Okay. This is unlike anything I've ever written before. It does not follow canon at all, what so ever, there are no other canon characters in the story besides Troy and Gabriella and it doesn't really deal with emotions as much as my other works. It's kind of introspective, kind of weird and I'm very much in love with it.

As a warning, this story portrays and deals with very casual drug use. I've seen a lot of casual drinking, a lot of casual sex in this fandom, but not a lot of casual drug use. Now, they're not going to be doing lines of coke off of strippers, but the Troy and Gabriella in this one-shot have a fondness for marijuana. I don't do drugs myself, but where I live and the age I'm at, such activities are commonplace and while they no longer offend me, they may others. If you are one of these people, please turn back now.

There were a lot of great songs that I felt fit the mood of this fic, as well as shaped it into what it is. I've uploaded the mix onto my LJ underneath the story's banner and you're not only welcome to, but I recommend downloading it and listening along while reading. :)


The Obituaries


It was one of those unbearable, lazy summer days in Albuquerque, the ones where the sun beats so hot that your flesh feels like it's going to melt off. Where the heat creates waves in the air and you can see puddles that are really just mirages on the blacktops of the pavement. Where those strange bugs made loud hissing, buzzing noises and everyone and anyone seems in a particularly bad mood just because no swimming pool, no air conditioning can save them from the effects of global warming.

Sitting in a lawn chair, nineteen year old Troy Bolton watched as Gabriella Montez ran through the sprinkler on her grandmother's front lawn. It was not a fancy one by any means, simple and basic; meant for actually watering the grass. Gabriella had captured it from the confines of the garage and set it up, stripping Troy of his T-shirt and herself of her sundress, forcing them both into the cool water.

He had bailed within the first fifteen minutes, choosing instead to relax with a beer and watch her as she leapt through the streams of water, causing her red bathing suit to cling to her figure. He appreciated the way the water cooled her skin, making her nipples erect through the fabric and admired the way it drizzled down her body, over her curves and across her flat stomach. He adored how it caused her curls to frizz and stick to her back and shoulders; the way it made the ground muddy so her feet were soiled as she pranced across it.

Yes, this suited him just fine.

When she grew tired of running back and forth, she sat down, letting the water rise over her and fall back behind her repeatedly, before reaching out a finger and beckoning Troy towards her. He shook his head. "I'm not getting wet again," he said, folding his arms. His torso had grown slick with sweat and he could feel his skin starting to tingle, from a tan or a burn he wasn't quite sure. But Gabriella pouted her lower lip and despite his mind telling him otherwise, he rose and came to stand by her underneath the sprinkler.

The thin streams of water hit him and he felt himself shiver. She smiled and tugged on his hand, running her thumb over his knuckles. His knees gave out and he knelt before her. She moved closer to him, rising on her own knees and placed her hands on his shoulders; leaning forward and whispering:

"Do you ever feel like we're watching the beginning of the end?"

He looked through the strands of hair that were matting to his forehead, covering his eyes. Droplets of water had gathered on her lips and he bent down; catching them with his tongue. "What do you mean?" he asked against her mouth.

She melted into him easily, twining her fingers through his hair. "You know, do you ever get the feeling when you think, we'll look back at this moment, and go, 'ah,'" she paused, drawing his lower lip between her teeth. She gave it a small nibble before releasing it and finishing her sentence. "'Ah ha,' we'll say, 'that's where it all went wrong.'"

He didn't answer for a second, her words too much to comprehend. He was feeling lazy and tired; the beer and the bowl they smoked an hour earlier having a lot to do with it. He rested his head against her shoulder, enjoying the feel of her skin against his cheek.

"Why, babe?" he asked, brushing his lips against her neck. She moved suddenly and looked to the left. He followed her gaze, landing on the screen door of the little green house.

She swallowed roughly, her eyes wide. "Because," she said softly. "I'm getting that feeling today."

Seventeen year old Gabriella Montez lived in a small green paneled house with her elderly grandmother, Juanita Montez. It was on a cheery little street with large, leafy green trees and a round court in the centre. There were little stone steps leading up the walkway and a patch of green class for the front lawn and even a little garden. It was homey with it's white shutters and rusty mailbox. She had loved visiting the little green house as a child, but since she had set foot outside of the car two years earlier, it had been nothing but hell.

Gabriella's mother had passed away when she was fifteen from breast cancer. The disease had been diagnosed too late and her fate had been sealed before she could attempt to change it. With Gabriella's father long gone by the age of three, that left Grams to take care of the teen, who two years ago, had been young, chipper and knee deep in academics. At the time, Grams was already in her late seventies and hardly capable of dealing with a hormonal young girl, but she refused to let her only granddaughter go into a foster home or, god forbid, the arms of one of his relatives; so at Grams' she was to stay.

Of course, the adjustment was not easy on Gabriella. Her mother's death, coupled with the sudden move, had left her reeling. What use was it spending all of your time dedicating yourself to something like school when clearly, life could yank you away from everything at anytime at all? Her Grams had been insistent that Gabriella not lose herself because of her mother's death, but it seemed like it was inevitable.

When Gabriella first stepped into the little green house two summers before, she had looked around at her surroundings uncomfortably. Everything was mismatched in the kitchen; beige tiles, mint green backsplash and shiny, brown cabinets. Her grandmother appeared to have no semblance of design and decorating what so ever; the bathroom had five different types and colour of text-tiles in it alone.

Her home with her mother had been grand and beautiful; white with ivy covering it. There were large, old, leafy trees surrounding the area and Gabriella's room had been massive. It was painted teal with feminine bed coverings and pictures of her friends everywhere. Her favourite thing about her house had been her balcony, where she had spent many a night sitting and reading; staring into the branches of the tree next to it. She'd imagine having her prince charming scale it and climb to rescue her from boredom. Now such dreams were impossible. Her house was gone, as was her mother and that part of her.

She stood in the hallway, the plush green carpeting tickling her feet. On one wall was a chiming clock and on the other were several pictures displaying religious scenes. Such things were never in Gabriella's home with her mother; fine art lined the walls along with black and white photographs. In her Abercrombie jeans and aviator sunglasses, carrying two large LL Bean duffel bags; Gabriella felt horribly out of place.

Then from the bedroom on the right side came a small old woman. She wore a simple green, button-up dress and a white kerchief in her silver white hair. Her skin was the colour of cappuccino and worn like leather. Her eyes, brown and warm smiled before her mouth did and she opened her arms.

"Oh, querido," she said softly and Gabriella burst into tears, dropping the bags that she had been grasping her hands and running into her grandmother's arms. "It's alright, Gabriella," Juanita murmured. "We'll take care of each other."

