A/N: I conceived the idea for this story shortly after I finished "Princess Tiki" and was partly inspired by the Elle photo shoot. But I didn't write it immediately because I wanted to incorporate it with canon of HSM 3 Senior Year. I know this sounds really weird and no doubt you will get confused after you read this prologue but it's just a thought experiment that I had about the possible "what ifs" of their future. And after I saw the movie, it just came together really well.
Just fair warning, especially to those who haven't encountered me as a writer. First of all it's a Troypay romance, but I never really go for the conventional romantic formula so expect this to have a very different take.
Second, this will be a very dark story so expect it to be depressing. This won't be as funny and light as my previous stories. It follows strict plot canon from the three Disney movies but it deviates from the Disney theme so there will be no completely happy fairy tale endings here.
If that hasn't discouraged you, read on and tell me all about it.
Stillness pervaded the air. The camera crews had long gone and so had the reporters, fans and the curious onlookers. Most of the guests already departed and the ones that remained were only intimate relatives and friends.
Ryan Evans watched them all without a word. Coach Bolton held his wife closely as she wept quietly on his shoulder. The graying-haired coach was no longer teary-eyed but his eyes were bloodshot and his face was ashen. Close to the couple, Chad held the pregnant Taylor next to him. Ryan could see his Adam's apple bobble up and down, a sure sign that he was choking back tears. Taylor squeezed Chad's hand tightly as if by doing so she could ease his pain. The rest of the Wildcats—Zeke, Jason, Kelsi, Martha and the others hung back a few paces. They all looked the same way that he did. And yet somehow Ryan felt that they were not hurting the same way that he was.
He couldn't understand it. Why did it hurt so much that HE was gone? Who was he to Ryan that when he died, it felt like the other half of his self died? He was a friend just like Chad was his friend, or Martha, or Taylor. There was nothing special about their friendship. Not like what he had with Kelsi, who was his best friend for years. And yet when Ryan first heard the news that he passed away when that truck hit his car, Ryan felt something cut at the core of his soul. It was like he lost something more than a friend. It was like he lost his sister all over again.
No… that wasn't it. It was like he lost his sister forever with a finality he never felt before.
He stared at the headstone next to the freshly installed one. This one was weathered with age but cared for. The golden lettering was still clearly visible and was almost sparkling just as she was in life:
Sharpay Marie Evans
September 9, 1990 - June 24, 2008
It was a decade ago. Exactly a decade ago. But why did he feel as if Sharpay only took her leave now? Was it possible his grief for her extended this long? But why was he feeling this only now?
His gaze shifted to the freshly made grave next to Sharpay's and something struck him as extremely strange on the headstone:
Troy Alexander Bolton
March 17, 1990 – June 24, 2018
Cherished Father, Beloved Husband
Ryan thought the engravers must have made a mistake. The last two words shouldn't be there. Troy was single when he died, even if he did adopt a son.
Or was he? Maybe he kept a secret wife, thought Ryan. He certainly could use a mother for Andy. Ryan glanced around but he knew all the people left here and there was certainly no grieving woman that could possibly be Troy Bolton's secret widow. His gaze finally ended on Andrew Bolton. The seventeen-year-old kinky-haired black boy was Troy's adopted son. At the moment he was standing a little away from the crowd nearest to the headstones. Ryan decided to go over and ask him but he stopped. Amidst all the weeping people grieving over his adoptive father, Ryan could see clearly that Andy was smiling. His face was bright and not a trace of a tear was in his eyes.
Ryan puzzled over this. Why is he smiling? His father is dead.
For a moment, Ryan felt a twinge of fear for Troy's son. He always liked Andy for he was a likeable boy. He was smart, witty, handsome, and had the same talent for acting as his father. They were friends as Troy always sent Andy to the drama camp for teens that Kelsi and Ryan ran together every summer. Ryan and Kelsi were even up for casting him for the new musical they were producing in Broadway after the boy finishes high school in a few weeks.
And yet in all those years, Ryan felt there was something strange about the boy. There were times when Ryan felt like he had a world all of his own. And sometimes Ryan couldn't help but feel that when he talked to the boy, he was talking to Sharpay. He certainly had particular mannerisms and attitudes that his sister possessed.
