Disclaimer: I don't own anything from High School Musical. I just really love the franchise.

Prequel summary: What did Troy have to go through before his and Gabriella's reunion at Stanford?

AN: So my muse decided that it wanted me to write a little prequel, or flashback, of sorts for the original one-shot. What's funny is that it actually turned out to be longer than the original one-shot. Many thanks go to adcgordon for providing feedback. I'm also incredibly grateful and appreciative to everyone who has read, reviewed, and favorited this story. It means so much to me. Thanks again, and enjoy!

"Um, Mom, can I talk to you about something?" Troy tentatively asked his mother. It was the day after Gabriella had told him that she wasn't coming back to Albuquerque for prom and graduation. Troy had done a lot of thinking in those twenty-four hours, and finally made up his mind.

He was going to bring her back.

It didn't matter if his parents or Gabriella's mother helped him in planning the journey. Heck, it didn't even matter if they gave the decision their blessing or not. Once Troy resolved to do something, it wasn't easy to stop him. And he had realized that he was more passionate about his feelings for Gabriella than anything else that he had previously thought. He was determined.

His mother halted peeling the green cultured cucumbers that she was preparing for the salad which would comprise part of their dinner. "Sure, honey, whatever you want." She placed the peeler carefully on the island in their kitchen and then turned her full attention on her only son.

Troy swallowed thickly. This was going to be a lot harder than he thought it would be.

"Well…um…" He tried clearing his throat again.

His mother just looked at him patiently.

Troy sighed. "You know Gabriella's not coming back for prom, right?"

Mrs. Bolton nodded. "I'm sorry, sweetie. It'll be alright. You'll just go with the rest of your friends, and you'll have a marvelous time, and you'll come home--"

"Mom." He interrupted. "That's not going to happen."

A puzzled look settled upon her face. "You're not going? After all Gabriella did to help you pick out the tuxedo, I don't get to see you in it? And what about the corsage that I ordered?" He could feel the distress starting to appear in her voice.

"Mom." He repeated again. "I don't care if I miss prom."


"I'm not going to go to any prom without my girlfriend. And since Gabriella's clearly not going, I'm not going either."

"Troy, it doesn't matter—"

Troy became impatient and had to restrain himself from shouting. "Mom! Can I just talk?!"

The muscles in his mother's face instantly attempted to relax. "Sure, honey, I'm sorry. Go ahead. I'll just listen."

He exhaled noisily. "Anyways. Like I said, I'm not going to prom without Gabriella. So I want to get her."

Awkward silence.

Mrs. Bolton's brow creased. She appeared to be in deep contemplation, as if she were organizing her thoughts. Finally, half a minute later, her brow smoothed back out.

"Well, Troy, it seems like you've already made up your mind."

This was tricky. What was Troy supposed to say? How could he say it in a way that would prevent her from forbidding him to go? He braced himself. "You could say that."

Another pause that was too long for Troy's liking.

"How, exactly, are you planning to do this?"

Troy looked upwards, silently praying for this to turn out well. "We-ell, I was hoping that you would help me with that part."

"Mm-hmm." His mother nodded slowly, her head bobbing rhythmically. "That is, talk to Mrs. Montez, arrange for your absence from school, plan your route, pay for your gas, get your car checked so it doesn't break down…"

"Mom, if you don't want me to go, then just say it." He returned his gaze to the floor in defeat. When she didn't reply, he slowly raised his eyes and fixed them on her face. "What? You're really not saying no? What?"

Mrs. Bolton tried not to chuckle at her son's face, more eager and anticipatory than she had seen it in two weeks. She could see the change that had occurred when Gabriella left. It was as if a part of his heart had left him. His normally illuminating blue eyes had lost the sparkle to it. Now, it was back. "I'm really not saying no."

"Wha…god…holy…thank you so much Momma!" Troy rushed to his mother and wrapped his arms around her from behind, squeezing her as tight as he could.

