A/N: Oh Em Eff Gee. I know.

I've taken forever to update this fiction. Which is really bad considering it only consists of three chapters, so I'll endeavour to get the last chapter up in the not too distant future. Promise.

Just a quick disclaimer… The two readings featured later on in the chapter are not owned by me. The first is from First Corinthians 13:4-8, The Bible and the second is from A Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

With that now said, enjoy, y'all!

R&R, please ;)

Holly xxx

Two: Whoops

Chad Danforth never panics.

And he's also a compulsive liar.

As he practically turns the apartment he and long-time girlfriend, Taylor McKessie, share in Toluca Lake, California, Chad tries to think of a time when he was in a messy situation and got himself out of it without losing any limbs.

So far, he was getting nothing.

Damn.

His head bolts upright as he hears the front door to his apartment open; the word 'busted' vastly coming to mind as footsteps are heard making their way from the front door to the bedroom where he's currently sitting amidst a mountain of pillows and bed sheets.

"Okay," the voice says. "So I told Troy that nothing was wrong at all and that you were just coming home quick to pick up your cufflinks because like an idiot, you forgot your cufflinks. But now I'm getting a little shaky at the situation in front of me now."

"Seriously, Evans," Chad spits as he scrambles to his feet in frustration. "This is no time to joke."

Ryan leans against the doorframe and folds his arms casually. "Okay, serious note time. What's all the hubbub, bub?"

"The ring, Evans. I've lost the fucking ring."

The mischievous blue eyes suddenly widen in horror. "Say what now?!"

"Gabriella's wedding band. It's gone!"

"Gone?"

"Gone!"

"Gone where?!"

"Well if I fucking knew that, would I be up to my armpits in pillows?!"

Ryan's fingers lock into his hair in despair; a dangerous mixture of anger and fright bubbling up inside of him. "Oh my god, how the hell did you manage that?!"

"Asking completely dumbass questions isn't going to rectify this."

"…and you've looked everywhere?"

"Everywhere," Chad breathes and runs his hands through his hair. "I even went to the apartment to see if Tay could help me but she won't. She said Gabriella would only freak out more and know something was wrong."

"And she still thinks everything's okay?"

"Sort of." Chad shrugs his shoulders guiltily. "She thinks he's run off with a random chick called Trixie. And even when Tay and I tried to tell her otherwise, she was still freaking out over nothing. So I just told her we lost Troy's jacket."

"And?"

"And she freaked out more. I'm telling you, Evans, those two are seriously going to be the death of me."

Ryan shook his head. "Yeah, I'm going to agree with you there. When Troy finds out you lost that ring your head's on the chopping block."

"Well instead of standing there and telling me something I already know; why don't you get your ass over here and… I don't know… help?!"

---

Taylor McKessie never panics.

Except, of course, when she's fully aware her boyfriend has "complete and utter control of a situation". That is never a good situation to be in.

Still, she manages to keep composure. She manages to keep her head held up high; even when Gabriella won't stop fretting and worrying about the whereabouts of Troy's jacket. She had done her maid of honour thing and calmed down the bride (as much as can be expected anyhow); even informing her that it wouldn't be the end of the world if Troy married her jacket-less.

She left out the part that it may be the end of the world if Chad turned up at the venue with only one wedding ring.

"Okay, so," Gabriella breathes as she smoothes her hands down her gorgeous white gown. "Everything's going according to plan, right? Has Troy's jacket been found yet?"

Taylor gulps. "Uh, not sure, Gabs. I'm sure Chad will call if they do. And hey, if not, it's no big deal, right?"

"And wouldn't you rather have him wearing less clothes?" Sharpay puts in.

Gabriella and Taylor both ignore her as the bride stands in front of the full-length mirror again; taking in every ounce her appearance and trying to hold back the tears for fear Mya would threaten to kill her again for smudging her make-up for the hundredth time. "Okay, so," she breathes again; a small smile emitting on her lips. "I'm really getting married today."

Taylor suddenly smiles widely, emotion taking over her heart and soul as she took in her best friend's appearance. She looked absolutely beautiful - a floor length gown; fitting her curves perfectly - the heart-shaped strapless bodice clung to her; crystals adorning the front and sparkling in the light. Taylor couldn't help but wish that she had that - the sure future; the wanting to commit and be a part of something so special, so unique, that nothing on earth could ever come between it.

She only hopes one Chad Danforth doesn't ruin their perfect day.

She was far too young to receive life imprisonment for homicide.

"You're getting married today," she smiles back. "I'm so, so happy for you."

"Yeah, me too." The two are surprised that such a comment would come from Sharpay Evans, but they don't question her. Instead, they turn around and smile through glassed over eyes - coming together for a group hug.

