warning: shortish & choppy.
fuck my life. i'm sorry, i tried.

i'm sitting here making my own rules, and if
i fall from the ceiling you'll be down there waiting to finish me.

- -

After two full days of school, Troy wasn't entirely sure why he had been in such a rush to get back there. Apparently between bedrest and his suspension he'd forgotten how thoroughly exhausting seven hours of high school could be. There were quizzes and projects and tests and essays all on top of the regular nightly assignments. And then there was the getting called on in class and trying to give the right answer (or at least bullshit something well enough), and the crush of students in the halls, and the waking up at 7 AM and staying until five when practice ended.

So after two days of nonstop go, go, going, Troy would much rather have been taking a nap than getting into his mother's car to be driven about fifteen minutes away to the physical therapy center Dr. Anderson had found for him. At times like this Troy wished he could stomach coffee or energy drinks, because he knew sleeping for the car ride would do nothing but make him more tired once he arrived at the clinic, and he expected he'd definitely need his energy to do whatever it was these appointments required of him.

Red Rock Sports and Physical Therapy was a hard building to miss, it turned out. In between miles of desert, the white building was nearly blinding in the afternoon sun. The sweeping new-age architecture was certainly interesting, and the waiting area looked incredibly cozy; overall, Troy was just grateful that the place wasn't some hole in the wall full of online-certified quacks. As his mother signed him in, he sat on a comfortable chair and flipped restlessly through an issue of GQ, barely able to muster enough brain power to do anything more than glance at the pictures. Luckily the wait wasn't long, and just about ten minutes later a woman in an all-black ensemble walked into the room. The difference between her black slacks and the shiny white tiles was striking.

"Troy Bolton?" she questioned from the doorway leading out of the waiting room.

Troy raised a hand quickly in reply and got to his feet.

The woman shuffled closer and stuck a hand out. "Hi, Troy, Mrs. Bolton, I'm Dr. Andrea Jacobs." Dr. Jacobs was nothing like the past two doctors he'd seen. She was all warm smiles and cheery inflections, like she was genuinely happy to help. Troy liked her immediately.

"Okay," she said. "So Troy if you don't mind coming back with me we're going to get started on some warm-up exercises today. It's only your first day so I won't push you too hard, we'll just see what point you're at now."

Troy nodded while his mother conversed with the doctor quickly, asking questions about the process. She'd decided to let him go in on his own and while he was grateful, he knew she was struggling with not being directly in the loop.

As he walked down the hall, Troy noticed each room was painted a different color. There was the red room, complete with red furniture, and pictures of roses and an old-fashioned VW Beetle on the wall; similar were the orange, green, yellow, and purple rooms. Luckily, Troy ended up surrounded by a calming sky blue.

Dr. Jacobs, aside from being friendly, was a direct kind of person. Once she was sure he was comfortable, she immediately started with his first regiment, doing demonstrations and providing helpful tips. It wasn't too difficult, he decided after awhile. Sure it burned a bit, like he was using certain muscles for the first time ever, but it wasn't anything unbearable. Maybe it was because it was only the first day, or maybe--hopefully--it was just because he'd been psyching himself out and recovery wasn't quite as painful as it seemed it would be. After a few minutes of conversation and explanation, and less than an hour of stretches, Troy was back in his mother's car on his way home. Dr. Jacobs gave him a sheet of the stretches they'd done that day, complete with pictures and step-by-step instructions, so that he could do them at home on his own before the next appointment.

He was already planning a schedule in his head. If he woke up twenty minutes earlier he'd be able to fit in the workout before school started, and if he actually buckled down to do his homework instead of procrastinating like the art was dying, he'd be able to do another before bed. He figured, at this rate, he'd be better in only a couple of weeks. Of course, he had no idea if that was realistic, but it was inconsequential; he'd do as many reps as were necessary to get better.


"Hey Troy."

Troy paused in the process of putting his books in his locker and hoped that the voice he'd just heard wasn't who he thought it was. For the first time in weeks he was hoping it was Chad coming to harass him at his locker because, at the moment, that option would probably be less awkward.

Troy stepped back a bit and saw a mess of curly dark hair, overly worn-out sneakers and an obscure band tee. Damn, he was right. "Hey Noah."

"I, um, I know things are weird for you and Sharpay right now, but I just wanted you to know that I sent in that stuff you asked me to. I made copies of all the tapes and sent them to the people you told me to. I don't know if you wanted to continue on with finding an agent for Sharpay, but... I thought you should know, just in case someone calls you back."

Everything from the way Noah stood to the way he spoke to the way his eyes wouldn't meet Troy's said he was uncomfortable. Honestly, Troy didn't like it. Besides that brief glimpse of his sentimental side from Darbus's room that day, Troy had never heard him be serious. The personality change was unnerving, especially because he had grown partial to the way the other boy was always so loud and unintentionally funny.

