Old Tricks, Better Intentions

By Jeune Ecrivain

Summary: Chad and Taylor use familiar methods for different purposes. Troyela with minor Chaylor and mentions of Jelsi and Zarpay.

A/N: For the purposes of this story, let's assume that in the HSM universe Lizzie McGuire is a TV character but all other Disney Channel characters are real people.

Taylor MacKessie marched purposefully through the halls of East High School, her fellow scholars following her with equal determination in their gait. It was free period, and she and the rest of the academically endowed Wildcats were taking a break from their usual routine of casual review just to keep their minds fresh. The teenage geniuses showed such resolve in their stride that, in an unusual reversal of high school social protocol, the usual hallway crowd parted like the Red Sea to give them passage, a ritual usually reserved for jocks or cheerleaders. Although the rigidity of the high school hierarchy had been shattered somewhat by recent events, there remained a lot of habits that simply could not be broken overnight. However, the students of East High didn't need to break any habits to know that they'd best get out of the way.

Taylor marched her troops into the gymnasium. As expected, the basketball team (minus the captain, who had conveniently left a little early for musical rehearsals) was there finishing up a round of free-throws. Chad Danforth was the first player to catch his new girlfriend's eye, and gave her a warm smile. His smile turned to a look of curiosity as she got close enough for him to see her expression. "Hey, Tay," he greeted her as his teammates gathered around him. "What's up?"
"We really need to talk," said Taylor firmly.

"About what?" he replied, growing concerned and a little apprehensive.

"I can't take it anymore," she replied. "They're driving me insane."

"Honestly, it's the kind of thing you think only happens in the movies," interjected Martha Cox, a rather stout companion of Taylor's.

Another intellectual female spoke up. "It's so sweet yet so annoying at the same time."

"Classic Gordon-McGuire syndrome," diagnosed a third decathlon teammate.

Chad looked confused. "Gordon-McGuire Syndrome?" he repeated.

"Sara, you should know better than to use Lizzie McGuire allusions on guys," Taylor reminded her comrade before turning back to the guys. "Let me spell it out for you. Gabriela is driving us all crazy. All she ever talks about besides school is Troy, and pretty much everyone on campus except him can tell that her feelings for him run much deeper than friendship."

"Heck, she herself was in denial up until a week ago. Thank God that's over at least!" interjected Martha.

"I find myself just wanting to scream at her 'Just kiss him already and be done with it!' But no. She just insists that ruining their friendship is not worth taking the risk that he doesn't feel the same way." She shook her head in awe of Gabriela's ignorance. "Everyone on campus knows Troy loves her!" she exclaimed.

"They're acting like characters out of some cheap romantic comedy," said Sara. "I just know those two could have something really special if they'd just wake up to the fact that they both want the same thing."

By now, the boys' confusion was long gone, and every single Wildcat was nodding eagerly. Taking his cue, Chad finally spoke up, supplementing Sara's words. "In the meantime, they're driving us all crazy."
"Exactly!" Taylor practically yelled.

"Hey, I hope you don't think this is anything new to us," Chad said. "You don't know what it's like with Troy in that locker room! Gabriela this! Gabriela that!" He shook his head. "We're guys! We're not s'posed to be able to pick up on these things as well as you girls. But seriously, Troy might as well take a red marker or something and write 'I love Gabriela' on his forehead!" At this point, Chad gripped Taylor's shoulders, looked into her eyes, and implored her desperately, "I don't like WATCHING chick flicks. I can't stand LIVING in one!"

"We need a plan," Taylor concluded. "We need to knock some sense into their heads!"

"How?" asked Martha. "The only way either one of them is going to make a move is if they know the other one feels the same way, and the only way one will believe it is if they hear it straight from the other one's mouth."

"But Troy will never confess his feelings for Gabriela to her face," observed Jason Cross.

"Unless…" Chad began.

"Unless what?" Taylor looked at him hopefully. "Any idea at all will do! This must stop!"

