Troy woke up earlier than usual and changed into his Spurs training gear for one last time. In a way Troy felt bummed about it, but at the same time, he knew more than anyone that a single day can change everything, and he had a good feeling about today.

Troy still had 2 hours until he needed to be at the school so he decided to go for a walk. He strolled around the practically deserted promenade lost in his own thoughts until he came to a halt at a vacant bench. If someone was to look at him they would simply assume he was deep I thought, but really it was the opposite. So many thoughts were all intertwined within his head, and all competing for dominating attention that he chose instead to ignore them all and as such reside in a state of blissful nothingness.

"You're up early superstar." Troy turned to see Rachel settling down beside him. She handed him a coffee.

"Celebrating my last hour of being a Spur, and the securities it brings."

"You wouldn't go back to the streets. Not after making things right here."

"But I can't stay here."

"Why not?"

"What am I supposed to? Get a drop kick job on a minimum wage and smile as I watch my friends graduate without me? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I came back, but I'm not staying... I can't go back to that life… It's just not me anymore."

"Have you told anyone else this?"

"No. What am I supposed to say? 'Oh by the way your perfect cookie cutter existence makes me feel like puking so have a nice life?' Be real."

"Well I wouldn't suggest that wording, but they are going to notice when they wake up one day and you've left… That didn't work out too well the last time remember? I thought you'd learned your lesson about running away."

"I'm not running away this time. I'm not afraid anymore. I'm just leaving this place in the past, where it feels right to me." Rachel thought about this for a minute.

"Have you thought about where you are going to go?"

"I'm going to get out of New Mexico. Maybe I'll go to California, find some small town with nice people and a quiet pace, and begin again."

"That still sounds strangely familiar, are you sure you aren't still running?"

"There's just not much left for me here."

"There's me." Troy smiled.

"I know."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Troy arrived the school gym, he was surprised to see that it was buzzing with life. The controversy surrounding his words in the article had spread like wildfire and it seemed as though half of East High had turned up to the gym to express their support. As Troy entered a huge applause erupted from the stands and the Spurs called him over.

"Good show man!"

"How'd you do it?"

"Sweet as publicity!"

"BOLTON!" Amid the ecstatic cheering and talking, Troy heard his Coach's voice calling him. Troy turned to find Couch Burns signalling for him to enter Jack's office so they could talk. The once loud, buzzing gym was deathly quiet, and Troy felt all eyes on him as he crossed the court to where his Coach stood- his face held an expression Troy could not read.

Troy entered the office and sat down. He heard his Coach close the door behind them and then came over and leant against Jack's desk.

"I suppose you know why you're here." Scott said. Troy simply nodded.

"Well then no point beating around the bush, i have been informed that this morning your contract with the Spurs was terminated. You are now a free agent." Troy let out a breath he didnt know he was holding. He wasn't sure how he felt. Disappointed sure, but maybe relieved? The two sat in silence, Scott giving Troy a moment to digest the news.

"Are you ok?"

"I'm always ok. I have to be, remember?" Coach nodded silently.

"You carry a burden beyond your years, but it will not always be so. I have faith in you... What will you do now?"

"I don't know." they sat consumed in their own thoughts for another few minutes.

"As for this newspaper business... As a representative of the San Antonio Spurs organisation, I have been allocated to relay to you to our disappointment towards your insabordinent actions, and express how infuriated the company is at this unnecessary bout of bad publicity... As your Coach, and even more so, as your friend, I am very proud of you." Troy looked up at the face of the man who had become such a mentor and fatherly figure towards him. Troy smiled, one of the purest and most guenuine smiled he had ever given. He had forgotten what those words sounded like, and how they felt, and to hear them now rendered him speechless. Troy gave a nod to Coach Burns, an unsaid thankyou that was silently understood.

"Always remember Troy, most often the greatest test of courage is not to die, but to live,"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Troy was the last out of the showers, and was slow to change. The morning was marked by a fast paced game played under street rules as the Spurs and the Wildcats celebrated what was probably their last training together. Troy watched as his teammates filed out, clean and hungry, bound for the cafeteria. He wasn't acutely hungry, nor was he in the mood this very second to be overly extroverted and answer the questions of the entire EHS student body as he sat down for lunch. So he took his time. As he was preparing to head to the cafeteria, he heard the changeroom door open, and Jack Bolton stepped in. The two stood in silence for a few minutes, Troy coninuing to get ready for lunch.

