Summary: Ryan and Chad "meet" in New York.
Author's Note: This is the first in the new post-East High series, yet to be titled, that will consist of little glimpses of Chad and Ryan's long-distance relationship. This one is set in a wonderful little restaurant that has, unfortunately, shut its doors. (Part of the Only in New York trilogy.)
"Yeah?" he answered distractedly, barely glancing up from his book.
"Yuri and I are going out to eat. Want to join us?"
"Thanks; I don't really feel like going out tonight," he replied, stretching the kink out of his back.
"You said that last night," Alexei teased. "And last week and the week before that." Ryan smiled awkwardly.
"I just don't feel like going out," he said, turning back to his homework.
"Or you don’t feel like going out with us?" Yuri suggested.
"No, it's not that," he insisted, looking up again. "I like both you guys. I just--."
"You just want to stay here and stare at pictures of your boyfriend," Alexei said.
"His imaginary boyfriend," Yuri corrected in a mocking tone, wrapping an arm around his shoulder.
"Oh, he's quite real, I assure you," Ryan said evenly.
"Then why has no one seen him?"
"I've seen him," Ryan said defensively, playing right into Yuri's game.
"Well, of course you have. He's your imaginary boyfriend, after all."
"Chad attends the University of Albuquerque," Ryan petulantly.
"Why are there no pictures of this boyfriend of yours?" Yuri asked.
"I have tons of pictures," Ryan said with a sigh. "They're on my iPhone, my computer--."
"Yes, yes. You Photoshop, no?"
"I Photoshop, no," Ryan replied, rolling his eyes.
"Is much easier to find boyfriend here in New York," Yuri said, nuzzling Alexei's cheek. "A real one, with moving parts." Ryan smiled wanly as the two began to kiss. He turned away, resolutely ignoring the pair as the sounds emanating from the couple became increasingly graphic. The pair finally gave up trying to provoke Ryan and broke apart.
"This boyfriend of yours, he must be pretty special," Alexei said.
"You have no idea," Ryan replied. He brought up a picture of himself and Chad and showed it to the pair.
"Handsome," Alexei declared appreciatively.
"And you cannot even see where you Photoshopped him into the picture," Yuri teased. Ryan bristled at the suggestion.
"Look, why don't you guys go out and have a good time," he said. "I wouldn't be good company tonight, anyway."
"Are you sure?" Alexei asked seriously. "Maybe--."
"Thanks, I'm sure," Ryan insisted.
"Poor Ryan," Yuri teased, ruffling his hair. Ryan slapped his hand away and the two dancers left the suite arguing about Yuri's lack of empathy. Ryan sighed and turned back to the computer screen. He put the finishing touches on his paper and clicked on his IM list. He pinged Chad, but got no answer. He texted Chad and got no response there, either. Ryan didn't want to speculate about why Chad wasn't answering him. He got up and went to the kitchenette for a glass of water. When he returned, he had a text message waiting. Ryan smiled and sat down, but his joy was short-lived; the message was from Kelsi. He quickly read the message and called her back.
"Hey, Ryan. What are you up to tonight?" she asked.
"Nothing--think I'm going to find something to eat and go to bed early," he said dully.
"On a Friday night of a long holiday weekend?"
"Yes, on a Friday night of a long holiday weekend. Why, what are you doing?"
"Talking to a hot stud. But not for long," Kelsi said archly. "I've got a date." Ryan smiled at her use of the word "stud." He rose and moved over to his bed.
"A date? With that older woman you met at Fordham?"
"She's twenty-two, Ryan. That hardly constitutes 'older woman' status," Kelsi replied laughingly.
"She's a law student, right? I think you're duty bound to inform her that she's dating jailbait."
"I'll be eighteen next week! In fact, we plan to have an early celebration tonight."
"Remind me to grill you for details later," Ryan teased.
"What about you? Why don't you get out and have some fun this weekend?"
"Nah; I think I'll go to Café Mozart for an early dinner and then just chill tonight. I've been trying to get a hold of Chad but I haven't been able to reach him yet. I want to be around if he decides to call later."
"Maybe he decided to get out and have some fun tonight, just as you should."
"I hope he did," Ryan replied unconvincingly.
"Well, you have a good evening, Ryan," Kelsi said empathetically. "Hope you find Chad."
"Thanks. I'll bring you back a fruit tart."
"You're the best."
