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Plunge Your Hands Into The Glitter

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Five times Ryan Evans used magic to get what he wanted (and one time he didn’t have to)

i.

It figures, really, that Sharpay got the evil scheming ability and the awesome hair that hardly requires any product at all to make it look gorgeous and the attention-grabbing singing voice, and Ryan got the potentially dangerous and really temperamental magical powers.

Being a twin has never sucked more, not even when Ryan was younger and had longer hair and everyone assumed that the Evans family had two identical girls. It didn’t help that Sharpay insisted on picking out his clothes every morning, usually to coordinate with her, and, well, Shar has always had kind of a thing for pink.

“Seriously,” Ryan says, about a week after his eighteenth birthday when he’s managed to blow up a hat for about the twelfth time, “I don’t want them. Can I give them back and get, like, a giftcard or something?”

“No, dearest,” his mom says, in her most serene voice. She claims it’s all yoga, but Ryan’s still kind of suspicious that there are pharmaceuticals going on there anyway; no one should be that calm in a house that contains Sharpay. “They’re a fantastic gift, you know.”

“I would’ve preferred a sweater,” Ryan mumbles, mostly to himself.

Sharpay is glaring at him, eyes framed in severe silver liquid eyeliner. She looks kind of like a demented robot. “I still don’t see why I couldn’t have inherited the Freaky Powers, I would have so much more use for them than Ryan does.”

“World domination is technically illegal, sis,” Ryan tells her, because he’s slowly but surely working his way through the gigantic magic book that arrived with these stupid abilities that he can’t switch off, and there’s totally a whole chapter on What Constitutes World Domination and How You Can Be Punished For Attempting It. There are some truly horrible woodcut illustrations and everything.

She rolls her eyes. “It’s only illegal if you get caught,” she snaps, which is... a valid point but kind of illogical if you think about it too hard, which is just Sharpay all over, really.

Ryan sighs, because it does kind of seem like Shar got all the good genes going in the family; she’d probably be able to actually use these powers if she had them. The most Ryan’s been able to do is turn water into cheap soda (not even brand name soda) and blow shit up. It’s passing beyond depressing and into a whole new level of therapy requirements.

“Please,” he says, “please can we find a way to get rid of them? Isn’t there some kind of surgery?”

“What, like a nose job?” Sharpay asks. “Actually, you should get one of those too...”

Ryan is opening his mouth to respond with the fuck off and die and get a boob job while you’re at it when he recalls that their mom is still in the room and she always takes those kind of words far more seriously than Shar ever does.

“There’s no surgery, Ducky,” their mom says, looking at Ryan with the fondness mixed with relief expression she always seems to save for him; he supposes that, up until this point at least, he’s always been the less stressful child. “You’re lucky, really; I never inherited magical powers from my mom and I always wished that I had.”

Ryan was actually kind of hoping to inherit that adorable hat with the lace fascinator from granny instead, but he doesn’t bring that up right now.

“Why didn’t I get them?” Shar isn’t whining, because Shar thinks that whining is for lesser people. Whatever she’s doing is pretty grating, though. “I’m the one destined to play Glinda on Broadway, I deserve magic!”

Ryan sinks onto his bed, trying not to look too hard at the smouldering remains of his least favourite newsboy cap still on top of his desk, because he hasn’t figured out how to do a vanishing spell that actually works yet. He shuts his eyes, letting his head drop into his hands.

Please, Shar,” he says, “please be quiet. Just for five minutes.”

The complaining stops, and it’s wonderfully peaceful. Ryan takes in a few deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, techniques he was taught when their mom was still dragging him along to yoga classes. When he’s calmed down a little, he realises that Sharpay’s silence is actually kind of suspicious. She hasn’t been this quiet since that time they both had laryngitis in the eighth grade.

Ryan raises his head, and finds that Sharpay is flushed an alarming shade of magenta that matches her shoes perfectly. She seems to still be screaming at him, but no sound is coming out of her mouth. To her credit, Shar isn’t letting this particular obstacle get in the way of shouting obscenities at him; Ryan can lip-read, and it’s probably just as well their mom can’t hear what Sharpay is saying right now.

“Sorry, sis,” he says, trying not to smile in triumph, “I don’t know how to undo this.”

