Summary: Chad pays Ryan a visit as he recovers from his injuries (Note: This is a sequel to Falling for You. Neither this sequel (nor the original story) is part of the Coming to Terms 'verse.)
Chad slowly slid out of the back seat of his mother's car and took a pained breath. Having injured ribs was getting really old. He'd spent the better part of the last two days lying on his back regretting every single breath he took. But he'd been well enough to return to school and afterwards he called Ryan to see how he was faring. Ryan told Chad that he was bored to tears and invited him over.
"What time should I pick you up?" Ms. Danforth asked, handing him the tote bag he'd left behind.
"I don't know," Chad replied. "Why don't I call you when I'm ready to come home?"
"All right, but don't plan on staying out too long. You've got homework to catch up on and you're supposed to be resting."
Chad nodded and walked up to the entrance of the Evans house. He knocked as his mother started her car and drove back down the long path to the gate. Chad watched her go until the door opened. He turned around and smiled at the housekeeper.
"Hi, I'm here to see Ryan," he said. The housekeeper directed him to a room on the second floor. Chad grit his teeth and made his way upstairs. He found the room and knocked, although the door was open. Ryan looked up and smiled.
"Hey, yourself," Chad replied as he entered the room. "This is cool," he said, looking around.
"It's home," Ryan replied with a shrug. "What's in the bag?"
"Oh; stuff from school." Chad set down the tote bag and began to pull things out. "Gabriella brought in some of her mom's brownies today so I saved you one. I know how much you like them. And Zeke made these cookies--he's on a chocolate chip thing lately. Oh, and this is from Taylor. She made copies of her notes from science and history. And Darbus gave me this for you, too--it's your homework."
"Thanks," Ryan said, setting aside the two folders in favor of the container bearing the brownie and cookies. Chad glanced around the room again as Ryan busied himself with trying to open it. He turned back just as Ryan succeeded.
"Want me to get you a glass of milk or something?"
"No need," Ryan replied, reaching for his phone. "The housekeeper can bring some up to me."
"I can get it just as easily," Chad declared, inexplicably uncomfortable with the idea of Ryan being waited on by a servant.
"Chad, you just fractured two ribs and are supposed to be taking it easy."
"I can walk up a flight of stairs."
"And you were winded and in pain after doing it," Ryan shot back. He'd noticed Chad's discomfort when he entered the room and had declined to call attention to it. "Besides, you have no idea where the kitchen is, anyway." Ryan punched in a number on his phone. The call was picked up immediately. "Hey, Maria, would you please bring up some milk for me and Chad?"
"None for me," Chad protested.
"You aren't having any cookies?" Ryan asked, covering the phone. Chad shook his head.
"I've already eaten more cookies today than I should have in a week."
"Milk for one," Ryan said into the phone. "Oh, and some ice cream--. Hold on a sec. Chocolate, pistachio or Rocky Road? There's probably dulce de leche, too, but Sharpay always puts dibs on that."
"Chocolate," Chad replied without a second thought.
"Good man," Ryan said, smiling. "Two chocolates. Thanks, Maria." Ryan closed the phone and sat back. "Hey, you should be sitting down or something." He was slightly disappointed when Chad claimed one of the two chairs near the window. In the large room, Chad's position made conversation awkward. Ryan scooted over to the edge of the bed and swung his legs over the side. Chad immediately got to his feet.
"Hey! Should you be getting out of bed?"
"I was just going to join you," Ryan replied, belatedly realizing that his crutches were leaning against the nightstand now some six feet behind him. "Or you can come over here."
Chad looked over at him and then down at the upholstered chair he'd just vacated. He briefly considered dragging it over to the bed, but he knew that even if he could physically move the chair in his condition, he'd regret it. There was a chair at the desk, but it was nowhere near as comfortable as the seats by the window.
"Just come sit on the bed," Ryan said easily, scooting backward to make space. Chad regarded the bed doubtfully. "It’s the best place to see the TV from, anyway." He patted the mattress and Chad went over to the bed. He sat on the edge and removed his shoes before putting his feet up on the mattress. If Ryan noticed Chad's self-consciousness, he didn't mention it as he reached for a digital remote. "Would you rather watch a movie or play a game?"
"Oh," Chad said, remembering something. "I brought a game to play. It's in my bag. I assume you've got--." He started to move and stopped abruptly, gritting his teeth in pain.
