Summary: The clothes make the man--or, in this case, Ryan makes the man take the clothes.
"Business casual," Ryan declared as he checked the angle of his hat in the mirror. He turned to Chad and gave him an assessing look. "You want to look professional, but not like one of the big boys. So three pairs of slacks--khaki, navy and charcoal--and a half dozen dress shirts ought to do it. Then maybe a vest or two and a--."
"A vest?" Chad sputtered. "I don't do vests. And I've got two pair of khakis from last summer."
"That was last summer, Chad."
"Khakis are classic, right? How could they go out of style?"
"That depends on how many stains your mom was able to get out of them," Ryan quipped. "I don't think ketchup is in this season." Chad glared at him. "All right, I'm sure they're fine, but another pair wouldn't go amiss. And you will do vests."
"Why? It's summer!"
"So what? You leave your air-conditioned house and get into an air-conditioned car, move from there to an air-conditioned office, right? And at the end of the day you reverse the whole thing," Ryan explained impatiently. "You'll also need a classic navy blazer for days when you need to dress up."
"I already own a navy blazer."
"Yeah," Ryan said hesitantly. He shrugged. "Okay, but we're taking it to a tailor before you wear it again."
"What's wrong with it?" Chad asked defensively.
"It's so--. It--." Ryan paused and considered his next words carefully. "Look, you have two suits that look amazing on you. And you manage to make almost anything else you put on your body look damned good. But that jacket--."
"Yes?" Chad asked, raising one eyebrow and preparing for a fight. He could see Ryan bracing himself for an argument as well and immediately backed down. It was just a stupid jacket, right? And it wasn't one he was particularly fond of, anyway.
"I hate it," Ryan said bluntly. "It's polyester. It's cut like a box. It's completely devoid of style. It makes you look like a security guard." Chad smiled as Ryan ticked off the points on his fingers.
"Okay," he conceded, giving Ryan a nudge to get him moving again. Ryan hesitated.
"'Okay,' you respect my feelings or 'okay, hate it, too, but I was just too stubborn to admit it before'?"
"Okay, let's go shopping while I'm still in the mood to do this," Chad replied. He pushed Ryan a second time and this time he moved, leading the way over to the shirts.
"Okay, you'll need at minimum of six shirts," Ryan said. "At least two blue, and one white. The other colors are up to you."
"I do own dress shirts, you know," Chad said with a roll of his eyes. "Two blue ones, a white one and that pink one you said didn't fit you right."
"Isn't one of those blue shirts mine? The one with the logo?"
"No," Chad answered. "I actually own shirts with little polo players, too."
"I know, but I thought that one was mine. I'll have to bring it back, then," Ryan said, pausing to feel the cloth of a striped shirt.
"I hope you aren't thinking about that for me because I don't do stripes."
"Don't be ridiculous!" Ryan said. "You need at least one blue pinstripe shirt. It's a classic. It should have been on my initial list."
"That's not a blue pinstripe," Chad replied. "That's a circus tent cut up and stitched into clothing." Ryan laughed and moved on. A salesperson approached the couple and asked if he could be of assistance.
"Yes; we're looking for dress shirts." Ryan looked around. "How do you find anything in department stores?" he said mostly to himself.
"Here's our dress shirt collection. What sort of shirt did you have in mind?" the salesperson answered evenly, looking from one young man to the other and speculating on the nature of their relationship.
"Just the basics," Chad answered before Ryan could open his mouth. "I'm looking for two or three shirts for work."
"Oxford button down, 16 inch collar, 32 inch sleeve, moderately priced. Blue pinstripe, white, maybe yellow or grey," Ryan reeled off. The man stared at him. "What? I'm his stylist," he explained. "And if you haven't got what we're looking for just say so. We can just go to Nordstrom's and probably find--." The man cleared his throat and turned away, searching through the shirts on the table for the right size. Chad winked at Ryan, who immediately shifted his focus back to his shopping list. "You'll need a tie or two, Chad. You can't borrow one from your father every time you want to look halfway decent."
"Why not?" Chad said impishly. "He's got more ties than he's ever going to use."
"Do you really want to wear the ties your dad has collected from eighteen years of Father's Day gifts?"
"I haven't given my dad a tie since I was ten," Chad replied. "And he's got a very nice collection."
"I'm sure," Ryan said absently. "But you want to look young, hip and--."
"How about if I borrow your ties?" Chad suggested. "I'm sure they're stylish enough to meet all your criteria."
"Ooh, this blue and white check is nice," Ryan said to the salesperson, pointedly ignoring Chad's comment.
"No," Chad said firmly.
