Title: Between The Lines
Summary: If life is but a musical, you have to read between the lines. A series of HSM3 missing moments, written for the ZA Angels Write-Off Challenge: Ellie's Theme
Disclaimer: If I owned High School Musical, I wouldn't have set the Australian release date six whole weeks after the US release date…*cries at the unfairness of it all*
A/N: Since I set this challenge, it's only fair I participate in it! As I'm not eligible to win the write-off anyway, I'm going to write this as a series of one-shots, since there are so many deliciously empty spaces to be filled in HSM 3! And before anyone asks, yes, I technically should not have seen the movie yet since I still officially have three weeks till it is released here Down Under…lets just leave it at me being a little bit sneaky and entirely impatient, ok? *furtive grin* Updates should be fairly frequent, even though I am juggling this with another full-length story in the Twilight fandom…and reviews are very much wanted and appreciated!
Dedication: For Kylie, Dani and Karen…Thank you for making the trip to the HSM 3 Premiere in Sydney one of the best days of my life (of course, on the day you rank behind seeing/photographing/obtaining the autographs of Zac/Vanessa/Ashley/Kenny, but I know you won't hold that against me!)
Troy sat motionless on the wooden bench, head cradled between his hands as the excited voices of his team-mates washed over him in a swirl of sound. Beyond them, the boisterous shouts of the gathering crowd in the gym, Wildcat and Knights fans alike, echoed down the white-washed corridor. This time last year, Troy had been filled with anticipation; for the game, for the audition, for maybe finally screwing up the courage to ask Gabriella to be more than just his friend but this year that anticipation had twisted into anxiety. He stretched out his right leg, wincing slightly as his strained calf muscle protested the action. That diving pass might have saved the game in their regional final but it had come at a price…one that might become higher if his leg gave out during this match.
He feared, more than anything, about letting down the guys, about letting down his father. He knew he wasn't the only person on the team but he was the captain, the playmaker, even if he sometimes wished he wasn't. No matter how much he tried to feel excited, tried to just bask in the knowledge that they'd made the championship game again, the anxiety didn't fade. He thought he'd done an admirable job of hiding it from everyone though, not willing to show weakness when everyone was counting on him to be strong. It didn't help either that his mind was also preoccupied with other concerns…mostly all centering around one gorgeous brunette who was never far from his thoughts.
He could still remember the joy shining in her eyes when she'd come barrelling through his front door, an acceptance letter from Stanford clutched in her grasp. It was something she had dreamed of her whole life and he couldn't be more proud of her, of her achievements. Gabriella was someone who had always been destined to shine and he would never stand in the way of that…but he couldn't help the spike of pain that lanced through him at the thought of being separated from her, of having over a thousand miles of land between them. The past year had seemed to be one long dream, everyday spent with her better than the last and though he would never admit it to anyone, occasionally thoughts of the future had filtered into his mind. Of apartments shared and holidays taken. Of matching rings and veils of lace. Of warm brandy eyes set into tiny chubby faces. He knew thoughts like that were meant to be the realm of females, but he couldn't help it. Since that fateful New Year's Eve, any serious thoughts as to the path ahead always had Gabriella placed firmly front and centre.
"Hoops, you alright man?"
Chad slapped him across the shoulder, making Troy jump with surprise. His best friend had excitement shining in his eyes, a basketball spinning effortlessly on his fingertip as he stretched out on the bench beside Troy. Ever since they had made their way into the championship game again with the chance to win back-to-back trophies, Chad had been living in an almost constant state of euphoria. It also didn't hurt that scouts for the Redhawks had decided that he was just as valuable a player to potentially extend a scholarship too as Troy, something he'd been boasting about practically non-stop ever since.
"Yeah, I'm fine, just planning out some last minute tactics for the game."
The lie came easily; making Troy feel completely uncomfortable at the ease with which he was deceiving his best friend but he couldn't, wouldn't, tell him the truth. Chad may have been friends with Gabriella, but he was an easy-going guy and had never really understood how Troy could be so serious about a girl that he was probably going to be separated from after high school anyway (Chad's opinion, not his).
"We going left again, Cap'n, or have you come up with something new?"
Thankful for the distraction, Troy lost himself in a conversation of set plays and defense zones, trying to come up with the best possible game plan that would not end with him collapsing in a pained heap on the court. A few other seniors on the team huddled around to add their opinions in, while even some of the sophomore benchwarmers had some worthwhile tactical contributions, especially the lanky Jimmie Zara. Despite his cockiness, Troy could see that the kid had a good tactical brain if he decided to use it. He wouldn't be surprised if he became Wildcat captain sometime in the future…
"So Chad, my man, I noticed that you like to bounce pass a lot…you might want to change it up a little bit for this match," Jimmie said with a grin, hanging his arm around Chad's shoulder, much to the vice-captain's displeasure.
…That's if he lived long enough, of course.
"I'll keep that in mind," Chad said stiltedly, rolling his eyes in Troy's direction as he ducked away from Jimmie's arm, shooting a glare in Zeke and Jason's direction as they smothered chuckles behind their hands.
"Is this a private conversation or can anyone join?"