Sobbing onto Juanita's dress, Gabriella shook her head. "I can't believe she's gone, Grams," she said, adapting the nickname she had given Juanita when she was young. "I can't really believe my Mami's gone. What am I to do, Grams?" she pulled back and looked into the woman's deep, shining eyes. "Who am I to become? I can't do this without her. I'm lost, Grams, completely lost."

Juanita's eyes filled with tears and she stroked Gabriella's hair. She was a good head shorter than her granddaughter, but had a good fifty years of prior life experience on her. "First, querido, you cry. You cry until you think you'll never stop, but you will. Second, you remember your mother every second of every day until you don't want to anymore. Then, you heal." She grasped the girls hands in her own wrinkled one. "It will be a while before than happens, Gabriella, my querido, but it will." She smiled a watery smile. "You and I will do it together, I promise."

In the hallway they had stood, crying and sobbing for nearly ten minutes before collapsing into a heap and doing the same on the floor for the next few hours. They fell asleep that way and when Gabriella woke, she felt warm, like nothing was wrong. Then she saw that her hand was clasped in her grandmother's and it all came back to her and she broke all over again. The first few weeks at her grandmother's went along like this. An endless circle of breaking and repairing. She was exhausted and she was tired; there was nothing worth really living for anymore. Her spark of life had been sucked dry.

Then she met Troy Bolton.

Their first meeting was a precarious one. He lived next door to her grandmother in the small white house with the yellow shutters and sunflowers in the garden. She had been fussing over her bedroom, the one with the white walls, canary yellow curtains and green carpeting that she was still redecorating in an attempt to rid her mind of thoughts of her mother. Sitting along the window ledge, one leg dangling out the side and tapping against the panelling of the house, she heard a chuckle from below her.

"Just so you know, if you fall, there's a good chance I won't catch you."

Her eyes cast downward and she was met with the vision of a boy more beautiful than she had ever seen. He was tall with a mop of caramel brown hair and had a tan, broad body. He was wearing a grey V-neck T-shirt and a pair of jeans, looking up at her through squinted eyes. She froze.

"Yeah, well, at least it will make for an interesting story for you," she responded dryly. "You can tell everyone about the girl who fell to her death before your eyes; before you could even react."

Brushing his bangs out of his eyes, he peered up at her. "You really want me to live with that guilt for the rest of my life?" he asked, smiling. "Because I don't really think that's fair."

She shrugged. "Nothing in life is fair."

He didn't say anything for a moment, before turning on his heel to walk away. A chain link fence separated the two of them, he in his backyard by the patio. Before his hand closed over the back door's knob, he turned over his shoulder to look at her.

"You must be Juanita's granddaughter," he said, surveying her. "I'm Troy Bolton."

Despite herself, she smiled. "That's me. I'm Gabriella."

"Gabriella," he murmured. "That's a beautiful name."

It was interesting to look back on that day, on the way he spoke her name, especially since it was now imprinted on his body in black ink on his left shoulder blade. Small and in simple, bold letters, Gabriella would be marked on him for eternity. His friend Chad had gotten him a gift certificate for a tattoo parlor for Christmas and her name was the only thing he wanted marked on his body.

He had been seventeen at the time of their meeting and struggling to get through high school. He was supposed to have a bright future ahead of him due to his strong talent in basketball, but he didn't want to pursue it. His father, Jack Bolton, however, had other ideas for his son. While Troy wanted nothing than to just pause the world for at least five minutes, his father had already fast-forwarded to five years from now. He had Troy's entire future spread out for him, planned out and colour-coded. Troy hated every moment of it.

He was to go to the University of Albuquerque, major in something mundane like English or education and play basketball. His degree was secondary; what his dad really wanted out of him was a scout to recruit him and put him on the map. Give him a starting position in the NBA or something absurd like that. Troy figured his dad dreamed too high, that he looked to things that were near impossible as reality. His father didn't see it that way; he said it was being ambitious and as putting your potential to good use. So he made Troy wake every morning at five AM for training everyday until that summer when Gabriella came to stay. With her in the picture, his work ethic slowed; he suddenly had an excuse for wanting to take time away from practicing.

"You remember what it was like when you met mom," he'd say to his father after coming in from a late night with Gabriella and Jack could only hope that it was a phase. Only it wasn't. Troy suddenly saw a new life, a different more comfortable one with less pressures. So after the summer that Gabriella came, instead of pursuing a basketball scholarship that school year, he pursued that life with her.

They had been together officially for almost two years; since Troy's eighteenth birthday. Prior to that they had spent their days together talking as Gabriella sat in her window and he sat in his backyard. Evenings were spent down by the creek up the road, smoking weed and making out. It wasn't something Gabriella was very accustomed to, and even Troy had only smoked occasionally. However the pressures of university and school and sports and his father had gotten too much and a few weeks before school ended, when his good friend on the hockey team offered him a dime-bag one afternoon after an intense basketball practice; Troy had obliged.

Then it all of a sudden, it was like, fuck the world. Why did Troy need to go to university right now? He didn't. All he wanted to do was stay at home, play video games, smoke a joint and be with Gabriella.

So for the past year, that is what he had been doing. He deferred from every university and college he was accepted to and said he was taking the year off to find himself. Bullshit. He was just being lazy. It made his home life hell and sometimes he figured he'd have been better off just doing what his father had asked of him. But instead he just escaped over to Juanita's and spent whatever time he could with Gabriella and everything was fine.

Earlier that day, before they had ventured out into the sprinkler, everything had been a little off kilter. Troy had come over just after eight o'clock; hopping the fence and using the ladder Gabriella kept next to her window to climb through. They had snuggled under the covers for a good half an hour while he had tried to wake her. After, they spent the remainder of the morning in Juanita's living room, watching Teen Titans and eating half of the box of frozen waffles in the refrigerator as her grandmother slept upstairs. When she had finally emerged an hour later, she went to the kitchen and boiled water for her tea, then decided to make a pan of bacon for her granddaughter and her boyfriend. Although they had already eaten, they devoured the plate anyway.

An hour later, they were splayed across Gabriella's bed; naked and the two of them were sweaty and frustrated. No matter what Troy did, he couldn't get Gabriella off. No matter how he rubbed, stroked, flicked or prodded; she wasn't climaxing. It never took her this long and after nearly twenty minutes of nothing building, she had pushed his hand off of her and kissed him instead, slipping back into her underwear. Suggesting that they just lay around for the next few hours, she opened her night-table drawer and pulled out a small wooden box. Inside was a small zip-lock bag of weed; already ground along with a package of zigzags and a set of tools for cutting and measuring. She shook it invitingly at Troy, who grinned.

"This sounds like a better idea," she said, smiling as she opened a zigzag and set it out, opening the weed and sprinkling it onto the paper. Rolling it slowly with her delicate fingers, he watched in amusement and disgust. He hated to think that he had gotten her into drugs, absolutely hated it. Yet the fact was that he had, but Gabriella had taken to marijuana like kids take to candy. Feeling guilty over it wouldn't help their relationship, so Troy didn't divulge it too often.

