For a moment, the world stopped spinning.

Time immediately halted and every breathing organism around her disappeared. The blackness of the room almost sent a holy spotlight onto the contorted face that squeezed torturously. Seconds were more like years as she heard Troy howl in pain as his back smashed against the wall. She didn't notice that Welsh had fallen with blood trailing down his broken jaw. She couldn't hear the battle raging above them. None of this mattered.

Her life just got stabbed brutally with a switchblade. Nothing else mattered.

Gabriella's long legs were numb as she lay helpless on the floor of Donavon's black office. Her thin blood ran cold. There he was, her powerful Troy Bolton was slumped up against the wall panting uncontrollably. The bloody face of the evil terrorist curled up in that cruel smile of triumph, even though the German was slipping from life as well. Gabriella's swollen heart decided to shut down, shrivel up into nothingness. He was lying helplessly with the silver dagger sticking four inches above his left hip. Ink like blood began to stain his black shirt. Gabriella couldn't breathe. Oxygen would literally not come into her lungs.

This wasn't happening. It felt as though she was in a dreamlike state. Troy was not lying there thrashing on the wooden floor. She was not staring at him with water dripping down her face. Varison was not in the same room with them. They were back on that heaven of satin in the beach house. They were naked. She was just sleeping. Everything was going to be okay.

And then the pain suddenly hit her.

He was dying.

Wait… no… SHE was dying with him.

"TROY!" she screeched like a knife in the blackness. His black shirt began to ooze the liquid of death. His body began to tremble violently. "TROY!" The pain, the suffering, her love raged through her veins like fire. Her shakes were too much for her tiny frame.

His dimming ceruleans exploded as they opened. He was fighting, clawing his way to stay in consciousness. Gabriella whimpered watching him struggle with the terrorist's body caging Troy's muscles in.

No… God please no…

Everything was happening in slow motion. She was so horrifyingly transfixed on her lover's pained face that she didn't even realize a sudden bang exploded in the room. A wave of heat smashed her against the wooden desk, instantly causing a bruise on her bony shoulder. A rapid stampede raced into the deathly room. Gabriella found herself in blackness, only hearing the deafening sounds of sharp gunshots and irrational shouting.




Her glossy eyes immediately flew open at the sound of her lover's name. Troy. She had to get to Troy. The smoke was still swirling and causing her blindness, but she had to get to him. She could hear the dreading sounds of a struggle, but she had to touch him. Had to feel him.

"Troy…" She whimpered distantly as she began to pull herself in the direction that she knew he was in. Her nails gripped into the soot covered floor board, before feeling her knees begin to grind against the floor in a burn as she pulled. She didn't care. Nothing else mattered but getting to him. "Troy."

"She's here!" Someone called, not that Gabriella mattered. Her heart slammed against her chest, Troy. She had to get to Troy.

Like a halo glowing, she saw his broken figure. There were two black figures smashed the evil German into the wall and the sound of handcuffs could be heard through the heat of the room. But all Gabriella could see was Troy's head slowly moving as someone was hunched over his bloody body.

With that, Gabriella couldn't wait anymore.

Fighting against every sore bone in her body, she crawled desperately to the warm body's side, immediately feeling her heart smash into a million pieces as she gazed down at his shattered body. There was sticky blood everywhere. His normally bronze face was the color of a ghost's with his tormented head swiveling painfully as his face winced. His stained chest was heaving in desperation to keep breathing. Keep battling.

Gabriella couldn't find her voice as her trembling hand timidly reached out to stroke the side of his sweating face. His skin was like placing her hand in a fire, smoldering her palm but she didn't dare pull away. Immediately, the azure orbs ripped open and they met her tear stained eyes. Almost instantaneously, Gabriella choked back a sob. "Troy… oh God Troy…"

He attempted to curve his lips into a twisted smile in comfort, but it seemed to pain him too much. Instead, his twitching fingers gently rubbed against her now completely ripped jeans. Her fragile heart cracked even more. "Ple…pleas… don't cry…" He panted before snapping his head back and opening his mouth to let loose a cry of raw torment as the black figure on the other side of his body gingerly touched the sharp knife.

