Disclaimer: It's probably obvious, but I don't own any of the HSM characters or their related elements.
THIS FIC IS RATED M. THERE WILL BE SOME ADULT CONTENT IN THIS STORY.
A rating of M means this story is not suitable for children or teens below the age of 16 with possible strong but non-explicit adult themes, references to violence, and strong coarse language.
This is because there are sexy bits in this story, and that can make some people sad. If you are one of those people, please stop reading this story now.
Chapter 16 – The Anniversary
The next morning, a ray of sunshine on my face woke me up. I panicked suddenly, thinking someone had broken into my apartment, and then I realized I was simply in Troy's bed, not mine. And as I turned to see Troy sleeping beside me, I felt a rush of happiness as I remembered the keynote… and the time we spent in bed last night.
He stirred at my movements and his eyes fluttered lazily open.
"Hey," he said sleepily, reaching for me under the covers and pulling me close. "How's my girl this morning?"
"Stuck in bed with some photo nerd," I said, kissing his forehead. Then a realization hit me. "Oh God… and I'm unemployed."
He laughed, kissing me on the cheek as he shifted onto his side. "It's OK. You're smart. You'll find something soon."
I slumped my head down. "But that means I'm totally broke." Another realization hit me. "Ohhh… and I don't even have a ticket home."
"Kind of burned your bridges on that one, Montez," he said, grinning. Then he moved some strands of hair out of my face and looked at me seriously. "But… it does mean you have a bit of a window to stick around for awhile."
He kissed down my neck, and my body stirred at his touch.
"But I'm broke, Troy," I said, as he reached the base of my throat. "And I can't… be… a freeloader here."
His hand caressed my lower back, and his mouth moved over my right breast. "Well, I like freeloaders."
"Troy… I can't," I said, my hands clutching at his neck in spite of myself.
He moved back up and kissed me on the mouth. "Then seriously, just consider it a loan until you're on your feet again."
I looked at him and his blue eyes were solemn. And then slowly, they turned teasing as he moved his thigh gently up between my legs. I shivered as a delicious thrill ran through me, and he kissed my mouth again. "Ohhh, Bolton," I sighed, putting my leg around his hip to pull him closer. "You got me. I'll stay."
And so I planned to stay for just the week. That is, until we met Wendy and her husband for dinner that night… and I came away with an assignment for Poptech.
And then, one assignment turned into another … and somehow I didn't end up going back to New York at all, after that.
And then I was on a plane heading toward Albuquerque again, my mom waiting at the airport carousel to pick me up.
She swept me up immediately into a hug. "Hi Gabi," she said, beaming. "Where's Troy?"
"Oh, he flew in last night," I said, smiling. "He had to help with some of the preparations for the big anniversary dinner party. Some kind of surprise."
My mother laughed. "I can't believe those Boltons. Thirty years together." She poked me teasingly. "And six months for you two already. You look happy, Gabi."
"Ahh, Mom," I said, blushing as I fetched my luggage.
She laughed again. "Well, I'm glad. I always liked Troy. You know that."
We piled into the car and drove home, my mom glancing over at me proudly the entire time. And when Troy came to pick me up for the dinner, she gave him the same proud look, hugging him too. "Oh, Troy. You look even more handsome than when I saw you last."
He laughed. "Well, thanks, Ms. Montez. It's Gabi's fault, really. She paid for the plastic surgery."
"Well, you've healed so nicely," my mom said, laughing. Then her eyes turned soft as I stood up from the couch and Troy took my hand, ready to lead me to the door.
"Oh," she blurted out. "It's just like when you dated in high school. So cute." She put her hand over her mouth and giggled as we laughed sheepishly. "Oh, but don't mind me. I'm just an old lady reminiscing. You kids should go now. Have fun."
She stood at the door and watched, smiling, as we got into the car. And as we turned back to wave one more time to her, I could swear I saw her mouth the words, Good luck.
I knew what she meant, though. I had been bracing myself to meet Coach Bolton on the flight over. Troy's parents knew I had been living with Troy for some time now, but ever since that musical all those years ago… I still wasn't sure where I stood with the coach. And this was the first time I would see him since the reunion.
But the evening at the restaurant went surprisingly well. Coach Bolton wasn't exactly warm toward me at the start, but he wasn't exactly cold either. And throughout dinner and the presentations Troy had organized, he seemed to relax more and more. During a funny slideshow of their wedding photos, I could see Coach Bolton smile contentedly as Mrs. Bolton rested her head on his shoulder. And when his eyes caught me looking at the two of them, he nodded slightly at me, still smiling.
Then later, as the guests were leaving, and as Mrs. Bolton laughed and danced with Troy on the empty dance floor, he sat next to me at the table and sighed wistfully.
