Author's Note--So this will be the last author's note for this story. Wow...it's been a long time since I've started this story it feels like. It started out being just a fun story for me, and then it turned out to be so much more, and I know it got rough towards the end and I wasn't the world's most reliable updater, but I tried, and this is the result. I want to THANK everyone who ever commented on this story whether it was a good review or bad as at least this story made you want to respond. I always hate last chapters as they're sad to write because it's like I'm finally realizing I'm actually done, which can be looked at as either good or bad, and I never seem to know how to just end it. But I tried my hardest, and I really hope you like it. Maybe it's too cheesy, but I'm okay with that.
Next, I know I have Free For Life to finish and Time Warp to continue working on, but this one story that I have been also working on keeps popping up in my head, so I'm gonna try to contain myself and keep my newest story off of Fanfiction for a while just to make sure that I have everything worked out first, but that's most likely not going to happen. So be aware of a new story or at least a trailer I could put up within the next week. And finally, I changed the title of this story to You're Stuck with Us instead of You're Stuck With Me because I found that my new title fits better. It's not a big change, and if you didn't notice, then oh well. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy!
The dark shades of black, blue, and gray coated the arena and stage in which the team was expected to perform on. A short cheer would take place before their music which was a mixture of songs would be played. The tricks they had learned for half of the school year would be put to a test as the judges would either determine that they were winners or losers. Nothing could be out of place or else everything could come crashing to a complete stop.
Nearly every little detail had been worked out at East High. For months now the plans on the agenda had been nailed into place. It was when the basketball team had a new starting line up that everything started to be switched around. It was when the newest member of the team ended up taking one of the co-captains of the cheerleading squads heart--now ex-cheerleader. Things spun into turmoil as the routine was demolished and a new one was planned to take it's place. Sharpay and Gabriella had managed to find an acceptable girl to take Gabriella's place, but something was still slightly off.
If only things in life were fair.
The basketball team had a game that was outside their conference taking place. They were to play the Bulldogs and stay overnight at the same hotel that the girls were staying at for cheerleading. The tournament for the girls and the game for the guys always ended up being the same weekend in January together so that they could share the same bus, the hotel to get a discount, and the same building which hosted an arena for performing and a basketball court.
"I can't believe my mom is here," Troy muttered darkly as he sat down on the bus. His arms were crossed across his chest as the bus was slowly being loaded to head to the hotel which was about three hours away.
Gabriella sat down next to him as only cheerleaders and basketball players went, but since Gabriella's dad was the coach, there were certain perks to being the daughter of Carlos Montez.
She was quiet, however, as she slouched in her spot and drew her knees up to rest against the squishy seat in front of her, kicking the back of the person in front of her.
"Oh great, I get the love birds behind me," Jason teased. "Chad, switch places with me!"
Chad's afro moved before his face actually came into view. He was sitting in the seat that was right across from Jason, with Taylor sitting in the aisle seat and him occupying the window spot.
"No way man. I'm perfectly fine here."
"Ha ha Cross. You're fucking hilar--" Troy trailed off as his eyes looked passed Jason and landed on the person who was now walking on the bus with a suitcase in hand. Jason noticed Troy's eyes looking at someone else and turned around himself to see that their dad was loading the bus, putting his stuff down in one of the first five seats of the bus that were declared the seats to hold luggage for the weekend.
"What the fuck?" Jason breathed out as Andrew Cross walked down the aisle a little bit more to sit near the middle of the bus where the three other basketball coaches were and Lucille Bolton.
The squad and basketball team were both taking a chaperone as Lucille Bolton was the only mother to volunteer to go, and Zeke's dad was supposed to come for the team.
"Baylor, where is your dad?" Chad asked as Sharpay and Zeke were sitting behind Chad and across from Gabriella and Troy.
Throughout all the talking going on around the bus there was one girl who was quiet the whole time every adult was getting ready to leave. She sat next to her boyfriend who she had come to learn was one of the sweetest guys she had ever known. He had opened her life to different things and people as she was now friends with people who she had only walked by in the school hallways. Troy was definitely a positive person in Gabriella's life, especially after losing her mother as he helped her cope so much, but he also played a dangerous part in her life. He was dangerous because if anything were to happen to him or their relationship, then Gabriella would be hurting even more. He was one of her weaknesses, and she was his.