"Donavon! Donavon, it's Bolton!" Someone yelled panicked in the distance but Gabriella was too focused on her love's pain to notice anything else.

"Troy… please Troy… I need you…" She whispered in a voice that sounded like a squeaking mouse. She did. She needed him, even though the terrorist was now going to be held on trial and under the government's punishment, she needed him more than ever.

"I'm no..not going…anywhere," Troy promised while slowly turning his slick head to allow her gentle fingers to caress his cheek and his eyes flutter closed. His breathing continued to come at a swift, uneven pace. "I promised… I wouldn't… let go."

"Take him to the truck. You've got to get him out of here." A booming voice ordered swiftly, finally causing Gabriella to glance her wet eyes upwards to see Donavon standing over them, pure concern written over his stern dark visage. Suddenly, two hands were on Gabriella's weak shoulders attempting to pull her backwards.

"Miss Montez…" The mystery agent started to pull her as multiple arms began to grab at the injured figure below. Her first reaction was to attempt to fight, but she realized they were taking him somewhere safe. The only problem was that she couldn't be left alone.

"Troy!" her heavy head dug towards his soaking neck, listening to the uneven pulse vibrated against her skin. Gabriella attempted to hold him, but people where struggling to keep her off him. "Please hold on Troy…"

"Love… you…" his raspy voice whispered before she felt his chapped lips drag across her forehead, electricity raging through her veins. It was the closest thing to a kiss she would get.

"He's gonna be okay…" The dark figure promised before finally managing to pull Gabriella's broken frame away from the wounded. She watched in terror as two built men dressed in pure black carefully lifted her life, her love from the shadows of the ground and began to hurry him towards the destroyed door.

Her body felt light, and she was loosing consciousness. The pain of almost two and a half days built up on her petite frame. Emotions were running like wildfire through her veins. The last thing Gabriella saw were Troy's trembling muscles being carried away before her swollen eyes rolled in the back of her head as she passed out, finally having enough.

Death was easy.

In a cruel way really. Life was so hard. It was so difficult to stay alive. Thousands of sources were out there to take your life away in the snap of a finger. Guns, nuclear bombs, buses, plastic bags or anything else of that matter could sudden crush a beating heart. You had to deal with heart break, job loss, and lost friends. Life was hard, a struggle that people had to fight through every day.

Yet, for Troy Bolton, he didn't care if he had a million heart breaks; he just had to see his love one more time.

The cyan orbs fluttered open only to be blinded by a shining bright light. Was this heaven? His strong body felt numb, the scorching pain in his side had diminished. Did he really have to breathe right now? Troy felt peace, at ease. This was what death was like? This outer body experience was foreign to him. Damn… it felt nice?

Until he heard a booming voice that made everything crash down again.

"Bout time you woke up." A throaty tone echoed around the room. The "numb" feeling he had just experienced suddenly evaporated. The burgundy king sized bed came into focus and the large man sitting on a chair off to his left side flooded his view. Troy was aware of the white and annoying hospital robe covering his defined muscles beneath the comforts of the sheets.

Oh yeah, torturous pain instantaneously exploded beneath his bronze skin. Fuck, that hurt!

"Ahh!" Troy cried out while his head snapped back and his hand immediately shot to the tender wound on his side.

"Careful Bolton." Donavan warned cautiously while leaning forward in his black suit that made him look more like the Secret Service than the NPJA. The throb didn't halt. Damn it… wouldn't it just go away?

"Whe…where the hell am I?" Troy panted, obviously realizing he wasn't in heaven anymore. Although even though his body was burning with raw surges pain, the comfort of the bed was caressing his sore muscles. He couldn't deny it felt good to lie down.

Everything seemed to flood back slowly. The Haiatt. The hotel. The car chase. The beach house. The sex (fuck yeah). The capture. The deal. The knife. Wait… shouldn't he be dead by now though? After everything he had just gone through in the past seventy-two hours, shouldn't he be dead?

"You've been out for three days."

Three days? Holy shit.

"And you're in the Montez estate." Donavon explained just before Troy's bright ceruleans immediately shot from where he was staring on the burnt red bed. His heart began to race against his chest, which also cause him to fight against the excruciating pain on his side to lift his shaking torso.

