IMPORTANT NOTE: Despite everything I said, this is NOT going to be the last chapter of this story. The chapter grew too long as I wrote it, so I divided it up into two chapters. I'm not finished with the last one, so I don't know when that's gonna be up, but I certainly hope that it's not gonna take as long as this one. This one's from Troy's POV, so I hope you enjoy it :]
Alright guys! Here I am with the fifth instalment of my story ‚First bad habit'! Gosh, I can't say how eternally grateful I am for all the great reviews I got after I posted the fourth chapter. I update in the evening and the next morning I check my e-mail account and see that I got 35 mails. You guys rock! I was so amazed because I never would have guessed that so many people would be fond of this story :) In a way, this has become my favourite story because I've never written something this emotional before, so it means really much to me that all of you seem to like it.
I'm sorry that – once again – it took me so long to make this update, but you already know part of my reasons as I explained them in the note you received – what? A century ago? As I mentioned: I'm sorry. But then I went on holidays and it really seems as if this isn't my year, because eight weeks after the last, we had a new death in the family. I guess it kinda threw me over board. Then I started school again and let me tell you, eleventh grade together with being a senior for the first year (yep, we get three years of being a senior) isn't a walk in the park. Anyways, it's been a pretty long time and much happened: I got sixteen (yeah!), my exams are over and I'll write the next ones in three years.
Soo, this chapter is dedicated to Kristyna. You can all thank her, because she was the original reason why this chapter is out in its divided version. Thanks for your support, Kris. You know I love you for it :]
Disclaimer: I own only the plot of this story, the characters belong to Disney. I also don't own the song 'About you now' by either the PussyCat Dolls or Miranda Crosgrove (whichever version you prefer). It's a great song, but the credits go to someone else than me. This story is intended solely for entertainment. No copyright infringement intended. No profit made. Does that cover about everything? I think so. Also, I just noticed that I used the word 'iPod' in this one… don't own that either, but then again you already know that, because why would a technical genius like the owner of the copyrights on the iPod patent write stories on FFN?
Recap of the last chapter:
It was no wonder that she loathed him. Hell, right now he wondered why she hadn't killed him in his sleep. He knew he couldn't relay on proofs anymore. Whatever he had with Gabriella would need to be built on trust, not on facts. But he wasn't sure if he still had the trust Gabriella had once hold for him. He inhaled deeply. What was he thinking? It was obvious that Gabriella didn't trust him anymore. How could she? He had let her down so many times. But there had to be something he could do to build that trust back up. There just had to. And slowly, there was a plan forming in his head.
He'd probably have to run the gauntlet later on, but for now he didn't care about that. He wanted Gabriella back and he would do whatever it took to convince her that she could trust him this time round. He would never hurt her purposefully again. For once in his life, Troy Bolton had a goal to reach. And he would do everything it took to make Gabriella his.
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Chapter 5 – About you know
It was going to be hard. He knew that. It was going to be hard, because for once in his life he would have to work for something. She had made that crystal clear and he was ready to work it, for he understood her. Understood her probably better than she could ever imagine. He wasn't actually the ice block he always seemed to be. Sure, he had done a damn good job of conveying that image, and so for it had worked for him. But he was ready to chance his ways. Ready to let go of his reputation, ready to sent the rest of his clique to hell of they tried to prohibit him finally doing what he had been waiting to do for so long.
He could see that now. Yes, when he had started high school and his popularity as one of the best basketball players the court of East High had ever seen had sky-rocketed, he'd seen the need to turn himself into someone void of emotions in order to protect himself from going under. And he hadn't really minded… until the young boy he'd once been had turned into the young man that he was today. As his academically knowledge had grown, so had his emotional intelligence and the feeling of living a life without any sense but taking care of his status at school had become overpowering.
Still he hadn't seen the light. Instead of accepting what his heart was telling him, he'd simply taken mind over matter, fearing that changing his ways and giving his life new options would only result in bringing him down. Pretending to be someone he had never been, however, had become harder and harder to do each day, until he had had no other choice but to add further layers to his masquerade to keep it upright. And so he had become the one everyone feared and everyone loved. He'd come out at the top of the food chain and it had had its perks.
But a small part of him had always been fighting against his very own decision. He'd known that part existed, for he'd spent a good time holding it on the lock-down. And he'd always been successful. Until Gabriella had come along. The liaison with her had reminded him so much of the old Troy and it had scared him. Scared him to the point of purposely drawing her in and crushing her badly afterwards. With her, there's been a good chance of him showing more than his usual amusement and coldness. Way more than that. And his acquired self-defence had kicked in. How dared she trying to break down the walls he'd built up for so long? The realization that she wasn't even trying had only fuelled his anger. She obviously had bewitched him and he was powerless. Completely at her mercy. So he had pulled all registers to turn the tables. And he'd come out on top as always, hurting Gabriella in the process. But still that small part of him had continued growing and now he was ready.
That, however, didn't mean that he knew what to do now. He had never done anything remotely like this. And that wasn't the only problem. When had been the last time that he had cared enough about a female to make an effort? It didn't surprise him that he was only able to come up with two persons: his mother and Carrie Winters, the obligatory crush every boy went through in elementary school. Not that she'd ever given him the time of day, but then again he hadn't been nearly as popular as he was now. By the time she finally had noticed him, they had already gone through elementary and junior high school and he had discovered that he was able to make every single female in his vicinity swoon. His next method had been to chat up all of her friends and to avoid her herself like plaque. It hadn't been very nice, but incredibly satisfying.
And now there was Gabriella. As it was very clear that she was way more important than Carrie Winter had ever been and all the evidence pointed in the direction of him being emotionally challenged, there was only one conclusion to come to: He needed help. Desperately. He wiped out his cell phone and began to make his way out of the woods, furiously typing in the number of the only person who would be able to support him. Keeping his phone attached to his ear, he got a move on, suddenly wanting to talk to someone about this mess. All he got was the answering machine that relayed the fact that the owner of the phone in question was currently not available and the question of he wanted to leave a message.
Frustrated, Troy cut off the connection and kicked the next best tree trunk. Where the hell was Chad, when one needed him? A quick look at his watch gave him his answer: The basketball airing on TV had already started. It was the Los Angeles Lakers versus the Boston Celtics and the game most anticipated of the entire season. For a split second he wondered why he didn't care that he had missed the greater part of it. Then his thoughts wandered back to the task at hand. Disturbing Chad now by seeking him out was a definite suicide mission and he really wasn't keen on dying at a time like this. Admitting defeat for now, Troy made his way back home, attempting to get time to move along faster by falling into a very deep slumber.
Lucille Bolton couldn't for the life of her think about a single time she's ever seen her son getting up that early in the morning. Sure, he had gone to bed at a relatively unusual early time the evening before, but was that really a reason to get out of bed at – she blinked once and checked her alarm clock again, yawning and stretching her arms above her head – 5.30 am? Rolling her eyes at the man still asleep next to her, she swung her legs out of bed and dragged the rest of her body along with them. Dressing only in her morning rope, she tip-toed down the stairs and into the kitchen where her son was running a hole into the tiles. For a moment she remained unnoticed, standing back in the shadows cast by the rising sun. Watching her only child, she remembered proudly his growing-up from the small kid into a young man. She was one of the few people that knew that Troy had a heart of gold, well-hidden behind his usual cold stance and demeanor.
"Good morning, Troy!" The middle-aged woman chuckled slightly, as the boy jumped in surprise. Turning around to her, Lucille could see that apologetic twinkle glittering in his eyes, as his face contorted into a sheepish grimace. "Morning, mum! What are you doing down here this early?" His voice carried a tone of shock as well as one of barely concealed anticipation and nervousness. It made his mother wonder which girl exactly had his stomach up in knots, but instead of pressing the matter by flat-out asking him, she moved across the kitchen, starting off her day by making her first cup of coffee. Keeping her voice purposefully light, she asked back: "I could ask you the same. What has possessed you to get out of bed at 5.30 am, when you don't need to be at school until 8 o'clock?"
Rubbing his neck with his right hand, Troy finally stood still, supporting himself on the kitchen table with his left one. "I didn't wake you up, did I?", he avoided the question on purpose, not really comfortable to talk to his mother about Gabriella. Lucille didn't seem to mind him not answering. "With the noise you've been making? Please, it would probably take an elephant to equal the intensity. You would even have awoken the dead – well, besides your father, obviously. But with him, you could possibly let a bomb detonate directly beside him and he would sleep right through it. That's the reason why I always was the one to look after you when you cried as a baby in the middle of the night." She smiled softly at him, apparently reminiscing in the days of the past.
