Title: prelude to a (first) kiss
Pairings: Chad/Ryan
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 4911
Summary: And that was the first time Chad had implied that Ryan should kiss him.
Disclaimer: All High School Musical characters herein are the property of Disney. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: For jillrocca as a part of the swingathon exchange. ♥


All junior staffers will be required to work on show night. No staff participation in the show will be allowed. No exceptions.

Chad stared at the flier as Gabriella stalked off to talk to Sharpay. He really couldn't believe she would go this far.

"I should go tell Ryan," Taylor said suddenly.

"No, I'll do it," Chad said softly, with a note of bitterness. He took a copy of the flier from Taylor and went looking for Ryan.

He found him in what he had recently dubbed "The Dance Headquarters." He seemed to be practicing one of the moves from "Everyday." Chad watched him for a moment with a smile, then jumped in for a part that he knew.

Ryan laughed goodnaturedly. "You've been practicing, haven't you? I'm impressed. And I'm not the only one. Pretty soon you're gonna have the girls lining up behind you."

"Yeah, well, queue 'em up, but tell them they're wasting their time," Chad said, pulling the flier from his pocket.

Ryan's smile faded. "What do you mean?"

Chad held the piece of paper out to him. "I mean, I probably won't be continuing my dancing career for much longer."

Ryan read the announcement, then sighed. "Oh no. The Wildcats must be devastated."

"Yeah, they're pretty bummed. I think your dancing sessions were the one good thing most of us could look forward to when we were dealing with irritable old women and..."

"Irritable young women," Ryan suggested, holding up the flier and smiling at Chad's compliment. "You know, just because the show isn't going to happen doesn't mean you have to quit dancing. If you want, I can still give you lessons after you clock out."

Chad's mouth quirked up in a half-smile. "For real?"

"Yeah! Believe it or not, teaching you guys has been the most fun I've had all summer. And you, well, you've got potential."

Chad took in Ryan's smirk. "Did you just compliment my dancing?" Ryan shrugged. "If you think that's good, you should watch me play hoops sometime. See how I really move," he said, pretending to make a jump shot.

Ryan pushed the flier up against Chad's chest. "Don't let it go to your head," he quipped, then left the room.

When Chad got back to the kitchen, he found a furious Fulton. "Where have you been? Table 5 has been seated for," he checked his watch, "six and a half minutes! Chop chop!"

Table 5 turned out to be two teenage girls who were talking so much that Chad doubted they had noticed his absence. "What can I get for you?"

As he headed back to the kitchen to put in their orders, he realized his bad mood had practically vanished.



"What are you doing? You have a customer at table 9," Fulton informed Chad irritably.

Chad's mouth dropped open. "But Mr. Fulton, I was supposed to clock out ten minutes ago!"

"Mister Danforth," Fulton began, enunciating every syllable, "need I remind you that every member of Lava Springs is a necessary and important part--"

"Okay, okay, I'm going," Chad cut in, tying his apron back on. He walked out to the dining room, grumbling, "I'd better be getting overtime for this."

"Oh, hey!" Chad said in surprise when he rounded the corner. Ryan was sitting alone at the table.

Ryan smiled. "Hey! Sorry, I know they're supposed to close by now..."

"Don't worry about it!" Chad said easily, sliding into the seat across from Ryan. "What can I get for you?"

"Chicken fingers, fries, iced tea. Annnd, let's see, a cheeseburger, no onions? Fries, Mountain Dew."

Chad stared at him blankly. "How hungry are you?"

Ryan laughed. "The burger's for you, idiot," he said, kicking Chad under the table.

"What? Nah, man, I was just gonna eat at home, I don't--"

"Shut up and put the order in," Ryan commanded, trying valiantly to keep a straight face.

"You Lava Springs members are so bitchy," Chad complained, tearing off the order and going to give it to Zeke, who was actually volunteering to work late with Chef Michael. He could hear Ryan's laugh before he even got to the kitchen.

Chad returned with the food a few minutes later. "Hey, so when's our next dance lesson?" he asked, already devouring his cheeseburger.

Ryan raised his eyebrows. "Tomorrow, if you want. I can teach you the swing."

Chad smiled. "Yeah? One of these days, I'll get you to play hoops with me."

