Summary: "I just can't believe she's gone, you know. One minute she's there, the next she's not…it was just so sudden." Written for the ZA Angels Write-off Challenge: Holly's Theme.
Disclaimer: High School Musical and all of its characters belong to Disney. I'm just borrowing them for a while…besides, Disney would never let their characters have this much fun!
A/N: Here's my (admittedly short) entry for Holly's new Write-off theme: Troy and Gabriella in the aftermath of a tragedy. I was planning on writing a properly dark and sorrowful one-shot but my muse had other ideas as you will discover. And to anyone waiting for another instalment in my Interludes series of one-shots, I'm sorry but it may be a while, I'm currently focused on writing a rather long tale for the other fandom I write for, Twilight.
I stood nervously on the doorstep, my hands shoved deep into the pockets of my jacket. Part of me wanted to run, to leave so I didn't have to face the conversation I knew was coming. I had been running over what I would say the entire walk over here, but when it came down to it, it was a situation I was unfamiliar with and I wasn't entirely sure how to handle it. Almost unconsciously, my body started to turn away from the house but the motion was halted as the front door opened and Coach Bolton's relieved features appeared, backlit by the warm light coming from inside the entryway.
"Gabriella, I'm so glad you could come."
Though the first time I had met my boyfriend's father had not exactly been the warmest of meetings, the amount of time I had spent with Troy at his house and at school meant that I now knew Jack Bolton well, or rather he knew me and the warmth in his tone was not a new occurrence. A year ago the thought that Troy's father would actually be pleased to see me would have been entirely foreign but now it was a regular incidence, especially since he believed Troy performed better at basketball after spending time with me.
My inner musings were cut short as he stepped back from the doorway to allow me entrance into the house, the faint sounds of the television echoing in the background.
"How's he holding up?" I asked.
"Not too good," came the reply, "He hasn't come out of his room since we left the graveyard…but if anyone can help, it would be you."
I blushed, not as confident in my skills as a pseudo-grief counsellor as Coach Bolton was.
"I'll see what I can do."
Heading up the stairs, I came to a stop outside the closed wooden door behind which was my boyfriend's inner sanctum, marked by the basketball-themed plaque declaring 'Troy's Room'. It was slightly childish but represented part of his charm, the inner little boy who still slept in a room with a giant basketball as a headboard and spent hours arguing the merits of Twinkies vs. Ho-Ho's with Chad.
I gently knocked on the door three times before calling out,
"Troy, it's Gabriella. Can I come in?"
For a moment there was nothing but silence emanating from the room, then came the sound of a bed creaking, shuffling feet, a quiet bang and a muttered curse before the door swung open to reveal Troy's handsome countenance…though at this particular point in time, that would not be the first adjective that would spring to mind.
His normally styled yet floppy hair was in a state of disarray, his clothes rumpled and marred by a giant dirt stain and his eyes were red-rimmed, though I knew that if I asked, he would deny that it was from crying.
"Hi," I said softly, not making any moves to step any closer.
"Hi," he replied just as softly, "What are you doing here?"
I didn't reply verbally, just pulled him into a hug. He buried his head against my neck and his arms came up to wrap around my waist. We stood there for a moment, not talking nor moving, just sharing comfort before I stepped back and answered his question,
"I came to see how you are."
He blinked dazedly for a few moments as I could see his mind processing my reply before standing back to let me in and shutting the door with a snick behind me. He walked back to the bed, haphazardly throwing himself across it, one hand thrown across his eyes. I lay down next to him, intertwining his free hand with my own and waited for him to speak, knowing that if I pushed he would shrug off my concern.
"I just can't believe she's gone, you know. One minute she's there, the next she's not…it was just so sudden."
His voice came with a sigh, grief colouring his tone. I reached up to stroke my fingers through his hair, the motion causing him to turn his body towards me so we lay face-to-face on the bed.
"I had all these plans, all these things we were going to do together, places we were going to go, people we were going to visit. She was always there when I needed her, she never let me down, not once and now I will never see her again. Never hear her, or smell her or touch her, never…"
I couldn't help it, the veil of seriousness I had worked so hard on cultivating on the walk over here, the resolve to understand his grief came unravelled as he waxed lyrical about her and a giggle escaped my lips. His rambling monologue came to a halt and his eyes narrowed.
"Are you laughing at me?" he demanded.
"No, no," I tried to deny, desperately attempting to school my features into the appropriate expression of sorrow.
"You are!" he exclaimed, "Gabriella Montez, have you no respect for the dead?"
His outraged expression broke me completely and I collapsed into a fit of laughter.
"I'm sor…sorry Wildcat," I managed to stutter out, "But you're eulogising a truck, a truck!"
He crossed his arms against his chest and affected an insulted air, his voice heated as he glared at me,
"Ella was not just a truck, she was a perfect specimen of vintage automotive engineering! She was beautiful and reliable and perfect and now she's nothing more than a cube of scrap metal left to rust in the automotive graveyard."
His glare continued to burn into me for a second, our faces frozen at an impasse before his upper lip curled upwards minutely, soon morphing into a full-blown sheepish smile.
"I'm being stupid, aren't I?"
I bit my lip, and after a moment's deliberation nodded in agreement, a smile emerging on my face as I answered,
"Yep, but I think it's sweet, Ella was lucky to have such a…passionate owner."
I leant forward to punctuate my statement with a kiss, one that was enthusiastically returned, before resting my head against his chest, secretly glad that he seemed to be back to normal. We lay in silence for a while before Troy tentatively asked,
"Does this mean you'll help me build a memorial for Ella in the garage?"
Make that somewhat normal.