"Oh, no, hell no," Mya stops them abruptly. "I'm not redoing all of your make-up and having three crinkled dresses on my case. Cease and desist or I will open a can of whoop-ass!"

The girls chuckle, pulling away reluctantly and gently dabbing the corner of their eyes. "You know, I can't believe I actually doubted your boyfriend, McKessie," Sharpay puts in with a look of wonderment; ignoring Taylor's sudden change in expression. "So far, so good. I mean, all we've got is one missing jacket and for Chad, that's some sort of miracle. Dare I say I was wrong?"

"Oh my god!" Gabriella laughs. "Sharpay admitting she's wrong? That just proves today's going better than expected. I can't believe I was freaking out majorly this morning." She turns to her best friend. "Tay? You okay?"

"I'm good," Taylor squeaks before abruptly clearing her throat. "I'm just, uh, worried about Troy's jacket."

"Oh, come on," Gabriella rolls her eyes nonchalantly. "It's not the end of the world if I marry him jacketless. You said so yourself. And you know, you've been such a help to me today… I'm sorry for being such a pain in the butt this morning. I'd marry Troy if he were just wearing his boxers."

"Honey, I'd marry Troy if he was only wearing his boxers," Mya jumps in but the bride casually ignores her comment.

"I know, I know." Taylor's voice suddenly reaches new levels of high pitch. "But… I just want this day to be absolutely perfect for you… and--"

"You have made it so; honestly," Gabriella replies with a comforting smile that does nothing for Taylor's homicidal imagination. "It's not your fault Chad's middle name is 'klutz'. We all suspected something would go wrong on his side and hey, it could have been a hell of a lot worse, right?"

Taylor's heart leaps into her throat and she forces a tight smile on her face. "But it was such a nice and expensive jacket…"

"Gabriella would only be ripping it off later," Sharpay responds with a devilish grin. "So it's just as well the doofus has lost it."

"But I really loved the jacket…" Taylor's voice wobbles dangerously. "It was such a beautiful jacket…"

---

Troy Bolton never panics.

Except when his best man leaves his parents home on the morning of his wedding without an explanation and looking slightly anxious.

He knew he should have asked Ryan to be his best man.

"Right." Jack Bolton announces as he strolls into Troy's childhood bedroom and brushes imaginary dust from his shirt sleeves. "I'm going."

"You're going?" Troy frowns slightly but then realises, upon glancing at the clock on the mantle, that it was time for his dad to go to their apartment to be with Gabriella until it was time to leave for the wedding. "Like, now?"

Jack rolls his eyes and leans over the couch to pick up his jacket. "Yeah, like now," he smiles knowingly. "It's kinda my job today… giving the bride away and all that. I still can't believe she asked me to." He looks genuinely touched at his soon-to-be daughter-in-law's previous request.

"Could you call me?" Troy asks tentatively as he shoves his hands into his trouser pockets. "I mean, not to talk to Gabs or anything; I know it's not allowed. But just to let me know everything's okay? That she's okay?"

Jack rolls his eyes hopelessly. "Cold feet, son?"

"It's her feet I'm worried about," Troy sighs with a small smile. "What if she met up with some guy called Hector last night and now they're getting ready to elope?"

Jack bites back a smirk. "Hector?"

Troy shoots his father a death glare. "It could happen," he states confidently. "I don't deserve her."

"Now, I never taught you how to speak fluent bullshit, Troy. And Gabriella would probably shoot you right now if she could hear you talking. She obviously doesn't think so."

Troy dips his head slightly in embarrassment. "Were you ever like this before you married mom?"

"Worse than you," Jack chuckles. "Although I never imagined your mom to run off with someone called Hector. But you've always had an over-reactive imagination. But the point is, Troy, you and Gabriella… it fits. Everything just fits. Me and your mom look at you both and we just can't be any happier than we are now, knowing that you found someone like her - someone so special and unique, who understands you like we do; maybe even more. And I know Maria feels the same way where Gabriella is concerned. If there ever was a couple who should never experience cold feet on their wedding day, it's you and Gabriella."

Touching moments between father and son were never good if it was going to end up in them both turning mushy. Mushy was never good between men. Only girls.

So Troy manages only a small smile which communicates so much more between them. "Thanks, dad. But still, you think you could call me when you get there?"

Jack lets out an amused huff. "Your mom would kill me and you if she found out we were having this conversation right now."

"All I want is to know she's okay."

"And that she's not with some guy called Hector?"

Troy purses his lips together. "That additional information would be helpful. If you feel it necessary."

Jack laughs out loud and turns to walk out of the room. "Troy, you know I can't do that. It's bad luck to before the wedding."