And suddenly, Troy became aware for the very first time in his life that the woman standing in front of him would always be there for him. She'd love him, no matter what and she'd always support him in every way possible, whenever he needed help. Her fondness of him was unconditional and though sometimes she might have been disappointed in his attitude towards all and everyone, she always managed to see the real him underneath all the layers he's surrounded himself with. An unexpected warmth rose in his chest and he quickly walked over to her, hugging her to himself. "I love you, mum. You know that, don't you?" The heart-felt statement brought tears to Lucille's eyes. Willing them back where they belonged, she pulled away from Troy and ruffled his hair, affectionately stroking an astray streak of hair out of his eyes. "Yes, I know, darling. And whatever's got you up this early is going to have to wait, because you, boy, will eat a reasonable breakfast before you leave the house. I doubt Pop Tarts are going to keep you sated for very long."
At half past six o'clock, Troy was feeling queasy again. Having left the house a minute ago, after his mother had been satisfied with the amount of pancakes he had eaten, he was still sitting in the car on his way to school, silently praying to God that Chad would be able to help him out. At ten past seven – five minutes after he had parked in the school's parking lot, having deliberately taken an insanely long detour -, he was thinking about his breakfast going the reverse way, silently berating himself as to why he was making such a big deal out of all of this. He was going to talk to Chad, for God's sake, not asking his entire clique about their opinion regarding Gabriella. Still, at half past seven, he was ready to throw himself in front of the bus, in which Chad had arrived.
"Fucking hell, what took you so long to get here? Why didn't you take your car?", he demanded angrily, geared up to rip his best friend's throat in half. Chad threw him a funny look, questioning his sanity and wondering if Troy had lost his mind. Where was the fire? And since when had East High's most popular player ever made a point in arriving in time for school? "What do you want? I'm already here half an hour too early, which has cost me exactly the same amount of time of sleep. So, what's so important that it couldn't wait until later?" Now. Now was the perfect time to tell him about Gabriella and still Troy couldn't get the words out of his mouth. Nervously looking around, he regarded the students standing around and near him with animosity. Couldn't they just leave him alone for one bloody minute? Not wanting someone to accidentally overhear them, he grabbed Chad's elbow and dragged him along to the gym. As soon as the heavy wooden doors had slammed shut behind them, he took a deep breath. He was going to tell Chad and he hoped to God that he would understand.
Averting his gaze from Chad's face, he scraped the floor with his shoes, searching for the right way to approach the topic. "You see, there's something I need to talk to you about. And I warn you, Chad: Should anything I'm about to tell you leave this room, I'm going to know whom to blame for that, got me?" For a short moment he had his mask back in place, not even able to completely lay off it in front of Chad. The only response he got was an eye-rolling and an affirmative nod. "I've got a problem." There. It was finally out. He had admitted that he wasn't almighty. And Chad wasn't laughing at him. Allowing himself a breath of relief, he looked at his best friend, seeing a surprisingly solemn facial expression adorning Chad's face. And before he had any time to ponder over it or ask about it, there was a nod. A single nod without any accompanying words and it told Troy more than an entire speech. Chad knew something. Had known something for some time now. And had held back.
Narrowing his eyes at him, he didn't really know what to feel. What exactly did Chad know? And why hadn't he said anything? "You already know." It wasn't a question, more of a statement, and Chad hesitantly nodded. "This is about Gabriella Montez, isn't it?" Troy couldn't help himself. His entire body froze up at the mentioning of Gabriella. So he did know. Did that make things easier or more complicated? Assessing his best friend's stance, his thoughts were racing through his head. There hadn't been any malice when Chad had said her name. Did that mean he didn't share the usual distaste for anyone below them on the social ladder? Could it be this easy, this effortless to get Chad to help him out here? Could all this worrying about possibly having to say goodbye to his best friend for Gabriella have been for nothing? He didn't dare to really hope, but Chad's next announcement made all of his doubts flee the scene.
"You've made a mistake in letting her go, you know that?" The self-confidence portrayed in Chad's words didn't quite match his tone. It was only a whiff of hesitation, but it was there nonetheless. Because despite what Chad was thinking, he still didn't know if his friend had finally given into his feelings. The way he had seen things going downhill that swiftly, Troy's tormenting of Gabriella, her eventual resistance and all of the loathing between them, he had honestly doubted that either of them would ever get back on track. Until he had talked to Gabriella. She had given him hope, the hope he had needed to maintain so badly, in spite of her fierce denying of any liaison that could have been. It hadn't done much, because regardless of his school marks, Chad Danforth wasn't an idiot. And he had been glad to see that – the only time he had ever done it so far - Troy seemed to have hung himself up on a decent girl.
And now it seemed like he had even come to his senses on his own. Or with a little help from Gabriella, he didn't know. But he intended to find out. "What happened?" And Troy, still under shock from the revelation, spilled the entire story. At the end of it, Chad didn't quite know what to say. Which was a first. And it was the first time ever that Troy Bolton showed a sign of resignation. With a sense of helplessness filling up his core, he slung himself carelessly on the bleachers, burying his face in his hands. "I simply don't know what to do. I care for her, yes. I want her to be mine again. But I don't know how to get her to trust me again. How do I show her I mean it?" Those questions weren't the only doubts on his mind, but he couldn't quite make out how to voice the others. He had been acting out his role for so long and with such conviction that he didn't know if he could pull off changing himself. How do you turn around your own image, when you're ridiculously terrified that you'll get hurt if you show the real you?
He could feel Chad taking a seat beside him, felt the presence of the anxious atmosphere and frantically wished to have a solution for all of his problems. When had his life become so complicated? Where had all the times gone he had only had to snip with his fingers to get whatever he wanted? "You need to give her time, Troy. You need to show her that you're here for real this time. And you need to show her that you're willing to make sacrifices for her." Chad's voice was gentle, yet convincing enough to make Troy consider his options. "And how do I do that?" He was at a loss here, not quite knowing what Chad was trying to tell him. "I can't change myself from one moment to the other. I need to retain what I am in school, because I've never known anything else. How can I show myself, when all that is going to happen is that someone is going to get hurt anyways?" He didn't exactly know if he was more scared about getting hurt himself or about seeing Gabriella get hurt because of him. He didn't think he could put up with either of the possibilities.
But something needed to be done. He wasn't going to let Gabriella go, just because he was scared. "Talk to her, mate. She's a good listener, you know? Even when she doesn't want to hear the things you're saying." At this, Chad grinned a bit, alerting Troy. "You've spoken to her? When?" He couldn't believe his ears. Now Chad was not only telling him that he'd approve of him going after Gabriella, but that he had already talked to her was surprising to say the least. His best friend only smirked. "You'd like to know that, wouldn't you? But seriously, Troy, I like her. She's nice. So I say go for it." It was by far the most honest talk they had ever had. And a part of Troy felt uneasy about the familiarity with that they were doing this. This wasn't the normal way things went. "So you don't care about social walls and all that? Chad, I'm not entirely sure if she even is listed on the food chain. Technically speaking, this all should be impossible."
The hot fury that delineated itself on Chad's face shocked Troy. "If you really think that I'm as shallow as the rest of the people we hang around with, then we've gone wrong somewhere, Troy. I always knew you never cared all that much, although you were always wearing this ridiculous masquerade. But right now I'm seriously re-thinking that. Food chain? Social ladders? God, I thought you knew that there's nothing that's more overrated. It comes in handy now and then to be at the top, but if it starts threatening what you really want, then there's nothing left to do but to shed those restraints as fast as you can." The speech was the longest one Troy had ever heard Chad make. And the brightest.
"So you're okay with her?" He had got the message by now, but still couldn't help himself to make sure. And Chad grinned once again. "Sure, bro. And have you seen that friend of hers, McKessie? I think I'm going to tap her as soon as everything's alright with the two of you again." The sentence that was so typical for Chad it was laughable made Troy chuckle. So he wasn't going to lose his best friend over this. There would be at least someone here in this school that would support him, should he go through with making Gabriella his. And still there was the little doubt nestled into Troy's brain. Would he be able to change for her?
Maybe I'm wrong, you decide
Should have been strong, yeah I lied
Nobody gets me like you
One hundred twenty minutes and two periods later, Troy made his way from the chemistry lab to the main hallway. Maybe talking to Gabriella again wasn't the worst idea. Chad was right. If he wanted to figure this out, then he would need help from her, too. If she was willing to give it to him, that was. And then it happened. He hadn't spotted her yet, so he'd stayed in the area, wandering around and ignoring the group of people frantically trying to wave him over to them. Suddenly a hand gripped tight on his elbow and he turned around with a frown and raised eyebrows. He didn't like to be touched without having given his consent first and this was no exception to the rule. He'd known that it couldn't have been Gabriella, for the cheap perfume that now polluted the air simply wasn't her style. And he had been right. It was Lauren Johnson and for a short moment Troy was disgusted with himself for even knowing her name.