"You've become quite the pro at rolling, Gabs," he commented, wrapping his arms around her waist and sucking the skin on her neck. She squirmed and in the process, knocked her work. She rolled her eyes, before sticking out her tongue and smiling.

"I learned from the best," she said softly as he continued his work on her neck. "If it wasn't for that night at the creek, I would know absolutely nothing." She fluttered her eyelashes. "How boring would that be? You leave another mark on my neck, though, and I'll kill you."

He didn't stop his ministrations, knowing it was an empty threat. He liked the way the red and purple blemishes would stand out against her pale complexion. His lips lapping at her skin, he closed his eyes and breathed in her scent; a mixture of oranges and marijuana; remembering the night he first tasted her.

He had been sitting at the creek about a block away from his and Juanita's homes, generally hating the world. It was two weeks before his birthday and three before the start of senior year and his father was laying on the pressures of grades and scholarships pretty thickly. In his hand, he held a smooth rock and he turned it over in, examining it's texture. Next to him on the grassy patch where he sat by the streaming water was a small bag and inside was a joint, courtesy of a guy who worked at the local pizza place.

Troy had never in a million years thought that drugs would be a part of his future, nevermind his vice. But the pressures and the temptations that his young adolescent years were throwing at him quickly proved to be too much. The relaxation of it was far more enjoyable and the ability to escape far too wonderful to resist.

So he lit up; bringing the blunt to his lips and taking a strong hit. Exhaling, he sighed. This was the good stuff, the guy hadn't lied. He repeated the process for the next five minutes, thinking of nothing in particular; the drug clouding his mind. A twig snapped behind him and he turned around, startled.

Gabriella stood there, perched next to a bike. She was wearing a pair of denim capris and a flowing pink tank top. She smiled shyly.

"Hi, Troy," she offered and he felt an odd sensation run through him. She was so sweet and innocent standing there. She would be sixteen at the end of August, so really, she wasn't that much younger than him. He still felt weird at times, looking her over with hungry eyes. She was so goddamn beautiful with her wavy black hair and soft brown eyes. Her skin was deeply tanned and taut; there did not appear to be an inch of fat on her body. She moved with an athletic grace and smiled with a confidence that didn't really meet her eyes, but was completely admirable.

Since the night he had seen her sitting on her window ledge, she had been impossible to get out of his head. He had found himself staring at that window for minutes on end, hoping for some sign of her. When she did appear, he felt himself grin and would call out to her, starting a casual conversation that would usually last for hours.

Gabriella was gorgeous, that much he knew for certain. Their talks, however, were what really attracted him to her. They discussed things like the weather and school, to past relationships and childhood memories to more heavy things; like how much Troy was hating his father and how much Gabriella missed her mother.

Troy was finding himself wanting to be around Gabriella more than anyone he knew, so having her standing there in front of him certainly was not a bad thing. But why was she there? He raised his eyebrows and waved the hand that held the joint between his fingers. "Hi, Gabriella. What are you doing here?"

"I was just riding my bike around...trying to get to know the neighborhood." She let her bike fall to ground and came to sit next to him. "What are you doing?" she asked, slowly, observing the joint in his hand.

He shrugged. "Nothing. Just thinking." He looked at the blunt and flushed. "Um, do you want me to put it out? I know some people aren't comfortable with it."

She shook her head and instead, reached over and plucked it from his fingers, taking a drag on it. "Doesn't bother me," she said, coughing through the smoke. "I've done it once or twice myself; at parties."

Troy raised his eyebrows again, surprised by her actions and confession. She didn't seem like the type to even go to parties, nevermind get high at one. "Have you now?"

She nodded. "It's good escapism. I know some kids whose whole lives revolved around this just because they didn't want to deal with everyday bullshit." She took another hit before passing the joint back to Troy.

He didn't say anything, feeling ashamed. He must have been a part of that category now and he frowned at the thought. He didn't want Gabriella to think of him that way; he wanted her to think of him as something stronger, something better. "Is that so?" he asked.

She stretched her arms, giving a yawn. "Yep. Damn, I forgot how sleepy this makes me. I always turned my nose down at this stuff, but one night, I just decided otherwise, I guess. How did I even know it was so bad when I had never tried it? Sometimes it's just nice to be daring, you know? Try something. "

Examining her, he saw the soft contours of her face and lips; how plush and soft they seemed. He licked his own lips before scooting closer to her. "Hey, Gabi?" he asked and she turned towards him, her hair tickling his cheek.


Bringing a hand to the back of her head, he pulled her close to him. "Mind if I try something?"

Without waiting for a response, he dragged his lips across hers in a furious kiss. She lifted her own hand to his face and kissed him back eagerly. He let the joint drop from his fingers and prodded open her mouth with his tongue; then took the time to explore her mouth. His hands were around her waist by then and he kissed her with abandon.

After that, their evenings by the creek were a routine. Looking down at the girl in his arms, he smiled, more than a little happy that she was his. However, there was one thing that had always bothered him about what he had with Gabriella. In the almost two years they had been together; they had never once told the other that they loved them. He did love her, he loved her with all his heart. He had just never told her. She must have loved him, too, or at least, he hoped she did; but he could never be certain.

Without the words being spoken, it was impossible to know the real truth.

Feelings were hard for Gabriella to discuss. When he had first met her, she was still dealing with her grandmother's death, so it wasn't unusual for her to burst into tears during one of their late night rendezvous. She never liked discussing it, though, so the fear that she would not reply if he were to tell her those three little words was far more terrifying than having to deal with not saying them at all.

"Damn, I can't find my bra," Gabriella mumbled before pulling herself out of his grasp. He frowned, crestfallen at the loss of her body heat.

Stepping gingerly off the bed, Gabriella made her way over to the other side of her room in search of the black satin bra that matched her underwear. Her room was positively littered with stuff, with junk; making it near impossible to maneuver across the floor. Covering the carpet were three issues of Nylon magazine, stacks of papers and textbooks, a pair of Troy's jeans and a copy of 'The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud'. Locating it, she brushed the weed off of her fingertips before snapping it back on and moving back to the bed, snuggling into Troy's chest.

"Don't your parents ever wonder where you are?" she asked, tracing circles on his bare skin. Skimming a hand down her arm, he shrugged.

"They know I'm over here most of the time," he said, enjoying the feel of her beneath his fingertips. "Besides, I'm nineteen; an adult. I can really do whatever I want."

She peered up at him, resting her chin on his chest. "And if that includes sleeping with your next-door neighbor?"

He grinned, leaning down to kiss her lips languidly. "Then so be it."