Sharpay’s expression gets even more murderous, but the silver eyeliner’s still holding strong. Ryan might have to sneak that out of her bathroom at some point; she probably won’t miss it. Or maybe he can try that molecular transfer spell he was reading about a couple of days ago; then can steal Shar’s skinny jeans whenever he wants without worrying she’s going to catch him and give him a long lecture on how her clothing is hers, blah blah blah.

“Don’t you think you’d better find out, Ducky?” their mom says, with an edge of steel beneath her light tone. Either the drugs are wearing off, or she’s mildly annoyed; Ryan’s still not sure.

Ryan sighs and hefts his magic book up onto his lap, flicking through to find a way to reverse it. Shar is still ranting but Ryan can’t hear a thing and a smile curls his lips. Maybe this whole thing weird magical powers thing isn’t so bad; apparently it has uses after all.

ii.

Ryan’s birthday falls at the beginning of spring break so by the time they’re back at school he’s mostly stopped accidentally breaking things, and Sharpay has mostly stopped complaining and started being her version of supportive, which generally involves her telling him that he’s a loser and making him practice potentially useful spells over and over again until he’s got a screaming migraine. She usually brings him Tylenol once this happens, though, so it could be worse.

“You should make all of Gabriella’s hair fall out,” Sharpay suggests over breakfast at the start of the semester, picking at a piece of toast while ruffling her hair with her free hand, going for just-been-fucked tousled apparently, despite the fact it’s too early in the morning for this and she’s going to school soon. Ryan’s willing to admit he’s usually overdressed for algebra but Shar takes Inappropriately Dressed For School to a whole new level.

“I’m not going to make Gabi’s hair fall out,” Ryan says for what feels like the fifth time so far today. “She’s my friend.”

Sharpay rolls her eyes. “You could put it back later,” she says, like Ryan’s going to find temporary baldness more acceptable.

“Not gonna happen,” Ryan assures her. He thinks about adding that if he’s going to make anyone bald, it’s going to be her, but that seems kind of cruel so he doesn’t.

The corridors are crowded and although Ryan has spent most of this year trying to separate himself a little from Sharpay, he tags along in her wake this time because he doesn’t want to bump into another kid and make them explode or turn purple or something. If Shar did that to a fellow student it would probably cement that whole ‘queen of the school’ thing she’s been wrestling Gabriella for all year – it’s kind of good versus evil, Ryan thinks, though he’s still deciding just who represents which side – and she’d somehow get away with it. If Ryan did that, they’d be burning him in the cafeteria by lunch, using the fact he’s a freak to cover up their latent homophobia. Well, something like that anyway.

“You’re looking morose,” Kelsi observes, falling into step with Ryan. “Like, more morose than the first day of school really warrants.”

Ah, Kelsi. She’s been much easier to hang out with since she decided to stop being terrified of Sharpay – a motto that holds true for most of the people in his life, actually – and she’s actually really awesome. Ryan suspects that the half of the school that hasn’t decided he is Utterly And Irrevocably Gay (And Possibly Contagious As A Result) thinks that he’s actually dating her, which is probably kind of emotionally disturbing for Kelsi. Ryan himself is just relieved that most people seem to have decided that he’s not dating his sister; always a relief, because that kind of reputation is kind of a drag.

His magic book has three whole chapters on Telling Normal People and The Potential Consequences Thereof, all of which were far more terrifying and horrendous than the coming-out stories he googled a couple of years ago (as it turned out, his parents and Sharpay already knew, but bought him an entire new winter wardrobe as a reward for being honest or whatever). So it’s not that he’s going to lie to Kelsi or anything, he’s just... going to hold off on the whole confessing-to-having-magical-powers thing.

“It’s been a long morning,” he says instead, which is mostly true.

Kelsi smiles, then looks doubtfully at Sharpay, who is only about three feet ahead of them. “Is there any reason you’re following your sister around? ‘Cause we could go to the auditorium and I could show you this song I wrote over the holidays that I think you’ll love, and we could do that away from your sister’s special brand of shrieking and crazy.”

No one really goes to the music department in the mornings apart from the drama kids and the band kids, all of whom have a sense of personal space, so the chances of Ryan accidentally exploding someone are considerably reduced. Ryan can handle that.

“Sure,” he says, and then distracts Kelsi from asking him anything else by tossing out: “how were your holidays, anyway?”

The song Kelsi’s written for him is good, really good, and if they wind up having a summer musical and he manages to get a part in it (which isn’t really a guarantee, what with Troy and Gabi and Sharpay all competing to shove him out of his own drama department; not that Ryan is going to point this out to anyone, but it’s true) then he’s going to ask her to slip it in. He’ll bring the house down – oh God, hopefully not literally – which is all he’s ever really wanted.