"Yes. Does this shirt come in black and white?" Ryan asked the salesperson, who handed him three shirts in colors Ryan had asked for.
"I'm tired," Chad complained, leaning against the counter.
"We should have gone to my favorite shop. You'd be sitting down," Ryan replied archly.
"And I'd only be able to afford one shirt," Chad shot back.
"We'll take the pinstripe for sure," Ryan said in a business-like tone, handing the shirt to Chad. "And the yellow--good with your complexion. And…let's skip the white. Your skin screams for color. No black check?"
"My skin screams for color?" Chad repeated, frowning into the nearby mirror.
"I'm afraid not, sir. We do have a selection of plaids, if you're interested," the salesperson offered. Ryan gestured for the man to lead the way to the plaid shirts, grabbing Chad by the arm as he followed.
"It's business casual," Ryan said. "A plaid shirt wouldn't be a bad idea."
"It'd be hideous," Chad opined.
"Madras plaid is a summer classic."
"I've never seen you in a plaid shirt," Chad shot back. "Why can't I just get the white one and call it a day?" Ryan clucked at him and moved to where the salesperson was indicating a selection of plaid button-downs. "Maybe I should wait until the perfect plaid-wearing opportunity arises before I pick one out." The salesperson tried vainly to suppress a smile, as Ryan gave him a withering look.
"Don't be ludicrous, Chad," he replied, but he quickly gave up on the plaid and turned back to the solid-colored shirts on the adjoining display table. He found one he liked and held it up. "What about this?"
"That's purple," Chad said disdainfully, eyeing the pale lavender oxford. "I don't do purple."
"We'll take it," Ryan declared, handing it to him. Chad opened his mouth to protest but Ryan was already moving on to the next item on his list. "Now where are your ties?"
"Would you like ties to go along with each of these?" the salesperson asked hopefully.
"He would," Chad quipped. "I'm going to look for pants." He walked away and Ryan found himself torn between looking at ties and following Chad. As always, Chad won out. "I can choose pants by myself, Ryan," he said when he looked up and saw him. "I've been shopping for them for years."
"You've been shopping for jeans," Ryan corrected. "Hardly the same thing; and you know what I think of your taste in those."
"No," Chad lied. "How about these?"
"Those aren't bad, but they should be tropical wool."
"Wool? In summer?"
"Tropical wool. Come on," Ryan said, leading him over to another rack. Chad endured a lecture about business wear as Ryan selected several pairs of pants for him to try on.
"Why do I need grey pants? I've got a grey suit."
"Humor me," Ryan insisted. Fortunately for Chad, Ryan approved the first two pairs of pants he tried on. He selected a pair of khakis and carried everything to the checkout line. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
"I'm not getting ties," Chad insisted.
"You'll be working in your dad's office. Do you really want to wear his ties and have people mistake you for your father?"
"Do you really think anyone's going to mistake me for a six-foot-two bald guy with a paunch?" Chad asked incredulously. "I probably won't need a tie most of the time anyway."
"How about a vest, then?"
"How about we get out of here and get something to eat?" Chad suggested. "I'll buy; we can go back to that Thai place you liked."
"No time," Ryan replied as he watched Chad pull out a charge card. "I've got that orientation meeting at the library this afternoon."
"Then we'll eat at Earline's. I'll drop you at the library afterward."
Chad made his purchases and the couple returned to Chad's car. They'd purposely selected a different mall from the one where Chad's accident had occurred. Three weeks had passed since that fateful day, but neither he nor Ryan was ready to face the site of Chad's brush with death. They stowed the bags in the back of the CRV and drove across town to Earline's. They took their usual booth near the window before Agnes looked up and saw them.
"Chad!" she cried, drawing Helen and Earline from the kitchen. Chad rose to hug each of the women and spent the next several minutes answering all their questions about his health. Earline reluctantly returned to the kitchen but Agnes and Helen continued to fuss over their favorite patrons for several minutes.
"Earline just put a new Mediterranean salad on the menu for the summer, Ryan," Agnes said. "Would you like to try it? And Chad, you look as though you've lost a couple of pounds. You need a burger deluxe." She made a notation and walked away without waiting for an answer. Chad and Ryan exchanged amused glances and settled in. Helen set tall glasses of lemonade in front of each young man and finally left them alone when their food arrived.
"What time is your orientation?" Chad asked as he offered Ryan the last forkful of his chocolate cake.
"We've got twenty minutes," Ryan said, "but I don't want to get there at the last minute."
"Then let's get the check and get out of here." Chad signaled for the check while Ryan went to wash up. He paid it and was waiting at the door when Ryan returned. They drove the short distance to the UNM campus and headed for the library. "So how long is this thing going to take?"