"Oh. I hadn't really thought about that. Thanks for letting me know, I guess."

Noah nodded silently and pocketed his hands in his jeans before turning to leave.

"Wait!" Troy couldn't help but call out. Noah turned back around and he found that he was temporarily blank on what to say. He sighed heavily. "Listen, even though I'm not exactly talking to Sharpay right now, I don't want things to be weird for us. I've had enough of silent friends lately."

Troy tried to throw out a comforting smile but was thrown off guard by Noah's next comment. "Maybe you should stop letting them be silent, then." After a second or two, the weight of his words seemed to sink in and Noah's eyes widened a bit. "I'm sorry. None of that's my business."

"What happened to all that honesty you used to have?"

"This is really, really weird for me. I don't want it to be, Troy, but it is. Sharpay is my best friend, and I like you and all, but if she asked me to stop talking to you, I would."

"Did she?"

"No. She wouldn't do that. She's too stubborn. She doesn't want anyone, even me, to know that what happened between you guys is bothering her. A lot. I don't want to put her in an uncomfortable position, though. And, to be honest, I don't think you should have blown up on her like that."

"No offense Noah, but you weren't there. You didn't see what I saw and you don't know what I'm feeling."

"Maybe not, but I know Sharpay, and I believe her when she says there's more to the story. Maybe you should believe her."

He liked Noah, and he wanted to believe him, it was just hard to consider that there was an alternate explanation to something he'd seen with his very own eyes. What, did Charlie trip and Sharpay's lips end up breaking his fall? Please. Charlie most certainly was not forcing anything on her, because he saw no evidence of a struggle. Really, what feasible prospects were there? He'd just have to accept that even though he considered Noah a friend, his friend--and Sharpay liaison--had gotten it wrong this time.

"I don't know if I can do that. If you know the situation, which I'm assuming you do, then you know she was with Charlie Duncan. I wouldn't have gotten angry if it was anyone else but him. She knows how I feel about him."

"And I know how she feels about you."

It was unintentional, but his heart skipped a beat. "What's that mean?"

Noah shrugged, but looked increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of conversation. "That's something you'll have to ask her. But, like I said, she was really upset with what happened between you guys. Give her a chance to explain. I mean, she gave you one, and you guys got to be pretty good friends. She hasn't trusted someone like that since she met me, and it was really hard for her."

Troy sighed again, sending the longest pieces of hair in his face up into the air. "Okay, okay. I'll, I don't know. I guess I'll think about it. I just, I really need to stop talking about this right now."

Noah finally smiled. "Good looks, dude. I really can't handle this drama. Let's leave that to the experts on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Although, when I think about it, NeNe is a pretty cool name."

Troy sighed internally as he felt the tension leave the air. He wasn't entirely sure what Noah was talking about, but that was familiar territory. Besides, he was just glad they were back to their normal caliber of conversation.

"Thanks," he said to Noah.

The other boy looked confused. "For what?" He didn't give Troy a chance to reply as he nodded and said, "Oh, I get it. I'm just here for the comic relief."

Troy met Noah's smirk with a laugh.


"Okay Troy, you can do it," he told himself. Two seconds later, though, realization hit and, "Oh shit. No you can't."

He paused, clutching the support bars around him, and attempted to collect his suddenly fast breathing. Dr. Jacobs seemed to echo his thoughts; not even two seconds into his self-imposed break and she said, "Come on, Troy. You can do it."

The fact that he couldn't flashed through his mind blindingly and bitterly. He'd been seriously kidding himself last week when he said rehab was going to be easy, because this right here was nowhere near it. Those stretches from his last appointment seemed like wading in the kiddie pool compared to being thrown head first into the deep end. It was night and day, the difficulty level he was facing.

"Troy, come on. You can't leave today without finishing up."

"I can't," he said, and he believed that.

"I know it's hard but you have to work through the pain."

Not hard, impossible. He'd been in pain before, even played a whole half of a game with a sprained wrist once, but this was excruciating. There was no "mind over matter" in this situation, because he couldn't focus on anything but the fact that it felt like he was tearing his ACL all over again. This couldn't be healthy, something had to be wrong. Maybe the surgery backfired; maybe his knee hadn't healed enough; maybe he'd overworked himself with doing his previous exercises so many times in a day. Whatever the reason, though, it still came down to the fact that this time he couldn't continue. Part of him felt like a failure, felt like he was giving up far too soon, but a larger part of him real didn't give a damn; there was no way in hell he could deal with this any longer.

"I'm sorry," Troy mumbled, before collapsing into a seated position in the middle of the floor.

Ten minutes later he was back sitting shotgun in his mother's car, head turned to face towards the window so he could escape her questioning eyes.