"Thirty years," he breathed, as if thinking out loud. He looked over at me. "It flies by, you know. Just yesterday I could swear I had just met Joanne. And Troy was just a little kid falling down around the house in diapers."
He laughed and I smiled back. "Thirty years is amazing, Mr. Bolton. And you two still seem so in love."
"Well." His eyes softened visibly, and he fidgeted with a napkin on the table. His neck flushed the way that Troy's sometimes did. "It's not hard, when you find the right one."
Then he looked up at me, and his voice sounded strangely tentative. "Gabriella… a long time ago, I think we got off on the wrong foot."
It was my turn to look away, blushing. "Oh… that was a long time ago."
But he touched my shoulder, speaking sincerely. "I just wanted you to know… that there's no hard feelings. There never have been. Because… I've never seen Troy so happy as when he's with you. Not even when he was on the basketball court."
Then he smiled at me, and I smiled back. And putting his arm around my chair, we turned our eyes to the dance floor, both drawn wonderfully, helplessly back to the people we loved.
And just like in high school, Troy took me home in the wee hours of the morning. I unlocked the front door and he followed me into the house, holding my hand and padding softly on the stairs as I led the way to my bedroom.
"It doesn't seem right to come in this way," he said as I opened my bedroom door. "I'm so used to climbing in here over the balcony."
"Well, you can go downstairs and climb back in if you want," I said, kicking my high heels off and sitting on the bed. "But I'm staying right here."
"Ahh, where's the adventure in that, Montez?" He sat down next to me and laughed.
I smiled, lying down on my side and stretching my legs out. "Thanks for taking me to the party, by the way. It was a great time."
"Of course," he said, leaning back onto his side and pulling me close to him. "You had to come or it wouldn't have been a party."
"Yeah, sure," I said, kissing him on the cheek. "And I wouldn't have heard about how five-year old Troy dropped his pants at his cousin's birthday, all because no one paid enough attention to him."
"Ahhhh…" He turned red, and looked away. "Aunt Paula told you?"
I nodded, smiling. Then we both laughed hard, holding tight to each other, his shoulders shaking my body from the sheer force of it.
As the laughter subsided, he stroked my hair and looked me square in the eye, smiling. And we lay there for a moment, warm and easy with each other, like it always had been between us. And then suddenly, Troy got up stiffly, and I saw the same soft look in his eye that his father had when talking about his mother. Then without thinking I started to cry, sitting up as he knelt on the floor, knowing now what my mom had meant earlier and what was going to happen next.
"You're wonderful, Gabi," he said, his voice suddenly hoarse. "I keep thinking it'll stop… but every day it just keeps getting better and better." He cleared his throat. "You're beautiful and so smart. You're the best friend I ever had. And… I would be the luckiest guy alive if you married me."
And tears streaming down my cheeks, I cupped his face in my hands and said yes. Then he kissed me and kissed me, again and again and again. And when I had stopped crying, he slipped the sparkling ring on my finger and smiled at me. And then we laughed and held each other, warm in each other's arms, suddenly giddy at what had happened, and what was about to come.
"You won't drop your pants at the wedding, will you?"
He looked serious. "If I feel I'm losing the crowd, I can't promise anything."
"Ohh… I can't believe I agreed to this."
"Well, I'm glad you did." He laughed, kissing me again. "I'm going to love you forever, Montez," he said. "And don't think you can stop me."
I laced the fingers of my left hand through his and clasped the ring tightly between us, smiling. "Ahhh, Bolton. I'm not even going to try."
Author's Note: Who would have thought that a reunion oneshot would have come so far? I just started writing in the first person, and wound up with a pair of characters I love more than any others I've ever written. Anyway, SO MUCH THANKS to all the reviewers who wrote in with their thoughts and loved them as much as I did. Stellar notices go out to the frequent eloquent reviews from: megmae, ZacEfronLuver, tearitapartx3, Egyptian-Fire, wendy04, nadia2008, StillStargirl, Gabriella Bolton, carito06, VUWildcat, elsewhere405 (who submitted the 100th review!), and of course my homegirl xochrissy for her long and lovely responses to this story. I hope I got all of you up there… but truly, anyone who submitted a review was absolutely wonderful. You should all know that!
And as for the future, we may see this Troy and Gabriella again in a series of oneshots or a sequel. I truly do love these characters and may certainly feel the urge to come back to them again. Sadly, however, I'm getting much busier after this week and won't be able to update as much. But I hope you'll keep reading when I do have time to update, especially with the HSM Romance Challenge (link available under my profile). Lots of love!
Added Note (06/22/2006):Hey! There's now a sequel to O&A called All the Right Moves. Check it out under my profile!