Once Troy parked the rental car, he got out and jogged around to the other side to open Gabriella's door, helping her out as she held firm to the flower arrangements in her hands. "Can I carry those?"
Wordlessly, Gabriella shook her head but gave Troy a bit of a watery smile letting him know that she needed to be the one to carry them to their destination. After alarming the car, Troy followed Gabriella as they weaved between headstones, both quiet as they slowly made their way.
Gabriella first visited the grave of her grandfather before she took in a shaky breath and stopped at her mother's. "Hi Mom," she whispered, already feeling a tear roll down her cheek. "I'm here, I'm finally back. I'm so sorry it has been so long since the last visit. I brought someone here with me that I want you to meet. This is Troy, my fiancé."
Troy stepped up beside her, taking that as his invitation to approach. "Good morning."
"We brought you and Grandpa flowers. Hopefully, you both enjoy them." As she leaned down to place the arrangement on the ground at the foot of the gravestone, Gabriella's brow furrowed as she finally saw the dried out arrangement already lying there. "Did Dad or Luke come to visit?"
After clearing his throat, Troy spoke up, figuring now was the best time to tell her the truth. "Actually, those were from me. I'm surprised the maintenance crew didn't get rid of it by now."
This news made Gabriella straighten immediately after she placed their arrangement next to the older one. "Wait, from you?" Gabriella asked, completely caught off guard. "You came here before?"
Thankfully, Troy didn't hear any annoyance or anger in Gabriella's voice, just confusion. "I did, I had to Brie. I meant it when I said I asked for permission to ask for your hand in marriage. That didn't mean just Luke and Samuel. I know how special your mom is to you and felt that I owed it to her to introduce myself and pay my respects."
"You came all the way here to Albuquerque to just do that? Are you crazy?"
"Yeah?" He rubbed the back of his neck while trying to decide if his fiancé's reaction was good or bad. "Crazy about you and wanting everything to be just right. I confess I lied to you the day I came here. I told you I was going to a business meeting in New York but really I came here, hoping you wouldn't jump onto Twitter or something to see where I really ended up."
"Guess it's a good thing I'm not stalking you, Hollywood." Gabriella smiled before shaking her head a little more. "I still can't believe it. You really did come here?"
Nodding, Troy gestured to the older and falling apart arrangement. "I'm not sure if it is in there but I slipped a small picture of you and me into the middle so she could have a picture of us. Is that weird?"
"Weird? No, I think it's the sweetest and most thoughtful gesture I could have ever asked for in regards to your proposal. Troy, you went well above and beyond what I think any other male would ever think to do just to propose!"
Troy shrugged his shoulders as he sort of shuffled his feet. "I don't see it that way, I see it as paying your family the respect they all deserve. After all, I'm about to join your family as you already have unofficially joined mine and it's a big thing. Your mom is always in your life, from your promise ring to how you act and what you believe in. I know Samuel agrees in that regard."
"And she really is," Gabriella agreed, feeling as if in that moment that her life was as full as it could ever be. "I can only imagine how in love my mom is with you after doing this Troy, truly. You asking for her permission, coming here in person, it just proves what a wonderful man you are. I'm so lucky."
"Well I feel the same about having you in my life," Troy returned before he gave his fiancé a light kiss. "And for the record? Proposing to you has been one of the biggest things in my life so I wouldn't refer to it in the context of 'just to propose'. I hope you know how serious I am, how heartfelt it is."
Realizing her poor word choice earlier, she nodded her head, reaching up a hand to stroke his jaw line that was lined with some slight stubble. "I do Troy, I just chose the wrong words. Of course I know you mean it, and I hope you always will. What I meant to say is that your gesture of coming here, to visit my mom at her grave, it's very touching and so above and beyond what I would have ever imagined, thus my surprise. I love that you thought of this and every detail you put into your proposal but I love you more, far more."
