Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters created by HSM and Disney.

When it's down to push and shove, when it comes to giving up
I get lost within your love, I get lost without your love.

Love always seems to come easy in writing or on the screen. Boy meets girl. Boy takes girl on their first date, and ends said date with a sweet kiss as he drops her off on her doorstep. Not too much later boy asks girl to be his and the two start dating. The two fall for each other, get married, buy a house and have two kids as they live happily ever after.

But that is not reality. Sure maybe it happens for a select few, but it doesn't happen for all, and it certainly had not happened for Gabriella Montez.

The sound of the basketball bouncing harshly against the cement court echoed through the night. Dressed in a pair of black basketball shorts and a white practice jersey with sweat dripping from her brow, Gabriella felt anything but beautiful.

She didn't care though. Not one bit. She didn't care that she had spent the last month preparing herself for that night, even though it was just the annual basketball awards banquet. She didn't care that she'd let her two best friends take her shopping and dress her all up for something she'd normally wear jeans and her letterman's jacket to, spending hours on her hair and makeup for seemingly nothing. She didn't care that her best friend had spent the whole night at the banquet infatuated with another girl. She didn't care at all. She couldn't care less about Troy Bolton.

Okay that was a lie. Because she did care. What girl wouldn't? After having a crush on her best friend for as long as she could remember, after being by his side through everything, after being the one he came to for everything, and after hearing her friends' encouraging words telling her that he felt the same way about her….of course she cared.

But that didn't matter anymore. The moment she saw his lips touching that other girl's as his hand caressed her cheek, her heart shattered.

All those years through their friendship, Gabriella had hoped he would just see her. That she would be as attractive to him as he was to her. Everything about him she was in love with. And sure, as kids, she'd hoped that he had a crush on her too, but she was content with just being his best friend. But as they entered high school, Gabriella had hoped that he'd start having feelings for her. After all, he knew her the best out of anyone and vice versa. They had always clicked. And she had hoped her life would turn out like the movies. They have to base that stuff off of something right?

Well that's what she'd believed. That's what she'd hoped. But reality had set in for her that night. Things didn't turn out that way. Those stories are just wishful thinking…something hoped for but never attained.

Gabriella brushed away a stray tear, channeling all her frustration into basketball. She was determined to have a new dream now. One that involved getting a full ride to USC on a basketball scholarship, and not one that involved her best friend asking her to prom and the two falling in love as they headed off to college together.

Nope, she didn't need that anymore, and she definitely didn't need him. Gabriella had decided she had a new plan as she dribbled the ball between her legs and took a twenty-foot jump shot that sailed through.

Hearing the sound of clapping behind her, Gabriella retrieved the ball and spun around, her eyes landing on the form of her short-haired, blue-eyed best friend still dressed in his black slacks and black long sleeved shirt rolled up to his elbows.

Gabriella felt a pang in her chest as her breath caught in her throat as he sent her a knee-weakening smile, his eyes twinkling. Who was she kidding? She needed him. But he did not need to know that.

Not even bothering to acknowledge his presence, Gabriella spun back around, dribbling the ball around her back before driving hard to the basket for an easy lay-up.

"Dang Brie, you keep playing like that and 'SC will be stupid to not offer you that full ride." His warm, cheerful voice filled her ears in the otherwise quiet evening.

Normally that compliment would make her heart soar. Comments like that from him always did. But tonight, things had changed. Things had been put into perspective for her. She was just his best friend. She'd never be pretty enough for him. She wasn't his type. If she was, things would have turned out like Sharpay and Taylor had told her. Troy's eyes would have been on her the entire night. His lips would have been caressing hers at the end of the night. That wasn't how things turned out though. It just wasn't meant to be.

Ignoring his presence, Gabriella grabbed the ball and dribbled to the corner of the court, launching a fifteen foot baseline jumper that bounced off the rim before bouncing along the cement before it rolled to a stop in front of Troy.

Looking at her curiously, not oblivious to the way she was ignoring him, Troy flipped the ball up with his foot, catching it in his hands, never once taking his eyes off of her.

"You took off kind of quick tonight. Everything okay?"

Troy took a few steps towards her before stopping a few feet away from the basket and bouncing the ball to her.

"Yeah," Gabriella answered shortly as she caught the ball, spinning it in her hands while her eyes focused on the ball.