"Hold on, Troy. It's not that easy." She let out the laugh that had been bubbling inside of her. "You—you, not me—are going to do most of the work. You are going to have to talk to Mrs. Montez and your father. You're going to have to go on MapQuest or something to find your way there. You're going to pay for your own gas."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah…" Troy was barely listening anymore. He felt like bursting out into song and dance that was entirely contrary to the one he had done the night before. He could go get her! They were going to spend prom together! His mother's voice broke his thoughts. "Troy? Are you still listening to me? Because this is actually quite serious. I hope you've thoroughly considered this decision."

Troy's tone of voice immediately became solemn. "Mom. Of course I've thought this through," he uttered, when in fact, he did kind of make the decision in one big rush. But once he thought about it, he wouldn't have made a different choice anyways. "But, uh…can you talk to all the people? I'm going to be pretty busy packing and looking for directions and stuff." He was hoping to get out of the conversation with his father, and also Mrs. Montez. He knew that it would be even more awkward than this one.

His mother let out a huff of air. "Hah!" she scoffed. "Honey, you're not getting out of anything. The only thing that I would help you with is packing and directions. And maybe I'd call the school. But you are going to have to start those conversations with Mrs. Montez and your father. No using me as a way in."

Troy sighed. His mother never gave him any slack. "Fine, momma."

"When are you planning to leave, by the way? I don't even think that you've realized how much driving you're going to do. My god, how many miles is it from here to Stanford?"

"It's 1053 miles, Ma."

His mother stared. "How do you know that off the top of your head?"

"I just do, Mom. And I looked it up, and it said that it's going to be about fifteen hours driving." Troy hoped and begged the god of mothers that she would let him drive the entire distance in his less-than-trustworthy truck.

"Well, I can't really take back my permission now…" his mother mused. "You would go anyways. But I want you to get your truck checked at the shop by the time you leave. And you have to get both your dad's and my approval of your little itinerary that you're going to show us after dinner."

Troy blinked in surprise. "Wha…okay, mom." He was really doing this.

Troy attempted to take deep breaths. After about two and a half, he exhaled in one big gust. This conversation was not going to go well, regardless of any way he'd decide to start it off. He still wasn't on comfortable speaking terms with his father after their tense conversation that night on the basketball court.

Jack Bolton stepped into the study. "You wanted to talk to me?"


Jack sank into the large leather rotating chair. Pointing at Troy, he said, "Go for it."

"Alright. Uh…I don't know if you know, but Gabriella called me yesterday afternoon."

"Nothing less than I expected." His dad nodded.

"Uh, yeah. Well, what she told me was kind of…surprising." Troy took a tentative breath and leaned against the wall. "She's not coming back for prom. Or the musical."

"Hm." A slight bit of interest flickered in Jack Bolton's eyes. "That's not the best thing."

"No," Troy agreed, "no, it's not."

An awkward pause ensued. How many more awkward silences has God planned for me to endure today?, Troy thought.

"So. Is that all? Did you want to talk about something else with me?" His dad asked pointedly.

Troy rolled his eyes. "Yes, I did actually. About the Gabriella not coming back thing. I'm gonna go get her."

His dad raised his eyebrows. "You are?"

"I am."


"You are." His dad affirmed again.

Troy sighed. He might as well jump off the cliff. Raising his arms in surrender, he asked, "Dad. Can you please tell me what you're thinking?"

His dad pushed his feet off the ground and spun around slowly in the chair a few times before answering. "Well, what do you want me to think or say that I think?"

Troy held back a groan. He was getting frustrated. "Well, are you going to let me go?"

"Whatever I say isn't going to stop you, is it?" Troy groaned out loud this time. That was comparable to what his mother had said. His parents were on more similar wavelengths than he had thought.

"Uh, I guess not, but I still kind of…er…want your approval, I guess." Patience was not a virtue that he possessed at the very moment.

"You really want to know what I think?" Jack asked.

Troy braced himself after answering, "Yeah." This was only a bit of calm before the hurricane that was coming.

Jack clasped his hands together and put his eyes on Troy's. "Maybe you should think this over a bit, son. I think Gabriella knows what's best for her. Besides, you still need to keep up your workouts and do something about that U of A scholarship sitting in your hands."