"Have you put thought into being an English teacher because despite your wrong phrase usage earlier, you always seem to know what to say and how to say it. Majority of the time, I appreciate it with Michael most of course."
"He's still a sponge these days and will be for a while. I think we all much rather have that then have him uninterested in the world and stuck on some electronic game."
"True. Baby, why am I not even surprised at your wisdom?" Troy chuckled, shaking his head. "I'm really proud of you, you know that?"
Puzzled, Gabriella looked up into Troy's blue eyes and searched his gaze. "Proud of me? For what exactly?"
"For making the transition so well. Come on, let's both be honest. There were some major hesitations you had about coming on this press tour for the movie but you stuck it out like a champ."
Gabriella laughed a little as she thought about her feelings as they started the tour and how she felt about it all now. "Let's just say my dad was right. It opened my eyes up more to your career and what you go through. You have lots of stamina, that much is fact. I can't even begin to imagine how you're going to spend a week home before you take off again for the new project. Just promise me you'll get rest between everything, okay?"
"I'll try," Troy started before he saw the stern look on his fiancé's face. "Okay, okay, I promise. But see, having you on the tour with me helped since I could have gotten much worse than a cold if you weren't there to take care of me while we were in Rome."
"You mean how I told your team that you weren't doing anything deemed optional the night you were really bad? If they didn't like me before, I'm sure they hate me now."
"Oh, I don't know about that. I for one know that Damon respects you a hell of a lot more now. You stood your ground when it came to my health and he digs it. Actually, I believe he called you a protective Mama bear. After all, you made sure Tricia had all the medicines she needed to when she got sick the next day. How could she hate you for caring?"
"It's Hollywood and if there's one thing I've learned so far, not everything is as it seems and what would make sense in any other life, doesn't necessarily make sense here."
Troy couldn't help but agree. "Good points but don't let this world change you Brie. I don't know what I'd do if I had a jaded wife on my hands." After glancing at Sophia's headstone, he continued as he looked back at his fiancé. "Not to mention I'd be breaking my promise to your lovely mother if anything like that happened."
"Promise?" Gabriella asked, very curious about what transpired while Troy was here on his own. "What was that exactly?"
A smirk graced Troy's face as he saw the wonder bloom in those mocha eyes. "Let's just say there were many promises I made your mom, along with your dad and brother, but one that I made specifically to your mom is that I would never let who she raised you to be change unless it was for the better. Let's face it though, how much better can you get?"
Gabriella flushed at his compliment. "I appreciate your words Troy but you still have me wondering about these promises." When Troy made a motion with his right hand of zipping his lips, she could only roll her eyes. Instead, she took the moment to refocus on her mother, also glancing over at her grandfather's grave. "I guess some things just go unmentioned like that, right? Usually for a reason as you have taught me many times, Mom. I miss you, so very much."
Watching Gabriella squat down in front of the headstone again, running her fingers over the letters and numbers there, as her eyes began to water tugged hard on Troy's heart. From all of their previous discussions, Troy knew how important the bond Gabriella shared with her mother was but to see it play out right in front of him was something else entirely. He knew how blessed he was just to be seeing such an intimate moment.
Troy gave Gabriella all the time she needed to pay her respects to her family despite the exhaustion eating at him. Gabriella was right when she observed the large amount of stamina that was needed to keep up with the pace of his career. Taking this side trip on their way home from the press tour even added another half a day from being able to fully rest. Seeing the expressions on his fiancé's face though while they were here, the good and the bad, it made it all worth it especially knowing how much Gabriella really needed this visit and appreciated it.
Once she felt she said everything she could, knowing too that her mother was always with her in spirit, Gabriella walked back through the graveyard with Troy by her side, taking comfort in the strength she felt from him, his constant support of her. When Troy opened her car door, Gabriella paused and turned to face him, giving him a smile she hoped expressed her gratitude and love she felt for him at that very moment. Without a word, Gabriella leaned up and kissed Troy, warming them both against the cold, lingering only long enough for Troy to squeeze her tightly to him for a bit.