And like all weaknesses, he was hurting her right at that moment without even realizing it. It was two weeks after his big birthday party and a day before they were meant to go back to school from winter vacation. Gabriella had gone over to Troy's house and they ended up deciding to just hang out in his living room playing his playstation 2.
"Want to go to my room to pick out a game while I get food from the kitchen?" Troy had asked with a sweet smile on his tan face. Gabriella found that she was becoming quick putty in his hands each time he flashed her his pearly whites.
"I'll be right back," Gabriella replied with a quick kiss to his lips before leaving his arms from the chair they were sitting in.
When Gabriella had entered his room she rolled her eyes at how messy it had been. Things were scattered around carelessly, but she could still vaguely picture Troy putting the controllers under his bed the last time they were playing. She sighed as she quickly moved his dirty clothes out of the way and knelt down by his bed, slowly lifting up the blanket to see under clearly.
The lighting in the room was enough to see the outline of things underneath the bed, and it only took a moment for Gabriella to see the cords to the controllers sticking out from behind an old looking shoebox.
It was when she took out the shoebox that she stopped in her tracks. The four letters on the outside of the box made her heart stop and then accelerate very fast. Her numb fingers gently placed the box down as if she was afraid the cardboard would break beneath her.
The four letters on the box spelled out one word.
She knew it was wrong of her to open that box, but she couldn't help it as curiosity got the better of her. If Troy really wanted her to know the full story of Lilly--even though she had heard more than enough from gossip around school--then he would tell her. Gabriella especially trusted Troy to tell her if he was still talking to Lilly. If she knew the whole story behind this mystery box, she wouldn't be as upset or confused about this situation.
She shut her eyes and took a deep breath to control herself before throwing the lid open to see many envelopes. There had to be at least twenty or more envelopes in there Gabriella mused to herself, all ripped open with paper sticking out of them. It hurt her seeing the unknown letters that Troy was keeping from her, but she had to remind herself that she wasn't even supposed to be seeing this. He must have a reason that he didn't want her to see them.
Unknown tears came to her eyes as she picked up the first letter on top of the pile. She was going to open it, but stopped.
She heard footsteps on the stairs next and she quickly put the shoebox away while grabbing the two controllers.
"Hey, I found a frozen pizza. You want to make that?" Troy asked as he stood in his doorway.
Gabriella had her back to him as she blinked back the tears that had come to her eyes. She put a smile on her face while finally looking at him. "Yeah. And after I kick your ass at playstation we're gonna have ice cream."
Gabriella hadn't told Troy yet that she found the letters. She didn't want to as she wanted him to tell her himself. She didn't want to pressure him into telling her or else the situation could turn even worst. But it was getting harder each day as each time they held hands, each time they had class together, and each time they would kiss she would be reminded of that stupid little shoebox under his bed. She couldn't stop thinking about him receiving yet another letter. Would it be today, would it be when they were gone for the cheer competition, or would it be next week? She hated not knowing what was going on in Troy's life when she wasn't with him.
But most importantly, she hated feeling like she had to compete with Lilly who didn't even go to their school for Troy's attention.
"You okay Brie?" Troy nudged her as the bus started moving forward and towards the street from the parking lot.
She looked at him with a forced smile. "Yeah. Of course."
Troy looked at her for a moment before letting his hand reach up to stroke her cheek lovingly. "This weekend should be fun?"
He was trying to get a conversation going. For the past three weeks something had been bugging her, and it was driving Troy crazy not knowing. He didn't want to seem like he was pushing her into talking about it, but he had been giving her every opportunity possible to bring up what was bothering her, but she just wasn't saying.
"Yeah," Gabriella sighed quietly before turning her head to look forward again.
Walking after a three hour bus ride felt good to do, even if you were walking with eleven other people, your biological father who you wanted nothing to do with, and your coach who was going to be assigning rooms.
"Todd and Zeke," Carlos called with a key in hand. "Room 313. Troy and Jason, room 314."
Troy and Jason both stepped forward as months ago this would have bothered Troy and Jason until something was changed, now they were both content on letting things happen. If they were meant to room together for two nights, then so be it. If anything, they had been becoming closer as friends as the more time they spent together with the team and Gabriella just hanging out, the more they seemed to find common interests, the more they were acting like brothers.
