Summary: Sometimes the last kiss is just the beginning.
Author's Note: Inspired by the musical "Bye, Bye Birdie and the song "One Last Kiss." Written for the easthighstory challenge.
If there was a very special place in hell reserved for Chad Danforth it must be, he concluded, the Lava Springs Golf Resort and Spa. Chad stood in the middle of the stage where the stage crew was doing a sound check and wondered what he'd done to deserve such a fate.
"Sounds great!" Troy Bolton said as he made his way down the aisle. Chad jumped off the stage and walked over to him, wiping his face with a towel. "I still think you should go ahead and use the pyrotechnics and--."
"I don't care what you think," Chad said brusquely. "I'm only interested in hearing two things from you: what time I go on tonight and how many more minutes of my life are going to be spent in this godforsaken place when I'm done."
"Come on, Chad, it's not that bad," Troy said, laughing uneasily. "I mean this place is awesome! It's got golf--."
"Looks like Mars in a bad sci-fi movie."
"I've got a bathtub at home."
"Lots of beautiful women."
Chad raised an eyebrow at him. Troy sighed.
"Oh; sorry," he said sheepishly. "But come on, it's not that bad! You've got the best suite in the place, you're being paid your full appearance fee for a half hour's work and--."
"And I'm saving your bacon," Chad said, reaching for a bottle of water.
"Hey, I really appreciate it, man," Troy said gratefully. "I really owe Mr. E big time. He helped me get a college scholarship and I can't do enough to repay him."
"What's that got to do with me?"
"You know I'm doing this as a favor to him, Chad."
"You're not doing anything, Troy! I'm the one up there on the stage. I'm the one missing out on my vacation, not to mention losing my sanity. If that girl comes near me one more time--. I still don't know why I let you drag me into this." Chad tossed the towel at Troy and strode away. "I'm too nice for my own good," he muttered as he headed back to his suite. "Next time Troy owes someone a favor let him try guaranteeing an appearance by Justin Timberlake and see if he shows up."
Chad had made other plans for the weekend, a few days of fun and sun on a small island in the Caribbean with some friends he'd toured with in the spring. Instead, thanks to Troy--his closest friend since childhood--he was stuck in the desert of New Mexico at a resort overrun with hedge fund profiteers, their trophy wives and more surgically enhanced teenage girls than he ever imagined existed outside of Miami. Chad Danforth didn't do private parties even when he was new to the business and opening for marquee acts. Now that he was a certified A-lister with an album on the verge of going platinum, singing at some lovesick, over-indulged teenager's birthday party was the last thing Chad wanted to do with his free time.
He spotted Sharpay Evans coming his way and ducked into the lounge to escape her. She'd been stalking him since his arrival a day earlier and she had Chad so rattled that he flinched every time he heard her voice. In the process of evading Sharpay he nearly collided with Mr. Fulton, the resort's director, who was as annoying to Chad as the birthday girl.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Danforth. I trust you had a good rehearsal," Fulton said, rushing forward to waylay him on his way to the elevator. "If there's anything you need please let me know. We're completely at your disposal. Everyone here at Lava Springs will be more than--."
"Thank you," Chad cut in. He'd heard this speech already--twice. "I'll call if I need anything."
"Here's my card," Fulton replied, pushing it into his hand.
"Anything; anything at all, anytime, day or night, Mr. Danforth."
"Got it," Chad said as the elevator door slid shut inches from Fulton's, face. "That has to be the most irritating man on the planet."
"That was nothing. You ought to see him when he's really trying," someone said behind him. Chad turned his head to look at the speaker who was smiling impishly. "At least you get to leave in a day or two. I'm stuck here for the whole summer."
"You have my sympathies," Chad said smiling at the handsome stranger. Ryan Evans returned a flirtatious smile of his own. Chad was instantly smitten. Perhaps spending a weekend in Lava Springs wasn't such a bad idea, after all.
"Oh, Lava Spring has its moments," Ryan continued. "Unfortunately, this weekend isn't destined to be one of them."
"Tell me about it," Chad replied. "I take it you're here for the party, too?"
"Not of my own volition, I assure you; my sister's pretty excited about it, though. Some refugee from a boy band she's been lusting over for the past year or so is going to perform tonight and she hasn't stopped gushing about him since he arrived."
"Refugee from a boy band?" Chad repeated evenly. His heart sank a little. The doors to the elevator opened and they stepped out as Chad mouthed the words again.
"Yeah, according to my sister he's supposed to be very talented, but I'm guessing his forte is making girls cream their pants. His name is--." Ryan snapped his fingers as he tried to recollect it. Chad ducked his head and walked past the blond teen to the door at the end of the corridor.
