"Stress Relief" copyright didumissmeofcourseudid; October 22nd 2008

This is a derivate piece of fiction featuring characters copyrighted and trademarked by Disney Enterprises Inc. It is based upon High School Musical, copyright 2006 by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., all rights reserved; and High School Musical 2, copyright 2007 by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., all rights reserved. The author is not connected with nor is this work authorised by Walt Disney Enterprises Inc., or any other motion picture studios. This work is solely intended for posting on Fanfiction, for the benefit and enjoyment of its intended audience. No commercial or financial benefit accrues or is intended to accrue to the author as a result of said posting. Any unauthorised copying or redistribution of this work might subject the party responsible for such unauthorized copying or redistribution to legal action by the owners of the aforementioned copyrights and trademarks.

Summary: This was sparked from the write off challenge set by Kristen over at ZA Angels(link is in my profile) to write a piece on Troy and Gabriella getting their acceptance letters for college and this is my take on it.

Disclaimer: As stated above I do not own any of the characters mentioned below, I only have them on secondment.

A/N: As I don't live in the USA and not au fait with the procedures involved gaining access to university and although I picked the brains of my lovely beta reader, this is my take on it so if anything is wrong – shoot me. I hope everyone has seen HSM3 now apart from the countries that are delaying the release; for the fans from those said countries, my sympathies are with you and my lips shall remained sealed but I can offer comfort by saying it is well worth the wait.

Gabriella's pov

I guess I was lucky to be in such demand. Not many girls, or boys for that matter, could boast about receiving two firm offers from prestigious universities both promising a glittering career path if I chose to accept them. My mom was so proud, squealing in delight when each one flopped onto the mat; the college's crest clearly visible on the envelopes. For me it was a different story. Oh don't get me wrong, I was stoked to have received them proving that all the years with my nose stuck in a book of some form or another had reaped dividends but my heart and mind were in conflict. My head was a jumbled mess of contradictions as I tried repeatedly to sit down and rather cold-heartedly write a list of pro's and con's for each one but each time simply stared off into space, my heart clearly not on my mission. A pair of stunningly beautiful ocean blue eyes always got in the way.

Why was life so hard? How do I make such a monumental decision when I knew it would break my heart, for whichever one I chose would take me out of state, away from everything I had grown accustomed too, all that was dear and familiar, away from friends that were remaining and more importantly from my one true love, Troy Bolton. My heart was in turmoil and my mom wasn't helping. She kept asking if I had made my decision, citing the urgency for me to reply before the offers were withdrawn and given to someone else who grabbed their opportunity with more enthusiasm.

To top it all, another was pushed through the letterbox this morning, adding to the mix and making the decision even harder. Like I said, I was lucky but which one was the right one for me? That was the sixty four billion dollar question. Time was running away from me like an express train; full steam ahead and no stops along the way to allow me to catch my breath.

Life sucks.

Troy's pov

Dad had been grinning like a Cheshire cat all day. His dreams for my future had come to fruition; the University of Albuquerque had offered me a full ride. So why wasn't I jumping for joy, all the hard work I'd put in had paid off and the treasured prize was at last on the table. The trouble was I thought too much, worried too much, felt too much but there was a niggle at the the back of my brain that I couldn't shake. Was it the right choice for me? Would it fulfil all my dreams? I wasn't sure. And what about those other scouts who had been sniffing around, mouthing encouraging words, seemingly impressed with my abilities. Was I holding out for something that wouldn't materialise?

Dad couldn't or wouldn't understand my hesitance but when he tried to sit me down and discuss it I couldn't string my mangled thoughts or my doubts into acceptable sentences. Hence why I was keeping out of dad's way for a while, lying on the floor of the tree house staring through the trees at the sky, looking for a sign from a higher being, hoping for an instantaneous flash of light showing me the right thing to do. The night time sky was dark and clear, so clear I could reach up and grasp a star in my hand but it wasn't a star I wanted, not unless it could sky write the name of the college I should choose that would be right for me. It was scary shit.