They lapsed into conversation about sports, friends, and family. All was going smoothly until Chad reached over and stole some of Ryan's fries.

"Hey! I was saving those," Ryan complained.

"I'm a growing boy," Chad said.

"You know, you could have just brought extra fries. You do work here. There's no need to steal my fries."

"If you want them so much, why don't you come get them?" Chad reasoned, popping the last two fries into his mouth.

And that was the first time that Chad implied that Ryan should kiss him.



The second time was probably an accident, but Ryan counted it anyway.

He had been talking to Chad about organizing another baseball game when Troy walked up. At first, Troy seemed enthusiastic about the game, but then he and Chad started rambling about basketball, and Ryan found himself quickly losing interest.

He surveyed the members laying out in the sun with lazy interest, until suddenly he noticed this girl. Her bathing suit -- it was horrible! The worst part was that it could have been perfect, if she had only thought about it, and had taken scissors to all the lace. He really wanted to go and tell her how to fix it, but his mother always said that butting in was rude. Conflicted, he turned back to ask Chad what he should do, and realized Troy had disappeared entirely.

Which meant Chad was talking to him. Oops.

"But her birthday is next Tuesday, so if you could teach me to waltz, I know she would love it..."

Feeling extremely guilty for tuning Chad out, Ryan quickly responded. "Of course! The waltz is very elegant, I'm sure she'll be impressed." He gave Chad a smile, and tried to ignore the twisting feeling of jealousy that Chad was going to use his dancing lessons to impress Taylor.

They spent the better part of the afternoon perfecting the dance. Chad was a very fast learner, but it was difficult for Ryan to let him lead, especially since Chad had a tendency to look at his feet.

It was near the end of a particularly successful runthrough that Chad looked him in the eye and beamed at him. "She's going to be thrilled. Thank you so much. I could kiss you."

Ryan blushed, but didn't stumble. "I don't know if she would be too happy about that."

"My mom? Why not?"

"What--? Your mom?"

Chad stopped dancing, his smile disappearing and confusion overtaking his expression.

"You're learning to waltz for your mom," Ryan said, realization hitting him.


Ryan would have smacked himself on the forehead if his hand hadn't been intertwined with Chad's. "God," Ryan responded with a laugh, "I was confused. Sorry. We should start this over, you need to show me you can lead without staring at your shoes."

Chad's confusion gave way to amusement. "I don't think I'll ever understand you," Chad said, shaking his head.

Ryan only realized halfway through their next run what his original response must have sounded like.



Ryan chose a pool chair in the shade and sat down with a sigh. He didn't know why he'd decided to come to this party. It was supposed to be a staff pool party, but Chad had invited him anyway. Ryan had been happy about the invitation, but when he arrived, he discovered that Sharpay had also been invited, and Chad was nowhere to be found.

Gabriella wasted no time coming up to him, probably seeing his dissatisfaction. "Why the long face?" she asked with a fake pout.

"Hey," Ryan greeted her, a smile forming despite his aggravation. "You look adorable as usual," he told her, then laughed when she wrinkled her nose at the compliment.

"Don't change the subject. You're sitting in the corner. It's not like you."

Ryan shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I still feel out of place sometimes."

"What?" Gabriella protested. "That's crazy! You and Chad are practically inseparable these days."

"Chad's not here," he mumbled to himself, but Gabriella heard him anyway.

Gabriella giggled. "You're so silly!" She grabbed his hand. "Come on, you need to reassure Kelsi that she looks awesome in her bathing suit."

Ryan let himself be pulled over to the girls, and they immediately started asking for his opinion on their outfits. It eased his anxiety over Chad to hear that so many people cared what he thought, and his mood began to lift.

Chad and Troy's entrance was made obvious a few minutes later, as Troy snuck up on Gabriella and tickled her mercilessly. She shrieked and, as she attempted to retaliate, Chad took up the space she had been in and slung an arm around Ryan. "Hello, ladies," he said, smiling at everyone in turn before finally looking at Ryan.

"Jerk," Ryan said, trying to hide a smile as he pushed Chad's arm off. Taylor giggled while Kelsi just smiled at him.

"Come on, we're gonna grill hamburgers," Chad said, nudging Ryan in the side.

Ryan sighed. "You ask so much of me." He thought about making a comment about his family paying so that he wouldn't have to prepare his own food, but thought better of it.