"You're welcome and I love you too," he whispered against her lips, kissing her one last time before helping her into the car and starting the last leg of their little over two weeks trip.
"If we have to ride this ride one more time, I think I'm going to go crazy."
"And yet again I find myself actually agreeing with Chad. The world is so ending."
Troy and Gabriella shared an amused glance as they sat in the row behind Lucille, Jack, and Michael but in front of Chad, Taylor, and Hayden. Their two security details were each in a boat in front and behind them. It was still odd to Gabriella having to have the two men with them while they were having an outing at Disneyland but Gabriella learned on the press tour as well what a blessing they were, especially in crowded situations with many curious faces.
"Oh will you two stop?" Taylor's voice was heard in a loud whisper that managed to be quieter than the voices Hayden and Chad had just used. "Michael wanted to go on 'It's a Small World' again. So what? He is allowed to have fun here too."
"But Tay, this song is going to be stuck in my head for days! This is going to be our fifth full time!" Chad complained, cringing as they entered the final room where everything was in white and he could swear the music was much louder than the rest of the ride. "I love Small Fry but I will seriously try to drown myself in this highly stinky water if we have to go again."
"Now that I wouldn't mind. Go ahead Chad, may as well as get it done now," Hayden teased, laughing a little as he glared at her.
Gabriella glanced back and saw the resigned look on her best friend's face. She felt instant sympathy for Taylor being stuck between Hayden and Chad. Taylor rolled her eyes before giving Gabriella a smile, letting her know that Taylor still had some patience and humor in her.
Troy too looked back at the row behind them but was distracted again as he heard Michael singing. Sure it was out of tune, but what young kid sings perfectly besides those random brilliant singers. 'Huh, I wonder if Sharpay could really carry tunes well when she was his age.'
When the boat exited the building and bumped into the boat in front, Troy had to blink his eyes a bit to get them adjusted to the afternoon daylight. It turned out to be a beautiful day despite being the end of January, which only meant it was colder than the stereotypical warm L.A. weather.
One glance at his fiancé showed Troy that Gabriella was sad again by the way the distant look resided in her eyes. He tightened his hold around her shoulders and kissed the side of her head, ignoring the people that were looking down at them from the railings above. "Come on Brie, you're in the Happiest Place on Earth. There's no reason to be sad."
Startled by his voice, Gabriella looked back at Troy and said, "I can't help it. I'm okay for the most part but every now and then, I just get reminded that tomorrow night you'll be heading off into the sunset, literally. I know I said I could do this and I can, it just, I'll miss you a lot Troy."
"I'll miss you too but it'll pass by quick. Three months apart but I will keep to my promise to come visit as you said you'll come out to visit me. Besides, I think once you officially ask your bridal party to participate, you're going to end up in a flurry of wedding plans."
Gabriella felt a smile creep across her face. "Yeah, I've already had threats of that by Sharpay. I'm sorry, I don't even know how I get into these funks except that it is just never far from my mind. I was so happy in there and then when we were going through that last tunnel with the signs, I looked at all the faraway places represented and it reminded me of how far you'll be soon."
"Don't be sorry baby. Your emotions, they are part of what makes you so genuine, so real, so down to Earth. I don't ever want that to change."
Their tender moment was interrupted as their boat pulled to its final stop, their usual bodyguard, Stuart Jones, there to help Gabriella up before falling into step behind them as they left the area. The two other security detail members worked at keeping some of the more excited fans in control as Troy paused to sign a few autographs on Disneyland maps or napkins for a few minutes before the group headed to the next ride as led by their Disneyland escort.
After a few more family type rides, Hayden, Chad, Taylor, and Jack all expressed an interest in going on more of a thrill ride while Michael wanted to go on Dumbo again, making it his fourth time of going on it that day.