"Behave," Carlos warned when Jason took the key from his hand.
The two boys walked into their rooms, Jason automatically taking the bed near the window. "Toss me the remote, yeah?"
Troy looked at Jason with a quirked eye brow. "We just got here, don't you want to go down to the stadium to see where we're playing? Or maybe, I don't know, eat?" Troy asked. "Zeke and Chad were talking about seeing what the girls were up to and maybe doing a pool thing with them."
Jason started laughing at that. "Hell no. I know you're new here and everything, but I think you know Sharpay well enough to tell that she really, REALLY wants this award. It'll be difficult enough to talk to the girls much less get near their rooms to see what they're doing and who they're staying with. I'm good here. Remote please?"
Troy narrowed his eyes and shook his head while grabbing the room key. "Nope. I'm gonna go see the girls. You can get it yourself…little brother."
Jason rolled his eyes. "You can only say that so many times before it stops annoying me!" He yelled after Troy's back. He looked around the empty hotel room before deciding that anything was better than sitting there alone. He might as well watch some good entertainment as Sharpay was known to guard the girls like dogs.
"And I'm telling you Danforth, that if you want to see Taylor and talk to her, then you can do that when we're done practicing for the competition," Sharpay snapped as she stood in the archway to enter her hotel room which she was sharing with Gabriella and Taylor. Unlike the boys' rooming situation, they didn't have to go alphabetical. They just signed up with who they wanted to stay with.
Chad rolled his eyes as he tried to look past the small blonde to see into the room, but the door was providing a better shield than Sharpay. "You're not practicing in your room. I know that," he spat out in irritation.
"Shar," Zeke interfered, sensing Chad's loss of patience. "It's dinner time. We just want to know if you and your squad want to come out to eat with us."
Sharpay's eyes softened for a moment before she turned to look at Chad who was trying to peer past her again. "We brought our own food for the two nights. There's no way that I'm chancing someone getting food poisoning here."
"Hey, what's going on?" Troy asked walking over to Zeke and Chad with Jason tagging along behind him.
"The ice princess won't let us in to see Gabriella or Taylor," Chad said with another eye roll.
"Sharpay!" A shrill voice cut in with frantic need. A redhead who was on the cheer squad came running out of her room from down the hall, her eyes wide with fear or worry. "Sharpay, Emma is sick. She's puking up EVERYWHERE!"
Sharpay's face matched the redheaded girl's. "Fuck damn shit," she swore quickly before following after the panicked girl.
"I think that's my cue to follow to make sure that Sharpay doesn't do anything too rash." Zeke took long strides to follow his girlfriend, leaving the three guys to walk right into the room.
"Hello ladies," Chad announced happily as he sat down on one of the two king sized beds. Gabriella and Taylor were on the other one, just flicking through channels on the TV while eating a candy bar they purchased from a machine down the hall.
"How'd you get in? Shar has us on lockdown. Which is stupid because Gabriella isn't even competing this year," Taylor said with an undertone of frustration.
"Thanks for rubbing that in," Gabriella sighed with boredom. Neither girl seemed too thrilled to be in the room doing absolutely nothing. Taylor's thumb continually hit the button on the TV remote, not even looking at the stations anymore. "All I'm hearing today is 'Gabriella's not competing,' or 'Gabriella, you should really rethink your decision.' It's fucking ridiculous that even the teams we competed against last year are coming up to me as if we're friends," Gabriella grumbled as she crossed her arms over her chest in annoyance.
Troy walked over to Gabriella and planted a smooth kiss to her forehead. "Hey pretty girl," he whispered so that the others wouldn't hear.
Gabriella looked up and found it soothing to see Troy's bright blue eyes right before her. "Hey. How's your hotel room?"
"Eh, not bad."
"So I'm hungry, and while Sharpay is gone, let's get you two out of here while we can," Chad announced.
Taylor and Gabriella looked at each other, a slight glimmer of hope leaked into their eyes. They knew Sharpay's crazy schedule like the back of their hands. Even though Gabriella wasn't even performing anymore, she still knew what Sharpay was planning on doing. Starting at eight that night and going until eleven, Sharpay rented out the banquet hall so that their team could practice in there before the big competition. And then they also had an early morning practice before the competition tomorrow night. Sharpay also wanted to keep all cheerleaders away from basketball players due to distractions.
