Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, High School Musical.
AN: This is dedicated to Liv Pierce, partially for being the first to finish the ryelsi themes challenge on the ryelsi LJ group and partially because her drabbles inspired this. (Seriously, go check out her "Stories Through Time.")
Ryan walked across the barren stage, mentally setting it for the musical. He, Kelsi, and Ms. Darbus had talked at length about the different backdrops they would need and now he needed to figure out the choreography. He already had several ideas and at least one number was completely finished in his mind, but he needed to work out the rest before even approaching the actors. Most of them were bad enough at dancing -- Jason -- that everything had to be perfect so they wouldn't be confused by changes later. He didn't have much time either. School ended in less than half an hour and, though they would not be starting any of the routines today, Ryan needed as much alone time here as he could get to figure things out.
A gentle tune filled the room and he spun, smiling when he saw Kelsi at the piano.
"Do you mind?" she asked, not bothering to pause. "The band's using the practice room."
"Not at all," he said, beginning to dance across the stage. "It'll be easier to do the moves with the music."
He shook his head. "Whatever you want."
She smiled mischievously and quickly switched to one of the more upbeat numbers. Ryan laughed, but followed the beat, moving into what little choreography he'd figured out for this song. She did it twice more before he held up his hands in defeat and she switched back to the first song. It was one of his favorite numbers, showcasing the hazards of passing period.
He wanted -- well, he wanted a lot from this one. Everyone had to do something different and it would take him a while to figure it all out. He decided to start with Troy and Gabriella. Some ballet with the girls for her, some moves lifted from the opening basketball number for him. He ran through the steps he wanted from each, eliciting giggles from Kelsi as he did a very feminine tour jeté. He ignored her as best he could and tried to figure what the couple would do when they finally met. It would probably be at a her locker, him leaning causally against the one beside her.
Ryan sighed, he wasn't quite sure what it was like to be a young couple in puppy dog love. He'd spent too much time in drama club to date during high school. The only real relationship he'd had was with Martha last summer and that had ended as quickly as it began. He'd seen a million chick flicks with Sharpay though, and he knew how things supposedly went. Inspiration hit and he realized that, despite the genius of his idea, Kelsi would probably kill him for making her alter the song. He smiled wickedly, another genius idea materializing. It was the perfect way to get back at Kelsi for her little game earlier.
"Oh, Kelsi," he called in a sing-song voice.
"Yes, Ryan?" she asked, matching his tone.
"Could you come up here?"
Kelsi hit the wrong key and the music abruptly stopped. "What?"
"Come up here," he repeated, this time as an order. He crossed the stage, coming forward so that he towered over her at the piano.
"I'm the composer, Ryan, I don't get up on stage. Ever," she added hastily.
He reached out a hand and she quickly backed away from the piano.
"Oh, no," she said and he leapt down to chase her up the aisle. "No!" she screamed as he caught her around the waist and threw her over his shoulder kicking and screaming.
"You're a lot lighter than I thought," he said, climbing the steps to the stage. "You should perform more, if only so I don't have to lift Sharpay anymore."
He set her down in front of him, careful to keep a loose grip on her shoulders. He frowned at her, matching her petulant expression.
"Why the big frowny face?"
"You know I don't like this!" she cried and he bit back a laugh at the way her knee flinched, as if she'd just held back from stomping her foot.
"I just need you to help me figure out some moves," he said and extended a hand to the empty rows of seats. "There's no one here to see us."
She closed her eyes and sighed.
"That's my composer." He paled slightly at the phrasing and the undesired implications. Hoping she hadn't noticed he quickly took her in his arms for a standard waltz. "I assume you know how to dance?"
"Sort of," she said sheepishly.
"We'll take it slow." He began humming "Everyday," leading Kelsi carefully across the floor. His sense of touch seemed to have grown stronger in the past moments. He was acutely aware of the way she gripped the shoulder of his t-shirt like a lifeline, every move of the muscles in her back made his hand want to press that much more tightly against her, and whenever she adjusted her fingers in his he fought the urge to pull her closer.
He quickly reminded himself that this was an exercise, a performance despite the lack of audience. What was happening here was make-believe. And anyway, it was Kelsi, his friend. She glanced up at him and her shining glasses glinted in the light. Suddenly Sharpay's words came back to him, "Polish her glasses, buy her ruby slippers, take her to prom!"
"Ryan," Kelsi said, cutting into his train of thought.
"Yes?" he asked a bit too loudly, part of him illogically afraid that she knew what he'd been thinking.
"Which number is this for?"
His eyes widened. "Um, the hallway number?"
"Ryan!" she cried, and purposefully went against his next step. His foot hooked on her ankle and suddenly it was all arms and legs and that bitch named Gravity. Ryan had the presence of mind to grasp Kelsi's waist more tightly and twist her up so that he took the brunt of the fall and he cursed his chivalrous nature when his skull met wood. He reached up to rub the back of his head at the same moment that Kelsi looked worriedly up at him. He was suddenly very aware of her hands on his chest and of how tightly he was holding her waist. As far as he was concerned they could have remained like that for a while longer but at that moment the back door opened and the basketball team entered.
"Dude!" Zeke cried. "I told you, man, I told you!"
"Finally," Troy sighed.
"Finally what?" Kelsi asked, rolling off of Ryan and pushing herself up. For a moment her feet were up in the air and he smiled at the red tennis shoes she wore.
"Well," Chad said, motioning to Ryan, "you know."
Kelsi looked between the team and Ryan. "Ryan finally got me to prove what a klutz I am on stage? Is that really worth talking about?"
"Kels," Troy said, apologetically as she returned to the orchestra pit but she waved him and the rest of the team off. He turned to Ryan and the team gathered around. "Listen, man, what we said --"
Ryan smiled, Sharpay's words echoing in his head once more. "Don't worry. I'll take care of it."
"When you say 'take care of it,'" Zeke began.
Ryan's smile widened and he pushed through the group to grab his notes for the day's practice. He was careful to watch Kelsi out of the corner of his eye as he did so. His sister had given him three options where Kelsi was concerned and it seemed there was only one left. It was, Ryan had to admit, suddenly much more appealing than he'd originally thought.
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