"Come on Michael, this is our last ride before dinner. You can go on Dumbo later," Hayden attempted to argue.
"No, I want Dumbo." Michael got that stubborn look on his face that made it very clear that he wasn't going to be pushed over by his sister again. "It's fun cause he flies!"
"Yes, yes, I know. Dad, can't you tell Michael he won't get his way this time? We don't have a lot of time left before dinner."
Before her husband could speak, since he was one of the ones that wanted to go on a thrill ride, Lucille spoke up. "I think that Hayden is right Michael. We can ride Dumbo after dinner. It'll be your special treat."
Michael thought about it for a little bit before he asked, "Can I go with Gaby and Troy?"
Lucille looked to her son and his fiancé and saw them nod. "Sure."
As Gabriella was going to do her part to help soothe Michael's feelings, Troy surprised her by beating her to the punch. "Michael, why don't we let Mom join Dad and the others on Space Mountain while you and I go and spoil our dinner a little and get some Mickey ice cream sandwiches? I'll let you bite the ears off of my sandwich too."
"Promise Troy?" Michael questioned, staring at his brother in the eyes. "I really get to eat ice cream now before dinner?"
Jack had to hold in a laugh as he saw Lucille struggle to keep her mouth closed, not liking the offer Troy made to his little brother but realizing too that it was too late to change the deal on Michael. True he was no longer a baby or toddler but the last thing Lucille wanted was a meltdown in the middle of Disneyland and under two hours before the arranged dinner.
Troy too noticed the touched yet disappointed look on Gabriella's face. "Yes, I promise, even though I think that'll get me in trouble with some people here. Maybe we can just meet them somewhere after they are done so we can get ready for dinner together."
"Sounds like a good plan to me," Gabriella commented, officially joining the conversation. "Michael, can I come with you too? I miss my Michael time."
Michael beamed before he wordlessly grabbed Gabriella's and Troy's hands in his little ones, pulling them towards the nearest ice cream vendor.
Seeing that there was no stopping the little guy's momentum, Jack had Hayden text his eldest that she would text them once they were done riding Space Mountain so they could figure out where they would change.
While the others started making their way through the crowd with the Disney guide, Lucille lingered behind and watched the trio wait in line to get the promised Mickey ice cream sandwiches. She noted how Troy had pulled a baseball cap on, adding to the sunglasses already on his face, which seemed to actually help hide his identity a little more so there weren't quite so many stares directed their way. It was the easy and fun energy the trio shared that Lucille could feel even from where she stood yards away that made her heart melt that much more. 'No matter what happens, I hope those three never lose that bond together.'
Chad fidgeted in the suit he had changed into, feeling weird standing outside among all the casually dressed families in the streets of New Orleans Square. He looked over at Jack, who was dressed in a suit as well as he spoke into an intercom in the wall of one of the buildings. There was a sign nearby with "33" on it, which Chad supposed was supposed to be the address maybe of the place on the street.
Noticing Chad pull at his tie yet again, Taylor felt some level of pity for her boyfriend. "Feeling extremely awkward right now, huh?" When she saw Chad return his attention back to her, Taylor said, "Try feeling that weird and wearing heels."
Chuckling, Chad shook his head. "True, definitely true. You do look stunning in that outfit by the way."
Despite the chill in the air, Taylor felt herself warm as Chad kissed her while he wrapped her in his arms.
Hayden watched the public display of affection and actually felt happy for the couple. 'I may not get along with the guy but I'm happy Chad found Taylor. Maybe she can actually shape him up to be less of a punk.'
Feeling a tug on her hand, Hayden looked down and saw Michael looking back up at here. "Where's Gaby and Troy?"
Hayden looked around and spied the couple in a similar embrace to Chad and Taylor but in a courtyard in between the buildings. "They are sharing a private moment it looks like," Hayden returned, looking from her older brother to her younger one. "Do you still have room to eat dinner? Mom is going to be upset with you and Troy if not."