"They said to allow about two hours. I have to fill out paperwork as well as go on a tour of the library and see my new workspace."
"I'll find mom and hang out in her office until you're done. " Chad said, pulling into the visitor's lot. "And I want to see where you'll be working, too."
"You know where I'll be working. You've already seen everything," Ryan replied exasperatedly.
"No I haven't. I never got that far. I didn't even interview, remember?"
"You got the job without an interview?" Ryan's mouth fell open. Chad reached out and closed it. He gave Ryan a peck on the lips and got out of the car. "Why?"
"They already knew me," Chad explained. "I'd volunteered at the library before when I had to do a service project, plus my mom vouched for me. You should have tried that," Chad said puckishly as held the door for Ryan.
They entered the library and headed up the wide staircase to the upper level. Ms. Danforth was at the front desk talking to two of her colleagues as the pair approached.
"Isn't that Chad?" one of Ms. Danforth's companions asked. She looked up and smiled.
"That's my boy," she replied, smiling.
"He's all grown up!"
"Tell me about it," she said. "He just graduated high school and is off to the University of Albuquerque in the fall."
"Wasn't he in some sort of accident recently?"
"Yes; fortunately it wasn't serious and he's fully recovered now," Ms. Danforth said as Ryan and Chad drew near. She left the desk and went to meet them. Chad removed his sunglasses and hugged his mother.
"Hey, mom," he said with a warm smile.
"Hello, honey. Hello, Ryan. I take it you're here for the orientation."
"Yeah," he said, checking his watch. "I'm supposed to go to the auditorium."
"Back downstairs and make a sharp left," she said. Ryan nodded and looked at Chad.
"I'm going to hang out here until he's done, if you don't mind," he said to his mother.
"Not a problem," Ms. Danforth replied. "Ryan, you know where my office is." He indicated that he remembered and took his leave. Chad walked him back to the stairs.
"Have fun," he said playfully, leaning against the rail and watching until he disappeared before heading to his mother's office.
"So did you find some clothes?" she asked as he entered the room.
"Are you kidding? I was with Ryan. If it was up to him we'd still be shopping." Chad took a seat. "I did get everything I wanted, though: three shirts, three pairs of pants and a pair of shoes."
"All that for just a summer job, Chad?"
"I know it sounds like a lot, but nothing will go to waste," he assured her. "It's all good, basic stuff. All I need now is a jacket." His mother looked up and Chad shrugged. "I promised Ryan I'd get a new blazer."
"Your father and I assumed you'd be spending your graduation money having fun."
"I will. I only spent around $300 on clothes. I don't know what a jacket will cost but if Ryan has anything to say about it, it won't be cheap."
"Well, a good jacket is an investment," Ms. Danforth replied. "Why don't you ask your father to help you find one? He knows how to shop for bargains. I'm not sure Ryan knows the meaning of the word." The two Danforths shared a smile before Chad sat back and pulled a small tablet out of his bag and set it on his lap. "What is that?"
"I did find time to get something fun," Chad replied, handing it over. "We both got them." She gave it a cursory examination and handed it back.
"This was on your wish list. I still don't see why, given that you just got a new laptop a few months ago."
"That's for work. This will be strictly for play," Chad explained. He plugged in the machine to charge, put his feet up on the edge of his mother's desk, ignoring her pointed look and began to type.
Chad was sitting at his mother's desk when Ryan returned an hour and ten minutes later. He smiled when he looked up and saw Ryan standing in the doorway.
"How does it look?"
"Sweet," Chad replied, turning the tablet around so Ryan could get a look. "I've already set up my homepage and email accounts. I'll do yours tonight. Hey, why are you back so soon? I thought you said it would take two hours."
"There were five of us, but since I'm not going to be working in the general stacks like the others, Ms. Bronfman saw no need for me to sit through the entire orientation."
"Cool. Ready to blow this pop stand?"
"Yeah," Ryan replied, rising. "Where's your mom?"
"She left half an hour ago," Chad replied as he shut down his tablet and gathered up his things. "My house? Yours?"
"Mine," Ryan replied as they headed out. "That way we can pick out some stuff for me to wear to work. I want to move it to your place before Monday."
"Your folks aren't leaving for Lava Springs until the end of next week. Are they going to let you move to my house before then?"
"I don't know, but I'd rather move stuff over the weekend," Ryan replied.
"Fine by me," Chad said turning his car toward Palisade Hills.
"I still think it's unfair that you get to spend the summer in town with Chad," Sharpay said with a pout. Chad rose from his chair and went to sit next to her on the edge of Ryan's bed.
