-1Title: Action and Reaction

Rating: Teen

Summary: All actions have consequences, and sometimes it doesn't matter how noble the intent was.

Notes: I always liked Sharpay better then Gabriella.

Warnings: A bit of sexual innuendo.

Disclaimer: I own it like I own Santa.

Action and Reaction:

For a little while at least, things seemed to be perfect. In the midst of chaos, friendship and love had prevailed. Troy and Gabriella, the unlikely victors had won the leads in the school play. His team had gone on to win the championship, and she had led the way to full honors at the scholastic decathlon. He'd scored big with the scouts and was almost guaranteed a full basketball scholarship, while she received a full ride to the college of her choice--they were almost fighting over her. Troy and Gabriella's relationship had never been stronger, and it looked as if a high school romance might actually hold up to the test of time.

When Ryan and Sharpay had managed to get the audition times changed, hopes and dreams had nearly perished. For once Troy had intended to step out of his safety zone, and Gabriella was determined to show she was more than just a brain. All of that had been seriously compromised by the scheming siblings, but their friends had come through for them at the end.

Since then Ryan and Sharpay--especially Sharpay had become somewhat more manageable. For the final play of the season Sharpay had managed to sneak past Gabriella to star opposite Troy, but had fallen ill at the last moment. For the first time in a while, no hard feelings were passed when Gabriella stepped in to take her place. Things between Troy and Gabriella, and Ryan and Sharpay were far from resolved, but tensions were eased.

Taylor's intent had been pure. It hadn't been anything less then selfless and they'd all pulled it off flawlessly.

Eight months later and a mere four weeks from graduation Troy, Gabriella, Taylor, and Chad were set for college. Troy had been accepted to Stanford in California on a full basketball scholarship, and still romantically involved, Gabriella settled on Stanford so they could be close. Chad was going along with Troy and Taylor opted for Brown. They were prepared, their lives planned out.

Then suddenly, unexpectedly, the world came crashing down on them all.

Taylor and her friends had executed their plan with the best intent, but they'd still violated dozens of rules. It really had only been a matter of time before the codes that delayed both the decathlon and the basketball game were traced back to her laptop, and she, and everyone associated, were suddenly held accountable. They were lucky the school allowed them to walk during graduation.

Troy found himself stripped of his scholarship, denied access to Stanford. In a stiff and formal letter they told him they couldn't accept anyone involved in any ploy to delay, cheat or interfere with a championship game, no matter the intentions. And while his grades were fairly good, colleges were hesitant to accept him as he scrambled to apply. His father said he understood why they had done, but Troy knew how truly disappointed his father was every time they met eyes. He attended Fresno in California.

Gabriella was perhaps hit harder. She's spent her whole life preparing to be accepted to a school like Stanford. She, like Troy, lost her scholarship. In tears she applied frantically to other schools, but the ones who had been so eager to get her before, wouldn't touch her. She was heartbroken, knowing a mark of 'cheater' would be forever attached to her records, and finally found acceptance in a far north, quite state college. Banned from all academic functions and competitions she was set to quietly attend the one college that had accepted her.

The last few weeks of school, the times that should have been the happiest, were the most heartbreaking. The relationship between Gabriella and Troy that had held so strong through adversity fractured, then broke completely. Troy and Chad stopped talking when the fights began to outnumber all other types of verbal exchange.

They were destroyed--shattered. The last day of school was the last time they expected to see each other.

Life carried on, and Troy found his existence satisfying. Banned for ever joining his college's basketball team, he concentrated on extending his academic studies. He pursued his love of the theater, and after several stints as the leading male, decided to make a career of it. He'd have his grades to fall back on, but he wanted to try out acting, singing, and possibly Broadway.

He took a small job as a busboy at a small Italian restaurant a few blocks from the college, and one day in late August he saw someone he almost didn't recognize. He was just exiting the restaurant, his shift up for the day when they made eye contact. She was as beautiful as he remembered. Life after high school suited her well.

"Hi," he offered tentatively, hands shoved deep in his pocket.

"Oh, Troy, is that you?" She stopped mid-step, blinking at his face.

"Yeah, it's me." He nearly blushed under her scanning eyes.

She tightened her grip on her shopping bags, fingers stiff from hours of a strong hold. "Do you work here?"

They moved to the side of the walkway as the dinner crowd began to stream in and out of the restaurant's doors.

"It pays well enough," he nearly justified in a cautionary tone. "My parents are covering tuition, but I need money for books and rent."

"Do you live near here?"

He jerked a thumb down the street. "Just a little loft--I share it with a guy I go to school with."

"Oh." She rocked on her feet, hair bouncing just slightly. "Are you in a rush to go anywhere?"