"Ah okay," Troy muttered, confused by the way she was acting. "I just thought we were riding back together. That's what my mom told me. She said my dad, her, and your parents were all going out afterwards, so we were supposed to come home together."

"I caught a ride with Chad and Taylor."

"Oh. How come?"

"You were busy," Gabriella answered simply.

It was the truth. The only time he seemed to realize she was even there was when she had won the MVP award and she'd looked out into the crowd to see him clapping for her along with everyone else. That was it.

He didn't look at her when she'd walked in with her family—he was busy getting Angela a drink. He didn't glance her way when they were in line getting food—he was laughing with Angela as she accidentally dropped her silverware on the ground. And he didn't even notice her when she called out his name, cheering loudly for him as he won his MVP award—he was distracted with getting a hug from Angela.

"I'm never too busy for my best friend," Troy responded cheekily, hoping to get her to smile.

"I thought so too," Gabriella mumbled, dribbling the ball a few times. "That was before Angela though," Gabriella whispered under her breath, as she dribbled in for another lay-up, not really wanting Troy to hear.

But as she glanced up at him when he caught her rebound, the look on his face told her that he'd heard every word. "Don't worry about it Troy," Gabriella added quickly, clapping her hands twice wanting him to pass her the ball. "Ball."

Troy's eyes burned into hers as he locked eyes with her, as if he could see what was going on in her head if he looked hard enough.

"Ball!" Gabriella called out again, clapping her hands a little louder, snapping him out of his thoughts.

"Brie, are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine," Gabriella sighed, praying she wouldn't break down in front of him. She'd done enough crying that night.

"You don't seem fine," Troy ignored her, spinning the ball in his hands. "You're all pissed off at me and apparently Angela too. What's wrong? Do you not like her?"

"Troy, I really don't want to talk about it."

"But I do," Troy countered quickly. "Gabriella, you're my best friend."

There it was. Best friend. Gabriella willed back the tears. All her life, she loved to hear that term describing their relationship. But now, it just brought pain—a realization that the title of best friend was as close as she could get to him.

"Brie, just tell me what's wrong. I hate that you're mad at me, and I hate that I don't know what I did wrong. I thought you liked Angela. I need you to like her," Troy continued, not noticing the way she looked away at the mention of her name. "I'm going to ask her to prom tomorrow, and I was hoping to ask her out also."

That did it.

She knew it was a probability, but now it definitely became a reality. He was interested in someone, and it wasn't her.

A tear fell from her eye betraying her tough front, and Gabriella quickly brought her jersey up to cover her face, pretending to just wipe away the sweat off her forehead while she was really wiping away some tears.

"Brie?" Troy asked again, as she'd been quiet for a bit.

Shaking her head, Gabriella walked over to him, slapping the ball downward out of his hands and catching it as it bounced up to her. "I said 'ball'."

Dribbling once, Gabriella spun away, only to swing back around towards him as he gently gripped her forearm and spun her back towards him. "And I asked what's wrong," Troy spat back through gritted teeth, the tension growing between the two as they stared at each other, neither giving in.

"I don't want to talk about it," Gabriella told him, trying to pry herself from his grasp, only to have him tug her closer and crush her to his body.

"But I do," Troy said, refusing to let her go despite her struggling. "We can do this all night Gabriella, so you might as well just tell me. We both know I'm not leaving till you do."

Finally giving up with her attempts to remove herself from his grasp, knowing he was stronger, Gabriella looked up at him deciding to just come clean. How much more could she be hurt anyways? He'd already broken her heart. This was the only thing she'd ever kept from him anyways. It was about time to just come out with it.

"Fine, you want to know what's wrong?"

"Yes!" Troy answered, exasperated with the whole situation.

"What's wrong is that I spent all this time and effort getting dressed up tonight for a guy who doesn't even care. I've spent the majority of my life pining after a boy who doesn't even notice me when I'm standing right in front of him. I listened over and over for the last few years to my friends telling me that if I just put the effort into my appearance, the guy of my dreams would finally notice me. All of that, and it was for nothing. Happy now?"

Gabriella placed her hands on his chest and forcefully pushed herself out of his grasp, taking advantage of his stunned demeanor.

