Title: Challenge Accepted
Author: Oliver Harpst
Rating: T, for mild physicality and language
Summary: What had started out as a friendly bet was quickly becoming one of the worst decisions of Troy Bolton's life. TxG
Disclaimer: I only wish that I owned HSM. I only wish. :sigh:
Author's Note: Somehow, in between the idea stage and the writing stage, this story lost a little bit of whatever made it good. D:
What had started out as a friendly bet was quickly becoming one of the worst decisions of Troy Bolton's life.
Not only renowned for his immeasurable charm and athletic prowess, Troy Bolton was also legendary for a lifetime of bad decisions; some, no doubt, spurred by his less-than-wisdom-bearing friends, but generally the result of his own inability to refuse a challenge. There was, for example, the time a fellow first grader had mentioned that humans could not make wings out of towels and fly -- it took Troy one leap from the monkey bar and a visit to the emergency room to prove that yes, the boy had been right. Or again in fifth grade, when Chad had casually hinted that no one really could drink a gallon of milk in under a minute -- as Troy then found out, the impossibility lies in doing it without vomiting horribly afterwards.
If there was one phrase his parents wished to ban from Troy's vocabulary, it would be that which often proceeded one of said bad decisions: "challenge accepted."
This was, in simplest form, the root of all Troy's bad decisions. Competetive on the court as well as off, there was a small voice inside Troy's head that refused to allow any challenge -- whether that challenge were serious, in jest, or sometimes even unspoken -- to go past his notice without rising to the occasion. It was something that, in his younger years, had caused for six broken arms, three hundred and seventeen stitches, and the first-name relationship between his parents and the thirty doctors of Lovelace Medical Center's Emergency Room. As friends and family caught on to the boy's obsession with proving others wrong (or right), the words "I bet," "It's impossible," and "You can't" were quickly removed from everyday speech, the ideas behind them kept guarded in the hopes of sparing Troy another cast, or his parents another doctor's bill. By the age of seventeen, Troy had been accident free for almost six months -- the last case of his misguided science having resulted in the New Year's karaoke, after realizing that by saying 'I can't sing' he was essentially challenging himself... and the subsequent less spoken of 'I can't ski a Black Diamond' incident, which resulted in his family's early departure from the Ski Lodge and a brief visit to their old friends at Lovelace.
Life after Twinkle Towne had brought with it, in addition to the sublime changes among the student body of East High, the blooming relationship between Troy and Gabriella. After tap dancing the line between friends and more than for almost two weeks, they had finally admitted the mutual attraction levels that existed and began dating. Now, swiftly approaching a high school relationship milestone of The Six Month Anniversary, their friends could hardly imagine a day where the two were not so wrapped up in the other's love that they induced comas in nearby diabetics, and bouts of stomach cramps in any watching cynics.
Not that they didn't try.
"Would you put down the damn phone and at least pretend you're having a good time?" Chad swatted at the hand that was reaching purposefully towards the cell phone laying discarded in the center of the coffee table, and grinned when Troy yelped. "Shit, man. She hadn't texted you back when you checked ten seconds ago, and she hasn't texted you since. Jesus, Bolton." Properly chastised, Troy leaned back into the couch and focused instead on the television screen in front of them; they had, thanks to Troy's frequent pauses to check his phone, been playing the same level in Halo for the past hour.
"Sorry, Chad." Troy's offhand comment was anything but, and the way his eyes darted towards his cell phone only proved that he wasn't. Zeke and Jason, overhearing from their game of pool, snickered at Chad's attempt to bring Troy's thoughts to anything that was not his girlfriend. They hadn't even started dating when she overtook his thoughts, and it had only gotten worse from there; in fact, it was only a practice for the Academic Decathalon that had Troy spending time with them at all, and even that time was constantly interrupted by the couple texting each other every five minutes or so. As if on cue, the phone's jingle and vibration had Troy lunging to grab it.
Chad launched a pillow at his head. "Hey Romeo! Hands off the phone!"
Zeke tossed his pool cue on the table and wrestled for the phone. "Damnit, Troy!"
Jason merely laughed and lined up another shot. "Whatever, guys. I bet Troy couldn't go a whole day without talking to Gabriella."
The three boys who had, until then, been fighting for possession of the phone, froze in place and whipped their attention to Jason just as his sunk his shot. Sensing their eyes on him, he turned. "What?"
"What did you say?" Zeke hissed.
"I said that I bet Troy couldn't go a whole day without talking to Gabri-"
"Shut the hell up, Jason!" Chad was frantically gesturing the boy, who had only know Troy for two years as opposed Zeke's six and Chad's fourteen, to be quiet.
Troy's eyes were no longer glued to his phone. They were locking gazes with Jason, his confused and Troy's a hard sort of stare, his blue eyes intense. "Challenge accepted."
It was 11:59 pm, and the boys were all crowded around the clock in the kitchen as they waited for it to strike midnight. Chad was cajoling his best friend, trying to reason through what he knew was a hopeless endeavor. "Come on, man. You don't have to do this. We all know you can, it's totally cool. Right, guys?"
