"Just Like a Tonne of Bricks" copyright hollybaggins; June 23rd 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.


A/N: Hey, guys. 'tis lil 'ole me here. Yes, I know; updating skills have of late been, well, crap. But I do have the next chapter for "I Feel Sparks" in the works; a chapter for "Star Crossed" in the works; a chapter for "Live and Let Spy" in the works and a chapter for "Broken" in the works. So I have honestly been busy, I swear ;)

This is a three-shot my muse spat out at me a few months back… and only half an hour ago, I got the sudden urge to finish this first chapter… and so here it is!

Enjoy, y'all xx

At twenty-five years of age, Taylor McKessie feels like she's on top of the world. Since her graduation from East High School, her parents have told her at least once a week how proud they are of her; how she took the expectations they had of her all through her childhood and rocketed them to such an extent that on more than one occasion, they were rendered speechless by her achievements.

Her first real sense of pride was when she was elected president of the East High scholastic decathlon team in junior year – the fact the team never made it past the first round of state competitions never reduced her self-esteem. It made her more determined, more ruthless; desperate to succeed. When Gabriella Montez started at East High after winter break, junior year, Taylor McKessie made it her goal to get that Einsteinette on her team. She needed that sense of pride and success to drive her; she needed to feel like a winner to motivate her – more than anything, she needed all those things to impress top colleges and universities, because to her, her future was everything. Academia was the one thing she needed to get where she wanted to be, doing what would make her happy.

When she started dating Chad Danforth in the months leading up to senior year, Taylor McKessie was sure she was heading on a downward spiral. After all, Chad Danforth was a lunkhead basketball man, stunk of sweat twenty-three hours of the day, had weirdly bushy hair and no interest in education whatsoever. She knew she was playing with fire when she finally dared to introduce her parents to Chad. She knew they had expected her to lay off boys until she was in college, and even then she wouldn't have been with a jock – she'd be with someone who shared the same level of ambition; someone who thought the sky was the limit; someone who was destined to be a doctor, a lawyer… hell, maybe even a politician. Her parents were not fond of Chad and as much as it hurt her, all logical reasons about who she should be with left her completely. Because there was something about Chad Danforth that made her never want to leave.

There were few things in life that Chad Danforth understood. Much to Taylor's dismay, he had no idea about anything to do with science and math and so any discussions the two shared over Taylor's interest in these subjects usually went with Taylor talking and Chad nodding his head and agreeing every two minutes. Which worked just fine for them because he couldn't challenge her opinions and choices when he had no clue what she was talking about in the first place. When she was accepted into Columbia University, Chad celebrated with her despite the fact that he was secretly bummed out that she would be going to study in New York for three years whilst he was staying at home attending the University of Albuquerque on a basketball scholarship. Chad Danforth didn't understand a lot of things in life, but he understood what was important to Taylor and the sense of pride she felt when they both committed to make their relationship work long distance was indescribable.

At twenty-five years of age, Taylor McKessie feels like she's on top of the world – that there's nothing more in this life that could make her anymore happy than she is now. When she wakes up in Gabriella Montez's Los Angeles apartment on a warm Saturday morning, she smiles brightly and stretches out her arms and legs, basking in the glorious sunshine that's steaming through the blinds and the unnaturally comfortable pillows that she doesn't ever want to part with.

For the past three months, every smile Taylor McKessie has expressed has always been something to do with the fact that she had been accepted to take the necessary examinations in order to attend Columbia Medical School next fall. Columbia Medical School: the top medical school for Physicians and Surgeons – the school Taylor McKessie had had her eye on since she was thirteen years old and found that advanced science was not only incredibly interesting, it also came naturally to her ever-expanding mind. She hadn't kept her excitement to herself – when she informed Chad, he had whooped and hollered and hugged her so tight she thought she might burst. The fact that he was based in Los Angeles playing for the Lakers basketball team and she would be, quite possibly, relocating to New York for a long period of time was never even brought up. He understood; but where they both stood on their relationship was something neither of them had contemplated or even thought about. They just carried on living regardless; both silently waiting to approach the subject nearer the time.

This smile was different. This smile was one of excitement, of anticipation. She had known from the moment she watched Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez performing 'Breaking Free' at East High's winter musical call-backs that this day would come. Now it was finally here, Taylor felt an endless array of butterflies fluttering in her stomach – if this was how she, the maid on honour, was feeling, she couldn't imagine what the bride was feeling in the next room.