"Sounds good. Let's go," Taylor agreed.
Gabriella and Taylor both just had to grab their shoes and jackets before all five people could leave the room. They had to be somewhat quiet due to Lucille Bolton rooming right next to their room, and they technically weren't allowed to have boys in their rooms or else Lucille was meant to tell Carlos for severe consequences.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?!" Sharpay's voice demanded as the hotel door shut behind them. Gabriella and Taylor froze in their spots as the boys all groaned.
"To get real food. We're hungry," Gabriella complained.
"No you're not. We have practice now. Get your asses downstairs to the lobby for an emergency meeting," Sharpay demanded.
"I'm not on the squad anymore," Gabriella pointed out with a huff.
"Now you are. Emma is sick so we're down to nine girls. My routine needs ten girls, so you're back on and we're practicing all night so that you can learn the routine."
Gabriella knew that she couldn't fight with Sharpay as she sounded too determined.
"Spill bitch. What's wrong?" Sharpay sat down next to Gabriella as the cool wind brushed over their faces. Gabriella was sitting outside peacefully as it was quiet times like that when she had time to just sit down and think about her nearly perfect relationship with Troy. She could forget that he was still in contact with Lilly, and pretend that there was no issue that needed to be discussed.
Gabriella cracked a real smile. "Am I that transparent?"
Sharpay cocked an eye brow with her own sassy smile. "From a hundred miles away. So what's up? You seem to be picking up on the routine quickly. Almost too quickly," she accused with fake suspicion.
Gabriella wanted to laugh at Sharpay's antics of cheering her up, but she wanted to remain serious. It wouldn't hurt to talk to one person about her problems. "IthinkTroyisstillincontactwithLilly."
Sharpay blinked in surprise. "What? Repeat."
Gabriella took a slow breath to control herself once again. "I think Troy is still in contact with Lilly," Gabriella said slower this time. She turned away from her best friend and looked out at the view of the town before them. Sometimes it helped going to East High and having a few connections to nice hotels which overlooked the city.
They sat in silence as Sharpay followed Gabriella's actions and looked out over the city. It was dark out and they were only on a fifteen minute break, but it wasn't until Sharpay actually sat down with Gabriella that she realized that maybe she should switch out of crazy cheerleader mode and go into best friend mode.
"Gabi, I know I'm not Troy's biggest fan," Sharpay spoke slowly; delicately as she was choosing her words carefully, "but I see the way he looks at you."
Gabriella's head picked up a little as she was hanging onto Sharpay's every word.
"It's as if he's looking at you like you're the only one who matters. You seem to be his world as I overhear him sometimes talking to others and he's always saying good things about you."
"Then why is he talking to his ex?" Gabriella asked, nearly shrieking in frustration for not knowing.
"Maybe…he's not. Maybe Lilly is just being her natural self and trying to manipulate people," Sharpay spoke softly while putting her arm around Gabriella to bring her best friend closer in comfort. Gabriella was about to protest, but Sharpay cut in. "It's true Gabs. I know that you didn't talk to her, but I had a class with her, and she's not the nicest person in the world. She always wanted what she couldn't have, and right now Troy's is SO out of her reach, and she's probably just realizing that she lost him for good. She's desperate to have him back, and Troy's just…"
"Troy's just being his good self and trying not to hurt her feelings," Gabriella filled in as what Sharpay was saying sounded right. Although she didn't know for sure, maybe Sharpay was right. She usually was when it came to things, and Gabriella chose to believe her about the things she said about Lilly. Gabriella never was one to point out other's flaws and she wanted to find the good in everyone, but she really wanted to believe that Lilly was a bitch.
"Talk to him Gabs. You know you have to, and as head cheerleader, I'm demanding that you talk to him before the competition tomorrow and the basketball game on Sunday. 'Kay?"
Gabriella looked at her blonde friend. "Yes ma'am."
The blonde rolled her eyes. Although Gabriella chose not to be a cheerleader anymore, she realized that they didn't need that to remain friends. Gabriella would always have a spot in her heart, and the feeling was mutual as the two would always have each other's backs.