"I think the name you're looking for is Chad Danforth," he said, sliding the cardkey into the lock and opening the door.
Ryan cringed as realization sunk in. He opened his mouth to apologize for the gaffe but Chad had already shut the door. Ryan sighed and cursed his big mouth as he turned and walked to his suite.
"He is so hot! I wouldn't have thought it possible, but up close and personal, he's even better looking than his pictures," Sharpay gushed as she stared at her image in the mirror. She dabbed at her cheek to fix an imperceptible flaw in her blush. "And he's such a sweetie, too."
"He autographed my shirt!" Dee gushed.
"It's a shame he's not going to tour anymore," Sandra said.
"What?" her two companions squealed.
"Look, it says so right here," she said, holding up her magazine. "'Teen heartthrob and wannabe thespian Chad Danforth will be taking a hiatus from touring and recording to study acting at New York University this fall. He made his final appearance at Madison Square Garden last week and is planning to spend the rest of the summer lying on the beach, before hitting the books.' See?"
"Wow," Sharpay said, grabbing the magazine from Sandra's hand to reread the paragraph. "If this is true, then my party is his real final appearance. You know," she said, reaching for her phone, "we really ought to set the record straight." She punched in a number and held the phone to her ear. "Hello, Fulton? I want to speak to someone in public relations."
"What are you planning?" Dee asked.
"Tonight's party is his last performance, right?" Sharpay covered the phone and smiled. "Remember that movie, 'Bye Bye, Birdie,' where the big star is going off to join the army and he does one last performance before he goes?"
"Never heard of it," Sandra replied. Dee shook her head.
"Never mind." Sharpay rolled her eyes impatiently. "In the movie, they choose one lucky girl to go up on stage with him. He sings a song to her and she's supposed to be kissed on national TV. Well, guess who just volunteered to give Chad Danforth a proper send-off?" She uncovered the phone. "Fulton? Where's that publicist?"
"So you're going on right after Sharpay does her number," Troy said, reading from a list. "And when you're done, they'll bring a big cake up onstage and you'll sing happy birthday."
"What?" Chad threw down his magazine.
"Come on, Chad, it's no big," Troy said disarmingly. "You already know the words."
"This gig just gets better and better."
"Why don't you sing to her? I didn't sign up to be mauled by Desert Resort Barbie and her entourage. Now what?" Chad spat when someone knocked on his door.
"I'll get it," Troy volunteered, welcoming the intrusion. Chad was becoming downright cranky. He returned a moment later carrying an envelope.
"What is it?"
"I don't know, but it's for you. Want me to open it?"
"Please," Chad said as he shut his eyes and tried to will his headache to go away. His mind wandered back to his brief encounter with the handsome blond stranger in the elevator, but the memory of his dismissive comments made Chad rub his eyes to erase his image. Troy cleared his throat.
Chad opened his eyes and looked up. Troy was holding a pink lace thong between his thumb and forefinger. Chad sat up and stared at them open-mouthed.
"Man, your fans are weird," Troy said.
When it came right down to it, Chad liked to party as much as anyone else his age. Once he got past the fact that his best friend had tricked him into appearing at Lava Springs, the obsequiousness of Fulton, and the over the top persona of the birthday girl, Chad was willing to admit that he didn't really mind being stuck in the middle of the New Mexico desert--despite the disappointment dealt him by the cute guy in the elevator. Chad vowed to forget him and enjoy himself at the party after he performed his set. Or maybe not--he was out there in the crowd, somewhere. Chad's performance would make him eat his words. At the very least, Chad would do his very best to make the guy cream his pants.
Chad peeked out at the crowd hoping to get a glimpse of the teen, but it was impossible to find anyone in the dancing throng in front of the stage. He started when Sharpay suddenly appeared at his side and glommed onto his arm, rousing him from his thoughts. She smiled at him adoringly and he tried to gently extricate himself as she gave him instructions about the big finale.
"So I'll do my song before you go on. When you're done with your set, you'll come back here and bring me out onstage. And Ryan will come out from the other side of the stage before you lead the crowd in singing happy birthday. Then after everyone sings you kiss me and we'll cut the cake. All right?" she said in a rush.
"Sure," Chad replied. But he hadn't listened to a word she said. His eyes were on the opposite wing of the stage, where the blond stranger was standing. He gave Chad a tiny, awkward wave before shoving his hands into his pockets. Chad didn't acknowledge the gesture; Sharpay was talking again and he turned his attention back to her and she prattled on until name was announced. She made her entrance, gave the photographer down front a "thumbs up" sign, and began her number.