As it turned out, Zeke was doing most of the cooking anyway. Ryan found himself getting along quite well with the rest of the Wildcats, even when Chad wasn't around. He was actually having a good time.

While Ryan was talking to Kelsi about her favorite composer, Chad suddenly charged up behind her. "Come on guys, it's been thirty minutes, I don't care what Taylor says." He yanked his shirt over his head in one fluid motion. Ryan tried not to stare while Kelsi grinned at him and slipped away.

"What are you waiting for?" Chad asked when Ryan made no move to get in the pool. He moved closer, reaching for the buttons of Ryan's shirt. "I'm not going to let you mope around the deck all day; don't think Gabi didn't tell me what happened before I got here."

Ryan smacked Chad's hands away. "I can undress myself, thank you."

"I mean it. I will pick you up and throw you in if you don't cooperate."

Ryan contemplated saying I'd like to see you try, but he knew better than to give Chad a challenge. He started to feel self-conscious as he removed his shirt. Why had he not laid out in the sun one single day all summer? He started talking so he wouldn't think about it anymore. "Do you even know how to swim? I don't think I've ever seen you." He bit his lip and searched for Gabriella, trying to calm his nerves. "Maybe we should ask Gabriella for some floaties..."

"Oh, that is it," Chad responded angrily, then charged toward Ryan. Acting out of instinct, Ryan sidestepped him, jumping into the pool before he could attempt it again.

He blanched at the cold, but quickly forgot about his discomfort as Chad jumped in after him. He swam quickly away, but Chad kept pace, splashing him every time he came up for air. Finally, he had to stop, and Chad grinned evilly and dunked him underwater.

Ryan came up, spluttering and laughing. "Okay, okay! You can swim, I take it back."

"I am totally offended. I think you should make it up to me," Chad argued, then dodged the splash Ryan aimed at him.

"Uh-huh, right. And how would you suggest I do that?"

Chad licked his lips and looked Ryan in the eye. "I dunno, got any ideas?"

Ryan was not going to make a fool of himself in front of his new friends, no matter how tempting it was. He looked away from Chad and saw Troy twirling Gabriella around in the water several feet away. He envied their obvious affection for each other. "How about you just thank me for having this party to begin with?"

"What do you mean?" Chad asked, shaking his hair out of his eyes.

Ryan hadn't meant to bring this up, but he'd been desperate. "Sharpay kinda screwed you guys over when you started working here. So I waited for her to stop pouting about Troy, and then I talked to Fulton."

"Seriously?" Ryan shrugged, and Chad laughed. "Remind me not to piss you off."

"You tried to drown me. I could have you fired and probably sued for that, you know."

Chad blinked at him. He knew it was true. Ryan took advantage of the moment Chad's guard was down to grab his shoulders and push him under. To his credit, Chad resurfaced quickly, coughing.

"But now we're even!" Ryan said cheerfully.

"You're dead, Evans!"



The fourth time it happened, Ryan finally took Chad up on his offer.

It had been over a week since the pool incident, and Ryan was beginning to wonder if he'd had three chances and had struck out.

But then they had another dance lesson. This time, Ryan was teaching Chad to tango.

Chad cut in halfway through a runthrough to ask, "Hey, isn't this the dance where the guys in the movies dance around with roses between their teeth?" He bared his teeth, as if to demonstrate. "That's pretty cool. I've always wanted to do it."

Ryan raised his eyebrows. "Well, you certainly have the mouth for it. No, this foot comes forward, not back," he corrected, inwardly thrilled at throwing Chad off-guard, even for a moment.

Chad regained his composure instantly. "Been thinking about my mouth, then?"

As if to give Ryan a chance to word his response carefully, Chad broke eye contact. Ryan shrugged. "It's not a bad mouth, really, considering the stupid things that come out of it."

Chad made an indignant noise. "Dude, stupid things don't come out of this mouth. Name one time."

The song increased in tempo for the most intense part of the dance, but Ryan stilled. "Well, there's the fact that anything's coming out of it at all right now."

Chad's eyes snapped up to meet Ryan's. He smiled. "Did you just tell me to shut up?" he murmured as Ryan leaned closer.

