"Bleeding Love" copyright © hollybaggins; March 30th 2008

This is a derivate piece of fiction featuring characters copyrighted and trademarked by Disney Enterprises Inc. It is based upon High School Musical, copyright 2006 by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., all rights reserved; and High School Musical 2, copyright 2007 by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., all rights reserved. The author is not connected with nor is this work authorised by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., or any other motion picture studios. This work is solely intended for posting on Fanfiction, for the benefit and enjoyment of its intended audience. No commercial or financial benefit accrues or is intended to accrue to the author as a result of said posting. Any unauthorised copying or redistribution of this work might subject the party responsible for such unauthorized copying or redistribution to legal action by the owners of the aforementioned copyrights and trademarks.

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A/N: Yo, word up, Peeps.

This is me, back with a brand new one-shot that my muse literally forced me to jot down today. It seems there was just no stopping the damn thing and so, I spat this out.

For anyone who doesn't already know, I'm currently co-writing a story with somewhereonlyiknow called 'Live and Let Spy' For anyone interested, it's on her profile account and it's gonna be hella awesome!

Okay, disclaimer. I own fuck all but the plot. Yes, the plot is mine. Anyone who steals shall feel my wrath as there have now been five occasions where people have stolen my work. Not cool, guys. Not cool. You steal, I kick yo' ass. Comprende?

The title for this fiction comes from Leona Lewis' powerful number one ballad, 'Bleeding Love'

The poem featured in this fiction – I have no idea who wrote it but I'd love to. In any event, it's not mine so I'll be taking no credit for it.

Dedications go to Eva and Caroline for beta-reading and keeping me on my toes and every single person on The Rooftop. You guys are my rocks.

Enjoy, guys. Love you all. Mwah!

Holly xxx

Bleeding Love

I look up at the sky and all I can see is perfection. Crisp white clouds adorn the bright blue background; all lit up by the dazzling rays of sunshine that beam so elegantly down on Los Angeles. There's a light, warm breeze whisping so softly through the trees; caressing everything it touches with feather-like strokes. Perfection is surrounding me; intimidating me; daring me to take a breath before my insides burst. I've never felt such nervousness and anticipation. This perfection is driving me mad.

My palms are sweating and my suit feels crumpled. Without thinking, I smooth my clammy hands down the front of my jacket and over my face; the sun feeling ten times hotter than it already is. My stomach feels as though it's spiralling out of control and doesn't calm even when I spot my mother in the congregation offering me a look encouragement and pride.

The largest dose of encouragement known to mankind wouldn't help me now. I've heard many times that weddings are supposed to make you all clammy and sweaty and nervous and generally freaked out; but none of those descriptions even come close to what I'm feeling now. As I cast my eyes over to look at the registrar, he too offers me a look of encouragement and I want to slap him. He's probably performed these ceremony's hundreds of times but that doesn't mean he's stood in the same place I am.

I shuffle my feet nervously as Kelsi's delicate fingertips gracefully dance over the piano keys to my left. Poise is gliding over every note; sweeping over every harmony; combining with its wonderful surroundings to create the most perfect melody. I close my eyes and all I can hear is perfection.

Some part of me wonders what I'm doing here; why I even put myself in this position. I can't keep control of my emotions and for the first time in my life I'm feeling a dreaded bout of stage fright take over me as the fifty seated guests all stare at me with wide grins on their faces. I don't know if I can do this; I don't know if I can live up to their expectations. This is a big deal, a huge deal. This is a point of no return in my life. Once this ceremony is over, that's it, I can't go back. I can't change anything and I'll have to keep my emotions at bay no matter what my heart is bursting for me to do. Maybe there's still time… maybe there's still a way to get out of this position. A dangerous mixture of feelings swirl and combine together inside of me; the ache so overwhelming, I'm forgetting how to breathe.

Maybe I can change fate before it's too late.

No such luck. I take in another deep and shaky breath as Taylor, Sharpay and Martha slowly make their way slowly down the aisle; each of them looking absolutely beautiful beyond belief. Their strapless pale pink bridesmaid dresses cling to them like a second skin, hugging their curves in all the right places.