Her excitement is what finally pulls her away from the warm and comfortable bed. She rubs her eyes and slowly makes her way out of the bedroom and towards the main room, where the television is on low and a plate of half-eaten toast sits on the coffee table. Taylor is stunned for a brief moment – Gabriella has always been immaculate; mess just isn't even an option. Three years earlier when Gabriella announced she was moving in with Troy when he secured a place playing for the LA Lakers, the whole gang had practically squealed in hysterics – just imagining neat-freak Gabriella living with mess-loving Troy was enough to satisfy their humour for the next year. And when they announced their engagement eighteen months later, everyone had assumed that Gabriella had grown out of her needs for everything to be insanely tidy and clean – otherwise Troy wouldn't have lived to propose in the first place.

That theory had gone out of the window the day Zeke and Jason had walked into their apartment over six months ago to find Gabriella threatening Troy with a feather duster; wielding it like it was a sledgehammer – telling him that if he dared to throw another shirt carelessly on their bedroom floor she would make sure his butt and the vicious feather duster would meet in a very unpleasant way. Then everyone just assumed that by asking Gabriella to be his wife, Troy just had a very large death wish.

A frown settling on her brow, Taylor heads towards the master bedroom, her socked feet paddling along the laminate floor. She opens the door to reveal Sharpay sitting cross-legged on the bed, a bright pink fluffy robe wrapped tight around her, and a pyjama-clad Gabriella pacing the length of the room, her face set, her hair wild.

"Morning, Sunshine!" Taylor exclaims brightly, causing the two girls to look up sharply. Taylor's eyes divert from Gabriella's obvious flushed face to the beautiful gown hanging up outside the closet door, just waiting to be worn on the most special day of her life. Gabriella says nothing and continues to pace back and forth; the only sound emitting was her huge purple bunny slippers skimming back and forth along the carpet. Taylor looks over to Sharpay, who sighs and continued to file her nails. "What's up with the blushing bride?"

"She's uh…"

"I'm freaking out!" Gabriella shrieks, pulling on her hair with both hands and tugging at the curls.

Sharpay turns back to Taylor. "She's freaking out."

"Freaking out?" Taylor rubs her eyes again and sits herself down beside Sharpay as Gabriella continues with her pacing. "Why are you freaking out?"

"It's called cold feet, Tay," Sharpay answers in a 'duh' tone. "Although I didn't think cold feet were ever meant to be this… cold. She's been awake since six, she couldn't finish her toast so now her stomach's gonna be grumbling at the altar and it's now eight o'clock and we have six hours until the ceremony and-"

"Oh my God, Sharpay! Freak me out more why don't you?"

"Woah, woah." Taylor holds both hands up in defence and Gabriella begins to pace again. "Freaking out? Gabriella, are you serious? What the hell has made you act like this? Everything's running smoothly."

"Is it? Is it?" Taylor gulps. As maid of honour it was her job to make sure everything was running smoothly and making sure that the bride was stress-free and ready to enter the world of marriage. Six hours until the 'I do's' and now Taylor McKessie was freaking out herself.

"Uh… yeah?" She offers lamely, prompting a small snort from Sharpay. "You know me, Gabs; I wouldn't miss or screw up anything vital. I double – no, triple checked everything and I checked everything over again last night before I went to sleep. Everything's a'okay."

"Oh, cut the crap." Sharpay lifts her head and sighs deeply. "Gabriella, be straight. You don't love Troy anymore."


"Sharpay!" Taylor swats the blonde's arm. "You're the worst bridesmaid ever!"

"Look, someone had to ask the question incase it's the right one. If I didn't and she doesn't love Troy then she'd probably tell us like one minute before the wedding starts and then we'd have to tell a crowd of fifty wedding-wanting people that the show's over and then they'll be pissed and throw stuff at us. And then Troy will-"

"Sharpay!" Gabriella practically screams at her friend, arms waving around frantically and a look that could kill. "The wedding is not off, okay?! It's just… I mean I…" She pauses and huffs loudly, her pacing increasing and almost wearing a hole in the carpet. "I'm freaking out!"

"Gabriella." Taylor slides off the bed and stomps towards her friend, grasping a tight hold of her shoulders and holding her still. "Gabriella, chill!"

"Chill?" Gabriella blinks owlishly. "It's my wedding day and I'm supposed to chill?"