"I uh, read your article.. in the paper." Troy just nodded, he knew everyone would have read it by now.

"I... uh... I just wanted to say... well, thanks... for you know... letting me save face and all that... your a good man Troy... I never told you that enough when you were around... much more a man than I." Troy said nothing for a few moments.

"I'd say your welcome, but i didn't do it for you, I did it for mum- she doesn't need that kind of attention about her family." Jack just nodded, accepting the consequences of his actions.

"I hear your a free agent now... and chance you'd consider reclaiming your wildcats captaincy?" Troy have off a small laugh.

"Not likely. Thanks but no thanks dad, this place is dead to me. It's not where I belong anymore. Too many ghosts." Jack just nodded again, his conversation strategy was not going well, but he had expected this.

"Well, you know Troy... If ever you need a place to crash... or maybe if you feel like coming home, even if it's only to see your mother, or for good... our door is always open. You can fight it, but to us- your mother and I- you'll always be a Bolton. Blood is thicker than sweat... I'm not asking for forgivness Troy, I know I don't deserve it. But I don't want you to disappear again, without a trace." Troy said nothing but threw on a clean T-shirt and put his towel in the laundry bin. Jack took that as his cue to leave so he turned to walk out, he had said what he had come here to say. Just as he was about to leave he heard Troy quietly speak, he almost wasn't sure if he had dreamt it.

"You're forgiven dad." Jack stopped dead in his tracks and with eyes full on confusion and bewilderment, he turned to face his only son. Troy read his expression and spoke up again.

"Yes, i forgive you dad. But I can't forget. Not yet." Jack understood, these things take time. But it was a huge step in the right direction, and Jack would take anything he could get. He gave Troy a meaningful nod and quietly left.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Troy entered the cafeteria is was full of life. Copies of the front page of the paper which contain Troy's article were everywhere, and was the talk on everyone lips. After grabbing some food, Troy walked up towards the table which he knew Emma sat at, but his way was blocked by the gang, the wildcats and the spurs who had crowded around the table before Emma's. Emma, who was with them, came up to him and covered his eyes, before leading him into the group. Troy felt his hip hit the table and Emma uncovered his eyes to reveal a very large cake. Troy recognised it instantly as Zeke's work, and smiled, looking at all the little decorations on it. There was the wildcats emblem and the spurs emblem, a stick figure girl he assumed was meant to be Emma, and some music notes.

"Thanks guys this is great." He smiled.

"Woohoo Go Troy!!" Chad yelled before digging into the cake, followed quickly by everyone else.

In the rummage for the cake Troy spotted Sharpay. She smiled at him. Everything was understood and made right in that instant. He smiled back and gave her a small nod. The moment didn't need a 'sorry' or a 'thankyou', it just was with them- after all, it always had been. The moment ended when Jake spoke.

"But what I don't get is why are there music notes on it?" Troy looked at Chad who returned his gaze with a mischievous look in his eye. 'Oh fuck' thought Troy.

"Well you see Jake, in these parts Troy is just as well known for his singing as he is for his basketball."

"WHAT!?!?!" Chorused the entire Spurs team in unison.

"It's true- i swear on my piece of cake!" Chad insisted.

"And that's saying something!" added Taylor, earning her a hurt look from Chad.

"Well it's settled then, he must sing!" Jake announced. Everyone cheered, much to Troy's dismay.

"No no no no no no no. Guys come on, i don't sing anymore. No guys..." But resistance was futile, and Troy knew this. His continued protests only served to strengthen their resolve to hear him, and after 10 minutes of arguing Troy had to give in- he was fighting a losing battle.

It was settled then: in an hour, Troy would sing one song of his choosing in the auditorium. 'Oh great' was the broken record of thought running through Troy's head.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Troy was sitting on the rooftop absorbed in his own thoughts. He wasn't sure he wanted to sing. Part of him was excited, the other half was fighting it. He wasn't even sure if he could still sing. He had smoked a lot since his singing days and knew that would have some degree of affect. But he couldn't get out of it now: he was a man condemned.

He heard footsteps on the stairs and was about to leave when he saw Emma's small frame appear. He instant;y was smiling as though she was some kind of party drug. He was so happy to see her.

"Hey you." He said.

"Heey. I thought I'd find you hiding up here." Emma replied walking over and sitting next to him.

"Yeah just taking a breather."

"How are you? Like about everything."

"I don't know. But when i figure it out, I promise you'll be the first to know."