"You make me sound like a drill sergeant."
"That's because you sound like one when we're practicing!"
Troy smiled at the text he received from Gabriella five minutes earlier. She wanted to meet him down in the lobby so that they could talk. He suggested they go to his room for more privacy, but Gabriella insisted that they go down to the lobby, knowing that not too many people would be down there due to it being late.
Troy was walking down the hallway, smiling as he thought of Jason's antics of questioning him about where he was heading too. Troy knew that it was risky leaving as if Carlos saw him, he would be in trouble, but it wasn't as if he was playing in this game due to his shoulder. He still had another week before his doctor's appointment to find out if he could play in the play-off games.
He froze in his steps as he saw a door ten feet away from him open. He momentarily forgot who was in that room until Andrew Cross appeared.
Andrew looked startled for a moment as he came face to face with Troy. It was obvious that he wasn't expecting to see his first son out in the hallway.
"Troy," Andrew nodded in acknowledgement. "It's kind of late."
Troy bit his lip as Andrew was far from his favorite person in the world, but there was something he had to do. "Um…can I talk to you for a moment?"
Andrew didn't know how to react as he wasn't prepared to have a run in with Troy this weekend. He only found out that morning that he was coming along due to another dad dropping out from the trip.
"Sure," Andrew said. "Did you want to go in my room or--"
"No. That's not necessary." Troy looked at his biological father and saw a slight trace of similarities between them. "I just wanted to say thank-you."
Andrew's eye brows shot up in surprise. "I don't understand."
"Thank-you for taking me to the hospital back in December. I should have said something sooner, but--"
"Your welcome…son," Andrew said curtly.
Troy narrowed his eyes slightly, trying to remind himself that he should be grateful that Andrew helped him out. "Just because I'm thanking you and you helped me doesn't mean we're gonna start talking. You were out of my life for eighteen years, and that day isn't going to change anything."
Andrew narrowed his eyes a little at Troy's words. He wasn't expecting Troy to come to him freely, and if anything, he was a little proud at Troy's words. He was standing up for himself and it made Andrew a little proud, even if that means Troy's pushing him away still. It's not like he gave Troy any reassurance that he wanted to be in his life, so he couldn't expect anything more from his son.
"I have to get going, so…thanks." Troy started walking towards the elevator which was his key to taking him down to Gabriella.
Andrew watched his son with a small smile on his lips. "Your welcome son," he whispered.
When Troy walked into the lobby, the fireplace was lit up with a fake fire going, the lights were a little dimmed to create a more comfortable atmosphere, and people were barely walking around as it was getting late.
Gabriella was sitting on the white couch, her cheer uniform on with her knees curled up to her chest. She had her arms wrapped around her legs with her hair pulled back into a messy bun. She looked vulnerable…too vulnerable.
"Hey Brie," Troy greeted as he sat down next to her. He pushed a stray curl behind her ear and leaned in to kiss her just below the ear; knowing that was her favorite spot. Troy noticed instantly that she wasn't okay. "What's wrong?"
Gabriella had been trying the best way to go about the situation at hand. Obviously, her way of doing it before included avoidance and she was sick of it. Now she just had to figure out how to bring up the topic, but she found no easy ways. Instead, she just wanted to be blunt and see what would come of the situation.
"Are you still in contact with Lilly?"
Those seven words scared the crap out of Troy as he was sure he looked like a deer caught in headlights or a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He was frozen in his spot knowing that whatever he said would be one of the most important responses he could give. His next couple of words could affect his relationship with Gabriella in more than one way, and it terrified them both.
He spoke slowly as he tried to word his phrases together before speaking them, "Not…exactly."
"Then how exactly?" Gabriella countered.
"Where is this coming from?" Troy asked in surprise as he went to push another curl behind her ear, but she turned her head so that she was looking at him with more unshed tears in her eyes.
"Back in the beginning of the month I found the shoebox that you keep with letters inside," Gabriella admitted almost shyly. She didn't want to seem like a snoop.
Troy's face paled even more. Wishing he threw out that box long before Gabriella even happened. "You weren't supposed to see that," he muttered more to himself than Gabriella.
"Why Troy? Why would you write to her!?"
