He hadn't expected this.
Not when his family decided to spend Christmas vacation with the New York Danforths. Not when he decided to give Ryan and Kelsi a call because almost anything was better than parading around the city with his family. Not that he didn't like his family, but he usually liked them better when he had an exit strategy. And Ryan and Kelsi had been living there for like six months – and were staying in New York for break because of some musical they were working on – so they probably knew all the best places to go and things to see.
So it wasn't just that he wasn't paying attention. It was just that he had no idea to even expect this.
To expect to be sitting in a cramped theater seat surrounded by three generations of Danforths watching Ryan fucking Evans dance on stage in ways that should be very, very illegal because they were making Chad extremely, uncomfortably, ridiculously hard.
How in the hell could he have ever expected this?
It hadn't started this way, obviously. In fact, the first week it had been pretty cool, even though sometimes Ryan and Kelsi had ended up tagging along with Danforths instead of Chad tagging along with them.
It had started with a broken ankle. Actually, it had started the day before the broken ankle, when Ryan and Kelsi had taken him to Lincoln Center for ice skating. It wasn't like it was hockey, but it was athletic, so Chad figured he'd have no problem.
Until about the fourth time he'd ended up on his ass, and Ryan - whose face was already chapped pink from cold - started to turn red with laughter.
"I thought you were supposed to be, you know, sporty."
Kelsi giggled behind her pale blue mittens, and Ryan's grin didn't fade in the face of Chad's glare.
"I'm plenty sporty with two feet firmly on the ground, Evans, and you know it," he grumbled.
"You wouldn't know it from this display," Ryan said cheekily, but glided forward gracefully and held out a hand. They were bare, but he was sporting a jauntily striped scarf of red, blue, and green, and a red plaid newsboy cap that somehow seemed to match even though Chad was pretty certain that they shouldn't.
His hand was smooth and cold when Chad gripped it, but it was steady as he helped Chad to his feet.
"Here," Ryan said, his smile easing into something softer. "I'll guide you until you get your sea legs."
Chad wanted to say something stinging and sarcastic, but Ryan did look sincere, and he was probably the only reason there hadn't been a fifth fall yet. So he bit he lip and started forward, trying not to be annoyed when Ryan easily slid backwards as if he'd been doing it every day of his life.
"There isn't a lot of ice in Albuquerque," he groused.
"Of course there isn't," Ryan placated.
Chad risked a glance up at him and caught Ryan's eye. "Kelsi's skating circles around us, isn't she?"
Ryan's pink lips curved up in another grin. "I'm sure she's fumbling along somewhere," he said with certainty, his eyes not leaving Chad's so he wouldn't have to witness his own lie.
And that was the first moment. That, Chad was sure, was the beginning of the end for him. The start of his downfall. Because at that exact moment, Chad, against all laws of logic, wanted nothing more than to kiss Ryan Evans on his cupids bow mouth.
He wanted to taste the chilled air on Ryan's lips and chase the taste of chocolate inside. It was an irrational and completely foreign urge and yet he couldn't shake it, his hands tightening suddenly against Ryan's hands.
"Are you okay?" Ryan asked.
And in that moment of hesitation, Chad almost, almost leaned in despite how ludicrous it was.
He wasn't sure whether to be grateful or frustrated that he stumbled at that exact moment, toppling him heavily against Ryan, who was only slightly able to control their fall before they landed hard on the cold sheet of ice.
"Are you okay?" Kelsi asked, sliding to an expert stop beside them.
"Yeah," Ryan said, untangling himself from Chad. "But I'm pretty sure Chad's ice skating is much like his golf game," he said teasingly, inviting Chad to share the joke.
He was holding out a hand again, and Chad took it, getting to his feet as fast as possible before dropping it like it burned.
"Yeah," Chad agreed quickly, at the looks that were transforming from humor to concern. He forced a grin. "A guy can't be expected to be good at everything," he said, and Ryan and Kelsi both grabbed an arm to lead him off the ice.
It was easy, it was friendly, and whatever the hell that had happened to him out on the ice was an aberration, pure and simple. Ryan was a good guy, a friend, and Chad in no way wanted to kiss him.
Except when he looked at him.
Which, as it turned out, happened a lot more than Chad had ever realized.
It was maddening, especially because his family had fallen hard for the drama duo and invited them to Christmas Eve dinner; Kelsi and Ryan showing up in green and red respectively and sparkling like Christmas tree ornaments.
Kelsi ended up at a battered piano tucked into the corner of the living room, his cousin sitting next to her, both of them laughing at his amateur attempts at a tune. Ryan somehow ended up center stage again, on the couch in the middle of the living room, Chad’s three year old niece in his lap as he talked to Chad’s mother about the musical that he and Kelsi had been working on, which would premiere the day after Christmas and wouldn’t Mrs. Danforth like to come with her family?
Of course she would, she’d responded, beaming at him.
Chad’s fingers tightened on his eggnog, but when Ryan’s smiling face met his, he couldn’t help but return his happiness.
Dinner was an all together different set of torture, Ryan pressed up close to his side, leaning into him so that he could whisper in his ear, “Your family’s great.”
And Chad knew that Ryan got along quite well with his family, even Sharpay, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to offer his own family up to him like a gift. Or maybe a bribe, just to keep him from leaving ever again.
As it turned out, that’s when the broken ankle happened, and Ryan and Kelsi apologized throughout the explanation of the lead actor’s accident, the understudy being trapped in Utah, and Ryan being the only person who knew the songs and choreography enough to be able to perform. Throughout the both of them hurrying into their coats and scarves and mittens so that they could head down to the theater and start cramming in practices. Throughout Chad’s mother shoving a plate of food she’d made up for them into their hands and her admonishments to not work too hard because they were going to be great and they would all see them on Friday.