I'd spent hours with the careers councillor discussing the various options open to me, searched the web for hour on hour pouring over the confusing information available until my head thought it would explode with the knowledge and still I was no further forward. Don't get me wrong, I was as pleased as punch to be offered a full scholarship but if I accepted it was I doing it for me or for my dad? That was one of the questions in the back of my mind. For it to feel right it had to be for me, didn't it? There was also another major factor that I refused to contemplate, another pressure that I heaped on myself; I didn't want to be apart from my beautiful, intelligent girlfriend, Gabriella Montez and the thought of that happening was tearing me into a million tiny pieces.

Life sucks.

Taylor grabbed me as soon as I walked through the doors of East High, pushing me towards our lockers with a steely determination, her eyes warning against arguing with her. As soon as I'd sorted my books for my morning lessons and closed my locker, she snagged my arm, steering me into the ladies wash room.

"Okay, I've been patient, more than patient," she started pinning me with a hard stare, "Just put me out of my misery and tell me what you've decided. Are we going to be roomies at Harvard?" she begged.

I sighed looking sadly at her, "I haven't decided yet, Tay. It's harder than I thought it would be."

"But it's Harvard, Gabi. How many people get accepted to those hallowed halls," gasped Taylor.

"I know, Tay but I don't know whether it's right for me," I replied.

"I guess it needs some thinking about when you have two offers from major universities on the table," agreed Taylor trying not to pressure but secretly thought there was no contest. Harvard won hands down in her opinion, "but surely you have a preference?"

"Three," I said softly watching as Taylor's eyes widened.


"Uh-huh, I got one from USC this morning," I informed her, "offering a place in their health science program."

"Wow! No wonder you're in a quandary. That must have thrown you into a spin," stated Taylor looking sympathetically at me.

"Yeah, you could say that. It's just muddled my mind even more, Tay. I don't know what to do?"

"You need to make a pro's and con's list and whichever one comes out on top, that's the one you go for," said Taylor logically.

"Now why didn't I think of that," I replied sarcastically with a grin.

"Oh you," huffed Taylor glaring at me.

"Come on, Tay, I want to finish on a high and not in detention," I linked my arm through hers as we walked out of the wash room to make it into our homeroom before the bell.

Something was off. Gabriella wasn't at her locker and I really needed to see her, to bask in her sweet smile, to hug her slight frame close, to breath in her scent, to moan about the pressure coming from dad, just to hear her gentle voice calmed me. Instead an afro toting mop bounced over, bright smile beaming in his face and we did our complicated handshake greeting.

"Wassup Troy?" greeted Chad cheerfully.

"The sky," I replied dryly smirking at my best friend when he flipped me the bird.

"You're on form today, I see, where's Gabi and Tay?" he asked.

"Good question," I said frowning, "but if she doesn't hurry up soon she'll be late for Darbus who will not be impressed."

"I can't believe we only have a few more days here before graduation and then it's on to U of A. We'll have a blast when we get there; parties, basketball, girls and more parties. It's sweet," crowed Chad. I knew he was relieved to get his acceptance letter, running straight over to our house to tell me and my dad. I could see how happy he was, the pressure he'd felt was immense and although he wouldn't admit it I could tell he had been scared that he wouldn't make it.

"Er...I hate to burst your bubble, dude, but you have to study too," I informed him trying to bring him back to earth.

"Yeah, I know, but we'll still have fun," he replied still with that effervescent grin on his face. I shook my head as I turned to walk down to our homeroom. That was going to be another hurdle to climb if I decided not to accept the U of A offer. Chad had always said we'd go through school and into college together then into the NBA; that was his dream but was it mine? Hell yeah, I too dreamed of playing professional basketball but listening to my mom over the last year and a half, I also realised I needed a back up plan, I needed to be more than a one trick pony just in case that dream didn't materialise. Hanging out with Gabriella had certainly shown me that I was more than just the basketball guy.

My eyes widened when I walked into our homeroom to find Gabriella already there deep in a hushed conversation with Taylor, their intense expressions clearly showing the seriousness of the discussion and my heart dropped. It had to be about college but did that also mean that she had chosen the one of her choice already. We'd not really had time to have a serious conversation in the last couple of days what with preparations for the final game of the year taking up a large part of my time and Gabriella's involvement with the decathlon team as she prepared for the final contest tonight. She didn't even know about the offer from U of A but then again she hadn't told me if she'd received any offers either but I knew that she would, she was too intelligent not to and I now had a sneaky feeling that she had. I was scared, scared that she'd be thousands of miles away in a few weeks time.