"Sharpay," he said, taking her hand and gazing at her solemnly. "I know this has been eating at you for a while now, but you have to get over it. I'm sorry, but it just can't be."
"Oh, get over yourself, Chad!" Sharpay jerked her hand away and rose to her feet. Chad laughed and Ryan poked his head out of the closet to frown at the pair.
"What's going out here?" he asked warily.
"Oh, Chad's about to start that 'just because we're twins doesn't mean we get to share everything' speech again," she replied with a mock glare at Chad. "He refuses to accept the fact that he's not the hottest, most desirable man on the planet."
"Hey, I refuse to accept the fact that he's not the hottest, most desirable man on the planet," Ryan replied with a wink for Chad, who smiled and stretched out on the bed.
"It's still not fair that you get to stay in town and I have to spend all summer at Lava Springs," Sharpay insisted.
"The only reason you're bitching is that you feel left out," Ryan concluded. "It's not that you want to stay in town all summer."
"It's our last summer together," Sharpay whined. "And you'll be spending it with him instead of me."
"I'm not seeing a downside," Chad quipped. Sharpay reached for a pillow and attempted to smother his insufferably smug grin. He fended her off and tossed the pillow across the room, where it narrowly missed a lamp.
"I'll be out at Lava Springs every weekend," Ryan promised.
"Every weekend?" Chad asked, frowning. "I thought we--." Ryan gaped at him wide-eyed for a few seconds and then turned his attention back to Sharpay. Chad rolled his eyes and shook his head as the twins argued.
"You won't be working all the time, right?" Sharpay asked.
"No, he'll only be working thirty hours a week " Chad answered puckishly. "I've got the nine to five gig."
"So, you'll have a lot of free time," Sharpay continued, ignoring the second half of his comment. "We could hang out, shop, go to the--."
"And we'd both move in with the Danforths for the summer?"
"Well, no. We could stay here at the house," she suggested.
Ryan glanced past her and met Chad's worried gaze. He carefully laid the pairs of slacks he'd draped over one arm on the bed and went to his sister. Chad sighed softly and rose to his feet. He made his way to the door and left the siblings to talk.
While he was very sympathetic to Sharpay's feelings, Chad wasn't about to allow her to rob him of any of his precious time with Ryan. It was bad enough that they'd both be working all summer. At least when Chad worked at Lava Springs he saw Ryan all the time. They weren't involved back then, of course, but now that they were a couple, Chad was determined spend as much time with Ryan before they parted at the end of the summer. He was already resigned to the fact that his time with Ryan would be reduced to just a few hours after work each day and weekends he'd have to share with Sharpay. Now it seemed that tentative plans he and Ryan made to spend a weekend in Santa Fe would probably go by the wayside if she had anything to say about it.
Chad quashed a pang of guilt as he stomped down the stairs and into the living room. He walked over to the French doors and stared out at the backyard, silently conceding that Sharpay had an equal, if not superior claim on her brother. He knew he was being selfish and petty for wishing that she'd stop preying on Ryan's emotions and leave him alone. But knowing he was wrong didn't change the way he felt about the situation. He swore under his breath and turned away from the view. Crossing the room, Chad petulantly flopped onto the sofa.
"What's wrong, son?" Mr. Evans asked. Chad looked up and realized for the first time that he wasn't alone. He flushed with embarrassment and shrugged. Mr. Evans waited patiently as he sought the right words.
"This summer's going to be tough," he said finally. Mr. Evans peered at him a moment and then nodded in understanding.
"Should be pretty interesting, too," he replied, sitting back and setting aside the book he was reading. "Are you ready to enter the working world?" As he expected, the question distracted Chad from his thoughts.
"Yeah; I'm kind of looking forward to it," Chad admitted.
"Will you be working with your dad or in another part of the firm?" Mr. Evans asked. Chad sat up straighter in his seat.
"No, my dad works on some pretty technical stuff and it's way beyond what they'd let a summer intern get into. Besides, I'm interested in computer engineering and that's not his field."
"I suppose you want to design computer games and that sort of thing," Mr. Evans surmised.
"Actually, I'm interested in robotics," Chad replied, crossing his legs. "It has a lot of applications in the gaming industry, I suppose, but I got my scholarship by writing an essay on the potential applications of robotics in the medical field."
"Are you talking about having robots doing surgery?"
"No, I'm talking about developing prosthetics that will restore full mobility to paraplegics--that sort of thing."
"You know, when Ryan told me about your scholarship he mentioned something about you writing an amazing essay but he couldn't tell me anything about it," Mr. Evans said wryly. "That's a pretty ambitious agenda."