There it was. It was out in the open. He knew now, unless he was stupid enough to think he wasn't that guy, which Gabriella knew deep down he realized the truth now. Her secret was finally out, and she couldn't bear to look at him any longer to see his reaction.

Darting away, Gabriella went to run inside, only to have him grasp her arm once more and spin her back to him.

"Will you stop doing that?" Gabriella groaned. "I'd like to keep my shoulder in its socket if that's okay with you."

"Why did you go and tell me all of that?" Troy asked, ignoring her sarcasm.

"What?" Gabriella questioned back, confused.

"Why? Why did you tell me that after this long?"

"Because I didn't want to mess up what we had…because I was afraid…lots of reasons." Gabriella's eyes drifted to look off to the side, not being able to make eye contact with him.

"So now you risk it? When I finally become interested in some other girl? That's just great Gabriella," Troy bit back, the frustration obvious in his tone.

"You're mad at me!?" Gabriella shook her head in anger, wriggling out of his grasp.

"Yes I'm mad at you! You spring this on me all of the sudden, never once saying anything until now. You had all this time, yet you choose now."

"Of course I choose now! You're about to ask someone else out!"

"Yeah, well she wasn't afraid."

"I'm not afraid!"

"Prove it."

Gabriella threw her head back in frustration. Normally she wouldn't be this bold with him. But her competitive nature was coming out. She was never one to back down from a challenge.

"I'll play you."

"For what?"

"To be your date to prom."


Gabriella glanced at the ball that had rolled a few feet away, walking over to pick it up. "I'll play you. One-on-one to ten. I win, we go to prom together. You win, and you can go ask whoever you want to prom."

Gabriella glanced up at him after grabbing the ball, wondering why he was taking so long to agree. Troy was just like her. He'd never backed down from a challenge. They'd been playing one-on-one for things since they first started playing ball.

"You in or what?"

Troy blinked his eyes a few times, snapping out of it. "Yeah," Troy looked up at her, unbuttoning his long sleeved shirt and throwing it off to the side, leaving him in his white undershirt and black pants, "I'm in."

"Shoot for takeout," Gabriella ordered, bouncing him the ball.

Stepping behind the three point line, Troy launched up a shot, smirking as it swished through. "Hope you brought your defensive game Montez."

Gabriella grabbed the ball as it bounced towards her before chucking it harshly at his chest. "Just play Bolton."

Troy caught the ball as it slammed into his chest, doing his best not to grimace from the force of her throw. He'd be lying if he said Gabriella wasn't as strong as most of the guys on his team.

Dribbling between his legs, Troy faked to the left and crossed over right, just barely beating Gabriella as he sailed towards the hoop, laying it up softly off the glass. "That's one."

Grabbing the ball, Gabriella chucked it back to him, getting down in her defensive stance. Troy jab stepped once towards her, causing her to step backwards, before pulling back and nailing a three point shot. "Two points. Three to zero…you sure you want to do this?"

"Shut up and play," Gabriella bit back. The two were not strangers to trash talking during their games. It was a part of their relationship, but tonight, there was more behind the trash talking. Usually they were just joking around as best friends, but tonight it was clear that things were much different.

Troy grinned cockily at her, catching the ball as she bounced it back to him. Slowly Troy dribbled up to her, bouncing the ball back and forth between his legs as he stared at her. "Come on MVP, is that all you have? Where's that first team all defense you got, huh?"

Gabriella glared back at Troy before getting lower in her defensive stance, her eyes watching the ball and timing it so she could safely swipe it away. Poking the ball away from him in mid air, Gabriella quickly ran after it, picking it up before spinning around Troy and nailing an eight foot jump shot.

Catching the ball as it bounced back to her, Gabriella brushed past Troy, roughly bumping his shoulder with hers before stopping at the top of the key. "Check."

After checking the ball, Gabriella crossed over left in front of him, going in for a reverse lay-up using the basket to shield her from Troy who tried to block her shot. "Three to two."

Making her way back to the top of the key, Gabriella caught the ball as Troy passed it to her, dribbling to her right and attempting a long jump shot, groaning as it rimmed in and out.

Troy quickly chased down the rebound, taking it back behind the three point line before driving back to the basket, hitting a fadeaway jumper as Gabriella tried to stop him.