"Well, actually, no. You are supposed to be all weird and shit on your wedding day. It's called cold feet, which Sharpay helpfully stated earlier." Taylor casts a dark glare in Sharpay's direction. "But you need to start relaxing. Everything's fine. Seriously, what could go wrong?"

"What could go wrong?!" Gabriella forcefully pushes Taylor's hands off her arms and grasps her shoulders. Her grip causes Taylor to wince as she realises that may not have been the best question to put forward. "Hmm…

let's see, shall we? It could rain. We're getting married outside so, yeah, weather is a big issue."

"You wanted to get married outside. You said it was your dream wedding."

Gabriella ignores Sharpay's comment and continues to glare at Taylor threateningly. "The registrar will forget to show up."

"I called her yesterday afternoon to triple confirm she's gonna be there. She said she'll be there for half past one."

"I've put on weight and the dress won't fit. I'll have to get married in my freaking PJ's!"

"I've done what any loyal maid of honour would do and lovingly watched your calorie intake. And even if you had to marry Troy in your PJ's he'd still have a dreamy look in his eyes and think you were the most beautiful girl ever."

Gabriella's eyes narrow and Taylor grins triumphantly. "Okay. The guys took Troy out for his stag night last night."

"As guys tend to do on their last night of freedom."

"Yeah. So what if they went to some sleazy strip joint and hooked up with some whore? And then Troy chooses to tell me on our Honeymoon. What happens then, Taylor? Would I have a right to freak out then?"

"I called Chad last night. When I called they were all passed out at Troy's parents and Lucille was cleaning up Jason's puke."

"Great!" Gabriella flung her arms back up in the air fiercely. "So I'll be up at the altar saying my vows and Troy will be stood there completely hungover and hey, who knows, maybe he'll puke all over my dress when he goes to say 'I do'."

"You over analyse everything, Gabriella." Sharpay lets out a nonchalant sigh. "Seriously, do you want this day to be a complete disaster?"

"When I called Chad last night, he said Troy had barely drunk any alcohol. He spent the majority of the night being bashed by Jason and Zeke because he wasn't getting drunk because he wanted to have a clear head for today."

"Okay." Gabriella takes a deep breath and seems to calm down a little, easing both Taylor and Sharpay's nerves. "Okay, what if…? What if he…?" The brunette drifts off and sighs shakily again, shaking her head slowly as if to try and banish all non-rational thoughts from her mind. "What if he can't do it?"

"What?" Taylor and Sharpay both blink heavily, looking completely bewildered.

"What if he can't do it? What if he sees me walking down the aisle and thinks 'ew. My god. I'm settling for that? I'm spending the rest of my life with that? What if it gets to the 'I do' part and Troy looks at me and says "I don't"? What if some hot and sexy blonde comes in when the registrar asks if there're any objections and says "yes! I have an objection! The groom is already married to me!" Seriously, what if all that happens and I'm just left at that freaking altar looking all stupid and heartbroken?"

Taylor sighs softly, looking at the gorgeous engagement ring that was sitting on Gabriella's third finger; she wonders how her friend can even allow such thoughts to enter her mind. She puts it down to her friends nerdy interior – her freaky math status hasn't changed at all since graduating from East High. Working as a part-time high school math teacher certainly kept Gabriella Montez in her Einsteinette element and the fact that she was working on her Masters Degree to become a university professor just meant she was taking it at a whole new level. Taylor had always wondered how a girl with such intelligence could let stupid thoughts take over her usually rational mind.

Sharpay stands up and hands over a small piece of paper that had been resting on Gabriella's pillow just moments before. The brunette knows what Sharpay is pointing out and ignores the gesture before returning to her pacing. Taylor raises an eyebrow and takes the note from Sharpay. She takes a moment to look and smiles brightly with a shake of the head in Gabriella's direction:

'I can't wait to marry you. xxx'

"Are you insane, Montez?" She asks, astonished. "You woke up, read this and you're still thinking like this? Are you blind? Dumb? Retarded?"

"Cold feet." Gabriella winces, recognising how lame she sounds before she's even opened her mouth. "You said its cold feet."

"Your feet must be fucking freezing!"