"What the hell do you want, Johnson?", he growled impatiently, yanking his arm free and giving her a clear warning that she was about to piss him off severely. Evidently she didn't care, because she made another grab for him, getting a hold of his upper arm. The forewarning stare was enough to make a giant running for cover in fright if he even had the tiniest bit of intelligence. There was no doubt that Lauren Johnson was lacking in the brains department, because she didn't even recoil the slightest bit. "Tell me if you've got something going on with Montez!" The tone of contempt for the person with the last name was palpable and something inside Troy seemed to freeze up. His entire system was having a fatal break down, surviving instinct and years of habit breaking through. He didn't even think anymore, reacting purely based on intuition and a sense of self-preservation.
It took only a minute to build up the walls, to get his coldness back in place, to let the deadly amusement rise to the surface. "With Montez? Let me think, Johnson… I don't think that's any of your business, is it?" There was an undeniable, underlying tenor of vigorous admonition in his voice to leave it alone, to not corner him on it and Troy gravely hoped that Lauren would get the hint and take a hike. If she was to keep this up, there was no guarantee what he would do. He could already feel the ice creeping into the corridor, the familiar chill suffusing all dead and living in his vicinity as it had been the case so many times beforehand. He hadn't figured this out yet and he wasn't going to do so under pressure. And there it was again. The high, whiny voice that Lauren would have done good to keep trapped inside her body. "That bitch becomes my business when she takes you away from us. You've changed so much these past weeks and it started after you laid eyes on that thing at that one party!" There was no mistaken her needy, mean tone and it made Troy shudder on the inside. How could he ever have associated himself with someone like this? And how dared she insinuate him being a public possession? How could anyone take him from someone when he hadn't belonged to them in first place? His hands curled into shaking fists, desperate to hit something, someone, anyone this very minute, but unable to because of his aversion to hitting women.
"Yes, Johnson, maybe I bagged her, maybe I haven't. So what? If I remember correctly, so I did with you. And that, now that was a mistake I'll be sure to never repeat again." His disdain for her was evident now, growing stronger within seconds. By now, there was a small crowd building up and surrounding them, listening in on their conversation with interest. Everyone had picked up on the small changes in Troy, however insignificant they might have been. As said before, it had his perks to be the crowned king of high school and it had its disadvantages. And this definitely was a drawback. Especially since Lauren's observations had to have been so important to her, that she wasn't satisfied with his answer, daring to push his buttons even more than she had already done. "That was no answer. I want to know if that bitch is the one that has changed you into this … I don't know. You're so withdrawn, baby." She nearly purred out the last word, making Troy shudder in revulsion. "So, tell me. Has East High's resident playboy settled down for some slut that's so far beneath him?"
Troy's breathing grew laboured. Who did she think she was? Who was she to demand an explanation out of him? Who was she to insult Gabriella like that? Just as he was about to do something what would have been very painful for the girl standing in front of him, there was a hand grabbing for his elbow. He knew the grip and didn't shake it off, instead turning his head and looking at his best friend. Chad was starring intently at him, trying to get his message through to Troy without speaking out loud. Hurting her isn't going to help anyone right now, Troy. However, East High's leader wasn't intending on backing down. Lauren needed to be taught a lesson, physical or otherwise. And since he assumed that she was too thick for playing mind games, he would have liked to go for the physical approach. "Chad! Great that you're here. You wouldn't want to miss this. Miss Johnson here believes that she can dictate me what to do and what not to do. What do you think about that one?" Tauntingly, he threw a side glance to Lauren, but the girl still didn't get that she was about to be brought down by the boy she had dared to question about his actions.
Chad didn't even get the chance to answer, as the blonde cheerleader was already chirping happily to the co-captain of East High's basketball team. "Chad, tell him. You've noticed him changing, too, haven't you? It's got something to do with that Montez girl, I just know it. And now he's all acting as though he's changed his DNA. Talk some sense into him, please. You know what's going to happen, should he ever be associated with the likes of her." Chad's next breath never left his throat. For heaven's sake. Whatever was going to follow now, it wasn't going to be pretty. He knew that Troy had had every meaning to change his horrendous ways, but he wasn't quite sure if his intentions were already strong enough to survive this storm. There were years of habit, years of practice, and years of acting behind Troy's whole demeanor, all of those things having only one purpose: retaining his social status. And however overrated it was, it was something the sandy-blonde boy had treasured for a really long time. And he wasn't going to let that be taken away from him this easily. Chad had always known that he wouldn't undergo grave changes over-night and it had only been yesterday that he'd seen the light. Lauren Johnson was on the best way of ruining everything Gabriella had ever managed to get through to Troy.
And he was right. As soon as the words had left Lauren's mouth, the survival instincts he'd let go of when he had thought he'd had the situation under control had kicked back in. His eyes grew small and – if it even was possible – even colder than before. She wasn't going to tell him off just like that. No, she wasn't going to. "Shut the fuck up, Johnson. I'll say it once and listen well, because I'm not going to repeat myself. Are we clear? I am not going to back down from my position. And if I were in your shoes, I'd be very careful about the assumptions you make in the future. So you've seen me with Montez. And you honestly believe I've changed myself for her. Because I'm so well known for letting myself be tamed by a girl." However faked the daunting in his voice, the by-standing students seemed to buy it. Many of them nodded approvingly, as he carried on. "You know Montez. What universe do you live in thinking I'd start something up with her? What world do you live in thinking she'd be able to hold me? What qualities do you see in her that would make her different from all the other girls at East High? She's nothing special."
The second he realized what he was actually saying, he was cursing himself to hell and back again. Damn. Maintaining his status was one thing, denying Gabriella a whole other. It hadn't even been necessary. Threatening Lauren would have done the trick and no one would have questioned it. The abhorrence he was feeling for himself was consuming him and the look his eyes were throwing made several students backtrack in shock. You could practically feel the negative electricity emitting from him and it was a wonder there wasn't a thunderstorm starting up outside. It certainly would have matched the atmosphere. And while most didn't understand what had changed Troy's mood that fast, Chad could empathize with the murderous feelings racing through his best friend's veins. And he was hoping that Lauren knew what was best for her, because, while he was sure that Troy was hating himself just as much as her right now, a good portion of his rage was directed at her. Resigned, Chad rolled his eyes and shook his best friend's shoulder. "She's not worth it, captain. And violence isn't going to solve anything. There are more important matters you need to attend to."
To say that Chad's statement was confusing would have been the understatement of the century, but it did the necessary. For a short moment, Troy's mind stopped making up a hundred different ways to positively ruin Lauren Johnson and started listening to what his mate was saying. "What?" Chad pointed in the direction Troy had come from a few minutes earlier. "You had more audience than you knew about." As quick as lightening Troy whirled around and barely captured the image of a small figure rounding the corner. The brown hair wafting behind her gave away her identity. "Shit. Gabriella?" He didn't need a confirmation; it was simply a desperate attempt of escaping reality. Chad's nod nonetheless brought his own stupidity falling down on his head again. In a matter of seconds, he had made up his mind. Not this time. "Could you please take over for me here? I'm needed elsewhere." He didn't think he'd ever run faster in his entire life. "Gabriella!" Chasing after her, he was calling out her name time and time again, trying to get her to stop.
And finally she did, though he did have the sinking feeling that it was more for the fact that she had caught a dead-end corridor by accident than it was for the fact that he was pleading with her. "Gabriella!" He came to a screeching halt right where she was standing, losing his balance and nearly taking her down with him. Not until he was nearly horizontal did he get a grab at one of the lockers, steadying himself. Her back was still turned to him, the small shoulders hunched as if covering away from him. He grabbed them, swirling her around to meet his eyes. But there were no tears, no crying as he had expected. Simply a touch of hurt edged onto her face and a hint of sadness displayed in her eyes. "What are you doing here, Troy? Do you need something?" His mouth nearly hit the floor. That was weird. Here he was, presuming she'd need comforting, and she was asking what he was doing and if he needed anything.