"Technically I'm not talking to Gabriella. I'm talking to you. So technically it's breaking no traditional rules."

Jacks shakes his head in amusement. "I'm leaving now, son. We'll see you at the altar."

"Woah, wait!" Troy suddenly stops his father. "Shit! The poem! I need the poem!"

"Poem?"

A blush emits on his cheeks and he rubs the back of his neck in embarrassment. "I kinda… wrote a poem. Kelsi helped me. But I wrote it to read out to Gabriella during the ceremony and I left it with…" His face freezes as he recalls. "I left it with Chad."

Jack shrugs nonchalantly. "So, it's with Chad. So what? He'll be at the wedding too, you know. It's kinda a tradition that the best man actually attends."

"No," Troy ignores his father's sarcasm. "No, I left it with Chad last week. We were at his place and Gabs and Taylor came home unexpectedly and I couldn't hide it quick enough so I passed it to Chad. Gabs would have found it if I took it back to our place… what with her over-exaggerated cleanliness and all."

"So call Chad. Get him to go get it for you. I don't know where the fuck he and Ryan have disappeared to but it might be worth giving them a call on their cells. I'd happily do it for you but if I don't leave in the next five seconds, your mom will drag me out by my ears."

Troy was already pulling out his cellphone and desperately dialling Chad's number. "Sure, dad." He replies distractedly.

Jack stops at the door. "Oh, and if I see this Hector? Don't you worry, son. Your old man here will knock him out before they can even elope."

Troy shoots his gaze back up to his harshly, not liking the smirk that was tugging on Jack's lips. "Dad. Personal crisis here. I'd really appreciate it if you didn't start making up stupid scenarios involving strange dudes called Hector."

"Noted, son. Noted."

---

"EEP!"

"Eep?!" Ryan Evans squeaks, scrambling to his feet amongst a mountain of laundry. "Eep! Eep, what?!" He calls, running towards the kitchen where Chad Danforth was in the midst of a nervous breakdown. "What are you eep-ing about at, man? Did you find the ring?"

"EEP!" Chad points to his cellphone, where his infamous Rocky theme tune was playing signalling that only Troy Bolton could be calling. Some found their friendship cute; others found it disturbing.

"Oh, man, you are so screwed. He knows."

"He does not know!" Chad's eyes bulged with his sudden horror in acknowledgement. "How can he know? Does he have this place bugged or something?"

Ryan gestures towards the phone. "Are you going to pick that up at some point?"

"Uh, no. Do you think I want to die at this early stage of my life? At least let me leave this world fighting, Evans."

Ryan rolls his eyes heavenwards. "Oh, hand it over. I'll answer it!" Before Chad can protest his actions, Ryan snatches the phone from his grasp and answers the call. "Troy!" He greets a little too enthusiastically. "How are you this fine morning?"

"Don't joke now, Ryan. I need to speak with Chad urgently. Is he there?"

"Uh…" The look of horror on Ryan's face only served for Chad to eep silently and shove his fist into his mouth. "He's a little preoccupied right now. Can I give him a message?"

"I need to speak to him now, Ry. Or we all die. You see, the natural balance of the universe will be disrupted if I don't speak to him now and everyone will suffer horribly before we all die."

Ryan quickly holds the phone to Chad, who waves his hands dangerously in protest before running from the room.

"Ryan?" Troy calls again. "You there?"

"Um, yeah," Ryan replied, tugging at the collar of his best dress shirt nervously. "He's actually in the middle of something here, Troy. Something so big that it's actually more important than the fates of the universe right now. Can you not just tell me what the, uh, problem is? I'll be sure to tell him."

Ryan hears Troy sigh loudly into the phone before answering. "Just tell him he still has the poem. And I need it before the ceremony since I need to have it for the actual wedding. In fact, I'm kinda nervous that you guys have abandoned me without letting me know where you are…"

"You know we've all got our little jobs to do today to prepare…"

"Yeah. But leaving without a trace is very worrying…"

"Is there no joy in surprises anymore?" Ryan heaves in annoyance. "Honestly, Troy. Why don't you just go consummate the marriage before you've even become husband and wife? What is with the world nowadays?"

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. "…Whatever. Just… tell him I need it as soon as possible, okay? I need to go over it again. I don't care what he's doing. Just tell him to get the poem, bring it to me, and then he can continue doing whatever it is he's doing… okay?"

Ryan gulps. "Yeah. Sure."

"Great. See you later, man."

As Ryan puts the phone down, Chad slowly walks back into the room with a beetroot face. "Is he gone? Are we dead?"

Ryan breathes a sigh of relief. "It's okay, man. We can relax… for now. He just wants the poem."

