Disclaimer – Not mine and sadly won't ever be mine.

Author's Note – This has been sitting half finished for about a year. I'm trying to get rid of all my half-finished one shots before I go onto multi-chaptered fic. I just wanted something light and not angst filled, so I figured why not finish this off? Hope you enjoy –let me know what you think.

Summary – Sometimes, no matter what other crazy things are going on, it only takes one person, if it's the right person, to remind you who you really are.

"Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition."
-Alexander Smith-

When Troy Bolton had been growing up his mind had been filled with the luxuries that pursuing a career in basketball would provide for him. Money, success, fame - all of it got cited as potential rewards if he just applied himself the way he had to.

Troy had been a diligent child in that regard, he ran drills, he practiced, he was dedicated and the dedication paid off as he was the most successful player his high school had ever produced. The dedication had got him a scholarship in the city of his choice, and acclaim about his potential in the professional level. Money, success and fame seemed a given eventually and the sacrifices he had made in his High School years were apparently destined to pay off.

The rewards that he had been told about were almost within reach.

He lifted his head up from the window it was leant against and sighed as he heard loud, obnoxious laughter come from somewhere behind him and fought against omitting a groan. The problem with the idealistic dream his father and pretty much everyone else from junior coaches and casual fans to his best friend and college recruiters, had for him was that they had all omitted key points in this 'Road To Greatness' that he was supposed to be on. Clearly the recruitment speech had neglected to mention being stuck on a cramped bus for the best part of a day and staying away from home for ten days at a time, and it had negated the 'whatever it takes to win' philosophy that excused almost anything and it certainly forgot all about the pressure of having thousands of people dissecting you without a thought about what was going through your own head.

Money, success and fame seemed a long way off and if anyone asked Troy at that moment in time he would have happily have given up the prospect of it if it mean he could get back to where he had to be quicker and out of this damn bus with the hollow victory being celebrated.

Just as he was about to close his eyes to try and speed the trip along, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.

You know - California kinda sucks when you're not in it, Wildcat. Miss you, love you. Can't wait to see you. xoxo

He didn't even try and hide the smile that the message brought to his face. Gabriella Montez - his girlfriend. His best friend. His lover. His world. He hadn't seen her in ten days, and the separation had been agonizing for Troy. Other than the two week separation they had endured before prom when she was doing early enrolment, they had never been apart for more than a couple of days in all the time they had known each other. In fact, since the night he drove over a thousand miles to bring her home they had seen each other pretty much every other day, bar one weekend when he had an away game and they couldn't leave when they were supposed to in order to get home, and three days when she had been laid up in bed and had barred him from visiting in case she infected him before his training session with his new coaches. It wasn't that they couldn't be apart - it was just that the pair of them were incomplete when they were apart.

U have no idea how much I miss u 2. Just a few hours more. Please tell me I can see u 2nite? I need 2 see u. Love U.

He sent the message off and leant back against the window, ignoring the 'victory' celebrations going on around him. Victory. What a weak word.

As part of Troy's basketball education he had learned that the object of a game was to score more points than the opposition. It was a simple premise, you stack your end of the scoreboard up the most and you win. Simple. What had never came up was should there be a limit you will go to in order to ensure that when time is up, that you have more points than the opposition?

Troy had always prided himself on being fair. He had never gone down when he could stay on his feet, he didn't tolerate his team being underhanded and fouling the best player all night, he didn't do any of that and he had, naively, believed that in college it would just be more of the same. Sure, it was a different team, with different players, but the aim was the same - to win the game and be able to look yourself in the mirror afterwards.

It turns out though that being able to look yourself in the mirror afterwards wasn't mandatory in college. All that mattered was stacking another one in the win column.

He closed his eyes and tried to get the image of his best friend's face out his head as the game ended. A hard, close game was ended after overtime with Berkley winning after a final quarter surge that had seen Redhawk players fouled, and being implicated in fouls that never happened, and basically being cheated out of a game they should have won. Troy had been on court, trying to play fair, trying to win the damn game fairly, but it seemed to have been in vain. How the hell had a game got so complicated?

He had played hard and, more importantly, he had played fair but as he was the local boy, the boy who had rejected the Redhawks, the boy who should have known better and as a result he was held responsible. He was jeered by the crowd, but more importantly, the look in his best-friend's face as he walked up to him on the floor after the game, was burned into his brain. Chad had been so...disappointed. It wasn't how things were supposed to be on his return home.

His phone vibrated again and he swiftly opened it to see his girlfriend's response.