"Did you not hear me just then?" He pointed back in the direction he had come from, completely taken by surprise at her calm appearance. And having no idea how difficult it was for her, he watched her mouth quirk up in a smile. "You mean the part with the 'no qualities to hold someone like you, nothing special'? Oh yes, actually, I did hear that." So she had caught that! Then why…? He regarded her more carefully and saw past the façade. "It upset you." The statement was simply enough to break her stance. She grimaced and sucked in a breath through closed teeth. "Well, yeah." Avoiding his eyes, she quickly tried to lessen the substance of her confession. "But, you know, it doesn't really matter, because…" He cut her off, enraged that she was trying to play this down. "Gabriella, trust me on this. It matters. Tell me what you think about me right now, after you've heard that." With his right hand, he caught her chin and forced her to look at him, with his left hand he drew her closer to him. Her eyes grew wide and uncertain, but he nodded for her to speak up. And eventually she did.
"I don't know what to think of you. But if I didn't know any better, I'd say you regretted ever touching me." Her voice was small, a slight tremor was shaking it up, and Troy closed his eyes in pain. She said she knew better, but did she really mean it? Her voice was giving her away, the hurt crawling to the surface, whilst she was trying to keep it down. Heaven in hell, he had done it again after promising that he'd refrain from doing so in the future. As desperately as he wanted to draw her in entirely and hug her until the last doubt left her body, he knew it wasn't the right way to go about this. Instead, he let go of her and started pacing in front of her. "I'm sorry. I wasn't going to say all of the things I've said. I just needed her to shut up. But what is the most important: I need you to know that I do not regret you. I couldn't. You told me what's wrong with me, remember?" He tried to smile at her, but the best he could do was a half-smirk.
"I know, Troy. I know you're not that kind of guy. I can feel it." She looked up at him with serious eyes. "But sometimes I can't help myself. No matter that there's nothing between the two of us now, you know it meant something to me when there had been. And hearing you denying it, it hurts. Because it makes me think that you might be disgusted with yourself for ever laying a hand on me. And while I know that it doesn't matter what you think about it, it just doesn't stop. It tears at my self-confidence, because you mattered." The eyes that were locked onto his gaze filled with tears, but she held them back. He was aware that she was withholding them for his sake; that she didn't want to use them as a weapon as so many others of her gender did. And as thankful he was for her consideration, he wished that she would be able to let go when she was with him. Because that was what she deserved. She deserved someone who would treat her right, who would know what to do when she was said. Someone who wouldn't be the one responsible for her sadness. Gabriella mistook his silence for contempt. "I know it's irrational and I know that this is entirely my problem, so you really shouldn't care about this."
And there it was again: the self-blaming, the experience that he wasn't very good at taking the blame for something. "Gabriella, I hurt you. Of course I should care about this." Because I might just love you. Because I really, really care about you. But he didn't tell her. Because as well as he knew that it was true, he still wasn't ready. How could he tell her when he didn't know if she reciprocated his feelings? She was hurt by what he had said, yes. But not because she liked him, but because of what had been between them. Because of their history, not because of the present. "I'm trying, Gabriella, I really am. I know you told me what I do wrong, but I just don't know how to change. I've been like this for so long, how can I be sure that there's someone nice in there? You've seen me; you've heard me just now. That wasn't nice at all, was it? I'm not sure I can do this." He was asking for her help, even though he already knew that she wasn't going to be able to help him. This was something he needed to figure out by himself. And when he had done that, then he could start thinking about this situation with Gabriella.
Nevertheless, her expression softened and the hurt vanished from her features. "You can do this, Troy. You need to believe in yourself. What you have done a few moments ago was what you do under pressure. Anyone would do what they've been trained to do for years. And I suppose that you've had years of practice fending people off by reacting that way. I'm not saying that it's right what you've done, I'm saying I understand. You can't change yourself in twenty-four hours and I don't expect that. To be honest, I didn't even know if you had even listened to me", she answered off-handed. "After all, I'm no one to tell you what to do, am I?" Troy blinked a few times. She understood. She was right. He'd never reacted well under pressure. That was no excuse, but it was something to work with. And she got him. The urge to kiss her was so strong he had to hold onto a locker to stop himself. He had a distant feeling that kissing her now wasn't the greatest idea he had ever had. And so he simply raised his hand and hesitantly stroked her soft cheek, feeling her lean into him. Savouring the moment, he smiled at her one last time before turning around and disappearing behind the next corner.
Couldn't keep hold of you then
How could I know what you meant?
There was nothing to compare to
So she knew him. Understood him and was probably able to analyse his entire character. For a short moment he asked himself why that prospect didn't scare him. Because it doesn't matter anymore to keep your real self hidden, a voice inside his head answered him. You want her, you need to be open with her. Question: Does she still want you? Troy stopped dead in his tracks. Did she want him? Did she know that he still intended to make her his? Or had she gotten the impression that he was simply changing for his own sake, not because he also cared about her? Contemplating the matter, he absent-mindedly climbed the stairs to his secret hide-out. No matter how popular he was, no one had ever taken so far as to follow him after he'd blown up at someone and so there wasn't a chance in hell anyone besides him and the biology club knew about the rooftop garden the school had set up a good decade ago. And it was good that way, because he'd used this place so often in the past that in his mind it had become his and his alone. It was easier to sort through his thoughts up here, far away from everything that moulded him into someone he hadn't been beforehand, far away from everything that bothered him.
Neglecting the wooden bench, he approached the balustrade presenting a glorious view over the entire school grounds and way beyond them. Bracing his hands against the railing, he closed his eyes and threw his head back. Gabriella really was something else. She was so different, so completely unlike others of her species, so very special to him that most of the time it seemed just unreal. But Gabriella was real and she was here now and he had missed his opportunity. But how could he have known what to do about it? How could he have known what to make of all the changes that had happened so quickly, so surprisingly, so unexpectedly? How could he have known how to treat her right? He had never done this before, had never been in a serious relationship. Why should he have wanted to? There hadn't been anybody that had touched him any other way than physically. Not once had there been someone that had got through to him, into his very core and touched his soul. Where other girls had longed to be with him for the popularity the position certainly would have brought them, she had been there for the real him. Where others had been out to use him, she had been there to help him. In short, she was everything no one else had ever been for him.
And he had ruined it. Great. He had ignored what she needed, had only ever been considerate of what was best for him. And the hold he'd originally had over her had slowly been relinquished by his own thoughtlessness and his idiotic self-protection. And there he was, pining after her like some love-sick fool. This whole thing really was dangerous. This was exactly why he had always sought to avoid ever feeling something this strong for someone he wasn't sure of. How did others manage this kind of thing? This uncertainty? How could you ever fall for someone without getting hurt? Was it worth the risk? Was Gabriella worth risking feeling the pain of being rejected, was she worth risking what he had built up for four years? Or wasn't it Gabriella that had to be worth it? Maybe the question should be if he'd be worth it for her to risk starting something up with him a second time. A small smile was adorning his lips now. She had really done it. She had made him fall for her without even meaning to; she had accomplished what so many before her had tried. And the most interesting thing was that he didn't even care. He was enjoying it.
There's a mountain between us
But there's one thing I'm sure off
That I know how I feel about you
There was no doubt left in him that he was crazy about her. Having left the rooftop garden for lunch, he turned the corner into the corridor leading to the cafeteria and stopped right where he was, leaning casually back against the lockers beside him. Directly in front of his eyes, there was the gorgeous brunette he craved to see more and more. She hadn't noticed him yet, talking animatedly to her friends surrounding her, so he was left to watch her. His eyes travelled her body, noticing the little things about her that only made her even more adorable and appealing as she already was to him. The way she was lightly tapping her left foot to the beat coming from an iPod near her, how one of her hips was slightly jutted out while she was keeping her balance on her right leg, how she held herself with a straight back, the way the sun shone down on her rich, brown hair, casting a gentle touch of red and highlighting parts of her beautiful face. Her eyes shone excitedly and her whole stance simply radiated happiness. How he wished to be the one to make her feel this way.
But until he'd convinced her of his reliability, there was a mountain between them. He was so far away right now, not included into her circle of friends, that he couldn't help but feel like the social outcast. Shaking his head at the abstruse feeling, he was just about to head off again as she finally caught his gaze. Locking their eyes, he could see the curious wonder in hers and could feel his heart skip a beat, then pick up its pace and start galloping. The sudden urge to go stand by her, slip his arms around his waist and never let her go again took him by surprise. But it wasn't an uncomfortable feeling. It felt right. Oh yes, he definitely was in this for real. This wasn't a crush that was going to cease with time. No, this could very well be the real deal. Shortly, he considered going over there for real, but then changed his mind. Who knew if she wanted him to? He had hurt her and even though she understood, he knew he wasn't forgiven yet. Maybe he would never be. Even if he did change, no one could tell if she'd ever be ready to start over with him. If she'd ever want to. Who was he to disrupt her and her friends? And so he turned around, a soft smile gracing his lips as he released Gabriella's gaze.