Michael understood the warning in Hayden's words and nodded. "I know, I need to eat my food, especially the vegetables so I don't get Troy in trouble."
"Good boy," Hayden replied, relieved to know that was one less thing that could spoil the night. She felt her purse buzz and slipped it open while still holding Michael's hand, managing to pull the phone out. A smile graced her lips as she quickly read the message from a potential new guy she was dating. 'It may just be the start of something but seeing Chad and Taylor, Troy and Gabriella, as well as Dad and Mom, I can't help but want that type of happiness and love too.'
Since they didn't need the Disneyland guide for dinner, Troy and Gabriella were left alone with the security detail they had with them, who ushered them into the courtyard so they weren't standing in the crowded open while everyone else waited outside of the restaurant. Both were also dressed in much more formal attire than the typical Disneyland visitor, Troy in a black suit with a white shirt and a deep red tie that matched the deep red color of Gabriella's strapless dress that ended mid-thigh with an overskirt of chiffon cascading diagonally down to the calf of her left leg.
"You know Brie, as often as I get to see you dressed up as late, you never fail to take my breath away," Troy complimented, picking up Gabriella's hand to kiss the back of it lightly. "You are just so lovely."
As Gabriella felt the heat creep into her cheeks, she shook her head at her fiancé. "Wildcat, you do know you can stop trying to win me over. I did say yes to you a few weeks ago already. You've seen me in this dress now three times."
"True, but it doesn't mean that how beautiful and rather sexy you look in it ever goes away, no matter how many times you wear it. And as far as I'm concerned, I need to win you over every day for each is a brand new start and a clean slate for me to fill with endless compliments and words of love from my heart."
"Mmm, if only your fans could hear you now. I'd be as good as a dead woman from all the looks of envy."
"Too bad I only have eyes for you. You are after all my inspiration for any romantic look I get on my face, any sweet word I speak, whether I'm looking at you or putting on an act for the camera."
"God how I love you Troy," Gabriella whispered, raising herself up on her toes just a bit more to initiate a rather tender kiss, knowing by now that the security detail were discreet enough to look away. It was still odd for Gabriella to know they had the constant presence of these extra men around but she was slowly getting used to being watched over by them. At least it was to the point that they no longer interfered with special moments like these.
"Yo, Hoops, time to escort the lovely lady upstairs!" Chad called out, interrupting the moment. It also wasn't the most subtle way of letting Troy and Gabriella know that the door to Club 33 finally opened for them as a few people on the main path through the alleyway looked their way.
Putting aside the growing pairs of eyes turned their way, Troy gently slipped Gabriella's hand through his arm to rest on his elbow as he escorted her out of the courtyard before they slipped through the previously locked door, security doing their job of keeping a buffer between them and the growing interest in them until the door to the club finally closed.
Troy, Gabriella, Chad, and Taylor all studied the decorations of the lobby as they waited for the elevator that was reminiscent of older times to return from bringing Troy's family up to the main restaurant. It was clear to all four from just the lobby alone how special and exclusive this place was.
Once they joined Troy's family, the large party was led to a smaller dining room that was closed off from the rest of the restaurant where the hostess informed them they would be dining.
As Gabriella and Troy walked through the door, they found an even bigger surprise waiting for them besides how beautiful the restaurant itself was. Up on the wall directly in front of them was a banner that read "Congratulations Gabriella and Troy!" in big letters with what looked like little messages written all over.
Once the doors behind them were closed, both heard "Congratulations" yelled out from all directions of the room, making them realize that there were many more in the room than expected.
Samuel was the first to step forward, a huge grin on his face. "Congratulations Gaby and Troy on your engagement. Hopefully you both are surprised by this and hopefully you don't mind but I wanted to celebrate this joyous news by inviting your loved ones all together to have an engagement party before Troy took off for his next project."
"Mind? Dad, this is amazing!" Gabriella exclaimed, leaving Troy's side to embrace her father. "You really are full of connections and surprises aren't you?"