Ryan left the dorm and headed north a few blocks to a little restaurant he'd found his first weekend at school. Although there were usually a few students in the restaurant every time he visited, the place seemed more suited to a mature pre-theatre crowd. It was the perfect place to bring his parents. In fact, he'd already brought his father to the restaurant when he was in town on business a few days earlier. It was also the perfect place to hide from Yuri and Alexei. Cafe Mozart wasn't their style at all. But Chad would like it, Ryan concluded with a smile. It had a warm, homey atmosphere reminiscent of Earline's. The food wasn't the same, Continental rather than home cooking, but it was good and plentiful and Chad wouldn’t care, anyway, as long as he was sharing a meal with Ryan.
A waiter came over and Ryan ordered coffee before turning his attention to the menu. He scanned the list of options, idly wondering what Chad would choose if he were there.
"Is this seat taken?"
Ryan looked up sharply. Chad was standing in front of him, smiling genially. Ryan blinked and swallowed hard. He instantly remembered Yuri's tease about having an imaginary boyfriend and refused to believe the evidence of his own eyes. But the man before him seemed to be very real; Ryan was tempted to reach out and touch him, but he didn't want to destroy the illusion just yet.
"I'm sure I could sit with that little old lady over there, but if I have to share a table, I'd prefer to sit in the window," Chad continued. Ryan blinked again and then caught himself.
"Sure, sure, please. Have a seat," he managed. Ryan stared openly at him as Chad removed his denim jacket and placed it on the back of the chair before sitting down.
"May I?" Chad asked, gesturing toward the forgotten menu in Ryan's hand. Ryan handed it over wordlessly. "So what's good? I take it you've been here before."
"I like the omelets," Ryan said distractedly. "And the salmon; and the club sandwiches are good. Any of the sandwiches, the soups; anything, really."
"Okay," Chad said slowly, turning amused eyes toward the menu. The waiter appeared and Ryan ordered an omelet. Chad ordered one as well and asked for water before the waiter departed. "Nice place," he said looking around. "You come here a lot?"
"Yeah," Ryan said, relaxing a bit, but still wary. "And you--." Chad shook his head, frowning.
"Are you all right?"
"Ryan--my name is Ryan Evans," he replied. Chad opened his mouth and shut it again. Smiling oddly, he decided to humor him.
"Chad Danforth. Are you all right, Ryan?"
"I'm fine, thank you," Ryan said, smiling genuinely for the first time.
"There seem to be a lot of student types here."
"Yeah; Mannes College of Music is down the block and Juilliard's nearby, too. As you can imagine with a name like 'Café Mozart' this place attracts a lot of music students."
"Which one do you go to?" Chad asked conversationally.
"Juilliard," Ryan said. "But I'm a dance student."
"Oh." Chad grinned impishly. "And here I was about to ask if you played the oboe."
"Do I look like an oboe player?"
"I haven't the foggiest notion what an oboe player looks like. It was just the first musical instrument that came into my mind," Chad admitted.
"So you're not a music student, then," Ryan concluded.
"But you are a student."
Chad smiled and sat back. He wondered if, since they were apparently playing a game, he was allowed to embellish the truth. Ryan hadn't, but Chad decided to have some fun.
"I am," he said cryptically.
"Are you at Fordham or John Jay?"
"Nope," Chad said, reaching for his water.
"Let's see; what other schools are nearby…"
"Why does it have to be nearby?"
"Well, why would you travel all the way to the west side to eat an omelet?"
"I hear they're pretty good," Chad said with a flirtatious smile. Ryan propped his chin and stared at his mouth. "Besides, isn't a New York thing, running around the city looking for the perfect culinary experience?"
"I guess." Ryan glanced into his coffee cup and set it down. "I've done that on more than a few occasions."
"Well, there you go."
"You don't have a New York accent."
"You don't, either," Chad shot back. "Do you have to have one to do the New York thing?"
"No, I suppose not," Ryan conceded.
"So where are you from originally?"
"I'm from New Mexico."
"Really? You're a very long way from home. Do you miss it?"
"At the moment, no," Ryan said honestly. "Where are you from?"
"I'm actually from New Mexico, too," Chad confessed.
"You're kidding! Small world! What part?"
"I was born in Taos, but I've spent most of my life in Albuquerque."
"Wow! We grew up practically in the same backyard."