"Maybe," Ryan admitted. Their lips met softly, tentatively. It was a chaste kiss, as first kisses often are, though Ryan longed to make it less so. Both boys pulled back after only a few seconds to see the other's reaction.

"It's about time," Chad whispered, a huge grin spreading across his face.

Ryan rolled his eyes and kissed him again.



Chad was surprised in the middle of his Thursday shift when the doors suddenly burst open and Gabriella and Ryan came bustling in.

Ryan rushed over to him almost instantly. "It's storming," he announced cheerfully.

"Why is that a good thing?" Chad asked.

"It's not," Ryan said, expression becoming solemn. "It forces me to come inside with the help."

"You could have just, you know, come inside not at the kitchen entrance."

Ryan blinked at him. "But Gabriella didn't have an umbrella," he explained, like he had no other choice.

Chad laughed. "Right, of course, how silly of me."

Ryan brightened. "So you're on break, right?"

"No, actually, my break just ended."

"No... I'm pretty sure your break just started."

Chad raised his eyebrows. "Did it?"

"Yeah, it definitely did."

Before long, they had slipped out of the kitchen and into a dimly-lit room, kissing and touching and trying not to think about how new this was for both of them.

"We need to stop making out in closets," Ryan said as Chad pulled away from the kiss and moved instead to his neck. "It's a horrible stereotype."

"You smell like chlorine," Chad observed as he bit down gently on Ryan's collarbone.

"That's because I was -- mm, do that again -- in the pool before they kicked me out."

"So exactly how long does your Lava Springs 'status' give me before I have to go back to work?" Chad asked, straightening up to face him.

Ryan sighed at the loss of contact. "Not long enough." He slid his fingers into Chad's hair and kissed him again, slowly and lazily, like they had all the time in the world. He only pulled back reluctantly, trying his best to ignore Chad's noise of disapproval. "Sorry," Ryan whispered, kissing him one, two, three more times. "Soon we'll figure out a way to do this when I can get you rumpled up for once." He pulled at Chad's uniform to make sure it looked presentable.

"Hey," Chad said, a small smile playing on his lips. "Is that a promise?"

Ryan bit his lip and did not think about how happy-stupid-crazy Chad Danforth made him feel. "Yeah," he said softly.



Ryan kept his promise, and on Saturday night, after Chad's shift ended, they had the pool all to themselves.

"Are you sure it's okay if we're out here?" Chad asked, hesitant to jump in. He had been looking forward to this all day, but still wanted to make sure Ryan had thought it through.

Ryan walked up behind him and pulled at his shirt. Chad lifted his arms obediently, allowing Ryan to pull the shirt off. "I'm sure. The pool is closed to members after 9, and the last of the employees clocked out over an hour ago."

Chad turned around to face him. "And what employee in their right mind would stick around more than an hour after their shift?" He stepped closer, fingers reaching out to rest along Ryan's jawbone.

"Probably one that was up to no good," Ryan whispered, closing the distance that remained between them. Chad liked this best, kissing gently at first, moving closer to each other as the kiss intensified.

Much to Chad's chagrin, Ryan suddenly broke the kiss, murmuring something about a cannonball before running off and jumping in the water. Chad took a moment to compose himself, aware that Ryan was watching him do so, then followed him.

"Cold," Chad exclaimed as he emerged from the water.

"You'll get used to it." Without warning, Ryan swam closer and crashed their mouths together, surprising Chad -- not that he objected to this kind of surprise. The kiss grew more urgent, and Ryan snaked one arm around Chad's shoulders, as if to hold him there. Before long, he pulled back and looked at Chad through half-lidded eyes. "We should go to the shallow end," he suggested, swimming off before Chad could respond.

"This from the guy who said I couldn't swim?" Chad responded with a laugh, still a little breathless from the kiss.

"No, I just wanted to be able to use my legs for other things," Ryan clarified, sliding his legs around Chad's hips and bringing their bodies flush against each other.

"God." Chad held Ryan close, one hand resting on his lower back, as Ryan resumed the kiss enthusiastically. He slid his hand along Ryan's back, enjoying the feeling of skin under the water, and gasped in surprise as Ryan began rocking his hips. He pulled Ryan's body against his, matching the rhythm.