"Poem?"

His confused features bring Ryan's worry levels back up to danger. "Yeah. He said that he needs the poem. Which I assume he gave you to look after but now he needs back? Please tell me you have it."

"Of course I have it, Evans. It's in my jeans pocket."

Ryan breathes another sigh of relief. "Great. Okay, you keep searching for that ring and I'll go take the poem to Troy. Where are your jeans?"

"In the washing machine. Help yourself."

Neither realised exactly what Chad had just said for a few seconds. And as it slowly crumbled inside of them, Ryan's insides began to melt into a pile of rubble and Chad started envisioning his own death to be more bloody and messy than he'd first anticipated since first losing Gabriella's ring.

Ryan gulps. "You're… joking, right?" He smiles slyly. "I know when you're joking, Danforth. And, oh! What a joker you are! Because, I mean, no one would be able to manage losing a wedding ring and the poem the groom was intending on reading out to his bride on the day of their wedding, right? No person with a normal mind would be able to do that, right?!"

"Uh, well," Chad was becoming increasingly more nervous. He's never seen the dangerous side of Ryan Evans before and he could conclude it was hella scary. "I haven't technically lost it. It's in the washing machine."

Ryan groans out loud in frustration and races to the laundry room; Chad hot on his heels. "Only you, Danforth. Only you!"

"I know, I know," Chad moans in defeat as Ryan yanks open the door of the washing machine and rips out Chad's soaking through jeans. "He just handed it to me quick. I forgot he had it. He'd brought it here to show me after he and Kelsi wrote it and then Tay and Gabs came back and he had to hide it quick…" He covers his face with his hands. "It was for safe keeping. He didn't want her to find it."

Ryan slowly pulls out the crumpled and wet piece of paper from the pocket, holding it up to reveal the blue ink running haphazardly from the sheet, destroying any evidence that Troy had gone to all that trouble and effort. "Well, at least now you know for sure she never will."

---

Gabriella Montez never got nervous.

Except on the day of her wedding when she was perfectly entitled to.

Her mother had left for the venue over a half hour ago after spending twenty minutes smudging her make-up as she revelled in the ecstatic blissfulness of her only daughter finally getting married. Gabriella had breathed a sigh of relief when Maria had announced she was going to make sure everything was set in its place before the ceremony began. Martha and Kelsi had gone with her to set up the piano and help with the seating plans.

"And he's really okay?" She asks Jack Bolton for the umpteenth time. "I mean… he's not missing any limbs or his head or anything like that?"

Jack blinks in astonishment at Gabriella's question. He'd spent the first fifteen minutes since arriving at the apartment marvelling at how beautiful she looked and now he was getting asked ridiculous questions from a very nervous bride.

He coughs. "Don't worry, Gabriella. Two arms, two legs, one head in place although some would argue that the position of his brain isn't where it naturally should be. There're still two eyes, one nose, two ears, one mouth, ten fingers, ten toes… Any other part of Troy you wish to know is still in place?"

"The parts between his legs would be useful," Sharpay puts in, causing Gabriella to blush deeply and for Jack to choke. "In fact very useful. He's already under a lot of pressure to perform to his best for the wedding night. Imagine the tragedy if he further lost the parts that actually make the performing part work?"

"Sharpay!" Taylor calls.

"Well," Jacks clears his throat uncomfortably. "Not that I've have any visual confirmation…"

"Don't worry, Jack," Sharpay waves him off. "I'll check before the reception. It's my happy duty to perform as bridesmaid."

Gabriella just couldn't look at her future father-in-law anymore. That was it. Her respective daughter-in-law image was gone thanks to Sharpay and her mouth.

Taylor's cellphone ringing was a relieving interruption to the brand new tension in the room; however, the look on her face upon seeing the caller I.D only make Gabriella's nerves flutter.

"Who is it?" She asks tentatively.

Taylor doesn't respond. She merely stands up and races towards the spare bedroom and shuts the door behind her before answering. "Troy!" She hisses angrily. "What the fuck do you think you're doing ringing here?!"

"I'm freaking out, Tay." Troy's wobbly voice answers. "I know I shouldn't and I know Gabriella's there somewhere, but--" He breaks off. "Is she okay, by the way?"

Taylor closes her eyes, wanting the ground to swallow her whole. Chad hadn't called back with the confirmation that the rings were safely tucked away in his pocket and therefore, there was major ground swallow-age needed at that moment in time. "Why are you calling, Troy? You know you're not supposed to. And if Gabriella hears you, she'll freak out. You know it's bad luck."

"Ugh! Okay! I need to get a hold of Chad… You haven't seen him, have you?"

