My apologies for yet another lengthy wait, but I wanted to make sure I got this chapter just right. I've been working up to this for over a year now, and I'm sure you've been waiting for it, so under no circumstances did I want to rush this little pay off. Hopefully it will all have been worth it.
Warnings: Boys lovin' other boys, and lots of bad language (even more than usual)
Notes: How typical is it that I get back into my stride with this fic right at the end? I start having fun again and suddenly it's over!
He should have known what she was planning the second he saw her take that mirror out. That was the gut wrenching part – the fact that he just hadn't seen it coming. He should have. By God, if anyone should have known it was him! Yet he of all people had been naïve enough to believe that Sharpay would have just left it at 'It was a fluke' and be done with it.
A flag went up when she dragged him into the audience to watch Chad and Gabriella's performance, he had to admit, and when she took out the mirror he remembered thinking it was an odd time to be checking her make-up, but he just didn't connect the dots in time to stop her. Would he even have stopped her? He wasn't sure he would have had the balls, to be honest, because she looked pissed before they went on, and you just didn't get in her way when she was like that. But then she pulled the stunt with the mirror, and suddenly it was Ryan's turn to be pissed, because a) it just wasn't fair and b) she fucking waited until that sequence came up, even though she knew just how dangerous a fall at that point could have been. Bones could have been broken. Hell, if Gabriella had landed wrong then she could have snapped her fucking neck! Was a dance competition really worth that? No it wasn't! There was a goddamn line, for Christ's sake!
He left as soon as he saw that both Chad and Gabriella were fine, knowing that if he stayed any longer then he would have had to go up on stage to collect the prize that Sharpay had just made sure they would win. The thought made him sick to the very bottom of his stomach, and he just wanted to go home and wash his hands of this stupid fucking competition and everything that had come from it. Sharpay tried to grab his arm and make him stay, but he shrugged her off with more force than he remembered ever using before in his life, and the shock must have momentarily stunned her because he didn't hear her voice calling after him again.
Later that night Sharpay came knocking on his bedroom door.
"Ryan?" she called. "Ryan, we won. I have the trophy right here. Don't you want to see it?"
The door remained steadfastly locked, and after receiving nothing but stony silence, Sharpay went skulking off.
He didn't ride to school with her in the convertible the next morning, choosing instead to walk. She kept calling him on his cell, but he didn't pick up. After the first couple of calls, he briefly considered throwing the phone away but immediately discounted that idea as stupid, because he loved his cell phone too much, and didn't it make more sense to just turn it off? Talk about cutting off his nose to spite his face!
Homeroom was of course, extremely awkward. Sharpay by now had gotten the message that Ryan wasn't talking to her and was therefore sulking, trying to blank him more than he was blanking her, as though that would somehow teach him a lesson, but even worse was seeing Chad walk in, followed by Gabriella. Ryan could not bring himself to look either of them in the eye, knowing what his sister had done, and so he kept his head bowed down out of shame.
Ms Darbus breezed into the room just after the last student filed in, which was odd because she was usually there before everyone else. Any idle chatter that had started up was immediately hushed and all waited with baited breath for her to mention the dance contest.
"For those of you who did not attend last night's dance competition," she began, "Sharpay and Ryan were the winners, as voted by the judges."
Ryan's guts twisted in anticipation of her impending gushing review of their performance.
"I just want to thank the other competitors for showing incredible sportsmanship, particularly Miss Montez and Mr Danforth. The level of skill required in your routine truly impressed me, and it's just a shame events occurred as they did."
As she said the last sentence she looked straight at Sharpay, who had the grace to at least squirm a little.
Ryan was flabbergasted. Ms Darbus knew Sharpay cheated! So…how come they weren't disqualified? Did that even make sense?
He stayed behind at the end of homeroom in order to get some answers.
"Can I help you Mr Evans?" Ms Darbus asked.
"You know Sharpay put Chad and Gabriella off." he said.
"Why didn't you disqualify us?"
Ms Darbus sighed and removed her spectacles, carefully setting them on her desk. "Your sister's behaviour was in poor taste, there is no denying that. However, she did not break any specified rules, and therefore I had no grounds to disqualify you. Had she bribed the judges, or tampered with costumes or music, etcetera, then the case may have been very different. Still, I trust you will not allow her to get away with it."
Ryan frowned. "No Miss Darbus, I will not."
"Good boy. Now away with you. You'll be late for class."
Ryan nodded and went on his way. It was good to know that Ms Darbus knew what Sharpay had done too, but the fact that there was no swift official retribution coming her way made him feel slightly more shitty about the whole thing. He did know one thing though: Chad and Gabriella deserved to know the truth, even if it did result in the messenger getting shot. He owed them that much at least.
Ryan managed to get a hold of Gabriella just before lunch, though he hadn't so much as seen Chad since last night.