"Brie, I…it's not what you think. Please, just let me explain the whole story, and I promise I'll fix it. I'll fix us. Please?" Troy pleaded as he tentatively reached up and let his finger tips stroke her soft cheek. He was at least a little pleased that she let him touch her.
"I'm listening," Gabriella finally said in the smallest voice Troy had heard her use.
He sighed before beginning. "First off, I want to say that I am NOT writing her. I have not actually talked to her since she first left the previous year. She writes me, and at first it happened a lot, but now it's just like once every two or three weeks. I promise you that I am not writing her back. I don't even know why I keep the letters from her. I barely even read them as I open them, and then just leave them."
Troy looked at Gabriella as she still had unshed tears in her eyes. He tipped her chin up a little so that she was looking him in the eye. "I PROMISE you Brie that I did not mean to hurt you on purpose. I was going to throw away the letters soon, but…I just didn't as I totally forgot about them. She hasn't written to me in a month. I think she finally gets it."
Gabriella soaked up Troy's words like a sponge as what he was saying was comforting. "Get's what?"
Troy waited until Gabriella was looking at him again. "She finally gets that she lost. That we're done. That she ruined everything when she lived here."
"Why didn't you tell me about her sending you things? I feel like such an idiot that you were receiving these things from your ex-girlfriend Troy," Gabriella sniffled. "I would have understood if you were completely truthful with me."
"Gabriella, I swear to you that they meant nothing. They MEAN nothing. Believe me when I say that I love you, and only you. When we get home we can have a big bonfire with our friends and I can burn that box of letters. I don't care. I'll even let you have them and you can do whatever you want with them. Please don't cry."
Gabriella wiped her face with the back of her hand. She looked at Troy and saw complete honesty within his eyes. She just wanted to stop feeling weird, and she wanted to completely trust him again. Although it would take time to get back to normal, there was no reason for her to be upset with him when all she really wanted was for him to just be touching her somehow.
"I'm not crying. I'm okay now."
"Are you really? Because I know words can't just fix this, but I'm willing to make things better. We're gonna be better with no weirdness," Troy declared as that earned him a giggle from Gabriella.
"So you picked up on the weirdness, huh?"
Troy smiled as he leaned in closer to Gabriella. "Oh yeah. But…we're going to be okay, right? Did I screw up that badly where we have to break up?"
Even though he was joking Gabriella could still pick up on his nervous tone which was completely serious.
She wrapped her arms around him, glad that she actually had some answers. "I don't want to break up, so I think it's safe to say that you didn't screw us both over."
Troy chuckled before leaning in a little more, only to be met with Gabriella leaning in also. Their foreheads were resting against one another and their noses were touching gently.
"I love you Gabriella Montez. That will never change."
Gabriella smiled. "I love you too Troy Bolton."
"Now come here so I can hold you," Troy pulled back from Gabriella and opened his arms for her to snuggle into his chest while sharing the same couch cushion to sit on.
"We haven't done this in a while," Gabriella purred as Troy's arms wrapped around her slim torso.
Troy smiled before kissing her gently on the head. "It feels nice." Troy then added as an after thought, "Also, there's those basketball guys in the corner of the room that keep checking you out."
Gabriella rolled her eyes with a happy smile on her face. Although the 'Lilly' subject would be a little sore for a while, she was happy that Troy was honest with her. And even though it hurt to think about Troy's ex-girlfriend trying to contact him for months, she believed in Troy to make the right decisions, because that's all she could do.
She can believe and have faith in Troy because their relationship is stronger than any pity letters.
"Looking good Cross."
Jason spun around by the side of the pool and smiled at his best friend. "You're lookin' good yourself Montez. Where'd you dig that up from?" He teased.
Gabriella rolled her eyes with a big grin on her face. After she and Troy spent time together down in the lobby she knew that she should be going upstairs to get some sleep and she also knew Sharpay was probably freaking out about her whereabouts, but instead she noticed that the doors next to the elevator were see through glass leading out to the pool and one lone figure was out by the pool.
She and Troy had said their 'goodnights' as Troy knew where she was going, and it put a smile on his face to see her approaching her best friend.
Gabriella giggled before she twirled around, modeling the cheerleader uniform. "I guess Shar brought my old uniform with her."
"We always thought Sharpay was physic," Jason mused as he walked around the side of the pool to be closer to Gabriella.