Gabriella shook her head, cursing herself for taking that shot. She'd played enough games with Troy to know that she needed to take advantage of every possession. She had rarely beat him in one-on-one and they both knew he had the upper hand.

Tossing the ball back to him, Gabriella stepped back up to guard him, putting a hand in his face as he shot another three, watching in frustration as it sailed through.

"Six to two," Troy called out, catching the ball as she bounced it back to him.

Dribbling it around his back, Troy darted to the basket, attempting a lay-up straight on, only to have it rim out. Gabriella quickly went for the rebound, pushing Troy off a bit as he went after it too. Getting there first, Gabriella dribbled between her legs before taking it back in and scoring a short bank shot as Troy tried to chase her down.

"Six to three," Gabriella smirked back, not letting him get to her.

Taking the ball as he passed it back to her, Gabriella grinned when she saw him slack back, expecting her to dribble it in again. Stepping back, Gabriella drilled a three pointer, getting herself right back in the game. "Six to five Bolton. Some first team defense you showed there."

"Just play ball Montez." Troy bounced the ball back to her, running up to defend her. The two battled it out back and forth as Gabriella tried to back him down to the basket, but Troy poked the ball away as he read her signature move.

Troy ran after the ball, stopping behind the three point line and nailing another one as Gabriella ran at him a little late. "Eight to five. This could be the game Gabriella. You better step it up if you want to win, cause I can hit that shot all night long."

"Do you ever shut up?" Gabriella retorted, roughly passing the ball back to him.

Troy smirked, enjoying that he was getting to her. Bouncing the ball between his legs, Troy went to the left and stopped as Gabriella cut him off, passing the ball behind his back before going to the right, only to have her cut him off again. Troy quickly stepped towards her, making her take a step back, before pulling up again for another three, only to have it clank off the back of the rim.

"Can hit that shot all night long huh?" Gabriella breathed out as she grabbed the rebound. Dribbling past him, Gabriella did the same move on him, stepping back and swishing the three through. "Eight to seven."

"Don't get too full of yourself there Montez. You're still down."

"Yeah, but I have the ball," Gabriella smirked before dribbling past him and pulling up at the corner of the key, groaning as her shot bounced off the front of the rim. She hurried to grab her own rebound, only to have Troy beat her to it. Out of frustration, she shoved Troy slightly.

Troy wasn't fazed at all though as he took the ball back, before stepping up to make a long jump shot. "Nine to seven. Game point. You ready?"

"All I need is a three and we're all tied up again Bolton. Don't get too cocky," Gabriella responded, getting into her defensive stance, tugging her shorts up above her knees so she could move quicker.

Gabriella took a deep breath as Troy's eyes connected with hers while he dribbled back and forth in front of him. She had to win this. Not only was it about beating Troy, it was about winning a chance with Troy. If only he could see this other side of her he had been missing. The side that wasn't his best friend who'd trash talk through one-on-one games with him and wrestle over the last ice cream bar in the summer, but rather the side of her that secretly loved romance movies…the side of her that didn't mind dressing up for the right guy. That's the side she wanted him to see. She could be that girl for him, if he'd only look.

Gabriella pushed her thoughts aside, carefully watching the ball as it bounced back and forth. Seeing Troy fake to the left, Gabriella read his move, sticking with him as he dribbled right, staying with him all the way to the basket.

"You're not winning that easy Bolton. I know that move."

"You may have read that one, but we both know that's not my only one," Troy told her as he backed her down towards the basket, the two of them pushing and shoving back and forth.

Leaning up against him, Gabriella felt Troy's body go to the right and she quickly went for the steal, only to watch him spin to the left and shoot a short jumper.

Gabriella felt her breath catch in her throat as she watched the ball sail towards the hoop, and felt her hopes completely get shot down, seeing the ball fall straight through, the sound of the swish breaking her heart even more.

Watching as the ball bounced away before rolling along the cement, Gabriella stood still, wanting to take off, but not being able to will her feet to move.

She'd lost. It wasn't the first time, but this time definitely meant more than all of the others. Everything hit her all at once. How would their friendship ever be the same? She'd gone and revealed her feelings for him, and now things were going to be awkward. Things were different, and could never go back.

Gabriella couldn't stop the tears from streaming down her face at this realization. Her best friend, the guy she loved, was now going to run off and be with another girl. She was going to be replaced, and her shot with him was over.

