Jimmie was glowing with enthusiasm. He radiated it in waves of pure, unadulterated puppy-dog joy. Ryan had to admit, it was sort of sweet.
"So, you're one of the understudies now? That's pretty sweet," he remarked.
"Dude!" Jimmie exclaimed loudly, making Ryan jump, "It's beyond awesome! I get to try and get inside Troy. Inside his mind," he amended quickly.
Ryan smiled crookedly. Aw, a baby closet case, how adorable. He felt so paternal.
"You like Troy?" he asked casually.
A blush spread across the younger boy's cheekbones.
"He's an incredible ball player. And he included everyone on the team, even though he and Chad could just walk it. And he can sing, and his hair does that flippy thing." Apparently, Ryan had opened the floodgates.
"I want to be just like him," he smiled widely, "But I don't get why he's so hung up on his girlfriend," his smile disappeared and a frown darkened his boyish face.
"Hey, be careful what you say around me. Gabby's my best gal pal, if you mess with her I'm practically obliged to beat you. And since my experience in fighting goes about as far as stage-fencing, I'd just as soon avoid that unpleasantness."
Jimmie looked down in embarrassment.
"It's just... I like him a lot and I'd like to hang out with him and be one of his boys, but he's always with her."
Ryan smiled at him indulgently and ruffled his hair.
"Hey, kiddo, you're not the first guy to be jealous of Gabriella's monopoly of Troy Bolton," he said.
"Oh God no!" Ryan pulled a face, before realising that he was being less than diplomatic. "I mean no. Let's just call him... Brad. Brad wanted to spend all his time with Troy and when Gabriella transferred here he tried to get them broken up. Almost worked too." Jimmie looked at him in amazement.
"What happened?" he asked.
"He realised the error of his ways, tried to swallow his pride and accepted that sometimes you have to share your friends."
"Oh," Jimmie looked down, disappointed.
"Don't worry, there's a happy ending. He made a great new friend who he played baseball with every weekend when Troy and Gabby were out on dates and who "understood" parts of him better than Troy could. Troy was still his BFF and all, but he had a super cool boyfr- friend who was a boy. Platonic friend who was a boy."
"I don't want to make a new super cool friend though," said Jimmie moodily.
"You'll learn, Grasshopper. As the bard said, 'you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.'"
"Wasn't that Jagger?"
"Isn't that what I said?"
"You like the Stones?"
"Man cannot live on Judy Garland alone. Though I feel like I should be struck down for even thinking that..." he looked off into the distance.
Jimmie looked at him slightly nervously.
"Do you wanna hang out?" he asked quickly.
Ryan felt his smile slipping from his face slowly.
"I'd love to sweetie, but I've got a date waiting on the diamond," he shrugged apologetically.
Jimmie's eyes widened in realisation, dots suddenly connecting themselves before his eyes. Ryan patted him on the shoulder.
"There's more of us than you think, you're not alone. And if you need someone to talk to, I'm here."
Jimmie looked at his high tops and blushed.
"You're not talking about understudies, are you?" he said.
It sounded more like a statement than a question. Ryan ruffled his hair again and smiled.
"You'll figure it out, kiddo."
Jimmie nodded and smiled.