"I feel like we deserve gold stars for guessing right," Gabriella joked along with him.
Jason smiled at her as seeing her smiling finally for real now put a smile on his own face. "You know Montez, I think this year has been okay for us so far."
Gabriella looked at Jason as she let his words process in her mind. "I think you're right Cross. It's been scary as hell and--"
"Confusing as hell?" Jason supplied with a teasing smile.
"And sad as hell," Gabriella finished. "But I'm happy, and you're happy so that makes me happy also."
"Oh yeah," Jason rolled his eyes sarcastically. "And the fact that you're basically screwing my brother doesn't make you happy?"
Gabriella giggled as Jason flashed her a million dollar smile before turning serious again. "Jase, I'm really falling for him. Like not just in love, but like head over heels, can't eat can't sleep without him kind of love."
"Come here," Jason whispered.
"I'm not getting any closer to the edge. I bet you want to push me in," Gabriella stated; unimpressed with what Jason is thinking.
He rolled his brown eyes. "Stop being stubborn and get your small ass over here."
Gabriella sighed and huffed her way over to Jason. She stood facing him, coming nearly a head shorter than him. "What?"
"I think I'm gonna ask Kelsi out," he whispered as if it was the biggest secret in the world, which was probably HIS biggest secret in a while since his usual type of girl isn't nice-pretty-musician type.
Gabriella nearly squealed in her spot as she threw her arms around her best friend. "Oh my God! That's great!"
A grin broke out onto Jason's face. It's an understatement if he said he was hardly afraid. He had never really had problems with girls before, but Kelsi was different. It was time he tried something new and broke his bad habits and Kelsi was cool to hang out with as he always had a fun time with her when she hung out with their group.
"Yeah. It really is."
Gabriella pulled back from him with her teeth showing in an over ecstatic smile. "Can you believe this Jase? Did you actually picture us here giddy in excitement when at the beginning of the school year you couldn't even stand to hear Troy's name?"
Jason chuckled. "I think you're too excited Gabi. Time to get you to bed or Shar is gonna flip a shit that Troy and I kept you out late tonight, and then you won't have either brother."
They started walking inside when Gabriella laughed a little. "You make it sound like I own you two."
"Gabi, when are you gonna learn?"
"You're stuck with us."
"Are you reconsidering about joining the squad?" Sharpay asked with giddiness. She sat with Zeke on the hotel's couch in the lobby.
Gabriella shrugged as she stole a chip out of the bag Troy was eating from. They were cuddled together on the chair that was slightly larger for two people. But with the way Troy and Gabriella were squished in it, another person or two could share it with them.
A nice shiny gold trophy was sitting on the coffee table, in the middle of the seven friends.
"Maybe. It was fun, just…I really don't know. I know I promised Kelsi I'd help her with her musical stuff. So that might take up time and I have tutoring," Gabriella said with a lopsided grin.
"Tutoring? Yeah right," Chad muttered as he was sitting next to Taylor on the other half of the couch that Zeke and Sharpay weren't taking up.
"Too bad Kels couldn't come this weekend. I bet Carlos would have let her on the bus," Jason mused as he was eating his own chips too.
"What is that supposed to mean Chad?" Troy hissed in defense.
"Nothing," he said innocently. "I just wished someone would tutor me the way that Gabs tutors you."
He was smacked with a pillow by Taylor as she rolled her eyes at him.
"You are SO immature sometimes. Honestly, do you really think Troy would be passing his math class if Gabriella wasn't tutoring him?"
Troy looked at Taylor. "Thanks Tay? I don't know if that was an insult to my ability for math or you were defending me."
"It was both," she said and nearly everyone laughed as Troy just grumbled good heartedly.
"So is anyone else tired?" Sharpay asked. "Because I'm just ready for Spring Break already."
Zeke laughed. "Shar, we just had Winter Break."
"But we have finals coming up soon, and then play-offs. Which by the way Troy, is your shoulder good to go?" Jason asked.
Troy's hand which was slowly stroking up and down Gabriella's arm halted it's movement and they silently joined hands instead. Troy smiled, "Feels fucking fantastic. I think it's ready to go. Plus, the doctor said the last time we saw him I was healing a lot faster than what he thought I would."