Can we bring yesterday back around?
'Cause I know how I feel about you now
I was dumb, I was wrong, I let you down
But I know how I feel about you now
God, how could he ever have let her go? There was no doubt that he'd been stupid. He'd been so selfish and all he had ever cared about had been himself. And now that she had finally made him realize the errors of his ways, he'd since long let her go without knowing if he would ever catch her again. She'd been the first girl who had not wanted to use him and then he had had to go and mess it all up by letting her down time and time again. Oh, how he wished to be able to turn the clock back to the very beginning and to do it all over again. But no matter how much he was praying for the opportunity, he knew all too well that it wasn't a possibility. Instead he was left to ask himself why he had let go, why he had hurt her on purpose, why he had deluded himself into thinking that she, too, was only out to get to him to raise her social status. Had it been the fear of letting someone in? The fear of needing someone? Because he couldn't believe that he hadn't seen before that she was everything he had ever wanted.
He had been so dumb to assume he could get on without her, get her out of his system in time to erase her completely. Boy, had he been wrong. Until now, the saying 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' had only ever elicited a snort and a half-laugh from him. Now he was seriously reconsidering his opinion. He needed her. In front of him, beside him, with him. But she hadn't told him if she still wanted him. And, he realized, she didn't have a reason to. Even if she did, he had been the one to break things off. So why would she set herself up for heartbreak again if it was so much safer for her to keep quiet? But then again, she hadn't told him either that she didn't want him anymore. Simply because he hadn't asked her about it or because there still was a chance for him, however small it might be? Maybe, maybe he still had a shot if she was willing to give him a second chance. The thought brought the blood rushing into Troy's face, his mind already speeding up and reeling with the different approaches to talk to her. He would change; he had already promised her that. And if there was a possibility of getting her back along the way, then he was going to take it. He would show her that he wanted her in his life. Now all he had to do was find out if he had a shot. He needed to find her. Now.
All that it takes one more chance
Don't let our last kiss be our last
I'm out of my mind just to show you
Mission Finding Gabriella had to wait until after school, because, just as Troy had come to his decision, the bell had rung, calling everyone to continue with their lessons. And while East High's golden boy couldn't have cared less about missing a few periods because of skipping school, he was certain that it wasn't going to get him on Gabriella's good side if he asked her to escape with him now. So he resigned himself to sitting through pointless periods, counting the minutes and seconds until he would be able to get out. The only good part about all of this was that these were going to be the last classes he would have to take for today. And since he had gotten to know Gabriella's time table quite well during the times they had had something going on, he knew exactly that she was free to leave after her double period in Chemistry as well. That was why he was up and out as soon as he heard the releasing bell. Several students were furrowing their brows because of him, wondering what had gotten the incumbent king of East High so twisted up. And while a few of them were able to put two and two together, supposing that it had something to do with the suggestions Lauren had voiced, they never would have dared to say a thing.
As soon as Troy arrived in the school's section for scientific-related classrooms, he could tell that Gabriella wasn't there anymore. The corridor was totally extinct, not counting the charwoman wiping the floor and warning him with a hawk's eyes to stay clear of the part she had already gotten done. Desperately praying that they had only been let out earlier than usual and not been told to go home because of cancelled lessons, he sprinted back into the main hall, feverishly looking out for the brunette he was searching for. Dejectedly, he had to detect that she was gone already. Stepping outside, he groaned as he became aware of the rain falling down on him and quickened his pace. That was all he needed, really. Reaching his car, it was a matter of seconds until he got in and departed the parking lot. Setting his wits to work on how to reach Gabriella now to talk to her in an appropriate way for such serious matters as the ones he wanted to discuss, he slowly made his way in the opposite direction of his own home, following the streets towards Gabriella's.
The plodding rain was falling down on his windshield constantly, making it hard to see anything in the grey clouds of mist. So he very nearly missed the black point on the horizon that was becoming bigger and bigger with the decreasing distance between the car and the spot. It was only when he was about fifteen metres away that it became clear that there was a person walking in the drenching rain and when he was directly beside them, he could clearly recognize Gabriella. His jaw falling down, he cursed her stupidity to even think about walking in this weather, let alone actually doing it. Pulling up beside her, he stopped the car and scrolled down his car window. "Gabriella!" It took about four times of screaming for her to finally hear him over the downpour. Turning her head to look at him, she stopped walking and came up to his window, her hair tangled up and hanging around her face tousled. There had been lots of situation in which Troy couldn't keep his thoughts pure around her and her being soaked to the skin normally would have educed a lot of suggestive reactions, but his fury over-tuned it. She could get sick this way and she wasn't even wearing a freaking jacket! Jutting his chin in the general direction of the passenger seat, he urged her to get into the car.
"Heaven in hell, Gabriella, get in! Do you want to get pneumonia?" He really was trying to keep the demanding tone out of his voice, however, had the distant feeling that he wasn't very good at it. But how could she expect him to stay calm when she was jeopardizing her health? His nerves were starting to wear thin when she looked indecisive and eventually shook her head no. "I'll get your car wet, Troy. There's no need anyways. It'll only take a few minutes longer, and then I'm home." He only snorted at her response. A few minutes? Was she trying to kid him? He knew where she lived and it was nowhere near in walking distance. "You're crazy. And now get your butt in here. The car will dry in time, so don't fret about that." He knew he wasn't being very polite, but the way she got more and more soaked made his heart wrench with worry. And something about it seemed to get through to Gabriella, because she went around the car and got in at the passenger side without another word. Troy started the car again, the motor quickly revving. Without looking at the sopping wet girl beside him, he reached over to his air-conditioner and turned the heat on. It wouldn't even take five minutes for the car to warm up to a comfortable temperature.
And still he noticed out of the corner of his eye that she was still shivering. Without thinking even twice about it, he took off his own jacket and turned it over to Gabriella. When she was about to protest, he simply threw it into her lap and clamped his hand over his mouth. "I don't want to hear it. You're cold, you take the jacket." He watched her, as she wordlessly slipped it on and crossed her arms over her chest, pouting. He smirked. Had he ever told her how adorable she looked when sulking? Probably not. Training his eyes back onto the road, he didn't say another word and they spent the rest of the drive in the quiet. Somewhere along the way, the brunette finally stopped shivering and Troy's heart could unclench for a while. Maybe she would be spared from getting sick. When the car eventually pulled up in the Montez' driveway, neither of them moved. The comfortable silence they had shared until now grew awkward. What to do now? Troy had the inclining to believe that she didn't know, either. And so he decided to use the opportunity. But obviously Gabriella had made up her mind at the same time and chose to escape.
"Thank you, Troy." The hesitation in her voice was unmistakeable and the uncertainty written all over her face. He offered her a half-smile, which turned into a frown the second she made a grab for the door. His hand shooting out to her, he got a grab at her arm and prohibited her from getting out. Confused, she turned around, only to be met with a serious-looking Troy. He needed to tell her now; there was no better time than this. They were together and, what was the more important part, alone. "I'm sorry, Gabriella." Somehow it felt right to start out with an apology. "For everything. For how I treated you the entire time, for making your life hell when I was trying to avoid my own issues, for taking you in and then spitting you out just like that. For being an arsehole about the whole truth thing." The feeling that built up in his stomach could only be described as extreme guilt. Now that he had finally come to his senses, he remembered all too well that he had blown her off, when she had confided in him that she loved him, that he had been her first. And it was eating at him. He wasn't even expecting an absolution from her, because he truly had been awful to her. And obviously she, too, hadn't forgotten about him talking down her first time and calling her a liar over the subject. "Yeah, I'm sorry, too."
And he knew that she didn't mean that she was partly putting herself at fault for it, but that she was sorry she had had to put up with the crap he had put her through. He really couldn't blame her. His hand that had hold her in place fell down motionlessly and he hung his head in shame, not knowing how to proceed. How did anyone get through this? But then again, there probably wasn't anybody who had made that big a mistake. Gabriella moved next to him and his head snapped up again. "Thanks again, Troy." And with that she was up and out of the car, throwing the door closed behind her. For a moment he simply sat there, starring off into space and contemplating what to do now. Then, with a snap decision, he unbuckled himself, exited the car and chased after her. "Gabriella, wait!" She was already at her doorstep, fumbling in her bag for her set of keys, when he reached her. The small back turned to him, her shoulders hunched in a pitiful attempt to cover away from the rain, she dropped her keys, when she felt his presence behind him. Before she even had the chance to bend over and retrieve them, he already had his hands on them, skilfully hiding them in his hands. And still she wasn't looking at him, simply holding out her hand and waiting for him to dump her keys into them. Which he didn't do.