Ryan made a satisfied noise and broke their kiss, laying kisses along Chad's jaw until he was biting at Chad's neck. Chad uttered a noise of approval, and the water rippled as he brought a hand around to Ryan's hip, teasing at the waistband of his swimming trunks.

"Mister Danforth!" An outraged voice suddenly cut in, bringing everything to a screeching halt.

"Mister Fulton!" Chad whispered in horror as they separated in the water.

"What do you think you're -- oh, Mr. Evans. I uh, didn't see you there." Fulton coughed and looked away, toward the Lava Springs golf course.

"That's alright, Fulton," Ryan responded, his calm demeanor surprising Chad.

"I trust that you will," he paused to clear his throat, "use discretion in the future," Fulton stated, pretending to be busy staring at his pocketwatch. His hands were shaking just a little.

"Of course."

"Right then." Fulton hurried back into the building.

Chad laughed and buried his face in Ryan's shoulder. "Talk about killing the mood."

Ryan's hand inched along Chad's hip underwater, sliding lower as it reached his back. "We could... go shower off instead," Ryan suggested, staring at Chad's mouth.

Chad took in Ryan's lustful look, the way his eyes were lidded and his mouth was hanging open slightly. He licked his lips. "Okay. Yeah, okay, just..." He leaned in and kissed Ryan, keeping it gentle this time.

With time, Chad had to break the kiss, but he kept his close hold on Ryan, unmoving. Ryan smiled. "Let's go."



One morning right after Chad's shift had started, Ryan approached him. "Hey, do you have a minute?"

Chad turned and just stared at him for a second. "I don't think so, man, we have a ton of--"

"It's okay, Chad, I'll try to cover for you for a few minutes," Troy cut in, giving Ryan a smile.

"Thanks, dude," Chad said to Troy, following Ryan out of the kitchen.

"What's up?" Chad asked wearily.

Ryan pulled the brim of his hat lower, changing the angle. "So, uh, my sister stopped me this morning. And um... well," he took a deep breath, "she knows about us."

Chad froze, his expression disbelieving. "What?"

Ryan gave him an apologetic look. "Fulton apparently told my parents about... you know, how he found us the other night. And they were pretty cool about it, actually!" Ryan smiled at Chad, trying to lighten the mood, but Chad's expression was unchanging. "But I guess they told Sharpay about it."

"So is she going to ruin my life now or something?" Chad asked, his harsh tone surprising Ryan.

Ryan shrugged. "I haven't had a chance to sit and talk to her about it yet, but I thought you should know."

Chad made a noise of frustration. "I can't deal with this right now," he murmured, then disappeared back into the kitchen before Ryan could stop him.

Ryan stared after him in shock. After several long moments, he composed himself and went off to think.

Ryan spent most of the day avoiding people. He didn't want Gabriella to intervene in her own sweet way, and he didn't want Sharpay to start grilling him on a relationship that was so up in the air for him right now. He was torn between anger and worry. He had hoped that this relationship was going to last, but Chad had changed so suddenly that he had no idea how to react. And if Chad didn't care about maintaining their relationship, then, as much as it hurt him, Ryan wasn't going to let it go on.

He managed to keep out of company for most of the day, until about four o'clock, when Taylor met up with him on the golf course. "Hey Ryan," she said, smiling sweetly.

"Taylor," he responded, nodding to acknowledge her, then focusing on his putt. She stood by patiently, and it seemed rude to ignore her.

"I know you and Chad had a fight," she said gently. Ryan opened his mouth to protest, but she continued. "I just wanted to let you know, even though he probably said something really stupid and you don't want to forgive him, you should at least talk to him. He's having a really bad day."

Ryan blinked at her. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Well, because he's been a basket case all day, especially when you wouldn't answer your phone." Ryan quickly reached into his pocket, discovering that his phone had been on silent, and that he had a voicemail message.

"Damn," he muttered. He shot Taylor a grateful look. "Thanks. I'll talk to him," he told her, immediately keying in his password to get into his voicemail. She smiled and walked back to her golf cart to continue working.

