I was going to post this on LJ back in January, but never did. I’ve changed and added some things, so here you go:
Ten Facts About Chad and Ryan
1. Chad was completely aware that he wasn’t tall enough for college ball. He was just under 6 foot, and though his hair might have made him look taller, it didn’t help his jump shot. The thing was, Chad didn’t really know who he was without a basketball in his hands.
2. Ryan started dancing literally as soon as he could walk. His mom had video of him taking his first stuttering steps and then freezing, turning toward the stereo playing in the corner, and starting to shimmy in wobbly time to the music. Five seconds later, Sharpay stumbled up next to him and shoved him to the floor, beaming at the camera the whole time.
3. Troy had always been Chad’s best friend, but Chad hadn’t always been Troy’s. In first grade, while Chad was saving his pudding for Troy at lunchtime and planning weekend sleepovers, Troy was usually laughing with Mikey B. in the corner (he had to be called Mikey B., because there were two other Michael’s in their class). When Mikey B. and his family moved to Tallahassee the week after Valentine’s Day, Troy flopped into the seat next to Chad at snack time and sighed, “Do you want to play tag at recess?” Chad had been too young to unravel the feelings of relief and triumph and hurt, but he said yes right away.
4. Sharpay was the only reason Ryan survived Juilliard. His teachers were tougher than any of the instructors his parents had hired. Tougher and more critical and more demanding. If he hadn’t had a lifetime of Sharpay insisting that, “No, Ryan, you can lift your leg higher than that,” and “Really, Ryan, you need a break already?”, he probably would have quit after the second week. If he hadn’t had his twin available on Skype and text message and every-other-nightly phone calls, reassuring him that, “You’re amazing. I mean, you’re an Evans, after all. You can do this. Right?”, he probably would have quit after the third week. But he did have Sharpay, and so he didn’t quit. Ryan was spotlighted in his senior production and graduated with honors.
5. When Chad was a kid dreaming of his someday wife, she’d been a lot like Taylor: pretty and curvy, smart as hell, with a no-nonsense attitude and a warm heart. It was a kick in the chest and the gut when he realized that he’d never felt the surge of warmth and want for Taylor - or any girl - that he felt for Ryan. He soon realized that his someday happily-ever-after wasn’t going to include a wife at all, but it took him a long time to get past the lingering sense of mourning for his past daydreams.
6. When Ryan was a kid, he was very active and physical. He loved the smooth give-and-take of theatre with Sharpay, he enjoyed the peace and focus of yoga with his mom, and he gloried in the intensity of competitive dance. Then he found baseball. It was graceful and focused and competitive, and full of teamwork. Ryan thought he’d found his home. When he was fourteen and facing his uncomfortable teammates in the locker room, he learned otherwise.
7. Chad’s t-shirts started as a protest. In sixth grade, they had a teacher - Mr. Stahl - who had some vendetta against kids bringing lunch from home. Chad never knew why, he just knew that in the morning, Mr. Stahl would take a lunch count and absolutely glare at any kid who brought a lunch from home instead of buying from the cafeteria. And Jason … Jason couldn’t afford to buy lunch, but his family refused to apply for free lunch for some reason. Chad hated, hated, hated the way Jason would flush red and duck his head every morning in homeroom when he said, “Brought,” in response to the lunch count. First, Chad started bringing his lunch. He told his mom it was because school lunch wasn’t as healthy, and she beamed at him. And then she beamed at the picture of Michael Crawford in the fridge. (Yuck.) But that change didn’t do anything except earn Chad a glare along with Jason in the mornings. Then one day he saw a shop at the mall that promised to make a t-shirt “While U Wait!” The next day, Chad wore a shirt that said, “My lunch is better than yours. Jealous?” The next day his shirt said, “Ketchup is not a vegetable.” He had a full week’s worth of lunch-based shirts, and he was willing to keep wearing them over and over all year. He didn’t have to, though; Mr. Stahl stopped glaring and started just looking down at the lunch count form after that first Thursday (shirt: “What? Are you racist against brown bags?”)
8. When Ryan was twelve, his best friend in the whole world was a girl named Trupti who just shone; she had shining black hair, shining dark eyes, and a shining white smile. Late at night, he would lie in bed and plan out conversation topics and jokes for the next day, to make sure that Trupti kept wanting to sit by him at lunch and hang out after school.
They were thirteen when Trupti was diagnosed with cancer. It was a brain tumor, which seemed way too scary for anyone to go through, much less someone as awesome as Trupti. Ryan’s mom assured him that everything would be fine, Ryan’s dad said he would have a word with their insurance company, and Sharpay said that lots of divas wore wigs. Trupti just said, “Sing for me.” Long after she was gone, after Ryan was focused on dance and choreography, he still sang for her.
9. Chad always wondered what it might have been like to have a role model while he was growing up. There were several sparkly, white, gay dudes on TV and in movies, belting out showtunes and quoting Madonna. He knew that that didn’t protect Ryan from the prejudice he faced, didn’t shield him from the sneers and flinches, but still … at least Ryan had been able to look at the entertainment world and pick out a guy who sort of represented him. Chad grew up lying on his stomach in front of the TV, playing video games with Troy and Zeke, sitting in movie theaters with a string of sort-of-girlfriends, never seeing a black, basketball-loving gay dude anywhere.
When Jason Collins came out, Chad sat in front of his computer in his robe and cried until Ryan came out and dragged him back to bed.
10. Ryan’s dad travelled a lot, so he wasn’t home all that often. When he was home, he was always tugging at some part of Ryan’s clothes, setting it straight. Hats were pushed flat on his head, shirts were tugged into place, collars were smoothed down. Ryan knew for a fact that his father loved him, but when he thought of all the straightening, smoothing, fixing, he was never completely positive that his father accepted him.
On Ryan’s wedding day, he was standing in front of a mirror when his father appeared behind him. He stood very still as his dad reached around to tweak his bowtie into a perfectly horizontal line. “You know,” he said, hands steady on Ryan’s collarbones, meeting his eyes in the mirror, “When I saw your mother at our wedding, I knew I would be with her forever. When you see Chad out there, you’re going to feel the same way.” And he smiled, so happy and proud that Ryan had to swallow hard. “I already do,” he said.