"Gabriella." He waited patiently, until she had turned her head and was looking straight at him. "Gabriella, I need to talk to you." He watched her eyes grow slightly larger and for a few seconds he was afraid he had sounded somewhat threatening. Biting his tongue, he prayed to God that she would let him talk without taking to her heels before he had finished. Slightly, Gabriella nodded her head. "What about?" Now this was where it was going to get difficult. He hadn't really prepared what to tell her and this was a matter he was extremely unsure about. Feeling like walking a small path above a bottomless pit, he scraped his courage together. "About us. I need you to give me a second chance." There. He had said it. It was out in the open. And up for discussion. He could feel her confusion even before it appeared on her face. "A second chance? I don't think I understand…" She broke off, searching his face and seeking an explanation in his eyes. He definitely needed to elaborate. "I need you to give me a second chance with us. Gabriella, I want you. You told me to change and I promise you I will. But what I'm trying to tell you here is that I'm not only going to change for my own good. I want to know if there's any chance for the two of us to be together again. Like, really together. In a relationship."
The rigidness of her body hurt him more than he could have imagined. But instead of turning away, he stayed put, letting the pain wash over him and disappear after a few seconds. Stepping up to her, he raised his hand to her face, softly stroking her cheek. "Give me a chance, Gabriella. Please. I'll prove it to you, I swear. Let me show you that I might be worth risking it again." One chance. It was all he needed. And if she was going to give it to him, he would make damn sure that he wasn't going to mess it up again. She was holding his fate now, or it seemed that way at least. She was going to be the one to decide if he would be able to make his uncountable mistakes up to her or not. She was going to determine if changing would be making sense to him. He knew he was asking much of her, but she needed to make this decision. "You want a chance?" Her voice was hoarse, a tone of disbelief and surprise mixed into it, along with – he wasn't exactly sure what it was – delicate happiness? Starring intently into her eyes, he could see different emotions wrestle with each other. She was deliberating his request, trying to understand, work through it. And he gave her the time, content with watching her, but feeling like he was standing on the edge nonetheless. If she could only look into him, see how important this was for him, how important she was, all the things he didn't quite know how to voice.
And maybe she could, because slowly she lifted her head up to his. "I don't know, Troy. You hurt me. A lot. But you know that already. I need… I need to think this through; I don't think I could take being left by you again. Even more so, I need to figure out if I could trust you with myself. Show me, Troy. Show me you'll be there for me, no matter what. I'm not saying that I will come back to you after some time, but I'm saying you can try to win me over. Show me that you're reliable to do better this time. And maybe, maybe then I can give you a second chance." She was smiling a little, but he knew that she'd probably never been more serious in her entire life. The liberation of his heart, though, was endless. So maybe he hadn't destroyed everything. Maybe he still had a shot. If he proved it to her. And he would do that. He would go out of his mind just to show her that this time, he was there for real. The feeling that surged through his veins was so unexpected that it took him by surprise and his next actions defied his control. It was a mixture of her permission to try, her proximity and his very own desire that had him pull her up against the door and gently touch her mouth with his lips. He could feel her resistance at first and then her giving in, her arms entwining his neck, her lips becoming soft and indulgent.
The rain already forgotten, her devotion to the kiss had hot flames of passion blazing up in Troy. He deepened the kiss, his embrace tightened and he gathered her closer to him. Her quiet sigh wasn't one of protest, but one of complete surrender. She slid her fingers into his hair and his hands slid down her sides, over her waist. He felt her shudder beneath his touch and his fingers blazing with the fire of ardour, leaving a trail of heat everywhere his hands were tracing her body. Nibbling at her lips, he gained entrance to her plush mouth, their tongues intertwining and playfully battling for dominance. As both of them grew needier, the tempo of their kisses picked up, the want overcoming both of their minds and their senses. There was no more thinking, just them, loosing themselves in each other, taking pleasure in pleasuring the other. And then it was over just as fast as it had begun, Troy releasing her mouth and simply laying his forehead on hers. His eyes were closed as he listened to Gabriella's erratic breathing and when he eventually opened them again, there was something in her eyes that hadn't been there before. They had grown darker and there was a new awareness in them. Troy's lips lazily curled up into a smirk. "I'd say I'm sorry, except that I'm not."
He sensed that she still wasn't able to say anything and it was an understatement to say that it made him proud. So he could still leave her breathless. The small victory that his eyes were without a doubt visibly displaying seemed to shake Gabriella enough to regain control over the basic functions. "You want to come in?" The offer was delivered shyly, with a hint of self-consciousness. And whichever way he looked at it, there was nothing that militated for actually risking being with her all alone in her home. "No, thank you." The disappointment and rejection was obvious in her oculars and he feared that he had let her down again. Swallowing hard, he quickly tried to make up for the damage. "Oh, don't worry, Gabriella. I plan on kissing you again. I just asked for a second chance, didn't I? That kiss right now wasn't our last, I promise. I just don't think that right now is not a good place for doing this." And because her face still remained a little impassive, he leaned down to her on instinct and kissed her forehead. Somehow the little gestures seemed to come natural to him when it concerned Gabriella. "Please, Brie. You know what's going to happen as soon as both of us enter this house. You're not ready for this, darling. Neither am I. I'm trying to prove that you mean more to me than just some toy here. How can I do that when I'd pounce on you, knowing you'd maybe welcome it now and possibly regret it later? I'd curse myself to hell for it." That reason seemed to be enough to compensate for the frustration of not having him, because she nodded. With a satisfied glow in his smile and a light spring to his step that definitely hadn't been there before, he finally gave Gabriella her keys back and walked away from her, getting in the car and waiting until she was safe and sound inside the house.
I know everything changes
I don't care where it takes us
'Cause I know how I feel about you
He had spent the entire rest of the week and the weekend thinking about what to do. How could he give evidence of the fact that he was striving to better himself, to take care of her, to get her back? And the contemplating had paid off, for he had had the best idea since his decision to change for Gabriella. How could she accept him without him having accepted her surroundings and the other way round? Friends were an important part in Gabriella's life and he had stolen her away from them before. He couldn't imagine that they were all that impressed with him. Neither was Aaron, her best guy friend. Briefly, the old jealousy came back up, but he squashed it with a second thought. Both Gabriella and Aaron had told him in no uncertain terms that there was nothing between them and he would take their word for it. Because he trusted them, which was an entirely new experience for him. So there was no reason to risk anything again by treating him badly, just because he held some sort of brotherly affection for Gabriella. After some thoughts he even was feeling grateful towards his team player, because the boy had been there for her when he himself had treated her like dirt. And there was no way Troy would ever be able to repay Aaron for that.
These thoughts were what had him searching for an opportunity to talk to Sharpay and Taylor as well as Aaron without Gabriella in their vicinity. And just as he was about to fall into despair, because they never seemed to split up, Gabriella finally left them to go to her tutoring session in the library. And suddenly Troy's palms felt sweaty. He was able to keep the entire school under his tight wrap and now he was nervous about talking to three of his fellow students of whom one was a mate of his and the two others were girls. Talk about the world suddenly deciding to spin the other way. Getting himself together again, he started towards them with a new-found determination to make them listen to him. They might not like what he had to say, but they would have to listen. Because he needed them to. "Hey, guys." Now there really was no turning back anymore. His greeting was met with absolute silence, two pairs of eyes starring at him as if he was some kind of alien. Aaron, however, was unfazed by him, due to the fact that he was used to be around him. "Hey, captain. What's up?" Clearly he was expecting some news about basketball training, since he had automatically used Troy's title in the team.
"I need to talk to you. All of you", he added, as Taylor and Sharpay said goodbye to Aaron and wanted to vanish around the next corner. Taylor nearly spit out the soda she had been about to swallow. "You? You need to talk to us? Did hell freeze over?" The question pained Troy. He knew that he had never been too friendly to those who hadn't belonged to his previous "friends", but he had never assumed that he'd been that bad. He sent a help-seeking look to Aaron who simply shrugged his shoulders. Troy knew that his team mate probably had a pretty good idea what this was about, now that it was clear this wasn't going to concern basketball. But that obviously didn't mean that he was going to help him out. Troy would have to find his own way out of the mess he'd got himself into. Taking a deep breath, he once again started with an apology. It seemed to become a constant in his life. "Look, I'm sorry." It didn't surprise him that it wasn't as easy saying sorry to them as saying it to Gabriella was. As he only got questioning looks back, however, he was quick to elaborate. "I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt you. I would like to say that I didn't mean to, but I'm afraid that I can't." It sounded harsh, but it was the truth. His intentions had been bad from the very beginning and they had only gotten worse, after he had discovered that he was feeling more for Gabriella than he had ever done for any other girl his age. The fact that he was trying to make it up to her and them now didn't lessen the guilt he had brought down on himself.