Hey. I guess you're-- you probably don't want to talk to me. I'm an idiot, I'm sorry. Please call me back. Silence. Ryan waited for the machine to kick in, but apparently the voicemail wasn't over. I miss you. ... END OF MESSAGE. TO ERASE THIS MESSAGE-- Ryan pressed 9 to save the message, then closed his phone. He hesitated, wanting to listen again, suddenly doubting that he had really heard that last part. He shook his head and quickly typed out a text message to Chad. call me after ur shift so we can talk

He finished golfing, but he felt jittery the whole time. He had just decided to stop by the dance studio and hopefully release some tension when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He stared at the caller ID for a second before answering. "It's 4:58, you know."

"Yeah, I've been standing here, waiting to clock out, for like, five minutes. Where are you?"

Ryan smiled, grateful that Chad couldn't see him. He wanted to be angry at Chad, but his grudge was already lifting. "I'm on my way to the dance studio, do--"

"I'll be there in a minute and a half," Chad said, hanging up before Ryan could answer.

True to his word, Chad came charging into the studio almost immediately.

"You didn't have to sprint," Ryan told him, eyes wide.

Chad looked sheepish. "I didn't want you to go anywhere."

Ryan bit the inside of his mouth. He was going to have trouble hiding a smile. But he had principles to uphold; he was an Evans. He wanted his apology.

"I'm sorry about what I said this morning," Chad began, staring off somewhere over Ryan's shoulder. "I was in a bad mood, but that's no excuse." Ryan started to respond, but Chad continued. "I talked to Sharpay."

"You what?" Ryan pulled out his phone to check, but there were no missed calls from Sharpay. She would have called about something like this.

Chad gave him a slight smile. "I asked her not to call. I wanted to make sure we were okay first."

"What did you tell her?" Ryan asked, still disbelieving. She wouldn't have listened to his request unless she had been pleased with what he said.

Chad fidgeted a bit. "How I felt about you, I guess."

Ryan smiled for real this time. "You guess?"

Chad looked up at him, hopeful.

"You're such an idiot," Ryan said, laughing. He reached out to touch Chad's arm, but Chad darted forward and pulled him into a hug. Ryan stilled for a moment, not used to close contact that wasn't dancing or making out, but then relaxed and returned the hug. After all the confusion, it was nice.

"God, Ryan, I am having such a bad day," Chad said against his ear.

"Sorry," Ryan responded, arms tightening around Chad.

Chad kept his arms wrapped around Ryan, but pulled back enough to face him. "It's not your fault." He bit his lip. "My dog ran away last night."

Ryan gasped. "Not Cricket!"

"You remember Cricket?" Chad asked, obviously surprised.

"Of course! She's such a sweetheart. Has she come home yet?"

Chad shook his head. "Mom said she'd call if she found out anything."

Ryan hugged Chad tightly, exhaling against the tight feeling in his chest. "I hope she comes home soon."

Chad sighed and held Ryan close. "Thank you."

"So," Ryan began after a moment of standing like that, "do you want to go for a walk around the grounds, or something?"

"Yeah," Chad said, smiling. "Let me go change."

Chad left for the locker rooms, giving Ryan the opportunity to relieve some stress. He stretched into a few familiar poses from yoga, breathing slowly and trying to calm his mind.

Minutes later, Chad burst through the doors to the dance studio, now in a T-shirt and shorts. "Seriously. You don't have to run," Ryan protested, trying to return his breathing to a normal rate.

"Cricket came home!" Chad exclaimed, running up to Ryan and lifting him into his arms.

Ryan laughed, hugging Chad back. "That's great!" Chad loosened his grip, then reached up and removed Ryan's hat. "Hey--" Ryan started to protest, but Chad cut him off by pressing his mouth to Ryan's. "Oh," Ryan breathed against Chad's mouth. Chad smiled, running his tongue along Ryan's lower lip, and suddenly Ryan was in no mood to argue.

"You're certainly in a better mood," Ryan observed when the kiss ended.

Chad beamed at him. "Everything wrong with today got better!"

Ryan reached around to take his hat back from Chad. "Come on, let's go for that walk."

Chad smiled and helped Ryan angle his hat just right. "Race you to the pool," Chad said, raising his eyebrows and taking off at a sprint before Ryan could react.

Ryan laughed and responded, "I'll meet you there," knowing Chad couldn't hear him. He stopped in the doorway and turned to look back into the "Dance Headquarters." He shut the door behind him, smiling at the memories, then walked outside to meet Chad.


Go here if you'd like to comment on this fic. ♥