"Well, Tay, you and I did something at the beginning of the school year that we aren't too proud of. Maybe we can be proud of it this time because our intentions are much more honorable."

Realization dawned on Taylor. "You mean…"

Chad just nodded.

HSM

Troy Bolton whistled idly to the tune he had just finished rehearsing with his friend Kelsi Nielsen, East High's resident composer/playwright. He strolled into the locker room to find out how his teammates were doing, but he was quite surprised to find them assembled in silence, seemingly awaiting his arrival. He approached them and opened his mouth to ask "What's up?" but was cut off by Chad.

"Phil Diffy and Keely Teslow," said the tall African-American, holding up a picture of what looked like a happy couple enjoying themselves at a homecoming dance. "H.G. Wells High. Pickford, Illinois. Inseperable friends for two years. Realized they were meant to be more when they were voted 'Cutest Couple' in an annual yearbook survey."

Before Troy could ask what was going on, Zeke Baylor spoke up, holding up a picture of a boy and a girl on a beach. "Oliver Oken and Miley Stewart. Seaview High. Malibu, California. Best friends for four years. Finally realized their true feelings for each other when they had to kiss for a game of Truth-or-Dare. Had a much-needed talk afterwards, and voila, the most genuine couple at Seaview."

"Louis Stevens and Tawny Dean," added Jason Cross, sporting yet another photo. "Sacramento High. Sacramento, California. Best friends for six years. Forced to confront their true feelings when a family move threatened to separate them. Now the most mischeivous yet sincere couple at their school."

"Eddie Thomas and Raven Baxter," said a fourth Wildcat with a fourth picture. "Bayside High. San Francisco, California. Best friends since pre-school. He comforted her after a really hard break-up, and she saw him in a whole new light."

Troy shook his head like a wet dog as if trying to shake off the confusion. "Guys,…what is this about?"

"The guys and I did an Internet search to find out just how common these kinds of situations are. Apparently, it happens all over the country...or at least the state of California."

"The male-female best friend pair who are practically inseparable, tell each other everything, and make a lot of other guys envy their closeness. Everyone knows their feelings for each other run much deeper than friendship, but they themselves are either in denial or too afraid of rejection to do anything about it," Chad explained. "Basically, they're the couple that you just want to slap upside the head and say 'Quit beating around the bush and get together already!'"

Meanwhile…

"Gabriela, would you mind critiquing our presentation for psychology class?"

Gabriela Montez looked up from her biology homework to find the entire East High decathlon team looking at her. "Um…sure," she said with a small smile.

"Great!" Taylor quickly opened up her laptop and loaded the slideshow she had prepared. She then stood beside it with her wireless mouse in hand. "My presentation today will be on the Paradox of Superior Extraspect. What is the Paradox of Superior Extraspect? Well, intuitive logic tells us that those closest to something see it more clearly than those who are farther away." She clicked, and a relevant diagram replaced the title slide on the screen. "However, in some situations, the opposite is true. Those closest to something are blind to it while those farther away see it clear as day. No rhyme intended." She said the last part with a chuckle as she clicked another diagram onto the screen.

Back with Troy and the guys…

"Guys, where are you going with this?"

"The point," Chad surmised, "is that East High has its own couple just like this. Only this couple hasn't wised up yet. And as long as they're stuck in that phase, everyone else is stuck just waiting for them to hook up."

"The guys at those other schools who knew those couples all said it got really annoying sometimes before they came clean with each other. Same here," said Jason. "Only here, it's even more cheesy, 'cause the couple we're talking about happen to be singing together half the time."

Troy's confusion vanished at that statement. "This is about me and Gabi, isn't it?" he said resignedly.

"No, Troy. It's about you and Sharpay," Chad quipped, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "We all know how much you like her. What's the holdup, man?"