I'll be waiting for you, so it doesn't matter what time you get in I want to see you. I have a surprise - you're going to be so proud of me. See you soon. xoxo

He chuckled as he shook his head. Even nearly a thousand miles away she could still make him feel better without even realising it.

I'm always proud of u. I can't wait to see u. Have a good day in class, baby. See u later. Love U.

He knew she had watched the game. He knew she had classes and hadn't really expected her to watch the game, but somehow she did anyway. He wasn't sure how she managed it, but after the game he had received a text message telling him how proud she was of the way he had played and that she wished she had been there with him. She didn't mention anything about the win, or his team, it was simply about him because that was what he needed at that moment.

It was only when he was getting ready to leave and Chad had chased him out to the parking lot that he realised that even from a thousand miles away, she was still able to fix his problems.


Troy looked up to see Chad running towards him, his hair damp and holding his holdall. "Chad, look I didn't..."

"I know man," Chad said as he stopped in front of him. "I was just pissed at the way we lost and I shouldn't have taken it out on you. You played fair and it's not your fault that your team is a bunch of assholes."

Troy looked down and debated whether or not he should defend his team but simply shrugged.

"Look - I'm telling you this because it's you, but if they keep it up - you will be the guy who carries it, you know? You're the best player and I know our guys are already talking about the next game. It won't matter that you play it right, because if they keep it up, you will be spending so much time on the floor that you won't be able to do anything come playoff time."

Troy bristled at the perceived threat. "So what, those guys screw you guys over and you're all going to revert to type to win the same way?"

"No," Chad said cautiously. "But you and I don't roll the way the other guys seem to. To them, all that matters is the win and the best way to get the win, is to get you out the game. It's not fair, but that's the type of thing that's getting said. They don't care that you played fair, they care that the other four guys on the floor with you didn't."

"Chad, I'm a freshman - I can't make them play the game right. I'm not captain here."

"I know. It sucks, believe me I know. I just wanted to let you know that you were going to have to watch yourself if they play that way because it's not going to be those guys who carry it. It's going to be you so just...watch out, okay? Keep yourself fit or else I will be getting yelled at by your girlfriend."

Troy laughed and nodded. "Yeah, right - like Gabriella would ever yell at you."

"Maybe not yell, but I did get an interesting call making sure that I didn't let you leave on bad terms. Tell me, Captain - did your girl skip class to watch a rival school's game just so she could cheer you on?"

Troy grinned and shrugged. "I...don't know. I mean...maybe. She really called you?"

Chad chuckled and slapped Troy on the shoulder with a sly smile. "She said I wasn't to tell you. I think she was worried that the whole chilly ending was something...permanent if we left it. Smart chicks still don't get sports."

"You know she didn't even call me. She just texted me."

Chad grinned as he nodded his head. "Yeah, she actually mentioned that when she was telling me not to tell you that she had called. She said she didn't want you to think that she had skipped class to watch you...even though she had. I used to think you were the whipped one in the relationship but she's as bad as you are."

Troy could only laugh before Chad continued. "Things going well with her? Or are you getting your head turned with the various beautiful California girls that are around you on a daily basis?"

Troy's head snapped up and he shook his head. "You're seriously asking me that question? I told you at graduation, man - I'm marrying that girl one day. You keep asking stupid questions like that and when I do you won't be allowed to do your speech that you claim you've been working on since junior year."

Chad laughed and raised his hands up in defence. "Just checking! I don't want to have to beat your ass for cheating on her or breaking her heart."

"Dude, you know how serious I am about her. There's not a person on the planet I would cheat on her for."

"Good because she's even crazier about you now than she was before. It's actually kinda sickening. You better bring her next time you're back here."

Troy smiled and nodded. "We're coming back for spring break. I have games over Christmas and her mom still stays in LA so...yeah, spring break. Hopefully. But man, you'll be in LA before then so the three of us will do something."

Chad nodded and the pair of them stood for a moment before there was a yell behind Troy telling him to get towards the bus. "I need to go so we can get to our hotel before we head back in a few hours."

"Going to celebrate?"

The words were bitter, even as he tried his best to throw a smile to accompany them and Troy felt himself sigh in response. It really was too much to hope that things would be okay.

"Listen, Chad - I am really sorry about the game tonight. I didn't want to win like that. That's not me and I want you to know that."

"I know that. Forget about it, but remember what I said - you will carry the can for it with other teams so look after yourself, okay?"

Troy sighed and reluctantly began backing away. "Okay."

Chad lifted his hand and said bye as Troy began walking away. When he was about to get on the bus he was stopped.

"Bolton!" Troy turned at the sound of Chad's voice. "I owned your ass in the first half."