The auditorium is barely lit, lights on the audience but not really on the stage, and Ryan shares the piano bench with Kelsi and sings along with her, letting her take over on the bits he’s not sure of yet. This is normal, this is something he could do before his world turned inside-out, and it’s something reassuring that he didn’t even know he needed. After all, levitating in his sleep and accidentally blowing up out-of-fashion clothing items haven’t left a whole lot of time for vocal exercises, which is really just tragic.

“Hey,” Kelsi says softly, breaking off abruptly midway through the third run-through, “look.”

Ryan squints against the sudden burst of light in his eyes and realises that all the stage spotlights have come on, and all of them are pointing at him and Kelsi sat at the piano, even the ones that aren’t actually in a position to focus on them.

Wow, Ryan thinks, I really am an attention whore.

“Weird,” he agrees, trying his best to sound calm, because this isn’t the sort of thing that can result in people pointing at him and screaming witchcraft!

Kelsi just laughs, bathed in bright golden light.

iii.

“Hey, Evans,” Chad cheerfully throws at him in the hall one morning between math and history.

After last summer, where they wound up bonding over what Ryan is willing to admit was probably the most homoerotic baseball game in the history of baseball games, he and Chad are sort of tentatively friends. Sometimes. Ryan has yet to work out whether Chad’s sporadic bursts of friendliness mean that a) Chad is homophobic, but only on days with a ‘t’ in them, b) Chad is a self-centred jock asshole who tends to forget that he has friends other than Troy, and then feels the need to make up for lost time when he suddenly remembers that fact, or c) Chad is having some kind of hugely awkward sexual identity crisis.

Ok, Ryan wants it to be c). He knows that it isn’t, but he would really, really like it to be c).

“Hey, Danforth,” he says back, casual and barely-interested, and deliberately turns back to his locker.

No matter how long he takes to unearth his textbook, he isn’t waiting in the vain hope that Chad will say something to him. He isn’t that pathetic or that desperate, really. He just has a lot of stuff in his locker, and sometimes it takes a while to find his academic things.

When Ryan’s adjusted his hat slightly in the mirror he keeps in the door to make sure that his hat is always at the right angle – yes, his dad would really like him to straighten it all out, but his dad knows nothing about fashion, and anyway Ryan’s mostly sure that isn’t his dad’s subconscious way of trying to make him not be gay anymore – he turns back around. Chad is, of course, talking to Taylor with a ludicrous number of hand gestures, curls bouncing. He looks like an idiot. Ryan really needs to stop finding it attractive.

He also needs to stop being irrationally angry at Taylor, because she’s really nice and helps him out with all the classes he needs to pass that don’t involve singing because he needs a certain average so that Juilliard will take him. And also Chad is failing miserably at dating Taylor, like, really miserably; Ryan could probably do a better job of dating Taylor than Chad is, so there’s no need to be jealous. There’s nothing to be jealous of. He’s pretty certain Taylor is quietly dating one of the guys from the science club, anyway; although it’s entirely possible that Chad hasn’t noticed this.

Ryan makes his way to class wondering why the voice he uses to internally berate himself has to sound so much like Shar’s. It would be really nice if there was one part of his life that his sister wasn’t actually screaming in, even if she is really good at making him feel bad about himself at inappropriate moments.

When he gets to class, though, he has a sudden cold recollection that they’re getting their last assignment back. And he was kind of distracted when he wrote that paper, because the Wildcats had won yet another game so he spent a substantial chunk of his Friday night in a giant mascot costume – Sharpay may judge, but he sweats off pounds in there, it’s like bikram yoga with more faux fur – and then wound up at the afterparty. What Troy’s parents don’t know can’t hurt them and they’re older now so someone has started spiking the punch and other various drinks at these parties; Ryan has yet to work out who, because Troy and Gabriella lack the fundamental drive to do it, Zeke thinks alcohol is something you use solely in desserts, and he severely doubts Chad would have the imagination to add intoxication to the mix, so his money is going on Kelsi. It’s always the quiet ones. Anyway, if you add alcohol to the depressingly vanilla East High crowd, it always ends in interesting results.