Their kisses grew more heated and she wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him flush against her. He smiled against her mouth and she laughed. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something peculiar and broke away from her to look around. A slow stream of white smoke filtered through the door and Troy sat up, alarmed, releasing Gabriella from his hold. She rose, confused.

"Troy, what's wrong?" She hadn't noticed yet.

Yanking on his boxers and a white T-shirt (both of which had been scattered on the floor), he began to bound out of the room. "There's smoke coming from somewhere, Gabi," he said in a rush and her eyes grew, wide, panicked. As Troy ran to investigate, she searched frantically for something to throw over her body, grabbing his red flannel button down and pulling it over her frame, where it fell mid-thigh.

Grabbing the doorframe, she bounded down the small staircase; past the photographs of her mother's childhood and narrowly missing Betty, the fat tabby cat who was resting on the bottom step. The entire second floor of the house was foggy with smoke and she coughed violently, running to the source of the mess; the small, cramped kitchen.

Troy was holding a smoking frying pan and Gabriella watched as he darted over to the sink and turned on the tap, shoving the pan underneath the stream of water.

"No, Troy, don't do that!" she yelped, but it was too late: more smoke enveloped the room and Troy coughed, covering his eyes as he let the pan drop into the sink.

"Open all the windows and doors, Gab," he said urgently and she nodded before running to the screen door across the room and propping it open. She flung open the windows, adjusting their screens to stay in place. She jogged back to the kitchen, where Troy was up on the counter, testing the fire alarm.

"What the hell happened?" she asked, her voice shaking and she watched as Troy swallowed slowly.

"The stove was on," he mumbled. "The pan had a lot of grease in it; it must have been from the bacon this morning. Any longer and it would have caught fire." He didn't say anything for a moment, studying Gabriella's expression. "Juanita must have left it on."

Gabriella bit her bottom lip, her eyes glassy. "Shit," she said, running a hand through her hair before waving it through the smoke. "Shit, shit, shit."

"Gabi, it's okay," Troy said, coming to stand beside her. Pulling her into his arms, he stroked her hair and buried his face in her curls. "It's not that big of a deal. Things like this happen."

Shaking in his arms, Gabriella pressed her hands to her face. "This is not a good sign, Troy. She's getting worse, oh dear, God, she's getting worse." Dropping her hands, she looked up at him, pleading with him to tell her what to do. She was exhausted and she was sweaty and frustrated and slightly stoned. He was older, he was smarter, he was stronger. He had the answers for everything. "Should I go get her? Should I tell her what she did?"

He didn't say anything for a moment. Six months earlier, Juanita had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and it had been developing unbeknownst to them for a while and at a rapid pace; affecting her short term memory terribly. While she still remembered Gabriella and even Troy, she never remembered things like what she had done the day before, what she had said an hour ago. Nothing like this; something that could potentially endanger their lives had happened before and it left Gabriella petrified.

Troy considered the options. The smoke was quickly clearing out of the house thanks to the ventilation he and Gabi had provided and no harm had really been done. What was the real use in telling, and subsequently, upsetting, Juanita? On the other hand, by doing so, there was the smallest chance that it would stop something like this from happening again.

His head was too cloudy, his vision too blurry. He was too baked for this and had it been anyone else's problems, he would have told them to fuck off. But this was Gabriella, so fucking tiny and fragile in his arms and he would be damned if he let her down.

"We should probably go get her, Gabi," he told her carefully and she nodded, lacing her fingers with his and leading the way back upstairs. Betty hissed as they passed her on the steps, scratching Troy on the ankle in her anger at being disrupted from her nap by their noise and the smoke. He glared at the cat and his eyes fell on the closed door that lead into Juanita's bedroom.

Opening the door slowly, Gabriella poked her head in. "Grams?" she asked, opening the door fully. Juanita was standing by her vanity, shuffling through the local newspaper. She looked up at Gabriella, slightly alarmed.

"Oh, querido," she said, her voice sweet and soft. She perched her glasses on her nose and walked over to them, holding up the newspaper. "Can you or Troy help me? I'm trying to find the obituary for this man...I can't read the writing." She smiled weakly at Troy. "You know I have trouble reading if the letters aren't capitalized."

"Grams," Gabriella began slowly, extending a hand and placing it on her grandmother's arm. "Why was the stove on?"

Juanita gasped and ran past them, down the stairs. They followed quickly and in their hurry, stepped on Betty's tail. The cat screeched and bounded out the open door.

"Fuck," Troy muttered. "Betty just ran off." But Gabriella merely shrugged, still more concerned about her grandmother. Juanita was in the kitchen, looking around, confused.

"Why was the stove on?" she asked, panicked. "Did something set fire? Oh, Jesus..."

Gabriella stepped into the kitchen, folding her arms over her chest. "No, Grams, nothing set fire. But you cannot leave the stove on like that! Something awful could have happened!"

"Gabriella," Troy warned. She was starting to look livid and he didn't want her to fly off the handle. Even in his inebriated state, he still didn't think it was fair.

"Stay out of this, Troy," Gabriella snapped and he blinked slowly. Well, if that was what she wanted. "Did you take your medication, today, Grams? Please tell me you didn't or that you at least remember taking it."

Juanita waved her hand. "Of course I took my medication, Gabriella," she said, her eyes turning cold. "I've been living a lot longer than you have."

Gabriella threw her arms up, frustrated, before walking over to the chart stuck to the fridge. "Are you sure, you did, Grams?" she asked, looking at the chart. "You didn't put a check mark on today. You're supposed to wait till I give you your medication and I'm supposed to watch you check it off."

The chart system had been implemented shortly after Juanita had been diagnosed. She had long been taking medication for her blood pressure, but due to her deteriorating short term memory, she would never remember taking it or not. So Gabriella had placed a calender on the refrigerator and would watch her grandmother take her pills everyday. Once they were swallowed, she would make a bold check mark on the day's date. Her bottle of pills was right within eyesight of the fridge, so it was a foolproof plan.

Until today.

"You were busy with Troy," her grandmother smiled. "Watching those cartoons you love. I didn't want to interrupt."

"It's not interrupting, Grams!" Gabriella stomped her foot. 'This is your house! If you need me for something, come and tell me!"

"It's your house, too, querido," Juanita said slowly and Gabriella shook her head.

"No, it's not!" she shrieked and Juanita jumped while Troy looked between the two women, concerned. "It's not, Grams." She swallowed the lump in her throat. "I'm not going to let you not take your medication because you're too concerned about whether I'm having fun."

"Gabriella, I took my medication. It's only for my blood pressure, it's fine if I don't take it one day–"

"No, it's not!" Gabriella looked at her grandmother with pleading eyes. "Forget it. As long as you're positive you took it." She walked away from the fridge and ran a hand through her hair twice. "Do you remember leaving the stove on after you cooked us bacon? At all?

