AN: Edited, because I'm so smart and just realized that songfics are not allowed on Fanfic. I just deleted most of the song lines, except for the important ones at the end.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, not even High School Musical... ESPECIALLY not that.
"You know what? I'm sick of this. I'm tired of being what you want me to be instead of what I want to be. I thought I wanted to be like you, but I've realized that I'll never choke my son's chances of doing something he really loves. I don't want to be the playmaker, Dad. I just want to be a player."
Jack Bolton stared at his sweaty, messy-haired son, his jaw muscles tightening. Jack attempted to backtrack, to apologize for what had come out of his mouth. "Troy, you know that you're special. There's nothing wrong with being special!" In truth, Jack Bolton was disappointed. He had always dreamed of Troy growing up and playing for the NBA, because that was something he had been denied of, and he wanted to see his son live his dream. A freak ankle injury had left him with bits of metal around the bone and an incapability to ever play basketball again, let alone pro basketball.
Troy slammed the basketball in his hands on the gym floor, eliciting a loud squeak as the new ball hit the freshly polished floor. He brought his hands to his chest, crossing his arms and glaring at his father. "Why can't I be special in another way than how you want me to be?" he asked quietly, his blue eyes fixed unwaveringly on his father's dark gaze. "I love singing, Dad. Singing and Gabriella bring out the best in me. But you can't stand to see me have that, can you? The basketball guy's fading away, and no matter how happy it makes me to see him go, you just can't let it go." His heart contracted as he imagined the pain his father was feeling at his harsh words. But did Jack ever stop to understand what kind of pain Troy felt when he was pulled away from his singing? He had just discovered his true talent – it was natural, not foisted upon him by his father since birth. And as much as he had loved basketball, it was getting more and more tedious for him to play because he knew that this wasn't what he wanted.
Troy uncrossed his arms and covered his face with one hand. "I've tried so hard, Dad. But I've done it for you – not for me. And I love you, I want to make you proud, but I want to be me too. I don't want to do everything I do for you. Because sooner or later I'm going to end up hating you for doing this to me." Tears leaked out from the corners of his eyes, but he resolutely held them back. "I'm your son, Dad. I'm not you. I can't ever be you."
Jack closed his eyes, suppressing the urge to slap his son. Why didn't Troy understand? This wasn't about him, it was about Troy. It had always been about Troy. He opened his eyes as an uncomfortable jolt ran through him. Or had it?
Troy rubbed a hand across his nose, eventually letting both arms fall to his sides. "Will I never make you happy until I'm you?" he asked sadly. "Because I can't be you. It's been haunting me for the past few weeks. Why can't you let me be happy? You had your chance, Dad, and you know what? You blew it. You blew the chance to be a national player; you blew the chance to be a good father. You failed. And because you're so bitter about yourself, you're taking it out on me, aren't you? Do you know what you're doing to me?" His voice rose with each word.
Jack recoiled as if slapped in the face. "How dare you talk like that to me?" he said weakly, his eyes studying his son incredulously. "How dare you say such things, Troy? This is about you! Your future is basketball, and I'm not going to let you waste it all on some stupid musical. This is your life." As soon as the words escaped him, he regretted them. He saw a barrier build up behind his son's eyes, and as many times as he had seen it before, he knew he wouldn't be able to breach it now. Troy just didn't understand. Jack couldn't be perfect, no matter how hard he tried.
Troy regarded his father with a story silence before turning and heading for the locker and dressing room. He didn't even retort with a sharp reply – he didn't need to. He could see in his father's eyes that he'd given up trying to have a relationship with his son. He was weak, Troy thought savagely, and he didn't want to try anymore, because it bruised his ego and expectations too much. "I'm sorry," he wanted to say to his father. "I'm sorry that I can't be perfect, and I'm sorry you care so much."
He stood in the shower, vaguely feeling the hot water course down his back and soothe his tired body. He wished it would soothe the pain in his heart. Why did his father have to care so much about being perfect? Wasn't his son good enough for him? Troy placed his forehead against the glossy wall of the shower stall, the contrasting coldness giving him a shock. It also cleared his mind, but not to pave the way for clear thinking – his brain decided to bring up painful memories of himself and his father, laughing on the court a few years ago as Troy watched his father place the ball in the basket again and again and resolved to do the same.
Recollections rushed upon him like the tide rushes onto the beach – sickeningly fast, sweeping away all previous thoughts. Tears blurred his vision as he relived beautiful moments with his father, remembering wistfully how it was before the entire Twinkle Towne incident. Maybe he should just… No, he told himself firmly. Singing makes me happy, and Gabriella does even more so. I can't let him tinker with my mind and make me feel like I'm in the wrong. Basketball was never for me – it was always for him.
He contemplated going back out after his shower and apologizing. Maybe everything would go back to normal, maybe they could share laughs again and look gleefully at an abandoned basketball lying on the edge of the court. Maybe they could tease his mother again when she complained of them playing too much basketball, just like old times. But as he mulled over these thoughts, he knew that he couldn't do it. He wanted to try, but he didn't want to be the only one trying all the time. He wanted to give his father pride in calling him his son, but he too wanted to be proud of having a great father. And he just couldn't be.
Troy slipped into a fresh set of clothes, wearily walking into the gym again. To his relief, his father had already left. Unfortunately, that also meant that Troy would have to walk home. He didn't mind – he would have gone crazy if his father had looked at him in his sad, let-down way, like Troy had committed a great atrocity but Jack still acknowledged that he was his son anyways. Like he was some sort of saint or martyr. Like he was ready to give Troy another chance to be like him. Troy felt sick at the thought of taking up their argument again and magnifying it by a thousand fold, like always. The fights had started a few months ago, after Troy's final callback for the role of Arnold. He had thought his father would be supportive of him, but all Jack did was make subtly mocking comments about the entire affair. And since then, the quarrels had just gotten bigger and bigger.
His father's words still rang in his head as he ambled along, heading for home. Was basketball really his future? Troy refused to believe it. Basketball was Jack's past. It wasn't Troy's future. But he knew those words had had an effect that neither of them could predict. He wasn't sure if he'd ever talk to his father again.
Yet he wanted to talk to Jack. He didn't want to sacrifice his close relationship with his father. Although the musical meant the world to him, his father meant more. Did that mean that he would have to choose between basketball and singing? Between his dad and Gabriella? He couldn't. He couldn't, because despite how much his father meant to him, more than the musical, Gabriella meant so much more than both. If he had to choose, he would choose her.
He reached the house, staring at it silently. His dad must have driven off somewhere, because there was no car in the parking lot – and his mother would still be at work as a legal secretary. He tried the handle and found it locked, and so decided to climb into his room via a low windowsill – something he had done many times except in reverse; escaping his room when he was confined there for bad behaviour. As he brushed himself off and turned on his stereo to maximum volume, the last lines of a song hung in the air:
Now it's just too late
And we can't go back
I can't be perfect
Troy dropped onto his bed, covering his face and muffling the quiet sobs that escaped him. Why did a song have to suddenly materialize out of nowhere and express your true feelings? Because Troy knew that it was too late and that his father and himself could never go back to their old, easy camaraderie. And he was sorry that he couldn't be perfect – because if he was perfect, maybe he'd know what do to and how to make everything all right again.