Ryan spent most of the weekend hungover and moping about Chad making out with one of the cheerleaders – he doesn’t even know which one, so he can’t hate her properly; at least if he had a name he and Shar could appropriately mock every aspect of her until he feels better, and it would give Totally Blameless Taylor a break – even though it was stupid to expect anything different. Anyway, by the time he remembered they had an assignment, it was way too late to do any proper research, so he just kind of shuffled some random words into random sentences and used Wikipedia to provide him with all his facts. He’s going to fail. It’s going to be horrible. And his mom, although she’s completely supportive of him and Shar and their prospective future famous lifestyles, is going to be all disappointed because he really can’t see himself getting anything other than an F.

He sighs and picks at a scratch on his desk, even though he just had a manicure and his nails can’t take it, and listens to their evil sadistic teacher handing out papers, announcing grades bright and loud so that everyone can hear how badly their classmates have done. When even Jason scrapes a pass, Ryan knows he’s doomed, and he just stares at his desk and grits his teeth and wills this moment to be over.

“Ryan Evans, A,” their teacher says. She sounds pretty surprised about this as she lays the paper down in front of him, and there’s a big red A in a circle at the top. Ryan frowns at it but she keeps walking, handing Shar’s distinctly less awesome essay back. His sister shoots him a distinctly suspicious look but he just shrugs, looking down at his essay to find it’s just as bad as he remembers.

Ryan figures he should probably feel bad about this – magic probably shouldn’t be used for cheating on tests – but still; this is pretty damn awesome, and he smiles to himself for the rest of the period.

iv.

When Sharpay manages to trick him out of a solo in their end-of-year musical – again – Ryan goes to bed all pissed off and dejected and frustrated that, once again, his sister has managed to get everything that he wants so easily.

When he wakes up the next morning and finds himself in the monstrous pink-themed heap of pillows that masquerades as Sharpay’s bed, it isn’t even really a surprise.

He rolls and pulls a pillow over his head just as the shrieking next door starts. Ryan is somewhat impressed; he didn’t know he could shriek like that, Shar’s doing a great job of making it sound like he never hit puberty.

“What have you done?” she demands in his voice, banging the door open. “Ryan! What have you done?”

“I don’t know,” he mumbles thickly, and it comes out against the mattress in Sharpay’s most weary bitchy tone. It’s kind of awesome; Ryan’s never managed to make his own voice do that.

Shar goes for the blankets and the pillows and before he knows it he’s lying there blinking up at himself, although the anger in his expression is something he’s never seen before.

Fix it!” Sharpay screams, and Ryan spares a wince for his vocal chords because, working under the assumption he can get his body back, he’s going to have one hell of a sore throat tomorrow. His body was not built for what Sharpay thinks is an indoor voice.

He groans but gets up, momentarily disconcerted by having bits of body where there were previously not bits of body, and vice versa. His boobs are awesome though; Ryan can appreciate that in an aesthetic way. Also, his sister’s nightdresses are really kind of slutty, something he hadn’t noticed until he woke up in one.

They both look through the magic book but there isn’t anything useful on body swapping.

“I cannot believe you want to be me this badly,” Shar says wonderingly. She keeps running her hands through his hair and she’s messing it up and Ryan resists the urge to slap her hands away because it takes him ages to get it just so in the mornings, even if he’s not in his own body this particular morning.

“Everyone either loves you or is terrified of you and you get everything you want,” Ryan mutters, turning a page and noting that even Shar’s manicure is more awesome than his. “I can’t see anything at all appealing in that.”

“Cheer up,” Shar says, in an annoying parody of his own voice when he’s trying to talk Sharpay out of one of her The World Is Ending, Ryan, Ending I Tell You moods, “at least you’re well-hung.”

Ryan chokes. “I can never unhear that,” he tells her.

Sharpay shrugs, unconcerned. “I’m not going to school,” she adds. “I’m nobody’s sidekick.”

“Oh, fuck you, Shar,” he sighs, closing the book.

It’s fun dressing Sharpay up, though she keeps coming in and correcting him (“I am not going to school looking like a cheap hooker, I don’t care how much you want that dress” “...what about an expensive hooker?”) and, ok, he does kind of need to go to school with at least part of his newly-acquired breasts covered.

He stalks through the halls, enjoying the looks of terror and admiration that he gets, because this is what it’s going to feel like when he’s amazing and famous in his own right and not just Sharpay’s weird brother who splits the school into two factions: those who think he’s gay, and those who think he’s sleeping with his twin sister. No one thinks stuff like that about Sharpay. They’re too busy fawning over her hair and wondering if she’s about to skewer them with one of her stiletto heels. Ryan resists the urge to try and skewer people, mostly because Shar would never let him hear the end of it if he damaged her shoes.