A slow smile spread across Troy's lips at the familiar sweet voice, head turning to see Gabriella leaning against the metal doorway, her thick curls cascading down around her face to rest on the fitted white sundress which showed off her tan skin to perfection. If there was one thing Troy loved about the more confident girl Gabriella had become since moving to Albuquerque, it was her evolving fashion sense…sure, she had looked beautiful before but the more closely fitting (and sometimes revealing) clothes she had started to wear had played havoc with his raging hormones more than once. In his opinion, his girlfriend was hands down the prettiest girl at East High…and where that thought would once have only brought him pleasure, now it was tinged with that ever present ache at the separation looming on the horizon.
"Hey Gabs, how's the crowd out there?"
She smiled at Chad's question, acknowledging the greeting of the other team members with a nod but keeping her eyes firmly locked on Troy, who could see concern in their depths, at odds with the light tone she replied in
"Very loud," she giggled, "And waiting to see you all kick some West High butt."
"We'll aim to please," Zeke replied, high-fiving the guys around him.
"I'm sure you will. Now, if it's not too much trouble, can I steal your captain for a few minutes? I promise to return him in the same condition before the game starts," she said with fake solemnity, hand on her heart.
"I think we can spare him," Chad smirked as Troy stood up, slinging an arm around Gabriella's shoulders as he steered her into the empty bay of gym lockers down the hall for privacy. Sitting down on the bench, he tugged her down next to him, her head automatically coming to rest on his shoulder.
"So," he said for lack of anything else to say, realising that he hadn't said anything since she'd appeared in the locker room, "Did you drag me away to have you wicked way with me or…"
Troy trailed off as she smacked his arm, another light giggle escaping Gabriella's lips.
"Is that all you think about Wildcat?"
He cocked his head to the side, pretending to give her question some serious thought.
"No…I also think about me having my wicked way with you," he grinned, waggling his eyebrows with cheesy innuendo.
Gabriella effected a look of mock-affrontedness, before dissolving into laughter at the expression on her boyfriend's face. She became serious all too soon though, the concern Troy had seen in her eyes springing to the fore.
"Actually, I came to see how you were Wildcat," she said softly, ruffling the messy strands of hair by his ear.
"Me? I'm fine, why wouldn't I be," Troy said in one breath, "A little anxious to get the game underway but apart from that…"
His automatic denial faded away as she fixed him with a familiar look, one that said 'I know you're lying, so don't even try'.
Troy sighed, shifting so that his head was now resting on her shoulder, letting her hand stroke soothingly through his hair. He should have known that she would never be satisfied with a simple assertion of his well-being…after all, this was the girl who he'd confided stuff too that he would never have told anyone else. At times, it felt like she knew him better than he did.
"I'm…afraid I guess," he began hesitantly, before the rest came spilling out in a torrent, "The guys are relying on me to play a good game but my leg hurts more than I have let anyone know and I'm worried that I'm going to let them down, let the school down."
He left out his worries about her…this was not the time or the place to have a serious discussion about the future.
Relative silence reigned for a moments, punctuated only by the rising noise of the crowd and an enthusiastic shout that sounded suspiciously like Chad.
"You won't," Gabriella finally said firmly, "You won't let the team down, you won't let anyone down."
"How can you know that?" Troy asked, "Unless you added fortune-teller to your repertoire of skills when I wasn't paying attention."
"I know because you're you," she replied just as confidently, hand stilling in his hair, "Because once you hit that court, you'll play as hard as you can, no matter what pain you might feel."
She lifted his head up, eyes looking deep into his with all of the confidence, all of the pride she felt for him clearly on display.
"You are going to go out there and play the best game possible…and if you feel like you need some extra strength, I'll be in the crowd, sending all mine to you."
The vehemence with which she professed her faith in him brought a smile to his face, somehow, she always knew the right thing to say.
Leaning forward, he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, to her nose then finally her lips before pulling back, their heads resting together.
"Thank you," he said simply.
"For what?" she asked as he brushed a stray curl behind her ear, careful not to dislodge the small flower nestled in the brunette locks.
"For being you."
"You should really thank my parents for that," she teased softly, a small blush staining her cheeks at his sincerity.
"Remind me to bring your mom a bunch of flowers next time I come over then."
Gabriella rolled her eyes.
"Like you need to suck up to her anymore, you've had her eating out of the palm of your hand ever since you told her that her brownies were the best thing you had ever tasted."
"It's not sucking up if it's a lie," he shot back with a grin, his heart already feeling lighter and the anxiety draining away to be replaced by a fierce determination to prove Gabriella's faith in him wasn't false.
"Troy! Coach wants to talk to us!"
"So pry yourself away from your girlfriend and get back here, pronto!"
Zeke and Chad's shouts from down the hall made Troy shake his head at his friend's antics.
"You have a game to go win," Gabriella grinned, standing up, "And I have a crowd to fight through to get back to my seat."
He caught her wrist before she could leave.
"A kiss for good luck?"
She wrapped her arms around his neck, placing a languid kiss against his open lips.
"Go get em Wildcat," she whispered before slipping out the doorway, leaving one happy Wildcat captain to smirk with satisfaction as he rejoined his team-mates.
Troy might still feel anxiety of what was to come over the next month or so, but for now, he had a basketball team to lead and a trophy to collect, sore leg be damned.