"Chad?" Ryan cried, reaching for him. He made Chad lie back and waited anxiously until Chad's face relaxed into something resembling normalcy. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Chad said tightly. "I--. Give me a sec." He shut his eyes and exhaled slowly. "It just hurts when I move certain ways." Ryan stared boldly; it was rare that he had the chance to look at Chad from so close. Of course, Ryan recalled, as he marveled at the length of Chad's curly eyelashes, the last time had been three days earlier when Chad had rescued him from that ravine. Chad's eyelashes fluttered and Ryan quickly schooled his features.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah," Chad said, coloring slightly. "Having a rib injury sucks."
"Having two sprained ankles is no fun, either," Ryan replied, sitting back against the pillows. There was a knock on the door and the housekeeper entered bearing a tray. She set it down on the table at the foot of the bed and then rolled it up to Ryan as Chad scooted back a little.
"This is cool," he said, admiring the table. "If I had one of these I'd spend all day in bed."
"Unless you had to," Ryan replied with a pout. "Thanks, Maria," he said as she turned to leave. But he looked up and called her name before she reached the door. "Would you mind giving me that bag?"
The housekeeper picked up the tote Chad had dropped on the floor and gave it to him. Ryan nodded his thanks and waited until Maria was gone before turning to Chad. He had apparently recovered from his moment of distress and was attacking his ice cream with gusto.
"Sure you won't have a cookie?"
Chad just shook his head.
"How about we watch something while we eat? We can play a game afterward."
Ryan turned on the television on the far wall and they settled in to watch a movie. Chad was amused to discover that Ryan spoke back to the screen as often as he did and he also provided a running commentary on the lighting, direction and acting abilities of the performers. Chad was more interested in the special effects, but he enjoyed the discussion nonetheless. About an hour and a half into the movie, he checked his watch.
"I can't stay too much longer. I've got to get home and do homework."
"You don't have to leave right away, do you?" Ryan asked as he pushed the table back toward the end of the bed.
"No; I guess I can stay till the end of the movie. Then I have to call my mom."
"Well, you'll have to come back again so we can play that game," Ryan said hopefully.
"You can hold onto it until then, if you want," Chad replied. It belatedly occurred to him that Ryan probably already owned it, based on the shelf full of games on display below the television. But Ryan sat up and smiled.
"Cool! That'd give me a fighting chance," he said. "I'm sure you brought over something you'd totally be able to win handily."
"Would I do such a thing?" Chad asked impishly.
"In a heartbeat," Ryan replied smugly. He leaned back against the pillows and looked at Chad thoughtfully. He recalled that they were supposed to talk about what Chad said in the emergency room, but he was at a loss as to how to broach the subject. He averted his eyes when Chad caught him staring and hastily reached for the remote.
"What?" Chad said.
"Nothing," Ryan said softly, turning his eyes back to the screen. Chad looked at him and noted Ryan's uneasiness.
"Ryan?" he said gently. Ryan shrugged, his eyes resolutely fixed to the screen. He started, therefore, when he felt Chad's hand on his own. He looked down at Chad's fingers, with were quickly withdrawn. "We were supposed to--. We said we'd talk."
"Yeah," Ryan said shyly. He cleared his throat and reached for the remote to turn off the television. But he quickly reconsidered and left it on, just in case there were prying ears nearby. He hazarded a glance at Chad, who looked extremely nervous. "Well--."
"We don't have to do this right now," Chad said hastily just as Ryan's own courage failed him. His fingers found Ryan's again. This time, they didn't move. "We can just--." He substituted a shrug for words and smiled. "We can just let things be."
Ryan nodded thoughtfully, his eyes on the screen once more.
"Suppose I want more than that?" he asked a few minutes later, glancing down at their joined fingers.
"What do you want?" Chad asked. Ryan took a deep breath and exhaled before turning to Chad. But instead of answering, he leaned over and kissed him. When he pulled away a second later, Chad's eyes were shut and his face wore a strange expression. Ryan immediately regretted his actions.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have--."
Chad opened his eyes and Ryan rolled back over and stared at the ceiling.
"I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable," Ryan began. "I just always wanted to--."
"It's not you, it's this damned bandage," Chad said, lifting his head to look at Ryan. But a twinge of pain made him wince and lie back. "Damn. This really sucks."
Ryan rolled over again to face Chad. He propped his chin on his fist and lightly ran a hand over Chad's chest. He could feel the tight bandage that encased half of Chad's torso.
"Is that really necessary?"
"Well, it's supposedly there to keep me from taking deep breaths, because expanding my chest really hurts. On the other hand, I feel like a sausage and I can't take a decent breath with it on, not to mention that it pinches every time I move." Chad sighed. "I might try going without it tomorrow."
"Don't go doing anything rash," Ryan warned. "If your doctor thinks you need it--."
"I'm sure my doctor thinks I'm the best judge of what I need."
"Yeah, but do you--?"