He shook his head slowly, amazed at how must she'd changed. They'd been apart for just under two years, and it seemed as if she'd undergone a complete personality change. She'd always been soft and beautiful, but their was an air of sweetness to her now that was almost intoxicating. He decided to risk it.

"I make a pretty awesome pot of coffee, if I do say so myself."

She raised an eyebrow. "Pretty sure there. I've got high standards."

He held out his arm. "I've got French Vanilla Roast."

She looped her delicate arm, through his, the bangles on her wrist jingling rhythmically. He took her bags and they started off down the street.

They were hit with a burst of warm air when he pushed the loft door open. The apartment smelled sweetly of cleaning fragrances, indicating Troy's or his roommate's mother had been by recently.

"It's small," she remarked, regarding the room with sharp eyes. Ah, Troy realized, there was the Sharpay he knew.

"I said it was. And it suits me." He ushered her over to the blue sofa, thankful the place was clean and suitable for company. "I'll put on the coffee." He watched her sit cautiously on the worn but acceptable sofa, and he felt the edges of his mouth tip upwards when she worked feverishly to smooth out invisible wrinkles in her pink skirt. She was just as vain as ever, and part of him was glad she hadn't changed that much.

"What are you doing out here?" He called through the loft, voice echoing up into the ceiling. "Last I heard you'd gotten accepted to Princeton." Why she'd agreed to go, Troy would never know. She didn't seem like the type that attended Princeton.

She turned, flicking hair over her shoulder. Leaning towards his position she shrugged. "Daddy wanted me to go to Princeton. Daddy said he'd only pay for Princeton." There was harsh resentment in the words. "I went because Daddy said he'd disinherit me if I didn't."

What a travesty, Troy almost voiced aloud, that Sharpay not be allowed any of her mother and father's money. Whatever would she do?

"So I'm making it on my own."

The mugs clinked together as he nearly dropped them on the floor. "What?" He asked, unsure if he'd heard her right. Had the princess gone out on her own?

Sharpay rose from her seat and floated casually towards Troy. "Is that so hard to believe?" She crossed her arms, her top crinkling under the action. It bunched the word 'princess' and Troy forced his eyes away from her chest.

"Frankly?" He gulped, "Yes."

"I went the first semester, then told Daddy I didn't want to major in pre-law."

The coffee machine beeped as the coffee began to perk, filling the room with the glorious smell of coffee. Troy leaned towards the machine, savoring in the smell that allowed him to work through the night on impossibly hard assignments.

"What about Ryan?"

"That smells nice," she murmured, indicating she too knew the full effects of the caffeine. "Ryan didn't go at all," she said, referring to her twin. "He's in San Francisco, that's why I'm in California. I just stopped here for the night--I'm driving. He's got a part in Othello this Friday." Her fingers curled around the empty mug Troy handed her, their fingers sliding together. "I'm back East. I'm with a modeling agency right now. I even had a spread in a magazine."

He laughed deeply at the force her words had come to have. She was so proud of herself, he could hear it. "I'm happy for you."

She giggled herself, head tipped down to hide as much of her red hue as possible. "What about you?" Her elbows rested forward on the kitchen top and he had a perfect view of--the coffee pot announced it was ready and he turned quickly. Sometimes, he realized, his eyes and his brain were far from being on the same wave length.

"I'm making it." He sighed deeply, retrieving the coffee. "Not playing basketball is tough, but I'm in theater now." He poured the coffee and they made their way back into the living room. "I miss everyone," he admitted softly. They both drank their coffee black.

She sipped the coffee, pink lipstick remaining on the white mug. "I won't apologize."

"You wouldn't be Sharpay Evans if you did."

"I didn't tell you to hack the system."

Her legs were creamy and smooth. Troy wondered why he'd never noticed before. Her outward appearance radiated delicacy, but a closer look hinted that she was tougher then nails. He wondered, was all her skin as smooth?

She was still talking, he realized.

"I get it, you know. I get what you guys were trying to do, and I know that it's because of what Ryan and I did. It wasn't right for us to manipulate the play, but you brought all that trouble down on yourself. Ryan and I wouldn't have ever suggested you do anything like that."

"It seemed like a good idea at the time." There was sadness on his face and Sharpay settled a comforting hand on his knee. "I just wanted to make the play. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. It was pretty stupid and we all got what we deserved, but you know, for once I would have liked--"

Sharpay interrupted him fiercely, "You did it," she argued, eyes blazing a frosty blue. "You showed everyone--me, Ryan, everyone. You proved it. You were amazing when you and Gabriella performed. You two took the stage and from that moment on Ryan and I weren't half as good."