I can see they're nervous too; well, except Sharpay, of course, who's strolling down the aisle as if she were on a catwalk. She glides gracefully as though she'd taken up the art of being a bridesmaid as a career. Her beaming hazel eyes cast over the congregation; I know she's making sure they're all watching her above Taylor and Martha who are elegantly moving smoothly behind her, their eyes darted ahead of them and briefly resting on me and the groomsmen before smiling thinly and blushing slightly.

I blink heavily and take in how perfect they all look. Kelsi glows at them as her poised fingers continue to skim and create sweet notes; her own bridesmaid gown hugging her body and symbolising their close friendships over the years. I gaze at the four girls longingly and all I can see beaming radiantly from them is perfection.

My body starts to tingle, my mind starts to spin. All control I have inside of me is rapidly flowing away. I feel my knees wobble; begging for me to take away whatever self-control I have left and ignore it completely so they can give out from under me. My heart beats wildly; I know I've got to stay in control. I clench my fists tightly, pumping the blood violently through my veins, giving as much power and life into my heart as I can muster. Even as Sharpay and Martha take their places at my right and Taylor winks as she steps past me, I don't take it in. I don't respond. I just blink and tell myself to breathe. I pump my fists and feel my heart ache; trying with all my strength not to let it fall into the dark pits of my stomach.

The congregation stand and I let out a loud shaky sigh. My limbs feel like jelly and my heart lifts on its own accord; pumping life through every inch of me without needing any encouragement or reminder. I can feel the sweat accumulating on my back and on my palms; I quickly wipe my forehead with the back of my hand and clear my tightened throat. I need fluids, I need air. I need anything, but most of all I need her.

I ache with a burning passion as she comes into view. Spectacular, amazing and beautiful; all united in one flawless woman. My eyes burn with the need to blink but some part of me won't let my tired lids close for fear I'd miss one gentle moment of her.

She stands sophisticatedly at the end of the aisle with her proud and beaming mother; her arm linked with hers. A small cherry-coloured blush ignites on her cheeks and with a shy smile, she looks to the ground. Everything around us disappears into a grey and misty fog as I take in everything about her.

She's beautiful. Her mass of rich, dark curls are gently swept up exposing the attractive column of her neck. A few curls bounce playfully against her heart-shaped face, framing it in all its tranquillity and poise. Her eyebrows are delicately formed above those striking deep chocolate eyes that never failed in exposing that kind soul she bears underneath. Her high cheekbones are flushed, highlighting her bashful nature in all its glory. Her lips are exquisite, tantalising, passionate… My burning heart only wishing me to go over and take her in my arms and whisper nothing but loving words over them. Her strapless white gown fits her amazing curves; the bodice adorning a subtle amount of crystals that embraces her torso while the bottom of the dress only slightly fans out over her legs and allows a glimpse of the tiny silver shoes that sit on her feet.

So slowly, so shyly, she begins to walk. Her mother squeezes her hand with a small smile and leads her, holding her up right, making sure she doesn't fall. To me, it's as though she's floating towards me and that we're the only two people in the world. For a moment, just one brief but wonderful moment, it's as though there're no obstacles, no hurt, no pain, no aching. It's just me and her together. No outside interruptions, no prying eyes, no questions and no answers needed. For one brief but wonderful moment, I can escape reality and truly be happy.

I finally allow my eyes to slowly close and I tell myself again to breathe softly. I can't describe her flawlessness; her gracefulness; her beautiful soul. She's the kind of girl who can read Jane Austen over and over again. She's the kind of girl that wears only conservative and prim clothing; who won't touch a drop of alcohol unless it's for a special occasion; who won't leap at the chance and opportunity to do something truly spontaneous; who was one of the few girls who attended East High School and knew what her future would be and how'd she'd get there. She's the kind of girl that makes math and science sexy and appealing; who can talk for hours and hour about trigonometry and make you want to listen. She can sing like an angel without bearing any confidence, any self-assurance, any hint that she feels she truly belongs.