"Oh, you get to know some things being in this industry." Samuel replied with a smile before he kissed his daughter's cheek. "I have a few things for you too that I'll give you later. For now, go and enjoy. You'll find some unexpected faces but I suspect that you will need to greet your brother and his definitely pregnant wife next."
Before Gabriella could completely step out of Samuel's hold, Luke sure enough had her swept up in another big hug, twirling Gabriella around a little much to Birgitte's amusement. "Congratulations little sis. But most importantly to you, Troy. You've really hit the jackpot with Gabriella and you better never forget to treat her as the special treasure she is."
Troy met Luke's gaze over Gabriella's shoulder and nodded his understanding. "I won't and I won't forget our talks either, any of them, but especially the one we had when you gave me permission to propose."
After Gabriella hugged Birgitte, making sure not to hug too tightly, Gabriella turned her attention back to Samuel and Luke. "Speaking of, I can't believe that Troy actually survived asking you both plus making the trip out to see Mom!"
"So you did actually go, huh?" Luke asked Troy. "I wasn't sure you'd make it after you asked for the exact whereabouts of our mom's grave."
"As I told Gabriella, it was an important journey I had to make and there was nothing that was going to keep me from paying equal respects to such a wonderful woman from what I hear and what I see in both you and your sister."
"They both are wonderful aren't they?" Birgitte agreed, slipping an arm around her husband. "We'll have to bring the baby to visit your mom too when he or she is older."
"Wait, you don't know which gender your baby is?" Samuel asked, looking at his son and daughter-in-law. "I thought you were going to find out."
"We were but because of the angles of the baby, they weren't quite sure, even between the two visits. One round said girl, one said boy, so we are back to planning for either and staying neutral for the nursery and clothes for now."
Luke just shook his head. "You would think with technology these days that there would be like 100% accuracy or close but nope. It's okay though, as long as the baby is healthy, Birgitte and I don't mind either way."
Before Gabriella could say anymore on the baby topic, her attention was instantly grabbed by Sharpay's excited voice. "Gabriella! Troy! Congrats!"
The couple laughed as Sharpay hugged them both together while Zeke chuckled, shaking his head before hugging Gabriella on her own and doing a fist pump with Troy. "You have to excuse her, Sharpay is running on little sleep and lots of caffeine so she is like four times as excited as usual over your engagement and being here."
"That's right, you're supposed to be in Paris right now, right?" Gabriella recalled, amazed that Sharpay was actually here for the party. "What are you doing here? Won't your team get upset?"
Sharpay rolled her eyes as she waved that comment off. "Please, like I would miss your engagement party. Besides, my team may rule my career but when I want something, trust me, they know they better make it happen. Something that I will have to teach you missy when it comes to handling TJ's team."
Troy cringed at the image of Sharpay teaching Gabriella the former's tricks of the trade.
Zeke saw Troy's expression and said, "Face it Troy, there's no stopping this friendship between the two and it is actually better Gabriella learn to a degree from Sharpay than elsewhere."
"The phrase 'to a degree' is key there man," Troy commented back, watching as Gabriella tried her hardest to keep up with some very quick words coming out of her friend's mouth.
Troy looked around and felt his surprise that he knew would be an even bigger one once Gabriella saw who else was in the room. He glanced over to Samuel, who was now talking to Lucille and Jack, with Michael in Samuel's arms, and caught his eye. "I'm impressed Sam."
Samuel smiled back at his future son-in-law. "Nothing is too good for my daughter."
Gabriella was actually relieved when Sharpay's speed talking was interrupted by Ryan, Kelsi, and Martha, who came over to each give Gabriella and Troy a hug each.
"Has my twin talked your ear off yet? She has mine!" Ryan teased, earning a quick poke from his sister. "I kid, I kid! Well sort of."