As he wakes up with a throbbing headache, Chad Danforth makes a mental vow to never look at alcohol again in his life. Sure, since turning the legal age of twenty-one, he and his friends had taken advantage of their country's drinking laws. He had boasted about his new-found maturity and masculinity in the faces of Troy Bolton and Zeke Baylor as they still had two months to wait until they could legally drink – but when those two months were over and two birthdays were celebrated, they had taken advantage and then vowed to never touch the damn stuff again. Well, until the next night out, that is.

"Ugh." The unmistakeable Zeke Baylor hangover moan erupted from the far corner of the room; soon followed by a groan from Jason Cross, who was sprawled out on the floor by the couch. Chad lifts his head and squints his eyes, taking in the surroundings of the Bolton living room. Troy was laid out on the couch fast asleep and Ryan was nowhere to be seen.

As he sits up and rubs his face vigorously, he sees Jack Bolton and Ryan Evans enter the room, each with their own mug of steaming hot coffee. The smell wafts his nostrils and Chad briefly feels sick, still being able to taste the alcohol from the night before.

"Look at you sissy's." Jack laughs as he takes a sip of his coffee and Jason and Zeke begin to wake up. He looks down to his son and pats his head gently, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. "I drank more than all you guys put together and I'm still looking as handsome as ever."

"Coach, you're deluded." Zeke heaves himself up into a sitting position and yawns nosily. Jack smiles widely at his response – even though it had been seven years since they officially were stripped of their Wildcat titles, Chad, Zeke and Jason continued to refer to Jack as their coach – mainly out of respect for the guy who gave them so much passion and motivation for the game all through their high school years. "You just can't handle as much as us. I saw you ordering water and then trying to pass it off as vodka."

Jack chuckles whole-heartedly at the comment as Ryan, already dressed in his tuxedo, sits himself down on the arm of the couch where Troy is sleeping.

"You're dressed already?" Chad blinks, staring at Ryan's formal wear. "We got six hours yet."

"Six hours and counting." Ryan smiles, looking pleased at his own organisation. "There's still loads to do and as best man, you should already be up and preparing them."


"What time are you picking the band up at LAX?"


"What time are the guests due to arrive at the venue?"

"Uh… one o'clock I told them. Half one at the latest."

"Did you get the cake?"

"That's Zeke's area, man."

"Did you call the caterer?"

"Shit! I mean yes! I mean crap! Evans, do me a mahoosive favour and I'll love you forever."

Ryan rolls his eyes dramatically. "They confirmed yesterday. They're meeting us at the country club at four o'clock. The food's all good to go and there's plenty of champagne on order."

"You, Evans, are a fucking legend."

"Please, keep reminding me." Ryan grins and turns to look at Troy was still in a deep sleep. "Is the groom hungover?"

"He barely touched anything!" Jason sits up and stretches with a loud groan. "His official last night of freedom and he had a total of three beers. Three. Does tradition not matter anymore in this world? I had my heart set on tying him to a lamppost in his underwear and leaving him there all night."

"Okay." A new bright voice comes into the mix and Lucille Bolton enters the room, hands shaking with anticipation and her face covered to the max in green paste. Chad, Ryan, Jason and Zeke all pull simultaneous faces of disgust as Troy's mother steps over each of them, casting her husband an annoyed look before clapping her hands together loudly. "Okay, come up! Get up, the lot of you! So much to do and such little time!"

Troy grumbles and buries his head underneath a pillow at the sound of his mother's voice and Jack pats his head sympathetically. "Hun, we got plenty of time…"

"Jack!" Lucille's reprimanding voice is enough for all guys to stand up obediently. "I hope you realise I've been awake since dawn pressing all of your tuxedo's, calling up all relevant people to confirm times and making sure the cars are picking everybody up from their respective homes. Now comes the stressful and worrying part – hoping beyond hope all of you know what your jobs are!"

Troy's eyes open and he lifts his head from beneath the pillow, now realising the reasons behind his mother's yelling at eight o'clock in the morning.

"Hey! He's alive!" Chad grins widely and walks over to his best friend. "How are you feeling, dude? Excited? Nervous? Worried she's found someone else to shack up with?"

"Not helping!" Lucille swats Chad over the back of the head. "Now everybody listen to me. Zeke!" She points over to the bewildered chef and looks at him accusingly. "Your job for today is…"

"Pick up the cake." Zeke recites tiredly. "I'm picking it up at half past twelve and taking it straight to the country club where the reception is being held."

"Good. And?"

"Uh…I get to the venue at one o'clock to make sure everything has been set up right and the direct the guests to the right seats."