"I'm certain I would have noticed if you were in my backyard," Chad said, extending one his legs so that it lightly brushed against Ryan's. "Where'd you go to school?"
"Never heard of it." Chad's eyes glittered as he sat back to let the waiter place their dinner on the table. He unfolded his napkin and spread it on his lap.
"Enjoy," Ryan said. Chad reached for his fork and tried his eggs, but his mind was on other things. "You never did say where you went to school."
"I'm at the University of Albuquerque."
"Let me guess: phys ed major?" Ryan suggested, smiling warmly.
"Do I look like some sort of jock to you?"
"Do I look like an oboe player?" Ryan countered. Chad focused on Ryan's lips for a moment before averting his eyes back to his plate. "Let me guess: English lit?" Chad rolled his eyes. "History? Earth Sciences? Political Science? Pysch?"
"Engineering," Chad said. "Computer engineering, to be specific."
"You don't look like a geek," Ryan observed. Chad let his knee bump against Ryan's. "Shouldn't you be wearing a tee shirt with a gamer slogan, have a slight paunch, be carrying at least three electronic devices and have a pasty white complexion from being out of the sun 90% of the time?" Chad's laughter was music to Ryan's ears. He sighed and gazed lovingly at Chad, who was inexplicably and miraculously sitting within kissing distance.
"I could make a remark about leg warmers and tutus," Chad quipped, "but you were gracious enough to let me share your table so I'll be nice." But the impish gleam in Chad's eye told Ryan that he wouldn't forget the tease anytime soon. "How long have you been in New York?"
"Just a month. I moved here to go to school."
"So what's been your favorite culinary experience in New York so far?"
"I might be having it right now," Ryan said.
"That must be some omelet," Chad said with a smile.
"Well, a culinary experience isn't just about the food, you know."
"Do tell," Chad said huskily, letting his thigh press against Ryan's just a bit more firmly.
"Well, there's the ambiance, the service…the company…"
"I can see how all that could enhance the experience." Chad wiped his mouth and sat back.
"How about you? Ever have a great culinary experience?"
"Yeah," Chad replied, smiling at the memory. "It was with a friend," he began, reaching for his fork. "We were at his house, in his mom's kitchen. He'd taken a couple of cooking classes and decided that he wanted to make me dinner."
"Was he a good cook?"
"I couldn't even tell you," Chad said dreamily. "But it was a very memorable meal."
"What did he make?"
"He made steak and roasted potatoes and a spinach salad. He found the menu in some old magazine article about getting to a man's heart through his stomach."
"Did it work?" Ryan asked, smiling.
"He already had my heart," Chad said softly. He looked into Ryan's eyes. "He always will."
"Sounds like a very lucky guy," Ryan replied, glowing with happiness.
"I'm the lucky one," Chad insisted. "He's--. He's just--. I can't even begin to explain how much he means to me."
"If he's so wonderful, what are you doing in New York having dinner with me?" Ryan asked.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? He lives in New York now. I came here to see him."
"I thought I'd surprise him by coming to visit for the Labor Day weekend. I showed up at his dorm, but he wasn't around."
"So he surprised you. Bummer," Ryan said unsuccessfully attempting to hide a grin.
"Luckily, I know a very dear friend of his," Chad continued. "She found out where he was having dinner." Ryan recalled Kelsi's comment about talking to a "hot stud" and smiled. She'd obviously been talking about Chad.
"So why aren't you with him now?"
"Well, I was going to join him at the restaurant, but I had a better idea," he said conspiratorially. Ryan sat forward, all ears. "She said that he was kind of bummed about being all alone in New York. I was thinking that we could relive a little of that special dinner back in Albuquerque. You see I brought the dessert that night. He really likes these truffles that are handmade by a guy in little shop in Santa Fe. They cost an arm and a leg, but he's worth the trouble and the drive. We cracked open a bottle of champagne from his parents' wine cellar and--."
"So you bought truffles and champagne?"
"I brought the truffles; our mutual friend promised to scare up a bottle of champagne by the time I get back to the dorm. Corny, huh?" Chad said, coloring slightly. "I thought he might like it. He's kind of a corny dude."
"Hey!" Ryan quickly recovered. "I think the word you're looking for is 'romantic.'"
"I guess," Chad finished the last of his meal and pushed away his plate. "So what do you think? Will he like it or will he think I'm a--."