Ryan tries to play it cool when Chad comes up to him in the corridor, because Troy was very drunk when he told Ryan something slurred and confused about Sharpay and Chad and the words “cute” and “mountain lion”. At the time Ryan was miserable-drunk enough to be emo about the fact Chad preferred his sister to him, but now all he can think is Shar will kill you if you somehow manage to make out with Chad in her body.

“Where’s your brother?” Chad asks, not looking him in the eye. He’s not looking at Ryan’s boobs either, which is kind of a letdown considering just how much Ryan’s dress doesn’t hide.

“He’s sick,” Ryan responds in Sharpay’s best remove yourself from my airspace, lesser mortal tone, and tries not to think too hard about why Chad is trying to find him.

He can’t read Chad’s expression and then all he does is shrug. “Ok.”

Chad leaves without saying goodbye or telling Sharpay to pass nice things on to Ryan or anything. It’s depressing, but no more so than usual.

That afternoon, Ryan sings Sharpay’s solo to the auditorium, belting it out better than she ever has (he likes to think, anyway) and if the spotlights all shine brighter when they’re trained on him, well, that is at least harmless magic. Even though the only people applauding him are the drama kids – and Kelsi looks considerably unenthusiastic, which is kind of cool – it’s still nice to spend a moment being Sharpay. He thinks it would be exhausting being her all the time, though, which is something Ryan already knew in theory but not in practice.

He drives Sharpay’s narcissistic pink car home and spends the evening not telling her that he’s reasonably sure they’re going to wake up in their own bodies tomorrow, because winding Sharpay up will never not be fun, even though she keeps threatening to cause his body some kind of irreversible damage (“you may not be able to get a tattoo yet, but there could be piercings! Lots of piercings!”).

v.

Ryan frequently finds himself thinking that everything would’ve been so much easier if Harry Potter had actually been real and he could’ve gone to Hogwarts, where people would know what to do about the spells he still accidentally casts when he isn’t thinking too hard about things. Then, when he’s had time to consider it, he remembers that there were no musicals at Hogwarts, even if Harry hadn’t been preoccupied with saving the world every year, and those robes were in no way fashionable or flattering and probably wouldn’t have been even if Ryan attempted to bedazzle them. And seriously, the lack of hats at Hogwarts that weren’t pointy and ugly was just tragic.

In the scheme of things, then, this is probably better.

Spells are mostly on the power of the mind, and then you can say things aloud related to what you want so you can be specific and not accidentally make everyone within a mile radius wake up with an inability to see their own hair (which was a mistake in hindsight, but it was still worth it for when Shar started screaming because she was convinced he’d made her go bald overnight; sooner or later Ryan will stop using magic to torment his sister, he really will).

“I was kind of looking forward to the stupid made-up language,” Sharpay remarks when they’re flicking through the magic book, trying to find a recipe for homemade fireworks that will look awesome but not actually blow their house up. Ryan suspects Shar thinks the former is more important than the latter, but he’s not sure he’s got enough skills to rebuild a house from scratch yet; it looks difficult and will also involve far too much math. He’s too pretty for math, and sooner or later his teacher will figure this out and stop trying to give him extra homework.

“You just want me to look like an idiot,” Ryan tells her.

Shar shrugs, smiling one of those soft smiles that she pretends she doesn’t own. “Mostly, yeah.”

Ryan sits back, letting Sharpay continue trying to decipher the ludicrously complex index, which is printed in the world’s smallest font apparently with the sole purpose of annoying him and preventing him from finding any spells at all ever.

“Wingardium Leviosa,” he says experimentally, pronouncing it correctly and everything (Hermione would be so proud).

The lightbulb explodes.

They sit, startled in the dark for a long moment.

“You’re such a fucking freak, Ry,” Sharpay remarks after a while, tone conversational.

Ryan cups his hands together, thinks about it, and whispers: “light.”

His hands fill with a soft glow that doesn’t burn and doesn’t make him look like his skin is made of UV paint, which was a problem he first ran into when he started doing this. Glowing from within is always kind of screwed-up and it played havoc with his complexion the next day.

“Well, that’s a start,” Sharpay says. “Can you conjure lightbulbs yet?”