Juanita didn't say anything, still looking around at the kitchen. "I left the stove on? No, no that's not right. No, I don't remember doing that."

Gabriella's bottom lip trembled. "You did, Grams. You made Troy and I bacon this morning." Troy came and stood next to her, grabbing her hand and squeezing.

"Oh, querido," Juanita said, smiling warmly. "I really think you're mistaken. I spent the morning going through the obituaries. I'm trying to remember what the name of that man who died was, but I know I knew him well." She looked at Troy and sighed. "It's making me so sad, so frustrated. I know if you were to say the name, I'd recognize it. Do you think one of you could help me find his obituary in the paper?"

Troy didn't say anything for a moment before nodding slowly. "Come with me, Juanita," he said, letting go of Gabriella's hand to wrap his arm around the frail woman. "We'll go read the paper and find it, okay?" He turned to look at Gabriella, his eyes locking with hers. "Check off today on the chart, Gab, so she doesn't get confused."

Gabriella folded her arms, leaning against the counter. "I will," she murmured. As they walked away up the stairs, she felt her eyes cloud with tears, trying to remember a day when her grandmother would have noticed their pupils were the size of saucers and that Troy was clad only in his underwear, she in his shirt. This wasn't the kind of existence a seventeen year old should have.

She heard Troy and her grandmother conversing animatedly, coupled with the sounds of the papers rustling. Her grandmother had been the one who had pushed them together. She had been the one who suggested that perhaps the Bolton boy next door wanted to be more than just friends.

"I can hear the two of you talking from my bedroom every night," she said to Gabriella one evening two years ago. "You laugh at each other like there's no tomorrow."

Gabriella rolled her eyes and moved her french toast around her plate. Sure, she found her grandmother's next door neighbor undeniably good looking and perhaps even charming and funny. But he was almost two years older than her; entering his senior year in the upcoming months. What they were doing; smoking together and making out hardly equated to anything serious. In the long run, what would he want with her?

"We're just friends, Grams," she said said, swishing her food in the maple syrup puddled on the plate. She wished she would drop the topic, move on and discuss something else, but Juanita was not having it.

"You know," she began, peering over at Gabriella from the rim of her glass of orange juice. "When I was your age, I met your grandfather already, bless him. By the time I was Troy's age, I had your mother."

"Grams," Gabriella snapped, setting down her fork. "Seriously. You want me to get pregnant, is that what you're saying?"

"No, querido," Juanita laughed. "I'm just saying that when it comes to love, age is irrelevant. Don't disregard factors because of it."

"He's not interested, Grams," Gabriella had insisted, shoving a piece of food into her mouth. She chewed vigorously and tried to ignore her grandmother's expression; raised eyebrows and all. "What?"

"Now, querido," she began pragmatically. "I've known Troy Bolton for about six years now and while he isn't always the most upstanding gentlemen–he has given poor Jack and Lucille a lot to handle at times–but, he is a good boy. And he is interested in you, Gabriella."

"Grams, no–"

"He isn't, I know, I know," Juanita smiled. "But maybe you'll find things are a little different at his birthday party tonight. It's a small affair; Lucille invited us and we are attending."

Gabriella groaned. She hated social functions, especially one where Troy would be. Chances were she'd stumble all over her words and actions and make a fool out of herself in front of his parents and family members. "Grams, why did you agree for us to go?"

Juanita rose then, placing her plate in the sink. "Because, Gabriella, not only is it his birthday but you're young. You don't know what's good for you."

In many ways, Juanita didn't know what was good for Gabriella either. That night was the first of many that caused her granddaughter to become addicted to two things: Troy Bolton and marijuana.

Their earlier dalliances with each other and the drug down at the creek were nothing in comparison to what occurred that evening. Gabriella had applied a little mascara and lipgloss; not wanting to look like she was trying too hard and slid on an adult friendly outfit. A periwinkle blue sundress with a runched bodice. Little white and aqua flowers dotted the material and it flared out at the waist. She wore simple white flip flops and let her long, wavy black hair fall down her back.

When she arrived in Troy's backyard, a few steps behind her grandmother, Troy's moth had dropped, before he broke out into a grin. She met the few friends he had invited, including his best friend Chad, a boisterous young man with a large afro and his girlfriend, Sharpay; a leggy blonde in daisy duke shorts and a white blouse. Dinner went by without anything exciting happening and afterwards, it was time for Lucille Bolton to present her son with the decadent chocolate cake she had made. When she placed it in front of him and asked him to make a wish, he looked up and settled his eyes on Gabriella; meeting her gaze before leaning over and blowing out the candles.

As the party began to wind down for the adults, the teenagers stayed in the backyard, mingling with one another before filtering off to their own destinations. The exceptions were Chad and Sharpay, who had slipped a little vodka into their iced tea glasses and were laying in Troy's mother's flower-beds, whispering sweet nothings and cracking up.

Troy and Gabriella were laying on one of the lawn chairs together, his arms curled around her and their legs intertwined. Brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes, he kissed her nose sloppily before asking if she wanted to 'get out of here.' She agreed and they left Sharpay and Chad in the garden, notifying Lucille and Jack that they were leaving and they may want to call Chad's parents to come get their son and his girlfriend. Apparently, such events involving the two were commonplace.

So Troy and Gabriella had gotten into his rusty white truck and driven around Albuquerque, deciding on stopping at East High School; where Troy would be attending for his final year and Gabriella for her junior year. Parking in the abandoned lot (it was summer, after all), Troy turned on the radio before opening his door, and stepping out of the truck.

"It's a beautiful, night," he told her as he came around to her side of the truck. Opening her door, he leaned down and kissed her gently. "Come outside."

She obliged, entranced by his blue eyes and soft lips. They climbed into the bed of the truck, where Troy pulled a baggy out of his back pocket and revealed a freshly rolled joint. Gabriella smiled coyly as he lit the end. After taking a long drag, Troy passed it to Gabriella, who took it in her small fingers and sucked hard on the end.

"So," she began, enjoying the smell of the weed. "Did you get everything you wanted for your birthday?" She lay down in the truck, looking up at the sky that was turning from reds, oranges and yellows into pinks and purples. She stretched her arms over her head and sighed, passing the joint back to Troy and waiting for the affect of the drug to overtake her.

Troy shrugged, looking down at her before taking another hit. "Not exactly," he admitted and she frowned.

"Oh, no," she gave a little giggle. "That's not fair. You're an adult, now, you should have gotten anything and everything you wanted. What didn't you get?"

Troy grinned at her. At the way her eyes twinkled and her nose scrunched. He lay down beside her in the bed of the truck, turning his head to look at her. She did the same and their noses grazed, and he closed the distance between their lips.

"Want to guess?" Gabriella gave a little shrug and smiled at him.

"I don't like guessing games."

