troy demanded when he finally reached Chad on the phone Monday night. "Your mom would only say that you went away."
"I was in New York with the Evans twins," Chad replied easily.
"Wow!" Troy exclaimed, but a moment later he remembered that he was supposed to be pissed. "Why didn't you tell me you were going to New York? I was looking all over for you at the prom!"
"Dude, I told you I wasn't doing prom."
"I thought you were kidding, man."
"I wasn't. And I couldn't go, even if I wanted to. Ryan 's dad arranged for the three of us to spend the weekend in New York. It was awesome. How was prom?"
"It was really cool. Gabriella looked so--."
"Good," Chad said, cutting him off with an exaggerated yawn. "Tell me all about it tomorrow at school. Oh, and I want to see you and Gabi in your crowns."
"How did you know?" Troy asked, surprised. Chad just laughed and hung up the phone.