Summary: Two years after high school graduation, Kelsi's on scholarship at Juilliard and Ryan's an Academy-Award-winning movie star. What happens when they meet again? Plus, there are always meddling sisters, jealous roommates, and the ever-present paparazzi to make things… shall we say… interesting. Ryan x Kelsi.
AN: I just drank Coke and I can't fall asleep. TRUE. The sky is lime green. FALSE. The lines at the grocery store were extremely long today. TRUE. I own High School Musical. FALSE. Also, I haven't seen HSM3 yet so it's not in here.
When I close my eyes, there
I see you
Oh just hold me tight, cause
I need you
Mistake on my part, when
I left you
To pursue my dream, but
My dream was you
Nineteen-year-old Kelsi Nielsen sat on the couch of the common room of her hall in Juilliard, channel surfing, hoping to find inspiration for her next composition. She stopped when she came upon someone strumming an acoustic guitar to a complex melody, accompanying the music with a rich tenor voice that sounded vaguely familiar. Had she heard the singer before? The camera had been focusing on his hands playing the guitar, so his face wasn't shown, but if he was good enough to be on television, then he was probably somewhat famous.
So please, please would you
But I won't blame you if you
Sometimes I wonder do you
Guess I only want you to
Love me, like I love you
"Hi, Kels," her roommate, Lori Caroc, asked, sitting down next to her. "What are you watching?" Lori was the exact opposite of Kelsi: tall and noticeable, with flaming red-gold hair and emerald green eyes, in contrast to Kelsi's petite five-foot-two frame, brown hair, and gray eyes. Lori was nice, popular, and outgoing, and she had a new boyfriend every month or so. Kelsi wondered what it would be like to be her.
I know that
You're so far
But if I dream, oh
There you are
There you are
"Oh, um." Kelsi gestured to the TV screen. "I don't know. The song is pretty good."
"Are you kidding? It's Celebrity Insider! I totally forgot they were doing a Ryan Evans interview today," Lori said excitedly, grabbing the remote from Kelsi's hands and turning the volume up. Kelsi was not the type of person who regularly watched Celebrity Insider.
"Ryan Evans?" The song had finished and the camera zoomed out. A pretty black-haired woman was sitting in a leather chair across from a younger-looking blond guy wearing a gray fedora, who had been singing.
"You know, the actor? He did his first movie like two years ago and it was a huge hit?" Lori rolled her eyes. "I can't believe you've never heard of Ryan Evans."
"I've heard of him," Kelsi said quietly. "I was just surprised, is all. I didn't know he could play guitar." Or that he could sing like that, she thought to herself. The song was beautiful—slow, soulful, and sincere, nothing like his and Sharpay's peppy version of "What I've Been Looking For" that they had done for the musical auditions in their junior year of high school.
"Yeah, he just released his first single, 'There You Are,' last week," Lori said. "It was on the iTunes top five. Now I'm in love with him even more than before." She sighed dreamily.
"Wait, you're in love with him?" Kelsi asked. Now she was even more confused.
"Yeah, he's got, like, half the girls in America drooling after him." Lori said nonchalantly, flicking an invisible speck of lint off her shirt. "I mean, who isn't, right?"
"You have no idea," Kelsi said under her breath, tuning back into the show.
"So," Patricia Simmons said, straightening her note cards. Ryan looked at her expectantly. Sure, they were airing live, and he was a little nervous, but he was pretty sure he could handle whatever she threw at him. He set down his guitar, affectionately nicknamed Maria, next to him and tried to look attentive. "Love the new song," she gushed.
"Thanks," he said, and smiled in appreciation. Truthfully, he wasn't sure how the public would react to his singing. He knew he could sing well; he and Sharpay hadn't gotten the leads for seventeen musicals for nothing, but still. "I actually wrote it while filming The Shoe."
"I see." Patricia nodded. "It's coming out in a few weeks, isn't it? I know we all can't wait for October 19th."
"Oh," he said. He knew that Sharpay was somewhere in the studio audience cheering him on, and that gave him a boost of confidence. He could do this. "Thank you."