"Looks like the Fantastic Four will be back next week," Taylor said.
It was a title that Taylor said which made each boy stop and think about all the changes that year.
One boy had been on the basketball team previously with Zeke and Jason and had not been particularly close with them until that year. He was best friends with Jason's 'enemy' and supposedly that was against one of the major rules, but yet, he was sitting next to Taylor McKessie on a couch, sharing a drink with her as they were now English partners at school.
Another boy sat with a blonde attached to his hip. He had put up for years with Jason's little tantrums about his half brother and father. He was Gabriella's replacement for when she wasn't around Jason would find him and that's how their friendship took place. He reached out to Chad and Troy instantly as he knew Jason wouldn't like it, but Zeke remained an easy going guy and tried to please everyone. It was like a weight was lifted off his shoulder the instant he stopped listening to Jason complain about his fucked up family.
Jason Cross had to have changed the most out of all four boys as his view on school changed, his view on basketball, and his view on life. The death of Anna Montez hit him hard, but it hit his best friend harder and he had to grow up and be there for her. And part of being the comfort friend for Gabriella was finally accepting that Troy Bolton was his brother and nothing would change that. He watched his best friend fall in love, and he was pretty certain that with each passing day he spent with Kelsi in school and outside of school that he could have that with her if he tried hard enough.
Troy held Gabriella tighter with a smile on his face as he looked around his friends watching them interact. His life was mixed up the instant he stepped foot on the basketball court for try-outs. He watched his friends from before basketball and his friends after basketball blend together as it was still amazing to him that his life was the way it was. He never thought for a moment that he could feel this good, and it was only the beginning for him and Gabriella.
"You're quiet," Gabriella murmured so that no one else could hear. Although, even if she was talking in her regular voice, she was still certain that no one else would hear due to everyone else being in their own discussions.
Troy pressed a kiss to the side of Gabriella's head before she tilted her head up; indicating that she wanted a kiss on the lips.
"I suppose," Troy mused before covering her own plump lips with his own. They both were grinning when they pulled back after the sweet exchange. "The Fantastic Four. Taylor has good names."
Gabriella patted Troy's thigh in agreement with her free hand. "You know, I never thought I'd find love in high school."
"Really now?" Troy asked.
"Really. But then you came along, and…you changed us Troy. You changed everyone here, and it's amazing."
"Come here," Troy whispered as he wanted to kiss her right there and then.
"Hey Gabi, take your hands off my brother!" Jason exclaimed while throwing a pillow at the two; interrupting their moment together.
"I hate you," Gabriella said, but couldn't keep the smile from spreading on her face.
"We're going to the back of the hotel to play some ball. They have a hoop and everything. You in Bolton?" Zeke asked as it seemed everyone was starting to stand up to head outside.
"Don't you remember? Bad shoulder," Troy said in a 'duh' way, but felt Gabriella shifting off his lap anyway.
"Play with your other arm. Plus, you said it was nearly better. Come on," Chad encouraged.
After Troy reluctantly agreed, all seven of the teenagers started heading towards the back exit. Gabriella knew Troy really wanted to play even though he put up a little fight. It was in his blood to play; just like it was in Jason's blood and Andrew's blood and Andrew's father's blood. It ran in the family and nothing could change that.
"Teams?" Jason asked.
"You can have the Troy Cripple Bolton against me and Baylor," Chad called out with a laugh as all four boys took their spots on the court. Jason and Zeke were both jumping for the ball due to being the tallest of the two teams.
"Gabs, want to help us out?" Jason called out even though he knew he didn't have to ask and she would just do it.
Gabriella took the basketball Chad passed to her and stood in between Zeke and Jason ready to throw it up.
She glanced at both teams smiling as she was content with how things were. A picture can speak a thousand words, and in this case, if someone were to snap a shot of all seven friends, they would be right.
"Think fast Bolton," Gabriella said before throwing it to him instead of straight into the air.
"Unfair. Girlfriends can no longer be referees!" Chad joked before the game began.
Troy looked surprised for a moment before finally dribbling the ball with his good hand and winking at Gabriella when he passed her.
Gabriella cheered the loudest for Jason and Troy as she knew Jason was right before.
She was stuck with them.
And she wouldn't have it any other way.