High School Musical

Author's note: I really have no idea how American graduation ceremonies work so please forgive me any errors that have found their way into this chapter. I'm using the ceremony in High School Musical 3: Senior Year as a reference, but I know many people have complained about its inaccuracies. Oh well, I hope the the rest of the chapter makes sense.

****

"You really should, Ry. She is your sister...........mmph!"

Ryan smothered Chad's words with a searing kiss forcing him to lie back on the already rumpled duvet. Pausing his exploration of the other boy's mouth for just a second, he answered in a heated whisper,

"I don't think now," he indicated their state of semi-undress and growing arousal, "is the appropriate time to be talking about Shar, hm?"

Chad knew from experience what that wicked gleam in Ryan's eyes would lead to, so before he was reduced to babbling incoherence, he twisted out of the other boy's grip. Sensing a challenge, Ryan laughed and lunged, but Chad leapt off the bed.

"What is the matter with you today? Ever since you saw Sharpay this morning you've been acting........odd."

Chad shrugged and sat back down on the edge of the bed.

"It's the two of you fighting – "

" – we've always fought."

"Not like this, not the cold, stony silence you're giving each other."

"Things change, don't they? It's graduation next week and – "

"Exactly! You can't just get your diploma and jet off to New York without talking to her!"

"Why do you care so much? For years you hated the pair of us and when I separated from her you were over the moon. If you ask me, Danforth, your reasons are not entirely selfless."

Chad had the good grace to look slightly sheepish and started fiddling with the edge of the duvet.

"Okay, you caught me: I really don't want to end up at the U of A with Sharpay when she's in such a fearsome mood. She'll probably think I'm the cause of all your disagreements and........attack me!"

Ryan sighed.

"Alright, fine. I'll do something, but only because I want my boyfriend to visit me in New York without chunks missing."

Chad flopped back onto the bed and pulled Ryan on top of him.

"Sorted. Now, where were we...."

"Oh, no you don't! You aren't getting out of interrupting me earlier that easily. If I'm making peace with Shar, you're resolving whatever happened between you and Troy."

Chad pulled a face.

"Why'd you have to bring that up? We were fine that afternoon at Gabi's, it's just not what it used to be."

"And you're going to give up that special 'bromance' you had just because you discovered, like I've always known, that he's a bit vacuous?"

Chewing his lower lip, Chad ran his hand through his curls, before stroking a finger down Ryan's cheek.

"I'll.....talk to him next week sometime. I guess if he comes to the U of A it would be rather awkward otherwise."

"That's all I wanted to hear," and without further ado, Ryan continued from where he'd been interrupted.

****

"Mother!" Sharpay screeched from her bedroom a week later. "Where are my new shoes?"

"By the door, kitten," replied Mrs Evans calmly, as she walked across the landing in a cloud of scent. "I hope you're almost ready because we really have to be leaving."

Realising that he couldn't hold onto the parcel forever, Ryan braced himself and entered Sharpay's room.

Clothes, shoes and, oddly enough, a few of his hats, were strewn all over the room, and Boi yapped excitedly from his basket when he knocked on the open door. Sharpay turned her back on her brother and disappeared into her walk-in closet.

Treading carefully through the piles of belongings, Ryan called out tentatively,

"Er, Shar....?"

Nothing.

"Sharpay, I've bought you something."

Immediately the closet door was flung open. Ryan considered it safe to approach and stepped slowly towards her.

"Here," he offered her the parcel. "Consider it a 'Happy Graduation Day' present."

Tearing off the wrapping paper, Sharpay squealed with delight when she saw the tiny graduation outfit for Boi. She rushed over to her dog and Ryan attempted to slip out quickly. A quiet voice stopped him as he reached the door.

"Thank you."

Turning, he saw Sharpay smile briefly before continuing to fuss over her dog. He left the room with a similar smile on his face.

****

"Look at my Chad all grown up," Mrs Danforth cooed, trying to plaster her son's flyaway curls to his scalp.

"Mom, stop fussing! You're ruining my 'fro."

"Don't take that tone with me, young man. Graduation is an important occasion and I don't want you looking like you've come straight from the court."

"He'll be here any minute!"

Mrs Danforth stopped her attempts at tidying his appearance and turned Chad round to face her.

"Troy?"

Chad avoided looking his mother in the eye.

"No.......Ryan."

She smiled and nodded, tipping his chin up so he met her gaze.

"Whatever you have with this boy is fine by me, Chad. You know both your father and I will love you regardless."

Chad threw his arms round her and squeezed tight, before fluffing his hair in the hall mirror. A car horn beeped impatiently from the driveway as the Evans family waited for him, and, grabbing his phone, Chad turned to his mother,

"See you at the ceremony later, then."

"We'll be there, but.....talk to Troy. You don't see much of him any more and he may not be staying in Albuquerque."

"I will, but he'll get a scholarship at the U of A, so it would be stupid for him to leave."

"Hmm, well, you have to take Gabriella into account too." Realising that there were more important things than East High's 'Golden Couple,' Mrs Danforth kissed Chad on the cheek and watched him get into the Evans' family car.

****

Chad and Ryan had barely set foot inside East High's main doors when a a human blur, complete with red robes flying out behind, hurtled into them.

"Don't.........you..........mustn't......." Pausing to catch her breath, her eyes darted between the pair of them. Chad gripped her shoulder and asked with concern,

"Are you quite alright, Tay?"

"I'm......fine," she swallowed. "This is why I never took well to gym."