"Oh," Troy raised his eyebrows, his tongue darting out to wet her lips. "I guess I'll just tell you then." He paused, letting the joint dangle on the edges of his fingers. He flung it outside the truck and Gabriella gasped before frowning.

"Troy!" she yelped, sitting up as she watched the joint fall onto the cement. "Why did you do that? That was some good stuff!" She inched towards him and brought her legs around to straddle him, the effects of the weed making her bold. Resting her hands on his chest, he pouted.

He smirked, enjoying the feel of her weight on him. "Yeah. A birthday present from Chad." He ran his hands along her arms. "But you know what the best present would be?"

Gabriella's breath caught in her throat as she saw how serious he suddenly looked. "What?"

He wrapped a hand around the back of her neck and pulled her down closer to him. "If you were mine. In name, in title, physically. I want you, Gabriella Montez. I wish I had all of you."

She flash-backed to earlier than evening, when he had looked at her over his birthday cake, the light of the fire dancing in his eyes and she pressed her lips to his in a passionate kiss. That was all it took.

'Planet Health' by Chairlift poured out into the night air as they quickly undressed each other; piece by piece. The lyrics 'we made love with each other's eyes/we're feeling great tonight/we're feeling great tonight' hit her ears as she let his hands travel downwards as she bit on the base of his throat.

The sky turned to black as they joined and she felt closer to him more than she had to anyone ever before her. After that night, there was no going back. Not from him, not from weed; it was now everything. He was a part of her and she was a part of him and that's the way it was.

Troy returned to the kitchen twenty minutes later and Gabriella had not moved from her stop; still leaning against the counter, a hand pressed to her forehead. Troy frowned and shuffled over to her, rubbing his hands up and down her arm soothingly.

"Hi," she said softly. "Is she okay?"

He swallowed and nodded. "I couldn't find the man she was talking about. None of the names listed were ones that she recognized." He pressed a kiss to Gabriella's temple and closed his eyes, sighing. "I don't know if I just can't help her or if she doesn't know what's going on."

Gabriella squeezed her eyes shut, feeling her heart sink dejectedly. "She's looking for my grandpa's obituary. He died seven years ago, Troy," her voice shook and Troy pulled her in for a hug. "She's been doing this a lot lately...looking for his obituary. It's scaring me, Troy. I don't know what's going on."

He didn't say anything, trying to comprehend the information. Gabriella shifted uncomfortably in his arms and he felt her skin stick to his. It was so hot.

"It's hot," he said quietly and he felt her giggle softly. He hadn't expected or even wanted that reaction, but it made him smile regardless.

Stepping out his arms, she brought her small fingers to the bottom of his shirt and lifted it over his head. "Let's go outside. I'll set up the sprinkler and we can cool down. Get our minds off of this."

She really meant her mind but if Gabriella was upset, so was Troy. So outside they had ventured and now he sat, kissing her languidly as she raked her hands through his hair; both of them sopping wet.

Suddenly the water wasn't cool enough and the air was too hot and Gabriella wanted to go inside. It was late afternoon now and she was getting hungry. She grabbed Troy's hand and stood up; stepping on the sprinkler in the process. She yelped as it pierced her foot and then laughed, feeling high as a kite.

"Fuck, that hurt," she said, looping her fingers through Troy's and leading him into the little green house. "Come on; let's go upstairs and you can help me out of this wet bathing suit."

There was a time even a year ago when Juanita would have never let Troy lay around the house like he did now. All and any dates were to be supervised if they were in the house, Juanita had instructed after she found out the two were officially a couple. Of course, Troy and Gabriella had wholeheartedly agreed and snuck off to the creek without her knowing.

One night, however, roughly two months after they had started dating; Troy had snuck into the house and he had Gabriella had made love in her bed. It was different that the times they were together at Troy's house; they were usually rushed and rough. The time in the truck had been wonderful, as it was their first; but this time was something special. The only light came from the moon outside the window and they were slow and completely sober. They took their time; exploring each other in ways they hadn't before. When Troy fell asleep in her bed, Gabriella clung to him, unwilling to wake him and tell him to go home. Enjoying the warmth next to her, she fell into her own unconsciousness.

However, Juanita used to be an early riser and she had opened her granddaughter's bedroom door the next morning to find her draped over the young boy next door. Not saying anything, she closed the door and went back downstairs. When she was certain she heard Troy climb out the window an hour and a half later, she ascended the stairs and entered her granddaughter's room.

"Hi, Grams," Gabriella had said innocently, rolling over in bed as if just waking. Her grandmother came and sat next to her on the edge of the bed.

"You had a visitor last night, querido," Juanita said slowly and Gabriella blanched. "I don't mind if you date him or fall in love with him, Gabriella. He's a wonderful boy in many ways and if he makes you happy, then I approve."

Gabriella ducked her head, her face flushed as she suddenly felt dirty; having her elderly grandmother seated on the sheets where she and Troy had behaved so intimately. She waited for her to continue.

"However, Gabriella," Juanita began, "I do not want to see him in your bed, naked or otherwise, ever again. Do I make myself clear?"

Gabriella nodded slowly, feeling ashamed. Her grandmother laughed slightly.

"Don't be so embarrassed, querido," Juanita said, patting Gabriella's leg. "I am upset with you, but you're young and these things...they happen. Are you being careful?" When Gabriella nodded she brought a hand to her chest and let out a sigh of relief. "Well, thank god. I'm too young to be a great-grandmother."

Gabriella laughed despite herself and they went down stairs. Together, they made pancakes and as they ate, Juanita told her all about her how she had met her grandfather and how she loved him desperately from the moment they danced. Listening to her grandmother's words and remembering the way Troy had touched and held her the night before, for the first time since her mother's death, Gabriella felt like everything was finally right in the world.

Stepping into her bedroom, still dripping wet from the sprinkler, Gabriella felt her resolve weaken. Her grandmother was all she had and she was disappearing so rapidly, slipping through her fingertips. Closing the door, she rested her head on the door and felt the tears fill her eyes. She no longer wanted to undress Troy and fool around; all she wanted was to sit and cry and feel awful.

"Gabs?" Troy asked cautiously. He was standing behind her and looped his arms around her waist, drawing her cool body against his front. "What's wrong?"

Gabriella began shaking violently, feeling sick and anxious all at once. "I can't help but feel that everything is crashing down, Troy," she said through her tears. "I can't stop shaking, I can't stop thinking. Everything makes me feel anxious. I'm one big ball of anxiety and I have no idea why."

"Sh, Gabi, it's all right," he calmed. Stroking her arms, he stepped back to look at her. Her eyes were bloodshot and filled with tears. "You're probably just having a bad trip. There must be something laced in the pot."