Ignoring the threats now being traded between the siblings, Kelsi and Martha focused on Gabriella and how radiant she looked. "If I didn't know better, I'd say the rumors are true and that you're pregnant," Martha stated. "Doesn't she look like she's glowing, Kelsi?"
Kelsi studied Gabriella from head to toe and nodded. "She does have a very happy glow. I think I saw that same glow in the magazines and pictures on the internet Ryan and I saw the last few weeks."
"Wait, you two actually read that stuff?"
Shrugging, Kelsi replied, "Yes, if only to be entertained. With Sharpay in our lives, not to mention Troy and now Gabriella, we know how to see the truth from the crap. It also is a way to keep somewhat up to date with what is going on although what we hear direct from the source is so much better."
"I'm so glad to hear you don't just read and believe like a lot of people out there," Gabriella stated, meaning every word.
"When you know people in the business, it's very hard to do that especially when you know the truth. I still can't believe the pregnancy rumor blew up as it did."
"I can," Martha chimed in. "The press sees what it wants to see and wants the dirt to sell more magazines, true or false."
"True! How is teaching going for you two and Ryan?" Gabriella asked, feeling a bit envious. "Is it still going well?"
"My current studio teacher job is all right. Not nearly as much fun as we had together," Martha answered.
Kelsi thought about it and replied, "I think Ryan and I are still equally enjoying our teaching jobs and coaching. You know, I hear rumor that our school may be looking for someone for next year. Would you be interested?"
"Of course!" Gabriella exclaimed, excited at the very idea of having a normal teaching job and being somewhere where she knew people. "Do you think I could make it?"
"I don't see why not. I'll send you the information as soon as I hear anything more."
There was a loud clearing of the throat behind Gabriella, causing her to spin and let out a small scream that made Troy chuckle. Without her saying a word, Troy said, "It's true Gabriella. They really are here."
Momentarily loving how Troy knew her so well to answer questions not yet asked, Gabriella just nodded, her smile widening as she took a few more moments absorbing the fact that both people in front of her were there. "Kara! Josh! You both are here!"
Josh rolled his eyes as he laughed and hugged his friend at the same time. "Hello, I think your observant fiancé already established that brainiac."
"Be nice Josh," Kara scolded, hugging Gabriella and then Troy after her son. "Sorry, his manners have gotten worse since you left him Gabriella."
"Have not!" Josh's argument though died before it began as Hayden joined the group and rolled her eyes. "Oh not you too."
Shrugging, Hayden said, "Can't deny the truth. I call them as I see it, you know that."
"Good point," Troy agreed, knowing full well that Hayden was sometimes too honest.
"Kara, how is the halau doing?" Gabriella asked, feeling nostalgic for her time there.
"So far so good. We all miss you though. You are an inspiration to the little ones especially for your talent, not who you are engaged to by the way. I hope you never lose sight of that and your own fabulous skills. I still show the video from the competition to show what an amazing dancer looks like, head to toes."
"That means so much Kara, thanks."
Shortly after, Samuel asked everyone to take their seats to start enjoying some appetizers and drinks while the waiters started taking orders after menus were looked over.
During the lull before salads and soups were brought out, Samuel took the opportunity to give Gabriella and Troy the two items he had brought with him to present them. "Gabriella, the first one here is more for you. It's something I hope you can have on you when it comes time for the wedding as a reminder that you are loved by your entire family even as Sophia watches down from heaven above."
Without having seen what was in the small gift bag, Gabriella felt her throat constrict with her father's words. She glanced up at Luke, who gave her an encouraging smile. Digging in, she pulled out the tissue paper and slowly unwrapped a square velvet box where a white gold locket lay. Already having a feeling of what she would find, Gabriella opened it to see an old picture of both her parents, a much younger Luke, and herself as a young toddler with the other side holding a picture of Sophia alone. "This is beautiful Dad."
"I'm glad you like it. It may not be a traditional engagement gift but I wanted to give you something that felt to you like it was given by both myself and your mother. She really would be so over the moon for you and Troy."