Troy had expected something like this and was prepared with a retort. "Dad. This isn't going to interfere with anything. Basketball season's over. I need to take a break sometime!"

"Troy, you have to focus. Keep your eye on the prize, remember?" Jack reminded his only son.

"Basketball's not always going to be in my future, Dad, you know that." Troy scoffed.

"Do I?"

Troy spit, "I'm not gonna go to U of A just because I got a basketball scholarship!" His hands clenched and unclenched, leaving nail imprints on his palms.

"But like we talked about the other night, you've been wanting this since you were a little kid!"

"But again, Dad, I'm not a little kid anymore!" He wished he could just pound the fact into his father's head. "I'm freaking eighteen years old! I can drive! I want to make my own decisions!"

"Troy, you know this isn't about only basketball," his father tried to reason with him. "This is about your future in college and after college."

"How? How on earth does going to get Gabriella for prom and the musical have to do with my future in college?" Troy threw his hands in the air.

"How does it not?!" His father threw back him. "Don't tell me you haven't thought about going to a college close to her."

"Gabriella isn't and won't affect my decision regarding which college I'll go to!" He winced. That was a blatant lie.

His dad saw straight through it. "Troy. That's bull. You know it. But she shouldn't be affecting your choice. She's just a girl. There will be other girls. But there won't be any other scholarship opportunities."

"She's just a girl? Just a girl?"

"I only want—"

"What's best for me! I know that, Dad!" Troy shouted. He was angrier than he had ever been in his life. All of his frustrations about Gabriella, life, basketball, parents, theater…they all led up to this cliff. "But did you ever consider what I've been wanting for myself?! Can you even fathom how much this means to me?! How much Gabriella means to me?!" Passion seeped from his voice. He didn't care that he was talking about his love for Gabriella in such frank terms, wasn't going to blush and shy away. "I love her!"

Jack Bolton froze. The only sound in the room was Troy's heaving breaths, his lungs working at maximum capacity. Neither spoke.

Troy glared at his father. "I love her," he repeated, "and I'm going to get her."

He stomped out of the room and twenty seconds later the sound came of his battered truck roaring to life.

Jack Bolton still hadn't moved.

Dang it, dang it, dang it, Troy pounded his steering wheel. Did he really say that? Out loud? To his dad? Dang it, dang it dang it, he repeated in his head.

Troy had always known that he had been more serious about his feelings for Gabriella than he had been for any other girl. It was similar to the passion that he had for basketball. The instant he had heard her sing karaoke, he had been entranced by her voice and her beauty. He knew that he should count his lucky stars that he was able to witness the beautiful metamorphosis of Gabriella. In fact, the change in her demeanor during the song they had sung could have been a direct representation of their relationship. She had come off a little shy at the beginning of their strange relationship, hesitant to sing her lines. But as the song played on and as they grew to know each other deeper, she emerged from her shell and he discovered that she was a gorgeous, funny, witty, and smart girl. The time that they had spent together was the most blissful time he had ever had in his life. His teammates seemed to take pleasure in calling him "whipped," but he didn't mind. It was true. However, he now realized it was more than that term. It had been revealed in the last few words he had shouted at his father.

Those three little words had exposed the emotion that Troy had unknowingly hid from his parents, his friends, and even himself. The middle word especially. The true meaning of the word "love" was normally taboo in high school teenager conversations. Sure, girls squealed that they "loved" a new pair of earrings and guys exclaimed that they "loved" the new Xbox game that they had received for Christmas or their birthday or whatever, but all knew that the term was used very loosely. True love was a frightening concept. Revealing that you were, in all honesty, in love with someone was akin to revealing a weakness. A vulnerability. It was opening your chest and letting everyone see your inner self.

When Gabriella used that word in that fateful conversation yesterday, it hadn't really registered in Troy's brain at first. It was only after a few hours of thinking that he realized that she had spoken it. It hit him like a bag full of bricks. The fact that she had been so willing to share her soul over a cell phone conversation with him stunned him. She was so brave, so courageous, and didn't even care if he reciprocated the feeling or not. In fact, she hadn't even given him a chance to do so. It only made him—dare he think the term?—love her all the more.