"Just promise me you won't leave again. Not like last time. I-I couldnt do that again." Troy cupped her face with his hands and brought her face up to his so he could look deep into her eyes.

"I promise that I will never do that to you again. I won;t lose you again, not now we've found each other." Emma looked right at him as though she was going to cry.

"Do you mean that?" She said in barely a whisper.

"More than I've ever meant anything before in my life." Troy said solemly. Still close to tears, Emma gave him a small smile. He smiled warmly right back at her, just like he had in all the dreams she had had about him while he was gone. Slowly he brought his face closer to her and gave her a slow, soft kiss.

Occasionally in life you have moments where you'd swear you were in heaven, for Emma, and for Troy, this was one. They had found each other again. And this time, it was for good.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The auditorium was packed to the brim. The entire EHS student body was present, as was most of the faculty, and all the Spurs. As Troy walked out onto the stage, he could hardly stop his body from visibly shaking. The spotlight came on him, and the world around him plunged into darkness. He could hear the audience, but he couldn't see them, which he figured was probably a good thing. This was something he wanted to do, and now he had the nerve to do it. He started playing his guitar, and began to sing.

"Look at this photograph
Everytime I do it makes me laugh
How did our eyes get so red
And what the hell is on Jason's head?

And this is where I grew up
I think the present owner fixed it up
I never knew we'd ever went without
The second floor is hard for sneaking out

And this is where I went to school
Most of the time had better things to do
Criminal record says I broke in twice
I must have done it half a dozen times

I wonder if it's too late
Should i go back and try to graduate
Life's better now then it was back then
If I was them I wouldn't let me in

Oh, oh, oh
Oh, god, I

Every memory of looking out the back door
I had the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor
It's hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.
Every memory of walking out the front door
I found the photo of the friend that I was looking for
It's hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.

Remember the old arcade
Blew every dollar that we ever made
The cops hated us hangin' out
They say somebody went and burned it down

We used to listen to the radio
And sing along with every song we know
We said someday we'd find out how it feels
To sing to more than just the steering wheel

Kim's the first girl I kissed
I was so nervous that I nearly missed
She's had a couple of kids since then
I haven't seen her since god knows when

Oh, oh, oh
Oh, god, I

Every memory of looking out the back door
I had the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor
It's hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.
Every memory of walking out the front door
I found the photo of the friend that I was looking for
It's hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.

I miss that town
I miss the faces
You can't erase
You can't replace it
I miss it now
I can't believe it
So hard to stay
Too hard to leave it

If I could I relive those days
I know the one thing that would never change

Every memory of looking out the back door
I had the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor
It's hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.
Every memory of walking out the front door
I found the photo of the friend that I was looking for
It's hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.

Look at this photograph
Everytime I do it makes me laugh
Everytime I do it makes me..."

As he finished the song the audience was deathly quiet with shock. It was a once in a lifetime performance that Troy had given his all to, and the weight of the performance was clear in the tension in the room. Then, as if planned, the audience broke out in a huge applause almost all at once. It was a standing ovation (which Troy could now see as the lights had come back on). In the crowd Troy spotted his gang, and Emma, and his father, and all the faces which had shaped his life and helped him carve out the words of that song. He wrote it for them. He sung it for them. And now they knew. And for the first time in a very long time, Troy just felt like everything was ok, not just on the outside where people could see it, but even on the inside where real beauty resides.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Excuse me, Troy Bolton?" Troy and the spurs and the gang were in the gym just mucking around and finishing the last of the very big cake when two men in suits entered. Troy looked at them a moment before speaking.

"I'm Troy Bolton." Troy said approaching them.

"Troy, I'm Micheal Stanton. I'm here on behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers." He shook Troy's hand. Troy was awestruck- was this for real? "We saw your game last week and were very impressed. We read the paper and hear your a free agent, and we'd like to offer you a spot for next season. The details will have to be sorted out of course all the technicalities, but what do you say, would you be at all interested?" Troy wanted to scream and shout that he was more than interested, that it was his life long dream and he was with them in a heartbeat. But he had temporarily misplaced his voice box?

"Mr. Bolton?"

"What- oh yes-yes of course I'm interested, I-YES!"

The end

thanks for all your support guys sorry this took a while i agonised over it and had a million other things to do. To all my loyal reviewers you really have made me enjoy writing this for you! now do me one last joy and press that review button just one more time in appreciation for this whopper story hahaha. all the best xoxox