Gabriella. Oh God where was she?

"Gabriella! Where is she? Is she okay? Oh God… where is she?" Troy panted out at a million miles a minute, but suddenly the cozy room began to spin as all the blood rushed from his head down to his injury. Donavon's eyes grew wide with fright before he placed a steady hand out as Troy leaned his thousand pound head back to rest at the swift motion. Okay… so maybe snapping up was NOT a good idea.

"Calm down Troy… the last thing I need is for you to go into cardiac arrest," his boss chuckled deeply. "Gabriella's fine. She passed out in my office after you left but woke up about five minutes later. Jose and Maria forced her to sleep the first night you were in the hospital. She hasn't left outside this room since."

Troy suddenly flashed back to moments of mish mash white color that were locked in his memory. Other than that he couldn't recall anything that had happened since he was in the truck after being stabbed by the killer. "They're alright? What about Varison?"

Donavon's powerful body leaned over as he placed his strong elbows on his knees. "After we got the text with your location, we immediately stormed NPJA's headquarters. We managed to get inside and take out the bastard's goons, and then got into the office it must have been moments after the… accident…" he nodded curtly to Troy's wound covered with the warm comforter. "He's in custody and will be sent back to Germany where they can deal with the scumbag there."

Troy absorbed all the information in. "What happened after the Haiatt?"

Donavon shrugged. "I took Maria and Jose to San Francisco with Danforth. I gotta say, that kid's got a lot of fight in him," he chuckled a throaty laugh once again, Troy smiling proudly at his best friend's behavior. The silence hung in the air as Troy felt fatigue overcome him again. His body was not used to… well moving. Damn, every muscle ached like fire. "There's something else I have to talk to you about Bolton."

Troy suddenly narrowed his eyes curiously. Uh oh, Donavon's face was like a rock. Did he do something wrong? "Erm… okay?"

His thick eyebrows rose. "There was a red sheet found in one of his minion's trucks. There appeared to be semen on it. So we tested for DNA…"

Oh shit.

Troy's bronze face flushed red. Oh no. Donavon had a knowing look plastered across this hard visage. "Erm…"

"Look… I can either hope to God that you were just a horny guy and jacked off while she was in the other room, or I'm gonna have to let you go. But if you don't tell me, I'm not going to ask." Donavon had a twinkle in his eye that Troy was not used to.

This was it. Troy could lie and say he didn't sleep with Gabriella. He didn't have to say anything really. Then, once he got his strength back, he'd be able to go back to work like nothing had changed. He'd be able to be the assassin that everyone knew was incredible. He'd have the job he always wanted, a pay that was decent, and friends to go to work with every day. Every kid wanted to be a spy, and Troy could just go back to what he used to be.

But that was all before Gabriella.

"Look… I love my job Donavon. But… I can't… not anymore…" he stuttered and immediately his boss's black eyebrows rose curiously. "I'm sorry… but I can't leave her…"

The American frowned disappointed. "I was afraid you'd say that," he mumbled before shaking his head, like he was losing family instead of a coworker. "I'm gonna miss yah kid. But I'm prepared. If you want… I can hire you as a trainer. Teach the recruits your shit… Monday through Friday. Normal work hours."

Troy's heart rose again. Wait… was he offering him a new job? A safe job? Donavon's tight face revealed a smile that was sincere. Hell yeah, he wasn't unemployed! And best of all, he'd be safe. "You're serious?"

Slowly, his boss stood up from the sitting position. "Think about it alright? And talk to your girl about it," he shook his head at the thought before chuckling deeply again. "Glad you're alright Troy."

Troy tugged his hand from beneath the covers and reached out to grip Donavon's hand in a shake. Slowly, the older man retreated from the room, not even bothering to close the door behind him. Troy finally looked down to view his ugly ass hospital robes. Slowly, he allowed his hand to creep the material upward until he could take the full view of the pulsating skin that had turned black with the scar. Ugh, well at least it was a little better than his acidic one.