Still none of the three standing in front of him made an effort to speak. They were assessing him silently, trying to figure out what this would lead to and despite his aversion to opening up to anyone, he felt as though he needed to explain himself to them. "From the very beginning, I took Brie away from you and then I hurt her. Probably more than I could ever imagine and I left you to pick up the pieces for me. That you've done that, the fact that you've been there for Gabriella shames me even more. Because it makes me see what a bastard I truly was." Sharpay muttered something under her breath that sounded dangerously like You don't say, but Troy chose to not comment on it, for she was right and had every claim on calling him out on it. He had hurt her best friend and their relationship with each other. And so he simply continued going against every fibber of his being by laying his self out in front if them to judge. "Gabriella was what I needed to come to my senses. I don't know how much she told you about what happened between us, but I know that she trusts you and that she'll have at least told you the outline. I was … no good for her." It hurt to say it and it left a bitter taste in his mouth. He still wasn't sure if he would ever be good enough for her. She was everything he was not and while some might say that it was more desirable to be popular than to be nice to everyone around you, Troy had learnt his lesson.
"But I've begged her for another chance." There was no visible change in the faces in front of him, so he supposed she had already told them that, too. The only question left was what they thought about it and if they would ever welcome him into their circle. "And she was magnanimous enough to grant me one. She asked me to show her that I mean it this time around and I intend to do that. But before there could ever be another chance for us, I need to know if you'd be supportive of us." And for the first time since he had approached them, Sharpay decided to address him directly. "Why?" The question was simple, but justified. "Because we're talking about Gabriella here. You're her friends and you're important to her. Should she ever decide to say yes when I ask her to be my girlfriend, she will consult you first. So I wouldn't have a chance in hell if you were dead-set against me. Because she would listen to you."
Troy's insides were burning with anxiety. Whatever they said now, it would be important. Briefly, he closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he was surprised to see Taylor smiling at him. "This is hard for you right now, isn't it?" Shocked, he starred at the raven-haired girl. Was he that easy to see through? Unwilling to reveal even more of himself that would make him vulnerable, but knowing that honesty was more important than ever right now, he nodded. And it was his honesty that broke through the resistance of the three to make this easier on him. Question after question rained down on him and Troy answered them as well as he could. And when they finally stopped interrogating him, he could see all of them smiling at him. "I think Gabriella was right to give you a second chance. But I swear to God, Troy: Should she ever come crying to me about something you've done to hurt her, and if it's ever so small, I'll hunt you down." And although Aaron didn't stop smiling while saying it, Troy knew that the other boy was dead-serious. And he respected him for standing up for Gabriella like that. "I don't plan on it, but I promise you that I won't even try to defend myself, should you beat me up because I hurt her again."
Aaron nodded satisfied and stretched out his hand. Gladly, Troy accepted it. So Aaron wasn't going to be a problem anymore. What about Taylor and Sharpay? He didn't even have time to look at them properly, because the second he turned away from Aaron, he found himself engulfed in a friendly hug by two girls. Old habits kicking back in again, he stiffened and nearly threw them off, before relaxing. These were Gabriella's best friends, not some girls who were out to get to him. So, instead of giving into his routine he had achieved over months, he surprised himself by hugging them back shortly. When they stepped back, a true smile adorned his handsome face. "Thank you." The sincerity shone through in his tone and the relief he felt was etched onto his face. And suddenly there was a warm sensation glowing in his stomach, slowly replacing the doubts and coldness his core had been filled with. So this was what it felt like to have someone his age that really cared about him and what he did, not about his popularity and his social status. Talking to Gabriella's friends didn't take as much effort as it took talking to the people he usually surrounded himself with, with the exception of Chad. Instead, he even found that he took a real interest in what they were saying, because he was trying to get to know them.
He was astonished about the shifting of his feelings. Until now he hadn't seen more in Aaron than just another one on the basketball team. Of course he had always known that there had to be more to Aaron than just that, because Gabriella wouldn't have befriended him otherwise. He had never even thought about Taylor, so he was surprised to find that there was more to her than just the intelligence that labelled her as a nerd. Her personality was a friendly one; she was out-going and had a great humour. Sharpay, however, was the one that surprised him the most. Whenever she had hung around him and his clique, she had only ever given off an air-head attitude. Had he known that she behaved otherwise around her real friends, then maybe he wouldn't have despised her as much. But she really was caring and, while he never would have guessed, she was quite protective of her friends. Introducing Gabriella to him had been one of her less bright ideas, but other than that he found her to be rather refreshing. She spoke her mind when needed and wasn't afraid to step on his toes when he went too far. He didn't know where this would lead to, but he hoped that there was a future for them as friends and for Gabriella as his girlfriend.
Can we bring yesterday back around?
'Cause I know how I feel about you now
I was dumb, I was wrong, I let you down
But I know how I feel about you now
He was watching her again. He couldn't help himself, really. There was something so very relaxing about simply looking at her, watching her having fun, talking to some of her friends and generally being carefree. He'd spent the last few weeks slowly getting closer to her and her closest mates and found - much to his bewilderment – that while some still took offence at the fact that he was talking to people they considered to be beneath his dignity it didn't really have any impact on his social status. Students still were looking up to him, maybe even more so than before, because he no longer was the inapproachable boy he'd been for years. He still didn't like opening up to anyone who came his way and he certainly wasn't about to make a complete U-turn. He would always be careful around those he didn't know well, for years in high school had taught him to be wary. But now there were other people he cared about besides Chad and it made him feel better about himself. Even his parents had noticed the change in him, for his mother had taken him aside one morning and told him how proud she was of him and his father had given him an affirmative pat on the back.
And it was all thanks to Gabriella. The girl who got him to loosen up and enjoy life. The girl who made his hormones go overboard. The girl he could be himself around. Right now, she was heading out of the school library she had buried herself in an hour ago and headed for her locker, while Taylor, who she had had a study session with, already was on her way home. He knew that Gabriella had no idea that someone else beside her actually was still in the building, but he had made sure to stay behind after basketball practice to get a few minutes alone with her. They were still in the phase where they were trying to build up a friendship, with Gabriella working on trusting him again, and he was using every chance he got to show her he'd changed. He softly smiled, as he heard her start to whistle and silently sneaked up behind her, preparing to scare her by clasping his hands over her eyes. Just as he was a few steps behind her, she started to giggle, and for a short moment he was mesmerized by it. How could one noise sound so beautiful to him? He was ripped out of his thoughts as her voice cut through to him. "Are you in a hurry, John? I told you I'd wait outside for you to pick me up for our date." Troy wasn't even fazed in the slightest. No matter how hard she was trying to keep it out, he still caught the teasing undertone in her voice. He growled lowly, educing more giggles out of her. John McKinnon was a sore spot for Troy, ever since he had had to witness Gabriella being asked out by the current resident of the school decathlon team.
She had told John no, but still Troy had been restless until he'd been able to talk to Gabriella that very day who'd picked up on his unusual behaviour and charmed a confession out of him. Ever since then, she had been all too happy to make it a standing joke and he reacted every single time. In a hell-for-leather manner, he was behind her and picked her up, swirling her around and making her scream with laughter. Then he set her down again and turned her around to him, acting hurt and shocked. "You!" He wiggled his index finger at her in a playful attempt to scold her. "Just you wait!" The auspicious flash in his eyes made her squeal with delight. He stalked towards her like a predator chasing his prey and the dangerous sparkle was back in place. Grinning, he watched her whirl around and start running away from him, looking over her shoulder to see if he was following. Which he was, indeed. Chasing after her with a chuckle, her untrained condition turned out to be no adversary of real quality and he had her in no time, smirking mockingly at her before caging her in with her back to the lockers and his arms serving as the side restrictions. He was quite close to her now, close enough to smell her perfume, to feel her body heat and to reach out and play with her hair. Taking a shiny lock between his thumb and index finger, blue eyes bored themselves into brown ones, exchanging looks of pure chemistry.
