Troy had told him he wasn’t gay and Chad had believed him. That came to mind as he looked at Ryan for some reason.
Not everyone had believed that Troy was straight. Although he had always displayed the sort of confidence a team captain was expected to demonstrate there had been a lot of locker room talk and whispers when he had decided to do the whole musical thing. That it was for a girl, Gabriella had become very apparent but before that a lot of the guys had thought he had totally cracked. It was either that he was gay or that he was crazy and no one knew what they would have preferred. There had been snickers. After all it was a locker room, they showered together.
It hadn’t mattered that he had snuck glances here and there. Who wouldn’t? It was not that he had been falling for his best friend, or that he even appreciated the male body. No, it was a mix of things. Curiosity, sure, curiosity about his friend’s bodies but also the desire to compare and contrast, make sure there was nothing inherently wrong with him or his body.
He had heard some of the science crew, those eggheads talking about the male need and want to feel superior, chauvinist tendencies and all other sort of concepts he had tuned off. His head hadn’t been in the game, and he had been concerned with other stuff. Sure he had stolen glances here and there but he was certain that every single other boy in that locker room had. It wasn’t like he had found his friends hot or something.
Ryan had made him feel completely differently though. The lean soft spoken guy had come onto his world in and stuck in his mind in a way that didn’t really make sense. Even through his shirt Chad could see that he was completely different from all the guys he called friends. Where their muscles were well developed and their legs were thick and strong, rippling with energy in a way that was perfect to impulse them high and run fast Ryan’s had a distinctively softer, slicker look to them. It was the sort of ballerina build he imagined dancers to have which didn’t surprise him, because even as he had never gone to see the high school musical productions before last year, and even then just to support his best friend he was perfectly aware that Ryan was a theater kid cliché. It was impossible not to notice it, not only because of the way he dressed in colorful clothes – unlike his own usual sports jerseys – but because of his sister. Sharpay, not there was someone who was always the center of attention. She made sure there wasn’t a single moment where she wasn’t in the spotlight. Loud, rude and fabulous – she could’ve sung a song about how fabulous she was and her brother was always at her side, not allowed to shine, sure but still there. Enough that Chad had always been aware of his existence and his love for singing and dancing even as he had never really interacted with him.
Even the thought of interacting with Sharpay and her bigger than life personality didn’t seem to faze him too much if it came to dealing with Ryan though. Sure she could be…a lot (and in his teenager mind he inserted several words that wouldn’t be fit for late night tv much less the Disney Channel) but then Chad knew how to deal with her. Had he not gone against her wishes before? Sharpay had teeth, and she had claws and a terrible attitude but she was easy enough to ignore, assuming he could ignore her shrieks.
There was a side to Ryan Chad had never expected out of the prim, overdressed man. He had seen him and Sharpay as one unit, the king and queen of East High but then that was how they had always presented themselves. He had never thought of Ryan as an individual but then he had a feeling Ryan had always been very much a follower to the whims of his sister.
Working at this resort, it was easy to see how they could have turned the way they had. They had had everything that they had ever wanted and Chad didn’t think that Ryan had so much as questioned himself or the way he lived. Ryan seemed like the sort of dumb spoiled kid who would come to his house and wonder why they were eating sandwiches instead of some gourmet meal.
And usually Chad would judge him for it. He hated, more than anything when rich jerks looked down at him and wasn’t that his whole problem with how Troy was acting? But for whatever reason Ryan was different. Chad could detect no maliciousness in Ryan’s face, no sneer or contempt as he had interacted with him. He had already been sort of fun to hang around and then they had played that game of baseball.
Now Chad didn’t particularly think himself God’s gift to baseball. He knew how to play it, like any kid who had grown up in a suburban area with other neighbourhood kids had known how to play it but it was basketball, not baseball that was dear and close to his heart. He breathed basket. He enjoyed it far more than anyone else he knew, except perhaps for Troy’s dad and even then he couldn’t help but think he enjoyed it much more (as was obvious simply by the teams couch Bolton supported, how could anyone not support the Knicks?).