"You won the next lead," he argued, to which she shrugged.

"You and Gabriella had chemistry, and that was something Ryan and I couldn't compete with. You two, besides royally pissing me off, caused an epiphany of sorts. It isn't often in your life you realize what a horrible person you are."

His hands settled on top of hers and their fingers curled together flawlessly. Her grip was soft an cool and his was calloused and warm. It was a perfect fit.

"You were passionate, Sharpay, which is something some people wish and hope for their entire life. You had something you loved and you were going to do anything to keep it. If you hadn't been quite so scary in high school, I might have actually looked up to that."

Sharpay scooted a bit to tuck her feet under her. With one hand in Troy's grip and the other around her mug, she asked, "Have you heard from Gabriella at all? Or any of your other friends?"

Troy grasped her hand tightly, his stomach churning. "Some of the guys got into college with just their grades, but at lot of them didn't. Zeke actually enrolled in a culinary school about a year ago. Taylor was up in Canada the last I heard."

"And Gabriella?"

Troy shook his head. "I e-mailed her a couple months after graduation. She asked me not to write to her again."

"She was devastated," Sharpay said slowly. "She and her mom were really depending on scholarships to pay for college."

She drained her mug and held it to her lap. "I've got to get back to the hotel," she said, almost distracted. "I'm leaving tomorrow morning so I can see Ryan before he goes on that night." She stood, their hands losing contact and handed her mug to him. "It's been nice." Troy detected nothing but sincerity from her. "Really. We should stay in touch. I want to give you my phone number."

He said, "I'll get you something to write on," almost desperate for her not to depart so suddenly.

Her script was as loud as ever and he laughed slightly when she doted her I's with small hearts. "I'm glad you having changed too much." He hadn't meant to say it aloud, but he was so genuinely happy.

"Look," she said, fidgeting in a way he'd never seen her do before. "I know tomorrow's Friday, and you've probably got class--"

"Just biology," he supplied. "And a lab."

She patted her matching purse. "I've got two tickets for Othello. Ryan sent me two."

"Yes?" He prompted, head already spinning.

"Would you, would you, do you want to go with me?" She was flushed deeper then he'd ever seen before, and she looked beautiful. "You'd have to stay with us in San Francisco for the night, but I could get you back by Saturday afternoon."

"I think," he said, flashing her an unabashed grin, "my boss wouldn't mind giving me a few days off. I've got some sick days coming anyway. I've got friends who can take notes for me in biology and I can make the lab up." He nodded to her, drawing in for a hug.


She was diving in far before he saw it coming. Then seconds later it didn't matter because her lips were on his and he was filled with a rush of adrenaline and euphoria. She kissed him faintly at first, then fiercely when he joined in, his hand cupping the back of her neck to pull her in closer. His toes were curling and their tastes were mixing. Kissing Gabriella had never been so intense, so right. Gabriella had been puppy love. Sharpay was far from that.

He released his hold on her when they both were desperate for air. Her lipstick was smeared on his face, and his hand had mused the back of her hair. The both of them were flushed with a tint of desire, neither having any complaints.

"I really do have to go," she said breathlessly. Her finger tapped the pad of paper. "Tomorrow. Seven."

He was still reeling from her kiss minutes after she'd left. Feeling much like a teenager again he leaned heavily on the kitchen countertop, a goofy smile on his face. His eyes ghosted down to the pad where he noticed she'd written her phone number, the hotel address and room number. He ripped it from the pad and folded it evenly, pressing the sheet to his chest.

As it turned out, Ryan was fabulous as Iago. Troy and Sharpay sat through the performance, hands linked together, feet tapping against each other briefly. They communicated on a level Sharpay hadn't ever experienced, and Troy hadn't thought possible. They connected--they were more than connected. When Sharpay drove them back to Fresno they shared quick kisses and deep caresses.

How they'd missed each other in high school wasn't a large mystery. Sharpay had needed time to grow up, to realize she was small in a very large world. Troy had needed an experience of being on his own, learning not to wear his heart on his sleeve. In high school Sharpay was suited for a solitary life and Troy was a happy with Gabriella, and that was exactly the way they needed to be. But in the real world, they were quickly finding out they were more alike then separate. Each wore a sort of unreadable façade.

When Sharpy left for New York Sunday evening Troy reluctantly let her go. She had her growing career and he had college. They were on separate ends of the country with radically different goals. Nevertheless, he had her phone number, address and several hundred frequent flyer miles. It might take effort, but they had something. Troy had let that something go in the past, and that made him twice as determined not to let it happen a second time. He and Sharpay had a future, of that much he was sure.