Ryan has never had to try but he doesn’t see why he can’t, so he thinks about it for a long moment, screwing his eyes tight shut, and when he opens them he finds there’s no broken glass and their electric light is working fine again. He places his hands together, extinguishing the light in his palms.

“Well, that’s a start,” Sharpay concedes, but she’s still smiling at him in a soft, fond way that doesn’t in any way remind him of a dangerous predator.

On the whole, though, Ryan thinks he’s getting the hang of controlling his magic, and of making himself aware of his almost subconscious thoughts and wishes that could find themselves manifesting in awkward and difficult to reverse spells. His parents offer advice where they can but neither of them really know what they’re dealing with, and Ryan sympathises; up until this point he’s always been the easier child, the one less likely to cause damage to personal property in a fit of pique.

Anyway, the point is that he is almost entirely in control of himself and so it really isn’t his fault when he’s idly daydreaming in his free period in the library, not thinking about anything in particular, and the fire alarms start going off. Ryan heads outside with everyone else and he doesn’t even realise that it was maybe him who was at fault until he sees the basketball team, who apparently had practice this period. And the fact the sprinklers went off in the gym and now every single player is soaked to the skin in almost entirely see-through white vests is, now he comes to think of it, probably his fault.

“It isn’t even your birthday,” Sharpay remarks quietly, standing beside him with her arms crossed severely across her chest. “What good thing have you done this week to deserve this?”

“What good thing have you ever done to deserve anything?” he counters, but his tone isn’t nearly as bitchy as he’d like it to be. He’s maybe distracted.

Shar rolls her eyes. “I cannot believe you soaked the basketball team to satisfy a passing whim.”

Sharpay has done far worse things to satisfy passing whims, and he will remind her of them when he can take his gaze off his shoes. If he looks up now, though, he’s pretty sure he’s dead. He’s going to get caught perving on male sports players in clinging clothes and he’s dead.

“Just enjoy the view, Shar,” he says.

“I thought we agreed Troy Bolton was very last summer,” she responds.

“He is,” Ryan tells her. “He is depressingly vanilla and frequently uses more fake tan than you do and has a haircut I want to violently destroy. But his abs are works of art.”

“True,” Sharpay muses. “Look up, Ry, you may as well appreciate your hard work.”

Ryan reluctantly risks a glance, and manages to accidentally catch Chad’s eye. Chad blushes and stares at his sneakers. Of course, Ryan thinks sourly, and doesn’t look back again.

(vi.)

“So,” Sharpay says in a slow drawl, cornering Ryan at lunch when he’s trying to scuttle off with Kelsi and some sheet music, “we need to talk. Like, now.”

Kelsi blushes, which is next on the list of things that are horrifying about today, but Ryan brought all this on himself so he can’t really complain. Well, he can complain, but he doesn’t really deserve it.

He resists the urge to turn to Kelsi and say really? and nods, trailing after Sharpay to the nearest empty classroom.

“I spent the entirety of chemistry watching the sunlight in Gabriella’s hair,” Sharpay tells him, voice made of ice.

“She has good hair,” Ryan offers, attempting to look innocent.

“As if this wasn’t disturbing enough,” Shar continues, ignoring him, voice rising, “I then noticed she spent the whole time sneaking desperate and confused little glances at Taylor.”

Well, that figures, Ryan thinks. The whole best friends thing, anyway.

“And then,” Sharpay says, “then I noticed that everyone else in the room was twitching and looking awkward and trying not to look at each other.”

Ryan tries not to cringe. Sharpay has progressed to her no one gets out alive voice.

“That’s... interesting?” he tries hopefully.

“You, Ryan, gave everyone in the school a sexual identity crisis!” Sharpay screams.

And, well, yes he did. He kind of couldn’t believe the book even had that spell in it – seriously, what the hell kind of book is it? – but once he found it, well, he was feeling just self-pitying enough to give it a go.

“Some of these kids need one,” he mutters.

“Ryan!” Sharpay shrieks. “You are missing the point!”

“I made the whole school temporarily gay,” Ryan says, waving a hand. “It’s totally progressive of me. Or something.”

Shar mutters something that sounds a lot like oh my fucking God I cannot believe you are my brother.

“It wears off tomorrow,” Ryan adds. “And no one will be damaged by the experience. It’ll be fine.”

Sharpay sighs, flouncing over to sit on a desk. “Fine,” she says. “Well, did it do the trick?”

This is the sad part. “No,” Ryan says. “Everyone in the school is having a sexual identity crisis but Chad Danforth.”