"He's avoiding you." Gabriella explained. "He thinks we disappointed you."
"What? No way! Look, you guys did me so proud, just like I knew you would."
"Except for the fall."
"You wouldn't even have fallen if it wasn't for Sharpay."
For a moment Ryan couldn't bring himself to say it, he was so ridden with guilt, but the thought of Chad thinking he had anything to be sorry for was enough to spur him into action.
"Sharpay shone a light into Chad's eyes," he blurted. "She sabotaged your performance because she thought you were going to beat us, and I had no idea she was going to do that, I swear, and I'm so sorry Gabriella, I really am. It wasn't fair, and we shouldn't have won that stupid trophy and I'd give it back but she didn't break any stupid rules so the judges can't do a damn thing, and even Ms Darbus thinks it was a shitty thing to do and God please forgive me!"
Gabriella, to her credit, took his desperate outburst in her stride, and processed the wave of information relatively quickly.
After some lengthy consideration she said, "You care about what Chad thinks of you, don't you?"
"What?" Ryan replied, genuinely thrown.
"It doesn't matter. I'll tell Chad everything you just told me. Just relax. You're totally forgiven." Then she gave Ryan a quick hug and scuttled off, presumably to find Chad.
"Sweet girl." Ryan muttered to himself. "A little cryptic at times, but sweet all the same."
Ryan had no intention of going straight home after school. He wasn't quite ready to stop not talking to Sharpay yet, and he knew his parents weren't going to stand for a silent dinner as well as the silent breakfast they had to endure that morning, so he just hung around for a while. He walked aimlessly through the hallways, humming show tunes to himself. He just reached the end of 'Annie Get Your Gun' when he found himself right outside the auditorium. Apparently his subconscious had some unresolved issues there, so with a resigned sigh he pushed the door open and went inside.
The place was empty – a sight that always sent shivers down Ryan's spine. He couldn't explain why, it just always did. He supposed it had something to do with the anticipation of a show or something similar, but he had never been able to exactly pinpoint the reason.
The thing was, the auditorium wasn't completely empty. There was someone sat on the edge of the stage…someone Chad-shaped...
"You didn't feel much like going home either."
Chad's head snapped up at the sound of Ryan's voice. To his relief, a smile broke out on his face when he saw him.
"I just wanted a little head space," he said, "Gabriella told me about what happened."
"So you know it wasn't your fault?"
"Yeah, I know. I'm just…I just wish we could have finished what we started, you know? We missed our moment of glory, and you never even got to see us do that damn sequence all the way through."
Ryan shrugged. "So do it now."
Chad looked at Ryan like he was simple. "Uh…Gabriella isn't here…"
"I know. Do it with me, dumbass!" Ryan grinned and pulled himself up on stage. He held out a hand to Chad and waited. It felt like their first practice session again, with the jazz squares, and he had to admit he had missed this.
"You're insane." Chad muttered, even as he hoisted himself onto his feet and took Ryan's hand. "There ain't no way I'm tossing you." he added, and he had to fight to keep his own grin at bay.
Ryan rolled his eyes. "So don't toss me."
"We don't even have any music."
"Just use your imagination!"
"You gonna count me in?"
"Okay, on four. One, two, three, four."
The two boys spun together, laughing the whole time. The spin was meant to last two rotations, but they went for three, just because. Leaving out the lift and the toss, Chad went straight into the swooping dip and held Ryan inches from the floor before swinging him upright again. The end result was the two boys suddenly being nose to nose and slightly breathless. Neither made to move away.
"Why did you kiss me?" Ryan asked. The second the words left his mouth he wished he hadn't said anything, but it was the first thing that had crossed his mind and he couldn't help but ask.
Chad was flustered at the question, but even more flustered at the answer he gave,
"I wanted to."
Time stood still. Ryan could barely understand what he just heard. Chad had wanted to kiss him? He liked him back? But…oh God, he liked him back!
"I've been such an idiot…"
Ryan went to pull away and Chad panicked. His entire body was trembling with the need to keep Ryan close and if whatever he was about to say meant him pulling away, then he didn't want to hear it.
"Don't…" he whimpered. He snaked his arms around Ryan's waist and pulled him close again. "Whatever it is, I don't care."
Ryan sighed. He knew he should at least try and confess what a tool he had been, but the feel of Chad's breath on his neck and his fingers brushing over the small of his back were forcing coherent sentences to the back of his mind.
"I have no idea what I'm doing," Chad whispered into the crook of Ryan's neck. "But I can't stop it." His grip tightened around Ryan's waist. "I haven't stopped thinking about you since this whole thing started."