"Oh yeah," Zeke threw him a thumb's up. "You don't need to prove it. We believe you."
The clock chimed midnight, and Troy's intense gaze had yet to go away. "Alright. Starting now. One day." He brought his gaze back to his friends, and a determined smile slithered its way across his face. "Let's do this." Making a quick note on his cell phone, he turned on his heel and headed towards his room, as if to go to bed.
Both Chad and Zeke rounded on the still confused Jason, who although wondering what the hell was going on knew enough to look afraid at the death glares that were attempting to light his head on fire with anger. "What have I told you about never making a bet with Troy Bolton??"
Troy awoke with the feeling that today was going to be a perfect day. It was a Saturday, the last before the school year ended, and for the first time in a very long time, he had nothing to do. That is, until the annual Not-Quite-The-End-Of-The-Year Party at Zeke's house this evening (not to be confused with the annual End-Of-The-Year Party at Chad's or the Really-The-End-Of-The-Year Party at his). He stretched, reaching to his bedside table for his cell phone, and flipped it open for his customary 'Good morning' message to Gabriella... and was stopped in his tracks by the note that had replaced a picture of him and Gabriella as his wallpaper.
Jason bets you can't talk to Gabriella for one day.
Ends at midnight.
"Are you serious??" He leapt from bed to his computer, and quickly signed into MSN messenger; despite the early hour, all of his friends were already online. With six simultaneous blips on his laptop screen, a message window from Chad, Jason, Zeke, Gabriella, and Chad again twice popped up. He scanned through the ones from the boys first, noting with a wry grimace that the first three all read the same thing as the wallpaper on his phone, and the last two from Chad reading only 'Hah' and 'Hah.' After going through each of those twice and then angrily closing the windows, he checked the one from his girlfriend.
'Hey Wildcat. What are you doing before Zeke's?'
"Damn it," he leaned back in his chair, running fingers through hair that was still awkwardly angled from sleep. His hands itched to type a response to her, almost as much as a tingling presence somewhere in his body demanded to call her and hear her voice. But, in addition to his charm, athleticism, and horrible decisions, Troy Bolton was famous for being a man of his word... not that it had ever come up before now, as it seemed that only Gabriella could break through the competitive fog that clouded his rational thought, but Troy was never one to go back on a bet after is had been accepted. And, having so clearly and dramatically agreed to accept his first challenge in nearly six months, Troy had no intention of failing. "Damn it," he repeated.
He groaned. Seeing no other alternative, he opened the window to his one-sided chat with Chad that had, in the past minute, grown to included a few more 'Hah Hahs.' 'Chad,' he typed into the screen. 'You need to message Gabi and tell her about the bet.'
There was a pause while his friend typed. 'Sorry, man. Wouldn't that count as you talking through me?'
'Hey, I don't make the rules.'
Of course he was right. After the initial bet had been laid down, accepted, and then glared at for awhile, the boys had settled on a list of rules for his whole day without talking to Gabriella. The first rule was that he could not talk to Gabriella. The second rule, which was generally ignored and had only been thrown in by Chad in an attempt to lighten the mood, was that there was no talking about Fight Club. The third rule was that Troy could not force, coerce, bribe, pay, or threaten any of his friends into talking to Gabriella for him. And the fourth, somewhat most infuriating rule, was that Troy could not communicate with Gabriella through any non-verbal forms either, unless he used his telepathy (again supplied by Chad).
He sighed, and set his away message to read 'Busy with the folks. Catch you later' and hoped that would be enough to convince Gabriella that he wasn't ignoring her.
After occupying himself by watching the director's cut of Gabriella's favorite movie Titanic, Troy was pleased to note that he had under twelve hours left in the bet. However, he was less pleased to note that he had, in desperation, spent the past three hours and seventeen minutes watching not only a chick flick, but a chick flick that he hated. Justifying it with the knowledge that it was the longest movie they owned, he turned the TV off and tried to think of another way to distract him from the three missed calls on his cell phone, and the now incessant tingling that had magnified to the area of his brain and chest. He needed to talk to Gabriella.
Sneaking his cell phone with him into the hall closet, he began entering her number... only to be stopped by Chad calling in. "What do you want?"
"Just to keep you from quitting on the bet."
Troy laughed, but even over the phone it sounded forced. "I wasn't going to-"
"Troy," he heard Chad's voice on the other side of the door. "I never thought I'd be saying this to you, but forget your girlfriend and get the hell out of the closet." The door opened, revealing the smirking face of his best friend who had obviously just let himself into the house with his spare key. When a sheepish Troy emerged, Chad shook his head and tsked softly. "This isn't like you, Danger Boy," the nickname had stuck from the doctors at Lovelace after Troy's fourth visit in a month.
Troy grinned, the name bringing back all the old (and sometimes repressed) memories of his previous challenges. "You're right," he clasped his friends' shoulder. "This isn't like me. Thank Chad."
"No problem, man. By the way, Gabi called me. She's been trying to get a hold of you all day." With a final smile at Troy's frustrated expression, he grabbed the basketball that lay discarded near his feet and led the way to the basket in the driveway.