Troy grinned slightly. "We'll see when you get to LA, Danforth."

"Whatever," Chad chuckled as he began backing away. "Call me at the weekend - and tell your girl I'm calling her in a couple of days to make sure you're treating her right. Later."

The rest of the journey had been spent sleeping and silently thinking about things and it was only when he was close to the campus that he'd spent the last eight hours desperate to reach that he relaxed. He glanced down at his watch and grinned. Time was finally moving again.

Gabriella Montez was a complicated girl. Externally she seemed to be pretty easy to read - she was calm, friendly, smart and she never really deviated from what was expected of her. Well...mostly. Ever since the fateful day she had met Troy Bolton she found herself occasionally deviating from the plan other people had set for her more and more often. She began singing in public, she made friends and she had even been willing to give up her mother's dream of Gabriella studying at Stanford if he would have let her. Instead he had made her go, and after a nearly crippling almost break-up, he had then driven over a thousand miles so they could spend prom together.

He had then taken her plans of staying in Albuquerque with him and tossed them in the trash when he had announced that he would move to California with her. Because he was that kind of guy.

Still though, for the most part, she had been an un-spontaneous person - until recently that is. She didn't know what had triggered it - but it was as though watching Troy leave on his basketball trip had sprung her into action. There was a boy who had given up everything for her, on a feeling that she would be worth it, and there she was - a girl so scared to offend that she very possibly could have been shepherded though life without ever once saying 'no'. So, watching the love of her life leave she had made a decision - time to be selfish and do what she wanted to do. What she needed to do to be the sort of person who deserved a guy like that because she knew it wasn't fair that he had given everything up for her, when she couldn't even make herself happy when she wasn't with him.

So, she had went home, begged her next door neighbour to teach her to drive in her car for a whole weekend with the promise that she would be available anytime to babysit her daughter, and/or tutor the little girl and would also join her local theatre group which she had been begging her to do ever since her mom had told her about Gabriella's exploits at East High and Lava Springs. Having already had a lot of driving lessons in the past, Gabriella had picked things up quickly in her refresher course and had applied to sit her test the following week.

Content that she was now able to put the road miles in to visit Troy and drive to see him in away journeys or in Albuquerque if she needed to, she had then made the more important decision to change her college course. She had no idea why she had agreed to do law, apart from to appease her mother, but she had always known she would have been miserable doing it, so, without informing her mother of her decision prior to doing it, she had changed her major. And, consequences aside, she couldn't be happier about that fact.

For the first time in her life, she felt as though her path was heading the way it had to be. She was now doing a course she had always wanted to do, she now had a boy that she knew she was going to be happy and in love with forever, and she suddenly felt like she was in control of her own destiny.

Two years ago she never thought she would be the girl she was today, and she knew she had to thank the guy who had made her believe that she could do anything she wanted to do. The guy who was currently stuck on a bus riding back to his campus, miserable about the way his team had played in their last game, and even more miserable about the fact that he and his best friend hadn't been able to enjoy the reunion the way they had hoped.

She sighed as she looked down at her watch. She missed him. Ten days didn't seem like long when they were talking about it, but it was about nine days too long for Gabriella. It wasn't that she couldn't be without him; it was more that she just didn't want to be without him. It was like putting a blindfold on her and keeping her in the dark for two weeks. It wasn't deadly, but neither was it practical, or humane and although some people would have been freaked out by that sort of thinking, she really wasn't. She had accepted pretty much from the start that what she and Troy had was different from what people expected people their age to have. Their relationship wasn't some casual high school fling. Their relationship was...she almost smiled as she brought her hand up to her necklace at her neck, their relationship was destined. From the second they stepped on stage together in Colorado it had been like part of her had been awakened. A part of her that she never even knew existed. A part of her that had made her break down in tears in the middle of her college campus when she had made that stupid phone-call telling him that she couldn't go back to Albuquerque.

So, with that knowledge behind her, it wasn't that scary to admit that ten days without him was bordering on cruel and unusual punishment because she knew that he felt the exact same.

She was broken out of her thoughts when her phone rang, and the sound of it almost made her jump in her heightened state. "Hello?"

"I'm back," Troy's voice said at the other end of the phone and she felt herself smile. "I am literally throwing my bag in the room, jumping in the shower, getting dressed and then I will drive over. Is that okay?"

She bit her lip and contemplated telling him that she was currently sat on the hood of his truck but decided that she'd rather surprise him. "That sounds great. I can't wait to see you."

"You have no idea, Gabs. No idea," he almost groaned into the cell before he sighed. "Okay, I have to go - I'll be over soon. Love you."

