Ryan walked into his room and threw his bag onto the bed. He had taken all of the sheets off just before he left for his last final and threw them into a bag with his comforter and pillow. There wasn't really much of anything left in the room. It had either been packed up and shipped back home or it was in a carryon bag waiting by the foot of his bed.
It was weird to Ryan to look around and not see anything in the room that had made it his and Kaden's. None of the posters they had hung that first weekend were up, everything in the room that had made it different from any other was gone and Ryan didn't like it very much. He just had a few more things to grab before he left the room for the last time to meet Troy and catch their taxi to the airport.
While throwing some random papers into his bag, Ryan took the opportunity to look around one last time. He remembered all the good times he'd had in there with Kaden, the first time they'd had 'boy talk,' the one time they had come back drunk and pretended to be fashion models. It was a room full of memories, some bad, but mostly good.
It had been about two months since he had come back from the hospital and things had progressed slowly at first, but then picked up until things had returned to what passed for normal in their lives. It was weird for Troy, sharing a room with Jeff, but once Jeff figured out that things would never go back to they way they had been, he stopped trying to pry information out of his roommate. It might have also had to do something with the fact that Troy hardly spent any time there anymore. What nights he didn't spend with Ryan, he spent at his fraternity house. Kaden and Ryan just avoided Jeff at all costs. Some might have called their actions juvenile, but it's what worked best for them.
Ryan had healed, but not quickly enough for his tastes. He and Troy had run into a little trouble when Troy refused to stop handling him with baby gloves, but they had worked through it. And when the time came for Ryan's cast to come off and the doctor gave him a clean bill of health he was ready to show Troy just how rough he could be played with. The reminder of that naughty memory brought a smile to Ryan's face and he didn't even hear as Kaden entered the room.
"So," Kaden said, drawing Ryan's attention away from where he was staring out of the window. "I guess it's time to check out."
"Yeah," Ryan said, moving back over to grab his bag off the bed and then pick up his luggage.
The two stood in the room just staring at each other for an awkward moment, not really knowing what to say to one another.
"Well, this is just weird," Kaden said, breaking the silence. "I don't think we've ever been that quiet while we were both in here."
Ryan cracked a smile. "Yeah, getting you to shut up is damn near impossible on most days and here we are on our last day together and you won't say a thing."
"You act like this is the last time we're ever going to see each other," Kaden said, a sad smile playing across his lips. "We're going to share an apartment next year and you know Troy is going to be there all the time, so it's going to be just like it was this year."
"I know," Ryan said wistfully. "Change is just something I don't deal with well. Especially when I'm not going to see someone for three months that I've seen every day."
"Aw," Kaden said, his eyes misting over. "That's so incredibly sappy and I love it." He reached over and brought Ryan into a bone-crushing hug.
"I just never thought that I would find such a good friend in someone that had just been thrown in with me, you know?" Ryan asked, still holding on to his roommate, his best friend.
"I know exactly what you mean," Kaden said, wiping his eyes. "We've been through a lot this year, haven't we?"
"That's a bit of an understatement, don't you think?" Ryan said finally pulling out of the embrace. The two of them certainly experienced more than their fair share of drama in their first year at college, more than most anyone else they knew.
"But next year is going to be a blast," Kaden said. "We're going to have a kitchen! A whole kitchen! And we won't have to eat the dining center food all the time. I'll have to teach you how to cook this great pasta dish I know and—"
"Whoa," Ryan said, interrupting his enthusiastic friend. "We have to move in there first. And I'll have you know that I am not a bad cook; I just need to widen the breadth of dishes I can cook."
"Right," Kaden laughed. "Troy said the only thing you can make is a grilled cheese sandwich, and even that is a maybe."
"And Troy isn't going to be having any sex for the next three months, so what does that tell you?" Ryan asked, making a mental note to slap his boyfriend upside the head when next he saw him.
"That I shouldn't say things like that about you no matter how true they are?" Kaden asked, an impish grin on his face.
Ryan just smacked him on the arm, but laughed about it, knowing full well that he couldn't cook worth a damn. And that's how Jordan found the two, laughing.
"What are you two laughing about?" he asked. Kaden looked over from where Ryan was standing and let a smile play across his face as he walked over to give him a kiss on the cheek.
Jordan had become a permanent fixture with them after they were released from the hospital and it didn't take long before Kaden found his walls crumbling and agreeing to go out on a date with him. One date turned into two and then soon after, Jordan asked Kaden out. They had been seeing each other ever since and this relationship was far less rocky and dramatic than his previous one.
Jordan always took things only as fast as Kaden wanted to go and never pressured him into anything. But what was more important was the simple fact that he acknowledged their relationship in front of others. The one thing that Jeff could never do, Jordan was more than willing to do without exception. The two really were a good match.
They both lived up in Portland, too, so Ryan was interested in seeing how much their relationship would progress over the summer break. He and Kaden had already made plans to keep in contact over the summer, so he was sure to know when anything happened, but it would be interesting to see everything when they got back to school in the fall.
"We were just talking about how Ryan cant' cook," Kaden said, dodging the open palm that was coming his way.
"Watch out," Ryan said with a menacing glare, "or I'll have to make sure that Jordan withholds sex from you for the next three months."
At that, the two boys both blushed. They had both decided that they weren't ready to have sex yet, and Ryan knew that. But he still felt the need to poke fun at it every now and again, much to the chagrin of his roommate and his boyfriend.
"So when are you two heading out?" Ryan asked.
"Well, I was just running over here to get him," Jordan said, indicating Kaden. "We were going to head out right now and then stop up at the mall in Woodburn and do some shopping before we got back into Portland. What about you?"