And then Troy had subconsciously understood that he felt exactly the same way about her. To put it in the most clichéd way, she was his everything. She was the air that his lungs breathed, the scenery that his eyes gazed upon, the scent that he inhaled, and the spirit that his arms ached to hold. She was his inspiration and motivation. There was a reason that the few days when they had no contact with each other the previous summer had been the worst days of his entire life. The reason being that he couldn't survive without her. He couldn't breathe without her. He couldn't see without her. He couldn't sense or feel without her. And all of this emotion had spilled out of him in a rush of passion when his father had provoked him.

He now knew that he could never love another girl. Never. Not when he had fallen so hard for this one. He was willing to acknowledge that he knew what that taboo word meant—the implications and the raw emotions that came with it. He now knew that he loved Gabriella Montez with all of his heart. He was willing to do anything for her. Willing to do anything to bring them together again. Make them both happy again. And with that in mind, he pulled a napkin out of the almost empty McDonald's bag sitting in the passenger seat and a pen that had been rolling around on the floor of his truck, and started thinking. Thinking of ways that he could make this reunion the sweetest it could be for both of them.

The phone rang twice. Troy panicked. What if Gabriella picked up? What would he say? What if they weren't home? If they weren't home, then how was he going to make this work? But thankfully after a third ring, he heard a click and Maria Montez's voice. "Hello?"

"Um, hi, Mrs. Montez. This is Troy."

"Oh! Hello Troy, what can I do for you today?"

"I actually have a pretty big favor to ask of you." Troy said nervously. What would she think of his plan?

"Alright. Can I hear it?"

"Well, as you might have heard from Gabriella…well, she called me yesterday to tell me that she isn't coming back for prom or the musicale." He was getting tired of uttering that same phrase. It had been for the third time today.

"Yes…she discussed that with me. I'm sorry, Troy. I tried to convince her otherwise. But I have to respect my daughter's wishes."

"That's perfectly fine, Mrs. Montez," Troy replied. "The thing is…well…" he sighed. How was he going to convey his plan over the phone? He decided to take a plunge. "Okay, Mrs. Montez. This might freak you out, but I do have something to say of great importance."

There was a lull before Mrs. Montez's voice turned uneasy. "Um…okay, Troy. Are you sure you don't want to speak to Gabriella?"

"No, not at this moment, Mrs. Montez."

"Alright, then."

Troy took a deep breath. This was going to make or break his hopes for the journey. "I think you may already know this, but I…I…I care very deeply for your daughter." Dang it, he thought. What a great way to put it. "What I mean is…I…I love her, and I want to come to Stanford and hopefully convince her to come back for at least the show." He scratched his head nervously, awaiting her reply.

It was a nerve-wracking silence before Maria spoke. "Troy. Do not doubt that I am completely serious here. Can I clarify for a moment? You say that you love my daughter, and you want to drive all the way here and retrieve her and bring her back to Albuquerque with you. For the show."

Troy winced. The way that she put it wasn't giving him any hope. "I'm not doing this just because of the show, Mrs. Montez. I'm doing this because…because…" He sighed. "I'm doing this because…I know that I haven't been really happy these past two weeks. And when Gabriella called me yesterday she didn't seem too happy either. And I'm sorry if this is selfish, but judging by what Gabriella said on the phone, the reason she doesn't want to come back and see her friends is because she doesn't want to go through the pain of good-byes again. So what I'm getting from that is that she misses us. And believe me, we miss her." He had no idea when he had started slipping into using the plural we. "And all I want is for her to be happy. If she's happy, I'm happy. So I want to make her happy, and I think I can do that if she comes back with me. I don't particularly care about missing prom, or the show for that matter. I just want to bring her back." He finished his speech with a giant exhale.

He thought he heard a few chuckles over the line. Oh, no, he thought. Great. She's laughing at my idea. She's going to tell me to throw my idea out the window, and she's going to ban me from ever seeing Gabriella or talking to her again, and—

"Troy?" Maria's voice broke his train of thought.