“I’m so sorry about this,” Ryan said again as they waited for a cab. Chad hadn’t put on his coat, so he was standing there in a sweatshirt in the freezing cold with Ryan looking incredibly sincere, one of Chad’s grandma’s company plates in his hands.
“No big deal,” Chad said shrugging, his hands shoved deep in his pockets with the ready excuse of the cold and not just because he was stopping himself from reaching out. “Mom’s right though, you’re going to be perfect.”
“Yeah,” Ryan said, ducking his head almost shyly. “Look, thanks for…well, everything,” he said.
The cab pulled up, stopping Chad from making a fool of himself, he was sure. He gave them both a small wave, and then said, “Break a leg,” and forced himself to turn inside.
Chad had seen Ryan perform. Well, sort of perform in that the he’d seen him teach at Lava Springs, and he’d seen bits of his number from backstage during the Senior Musical so he wasn’t exactly apprehensive. Ryan would be way up on stage and not concentrating on him at all, which undoubtedly meant that whatever had been happening over the last couple of days wouldn’t keep happening.
So he was pretty relaxed as he herded his family into the theater and helped them into their seats. There was a nice crowd, which sort of surprised him, but only because Ryan had explained that this was mostly a student production.
He’d also been kind of surprised that the rest of the Evans’ weren’t coming because Ryan was their only son and this was his first semi-professional gig – especially now that he was acting in it instead of just doing choreography – but Ryan had explained about their yearly ski trip to Aspen and unavoidable conflicts.
He’d looked down at that and Chad had wanted to punch someone – probably Sharpay – for putting that look on his face, even though it wasn’t so much of a look, but a complete lack of one.
He hadn’t brought it up again, and neither had Ryan, but it didn’t stop him from scanning the crowd, searching for Sharpay’s unmistakable glitter. It completely surprised him when he found it, Sharpay whining to one of the ushers in a high-pitched voice that carried over the din, her mother and father eyeing her with affection.
“Well, well,” he said, a smile tugging at his mouth. “The ice queen does have a heart.”
“What’s that dear?”
Chad took his seat rapidly, shaking his head. “Nothing grandma,” he said, happy for Ryan, and yet highly cognizant of the need to protect his own sanity by not having to deal with them. “It’s just a good day.”
She patted his hand, shooting him an indulgent grin. “Your beau’s going to do just fine,” she said.
And Jesus, Chad thought as the lights dimmed, thankfully hiding his flush, even his grandma had noticed. Which meant that probably most of his family had noticed. Which meant that maybe Ryan had noticed.
Chad didn’t have any idea whatsoever of how to deal with this information so he sort of just blankly stared into the dark, unseeing as the music swelled and the curtain opened on the stage.
Unseeing throughout almost half of the first act, and then suddenly he was seeing everything ridiculously clear.
Ryan strode out on stage wearing white pants, an eye searing patterned shirt, and a smirk that Chad wanted to taste. It only got worse from there as dialogue turned to singing which turned to dancing, which turned to Chad having to shift in his seat a lot.
It was hard not to notice Ryan’s hips. They were there and slim and constantly moving, but on stage they’d added swiveling and shaking and grinding and Chad clutched at his armrests and tried not to hyperventilate.
And the damning part was that Ryan was good. Not just his hips, which were usually fantastic, but all of him. He was really, really good, and when it was all over, Chad could only sit there for a moment and try to breathe as applause erupted around him.
“I’ve got to-” he said hastily, standing up as they started the curtain calls. He waved vaguely in the face of concerned looks from his family, and then dashed back stage; needing to be there when Ryan finished for reasons he couldn’t explain to himself.
“Chad!” Kelsi exclaimed gleefully, then bounced up to him and gave him a hug. “Did you see it, wasn’t it great?”
“Yeah,” Chad said, forcing himself to focus on her, because she’d done amazing work as well, and deserved to know it. “It was great, Kels.”
And then she sort of shifted away as Ryan bounded backstage, still wearing the costume hat that could have been one of his own, button-down white shirt and skinny jeans. His cheeks were flushed from exertion and applause and he laughed as he caught sight of Kelsi, and then fucking beamed when he saw Chad.
Before Chad could say anything like, “Good job,” or even, “Fucking amazing, man,” Ryan whooped and dashed across the space between them to leap into Chad’s arms, his legs and arms twining around Chad’s waist and shoulders, and his happy pink mouth landing right against Chad’s lips.
“Punch me later if you want,” he murmured, his voice hot and low. “Because I probably wouldn’t even feel it right now.”
Chad thought about watching Ryan when he thought he hated him, and then watching Ryan when he finally got to know him, and then watching Ryan out there tonight and said, one hand still clamped on Ryan’s hip to keep him steady and the other cupping his jaw, “Do you feel this?”
Afterwards, when they’d dealt with the teasing from the entire cast and crew, and then the speculative looks from Ryan’s family and the knowing looks from Chad’s, Ryan said, “You know, I thought you were hitting on me last summer after the baseball game.”
They were snuggled on the couch in the loft that Ryan had been sharing with Kelsi over the break, but she was out celebrating, and they were alone with Fred Astaire dancing on the screen in front of them in black and white.
“Yeah?” Chad asked, shifting enough so that he could see Ryan’s face.
“You took me into the locker room and told me to strip,” Ryan said, his eyes sparkling.
The laughter bubbled up inside of him as he remembered that day, the look in Ryan’s eyes and the flutter in his stomach when he’d manhandled Ryan into his Wildcats jersey. He rested his forehead against Ryan’s, smoothed a hand over the width of Ryan’s shoulders and then down his chest. “Maybe I was,” he admitted, and then kissed him like he’d been wanting to for years.