Jason winces when Lucille turns to point in his direction. "Uh…same as Zeke. Directing guests. Making sure things are running smoothly. Oh, and I'm picking up Kelsi and taking her straight to the venue so she can do whatever she does to make the piano…uh…work."


"I'm the best man, man." Chad grins. "And me and Ryan have sorted it! Everything's fine on my part. My duties as Troy's main dude have been done."

"My God." Troy finally speaks up. "I'm stumped. I can't believe you exceeded the small bout of faith I had in you."


Jack chuckles at his wife's seriousness and nervousness. "I'll be going to the apartment at one o'clock, okay? I'll get into the wedding car with Gabriella and make sure she does want to settle for this loser here." He ruffles Troy's hair jokingly and Troy scowls, not amused. "And then if she decides she does want this loser I'll walk her down the aisle, give her away and my job is done."

Lucille raises a bemused eyebrow, her expression at Jack's comment similar to Troy's. Jack chuckles and playfully punches his son's shoulder.

"You don't need me to go over my duties right?" Ryan asks, pointing to himself.

"No, Ryan." Lucille lets out a small sigh of relief and shakes her head. "Out of these jokers, you're the only one I have any faith in."

"Hey!" A chorus of wounded males fills the room but Lucille Bolton shrugs it off.

"Shower up, all of you!" She calls back as she makes her way towards the kitchen. "Your tuxes are all hanging up in Troy's bedroom and remember your jobs for today! I'm going to call Gabriella and-"

"Oh, Mom? Can I…?"

Lucille spins around sharply, a tired but blissfully proud smile on her face. "Troy, no. Its bad luck to see or speak to the bride before the wedding. You go get ready and you'll see her at the altar."

"But, Mom…"

"Bolton! Quit whining!" Chad gets a playful burst of energy and races towards his friend. "He's getting married this afternoo-oo-on! Ding dong the bells are gonna chiiiiiiime!"


Taylor checks out her newly formed hairstyle and make-up in the mirror and grins. She looks fucking fantastic. With only three and a half hours to go until the ceremony, nerves are high and excitement is vastly brewing. Caroline and Mya, the two girls hired to perform hair and make-up duties are working at a good pace, their faces beaming with the results on both Taylor and Sharpay. Martha and Kelsi smooth down their beautiful red bridesmaid gowns, their eyes never leaving their reflections in the mirror.

"Gabriella, honey, you're nervous. We can see that." Caroline gathers a bunch of her chocolate curls in her grasp and attempts to pin them up. "You need to stop moving and squirming otherwise it's going to look a complete mess. And I don't want people to look at you, think your hair sucks and then think I suck at my job for sending you out like that."

Mya holds Gabriella's chin in place, prompting a mouthed "thank you" from Caroline. "Do you want a long black eye-liner line down your face? Because that's what's going to happen if you don't keep still."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Gabriella mumbles as Mya takes a tighter grasp on her chin. "I'm just freaking out still; I'm sorry, I'll keep still."

"Red. Why red? What's wrong with pink?" Sharpay wonders aloud as she checks out her form in the full-length mirror. "Did you not take any of my suggestions for this wedding?"

"Sharpay," Taylor snaps in an annoyed tone. "Will you leave her alone? Gabriella's bouquet is red roses and we, as the bridesmaids, should match the flowers."

"And you couldn't have ordered pink roses?"

"Red is the theme, Sharpay." Kelsi butts in helpfully. "Deal with it."

"I am dealing!" Sharpay hits back. "I'm not saying we don't look great because we do! Especially me – I look freaking fabulous! But pink would be so much better. At my wedding, everything is going to be pink. Everything."

"I look forward to it; really I do." Taylor's sarcastic comment does nothing for Gabriella's twitching knees and shaking hands.

"Oh my God." Gabriella bites her lip. "This is awful."

"Wait. What? What is?" All girls look up.

"The hair?" Caroline screeches in a panic.

"The make-up?" Mya adds with her own bout of dread.

"The redness?" Sharpay asks, half in worry, half in hope.

"Gabs, what is it?" Taylor calmly adds, feeling her duty to keep the bride less stressed as possible take over her mind. "What's wrong?"

"Mom." She says slowly and cautiously. "Tomorrow morning she's going to know I'm not a virgin!"