Here, Taylor gives off a throaty laugh, guilt spilling out of her at a great rate of knots. "Now why on earth would I have seen Chad today?"

"I called him earlier but he was busy. So I spoke to Ryan instead. He said he'd tell Chad to bring me back the poem me and Kelsi wrote for Gabriella but it's been forever and now I can't get in touch with either of them."

Taylor McKessie never panics.

Unless she's dating Chad Danforth and is entitled to panic every second of every day.

"Well, he's not here." She swallows heavily. "I'm sure they're on their way back to you now. Did you ever think of that?"

She doesn't hear the bedroom door opening. "Tay?" Gabriella asks slowly, taking in Taylor's wide-eyed expression upon seeing her. "You okay?"

"Is that Gabriella?!" Troy's voice rings out in her ear. "Is that her? Oh my god, I know I can't talk to her, but tell her I love her, okay?"

"I can't tell her you love her! It's against the rules!" She knew she really should think before speaking…

"Is that Troy?!" Gabriella's eyes widen disastrously. "Oh my god! Why is he calling here?! Does he want this marriage to fail?!"

"Oh my god, I heard that, Tay! Tell her I don't! Tell her I love her and that I can't wait to see her. Tell her I that this phone call was a mistake and that I'm sorry and that I'm leaving now and I'll see her at the altar." A pause. "I will see her at the altar, right, Tay?"

Taylor wanted to strangle something. "Gab, he loves you, he doesn't want this marriage to fail, he's calling because he's an asshole and is worried you're not gonna show up--"

"Oh my god! He thinks that? Oh my god, I'm marrying a moron!"

"Oh my god, Tay! I heard that too! Tell her I don't really think that! Tell her I am a moron but I'm a marriage-material moron."

"He's a marriage-material moron - whatever that means - okay, Gabs? He said he doesn't really think that and now he's gonna leave before the big vein in my forehead pops and we end up attending a funeral rather than a wedding."

Gabriella breathes out a loud sigh of relief, her heart racing and hammering against her chest. "Okay, okay. But tell him I love him too, okay?"

"I heard that! Tay, tell her I heard that!"

"I know you fucking heard it, Bolton!"

"Did he call to say he found his jacket?" Gabriella asks hopefully. Taylor just glares at her.

"My jacket?" Troy asks confused, causing Taylor to enter major panic mode. "What's wrong with my jacket--?"

"Troy…FUCK OFF!"

---

"Okay. I have it." Chad bangs his fist down on the table as a gesture of success.

"Hit me," Ryan responds, ready to hit pen-to-paper.

"Oh, my love, my darling…"

Ryan's head hit's the table top.

"I've hungered for your touch a long, lonely time."

"Chad."

"And times goes by. So slowly. And time can do soooo much--"

"Chad."

"Are you still mineeeeee?"

"Chad!"

"What?!"

Ryan wanted the ground to swallow him whole. He could conclude that that moment in time was a definitely ground swallow-age occasion. "I highly doubt that Troy and Kelsi spent hours copying down the words to Unchained Melody."

"They might have."

"Or not." Ryan sighs distraughtly. "Look, whether we like this or not, Troy's going to found out the poem is ruined and he's gonna hit rock bottom once he does. So we need something, anything, that'll be adequate enough to replace it. We can even call it a gesture of our apology. Or your apology since it was you who fucked this up."

Chad rests his forehead dejectedly on his forearms. "I know, man," he replied sadly. "I know."

"We just need to write this thing and then get that ring found as soon as humanly possible. Start re-tracing your steps. Where were you when you know you last had it… start thinking about that."

"Right."

"So," Ryan stands up and pulls out his cell, ignoring the Troy: thirteen missed calls message that highlighted the main screen. "I'll call up Kelsi and ask her. Maybe she can remember as much of the poem as possible so Troy at least has something to work with."

"You're gonna tell Kelsi?! Dude, we can't tell anyone about this!"

"Have you got any better suggestions?" Chad didn't respond. "Okay, then. So I'm gonna call Kelsi and you've got to find that damn thing before Troy--"

"--before Troy, what?" Troy Bolton walks slowly into the kitchen of the Danforth apartment. Ryan and Chad freeze in their places; terror written on both their faces. "Guys…" Troy swallows nervously. "What the fuck…?"

"Okay, okay!" Chad stands up and walks towards his best friend before grasping his biceps and squeezing tightly with his anguish. "Just… before we tell you this, you have to remember, okay? You have to remember the time you broke my Robo-Rob and I was on the verge of suicide. Remember?" His eyes bore desperately into his. "Remember how I was going to throw my wretched and broken body from your treehouse all because you broke my Robo-Rob? And you were pleading with me to forgive you? And then I did? Eventually - but that's not the point. The point is, is that it was a completely unforgivable crime you committed when we were six, but I forgave you, Troy. I forgave when I could have just committed suicide. Because that's the most important thing about friendship: forgiveness. Without it, we're just soulless lives wandering the face of the earth with no one to play Robo-Rob with."