He let her go momentarily to find something for her to wear; something to just throw over her. One of his sweatshirts was flung over the back of her desk chair and he grabbed her. Gently, he untied the strings of her bikini top; then the bottoms and pulled the fleece over her. Picking her up, he cradled her to his chest and settled her in her bed.

"Just go to sleep," he instructed. "It'll wear off soon."

"But, Troy," she sobbed. "Why aren't you affected, too?"

Pulling off his soaked boxers and stepping in the sweatpants he kept in her bottom drawer, he shrugged. "I weigh a lot more than you. It probably hasn't hit me yet."

As he crawled into bed next to her, however, and curled his arms around her; he felt the dread settle in his stomach. His explanation didn't make sense and he knew as much. He just wanted her to stop shaking.

"I'm losing her, Troy," she sobbed. "I can feel it in my bones. She's leaving, she's disappearing. It's all falling apart and I can't stop it. I can't lose her, Troy, I can't. She's all I have. She's the only one left here to love me."

Closing his eyes, he pressed a gentle kiss to her sweaty temple and silently thought that she was wrong. He loved her, too.

"I can't lose her, Troy," she mumbled against his chest. "I can't. I won't survive. What will I do without her? I'll have no where to go, no where to just...be. I'll be thrown into a foster home and most of all, I'll be alone. I won't have you anymore, either."

He shuddered at the thought and squeezed his eyes shut, trying desperately to rid her mind of those thoughts. "Sleep, baby," he said quietly. "Just sleep." She continued to cry against his chest until they both fell into a deep sleep.

Much later, when his eyes pulled open again, the sky had turned a dark blue. It was already nighttime. Glancing over at the digital clock on Gabriella's desk, he saw that it was nearing three AM. Had they really slept that long?

Well, fuck that, he thought, there was no use going home now. He would leave around six, just in case Juanita reverted to her old ways and woke early. He looked at Gabriella, who was no longer sweating and breathing softly. Thank god, he thought. His stomach rumbled...he really needed to eat something; he and Gabi hadn't had anything since the bacon this morning. Carefully, he unclasped his arms from around Gabriella and stepped out of bed; opening the door and closing it softly behind him.

He descended the steps to the kitchen, flicking on the light and searched for something to eat. Deciding that toast would have to curb his hunger, he inserted four pieces in the toaster. He would wake Gabi and get her to eat something, too.

A strange mewling noise interrupted his work, however. He looked up the stairs to see Betty lying outside of Juanita's room. The door was open a crack; the light on. He furrowed his brow, confused. Leaving the toast, he walked back up the stairs to inspect things further.

"You came back," he said to Betty, scratching her behind the ears. The cat curled around his legs and mewled, sounding strained. Troy frowned and he pushed open Juanita's door, feeling his heart beat in his chest.

"Juanita?" he asked carefully. "What are you still doing up?"

She was lying on the bed, perfectly still, a blanket draped over herself. He let out a sigh of relief. She had just fallen asleep with the light on.

As he stepped closer, however, he noticed that she did not seem to be moving at all. He stopped breathing, the sound in the room so quiet. He could hear nothing coming from her body.

"Juanita?" he asked and felt Betty brush up beside him. He placed a hand on the woman's shoulder and pulled it back quickly. She was cold. Bringing a hand underneath her nose he felt his blood turn to ice.

She wasn't breathing.

Assessing the situation quickly, he saw an open bottle of pills next to her on the table and his eyes doubled in size. The checklist. She hadn't checked it off this morning and Gabriella must have forgotten. Juanita must have gotten confused.

He knew at that moment what had happened.

"Troy?" he heard a soft voice from the door. Gabriella was standing there, sleepy eyed and still wearing his sweatshirt. "What are you doing in my grandmother's room?"

He gulped and felt his eyes begin to water. "Gabriella, I...Juanita."

Her face paled instantly. "What? She is okay? Troy?" she ran towards her grandmother.

Troy left Juanita's side and came to stand next to his girlfriend. "Gabriella," he began slowly. "We need to call an ambulance. She didn't...you didn't...we...the checklist. She got confused. Half of her pills are gone."

With his words, Gabriella's mouth fell open and she walked over to her grandmother, sliding on the bed and crawling next to her. Troy's heart broke as he heard her howl in anguish as he left the room to make the useless phone call. He smelt a strong, harsh oder and realized that the toast was burning.


Sitting on the porch of Troy's little white house with it's yellow shutters and sunflowers in the garden; chin in her hands, Gabriella moved her red rimmed eyes to look next door at the little green house. The one that was now empty; abandoned.

Her Grams was gone. She was up in heaven with her Mami and now Gabriella had no one. She closed her eyes, remembering the funeral three days before and how she had cried.

"I didn't check off the chart, Troy," she had said into his shirt. He was wearing a crisp black suit and a white button down, looking every bit the nineteen years he was. Next to him, his mother and father sobbed quietly and she felt appreciative of them, of his parents, of her neighbors. They had handled all the funeral arrangements, as Gabriella was far too much of a mess to do so.

She would never be so thankful to anyone in her life and Troy would never see them in the negative light he had been viewing them in ever again.

"It's not your fault, babe," Troy said softly into her hair as Juanita's casket was lowered into the ground. He wanted to take her pain away so badly, but it seemed impossible.

"I was so stoned, Troy, I didn't even notice the smoke. You did. You were the one who told me to check off the chart and I didn't. It is my fault."

"No, Gabriella, it's not, it was–"

"It was not just one of those things, Troy!" Gabriella shrieked, drawing the attention of the mourners who had came to say goodbye to Juanita. "It was my own damn fault and you know it! Stop denying it! How can you even look at me?"

He grabbed her arms and shook her, before speaking in hushed tones. "Maybe because I was the one who let you take a hit off that joint that night, Gabriella!" he said through gritted teeth. "Maybe if you hadn't met me, than this would have never happened. So if it's your fault, then it's mine, too!"

She fell to the ground, her legs collapsing beneath her and she shook violently. "It's not your fault...you're Troy," she whispered. Onlookers began to disperse, letting the broken girl and the boy who loved her more than she knew have their moment. "You're...you're everything."

He fell to his knees beside her and she buried herself against his chest. His eyes welled with tears and he broke. "No, Gabriella, I'm nothing. You had everything and I let you fall into this trap of mine, this mess. You were everything, you are everything and I've ruined you."

She shook her head. "No. You kept me whole. You've given me a release. I never appreciated anything I was given these past two years, Troy. Not you, not my Grams and now I lost her. She was so wonderful, so understanding. I could sit around stoned all day, stopping only to go fuck you down at the creek and when I got home, she would make me pancakes. She knew I was hurting and that I was broken and that you were putting me back together again. She let you take care of me. And how do I repay her?" she scoffed. "I let her die."