She's the kind of girl that doesn't need to wear make-up to show just how pretty she is. She's the kind of girl that doesn't need to do something exciting to show her interesting and sweet personality. Her beauty sits in her simplicity – something about a girl that I never thought I'd take in or be attracted to. Something about that girl made me look up and fall in love and I don't think I'll ever figure it out. I don't even know if I want to figure out for fear I'd destroy that simple perfection that graces her without intent or want.

I see her. I see her and I see perfection. Because that's what Gabriella Montez is to me.

Complete perfection lying in her simplicity. Not urging itself to be noticed or wanted. It just is.

As she reaches the alter, I see the sparkles deep in her eyes; shining brightly and showing the whole just how happy and content she is. Her mother smiles, unshed tears lingering in her eyes as she leans her head down and kisses her only daughter on the cheek before stepping back to the congregation. I take a deep life-saving breath; my heart beating one hundred times a minute as she timidly reaches out her shaking hand.

I want to take it. More than life itself I want to reach out and grasp those delicate fingers and lace them with my own. I want to put my hand on her cheek and feel her warmth; gaze into her eyes and tell her everything I'm feeling and pour every emotion into a heart-felt and soaring kiss.

But I can't.

I finally allow my heart to fall and my knees start to shake. I feel as though every single person gathered here can hear by trembling breath pass my weak lips and I pray with all my might that no one notices. I close my eyes only momentarily before forcing them open again to see my best friend lace his fingers with hers.

I watch as Gabriella's smile only widens and shines as she gazes into Troy Bolton's eyes; fixated and deeply in love. I clench my fists again and try to pump the blood back into my shattered heart but to no avail. My life feels worthless, pointless and beyond repair. The feelings I've harboured for eight long years must now be once and for all pushed away in dark corner of my mind. My weary and broken heart can handle no more pain; no more cuts or bruises. It carries very little effort to keep my body alive and free.

I feel a hand on my shoulder and slowly turn to face Zeke who's standing there in his groomsmen couture, proud and for once well-behaved beside Jason and Ryan. All three of my friends smile simultaneously; hints of mischief dancing in their eyes as I recall the months leading up to this day – the endless torment and teasing; their illusions of me somehow making a vital mistake in my role of Best Man both humourous and to be honest, expected.

But I was determined not to let myself fall. Troy Bolton has been my best friend since the age of five – everything I did, he did. We have a brother-ship that can never be tainted, never be broken or torn. Nobody can trespass or take away the friendship that we have. Since the age of five, we promised each other we'd never let anything or anyone come between us.

And now as I stand beside him, only centimetres away from the woman we both love, I'm determined not to allow anything or anyone come between us. As much as I wish Gabriella would just look at me the way she looks at Troy, just for one split and sudden second. As much as I wish it was I in Troy's place and Troy in mine. As much as I wish life wasn't so goddamn complicated and so goddamn fucking unfair, I won't do anything to break the bond we have.

Perfection dominates everything around us. Perfection is in Kelsi's soft harmony, in the splendour of the sights around us, in Gabriella Montez and everything she is, in Troy Bolton and that goofy-in-love grin that's on his face, in the friendship I'll never let die. Its perfection and it's everywhere.

But it's not my perfection. It's nowhere near.

Deep inside of me I want to let loose all my morals. I want to push Troy aside and forget the last twenty years we shared together. I want to scoop Gabriella in my arms and kiss her senseless. I want to ignore imminent comments and whispers and just be with her because she makes me feel alive without doing a thing. I want this perfection to be my own and I want to damn whatever is sitting on those clouds up there for not giving me my chance; for letting Troy Bolton go to that damn ski lodge in Colorado and lay eyes on her first. I want to damn Troy Bolton and everything he is for making Gabriella fall hopelessly in love with him. I want to damn him to receiving those loving looks, those passionate kisses and the chance to actually hold her in his arms.

I want to but I won't.

Because I see how much they make each other happy. I see the way they look at each other. I hear how they talk about each other; how they interact and how they just fit perfectly with one another. How it's always Troy and Gabriella and never one without the other. How I would look longingly at her and pine desperately as she would sneak yet another look at that beautiful diamond engagement ring and just look blissful and content. How I knew that she'd never look at me like that or think of me like that. How I would always just be Chad to her and nothing more.