"Well, why on earth did you sprint down the corridor?"

"I've been so worried about you, Chad. The last time we spoke you were nearly in tears on the phone and I was at a complete loss."

Ryan's head snapped up and he grabbed Chad's arm.

"You were crying?"

"I....yeah......After that day at Gabi's it hit me how far away you would be going and I.......kinda lost it a bit."

"Oh, Chad," Ryan drew him into his arms, stroking his curls soothingly. "We can work round that, we're strong enough. Anyway, Troy's going to be doing the same thing with Gabriella."

Taylor felt herself melt a little at those words: who would have thought the jock and the theatre geek would make such a perfect couple. Suddenly, she realised the implications in Ryan's words.

"Er, guys. I don't know if Troy's told you, but he – "

At that moment, Ms Darbus swept down the corridor and, ranting the whole way about their tardiness, shepherded them to their seats in time for the ceremony to start.

****

Out in the field, with the sun beating down on his neck and a slight breeze ruffling his gown, Chad shaded his eyes and watched the other seniors take their seats. Sharpay had placed herself beside Zeke, a radiant smile lighting up her face, and from where Chad was sitting, he could almost hear his fellow Wildcat's heart pounding. Ryan turned in time to see Chad's grin and winked, before Principal Matsui opened the proceedings with a long, convoluted speech that, needless to say, went right over the students' heads.

Chad breathed a sigh of relief when East High's principal stepped down and the diplomas started to be handed out. The destination of each student was read out as they received theirs and Chad, clapping along with the others, paid very little attention to it until he heard:

"Mr Troy Bolton, Captain of the Wildcat Team, will be attending the University of California, Berkley, where he will be able to combine both basketball and theatre."

Chad's jaw dropped. After all the plans they'd made together, all the fuss about the Redhawk team Troy was leaving? The friend who'd played for hours at the scrapyard with him, the one who'd encouraged him to tryout for the Wildcats, had gone behind his back and dumped him, all because of some girl who'd turned up a year ago.

Only Ryan noticed him disappear, running as fast as he could towards the school gym, but it was only when 'Mr Chad Danforth' failed to accept his diploma that a ripple of concern passed through the crowd. Troy looked as bemused as ever and it took several pointed looks from Ryan and a not-so-subtle whisper from Taylor to convince him to follow Chad.

****

Skilfully bouncing the ball up and down the court, graduation gown hindering him slightly, Chad aimed at the hoop as Troy ran towards him. The Wildcat captain mimicked the crowd's screams that usually filled the gym, and it was all Chad could do not to burst out laughing. Troy, evidently, lacked the ability to tackle any problem on an emotional level.

And they said Chad was incapable of being serious.

Laughing along with Troy's rather pathetic joke about diplomas, Chad reflected that he hadn't really been fair to his team mate.

Since the arrival of Gabriella, everything had been turned upside down and the stereotypical jock who had once been his best friend, was transformed into an overenthusiastic thespian. That's not to say Chad hadn't changed either: he'd found friends from a social circle that didn't talk constantly of game tactics and, along the way, been caught up in a relationship with someone entirely unexpected.

A year ago, he would have blanched at the idea of going steady with a member of a Drama Club, let alone a male one. And yet, here he was: officially 'out' with his ex-nemesis.

Putting all his previous, if rather melodramatic, feelings of betrayal behind him, Chad said with a smile,

"One question: does Berkeley play?"

****

The ceremony had long since ended, but many seniors were still gathered on the field, trying to make the most of their time together as a year group. Ryan weaved his way through the crowd towards Chad, receiving pats on the back for his Julliard scholarship as he went.

Finally reaching him, he asked,

"Did you – "

" – talk to Troy? Yes, I think we're pretty much okay now. Though, between you and me, I doubt he had any idea there was a problem."

Ryan giggled and twined their fingers together.

"Someday we'll be looking back at all this, reminiscing together, with nostalgia."

"High school's never meant to last forever, Ry. It's something we're a part of but the the world's one big stage and our future is stretching out ahead."

Leaning his head on Chad's shoulder, Ryan replied,

"I appreciate the drama reference there, and thank you for understanding about Julliard; I know how much it hurt you at first."

"I was being rather selfish, behaving like that – "

" – no, no, you had every right to be, but I......." Ryan's voice tailed away and he whispered, "I'm going to miss you so damn much."

Chad wrapped his arms around the smaller boy and buried his face in the fine, blond hair.

"Make sure you come back often, for me and for Sharpay, and don't fall prey to some smooth-talking New York guy."

Ryan's laughter was muffled against Chad's shirt.

"How could I possibly trade my gorgeous boyfriend in for someone else."

"Why thank you, you aren't too shabby yourself."

Reaching up to draw Chad closer, Ryan hesitated before placing a gentle, lingering kiss on his lips. He stepped back slightly but with a sudden burst of passion, Chad crashed their mouths together again, pulling him close enough for their chests to touch. Oblivious to their surroundings, they allowed themselves to forget, at least for now, the distance that would separate them in a few months time.

****

The majority of the seniors having left, Taylor found herself standing beside Sharpay, watching the two boys become lost in each other.

"They're perfect for each other, aren't they?"

Startled, Taylor turned to the other girl who was still looking in the direction of her brother.

"Yes, yes they are. I'm surprised you're allowing your brother to........associate with someone like Chad."

"Ryan deserves to be happy, and if Danforth can make him feel like that, I'll accept him."

Sharing a smile, the two girls took one last look at the couple alone on the field, before walking back to the school building together.

The End

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