"A big, mushy, cornball romantic like him?" Ryan offered. He smiled at Chad and signaled for the check. "I think he's going to wonder what he did to deserve such a wonderful guy like you." When the check arrived, Chad immediately reached for it.
"Let me pick up the tab," he said. "You were nice enough to let me--."
"No," Ryan protested, grabbing the bill. "Dinner's on me. I insist," Ryan said, pushing Chad's hand away. "I came out tonight, feeling totally bored and lonely and you just made my evening. I couldn't have asked for a better dinner companion. Well," he said, averting his eyes. "I suppose the only thing that would make this evening better would be having you fly all this way to New York to see me. But you know what? I feel as lucky as your guy tonight. Go find him. Have a great weekend and enjoy your time in New York."
Chad opened his mouth to say something, but he just smiled and rose to his feet. He extended his hand to Ryan, who took it in both of his.
"Thank you, Ryan," Chad said. "I hope you find someone who'll be as special to you as he is to me."
"I should be so lucky," Ryan replied, reluctantly withdrawing his hand. He wanted to devour Chad on the spot, but he was looking forward to getting back to his dorm to reacquaint himself with his lover in the privacy of his room. "Now go on and get out of here."
Chad leaned in and kissed his cheek before he said goodbye. Ryan watched him go. Chad stopped at the door and waved at Ryan and disappeared into the night. Ryan smiled and recalled that he owed Kelsi a treat. He went to the counter and ordered four tarts to go. After all, Kelsi and her date wouldn't be the only two people needing breakfast in the morning.
Ryan strolled toward Juilliard with a huge grin on his face. He was certain he looked like a lunatic, but he could care less. When he reached the corner of 65th and Broadway, he caught up to Chad, who was waiting for him in the plaza in front of the newly renovated Alice Tully Hall.
"Hey," Chad said, pulling him into his arms for a warm hug.
"Hey yourself," Ryan said, giving him a quick kiss on the lips. They linked arms and began to walk toward the dorm.
"So what was all that about back there?"
"All what?" Ryan asked innocently.
"You know, the whole, 'My name is Ryan Evans' thing."
"Oh, that," Ryan said, leaning into the warmth of Chad's body. "I was just having some fun."
"No kidding. Any particular reason? Or is this something you do every time you go to that place?"
"No particular reason," Ryan confessed. "I was just sitting there thinking about you and when I looked up, you were standing there. I was just wondering what it would be like to meet you and fall in love all over again."
"You're a total nut job, you know that?" Chad teased. They reached the building and Ryan let them into the dorm with his pass card.
"I know, but it was fun. Well, it was until you blew it for me."
"How did I blow it for you?" Chad asked, frowning.
"Well, I was trying to flirt with you and you started talking about your boyfriend."
"Can I help it if I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to mention him?" Chad asked playfully. They stepped into the elevator and Chad pulled Ryan into his arms for a proper kiss.
"You were playing under the table, too. How could you talk about the love of your life while you had your knee in my groin?"
Chad shrugged unrepentantly.
"I haven't seen you in a month. Sue me for multitasking. Want to go back and try again?" he challenged.
"No," Ryan replied as the doors opened on his floor. He looked down the hall and saw a little shopping bag hanging on the door to his suite. "I think our champagne has arrived. We owe Kelsi big time."
"Speak for yourself," Chad quipped. "I've already repaid Kelsi for her help in setting things up this weekend."
"Yeah; she had some big romantic plans of her own."
"That's right; her big date." Ryan removed the bottle from the bag and placed one of the two boxes of tarts inside. "Go on inside; I'll be right back." He went to the stairs and down a flight to Kelsi's door. Pulling out a pen, he quickly scribbled a note on the bag and knocked. One of Kelsi's suitemates opened the door and Ryan gave her the package. When he returned to his floor, he caught sight of Yuri and Alexei coming out of the elevator.
"You decided to go out, after all," Alexei said.
"Just for dinner," Ryan replied. "I'll be staying in for the rest of the night."
"Want to play cards? We can find a fourth and--."
"No thanks," Ryan said, entering the suite ahead of the couple. "I've got plans."
"Plans? With who, your imaginary boyfriend?" Yuri teased. Alexei elbowed him, but he fell silent when Chad rose from the sofa and came to stand beside Ryan.
"Alexei and Yuri," Ryan said smugly. "I'd like you to meet Chad."
On to The Plaza