The pain burns and slices through me like a knife. I keep myself composed; my posture speaking volumes about my commitment to my friendship; to my damn morals and how I refuse to fight against those feelings that just won't leave me alone.

I hear Gabriella say "I do." I hear Troy say "I do." I want to shout and scream and kick and punch and declare that I can't do this. I can't handle this. I want to cry hysterically and banish myself from everyone and everything. I want so desperately to piece together every shattered piece of my heart; to find myself again and return to some sense of normality. I don't want to feel the bruising pain anymore; I don't want to pretend anymore.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," the Reverend looks at me peacefully, the action sending shockwaves through my drained body. "The Best Man, Chad Danforth, has a reading he'd like to share with us today."

I could tell them no. I could refuse point blank to do this. I promised my best friend that as Best Man I'd do everything to make his day with Gabriella the most special it could be. I could go back on that promise. I could even ignore the confused, yet surprised expressions sitting on their faces as I moved in front to face them and the congregation. Troy offers me a small smile and I know him too well to realise that he's wondering what I'm about to say.

I look at Gabriella and her eyes are still shining. She latches her hand to Troy and offers me a smile as I reach into my back pocket and pull out a crumpled sheet of paper and hold it up shakily.

I could rip it up; I could insist this ceremony simply could not go on. I could hit Troy with what strength I have left for standing in the way of the only thing that could make me happy. I could walk away and never look back; no explanation, no words or hints to my behaviour. I could do end this torment now and make up some evil lie involving Troy and a hooker.

But I won't.

I take a deep breath and glance at my scrawly handwriting; not being able to tear my eyes away from Gabriella Montez as I speak.

"Love Is." I begin to talk with an effortless flow; my pain and anguish disguised by my need to do Troy and Gabriella proud.

"More beautiful than roses

Much deeper than the seas

Stronger than a hurricane

But timid like a breeze

Real as in a picture

But yet it can't be seen

More beautiful than anything

As vivid as a dream

Precious as rare jewels

A bond between two hearts

A symphony of feelings

When time is spent apart

Sharing common interests

Working through all fears

Looking at yourself

As if two were in the mirror

Finding common ground

On issues not agreed

Giving into arguments

Tending all your needs

Being there for always

Is all I want to do

Holding you forever

Because our love is true."

I take in another breath as the guests clap in response. I see tears running down their faces as my mother sends me a thumbs up in response. Gabriella dabs her unshed tears with a bashful grin whilst Troy reaches over and hugs me.

"Thanks, man." He murmurs in my ear as I pat his back in a manly gesture. As he pulls away, I smile softly at the couple and nod my head slowly. Though it cuts deep within me to admit, I knew from the moment I read it that that poem was just for them. It describes them in so many contexts; fitting perfectly with everything they are as a couple. The pain of knowing I could never share something so unique and amazing with her will haunt me forever, I know.

For Troy and Gabriella, that poem is perfection.

"Dude, you're the luckiest guy I know." I breathe with a small smile in Troy's direction. "We've been through everything together since we were two five-year-old brats who loved nothing better to do but to cause mischief and play basketball from dusk 'til dawn." Guests chuckle at my words and Troy gives my shoulder a friendly yet embarrassed nudge. Gabriella smiles and rests her head on Troy's shoulder in contentment. "I know I wasn't supportive when you first met this gorgeous girl here and I know I've said I'm sorry countless times for almost screwing you two up when it came to that girly musical you signed up for. I can't tell you how happy I am that you guys fought against the odds, broke down that ridiculous high school status quo we stuck to for all those years and broke free to live happily with each other for the rest of your lives. Being here with you both today," I pause with a deep breath, knowing every single word of mine was true, "it truly is an honour. To be chosen as your Best Man… Dude, you almost had me tearing up all those months ago! And I know every single person here expected I'd screw it up – hell, even I expected it! – but I'm happy to say that everything has gone as planned. And now, for the first time in your life, you're going to take some advice from your best buddy Chad."

"Oh no!" Troy laughs with a roll of his eyes and Gabriella slaps his arm mockingly. I ignore this gesture, knowing he's only joking and that he's trying to cover up his embarrassment at my cheesy words.