Wiping away her tears furiously, Gabriella finally glanced at Troy to see him staring at her. She couldn't place the look in his eyes, but it definitely wasn't the one he usually had when he beat her. He looked almost regretful?

Choking back more tears, Gabriella shook her head while looking at him. "Well, good game. I'm sure Angela won't turn you down," Gabriella told him softly as she blinked away more tears. "She'd be stupid to."

"Brie-," Troy started, only to have her hold up her hand, cutting him off.

"She's a lucky girl. I really hope you both have a good time. Bye Troy."

Before Troy had a chance to respond, Gabriella started to take off, stopping as she felt two strong arms wrap around her waist.

"Hey, hey, hey, hold up," Troy whispered to her, feeling a pang in his chest as he felt some tears drip onto his arm.

"No Troy, please," Gabriella struggled in his grasp, "I can't deal with this anymore. Just let me go."

Troy shook his head, pulling her tighter to him and leaning his head against hers.

"Troy-," Gabriella choked out through her tears. "Please, I've humiliated myself enough for one night."

Ignoring her protests, Troy spun her around in his grasp, reaching up to brush away her tears as he cupped her face in his hands. "Why didn't you just tell me?"

"Because, I was afraid, alright? I didn't want to lose what we had. I'd hoped you'd felt the same way and one day things would just fall into place for us. And then Sharpay and Taylor talked me into dressing up tonight, and for some reason, I got my hopes up. But it's obvious how you feel, so just go Troy."

Gabriella looked away again, cursing herself for crying so much, but Troy quickly caught her chin in his hand, tilting it back up so she was looking at him.

"Brie, I never knew you felt that way…I mean, I'd hoped, but I just thought you didn't like me in that way."

"You'd hoped?" Gabriella questioned back, his confession catching her off guard. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," Troy sighed, his hands settling on her waist, "I have feelings for you too Brie."

Gabriella felt her anger coming back slightly at his words, shocking Troy as he saw her expression change. "So you sit here and accuse me of being afraid…you spend the whole night ignoring me…and you tell me how you're going to ask another girl out, and all along, you feel something for me?"

"Look," Troy sighed, tightening his grip on her waist, "I was too afraid to do anything about my feelings for you, I admit it. And I thought if maybe I just moved on and asked someone else out, it'd be better for both of us. I didn't know I would end up hurting you so much."

"Well you did," Gabriella bit back, trying to slip out of his grasp. "Troy let me go-"

Gabriella was cut off as Troy pulled her back to him, dipping his head down to capture her lips with his, his grip loosening a bit, bringing his hands to loop around her back as Gabriella slipped hers up to rest gently on his shoulders.

Troy pulled away a few moments later, ending the sweet and passionate kiss as he rested his forehead against hers, his blue eyes staring into the depths of her brown ones.

"Gabriella, I was stupid. I know it. I shouldn't have ignored you tonight. I should have run up to you the second I saw you and let you know how beautiful you looked. In fact, I should have told you that a long time ago," Troy confessed as he brought his hand up to wipe away a tear that was falling down her cheek.

"It's not all your fault," Gabriella admitted, staring up at him. "I should have told you sooner too. Although," Gabriella continued with a small grin, "I would like to point out that you were afraid too."

"I was," Troy smiled back, tucking a stray curl behind her ear. "I'm not anymore though."

Trailing his hand back down to grip her waist, Troy connected their lips once more, this time pulling her body even closer to his, the two pulling apart slightly breathless as air became a necessity.

"Go with me to prom?" Troy whispered, before he pressed his lips softly to hers.


"Yeah," Troy smiled widely, rubbing small circles on her back.

"But the stakes of the game…you won."

"I did, beat you pretty good too," Troy teased, earning a playful shove. "I won, and I believe your exact words were that I get to choose whoever I want. So, I ask once again, be my date to prom?"

Too excited to form a coherent response, Gabriella nodded as a huge smile took over her face before jumping up and wrapping her arms around his neck as her lips pressed up against his.

So love didn't always come easy. Sometimes it took a little more effort, and a lot of risk. But Gabriella couldn't have been happier as she felt Troy's arms wrap tighter around her and his lips caress hers, because the risk was definitely worth the reward. It wasn't all just wishful thinking. It had become reality.