And then of course the biggest mystery was the boy's odd relationship with Troy. No one could tell why at the age of 19, Troy adopted the eight-year-old orphan and even went to great lengths to petition a court to grant him custody when he was barely legal to be a father. Troy brought him up alone. As far as Ryan and even Chad knew, Troy never had another girlfriend after Gabriella. He never even dated.
Ryan carefully eyed Andy. He had no reason to mistrust the boy. But he did make a strange request to Ryan. Andy insisted that Troy be buried next to Sharpay in the Evans family plot. The boy said it was his father's deepest wish. Ryan thought it was odd that Troy wanted to be buried next to a classmate that for the most part of his life he avoided and was clearly annoyed with. But he gave in to the boy just the same.
Ryan was startled from his thoughts when a hand touched his shoulder. Ryan looked up and saw Coach Bolton.
"Could you stay a while? There's something important I have to talk to you about," he said.
Ryan nodded. He noticed that many of the mourners began to leave. One by one they hugged Troy's parents and James goodbye before taking off. Finally Ryan was left with Troy's parents and James. Mrs. Bolton stood next to James and the boy offered his shoulder for her to lean on. Coach Bolton turned to Ryan.
"Walk with me a bit," he said and Ryan obliged. When they were a bit of a distance away from the gravesite Coach Bolton began to speak again.
"I talked to Troy's lawyer this morning and he told me something important. He left you something."
Ryan just nodded. Maybe Troy left a handsome amount to him for his theatre production company. Ryan didn't really need the money. He was rich on his own as the sole heir to his father's fortune in addition to the theatre company he shared with Kelsi. But Troy was after all a multi-millionaire since was an NBA MVP who occasionally stared in films. He was raking in millions, not just with sports endorsements but with commercials and blockbuster films. Maybe Troy thought a donation would be nice to further Andy's future in theatre.
But Coach Bolton reached into his coat pocket and produced a leather-bound notebook and gave it to him.
"What's this?" Ryan asked.
"What Troy left you," replied Coach Bolton.
"Oh," said Ryan. He was completely puzzled and curious to know what it contained.
"There's something else," said Coach Bolton. "And I hope you could shed some light on why Troy decided it."
"What is it?" Ryan asked nervously.
"He left Andy under your care."
Ryan stared at Coach Bolton for a moment as the words sank in. "What?"
"I know," replied Coach Bolton. "It's strange. I mean we're his parents. I would have treated Andy like my own but Troy's will clearly states you are to be his guardian in the event of his death if Andy is still a minor. Now I know Andy is almost eighteen. It's just eight more months, but you're still his legal guardian until his birthday. Troy's will was written five years ago and he never changed it so obviously he's given this some thought."
"I would take care of him of course. We're good friends. But I don't really know why Troy would leave Andy to me."
"That notebook might tell you," Coach Bolton said. "Look, I'll take Andy home with me for the moment. He doesn't know yet. Read that and maybe we'll understand."
Ryan nodded. "Alright. I'll drop by at your house later."
They said their farewells and Coach Bolton left with his wife and adopted grandson. When Ryan was finally alone, he walked back to Troy's and Sharpay's graves with the notebook still in his hand. He sat on the well-mowed grass of Sharpay's grave and opened it. It was a journal written in Troy's familiar handwriting. The first entry was dated five years ago.
If you're reading this, then it means I'm dead and that my son is still a minor. I have prepared for this inevitable possibility and I must confess that there are times that I wished for it. For years I welcomed death though I would never take my own life for Andy's sake.
But let me stop rambling now. No doubt you have many questions. You're probably wondering why I left Andy to you when you are not even related. I know you are fond of my boy and he has always regarded you as some sort of uncle. In a way you are, in ways you never imagined. And I'm going to tell you how. But before I do, I want you to keep an open mind. What I'm about to tell you is the whole truth though it's going to be hard to believe. I'm going to start at the beginning so you can fully understand.
It all started on the day I killed Sharpay…