"Hey you, I was waiting for you and was beginning to worry," I said as I walked up to her, throwing my arm over her shoulder and dipping to kiss her cheek.

"Sorry, Tay kind of kidnapped me," she revealed with a giggle, her sweet smile illuminating her features.

"Anything I should know about?" I probed holding my breath for her answer. She shook her head causing her soft almost jet black curls to caress my arm just as Darbus made an untimely appearance. I groaned, winking at her before I returned to my seat at the front feeling bereft and out of the loop. Something was definitely up, I could sense it.

School can be so frustrating at times, demanding too. Even lunch, the time when we usually hang out and catch up with our friends and the latest school gossip, had been annoying today as Mr Bolton had demanded an additional practise session for the basketball team so consequently our table was rather depleted with Ryan the token guy. Taylor wasn't fazed though, taking the opportunity to delve into my mind set, trying to convince me that Harvard was the place to be. Kelsi and Ryan rolled their eyes, sending me sympathetic glances as Taylor launched into her spiel.

"You know," I said with a grin, "if Harvard ever needed to advertise you'd be a great spokeswoman." Ryan and Kelsi giggled as Taylor huffed glaring at me.

"You're not taking it seriously, Gabi," she snapped.

"It may appear that way but I really am," I insisted, "it's just a lot to take in. I need time to think it all through."

"Well burying your head in the sand is not the way to go about it," she sniffed.

"I'm not," I squeaked indignantly, "I only got the offers last week, Tay and unlike you, I have not always dreamed of going to Harvard, to be honest the scale of the place scares me but I still need to assimilate and digest them. It is something I cannot do on the spur of the moment. You know me, Tay, I never make rash decisions. Wasn't it you who said procrastination was my middle name?" I finished with a smirk.

"Yeah, and look how right I was," she agreed with a nod and an answering smirk.

"Have you told Troy?" piped in Kelsi. My eyes swung to her as I slowly shook my head.

"No, not yet," I said sadly, "I didn't want him to worry before the final match, he needs to stay focused for the game tomorrow so you mustn't say anything," I pleaded.

"We won't," Kelsi promised looking pointedly at Ryan who nodded, "and that means not saying anything to Sharpay either." Ryan rolled his eyes.

"I don't tell her everything, Kels," he moaned. Taylor and I looked at each other and giggled at his put out expression.

Gabriella had gone to Taylor's for a bite to eat before the decathlon finale and would no doubt have her head in a book as she tried to absorb even more before the event. I'd not seen much of her today, outside forces keeping us apart for most of the day and I'd only wished her luck, telling her Chad and I would see them at the meeting before Taylor whisked her away. Walking into the house, I dumped my school and gym bag in the hall before walking into the kitchen, greeting mom who was preparing dinner before taking the juice from the fridge.

"You've got a letter," mom informed me nodding her head towards the counter. I flicked a puzzled look at her before picking up the envelope and staring at my name and address on the front. "Aren't you going to open it?" she asked curiosity lacing her voice.

Picking up my glass, I walked over to the dining table and sat down, my eyes gravitating to the intricate crest, my heart started beating wildly in my chest as if I'd swallowed a humming bird and it's wings flapped in panic inside my chest. Slowly I turned the envelope over, sliding my finger along the flap slowly but firmly, I paused flicking my mom another cursory glance before taking a deep breath and pulling out the documents. I quickly scanned the letter, my eyes blurring as I skimmed the words fast then went back to the start and tried to digest their meaning slowly, my lips started to lift at the corners as a big smile gradually lit up my face. Now I had my second option and I felt so much freer, not as pressured into accepting something just because it was there. I had choices and it felt good.

"What is it, honey?" mom asked moving towards me. I couldn't speak, my throat had dried up and all I could do was wordlessly pass her the letter. She took it from me and I watched the expressions chase across her face, smirking when they went from a frown to open-mouthed astonishment, a gasp escaping from her lips.