Troy followed after picking his jaw up from the same area as the basketball, muttering the entire way, "I fucking hate you, Jason."
Chad had managed to keep his friend distracted for the majority of the day, either with their seventy-eight games of one-on-one in the driveway, or the four episodes of Family Guy they were currently making their way through. The talking and laughing had, for the most part, kept Troy's mind from counting down the minutes since he had last heard Gabriella's voice, but it was still there in the back of his mind. They were headed to Zeke's in half an hour, and from there he only had to avoid her for two hours until the bet was over. Sighing happily, Troy realized in that moment that he could do this. Not only that, he would. "Alright."
"Troy!" his mother stuck her head through the door, covering the phone in the other as she spoke to him. "It's Gabriella on the phone. She wants to know if you're picking her up, or if she should get a ride with Taylor. What should I tell her?" Shit. He looked wide-eyed at Chad, who only grinned and mouthed 'Rule Three' before returning to the episode of Family Guy that was playing. "Troy?"
"Nothing!" he leapt over the back of the couch, all but sprinting towards his bedroom. "Tell her nothing! We didn't talk! Just... make something up! Stop hounding me!!" Upstairs, his door slammed.
When Mrs. Bolton looked to Chad, he masked his amusement to shrug helplessly. She sighed. "Gabriella, dear... I think you should get a ride with Taylor. Troy... Troy's a little insane today."
Troy was nervously lingering near the stairwell of Zeke's house, most of his attention spent scanning the room for a familiar set of dark curls. So far he had managed to avoid seeing her, but he also strongly suspected that of being because she had not yet arrived. One hand was clenching his drink so tightly that that quiet, rational part of him warned to loosen his grip before it shattered. He realized only then that the soft, rational voice was, in fact, Chad, who maneuvered the drink out of his vice-like grip and gave him a plastic cup instead. Noting the way his best friend scanned the room every three seconds and the nervous jiggling of his leg that he only got when he was three-fourths of the way towards a galactic meltdown, Chad tried to talk to him. "Hey man. Only an hour and a half left."
"Yeah." Troy started when he saw a dark-haired girl approaching him, his body tensing like he was about to run, but when she turned towards the kitchen he relaxed. Barely. "And she's not here even, so we're good."
Chad's eyebrows had raised in alarm at how badly 'Danger Boy' was taking this bet. It had been so easy for him to slide like a penguin down the stairs in the cafeteria their freshman year -- which resulted in a cap on one of his canines and fourteen stitches on his chin -- and yet not talking to a girl for twenty-four hours was this hard for him. Troy was starting to freak just a little bit, and that in turn was frightening Chad. "Hey man, listen, about this bet-" He was interrupted by an all too familiar giggle from the front door.
"Hey Gabi," they both heard Zeke say. "Yeah, I think he's over by the stairs with Troy." Knowing the house as well as they did, it would be ten seconds before she turned the corner from the hallway, and another seven before she reached them. The two locked glances, Troy's panicked and Chad's only slightly more calm, before Troy bolted up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Somewhere in the forbidden regions of the upstairs, a door slammed.
"Hey Chad." He leapt when her voice came from right next to him. "Have you seen-"
"No!" Somehow, the desperation of the bet and its cursed Rule Three had rubbed off onto Chad. "No I haven't!" Ignoring her confused glances, he hurried towards the backyard.
"Come on come on come on come on..." Troy's leg jiggled at least seven times with each passing second, and he watched the numbers count down on his cell phone. He had locked himself in the upstairs bathroom when he heard Gabriella enter the party, and for the past hour and twenty minutes had just sat in the bath tub and watched the seconds tick by. And now, there were only thirteen seconds until midnight.
He headed to the door, unlocking it and scooting around the couple that had been making out against it to head for the stairs.
Chad was in the same spot he had left him in, and he shot Troy a sly grin.
"JASON!" The partygoers froze at Troy's sudden yell, which could be heard even over the music. A few spilled their drinks in shock, and all eyes were glued to him as he stalked towards the cowering figure that was trying desperately to hurl itself out a nearby window. "I am going to fucking KILL you." His friends were quickly intervening, patting him on the back with various 'Good job man' and 'Hey you did it' while Jason made his ungraceful escape into the front garden.
A soft cough at his elbow was a better distraction, and he turned to face the petite girl who stood there, one eyebrow raised. "Where have you been all day?"
He swept her into a kiss, one hand at the small of her back pulling her body against his and the other tangled in her hair. Their lips pressed against each other, he lifted her almost off her feet so that he could deepen the kiss. "Locked in the bathroom upstairs," he managed between kisses, whispering against her mouth for only her to hear. "It's a long story," he moved down her neck, nipping lightly in all the places he knew drove her crazy. "I missed you."
"Alright," Chad drawled. "You made it... could you at least get a room?"
"Pfft," Jason scoffed, having reentered when the threat level began making out with its girlfriend. "You wish." Ignoring the frantic gestures and glares from his teammates, he continued his sentence without thinking. "I bet he couldn't go a whole day without touching Gabriella."
It wasn't until that terrifying, intense blue stare met his that he clamped his hands over his mouth and realized what he had done.