"I know, but if you're going to dream, dream big, as my dad always says. We're probably a decade or so away from fully exploiting that technology but within just a few years we could be using artificial intelligence to perform critical diagnostic tests that humans lab workers routinely screw up." The two fell into a discussion and Chad quickly forgot all about the conversation taking place upstairs. So when Ryan strolled into the living room sometime later, Chad was surprised to discover that nearly twenty minutes had passed.
"I thought you were helping me pick out clothes," Ryan said, sitting down next to Chad on the sofa.
"I thought you and Princess were having a heart to heart," Chad replied. Ryan shrugged.
"We were, sort of," he acknowledged. "But then she started critiquing my clothes choices and I threw her out of my room. She doesn't have a clue about what's appropriate business attire."
"And you do?" Mr. Evans asked before Chad could speak. Ryan huffed and folded his arms.
"I've been watching you dress for business for years," he replied.
"Not to mention all the fashion magazines he's been reading cover to cover since he was old enough to put together the letters G and Q," Chad added.
"Yes," Ryan said haughtily, "so you should pay attention when I tell you that vests are in."
"I paid attention," Chad shot back. "I just refused to indulge you."
"Hey, just be glad Shar wasn't with us today. You wouldn't believe what she thinks I should wear to work."
"Look, you're not the one who has to worry about work clothes. You could probably get away with jeans and a button-down at the library--except for those black jeans," Chad added hastily. "Those have no business being in a business setting."
"Please," Ryan said dismissively, "I have higher standards. I've picked out six pairs of slacks, a dozen shirts and four vests so far."
"So far? Ryan, it's a part time job!"
"I still need to look good, right?" he reasoned. Mr. Evans smiled warmly.
"I'm glad to see you're taking this summer job seriously, Ryan."
"If you can call being a fashion plate serious," Chad quipped.
"Well, they do say that clothes make the man," Mr. Evans said in his son's defense, "but it's what you actually do at work that makes the difference."
"I know, dad, and I plan to do a good job. I'm really interested in the Fenton project; it'll be fun to be involved in cataloging the doctor's collection."
"You'll do a good job," Chad said confidently, patting Ryan on the knee. Ryan leaned into him and nestled against his shoulder. "So everything's good with the princess?" he asked softly. Ryan sighed and his father frowned.
"Problems?" he asked.
"She's still not happy about me staying in town with the Danforths," Ryan explained. "She wants to stay in Albuquerque with us so we can all hang out."
"The Danforths aren't running a youth hostel," Mr. Evans replied. "And you two are going to be working a good deal of the time."
"She knows that," Ryan said with sigh. "She's just feeling a bit left out."
"Well, I'll have to be in town for meetings during the week on a few occasions. Would you two be willing to entertain her for an evening or two if she came with me?"
"Of course," Chad answered readily. It was a solution he could live with. He could even live with the idea of having her join them on their Santa Fe road trip--after all she'd probably enjoy the arts festival more than he would. He freed his arm and wrapped it around Ryan's shoulders. "You'd be okay with that, right?" Ryan nodded and nestled deeper into Chad's warmth.
"Then it's settled," Mr. Evans declared, rising to his feet. "Of course, I might have in-town meetings fairly regularly, say every--."
"Two weeks," Ryan suggested, glancing up at Chad for affirmation.
"Yeah, that sounds about right," Mr. Evans said. He turned to leave and then turned back. "By the way, Chad, I agree with you about the vests. But if you need any ties, you're welcome to any of mine. I have more than I'll ever use."
"Father's Day, Christmas, birthday--that sort of thing?" Chad asked lightly and Ryan jabbed him in the ribs. Mr. Evans smiled and left the room, diplomatically mute. Chad laughed and Ryan shoved him off the couch onto the floor.
"Come on," he said after a moment, dragging him back up to his feet. "We've got more work to do."
"Well, I can't go to work without shoes, can I?" Ryan replied reasonably. "By the way, when we get to your house, remind me to look at yours. I like the pair you bought today but you aren't wearing those old black things to work. We may have to go shopping again tomorrow."
"I do not need more shoes."
"You're not wearing those cordovans every day," Ryan declared. "You need a good pair of black shoes. I knew I should have made you try on that other pair of--."
Chad blocked out the diatribe and allowed Ryan to lead him back upstairs. They passed Sharpay in the hall and Chad grabbed her hand.
"Hey, Princess; want to go out to eat?" he asked. "I've got a hankering for sushi." Sharpay nodded and he released her hand. "Give us fifteen minutes and then come rescue me." He winked and disappeared into the bedroom.