Troy's mouth hung agape. "…right."

"Troy," Ryan sighs, gesturing to the empty chair at the table. "You may want to sit down for this."

---

Taylor McKessie was going to kill Chad Danforth.

There was always that strange concoction of both anger and unconditional love that was always alive whenever she was around Chad. It had been there since senior year when they'd began dating.

Like, right now, she loved him. She loved him so much she was willing to put up with years of verbal abuse she received constantly from her parents, all because they didn't like nor approve of him. They'd tell her he was no good, that she deserved better… but she just took it all because she loved him.

And then there was the anger. She was angry at him because he'd lost Gabriella's wedding band on the morning of her wedding. She was angry because Troy and Gabriella deserved nothing but perfection on their special day and now it was only an hour until the ceremony and it seemed her boyfriend still hadn't been able to locate the ring.

He'd always been clumsy, he'd always given new meaning to the word 'klutz'.

Maybe she should blame Troy. Had he not chosen Chad as his best man, none of this would have ever happened.

But then Taylor feels bad - that no one ever gives Chad enough credit. No one ever gives him a chance. Her parents plainly refused to, and here she was, thinking the thoughts that only proved her parents opinions as being right.

There was that strange concoction again.

And it was only alive whenever she was around Chad Danforth.

---

Troy's head fell into his hands in despair. "You lost the ring… and destroyed the poem?" He asks again, his voice wavering.

"I'm so sorry, man. I didn't mean to…"

"No," Troy looks up at him angrily. "No, you never mean to. Never mind the fact I'm getting married in an hour and I'll have nothing to sentiment my vows with! Do you realise we can't get married without the ring? It happens to be a very important part of getting married, you know."

Chad hangs his head. "I'm sorry…"

"Guys," Ryan steps up in-between them. "We need to stop this; we haven't got time. Troy, look, I'm sorry but the poem can't be salvaged. Not unless Kelsi can write it all again in an hour which I highly doubt. Things happen like that, okay? It was a mistake. You can't put all the blame on Chad for forgetting about a piece of paper that was shoved in his pocket without permission in the heat of the moment."

Troy takes a deep breath. "Yeah," he agrees quietly.

"We can only use what time we have left to think about where this ring might be. Or at least think about a quick replacement."

Troy shakes his head.

"Troy," Ryan closes his eyes briefly. "Gabriella will understand. She will."

"It's not that, man. That ring is completely irreplaceable."

Chad never felt more low in his life. Still, the statement sparks up a dark corner of his mind and his face slowly falls into realisation. "Guys…"

"I know it is. But we'll find it eventually. It can't have gone far. All we need is at least a ring, any ring, so you guys can get married in an hour. We can always look for it afterwards. What's important is that you and Gabriella get married today."

"Guys…"

Troy nods, ignoring Chad's calls. "I guess."

"Just think, you'll be man and wife in a matter of hours. Makes everything else seem so significant, right?"

"Guys!" Chad bellows, causing both Ryan and Troy to look up at him in question. "I know where it is!"

"Oh my god, you do?!" Ryan grasps a hold of Chad's arms. "Well, don't fucking stand there! Where is it?!"

"Okay, okay," Chad breathes deeply. "I know where it is, I remember where I last had it and knew for sure I had it… but you've got to promise me you won't kill me when I tell you where…"

"Chad…" Troy warns dangerously.

"Just get in the car and floor it to the restaurant. I'll call Zeke…"

"Zeke?! What?! Why?!"

"Just do it!"

---

She feels like a princess.

Her curls are pinned up to perfection. She would thank Caroline for that later.

Her make-up is beyond amazing. Mya would get one hella huge cuddle for that after the wedding.

Her gown was flawless. Strapless, floor-length… a heart-shaped bodice that clung to her curves in exactly the right places. The crystals that adorned it sparkled, the tiara that sat on her head glistened and brightened up the now seemingly dull bedroom. She was a vision. A portrait of perfect. And she was still doubting that Troy would like what he saw when he would see her walking down the aisle.

Looking into the floor-length mirror in front of her, Gabriella scrunches up her nose and slowly twirls around on the spot, taking in her appearance more.

It feels so weird getting married.

"Gabriella Montez," she says to herself. Somehow, now her own name didn't even sound right.

"Gabriella Bolton." Ah, much better.

"Gabriella. Anne. Bolton." She tests her soon-to-be name on her lips. It sounds amazing. And so naturally fitting for her.