"Look, guys," Troy replied, feeling a little cornered. "I appreciate what you're trying to do. I really do. But Gabriella's friendship means a lot to me. If I tell her I want to be more than friends and she doesn't feel the same way…." He trailed off. "Maybe our friendship will survive. Maybe it won't. That's not a risk I'm willing to take. I'd rather have Gabriela in my life as a really good friend than not at all. If I make a move and she's uncomfortable with it, who's to say we won't drift apart to the point where there's no going back."

"You don't think any of the couples we mentioned took a risk?" countered Jason. "Even after they both knew how they felt, they still took the risk of the relationship not working out. We're not saying there's no risk." Even though there's not, since the whole school knows Gabriela adores you, Jason added inwardly as he continued. "But when it comes to love, you're just going to have to take a chance sometimes. I took a chance with Kelsi, and look what it got me: a beautiful girlfriend who I care about more every day. And I was nervous as heck the day I asked her out."

"That's different. You and Kelsi didn't have the kind of prior friendship Gabi and I do," Troy protested. "No offense."

"None taken," Jason shrugged. "And you're right. I didn't have that bond with Kelsi going into it, but a risk is still a risk."

"Yeah, and while we're talking about it," interjected Zeke, "Think about it, bro. You and Gabriela were what got the ball rolling for all of us. If it weren't for the two of you, Chad and Taylor never would have given each other a second glance. Jason wouldn't have met Kelsi. I wouldn't have had a chance in heck with Sharpay. All these great relationships happened because you two set off sort of a chain reaction. So how is it that both instigators of this reaction are still single?"

"You're forgetting something, guys," Troy argued. "Gabriela doesn't feel that way about me."

Chad, sensing that the conversation was approaching the critical point, discretely reached into his pocket and silently text-messaged the word "go" to Taylor. This was her signal to bring up the only so-called "slide" in her presentation that really mattered. Simultaneously, he glanced over at Zeke, who was positioning the small webcam peeking out of his gym bag with equal discretion. Pausing for a moment, Chad looked his longtime best friend in the eye and said, "How can you be sure, Troy?"

"I don't know," Troy fumbled. "I guess…I don't think I'm everything she really wants in a guy. Gabriela is a really special person, and she deserves to be with someone just as special. Yes, the singing thing is special to both of us, and we do get along really well even when we're not singing. But I just don't think it's quite enough to make her consider me someone she'd like to date. She's an amazing girl. It's going to take someone just as amazing to earn her love."

Chad feigned surprise. "And you're willing to let her find that person even if it's not you?"

"Yeah," Troy answered.

Chad inwardly realized he had Troy right where he wanted him. "You must really like her then," he said gently.

Troy sat down on the bench. "Chad, I don't like her. I love her." He spoke softly, as if explaining it to himself as well as his teammates. "I know people are always saying that we're too young to really be in love, and maybe we are. But if this isn't love, it's a darn good imitation." He chuckled. "I lived 16 years without ever knowing her. But now, whenever I try to imagine life without her, I always feel like something's missing. My life before was great, but she brings something else to it that I don't ever want to give up."

"Wow!" Chad marveled. "That's deep, man."

"Yeah, well, maybe now you understand why telling her I love her as more than a friend is not a decision I'm going to make lightly."

Chad feigned concession with a nod. "Just don't rule it out, alright Captain? 'Cause, I gotta tell you. I'll deny I ever said something this sappy, but I think you guys could be really happy together."

Troy laughed and nodded knowingly. "I know I would," he agreed as he rose to get up. "Now, is this little intervention over? I'm driving Gabi home today."

"Yeah, we're cool," Zeke nodded, strategically avoiding eye contact with the other guys.

Troy grinned and nodded in appreciation to his friends. "Okay, I'm off. Go take care of your own love lives for once, alright?" he said humorously as he exited the locker room, the sounds of his teammates' laughter following him out.