She didn't stop her laughing and he was glad about that, because it was what he loved watching her do. The best part, though, was that it had been him to make her laugh, him to make her enjoy herself, him to make her feel comfortable. Leaning into her, so that his mouth was just above her left ear, he good-humouredly whispered: "So, you want to tell me about that guy you've got a date with?" The emphasis heavily lay on 'date' and Gabriella winked at him. "Oh yeah, you know, actually I turned him down", she admitted and with satisfaction he noticed that her breathing had become slightly ragged. The attraction to him undeniably still was there. He grinned victoriously. "You want to tell me why?" He'd heard it the very first time she'd had to make excuses why she wouldn't go out with John, but he never got tired of hearing them again. "Ah, you see, I told him that there's this really cute guy trying to win me over, making up for some mistakes he's made along the way, you know? So I don't really have time for anyone else now, because I want to give him a chance." She was beaming at him and his insides practically melted. It definitely sounded as though he was headed to being forgiven at some point in this lifetime. Time to make another step in the right direction. "How did you get here?" The look of confusion on her face only lasted a second, until understanding dawned on her. "I walked." Troy nodded. He had counted on that. "Come on, I'll bring you home." Without another word, he slipped his arm around her waist and grinned happily when she didn't protest. Feeling her snuggling into him while walking, he lowered his head until he met her eyes that smiled up at him. Yes, he definitely wanted her to be his. And no matter how often he thought about his feelings for her, he always came to the same conclusion. He loved her.
Not a day passed me by, not a day passed me by
When I don't think about you
And there's no moving on, 'cause I know you're the one
And I can't be without you
Troy was nervous as hell. He couldn't even remember how often he had thought about if he really should be doing this, how often he had practiced asking her, how often he had contemplated his actions back and forth. Ever since the news about the school dance scheduled for the Friday in about a month had gone the circuit, it had caused havoc in both girls' and boys' minds alike. And while he had always managed to distance himself from that kind of thing before, he was more than ready to take this opportunity now. It hadn't been that hard to find out if Gabriella was interested in going at all, because Sharpay had made sure to mention it a few times in his presence, trying to make it sound nonchalant and failing miserably. And he had tried to get mad at her for trying to push him into doing something, but it had been no use. The feeling of thankfulness for saving him a lot of worries had exceeded his annoyance by far and so he had begun to rack his brains on how to ask her. He wasn't so sure she wanted to go with him, but her willingness to go in general was getting his chances up a few notches. He would understand quite perfectly if she didn't want to go to such an event with him yet, but he would ask her anyways. Because the thought of another boy asking and accompanying her to the dance was actually jealousy-inducing.
And so he had mulled it over and over in his head and finally got to the conclusion that – while Gabriella normally wasn't someone who relished in being the centre of attention – it was best to not just ask her straight out, but to have something to go by out. There was no doubt that he'd have preferred to ask her in a quiet environment with no one to watch, but something had got stuck in his mind and he hadn't been able to shake the thought. What if she thought he was embarrassed by asking her to go with him? He had kept whatever he and Gabriella had had under tight wraps the entire time and he knew that Gabriella supposed it was because he hadn't wanted anyone to know, because it would ruin his social status. So the best way to convince her that he was trying this time was to make this official. He would ask her and he would make sure that everyone knew that he was seriously interested in her. This was why he was waiting for her at her locker right now, anxiously checking his watch again and again, desperately wishing for the minutes to go by quicker and slow down at the same time. Having enlisted the help of her friends, Taylor and Sharpay, who had only been too glad to assist him, he had managed to design a giant banner that was now spanning from the locker farthest left of the row to Aaron's locker which was placed right beside Gabriella's.
Admittedly, he hadn't written the words himself, but really, his handwriting was terrible and Gabriella was supposed to be able to read it. Taylor's handwriting had proven to be neat and very readable, which was the reason why he had pleaded with her to do it for him. Unable to resist his boyish charm that he only ever showed to those he'd learned to truly get along with, she had eventually caved and saved his entire plan. Troy was torn out of his thoughts when – finally – the bell rang, announcing lunch break. Until now the corridors had been death silent and had lain forlorn, but that was going to change any second. Quickly, Troy ripped his gaze away from the banner and disappeared around the next corner. The plan was to let her read the banner first and then come out and ask her himself. And he didn't act a minute too soon, because the doors to the classrooms were already thrown open and students piled into the hallways, chatting happily among them about one subject or another. He could feel the atmosphere changing as soon as the first of them discovered the banner stretched over the lockers. He had anticipated the high-pitched screams to follow and still he had to cover his ears due to the sound intensity. Over the last few days he had learned that it was a really big deal if you got asked out to the dance in public and that, seemingly, screaming and squealing were the only appropriate way to react to an asking-out.
And then the voices died down. Three girls were boring their way through the masses of students that had stopped to look at the sensation and the crowd split into two halves, leaving them to get through easily. And then the one in the middle stopped dead in her tracks, starring agape at the big banner that read: Will you go to prom with me, Gabriella? Little figures were tap-dancing on Troy's nerves as he waited for her to take in the news of being asked out. And when she finally did, he watched her whirl around to her friends and accusingly point at them. "You knew about this, didn't you? That's why you wanted to stop by my locker before having lunch!" Her voice cracked and she narrowed her eyes. "So, who's asking me, actually?" Looking around in obvious confusion, Troy saw her scanning the crowd, searching for anyone she knew, anyone who might ask her out. And he decided it was time to come out. The commotion he caused by simply turning the corner and starting towards her was enough to numb anyone's hearing abilities. The screams consisting of his name had Gabriella frantically seeking him, turning one way and the other, the disbelief clear in her eyes. The shock he could find in her eyes when he finally reached her was not exactly encouraging, but there was no going back now. And he asked her: "So, will you?"
Can we bring yesterday back around?
'Cause I know how I feel about you now
I was dumb, I was wrong, I let you down
But I know how I feel about you now
The silence around them was deafening. And while Troy had never understood the reason to be nervous when asking a girl to accompany you to some big event before, his nerves now could only be described as extremely jittery. What if she said no? What if she turned him down? In public? Afraid to take his eyes off of her in case he might miss something, he kept his gaze locked onto her face, searching for even the smallest reaction. Her expression was completely neutral and it made Troy want to seriously turn back time and do things all over again. She was going to reject him. Why else hadn't he received an answer yet? He was sure she was only trying to find a way to let him down gently and he was just about to beat a hasty retreat and go lick his wounds, as her eyes finally lit up. Troy swallowed hard. Did that mean…? He didn't even dare to hope, but his insides were turning over painfully. And with one single word leaving her mouth, he nearly fainted with relief.
"Yes." He felt like screaming, crying and laughing at the same time. Never before had one particular word sounded so fantastically to him. She had said yes! She was going to go with him. She was going to let him try to reverse everything he had done to her. She was giving him a second chance. The feeling of happiness swelling inside his chest spilled over and, in a moment of complete recklessness, he took a step forward and pulled her into his chest. His ears were deaf to the noise the student body was making, either in shock, disgust or cheerfulness. All that cut through to him was the warm body pressed against his body, the softness of Gabriella's hair under his hands and her wonderful smell filling the air he was breathing. The fire coursed through his veins once again, every fibber of his being was coming alive and celebrating her closeness. And when he felt her stiffen in surprise, he carefully brought his mouth to her hear and whispered: "Thank you. For everything."
Can we bring yesterday back around?
Cause I know how I feel about you now
I was dumb, I was wrong, I let you down
But I know how I feel about you now
But I know how I feel about you now
Yeah, I know how I feel about you now
It was all over the school. Troy Bolton was officially courting Gabriella Montez. And there had never been anything that had felt as good as hearing it being whispered from every corner, in every classroom and all over the school. He didn't care about the mistrusting looks he received from girls and boys alike and he sure didn't pay attention to the fact that nobody knew how to treat him anymore. It was their problem to decide if they wanted his feelings to cost him the position of East High's golden boy or not. The only thing that was important right now was Gabriella.
She needed time. Time to get used to the fact that he was going to be there for her as far as he could. To get used to the thought that he did indeed love her. And he was going to give her the time. He knew how he felt about her and if she needed space to ponder over her own feelings, then he would give it to her. But this time he wouldn't let her down again. He would be there, every step of the way, showing her that he cared and intended to stay this time. It would probably take weeks, maybe months until she was ready to let him in again, but it wasn't significant. All that counted was that she was going to make the choice. And he dared to hope that she would decide in favour of him.
Thanks so much to everyone who's still reading this story, even though I have kept you waiting for so long. I don't have much time to write anything here, because Kristyna is trying to get me to finally post it, because she's kinda impatient. That's not supposed to sound bad, Kessy, it's so you know you're appreciated and taken into account :]
Anyways, I'll try and get the last chapter up as soon as possible and please, please leave a review to tell me what you're thinking and if this chapter was at least a bit of the waiting time…
I love you guys so much,