Echoes of relieved sighs are heard and Mya and Caroline continue with their tasks. Taylor blinks, sceptical. "Gabs, you and Troy haven't been virgins since high school."

"I know! I know that! But because it's our wedding night we have to have sex to consummate it! And my mom will know we've done it because its tradition and all. And she'll be like "Gabriella's no longer a virgin. My daughter is having sex!" She's going to know!"

"Doesn't she already know you two have sex?" Sharpay asks. "I thought she walked in on you when she visited your college dorm in freshman year and you two were half-naked and making out in your room."

"Yeah, she did." Gabriella's eyes widen at the memory. "But now she'll know for sure now. And our next conversation is going to be so awkward and-"

"Gabriella, will you just chill out?" Taylor couldn't help but smile as she wraps her fingers around Gabriella's wrist. "Why are you waiting for a disaster to happen?"

"A disaster will happen if she doesn't keep still." Mya groans in frustration.

"Oh my god," Gabriella's hands start shaking again and it takes Martha to come over and hold them still. "What if you inadvertently make me look like a clown?"

"Gabriella Montez, I swear I'll purposely make you look like a clown if you don't stop worrying over nothing! By the way, it's nice to know you have faith in me."

"I do, I do," Gabriella tries to sound convincing but Mya's annoyed face tells a different story. "I'm just waiting for everything to just crash down around me and I just want to be prepared for the inevitable…"

"Is this because Chad's the best man?" All eyes dart straight to Sharpay; Gabriella's eyes wider and more freaked out than before. "What?" She asks innocently as Taylor shoots her daggers.

"Are you questioning Chad's ability in the best man department?" Taylor furrows her brows menacingly.

"Are you stating that Chad can pull this off without anything disastrous happening?"

Taylor's brows rest. "Good point."

"Oh my god; oh my god; oh my god…"

"Guys, can we please stop using the word 'disaster' from now on?" Kelsi groans, taking in Gabriella's expression. "Chad's fine, honey, I swear," she says sweetly to her friend. "Honestly, I'm sure all is fine. And if there was anything wrong, we'd know. Just sit back and enjoy today; you guys deserve it."

Gabriella nods, letting out a deep breath as Caroline and Mya get back to finishing her hair and make-up. Taylor grins in spite of it all; just knowing that her best friend's mind was working in over-drive to find many more disastrous situations that could happen on her wedding day. In all truth, Taylor had been somewhat impressed with her boyfriends behaviour towards his role as best man. He'd taken on all duties with ease; working hard to make sure he hadn't screwed up - even though he knew everyone was just waiting for him to screw up. She had to give him credit - he had acted in a mature fashion over the last few months, save for when he and the guys got busy planning Troy's stag night in an overly excited manner.

A sharp knock on the door caused all the girls to jump in response.

"Fuck!" Mya called out as her lip pencil darts upwards towards Gabriella's nose.

"Oh my god; oh my god; oh my--"

"Gabriella! Fucking chill! Anyone have a tissue?"

"Calm down," Taylor smiles softly before making her way towards the bedroom door. "I'll see who it is."

"Oh my god; what if it's Troy?"

"Tell we tell him to fuck off," Sharpay replies nonchalantly. "He should know the tradition anyway - he had a massive stick up his ass before he proposed to you; refused to do it until he'd asked your mom for permission."

Taylor shakes her head in bemusement and makes her way through the apartment towards the door. She shifts in surprise as she opens it and comes face to face with her own boyfriend. "Chad?"

"Holy. Fuck." He breathes, resting his outstretched hand against the doorframe. His tuxedo was on; bowtie hanging loosely at the sides, his afro wilder than ever.

Taylor raises an eyebrow. "You'd better tidy up your appearance. If Gabriella sees you looking like that, murder will be committed and I'm sorry, babe, but I will have to stick up for her in court."

Chad breathes heavier. "You don't understand, woman," he hisses. "This is bad."

Taylor's heart sinks into the pits of her stomach - a part of her wondering if karma was working against her after briefly thinking about how well Chad had done. "Oh god," she groans. "What did you do? Where's Troy? Don't you dare tell me he's in somewhere like Connecticut. Did you leave him tied to a bench and he was ravished by hungry mountain lions? Oh my god, Chad, what did you do?"

"Okay, Troy's good, okay? He's fine. Nervous as fuck and annoying us all to hell with his paranoia but he's fine."

"There's a 'but' coming, isn't there?"