"Oh Troy! I'm so proud of you," she uttered turning to hug me, "and I...I guess from your expression this is good news?"

"Yeah," I croaked, clearing my throat before continuing, "yeah, I think it is, mom. I know dad is all for U of A and don't get me wrong, I was pleased to get the offer but I felt like that was my only choice, you know, but now, knowing UCLA want me too, it gives me an alternative. I tried to tell dad that but it came out garbled and I don't think I made any sense to myself, let alone him." Mom nodded understandingly.

"It will need a lot of thought, Troy but whatever you decide to do will be fine with me. You know I'll back you regardless of where you choose to go. You have to decide, no one else; not me, not your father or your friends. It's your future, your chance and you must grasp it with both hands. I have faith in you, you'll do what you feel is best for you."

"Thanks, mom. I love you," the words just slipped out and I felt embarrassed saying them but it was what I felt. At least my mom understood.

"I love you too and if that means you going to the other side of the country to achieve your goals, well then, that's what you must do. Do not let any one influence you otherwise. Oops! I nearly forgot the dinner." She hurried back into the kitchen and I smiled. It felt like a weight had been lifted from me, the pressure valve had slowly unscrewed letting a little steam out. How many people were lucky enough to be offered two full scholarships? Not many was my bet.

I let out a sigh then a whoop of delight, turning to clasp Taylor as we bounced up and down with joy. We'd finished with a win and a satisfying win at that but there was also a sadness inside me, knowing this would be the last time Taylor and I would compete on the same team. Oh I know the friendship we'd formed would always be there, we both had promised the other of that but I was realistic enough to know it would change as we forged on with our chosen career paths, our lives moving us in opposite directions and the change scared me. Nothing would ever be the same again.

"Hey Brainiacs," a voice sounded above the ovations and we swivelled our heads looking for it, smiling at the distinctive afro visible above the throng before a smiling Chad emerged, running down the last few steps before grasping hold of Taylor and twirling her around. I smiled at them as my anxious eyes scanned the crowd seeking my handsome boyfriend, my heart skipped a beat when he finally managed to fight his way through the crowd, his answering smile was all I needed and I ran up to him and threw my arms around his neck, our lips joining in a searing kiss. This was all I needed.

"Congratulations," he said huskily when we came up for air.

"Thanks, now you've got to do the same tomorrow," I said.

"No pressure then," he quipped.

"You can do it, you know you can," I said in a positive tone.

"Of course we can," interrupted Chad with a confident grin, "The Knights don't stand a chance."

"I was thinking we could celebrate with an ice-cream," suggested Troy after the rest of the gang had appeared throwing their congratulations into the mix.

"Sounds like a plan," agreed Zeke with the rest nodding their confirmation.

I was so proud of her. She'd achieved so much in the relatively short time she'd been at East High, She'd challenged the cliques, making them step over the invisible boundaries that chained them, forcing them to question their right to mix with other sets, breaking the status quo. She'd certainly shown me that anything was possible if you wanted it badly enough. As I stopped my truck outside her house I realised that I could make it happen, if only I knew what was going on with her, what had been offered to her and what her thoughts were on the said offer. I wanted to fulfil my dream of playing professional basketball but I wanted her too. I wanted it all, it wasn't too much to ask, was it?

"So," I said, taking a deep breath as I turned sideways to look at her, "you and Taylor seemed to be having a deep discussion this morning?" My heart was beating madly but I had to know. I wouldn't sleep otherwise.

"Uh-huh," she uttered staring into my eyes, "I didn't really want to bring it up until you'd played your final game. You have enough pressure being heaped on you from your dad and the guys, I didn't want to distract you from the game," she sighed, "I know we have to talk about college and placements and stuff but one more day won't make a difference, will it?"

"I guess not," I muttered trying to hold back my impatience, knowing she was doing it for me. She knew me too well, knowing I would indeed worry. She smiled, sliding across the bench until our thighs touched, her gentle hand cupped my face then her lips fluttered against mine like a butterfly's wing and I groaned, pressing my lips firmly against hers, my arm reaching behind her head to hold her in place as I slaked my thirst, delving into her sweetness, caressing her tongue until she reluctantly pulled away.