It was already something that he had destined some of the money he was making towards. Chad certainly though he needed a reward with the way he was being ridden (and a that's what she said quickly came to his mind, which he had to fight to not smile at). It was, by all accounts and measures probably intentional. Sure he might look like the picture perfect dumb jock but just like Zeke knew how to cook, and cook damn well Chad also had hidden depths. Sure he could never really claim to be solving all the issues in the universe or pondering the depth and meaning of life itself but he was more than a good ball player. He could see when he was being jerked and although Troy could tell them to be grateful, not think about it and just shut up and eat it it wasn't something he could easily do.
Troy, and how he was acting like a rich preppy kid who had never struggled in his life and who looked down at his friends - that just made him appreciate Ryan all the more. Sure Ryan could be annoying, and a bit of a follower - or well totally a follower of his sister. But he didn't know better. He was caught up in that fabulous high jet set life where Sharpay demanded the best and he just went along with it. Had he heard Sharpay complain about grocery store turkey and demanding it be air shipped from Maine once?
And sure Ryan was not guiltless. Chad didn't think he could act as if he was just a tool Sharpay used rather than a man with his own thoughts and emotions and some very appealing hips - which he was totally not gay for noticing thank you very much. - But he was learning and emphatising. It was easy to look at the feminine boy, the so obviously "out" kid and think him an other...different. But interacting with him, even if to work for him Chad could see depths to Ryan he had never before considered.
He had been surprised when Troy had left the team to join some musical. He had been annoyed at Gabriella and thought the whole thing wouldn't last. It damn nearly hadn't. Troy hadn't been true to himself and from what he understood things weren't exactly great again. If there was one thing Gabriella couldn't stand was fakeness. And Troy was full of it.
But then what to say about himself, and the way he struggled with his feelings? It was not that he was gay (and he had to roll his eyes at that). Sure he enjoyed a good male body but he enjoyed it in the same way he enjoyed a good ball play or a gory movie. A vague sense of admiration, the kind where he'd whistle and be like "nice". It wasn't like he exactly thought sexual thoughts or anything like that, right?
Although...Ryan's lean body did have an appeal of sorts. He remembered then, being stuck in class with the oh ever so dramatic Mrs Darbus reading this one poem about a tiger burning bright, a tiger that for some reason used a Y and not an I and one line had always stuck with him. Something about how the tiger was so beautiful that his symettry was hard to frame and He who had made the innocent lamb had also made the tiger?
It was quite something to think about because the truth was...it was hard to not see Ryan as the lamb, this innocent, pure thing just stumbling out of the shadow of his sister. Yes Chad was sure that Ryan was his own person, with thoughts, dreams, fantasies and crushes (and in a jeering way, so fitting for 2008 he thought about he was so clearly gay) but...it was hard to see him as anything but innocent. Chad supposed that made him the tiger.
It was an appealing and cool image to a teenage boy. Tigers were fast, slick, dangerous and athletic. Just the sort of things Chad thought he was. And sure the tiger preyed on the lamb, that was kind of the point but Chad couldn't see what he was doing as predatory.
Yes Ryan was innocent. He probably didn't realise what a classist prick he was being. But that was what friends do right? They showed each other when the other was being an ass? Hadn't Troy told him off when he had thought theater meant Troy was quitting the team?
It wasn't a gay thing. It was a guy thing. He might have not been able to push Troy to not be a prick - though he was sure given enough time Troy would grow sick of Sharpay's theatrics. - But he could help Ryan. Because Sharpay might be hysterical and she might be a - well it was hard for Chad to not think of her with the B word - but Ryan? Ryan still had a chance.
He'd show him how to swing. And sure there might be a swing and a miss, but one thing was certain.
He'd show him how he swung.