"Do you really want to spend my last half hour here talking about my bandages?" Chad interjected. Ryan shook his head. Chad smiled wryly. "Then let's talk about something else." Ryan nodded and let his hand wander Chad's chest again. When Chad inhaled sharply, he quickly removed his hand.
"I've had a crush on you since the sixth grade," Ryan admitted after a few seconds.
"What?" Chad spat incredulously. Ryan's cheeks flushed red as he shrugged. Chad rolled his eyes and smiled. "High school." Ryan looked up. "All right, last summer..."
"Baseball game at Lava Springs," Ryan nodded knowingly. "Never thought I'd hook you with a wicked curveball."
"More like wicked curves," Chad muttered, reaching for his hand. "I--. I've never done this--with a guy, I mean. I talked to my dad about it, but--."
"You talked to your dad about having a crush on me?" Ryan repeated, eyes wide.
"I didn't mention your name or anything," Chad assured him, but Ryan was still nonplussed.
"You told your dad you had a crush on a guy?"
"Oh yeah--I talk to my dad about anything and everything," Chad replied easily. "My dad is the coolest guy on the planet. We have no secrets."
"And you told him you--." Ryan scratched his head. "I--." He ducked his head. "What did he say?" Chad shrugged a bit, wincing at the pain it elicited.
"He said that it's normal to be attracted to people of the same sex, although most of us refuse to admit it. He said I might be gay, or I might be bisexual," Chad revealed, "but he said that it's also possible that this is just a passing fancy." Ryan looked slightly deflated at those words, but Chad squeezed his hand and he looked up again. "I'm not really interested in putting a label on my sexuality at the moment. That's not important. What's important is that I don't think it's a passing fancy. I know what I feel."
"What do you feel?" Ryan asked hopefully.
"A little confused, frankly," Chad admitted, backtracking a bit. "But I do want to see where this goes." Ryan stared at him and Chad smiled crookedly. "I'm sorry; I'm not ready to declare everlasting love or anything."
"I'd settle for a little lust," Ryan replied before he could stop himself.
"I'll cop to that," Chad said smiling wickedly. He released Ryan's hand and slowly, painfully pulled himself up to a sitting position. "Look; I'm not sure we should--. I mean, I'm really attracted to you, but I don't know what that means. Frankly, it's a little scary. But the last thing I want to do is hurt you or mislead you. I don't really know if I'm into guys. I know I'm into you and that's probably not the same thing. And I don't want to use you as an experiment. That would be bad and you deserve--." Chad paused for a second, staring into space. "I really care about you, Ryan."
"Let's just go with that, then," he replied. He was slightly disappointed by Chad's disclosure, but Ryan appreciated his honesty and told him so. Chad wrapped an arm around him and Ryan nestled against him to watch the end of the movie.
"I should probably call my mom," Chad said reluctantly as the credits began to roll. Ryan moved to allow him to reach for his phone and just as he pulled it out, it began to ring. "Or maybe she'll call me. Hey mom," he said. He listened for a few seconds and then said "Okay," before he shut the phone. "She'll be here in five minutes."
"I guess you'd better get ready to go," Ryan said, sliding over to the far edge of the bed to get up. Chad looked around. His tote bag was lying at the foot of the bed.
"Can I use your bathroom?" he asked. Ryan pointed toward the door and Chad disappeared for a minute. When he returned, Ryan was standing at the window, perched on crutches.
"Is that your mom's car?" he asked. Chad peered out the window and saw the red car at the end of the driveway.
"Yeah. I guess she made better time than she thought," he said with a sigh. He turned to Ryan. "I'll call you tonight, after I'm done with my homework."
"I'd like that," Ryan replied.
"I'd better go before she--." Chad rolled his eyes when his phone rang once and stopped. "Someday I want to know exactly how she does that," he said as he walked over to the bed and picked up his bag.
"Thanks for coming over."
"Yeah; when you're better you can come over and check out my crib; the room's about half the size of yours, the TV is about half the size of yours, the bed's about--."
"I'm looking forward to it," Ryan said earnestly. Chad walked back over to him and gazed into his eyes a few seconds before he lifted a hand to Ryan's cheek. He hesitated for another second before leaning in to kiss him. Ryan held his breath, afraid to move lest he frighten Chad away. But Chad 's kiss was surprisingly confident and bold. He pulled away smiling and caressed Ryan's cheek once more.
"I've got to talk to my dad about this," he said, grinning. He walked to the door and, looking back one last time, departed. Ryan made his way back to the window and watched him walk down the path to the car. When Chad looked up at the house, Ryan waved. He stood there until the car was out of sight, then he crutched his way back to bed to await Chad's call.
On to Q and A