Kelsi’s eyes are annoyingly knowing, though she’s sat demurely at the piano, hat tilted carefully over her face.
Of course, it’s probably just as well that the girl he’s taking to prom is aware that he’s not taking her with the intention of undressing her and doing various inappropriate things to her afterwards, but still. Ryan could really do without the judgemental little glances she throws his way from time to time; especially since Shar is currently so caught up in her own terribly noisy personal crises that she hasn’t actually noticed that Ryan is being, you know, embarrassingly obvious.
Even Chad Danforth has started giving him measured and thoughtful looks and that’s just plain worrying. Any minute Jason will put two and two together and then Ryan will actually have to kill himself for having no subtlety at all.
It’s inevitable, at East High, that any performance will turn into The Troy And Gabriella Show; Ryan hasn’t yet figured out if this is actually any worse than The Ryan And Sharpay Show (and it’s considerably less incestuous) but it does mean spending embarrassing amounts of hours choreographing everything so the student body can have what they want: Creepy Amounts Of Troy And Gabriella Being Mushy.
(“Don’t you get a little sick of it?” he asked Kelsi, when they were beginning to create their Senior Year Musical. “You know, writing songs for Troy and Gabi all the time?”
All Kelsi did was shrug and point out that at least now her duets got to be actual duets, not showcases for Sharpay, and also that Ryan was clearly enjoying himself a little too much coming up with dance routines for Troy so he should probably stop bitching.)
However, since Gabi has decided to go exercise her oversized brain a thousand miles from here, the show is rapidly falling apart and Ryan is trying to adjust all his painstakingly constructed choreography to Shar’s overambitious standards while not terrifying Troy too much. It doesn’t help that all the other people in the theatre are currently also varying degrees of miserable and pissed (and are paying way too much attention to the way Ryan has pretty much spoken solely to Troy this rehearsal); unproductive doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Ms Darbus must notice this as well because she sighs and dismisses everyone. Shar is pouting as she clicks off; she’s wearing eye-damaging pink today, and yeah, ok, but there is such a thing as taking a signature colour too far. Ryan sighs, and tries to remind himself that this is not actually Shar’s fault.
Troy is looking exhausted, kicking at the white fence currently strung across the front of the stage. Ryan tries to resist going over to do some kind of equivalent of a pep-talk (because he can’t just yell what team? and miraculously fix everything) but after watching for another moment he realises that Troy is really freaking out. And if Troy quits the show then it’s only a matter of time before all the other Wildcats run for it, and then Ryan will be left with all this awesome choreography that will never get seen and then he will never get into Juilliard.
At least, that is how he justifies it.
“Hey,” he says quietly, leaning on the fence beside Troy, leaving a careful space between the two of them.
Troy sighs, not looking straight at him. “Hey man.”
Ryan flails mentally for words for a moment, envying Shar, who always seems to have words at any given time. They may not be the right words, but they’re at least there. Apparently his silence helps, though, because Troy volunteers:
“I’m not getting it. I thought I was, but I’m just…not.”
Darbus shuffles her notes together and slips out the back, leaving the two of them alone in the auditorium. Ryan does his best not to explode.
“You are getting it,” he insists. “You’re just… disconcerted. We all are. But you’ll get there.”
One day, when Ryan is super famous and has a one-man show on Broadway, he will get Kelsi to write him a heart-rending song about his doomed crush on a jock. Although actually, Kels is kind of better at fluffy love songs, so maybe he’ll have to get someone else to do it. Whatever way it works out, it’ll be totally upsetting.
Troy is still looking unconvinced so Ryan sighs, putting careful hands on the other boy’s shoulders and straightening him up, putting him in position.
“Humour me,” he says, with an attempt at his most winning smile, and weirdly enough Troy does.
Ryan starts humming Just Wanna Be With You and manages not to choke when Troy joins in, the two of them running through the dance alone in the theatre, holding hands, bodies entwining. Ryan reminds himself that he needs this show to succeed if he’s going to get that scholarship, and this is in no way an excuse to touch Troy way too much under the pretext of dance practice, because that would be sad and desperate and kind of masochistic.
Troy finishes humming the song with a smile, hand lingering in Ryan’s for a moment. He gives one of those irritatingly charming smiles.
“You’re a better dancer than Sharpay,” he offers at last, voice warm. “You should be the one getting all the attention.”
Ryan shrugs, reverting to blushing modesty. “It’s ok,” he murmurs, “I’m going to steal the Juilliard scholarship out from under her nose.”
And then he remembers he doesn’t want Troy to know that there are two Evans bitches currently attending East High. Luckily, Troy laughs.
“Hey man,” he says quietly, “Thanks, you know?”
“It was nothing,” Ryan tells him. “You already knew all of it-”
“No.” Troy shakes his head, still smiling. “I mean, this is the most fun I’ve had since Gabi left.”
Oh God, Ryan thinks, and reflects that he is probably going to end up breaking his heart over Troy Bolton.
It’s kind of really worth it.