"I have to go," she said regretfully, "and you need your sleep, Troy. It's a big day tomorrow."

"If you must," I muttered hating to see her leave.

"Oh I must," she giggled her eyes sparkling with desire, "I'd hate for mom to catch us having sex outside her front door." I grinned knowing she was right.

"Okay," I sighed watching as she stepped from the truck, "Can I at least ask how many?" She stared at me for a moment then nodded.

"Three," she said softly, "and you?"

"Two." We looked at each other, both wanting to know more but determined to hold off until the following night, "Until tomorrow," I said finally watching as she closed the door, stepped onto the path and blew me a kiss as I put the truck in gear waiting until she reached her door before driving home.

I'd played as a Wildcat for the last time and it was with a great deal of sadness and regret that I'd peeled my kit off earlier. We'd played the game of our lives, finishing on a high, the team executing the perfect match, the reward, Pride; pride in ourselves and pride for our school. We'd kept up the tradition and slaughtered The Knights and I couldn't ask any more of the team. The after game party had been postponed until the weekend so we had ended up in our usual pizzeria to celebrate.

Now, as I escorted Gabriella to my truck, the butterflies had returned. Glancing at her over the roof as I unlocked the door, I realised she was as nervous as me, her eyes dark and sombre, the air filled with apprehension. Once we were buckled up, I shot out of the lot, driving with concentration to one of our favourite places that overlooked the city of Albuquerque hoping the stunning panoramic view would quell some of the tension, the silence heavy between us as we battled with our nerves and thoughts. I cut the engine and unbuckled my belt, turning to watch her do the same. She smiled nervously, sliding over until I wrapped my arms around her, rubbing her arm trying to give her comfort.

"How are you feeling?" she asked softly.

"Nervous, scared, confused," I replied.

"Me too," she sighed. "Who would have thought it would be so hard?"

"It's a life changing decision and it's as scary as hell," I moaned rubbing my chin against her hair, breathing in her wonderful scent. "So, three offers?" I queried.

"Yeah, Harvard, Boston University and USC," she supplied. My heart plummeted. Shit! Harvard, she's gonna jump at that surely. What was there to think about?

"Wow! Harvard," I managed to gasp aloud, "I bet Taylor is jumping for joy." I already knew Taylor had been accepted into the prestigious Ivy League seat of learning. She hadn't stopped crowing about it.

"Uh-huh, that's what Taylor and I were talking about yesterday," she admitted, "but I've not made any firm decision yet."

"Why not? What's there to think about?" I questioned confusion clearly evident in my eyes when she looked at me.

"Erm, I'm just not sure it's the right place for me, Troy, that's why Taylor was giving me the big speech."

"Oh!" was all I could muster. To say I was flabbergasted was putting it mildly.

"Anyway," she said turning the table, looking intently at me, "you've got two options on the table?"

"Yeah, I'm sure you must have guessed U of A was a firm possibility after all the talk from my dad, with Mr Evans setting up the sessions with the Redhawks and closely monitoring my performances since," I stated, continuing when she nodded, "but there was also other scouts making the rounds and I must have made an impression because I received another full scholarship offer from UCLA." I watched as Gabriella's eyes grew as big as saucers. I laughed. The nervous tension I'd been feeling seeped away, leaving an excitement I hadn't felt before, the sheer pleasure of telling Gabriella brought it home that I had a choice to make, one that would change my life.

"Oh my god! Troy, that's wonderful. I'm so happy for you," she cried launching herself on me, leaving wet kisses all around my face until I moaned in frustration and she slammed her lips on mine finally and all thoughts of the future disappeared from my mind. I was more interested in the here and now.

The deed was done, I'd made my decision after talking it through with my mom, stating clearly the reasons why I had chosen the one I had and she'd understood and accepted my choice happily enough. I'd signed the acceptance letter with a happy heart and that alone proved to me it was the correct one. Now it was in the post winging it's way back home; there was no going back.