And that's when he heard it. The choke back of a sob that suddenly made his heart jumpstart into a cosmic beat. Immediately, his thousand pound head snapped up on its hinges and his breath was taken away. Air ripped violently from his lungs as he gazed upon the goddess standing in the doorway. Her midnight cascading hair attempted to shield her blotchy silk face, especially the ruby eyes that were obviously tearstained. She was in an emerald t-shirt and jeans.


The moment Gabriella spoke his name; Troy knew that this was a thousand times better than any heaven could ever be.

"Gabriella." He breathed, intoxicated with her figure. Instantaneously, Gabriella took off across the large bedroom and before he could blink his heavy eyelids, she was in his arms and straddling his injured torso. Everything just felt right as her lips slammed against his. Pain seared though his body again but was numbed by the hypnotic sensations of her mouth tangoing with his. Their kiss was desperate, longing for the fireworks that had been absent in the past couple days. Troy gripped her and let his strong biceps contract around her slender waist, never wanting to ever let her go.

The feeling of his life being in his arms was so overwhelming it was hard to imagine his existence without her.

Finally, they broke apart completely breathless. Troy was wheezing, for just a single kiss had just taken all his energy away, but it didn't matter. He'd kiss her until he passed out again if he could. The mocha brown bore into his azure orbs, drinking every moment they had together in. The silence heightened the loved that was spilling between the two. "Don't scare me like that again." She whispered as Troy winced, finally feeling the effects of Gabriella's legs split across him and rubbing dangerously against his wound.

"I'm sorry…" He mumbled back, finding that talking loud would loose the intensity of their reunion. Troy slowly maneuvered her so she was now cradled in his arms, away from his stab.

"Oh God I'm sorry…" Her eyes grew wide with fright as she reached tenderly out to not quite touch his mark, but the air around it seemed to turn with her fingers so close to him.

"Shh… baby it's fine…" his nose nuzzled her neck, in taking the scent that just made him fall in love with her all over again. "I have you… that's all that matters."

He felt himself become addicted to the supple feel of her skin against his scruffy cheek. He was so drunk in love that no words really could bring him to say what he wanted. Her parents were safe, she was safe. Nothing else mattered besides the fact that she was so gently cradled beneath his bulging biceps. Sleep was overcoming him again as he blissfully shut his eyes and delicately rubbed circles around the curve of her hip. "They wouldn't tell me at first," she explained after a few moments of silence. "They brought me back here while you were in the hospital. You lost a lot of blood."

Troy could tell. Every nerve ended felt weak, as though he had been drained. "I don't remember anything."

Gabriella smiled sadly, as though remembering the pain. "You were sleeping the whole time. They only let me see you like three times. I…I sorta… got aggressive and almost broke Chad's nose."

He couldn't contain the laughter that bubbled through his throat at the thought of Chad getting beat up by this girlfriend. This seemed to bring a sheepish grin to Gabriella's face. "That's my girl," he mumbled against her skin before pressing his lips to her forehead. "How are your parents?"

Gabriella shrugged before gripping his loose hand over her stomach and began to trace the sensitive lucid veins on his wrist. Troy trembled at the sensation of her long finger dancing over his bronze skin. The feeling was euphoric and sexy in a subtle way. "They're fine. They were worried about you."

He felt a swell of pride beneath his chest. Well, hopefully Donavon hadn't told the Montezs' of the beach house incident. Silence swallowed them again. She had dug her nose into the crook of his neck and Troy would gently pepper her forehead with sweet kisses every so often. The thickness of the air was causing Troy's drowsiness to take over again. He felt himself slip into a feeling of unconsciousness, but did everything in his power to fight and stay awake. "Troy?"

Troy felt a pull at his tight heartstrings as his heavy eyes lifted up; feeling the powerful gaze of the beauty sprawled around him. Her black curls draped over his evenly falling chest, and her bright eyes were shining dark liquid topaz. Love exploded in the room, sprinkling over their skin in an electrifying way that no one else would ever understand. "Yeah?"

Gabriella bit her puffy lip that was so inviting to him. "What's gonna happen now?"

A lazy smile crossed Troy's bronze face. Without answering her, he slowly leaned in and let their lips connect, feeling the tingles run down their spine in the way that made his toes curl. They moved slowly in a hypnotic rhythm that Troy found himself getting lost in the feel of her mouth. His hand traveled to the back of her neck before gently massaging the nape. His muscles seemed to be on fire again as he kissed her soundlessly, falling deeper in love than he ever thought possible.