"Well, I just finished my last test," Ryan said, making a face. "I'm not sure how I did, so don't ask. But I was just coming to grab a few things and then I'm supposed to meet Troy over at his building to catch a cab."
"So," Kaden began, looking a little forlorn. He let out a quick sigh. "I guess this really is goodbye for now, huh?"
"It would appear that way, friend," Ryan said as he began rummaging around his bag, looking for something. "But I wanted to give you these before I left." He pulled out what had become a fixture in their room. Kaden smiled and reached out for the distinct yellow box of their favorite snack.
"I'm definitely going to miss 'boy talk,'" Kaden said. "But I guess I'll have these Wheat Thins around to keep me company until we see each other again."
"Hey," Ryan said. "We're still going to talk on the phone and when we have something big, we'll just have to make sure to have a box handy so we can get to the heart of the issue."
Kaden laughed and took the box. He let out another quick sigh before looking back up and reaching out to give Ryan one last hug. "We better get going so we can finish shopping before rush hour," Kaden said.
"Okay," Ryan agreed. "I'll be seeing you."
Both Jordan and Kaden waved as they walked out of the room. "Take care of him," Ryan added to Jordan. The tall boy just nodded his head and then both were out of sight. Ryan pulled out his cell phone and texted Troy a message letting him know he'd be over in just a few minutes. Then he took one last look around the room that held so many memories before he hefted his bag over his shoulder and left.
Troy situated himself next to Ryan in the backseat of the cab. It had just started to rain as he was loading the luggage into the trunk, so he hurried to finish and was now just content to sit next to his boyfriend and wait for them to arrive at the airport.
"I can't believe we just finished our first year at college," Troy said as he brought his arm around to rest across Ryan's shoulders. "It went by so quickly, too."
"I'm just glad we made it out alive," Ryan said, leaning his head down on Troy's chest. "There were times when I was worried we were going to survive."
Troy just chuckled and leaned down to place a soft kiss on his boyfriend's head. There had been a lot of times like this over the year, but there had also been many times when Troy himself didn't know whether or not they would come out of this year better than they had started it.
He didn't think he'd ever been as scared as he had been two months ago when he got that phone call from Jordan. His entire world had been turned upside down in under five minutes and it took well over a month for it to right itself again. But everything had gone back to normal and he owed much of his thanks to Kaden and Jordan. Those two had really been there for him and for Ryan.
He hadn't realized how much a part of his life Jeff had become until he no longer wanted anything to do with him. Not even Jeff's coming forward to the authorities and campus officials about what had happened was able to repair their relationship, however. It was just something Troy thought he would never be able to overcome.
"What are you thinking about, babe?" Ryan asked noticing that Troy had kind of gone off in his own world.
Troy looked back down at Ryan and smiled. "I was just thinking about Jeff," he replied simply.
"I still can't believe he told what all the Chi Delts were up to," Ryan said. "Just like I still can't believe that he would put up with all that hazing and stuff just to be a part of that group."
"Well, just take solace in the fact that they aren't on campus anymore," Troy said. "And Jeff had a lot of issues he was working through, just one of them being acceptance from his father. I can see why he stuck around there even if he didn't like it."
"I guess," Ryan said, hopefully ending their conversation. Jeff was still a topic he didn't like to dwell on too much. The two sat in a comfortable silence for a while, then, just watching the scenery as it passed them by.
"Kaden said he was going to teach me to cook next year," Ryan said as an afterthought.
"Wow," Troy said. "Do you think he really knows what exactly he's getting himself into? You're one of the few people I know that can mess up boxed macaroni."
"Hey!" Ryan protested. "I'm not that bad." Then seeing the knowing look on Troy's face he acquiesced. "Okay, fine. I am that bad. But still, I can learn."
"Sure you can, babe," Troy said, smiling.
"Either way, our apartment is going to be amazing next year," Ryan said, changing the subject. "I'm going shopping with Sharpay and Mom when I get home and we're going to pick out some furniture."
"Watch out, New Mexico," Troy said jokingly, "Ryan Evans is back."
"They'll be glad to have me," Ryan said indignantly.
"And who wouldn't?" Troy questioned, bringing Ryan in closer to him.
"We're going to be looking for a new bed, too," Ryan added.
"Then I better come along, too," Troy said. "I sleep on your bed as much as you do, so I might as well have a say on what it is."
"I guess that can be arranged," Ryan said, laughing. Yes, next year was looking up already … and it was still three months away.
A/N: Oh my gosh! I can't believe it's over. I know this chapter is a lot shorter, but I had always planned it to be like that, just a way to wrap a few things up. I hope you guys all enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. I've become really attached to these characters throughout this whole process and I'll be sad to not be writing about them any more. I was actually going through the number of OCs I made for this story and I'm still amazed at how many there were. I'm glad that a lot of you have been so accepting of so many of them.
I can't believe how differently this story turned out from what I had originally planned. When I first started writing it, I had planned for Jordan to be a central character, coming in between Troy and Ryan … but as I wrote Kaden and Jeff something just changed and we got this. But then I found a way to bring Jordan back. And … so yeah. The creative process is something interesting, that's for sure.
I just wanted to thank everyone once again for all the reviews and comments and everything. They've all meant so much to me. I don't know if I would have finished if it weren't for all of you. So, THANK YOU!!!
And … last but not least. I've decided what I'm going to do next. The story is going to be called "Thank Goodness." It's going to be a Tryan and a prequel to this story. You'll finally get to know how exactly Troy and Ryan got together. If you look back in this story, you'll find hints to it … but now you'll get to know everything. I hope you're all excited, because I'm excited to start something new … but something familiar.
So … until then. I hope you all enjoy whatever life has in store for you and that you enjoy this last chapter of After the Music.
It's been great!