A beep alerted me to the ramshackle truck idling at the curb as I shouted goodbye to my mom, picked up my bag and ran through the door and down the path to Troy. I was nervous, scared even but excited too; not only of informing my friends but of discovering Troy's choice. When we spoke the previous evening he had hinted that he had also made up his mind but he didn't elaborate and I'd spent a frustrating night worrying. I opened the door, clambered in, gave him a peck on the lips then buckled up.

"You're late," I stated. He merely grinned knowingly. The sneaky devil had done it deliberately.

"Yeah well, if I'd left time for a make out session you'd have me caving in no time," he teased

"I have that much power," I gasped looking innocently at him.

"You know you do." I giggled, he was so right. "I want to take the time to talk through it with you, not rush it in the fifteen minutes we've got before school starts." I nodded understandingly. It was a big announcement from both of us and we needed time to digest it, discuss it, own it.

Chad was driving me mad, harping on about U of A at every given opportunity; how we would room together, study together, play together and party together. It had started as soon as my foot hit the tarmac in the parking lot at school, continued on the walk to our lockers, into homeroom; he even followed me into the bathroom for god's sake and then recommenced when we met up for our last period before lunch. Unfortunately, it happened to be Darbus in charge and she promptly sent us to sit out the lesson in the corridor. Thank god I'd already got my credits for drama.

Consequently, I wasn't in the best of moods when we hit the cafeteria with him still buzzing around my ear like a pesky fly. This had to stop. As much as I loved Chad like a brother it wasn't fair to let him continue to nurture his dream and his plans for me. By the time we reached our table I'd had enough.

"Stop!" I shouted holding up my hand as I looked at him squarely in the eye, "Look, I'm sorry Chad but I turned down U of A." Gasps emitted from the table, my friends bug-eyed as they stared on open-mouthed.

"What!" he gasped blinking rapidly, trying to assimilate my words, "b...but I thought we were..."

"I know you did but I received an offer that I couldn't refuse," I interrupted him suddenly aware that every eye in the room was staring at us, realising belatedly that this wasn't how I wanted to tell him or any of them, especially Gabriella but there was no going back now.

"So where are you going?" demanded Taylor rising to stand beside Chad who looked shocked and dazed.

"UCLA," I revealed my eyes slewing across the table to link with shiny chocolate orbs.

"Wow!" emitted from Jason's lips, "Man, that's wicked."

"Congratulations, Troy," said Zeke pumping his arm.

"Thanks, guys. Chad, are we good?" I asked worriedly. He stared at me for a moment and my heart was in my mouth, I didn't want to hurt him.

"Yeah, we're good, we're still brothers aren't we?" he asked with a crooked grin. I smiled broadly and nodded.

"Always," I promised giving him a man hug.

"I have some news too," said a soft voice and all eyes swivelled to stare at Gabriella who blushed in embarrassment. She was too cute. After all this time she still hated everyone looking at her.

"I sent my acceptance letter last night," she revealed. Taylor clasped her hands together and squealed in excitement. Gabriella looked at her and I noticed the sadness in their depths. "I'm sorry Taylor, I turned down Harvard." Everybody gasped in astonishment.

"Holy hell! I guess not many people can put that on their resume," joked Jason randomly. Chad and Zeke burst out laughing at him. Kelsi hid a smirk behind her hand.

"So...so where are you going?" I asked hesitantly, my thumping heart surely loud enough for everyone to hear as I held my breath, staring intently at her, my eyes widening as her lips curved into a beaming smile that lit up her face and I knew, knew before she even opened her mouth where she was heading. I just needed the words to confirm it.

"USC," slipped from her mouth and I let out a whoop of joy, spinning her around the room like a crazy person. After the furore had died down, we escaped to the rooftop for what remained of our lunch period, neither very hungry for food.

"I'm glad you suggested this," I said as we sat entwined on our bench amidst the sweet smelling fauna and flora, "I was stressing for a while back there," I admitted. Gabriella smirked at me with that wicked look in her eye.

"Hmm, I know a great way to relieve stress," she husked before crashing her lips on mine.

Through heartache, stress, doubt, fear and panic we'd survived it all. Dreams really can come true.