HSM

Gabriela sat in front of Taylor's computer, staring at the screen upon which Troy had just unknowingly confessed his feelings for her. She knew she should've known something was amiss. Something about that presentation just didn't seem right. However, she couldn't bring herself to be mad at her companions for meddling. At first, she'd been too busy wanting vehemently to tell Troy that he was so wrong about not having what it would take to deserve her. Then, shock took over for a brief moment as she heard him say he loved her. Seconds later, she had felt ready to melt with warmth as she listened to Troy's subsequent confessions. Now, as everything Troy had said sunk in, the infant joy that had ridden in on shock's coattails was fast maturing as she fought to subdue an ear-to-ear grin.

"You guys!" she finally exclaimed. "I can't believe you did this…again!"

"We had to! You two were driving us and the basketball team bonkers!" said Martha Cox.

"You guys are sneaky," Gabriela stated, doing her best to sound indignant.

"Maybe, but you have to admit, our intentions were much more commendable this time."

"Well, yeah, but…" Gabriela trailed off as her joy struck her full force, and her previous train of thought was forgotten completely. "He said he loved me!" she marveled, her mouth looking as if she would be grinning broadly if it weren't gaping open.

"Why was it so hard to believe?!" Taylor asked in exasperation.

"I don't know. I guess…for the same reasons he said."

"You each think the other one is too good for you. Can you say 'meant to be'?" Taylor quipped.

Gabriela didn't respond. She was smiling warmly at the computer screen, remembering every word Troy had said and wanting to cherish them forever. She sighed contentedly.

"Oh, give it up and grin already!" Taylor said amusedly.

Gabriela snapped out of her trance and smiled. "I'm sorry, guys. I'm just so happy." She grinned broadly. "He said everything I've ever wanted to hear and then some! A lot of it was exactly how I feel too."

"So why aren't you telling him that?" asked Taylor with a gentle smile.

As if on cue, Troy appeared in the doorway. "I should've known you'd be here," he teased. "Ready to go?"

The geniuses of East High exchanged amused and knowing glances as Taylor discretely closed up her laptop and slipped it into her bag. "Well, I gotta get going. Lotta homework," she said, excusing herself quickly as she exited the classroom.

"Yeah, us too," said Martha, winking at Gabriela as she lead the rest of the decathlon team out of the room. Gabriela smiled at her friends as they left. She knew that they were leaving to give her and Troy some alone time, and she was eternally grateful for it. She turned to face Troy and grinned warmly at him.

He looked back with curiosity etched on his face. "Not that I'm complaining, but what's with that look?"

"Did you mean it?" she blurted.

Troy looked confused for the second time that afternoon. "Mean what?"

"When you said you loved me. Did you mean it?"

Troy stared at her, and were it not for the gravity of the conversation, she would've laughed at his panic-stricken face. "How…how did you…?"

"Just answer the question, Troy. Please?" she said softly.

Troy sighed, deciding that he might as well come clean. "Yes, I meant it," he replied. "If you don't feel the same way, I'll understand, but I can't help it." He inhaled and braced himself for her response as he went out on a proverbial limb. "I love you, Gabi."

"I'll tell you how I feel!" she answered, her voice rising with joy and good-natured frustration at him as she marched up to him, cupped his face in her hands, and kissed him on the mouth with a passion she never knew she had. Troy's shock lasted hardly a second before he responded with a vengeance, taking the opportunity to release months of repressed love and desire. After a few moments of liplock, she broke away abruptly, feeling the need to tell him how much he meant to her. "You are everything I've ever wanted in a guy…and so much more." She pecked him teasingly on the lips. "A lot of what you said, I could say the same about you," she added with another sensual peck.

Troy looked at her, half-shocked and half-elated. "Does this mean what I think it means?"
Gabriela smiled at him gently. "I love you, Troy," she confirmed, staring into his eyes.

He grinned broadly and leaned in to kiss her. She happily obliged, parting her lips soon after contact to deepen the kiss. The two continued to lock lips passionately for a few minutes until Troy broke away. "Wait a minute. This still doesn't answer the question of how the heck you heard what I said in the locker room."

Gabriela gave him an amused smile. "Let's just say Chad and Taylor were up to their old tricks." She then captured his lips with hers once more, and it was quite a while before Troy bothered to interrogate her further.