"Yes?" He answered weakly.

He heard her take a breath. "I'm not going to pretend that your speech there didn't give me a lot to think about, a lot to digest." Pause. "I can tell that you do indeed love my daughter. Again, I'm not going to pretend that that fact doesn't frighten me a bit, since she's my only child and I'm her only parent. This is all new for me."

"I understand completely, Mrs. Montez," Troy reassured. "Well, not the stuff about being an only parent. I gave you a lot to contemplate, sorry."

"No, that's completely fine, Troy. I am thankful that you're being honest with me. And I have to say that I'm thinking that your idea is a good one."

Troy froze. Did he just hear what he thought he heard? The love of his life's mother wasn't banning him from seeing her ever again! She even wanted him to get her!

Maria was still talking. "Do you have an idea of what you're going to do? When are you going to come?"

He gathered himself before answering, "Yes. Yes, I do, actually. Okay, you might want to laugh at me for being, like, completely whipped, but I do honestly love Gabriella so much so I have this whole elaborate plan thingy. And I kind of need to know some stuff."

He heard her laugh before replying, "Ask away, Troy."

Grinning like a madmen now, Troy looked down at the napkin which was filled with words and question marks. "Okay. So I want to surprise her tomorrow. Could you tell me what classes she has tomorrow at what time? Oh, and where?"

Troy got off the phone with Mrs. Montez half an hour later with a satisfied smirk and the top sheet of a notepad filled with scratchy handwriting. He couldn't wait to see the look on Gabriella's beautiful face when he surprised her.

Jack stood uncomfortably in the doorway of Troy's room. "Troy?" He fidgeted. Talking to his son about this little jaunt to California to retrieve his girlfriend was bound to be both tricky and awkward. The subject of Gabriella had always been a touchy subject, and was even more so now than ever.

"Yeah?" Troy kept his voice guarded. He turned in his chair from his desk, which was littered with scraps of paper, pictures, pencils, and his phone.

"Can I talk to you for a minute?"

Troy shrugged. "Sure."

Jack stepped hesitantly into the room and then continued to perch on the edge of the bed. Troy, meanwhile turned back in his chair, pretending to concentrate on the bits of paper.

"Troy, look at me." His father requested.

Troy slid his eyes reluctantly over and up.

His father sighed. "Listen, Troy…I guess I may have been a bit out of line there."

It was supremely hard for Troy to resist agreeing and rolling his eyes, but he managed to do so. He just simply acknowledged the statement by keeping eye contact with him.

His father continued, "I think I've underestimated your…uh…how much…uh…how much Gabriella really means to you."

Troy thought in his head, No kidding, buddy.

Jack sighed again. "I'm not going to pretend that this isn't really hard for me to discuss with you. Sometimes it's hard for me to separate being a dad and being a coach with you. But believe me, I can do it now. I think I know what it feels like to be completely in…uh…to be completely infatuated with a girl."

Troy took a breath and mentally encouraged himself before interrupting, "I'm not infatuated. I'm in love with her."

This assertion seemed to shock Jack for a moment again. He didn't expect that Troy would willingly state such a fact so blatantly out loud again after their argument earlier. He gathered himself before replying cautiously, "Okay. I know what it feels like to be in love with a girl. And I'm not really going to go in-depth about that because it would be, okay…weird." He chuckled. "But trust me—I do know what it feels like and how important being with her becomes in your life. As your coach, well, you know that I want you to keep on being focused so you can go to the best place you can for college. It's hard for me to accept that you have other prerequisites for colleges now, too."

Troy nodded tightly. The lecture wasn't boring him as much as he expected.

"I didn't mean to offend you when I encouraged you to make your own decision, unaffected by anyone else. It's just that most people, well, most people aren't able to keep a high school relationship all through college."

Troy rolled his eyes.

Jack reached out to stop him. "Troy! Stop it. Now I know that you and Gabriella aren't like most people. It seems like you're determined to stick together for a pretty long time."