Chad was first and foremost a professional when it came to performing. So while he was aware that he was being stared at throughout Sharpay's act, he stretched a bit, mentally reviewed his playlist and waited for Sharpay to finish. When she was done, Chad took the stage. He threw everything he had into his performance and brought the house down with his set. After the last song, two waiters rolled a huge birthday cake onto the stage and Fulton hushed the crowd.
"May I have the birthday girl and the birthday boy, please?" he said, looking to his left and his right.
Offstage, Sharpay waved frantically until Chad recalled her instructions and went to over to escort her. When he reached center stage, he was surprised to see the blond stranger standing on the other side of the cake and smiling sheepishly. Chad raised an eyebrow in question as Fulton gave Sharpay a bouquet of roses.
"Sharpay and Ryan, congratulations on your eighteenth birthday," he said. "Our illustrious guest, teen sensation Chad Danforth, has graciously agreed to lead the crowd in wishing you both a very happy birthday." He handed Chad the microphone and Sharpay latched onto his arm. Chad smirked and offered his other arm to Ryan, who smiled and took it.
Chad sang the song and not surprisingly, Sharpay tugged on his arm as soon as he finished. He dipped his head to offer her a chaste kiss but she threw her arms around his neck and clung to him while the photographer took several shots. Chad pulled away and glanced at her brother, who shrugged and pulled Chad into his arms for a kiss of his own. While Chad was caught off guard he didn't resist; in fact he was slightly disappointed that the kiss ended so quickly. The audience hooted and hollered as Sharpay stormed off the stage spitting nails. Troy covered his eyes with a hand. He knew Mr. Evans wasn't going to be very happy about what had just transpired. Oblivious to all else, Ryan and Chad stared into each other's eyes for a moment and then followed Sharpay off the stage, leaving Fulton to deal with the fallout.
"How could you?" she shouted as soon as Ryan caught up with her backstage. "That was my moment! You ruined everything!"
"Hey, we're twins! Your moment is my moment, too!" Ryan replied unrepentantly. Sharpay shrieked and threw her bouquet of roses at him.
"But you weren't supposed to kiss him!"
"Why not?" Ryan asked reasonably, as Chad observed the pair from a safe distance in a far corner of the stage. "You got a birthday kiss; why shouldn't I?"
"You didn't want any part of this party, Ryan!" she spat back. "You fought me on every detail from the moment we started planning. You didn't like the color scheme. You hated the menu. You didn't like the talent we booked. You wanted to cut the guest list by two-thirds. You even told mom and dad you'd rather spend the week in Europe than come to the party. But instead of leaving, you decided to show up and ruin everything. How could you?"
"You ruined everything, upstaging me with that stupid stunt! Thanks to you, now all anyone will remember about this party is that you got the last kiss."
"No he didn't," Chad said after she stomped away. "Not yet, anyway," he said, turning to look at Ryan with a gleam in his eye. Ryan raked his eyes over Chad's body and took a few steps to close the distance between them.
"Oh?" he asked, waiting for Chad to elaborate. Chad smiled, his eyes fixed on Ryan's mouth.
"The night is young. It's way too early to even think about the last kiss." Chad smiled puckishly. "I don't believe we've been properly introduced," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Chad Danforth, 'teen sensation' and alleged 'refugee from a boy band.'"
"Ryan Evans: birthday boy, foot in mouth specialist and… very pleased to meet you." Ryan averted his eyes. "Look, about what I said earlier…"
"Forget about it," Chad said genially, reaching out to lift his chin. "Happy birthday, Ryan Evans," he said, leaning in for a second kiss.
"You're really good at that," Ryan said dreamily when he was free to speak again. He drew Chad further into the wings and away from prying eyes.
"You, too," Chad said between kisses.
"You do realize that my sister's going to seek revenge," Ryan said a minute later.
"Really? She doesn't look the least bit spiteful or vindictive."
"She'll probably see to it that our picture appears in every media outlet on the planet by morning," Ryan warned. "In fact, she's probably posting a video of us kissing on Youtube as we speak."
"Even if it means outing her own brother?" Chad asked, not particularly concerned.
"Don't worry about me. You're the one with the career to protect," Ryan insisted.
"Let her do her worst," he replied. "I wasn't planning to stay in the closet, anyway. That's part of the reason why I wanted to take a break from all this and spend the next few years going to school in New York. It's kind of cliché but I thought I might find myself there."
"Dude! I'll be at Juilliard," Ryan said, beaming.
"Even better," Chad replied. "I'll find you there."
He took Ryan by the hand and led him back to his suite where a very private birthday celebration ensued. By time the pictures of Chad and Ryan kissing hit the Internet, they were the farthest things from either man's mind.