She giggles to herself, her heart fluttering as she smoothes her hands down her dress again, getting rid of the imaginary creases she was paranoid would form.

She couldn't wait to see him. Hell, she wants to run down that aisle and say her 'I do's' at such a fast rate, if any guest would blink, they'd miss their union.

"I pronounce you Gabriella Anne Bolton. Mrs. Gabriella Anne Bolton. Mrs. Bolton." She giggles again at her own childish nature. "Wife of Troy Bolton. Troy Alexander Bolton and Gabriella Anne Bolton. Husband and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Bolton."

Everything is just so perfect, she wants to burst. So what if Troy marries her jacketless? It was only a jacket. What they share is worth far more than some jacket -- she wonders why she ever allowed herself to freak out that morning.

She knew she'd marry him right here, in their apartment, wearing nothing but very unattractive underwear and a veil. And he could be wearing a clown costume for all she cared… as long as she become Mrs. Troy Bolton, she didn't really care how.

"Hello, my name is Mrs. Gabriella Anne Bolton. And I'm Troy Bolton's wife. Yes, you heard me, his wife. And he's my husband. Mine. I love him and he's mine. We're the Bolton's and we're very happy to meet you, …random… imaginary person I'm talking to…"

Getting married is such a weird feeling…

Weird, but oh so wonderful.

---

Zeke Baylor, Troy Bolton and Ryan Evans are stumped.

As the three of them look on in disbelief and dismay at the seven-tiered wedding cake - created at the masterful hands of Zeke - they want to weep.

Because what Chad Danforth is saying just can't possibly be true.

"It's in the cake." Zeke wants to cry. "You're telling me… it's in the cake."

Chad smiles. "It's in the cake," he affirms. "I knew I'd remember."

"Question." Troy raises his hand. "Why is it in the cake?"

"I was doing my best man duties and making sure everything was running smoothly. So I came here while Zeke was putting the finishing touches to the icing and it looked fun so I wanted to help out. And the ring got stuck in the icing and now it's in the cake."

"Again, how?" Ryan urges, wanting so much to understand the workings of Chad Danforth's mind.

"I was showing Zeke the message Troy had engraved in it and then I slid it onto my pinkie so I…" He drifts off, clearing his throat. "Uh, wouldn't lose it. Ironically enough." He laughs nervously.

"Right now, I'm not a big fan of irony." Zeke shakes his head solemnly. "And I was just about to transport it to the reception venue. Oh my god, Danforth! How could you do this to me?!"

"I didn't mean to! Do you actually think I wanted this to happen?! Of everything I even envisioned to go wrong, this wasn't it!"

"Well," Ryan puts his hand to his chin in thought. "There's only one way to go around this…"

"No…" Zeke wails.

"Sorry," Ryan sends him his most sympathetic glance. "But it's either the cake or the ring… and right now, I think the ring is more essential. Troy can't slide a cake onto Gabriella's finger when he recites his vows."

"It could be the new 'it' thing with weddings. It could become the new trend?" The chef offers. "No? No takers on the cake swapping during the ceremony? Alright, you mindless traditional-lovers fuckers. Ruin my damn cake! See if I fucking care!"

"We can make this fun…" Chad suggests, running his finger along the top and licking the icing from his fingertip. "It won't be a total waste."

"Just do it," Zeke turns around miserably and walks from the restaurant kitchen. "Just do it. I can't watch."

Chad sighs. "Gentlemen, we're going in."

---

Taylor McKessie has never breathed such a large sigh of relief in her entire life.

Even though Chad had informed her that the wedding cake was effectively ruined and that Zeke was contemplating suicide, Taylor was just so thankful that Gabriella would never know the horrors they'd endured that morning; not knowing whether or not she'd receive her beautiful and expensive wedding band.

As she'd walked down the aisle - situated outside in a beautiful private park in Beverly Hills - she'd shared a look of relief with Troy, who looked like he'd faced death and survived… only just.

Now, she could relax and bask in the perfection that was Troy and Gabriella's wedding ceremony. Kelsi's musical piece was breathtaking, the atmosphere was beautiful and the weather was on their side. Nothing could have been more perfect to witness than the look on both Troy and Gabriella's faces as she appeared alongside Jack Bolton at the end of the aisle and began towards her fiancé… glowing from head to toe; their smiles so wide and sparkling, they were blinding.