"You could say that," Troy replied.

"Then, yes, you will probably need to keep her in mind when you're making your decision. But as your dad, you need to understand that I want the best for my son. I want my son to go to the best school for him. I want him to achieve his dreams and goals. And if something gets in his way, I get frustrated." Jack ran a hand through his dark hair. "So I'm just trying to explain why it's been so hard for me to see you so into…okay, in love with Gabriella. I feel like you could be using the time that you spend with her on working towards your goals. But I'm trying to change that way of thinking, and you should give me credit for that."

Troy digested that speech for a minute. He then moved his head up and down in a slow nod. "Okay, Dad. I get it. Thank you for understanding that what Gabriella and I have is…more than real."

Jack looked relieved that he didn't have to "apologize" anymore. "No problem, Troy. Oh, and by the way, there's some salad leftover from dinner, if you're hungry." He pointed out the door.

"Nah, I'm good. I had a McDonald's when I went out for a drive." Troy responded. He once again focused on the slips of paper on his desk.

"So…uh…are you ready for your trip? When are you going to leave?" Jack wanted to bring the tension level between them back down to zero.

"Tonight." Troy attempted to send his dad the message that he had more things to plan out with this one-word answer.

"Well, I gathered as much. What time?"

The message didn't seem to get across. "I'm thinking around nine."

"That's good. Um…I guess I'll leave you to your…uh…preparation then." Jack pushed himself off the bed and walked to the doorway. Once he got there, he turned back and smiled at his son so immersed in planning his trip to the exact details. "Troy—just remember, I'm proud of you…and I love you." He then stepped into the hallway and continued back to the kitchen.

A few seconds later he heard the faint reply, "Love you too, Dad."

"Dude…why are you calling me?! It's 6:50 in the morning! I'm gonna see you at school in, like, ten minutes!" Chad complained, his voice higher and whinier over the phone than in person.

"Chad…dude, you're not gonna see me at school." Troy tried to explain.

"What? Hoops, if you're just joking with me, it's too early and I'm not in the mood. Seriously. I'm gonna see you soon anyway so get off the phone so I nap for like five more minutes."

"Chad!" Troy attempted again. "Listen! I'm on my way to get Gabriella."

"WHAT?!" Chad squawked.

Troy rolled his eyes. "I'm on my way to get Gabriella."

"Uh…Gabriella Montez that is currently living on the campus of Stanford University in California?"

"Yes. What other Gabriella is there? No, listen, yeah. I'm at a random rest stop. I just napped for, like three hours."

"Dude…you are so whipped. You gonna be back in time for prom?"

Troy scoffed out loud. "What do you think?"

"Uh…yeah! You told me you weren't planning on missing prom."

"Well, I'm not going to prom without Gabriella. There's no way that I'm going to make it back in time, so yeah, I'm missing the official East High one, but hopefully Gabi and I are gonna have our own special one."

Chad whistled. "Hoo boy! I can't wait to hear about this."

"Chad!" Troy winced. His friend could be so immature. "I didn't mean that in any other way than I said it. I just want to make the girl that I love happy, alright?"


"Shut up."

Chad laughed. "Alright, Hoops, you have fun doing that. Man, I can't believe you're missing prom! What about those rites of passages or whatever they're called? Stuff that you do with your friends and then in twenty years talk and laugh about how stupid it was? You're missing prom! Oh my god. Prom! Of all things to miss, Hoops, you had to miss this one. Way to go."

"Chad, you make it sound like the same thing as missing, oh, I don't know, championships or something. It's just prom." Troy retorted. "Besides, didn't you want to skip at the beginning? What did Taylor think about that?"

"She didn't know about it! Sheesh. You think I'd risk losing my basketball forever to her? That's what would've happened if I told her that I didn't want to go."

Troy laughed again. "Agreed. Anyways, I don't want to be late, so I gotta go."

"Alright, Hoops. You have fun. Tell Gabriella I say hi, will you? And I'll be sure to have fun at prom without you." Chad promised.

Chuckling, Troy replied, "'Kay, thanks Chad. Bye."