When Troy got a text message at 8:59, the last person he'd thought it'd be from was Ryan Evans. But, there was no mistaking his name on the screen, along with the message "meet on corner of chestnut & pine in 15? i need to talk 2u." Not knowing what else to do, he replied back that he would be there. Really, there was nothing else it could be other than to bitch Troy out about mistreating his poor, dear sister. He wasn't entirely up to it, especially after this afternoon, but it was better to get these things out of the way. Besides, maybe he'd get lucky and Ryan could find it in him to understand his feelings of betrayal at seeing Sharpay with Charlie Duncan, since he'd helped them out with their revenge, after all.

So, twelve minutes later he made his way out of the house--stealthily evading his parents in the living room--and down the street. Chestnut Road ran parallel to his street and intersected with Pine Avenue just a few feet away from that, so it wasn't a long journey by any means. In fact, as he took a seat on the curb of the mostly silent street he checked his phone only to find it was 9:15 exactly.

The only thing missing was Ryan.

A minute or two later he heard footsteps approaching from behind, and tried not to tense unnecessarily. Then the figure sat down next to him and it wasn't Ryan at all but Sharpay and his entire body froze.

"Don't leave," she said, reading his body language all right. He was ready to bolt.

"You're not Ryan," he said instead.

"Obviously." She sighed. "I used his phone to text you because I knew you wouldn't meet me if you knew it was, well, me."

He remained silent.

"I got an interesting phone call today," she continued, apparently ignoring his resistance. But really? She was here making casual conversation? What the fuck?

He snorted. "Good for you."

"It was from Dr. Jacobs, who's apparently your physical therapist at Red Rock," she went on casually.

"And why exactly would she call you?"

Sharpay shrugged. The funny thing was, their entire conversation was taking place without them looking at each other. "I guess when Dr. Anderson made the arrangements he put down my house number as the contact information, since that was what my dad put down for your hospital stay."

"Oh." He tried to sound disinterested--and it probably worked--but really, his mind was racing.

"Fuck you, Troy." Exasperation and anger tinged her voice and finally they were getting somewhere. He was most certainly not going to sit here and pretend like nothing ever happened. They weren't speaking, and he was just fine with that. (Mostly.) "I'm not here because I want to be. I'm still pissed at you, but I got a phone call today about how you left your appointment today barely halfway through, so I decided maybe I could suck it up and talk some sense into you. I guess that's too much to ask for."

Troy finally chanced a glance over at her. It was pretty dark, and the closest street lamp was feet away, but he could still see Sharpay quite clearly. Her eyes were dark and angry, like he'd seen them so many times before, and her hair was tousled from the nighttime breeze. He hated the lump that formed in his throat.

It took him a few moments to collect himself before Troy could say, "Maybe it is."

She laughed sarcastically and began to stand. "Fine, Troy. Just... fine. I'm so glad my dad and your dad wasted their money on a surgery that's not gonna fix anything because you're too stubborn to work through the pain and just get better. It's almost like you want to stay on crutches. But, whatever, I'm done. Just know you're letting a lot of people down."

He stared resolutely ahead until he heard her departing footsteps.

"Am I letting you down?" he wanted to ask.

Instead he watched her walk away.


By the time the morning came he was sick of his own thoughts, tossing and turning, just as his body had all night. He slept fitfully, to say the least, as his mind raced with questions and answers and plans of action. After all of that, he was still completely unsure of everything... and it was all Sharpay's fault.

Something from last night stuck out to him, though. "It's almost like you want to stay on crutches," rang out in his head over and over again. It couldn't possibly be true. Seriously, where exactly would Sharpay come up with something like that? Who in their right mind wanted to stay on crutches?

Not him, that was for damn sure. He was an athlete, an all-star basketball player with a scholarship hanging on the line, what the fuck good would staying on crutches do for him?

"Dammit, Sharpay," he mumbled under his breath as he entered school. If she'd never come by last night then he wouldn't be struggling with these thoughts, or second-guessing what he knew (or thought, at least) to be true. He still wasn't completely sure what her intentions had been, either. Maybe he shouldn't have dismissed her so quickly, so he could've found out. It was too weird to think that she was doing something selfless, especially for him after their falling out. Still, it was kind of nice to think that, on some level, she cared enough to meet up with him and talk.

No, no, not nice. Evil. Probably. She was probably scamming him again and was angry because he blew her off before she had the chance to carry it out. Yeah... sure.

The voices in his head really needed to shut the fuck up, because he was sick of thinking so much. Why, why, why? ran through his head again, and maybe he couldn't really help it anymore. It was beyond his control at this point. Troy walked straight past his first period class and into the library, determined to figure all of this out before he went insane.