"However… whilst we were getting ready, Troy started talking about Gabriella's wedding ring -- you know that really expensive white-gold one with diamonds encrusted along the top?" Taylor nods; more scared than ever. "And he was saying that four days ago, he took it back to the jewellers and got this really heart-felt message engraved inside the band -- but she has absolutely no idea. Anyway, he was talking about it and getting all super mushy and then it occurred to me… where the fuck did I put that bastard ring?"

Taylor's hand flies to her mouth. "You didn't, Chad…"

Chad gulps. "I did, Tay. I've just ran home to look for it and I can't find the damn thing anywhere!"

"What about Troy's?"

"Troy's is in the box still. He asked for Gabriella's back to get the message engraved and when he handed me it back, I kinda just put it somewhere and forgot where…"

"Oh my god, keep your voice down!" She hisses. "Gabriella's already freaking out about every unimaginable thing that could happen and ironically enough, she hasn't freaked out about the prospect of no wedding rings being present. Oh my god, why couldn't you have just told me Troy was eaten by hungry mountain lions last night? Things would be so much easier!"

"Right. So you'd prefer the bands to be there but the groom to be in a bloodied mess in a mountain lion cave?"

Taylor folds her arms abruptly. "Actually, right now, I'd prefer for the best man to be in a bloodied mess in a mountain lion cave."

Chad looks at his girlfriend helplessly. "Babe, you have to help me."

"With what? Tearing our own home apart to look for the ring? I can't leave, Chad. If I do, Gabriella will know something is wrong and will start freaking out more. Mya and Caroline are having a hell of a time just getting her hair and make-up sorted out - she's not even in the freaking dress yet!"

"Troy's going to tear me to shreds."

"Good!" Taylor sighs exasperated. "Can't you just ask one of the guys to help you? I can't leave, Chad; there's still so much to do!"

Chad runs his hand through his hair in annoyance. "They'll just rip the piss out of me for screwing up - they've been waiting for it ever since Troy and Gabs got engaged!"

"And, as usual, they were right," Taylor leans her head against the open door in frustration. "You're going to have to tell Troy."

"Tell Troy what?" A shaky voice emits from the other end of the hallway. Chad and Taylor's eyes widen simultaneously as a barely made-up Gabriella glares at them knowingly.

"Gabriella!" Chad grins melodramatically. "You're a picture! A portrait of perfection! You dazzle my retinas!"

"Seriously…" Gabriella takes a tentative step towards the beetroot-cheeked couple. "What's going on?"

"Why would anything be wrong?" Chad ventures, rubbing the back of his neck vigorously. "What could possibly go wrong?" He shivers as he feels Taylor's hard and menacing glare stab right through him and his heart almost dies upon seeing the horror-stricken look in Gabriella's face.

"Oh my god," she shakes abruptly. "Oh my god; he hooked up with some floozy last night, didn't he? Oh my god, he's gonna marry her now, right? Oh my god, she's pregnant…"

"What?" Chad spurts out uncontrollably. "What? Who?"

"And I bet she has some weird floozy name like Trixie…"

"Look what the fuck you started," Taylor groans; slapping a hand over her face.

"No, no, no, Gabs," Chad shakes his head erratically. "No, no floozies, I swear. We just went out and got drunk except Troy didn't get drunk because he's such a woman and wanted an alcohol-free mind for today. Good as gold, I promise. Scout's honour. And definitely nobody called Trixie was involved."

"So what the hell aren't you guys telling me?" Gabriella flings her arms up dramatically. "Don't tell me I'm imagining it because I know something's wrong. What is it? Tell me."

Taylor and Chad look at one another hopelessly; almost communicating telepathically for the other to come up with a reasonable lie that was distract the freaked-out bride from the actual emergency.

"Troy, uh…" Chad starts but instantly regrets it as Gabriella looks even more horrified upon hearing her fiancé's name. "I mean we, uh, can't, uh… find Troy's jacket."

Taylor knows it sounds lame but can't help but let out a sigh of relief that Chad had come up with something mildly representing a problem. Their relief is short-lived when a familiar heavy chanting erupts.

"Oh my god; oh my god; oh my god," Gabriella puts her hands to her cheeks in shock. "Oh my god, are you sure you've checked everywhere for it? Oh my god; oh my god!"

Taylor casts her murderous gaze to her boyfriend. "You infuriate me."