"Live everyday as if it's your last and live every night as though it's your first."

Troy reaches over and engulfs me in a hug again as the guests clap enthusiastically. As Troy pulls away I shoot him a goofy grin before allowing myself to be hugged by Gabriella. Every part of my being fights to not breathe in her scent, the memorise how she feels in my arms and how her voice whispers over my ear as she thanks me from the bottom of her heart.

I step down, embarrassed, but never letting that infamous Chad Danforth grin escape my features. I know that if I do, I'll break down and never piece myself back together again. I ignore the blunt pain, the scorching aches and the desperate wants as I hand over the two golden wedding bands to the reverend.

I've never seen my best friend look so happy; so complete and I tell myself to breathe as Troy vows to love Gabriella Montez until death do they part.

"I love you more than anything in this world, Gabi," he says with a shaky but determined tone. "And I haven't even started yet."

The band of gold fits perfectly around her finger; something I cannot deny. And as she takes his hand and looks into his eyes, I realise I never had a chance in hell with this girl. She couldn't be more in love if she tried. My heart feels heavy and weighs me down drastically as she slips the ring onto Troy's finger and her eyes sparkle as she looks at him.

"You're the other half of what I am."

I witness them becoming one and I grin. The reverend tells Troy to kiss his bride and as he does, the entire congregation erupts in cries of happiness, applause and laughter. Sharpay, Taylor and Martha whoops and holler for the world to see whilst Ryan, Jason and Zeke start jumping on my back in excitement. I return the gesture as the four of us bound and break up their first husband and wife kiss by jumping on Troy's back and ruffling his hair.

Troy grabs the back of my head and looks at me mischievously. "You're a goddamn legend, Danforth." He grins and I nod in acknowledgement. I am bloody good. "I couldn't have done this without you."

"Hey." I shrug nonchalantly. "Just you keep making that girl happy. You hurt her and I kick your ass." I jokingly swipe my hand gently across his cheek as he pulls me and the other guys into a huge hug. I spot Gabriella over his shoulder, receiving hugs and kisses from her friends and her mother who's practically swimming in her own tears. She clutches the bouquet of pink lilies close to her chest as she looks at us and laughs at our actions. "Here." I push Troy away from us. "Go see your girl."

My arms fling around Ryan and Zeke's shoulders and we watch in amusement as Gabriella wraps her arms tightly around his neck and kisses her husband passionately. Troy dips her low, much to her delight and everybody's enjoyment and kisses her again. I hear her infectious laughter erupting as they finally part for air and Troy brings her back into a standing position.

With one swoop and an almighty cheer, Troy scoops Gabriella up into his arms and she laughs louder as she loops her arms around his neck and presses her forehead to his. She giggles she flings the bouquet of lilies over his shoulder and Sharpay and Taylor scramble to get it. When Sharpay makes the catch and screams her victory, everybody laughs whilst Taylor folds her arms and sulks briefly.

I watch, finally feeling some contentment and perhaps a little closure, as Troy carries his bride slowly down the aisle. My shattered heart bleeds and my broken soul fades into nothingness; every whisp of what I feel should have been my happiness destroyed in an instant. I kept my cool, I held my head up high and as I watch, I wish them every piece of happiness and joy the universe can offer. Because if anyone deserves it, it's them.

Though I know I could have tried to take Gabriella away, break my best friend's heart and have her for my own, I didn't. I know I could have stood there in all my Best Man glory and objected to the wedding, but I didn't. I know I could have ended my torment by just saying three simple words or by taking my chance to stop the impending romance but I didn't.

Even now, I could walk over, snatch her from his arms and tell him I didn't mean anything I said up there. I could tell them both how much I care and cherish and love her. I could disregard all my morals and tell Troy my love for his wife outweighs my commitment as his friend. I could tell Gabriella she belongs with me, not Troy, and that we should be happy together. I could pull that ring off Troy's finger and put it on my own. I could go over and kiss her with such bruising force, if only to heal my incurable heart.

I could do anything to help myself heal; to help myself feel whole again and just be happy.

I could do any of those things.

But I won't.

Because I love them both that fucking much.