One problem at a time, he decided. First, the easier issue, was Sharpay's words. Scenario number one: she'd said it to confuse him. If that was the case, she'd done a tremendous job.

Option number two: she thought he was self-sabotaging. He tried to think of it from an outside perspective, and okay, maybe from someone else's point of view it might seem that way. Troy Bolton had never given up before, so the fact that he did it so quickly at only his second therapy appointment was definitely likely to raise some brows. But he still couldn't figure out any underlying reason for that. Maybe he should've paid more attention to his psych class last year.

He wondered if there was any aspect of his life that had been better after his injury. Kicked off the team? No, that sucked. Losing his friends? Um yeah, that was no walk in the park either. Getting waited on hand and foot by his mother? It was nice at times, smothering at others, but he could always fake a cold and get the same reaction from her; it wasn't worth staying barely mobile forever for. Then he realized the most major way things had changed after the Knights game: he became friends with Sharpay and Noah.

Was that it? Could he be harboring some kind of deep, deep subconscious thoughts that implied getting better meant the end of their friendship? Sure, he'd be back on the team and would feel less odd hanging around the guys again, but he hadn't planned on completely ditching his two new friends when that time came. Unless... they'd planned to ditch him?

It was all irrelevant now. Sharpay wasn't even speaking to him, and Noah could barely get a normal (whatever qualified as "normal" for him) sentence out around him. Feeling like an idiot--a schizophrenic idiot--he told himself to get over it, if that was the problem, because whether he got better or not it was unlikely things would continue on the way they had been for the past few weeks. That was okay, though. He'd handle that as it came. C'est la vie, carpe diem, and all that.


A week later, at his next appointment, the voice in his head said, "You can do it, Troy," and he knew he could. When he crossed the room without crutches and saw himself in the mirror at the end of the makeshift lane he smiled, glad he actually listened to himself.

Dr. Jacobs gave him a warm smile with pride radiating through. "Nicely done, Troy. I knew you had it in you."


When he got home from the detention he'd received for missing class a week before, Troy was surprised to see a business-type woman standing in front of his house.

"Excuse me, but are you Troy Bolton?"

Troy swallowed thickly. He wasn't sure he'd done anything wrong or illegal recently, but the woman's presence made him second guess that. "Yes."

"Oh good, I've been standing out here for nearly five minutes. I was just about to leave actually." She stuck out her hand, and he couldn't help notice the shiny pearls hanging off her wrist. "I'm Tabitha James, from United Artists Unlimited."

Troy smiled widely, fakely, as he shook her hand. Oh shit.

"I believe you spoke with my secretary, Janine, on the phone?" she questioned, raising an incredibly thin eyebrow at him.

"Oh, yes! That was, um, awhile ago. I didn't know you'd be coming, otherwise I would have made sure to be home." That was a lie. If he'd known he would have posted a fake eviction notice on his front door so she never came back.

"I apologize for just showing up like this. I actually just finished up with a meeting in Santa Fe and thought I'd take a chance and stop by. I was quite impressed by the package you sent me. Your friend, Sharpay, seems to be on the right track and I thought I might have a chat with her."

"Oh." His eyebrows shot up. What was he supposed to say, "Sorry, but I'm not really speaking to that bitch anymore even though my heart beats a little bit faster when you say her name, so thanks, but no thanks, seeya around!"? Yeah, that probably wouldn't be a good thing. And the voices in his head were freaking him out again, but this time because of that little heart beat thing that slipped out. He was so screwed.

"So is there any way you could call her on the phone and get her over here? Or perhaps we could go to her house? I have to say I'm a bit pressed for time, though."

Okay, he could do this. Breathe in, breathe out. Maybe, if he really thought about it, sending the agent back would be a bitchy thing to do. Sure he had his problems with Sharpay, but whatever that was had to be left for East High's halls, this was about Sharpay's future. She'd made major moves to help him with his dream deferred, it was only fair for him to truly return the favor.

His palms were sweating as he looked Tabitha James in the eyes. "Her house isn't too far away. I'll drive."

a/n: Any suggestions for Sharpay's audition piece? I have an idea but I'm open to basically anything. Except Wicked. I love the show, but I feel that's been kind of overused in HSM fiction.

P.S. This chapter kicked my ass. It would have been out much sooner but everytime I sat down to write it I just got exhausted. And I've been so incredibly busy lately that I haven't even really had the proper time to devote to this. Sorry, dudes. I'm trying, though. I'm excited for the next chapter. It's the Sharpay-based one I've been promising that will reveal some things...

(P.P.S. There's music playing and I've been writing lately. I feel accomplished... light and weightless and fluttery. I like it. I've missed this :])

Thanks to anyone reading/reviewing, you're all the bee's knees... or something.

chapter title/lyric credit: rise from the ashes - quietdrive