"Well, back to the song. Did you have someone special in mind when you wrote it? Like the lyrics mistake on my part, when / I left you / To pursue my dream. Were you leaving anyone behind? A girlfriend, perhaps?" Patricia winked into the camera to let the viewers know that this was exclusive Celebrity Insider information.
"Oh, um." Ryan's throat suddenly felt as dry as the Sahara. "Well, sort of," he managed to get out. He thought the interview was going to be about the song and his new movie, not his nonexistent (but people didn't know that) love life.
"Uh huh," she said suspiciously like the seasoned talk-show host she was. She tucked a strand of black hair behind her ear, and leaned closer to him. "Who?"
"Um, just a girl. She's a friend, I suppose." He shifted uncomfortably in the white leather chair he was sitting in. He knew his ears were probably turning pink, like he always did when he got embarrassed. But to be humiliated in the halls of East High School was very different than to be humiliated on live national television.
"Interesting. When did you first start to like this… friend?" Patricia said, her glossy blood-red nails tapping impatiently on the arm of her chair.
"Uh, when we were, you know, in kindergarten," he said. He wished he could pull the fedora he was wearing in front of his blushing face and disappear.
"That's so sweet." Patricia smiled, and there was a chorus of "aww"s from the studio audience, who apparently thought it was cute that a big-name movie star such as himself still liked the girl he'd been secretly crushing on since kindergarten.
"Oh my gawd," Sharpay, Ryan's twin sister, said, stabbing the air with a pair of ivory chopsticks to prove her point. They were sitting at a table at Miyaka, the best Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles, a frequent lunch spot for them. "What was that all about? I thought we specifically said that you weren't going to talk about your personal life. She didn't follow the rules we set at all. What a bi—"
She stopped when Ryan shot her a meaningful look. He couldn't say anything because he had just popped a cucumber roll in his mouth, but Sharpay knew what he would have said.
"Sorry," she apologized. "I know you don't like it when I call people that. But she deservesit. No one, well, except me, ever insults, harms, angers, or humiliates my baby brother like that." Sure, she was only older by seven minutes, but older was older and she acted it.
"Shar," he said, swallowing and placing a calming hand on her shoulder. "It's no big deal. I didn't even tell her the name. Don't get so worked up about it, okay?"
"Okay." Sharpay took a deep, cleansing breath. Then suddenly her face slowly stretched into a sly grin. "It's Kelsi Nielsen, right?"
"What?" Ryan asked. His jaw dropped and his face reddened for the second time that day. "What are you talking about?" But he knew exactly what she was talking about and genuinely hoped that Kelsi hadn't been watching Celebrity Insider today. Not that in the fifteen years he'd known her, she'd ever watched anything like that.
"Don't play dumb, Ry." She rolled her eyes. "I know you've liked Kelsi since you guys were both at the coloring table in kindergarten, remember? Mrs. Shriver's class? And you guys shared that sixty-four pack of crayons and reached for the orange one at the same time? Face it, you've been majorly crushing on her since then."
"How did you know?" he whispered, in case some reporter was lurking around. He didn't want the headlines tomorrow to be Ryan Evans's Love Revealed! or something equally mortifying. "Oh no, did everyone at school know?" He covered his face with his hands.
"I don't know. I'm pretty sure she has no idea, though," Sharpay said. She dipped a piece of tuna sashimi in soy sauce and took a bite. "Even after that time on the last day of junior year, when you tried to do that locker-lean thing. And after that, you were going to ask her to prom, but then got scared because you thought she might still have liked Jason Cross even though they broke up ages ago, and you ended up asking if she remembered the math homework." She finished her raw fish and sipped her hot green tea.
"I was that obvious?" he asked, groaning.
"We have twin telepathy, right? And it's okay," she reassured him, in the way only a fraternal-twin-turned-personal-assistant can. And for the rest of the day, he believed her.
AN: Sharpay might seem a little OOC. Buta person can change in two years... right? Plus, I think that Ryan's stardom made herless "It's all about me." So deal.