Sharpay rolls her eyes. “Nice going, Ry.”

“How was I supposed to know he was magically immune to gayness?” Ryan demands. And then cracks himself up because, seriously, what has the world come to? “Wow, this was desperate of me.”

Now you notice,” Shar sighs. “And why am I crushing on Gabriella? I hate her!”

“Opposites attract?” Ryan suggests, fluttering his eyelashes. Sharpay knocks his hat off in retaliation. “Hey,” Ryan protests, “it could be worse. Kelsi’s having her crisis about you.”

Sharpay preens. “Well, of course she is.”

Ryan swallows down his snicker. “Ok,” he says, “well, this has been a lovely conversation that hasn’t been at all beneficial for my eardrums, but I kind of want to eat something, so I’m going to go now, ok?”

Sharpay waves a you are dismissed hand in his direction, and Ryan goes.

Chad is leaning against his locker. Ryan tries desperately to ignore him and just walk past, but Chad reaches out, snagging his messanger bag. “Ryan.”

Ryan turns around and forces a smile onto his face. “Yes?”

“So,” Chad begins without preamble, “Troy just hit on me.”

Ryan really sincerely does not want to have the “I think I might be gay for Troy, can you help me since you’re so totally gay and all” conversation. He really doesn’t.

“Um,” he says.

“And the thing is, Troy’s lots of things and he dances and sings and has a really gay haircut, but I do know he’s one hundred percent straight,” Chad continues, like Ryan’s face hasn’t frozen into some kind of mask of horror. “So I thought, well, why is everyone in the school having some kind of weird sexual freak-out.”

Chad is going to be responsible for burning Ryan at the stake. It’s almost ironic.

“So I figured it had to be some kind of spell,” Chad adds brightly. “So I followed it to its source and, hey, that turned out to be you.”

He wiggles his fingers and he looks stupid doing jazz hands, but Ryan realises what he means. “Oh my God,” he says, “you-”

“Just after my seventeenth birthday I started blowing shit up,” Chad tells him. “Which is less awesome than it sounds, believe me.”

“I know,” Ryan says fervently. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Chad asks, and hey, yeah, touché. “So, Ryan, why is everyone in the school but me having a sexual identity crisis?”

Ryan wonders if Chad will take it badly if he just starts bashing his head against his locker.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time?” he suggests.

“Dude,” Chad says, and he’s smiling, sudden and bright, though there’s something brittle in his eyes, “if you’re trying to make someone fall for you you’re totally using the wrong spell.”

“There are no love spells in the book,” Ryan protests, and then blushes, because it’s not like this situation was awful enough or anything.

“Well, no,” Chad agrees, and his expression of amusement has dulled. He looks kind of dejected now. “But there’s some stuff like that you can try. There’s lust spells for one thing.”

Ryan considers this, frowning. “Did they work for you?”

“Well,” Chad shifts awkwardly, “no. Not really.”

“Maybe you should try bewitching Taylor again?” Ryan suggests, and this is such a surreal conversation. He can hear the acid splashing in his voice.

Taylor?” Chad demands, looking confused. “What the- no! I wasn’t talking about Taylor, I was talking about you.”

His expression of oh shit I really just said that is kind of priceless, but Ryan’s ears are ringing.

Me?” he repeats blankly.

Chad looks kind of hurt. “Well, ok, the look of horror kind of says it all, I’ll just go.”

It’s Ryan’s turn to catch Chad’s sleeve, laughter bubbling out of him before he can explain. “Chad. Chad. The entire school is having a sexual identity crisis because I wanted you to maybe think I was hot.”

Chad’s eyes widen and Ryan barely has time to register Chad’s blinding grin before it’s pressed against his own mouth, warm and soft and intent. He kisses back for a moment and then pulls away.

“I thought it didn’t work on you,” he says, breathless.

“Yeah,” Chad says, rolling his eyes, “‘cause I already had my sexual identity crisis. And the answer was you.” He frowns. “Or the crisis was you, whatever, one of those.”

Ryan laughs until Chad kisses him again. “Think of all the awesome magic sex we can have,” Chad mumbles against his mouth, “did you read those chapters yet?”

Ryan did read those chapters and at some point he’s going to have to have the what the hell, you have the stupid magic powers too? conversation, but right now he focuses on pushing Chad against the lockers, catching his lower lip between his teeth, and hey, maybe turning out to be magical isn’t the end of the world after all.