It was at this point that Ryan decided to give up on reason and just appreciate the fact that this was actually happening. Tentatively, he reached up and looped his arms around Chad's shoulders and spent a moment just holding him, breathing him in. One hand found its way to the back of Chad's neck and Ryan let his fingers flutter over the spot between his shoulder blades, earning a tangible shudder. It was so simple, yet so incredible he was struggling to find feelings to fit, let alone words. Then Chad pulled back and locked those deep brown eyes with Ryan's own, and they were so dark with need and vulnerability that Ryan's heart broke clean in two at the sight.
"I think it's my turn to kiss you." he said, and within seconds their lips were crushed together. The kiss was harsh and desperate – both had been waiting for this for far too long, and it seemed to last forever, until the lack of air was making Ryan feel dizzy (or so he assumed) and he was forced to pull away.
"I thought you were making fun of me when you kissed me before." he panted.
"That would have been easier." Chad admitted with a grin, and then he leaned forward to ensnare Ryan in another kiss. He didn't notice the exact moment when their mouths opened to deepen the kiss, nor was he sure whether it was him or Ryan who had initiated it. All he was aware of was the slide of Ryan's lips against his and the heat of their tongues wrestling for dominance. He let out a deep, lustful groan. Why had he been so afraid of this?
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Ryan broke the kiss and looked pointedly southwards with a satisfied smirk. Confused, Chad followed his line of sight and swore. He was embarrassingly hard.
Ryan laughed. "I wouldn't be embarrassed if I were you." he said, and then he pulled Chad closer so that he could feel his own hard-on pressing into his hip. Chad couldn't help but grin.
"Maybe we should take this somewhere a little less...open?" he suggested. Ryan gave a throaty laugh.
"You read my mind." he muttered, and then he took Chad by the hand and led him backstage to the closet where the costumes were kept. Their clothes were soon lost among piles of doublets and tutus, and for a good half an hour the only sounds that could be heard from that closet were hitched breathing, long, desperate moans and occasionally the sound of Chad shouting out Ryan's name.
They agreed to keep it a secret. Chad, for all his strength, wasn't sure he could cope with being the gay basketball jock, and Ryan wasn't sure he could cope with being the guy who turned him. Not at East High, anyway. Chad figured college would mean a brand new start, and he could come out then. They didn't like to admit that what they had might not be strong enough to survive the distance college would mean, because what they had was all about the present – a stolen glance, an illicit kiss in an empty hallway, a 'study' date in a diner or movie theatre a couple of towns over. It wasn't exactly the romance of the century, but it was pretty good considering they were both in the closet, one way or the other.
Kelsi was the first person to find out post-dance contest. It was inevitable, considering how quiet she was and how much time she spent alone in the music room (one of the pair's favourite make-out spots). One day they just didn't notice she was there, and the rest you can probably work out for yourselves. Once they got over the initial embarrassment, she wrote them a song as a way of giving them her blessing, and Ryan loved it so much that he would play it at home at least once a day.
Taylor had to be told eventually. She got tired of feeling out of the loop and demanded to know what said loop was about, and once it had been explained her response was something along the lines of:
"Now it all makes sense. Your chauvinistic Neanderthal behaviour was just you overcompensating. Typical."
Then she asked for all the juicy details, prying so far as to make Chad blush.
As for Sharpay...well she more or less knew from the moment she worked out that Ryan wasn't playing evil genius with the dance contest. Ryan stopped freezing her out after two months solid of her sulking, although he did significantly tune down his role as her lap dog. The trophy also acquired a mysterious disfiguring crater that may or may not have been caused by someone dropping it accidentally-on-purpose out of the attic window of the Evan's five-storey mansion and then running it over with their sister's pink convertible. Daddy took it to get fixed, but it never quite looked the same. Sharpay was, of course, furious.
The sneaking around did get to them sometimes. There were occasions where Chad wanted to announce over the PA just how lucky he was to be making out with Ryan on a regular basis, and sometimes it killed Ryan not to be able to throw his arms around Chad whenever he felt like it. He would watch Troy and Gabriella canoodling at lunch and the jealousy would consume him, but he dealt, because it was high school, and neither he nor Chad were brave enough to face the gossip, or Chad's parents, and because even though being together behind closed doors never felt like it was ideal, it was enough. It could be the hardest day and it would take just the briefest of kisses, or touches, or gazes, and everything would feel worthwhile again. So they kept it a secret, and they kept going. And sometimes, when they found the time, they would lock themselves away, put on some music and just dance together. And sometimes, when they were feeling dangerous, they even did the tango.
Sorry if the ending seemed rushed. I'd spent nine chapters focusing on them getting together. I didn't want to spend another nine on where they went from there. Also I think another chapter of this story might just kill me.
So. There you go. Finished. Thank you so much to everyone for sticking by me. It was above and beyond the call of duty, it really was, considering how long you guys have had to wait for every friggin' chapter. I'm amazed I'm still getting reviews and story alert adds. When the idea for this fic first popped into my head I never imagined it would take up such a chunk of my life. It was going to be a one shot! Anyway, thanks again for reading. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.