"Thanks Dad," Gabriella whispered into Samuel's ear as they shared a hug. "This is absolutely wonderful."
Samuel beamed at his daughter before he remembered the second part of the gift. "Troy, since Gabriella got to open that one, I'll give you this one. Mind you, I didn't have anything to do with that one but I thought you'd appreciate it."
Troy took the package from Samuel and tore the paper off, surprised when he saw a magazine from this week with a picture of Troy and Gabriella from one of the press stops. "Really Sam?"
"Go on, read it," Samuel encouraged.
"I want to read!" Michael volunteered, showing the confidence he was gaining while still learning the skill.
Since Michael was sitting on Troy's other side, he slid it over to his little brother as they both opened the magazine to where there was a sticky tab sticking out. Also intrigued, Gabriella looked over Troy's shoulder from his other side and felt her heart speed up as she quickly read the article, impressed that it was all truth for once, even though it was not officially confirmed truth from TJ's team.
"Well Sam, I have to agree. They finally got something totally right," Troy agreed, relieved the article painted everything in a positive light so Gail wouldn't freak out later. More importantly, it meant a lot to him to see how much at ease this put Gabriella, helping calm her still lingering worries about TJ's reputation. "See Gabriella? Nothing to worry about. And I think the headline says it all don't you think?"
Gabriella scanned the headline again as Michael was finishing with the article with help from Lucille to read the whole article. "In some cheesy way, I guess so."
"Well I do love you, with every beat in my heart."
"And I love you with every blink of my eyes. Plus you are famous, that is undeniable. I'd still take Troy over TJ any day but happily take both as the package deal."
"I'm so glad to hear that," Troy returned, leaning over to kiss Gabriella.
"Hey lovebirds, the rest of us want to hear this remarkable headline!" Chad called out, getting seconded by Josh a little bit after. "What's it say?"
Troy grinned and was about to announce it before he thought better. "Michael, why don't you tell them what it says?"
Michael matched his older brother's smile as his eyes began twinkling even more than before. "It says, 'Famously in Love'!" At the sounds of all the cheers, Michael thought they were actually meant for him so he beamed. "I read, I read! Mommy, what does in love mean? Are they going to have a baby now?"
Gabriella and Troy shared an amused look as they listened to Lucille take on the responsibility of explaining things to Michael again before their attention was called elsewhere throughout the room to the different loved ones present.
Unexpectedly, Gabriella felt Troy's finger slide under her chin and move her face so that she was returning his tender gaze. "What is it Troy?"
"I'm just thinking how fortunate we are to have these many loved ones in our lives and how fortunate I am that you stuck by me through so much to date."
"You did the same for me."
"And I always will. After all, we have pages and pages to fill in the rest of the book of our life together, a future I'm looking forward to. Thanks to the magazine, I think I'll call the first part 'Famously in Love' since it seems to fit so well." Troy chuckled as he saw Gabriella roll her eyes. "What?"
"You are just so cheesy sometimes but I love that aspect about you along with everything else." Gabriella leaned closer into Troy's side as he tightened the hold his left arm had around her shoulders. "We're really going to do this, get married?"
Troy's lips brushed her forehead. "That's the plan. Maybe a fall or winter wedding?"
"Maybe, we'll see. There's a lot to do before then."
"And still a good amount of time to make it happen. Whether I'm here or not, I want to be involved in everything okay? No doing this on your own."
"But your schedule," Gabriella began to argue, stopping as she saw Troy shake his head.
After he kissed Gabriella's nose at the tip, Troy replied, "Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to take away from our wedding and what we share ever again. That I can promise you."
They shared another tender kiss before being interrupted by the start of what ended up being several toasts, each one heartfelt from the people who loved Troy and Gabriella the most.
True, neither really knew what the future held for them for certain but what they did know is that famous or not, their love was genuine and would endure anything that came their way.