Troy trudged up the front steps to the Montezs' new front door. He raised his right finger slowly and pushed the circular button next to door. A faint echo sounded within the house. Ding-dong.

A few seconds later, the maroon door opened and the figure of Maria Montez appeared. The corners of her mouth uplifted into a beam. "Troy! How nice to see you made it here safely and in one piece. Come in, come in!"

"Thank you, Mrs. Montez." Troy entered the single-family home and gazed around. Most of their furniture from their former home in Albuquerque was in this new one. The only difference was their placement. "This is a pretty nice house." He flopped onto the couch before remembering his manners and that he was technically a guest and straightened up.

"Thanks, Troy. Now, how was your drive? Did you stop anywhere?" Mrs. Montez perched on the arm of the stuffed chair.

Troy breathed heavily in and out through his nose. "It was okay. Yeah, I stopped at a random rest stop and napped for like, three hours. Then I woke up and called Chad and started driving again."

She nodded. "Your mom called around half an hour ago. She wants you to call her back. I'll show you to the guest room if you want some privacy."

"Sure. Thanks."

They walked down a hallway across from the living room. "This is Gabriella's room," Mrs. Montez pointed to a room that was filled with light shining through sizeable windows. "And this is the guest room," she pointed at the room adjacent.

Troy wanted to have a look in Gabriella's room, to see what pictures and such she had up, but he very well couldn't with Mrs. Montez observing. He made a mental note to persuade his girlfriend later, after their reunion. He then turned his attention to the guest room where Mrs. Montez's finger led.

"I'll let you have some privacy now, Troy." Mrs. Montez tactfully turned to leave him in the room alone.

"Um…Mrs. Montez?" The voice startled her a bit and she halted.

"Yes, Troy? What can I do for you?"

Troy cleared his throat. "I just wanted to…uh…thank you for agreeing to all of this. I know it might be a bit hard, but I want to let you know that I'll never hurt Gabriella or do anything to make her upset, and I'll always try to make Gabriella the happiest she can be."

Maria Montez was touched by the sincerity and earnestness in his voice. His words couldn't help but lead her to imagine a few years down the road. She wondered where her daughter and the young man with the mop of brown hair and bright blue eyes standing in front of her could be. She didn't know where they were going to live or what professions they would choose, but she had a feeling that they would be together.

"Thank you, Troy, for being so honest with me." She said with a twinkle in her eye. "I have to say that if you didn't come, I may have had to persuade you to do so to assist me in forcing Gabriella to stop moping around." With a wink, she departed, leaving Troy standing there with a smile slowly beginning to stretch from ear to ear.

Two minutes later, Troy snapped out of the reverie that she had left him in, and after pressing speed dial number two, raised his sleek cell phone to his ear. After two rings, he heard a click and the concern of his mother's voice. "Troy? Honey? Are you there? Did you make it all right? No problems? Are you sleepy?"

"Hey, Mom." He interrupted. "Yeah, I just got here, like, ten minutes ago."

"How is Mrs. Montez?" Lucille inquired.

"She's good. Their house is pretty cool."

"That's good, that's good." His mother said a bit distractedly. "Now, are you sleepy? Maybe you should take a nap before getting Gabriella. You did a lot of driving, sweetie."

"Nah, Mom, I'm good. I took, like, a three-hour nap at a rest stop along the way." He pushed the topic of sleep aside.

"Oh, that's good. I couldn't bear to think what situation you might have gotten into if you hadn't slept at all." She said, relieved. "So, are you preparing to meet Gabriella? Is your suit unwrinkled? What about the corsage? Is it still fresh?"

"Yeah, Mom, the suit's looking good and so's the corsage." Troy smiled a pleased smile. Time to put the rest of his plan into action. There was only an hour left until he could reunite with the love of his life. He couldn't wait to rush into her embrace and hold her tight to his heart. He couldn't wait to breathe in the scent of her hair and rejoice in the taste of her tender lips.

Gabriella Montez, get ready for the best surprise of your life.

AN: Review, please? Thanks so much for reading.