He cupped her face and kissed her boldly, feeling her tears mix with his own. "I don't ever want to hear you say that again," he said harshly against her lips; kissing her again so hard that her lips would be swollen and bruised. "Ever. You understand? Life does these things to people and you are not responsible for someone's death. Juanita loved you and she would not want to see you like this. So stop thinking this way, not just for me, but for her. Understand?"

She didn't say anything and despite the guilt that she would always carry, she had dropped the subject. Opening her eyes, she saw that life was still moving around her; the white house unchanged in the last five minutes and she felt relieved and scared at the same time.

The step shifted beside her, a generous amount of weight claiming the empty seat. It was Troy. She buried her head into the crook of his neck as he wrapped his arm around her, drawing her closer.

"So I threw out my stash," she admitted, feeling her stomach sink as she recalled the hour previously; when she had walked to the creek in her jelly sandals. They had dug into her feet, leaving harsh red lines and crimson and white blisters on her heels. She had dropped her wooden box into the confines of the water, watching her reflection as it sank lower and lower. Waving goodbye to it, she turned and left, saying goodbye to that part of her life forever.

"I know," he said softly, his grip on her shoulder growing stronger. "I did the same."

She ran her nose against the soft ridges of his neck, feeling his veins and her heartbeat. Hot tears filled her eyes and she allowed them to fall, burning his skin. "I know. I'm proud of you."

He didn't say anything, feeling the wet trails travel down his collarbone. "I'm proud of you. I should have never gotten you into that...that shit."

She shrugged. "It's not that easy to quit, you know. We'll be reeling for weeks."

He smiled, despite the situation. "Well, we'll do it together."

Looking back over at the little green house, it's For Sale sign swinging in the breeze, she sighed, her tears drying on her cheeks. Juanita had never revised her will; the house was still in her only daughter's name and with her only daughter waiting for her at St. Peter's gates, the house belonged to the city. Gabriella had no where to go.

So it seemed.

She was done with high school, as was Troy, he had promised to take her away from there. He got them an apartment across town with some savings he had and with the permission of his parents.

"I'm going to school in October. U of A," he told her the day after her grandmother's death. He was standing in his backyard and it was twilight. She was seated on the ledge of the windowsill, staring down at him as a flurry of city workers wandered through her house, tying her grandmother's loose ends. "I applied a few months ago on a whim, just to see what would happen and I got in. Gabriella, it's time I stop doing whatever it is that I'm doing. I need to try to make something of myself. Not just for me, but for you. I...I want you to come with me. You don't have to go to school, but you'll be eighteen in August and an adult. Come live with me."

She had stared at him oddly for a few seconds before realizing she had so much to lose by saying no and so much to gain by saying yes. Pressing the heel of her palm to her mouth, she let her leg dangle out the window, against the paneling for possibly the last time ever.

"Do you mean it?" she asked, feeling her eyes blur over. "I have nothing, Troy, nothing. Nothing to my name, nothing to myself. I've done nothing these past two years academically; I barely graduated. Naturally I didn't apply to any schools, I have no job. I have nothing to give you. All I had was Grams...and you."

"And you'll always have me," he said suddenly, moving closer to the chain link fence. He leaned against it, clutching it with his fingers. "You mean everything to me. I won't just abandon you, Gabi."

"I love you, Troy," she whispered, so softly she could have sworn he didn't even hear it. However, his face crumpled and he looked down at his chest, the top of his head the only thing visible. Suddenly, he grabbed a tighter hold of the fence and propped himself up, scaling it and jumping over the other side, to the cement that was Juanita's backyard.

He lifted his arms out and reached them up to her. His eyes were glassy and he seemed to be trembling. He swallowed roughly before opening his mouth to speak.

"Jump," he said firmly and she blinked, confused.

"W-what?" she asked, her voice cracking and he took another step towards the window.

"Jump," he encouraged. "The first time we met, I told you that I probably wouldn't catch you if you fell. But I will now. I'll catch you everytime you fall because I love you, too, Gabriella." His blue eyes bore into her own and she felt her grasp on the window weakening. "You mean the world to me and I love you and I will not let you go through this on your own."

Slowly, without really thinking, Gabriella swung her legs over the side of the window, feeling the smooth paneling on her bare caves. She gulped, holding onto the edge tightly before letting go and dropping downwards.

Straight into Troy's arms.

The impact caused him to grunt and he stumbled backwards, holding her tightly around the waist; so hard that it hurt. She buried her face in his neck and cried, murmuring those three words over and over again.

Running a hand through her hair, he kissed her face, her eyelids, her neck. Finally, finally; it was out there. They weren't perfect; far from it. All around them lay the destruction that resulted from their former life, the pain from Juanita's death still fresh. But they were together and they loved each other.

That was how they would get through it. Clasping Troy's hand in her own, Gabriella shook the memories away and looked out to the rusty white truck with their short lives' belongings cluttering the bed of it. She lay her head on his shoulder.

"Hey, Troy," she asked, rubbing her thumb across his knuckles.

"Yeah?" he responded, resting his head against her own, staring over at the little green house, then down at the steps they were seated on. Come tomorrow, they would no longer be parts of them.

"Do you ever feel like you're watching the beginning of something...something real?"

He turned to her and for what seemed like the first time, really looked at her. Her eyelashes were in triangles from the years she had cried earlier in the day, her hair in a messy ponytail. There were bags and dark circles under her eyes and her face was pale and sad. But she was beautiful and around her neck was a chain with a ring that promised that forever was a possibility dangling from it. He knew more than ever in that moment that he loved her and that she was everything.

More than that, he knew they'd be alright.

He looked back at the green house, noticing she was now staring at it, too. "Why?"

Removing her head from his shoulder, she turned and looked him in the eyes. "Because I'm getting that feeling right now."

Swallowing, he leaned in and cupped her chin in his hands, kissing her gently. She tasted fresh, like orange juice and peppermint; a combination that sounded horrific, but was wonderful. It was a different taste from the former one she held, the taste of sweet marijuana and him. But it was undeniably hers and he loved it. It was new and exciting; just like the rest of their lives were going to be.

"Funny," he said against her lips when they broke apart for breath. "I'm getting the same feeling right now."



Okay, so I really don't know where this came from. It all started when I noticed how much junk was on my floor and was feeling poetic, so I wrote it down and left it.

On Thursday, however, my brother and I were at my grandmother's, watching Spiderman; when my brother bolted off the couch and ran to the other room. I had been reading and looked up, confused, to see white smoke filling the room. When I ran into the kitchen, my brother was shoving a pan under the sink. So this actually happened, with my own grandmother, though she is not sick; but was distracted. It stuck with me, though, and then this evolved.

I wanted, more than anything, to write a serious piece that was one constant stream of thought and develop relationships and plot in one chapter. I didn't want to divide the timelines and I think it flows pretty nicely. However, if there is some major confusion, I'll edit it with italics to make more sense.

I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. :)