He knew what was going to happen next. Once his body would make a full recovery, he would go to work for Donavon in the safe quarters of NPJA after it was reconstructed. No more would Troy Bolton be taking other people's lives. He was going to leave the other guys up to that. Gabriella would go to school for medicine, that was a guarantee. Hopefully, when Troy asked her, she would consider moving into his apartment with him. It may not be what she was used to, but he figured Gabriella wouldn't care about the money.

His slightly calloused hand lifted her slim fingers on her left palm, Troy gazing at the nude third one. He smirked… hoping that she would consider taking him when the time was right after she graduated and got a job. His careful thumb rubbed around it, Gabriella smiling distantly probably thinking the same thing that he was. Eventually, just not now. Hell, they had only been "together" for a couple days. And Troy had been knocked out for three. Damn knife to spoil his precious time with her. He hoped Varison burned for that one.

Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez would be able to manage anything. They had both spent three full days in desperate combat mode, where they could have been murdered at any moment. Yet, they still managed to find the love they had always craved from the other. And lying there, completely safe Troy felt that he had everything he had ever wanted in life beneath his arm. In an essence, he did. Near death experiences drew bonds. And Troy knew that whatever came their way next, they'd take on hand in hand.

"I know what's going to happen after can actually get up and move again." He smirked suggestively as Gabriella's brown eyes twinkled with delight. She tenderly reached up and cupped this side of his ruby cheek.

"And what is that Agent Bolton?" She sweetly giggled before continuing her ministrations on his wrist. Trembled raged down his spine.

"I'm taking you back to my apartment, stripping your gorgeous body down, throwing you on the bed, and we're not leaving for a week… got it?" His electric fingers tickled her smooth sides.

"Promise?" She whispered against his thin lips, Troy feeling the love in his chest explode just before he nodded. His hand gingerly ran down the side of her curves, feeling his heart swell with desire, love, affection, and everything in between. No gun could give him this thrill. No mission could hand him this happiness. The chapter in his life, the reckless one was over. Troy Bolton, the assassin, was dead. He was murdered in Donavon's office by the twisted terrorist.

But Troy Bolton the lover? His heart still beat. As long as Gabriella was with him, he was invincible.

"With my life." He mumbled and closed the distance between them in one sweet kiss.

A/N: I really hope that everyone enjoyed this story. It's something like I've never written before, but as I said in the first chapter, I love action movies so this was so fun to write! I know it was extremely fasted paced, and I hope that wasn't a problem for anyone. This last chapter was real quick also, but I didn't want to drag out the ending. It was never meant to be a really long one, so the ending I thought was fitting. Hopefully you weren't disappointed with this. As I said, it was much different than anything I've ever written before. And as I've also said, I know there are a LOT of other ones out there with the same kind of "protection" theme, but hopefully everyone thought this was unique in a way. Anyways, thank you so much for your reviews. I've never had so many comments on the chapters as I did with this one, so thank you! If I could, I'd send Zac over to each and everyone of you, but unfortunately, I think Vanessa would be angry. Thank you for the amazing reviews!

And I've been avoiding bringing this next topic up, but so many people have been asking me, so I think it's time. Yes... I'm currently writing a new story. The idea has been in my head since around chapter 14 of Lightning Only Strikes Once, but this story brought it to the back burner. Plus, there was a bit of an issue in regards to the plot but I think it is cleared up now. A LOT of you have been anticipating the "premiere" of Protecting Fate. Well *braces self for rounds of rocks thrown* you're going to have to wait a tiny bit longer. I need to collect my thoughts, so I'm going to be posting it in a week to two weeks. This time of year is about to get insanely busy for me. So PLEASE wait two weeks for it to come out. In the mean time you can check out the banners for it in my profile. (I usually post my new stories on Late Saturday nights/Sunday mornings, just as a hint) I'll still be around reading and reviewing, so if you need anything don't be afraid to send over a PM!

Once again, thank you for having faith in me during this story and hopefully you liked With My Life.