Taylor watched with her heart aflutter. She caught Chad's eyes from across the altar every now and then, sending him smiles which communicated between them as words of love. Her stomach coiled as she continued to think about herself and Chad in Troy and Gabriella's position, and despite all the obstacles that threatened them, she suddenly found the image very very appealing…

Chad holds up his right hand subtly to show her, with mischief dancing in his eyes, that Gabriella's ring was sitting on his pinkie finger; unable to go missing again. Taylor shoots him a smile and a roll of the eyes, just grateful that they managed to get this far and overcome the bumps along the way.

The registrar introduces her to the congregation and Taylor gulps slightly, not liking public speaking one bit. It's Chad's mere wink of encouragement that allows her to speak and perform her reading for her friends.

"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude." Here, she looks over at her boyfriend, silently communicating the thoughts that were happily plaguing her mind. "Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." She smiles at Troy and Gabriella, who lean into each other as Troy presses a kiss against Gabriella's temple.

Chad now steps up and clears his throat. The reading he's chosen to perform is one of his own choice, and after the circus he'd put on earlier in the day, Taylor knows that he's mustering all his strength and adoration into the words…just to make it up in his own way to his best friends.

"One recognises the truth of Saint Exupery's line: Love does not consist in gazing at each other. But in looking outward together in the same direction." He smiles to Troy, who smiles back at him - forgiving him in the same way Chad forgave him for breaking his Robo-Rob. "For in fact, man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction, they are working outward. Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base... Here one makes oneself part of the community of men, of human society." Now, Chad looks dazed at his girlfriend; the woman who made him whole, without even realising. "Here the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love."

There isn't a dry eye around. Somewhat feeling stunned at the reaction of his reading, Chad continues. "Yes, but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship." His eyes flutter back to Troy and Gabriella. He had known upon first glance that this was the reading that spoke volumes of their relationship… the reading that was simply written for them. "It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language too, a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges. The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction. It is woven in space and in time of the substance of life itself."

Members of the congregation claps and Taylor dabs her eyes before handing Gabriella a tissue so she's able to wipe her own without smudging her make-up. The registrar orders them to turn and face each other and link hands, which they so happily do without complaint.

Taylor can only describe the scene as beautiful. She watches as Troy gently wipes away the slow tears that softly drop against Gabriella's cheeks and affectionately grazes his fingertips over her jawline. Gabriella speaks her vows with ease, the words not memorised but merely coming from the heart.

"…Everything good in me is all you," Gabriella cries a happy sob as she gazes longingly into Troy's eyes. "You're the other half of what I am… the thing I spent the first sixteen years of my life missing and not knowing what it was that could make me whole. It was all you. It still is all you." Troy continues to hold her face with trembling hands as she speaks. "I love you… so much." She wavers when her sobs become uncontrollable and Taylor has to snatch a tissue for her own eyes.

Chad shoots her an air kiss as Gabriella delicately places the ring on Troy's finger and latches onto his hand as though her life depends on it.

Troy grips her hand back. Chad exchanges a look of excitement with Taylor - this was his defining moment. He'd be passing the ring to Troy once his vows were spoken… he'd be participating in their final act of union as husband and wife. He wants to burst with the excitement, with the anticipation… the moment he'd been waiting for since the second Troy had asked him to be his best man.

"…It scares me how much more I fall for you every day," Troy speaks affectionately, cradling his bride's cheek and eyes locking together. "It amazes me how anyone can feel this way… and think of it being the strongest it can be only to be proven wrong the next day. You amaze me, Gabi. You always have, even without doing anything. I can't even begin to tell you how privileged I feel just standing here today, hearing you promise to love me forever and be mine forever. It's surreal…"

Chad is pumped. Chad is prepared. And as Troy finishes his vows to his emotional fiancé, he lifts his hand and prepares to slide the ring off his pinkie finger in order to hand over to Troy faithfully.

Taylor just sees everything in slow motion.

Troy finished. Troy turns to Chad. Chad grins and goes to take off the ring…

Only the ring doesn't budge.

There's an awkward moment of silence and Troy's eyes burn into Chad's horrified gaze.

Ryan clears his throat. "Is there a problem?" He whispers as Chad tugs on the band forcefully.

"No, no," he grits his teeth and forces a smile. "It just won't… move…"

Taylor's mouth drops open in terror, inwardly preparing herself to soothe a forthcoming freaking out Gabriella.

Except, Gabriella isn't freaking out. She's laughing. She cuddles herself around Troy's arm and rests her head contentedly on his shoulder as he and Chad continue to struggle with the stuck ring. Ryan steps up, ignoring Gabriella's giggles as he too latches onto Chad's hand and pulls with all his strength.

"Oh my god, Danforth!" He slaps his hand over his face.

Chad slowly and sheepishly turns toward the confused congregation. "Uh, hi," he smiles, radiating more contented and blissful chuckles from the bride. "Does anyone happen to have any grease on them?"

---