"I love you too, Wildcat," she whispered. "See you soon."

She hung her phone up and grinned as she checked her watch before turning back to her book that was sat on her lap and waited.

Troy's watch had read 6.50 when he had all but sprinted off the bus, brushing off invites to a party one of the juniors was holding that night to celebrate the successful road-trip. He had successfully ran to his dorm, dropped his bag off, jumped in a shower and slung an overnight bag over his shoulder by 7.25 and took a deep breath to calm himself down before he left his room to head towards the darkening parking lot.

He had his gaze down as he walked briskly, texting a quick 'hi, I arrived safe, call you tomorrow' message to his mom as he walked to where his truck was parked. After he sent the message he put his phone in his pocket and for the first time glanced up, and immediately stopped walking.

There, sat on the hood of his truck, with her head leant over a book and a smile playing on her face as she read was his girlfriend. His girlfriend he hadn't seen for the best part of eleven days. He closed his eyes and silently prayed that when he opened them that she would still be sitting there. He opened his eyes cautiously and felt his breath catch as his blue eyes met her brown as her face broke out in a broad smile.

He felt himself grin stupidly as he stood there looking at her while she slid off his truck and grinned at him, her book landing at her feet, the page unmarked.

He took a moment just to look at her. She was dressed simply in jean shorts and a simple off the shoulder shirt and sandals, with her hair tied up in a messy ponytail with tendrils hanging down her face but the effect of seeing her after so long rendered him as speechless as he would have been had she shown up wearing nothing but lingerie. She had that sort of affect on him.

She giggled as she took a step towards him. "Come on, Wildcat - I haven't seen you in nearly two weeks. The least you can do is say hi..."

Her voice sprung him to action and in two strides he had managed to cast his bag to the ground and swept her into his arms as his lips found hers. Her arms snaked around his neck and into his hair as one of his splayed across her back while the other pulled her hips close to his. They smiled into the kisses and when they eventually pulled back Troy didn't loosen his grip on her body, determined to keep her beside him. She sighed and brought her hand down to brush down his cheek and over his eye, as though she were re-familiarising herself with his face. He leant forward and nuzzled her nose with his. "Hi beautiful..."

"Hi," she whispered back as she leant up and kissed him again softly. "I missed you so much, Troy."

He closed his eyes and trailed one of his own hands up her arm until it was brushing over the bare skin of her shoulder, up her neck and onto the side of her face. "You have no idea how much I missed you," he murmured. "How did you get here?"

She grinned and pulled back slightly. "I couldn't wait to see you, and I figured you would be tired so I...may have caught the bus..."

His eyes widened as he groaned and looked at her as she gave him a sheepish look, knowing that he wouldn't be impressed. Seven girls had been attacked after using the local bus service since they had arrived in California three months ago and to say that Troy was paranoid was an understatement. It was different when they were at home and knew the area and the people but here he worried. "You know I don't like you using the bus service here. Way too many weirdos use the buses here."

She laughed and shook her head. "I know, but it was really busy and I swear I was careful..."


She sighed and turned to him and pressed a finger to his lips and shook her head. "I know. I'm sorry. I promise that I won't do it again..."

"Really," he quirked an eyebrow as he looked at her sceptically. He knew that the chances of her not visiting his campus were located somewhere between slim and none, and he also knew that her riding her bike all the way out here was unlikely so he found her promise doubtful. "Because you know...promise is a really big word."

He smirked at her as she burst out laughing. "You know it's kinda sweet that you remember that..."

"What can I say, I learned a lot that summer," he grinned as he walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her again. "For example, I learned that if I touch you here," he whispered against her ear as he trailed his fingers lightly down her neck to reach the top of her back before he began trailing his hand downwards again. He bent down and kissed her neck as his fingers slipped under the base of her shirt and brushed against her warm flesh causing him to grin against the skin as she shivered in response. "You shiver. I leant that I would have to be a complete idiot to risk losing you for anything and..." He lifted his gaze up to hers and locked his eyes with hers. "I learnt that you were it for me. I kinda had the idea before then, but it was pretty much confirmed for me."

He saw her eyes water before she smiled up at him. "You shouldn't say those things to me when I'm already overly emotional because I haven't seen you in days. It's not fair making me fall more in love with you..."


"Because, we're in a public place...and if you keep talking like that I'm either going to burst into tears, or start tearing your shirt off and neither would be good."

"I like the second option, it has to be said," he teased causing her to roll her eyes and slap him lightly as she extracted herself from his grasp and headed towards the truck. "You're staying with me tonight, right?"

"Is that a serious question?"

"Well...no, it was more a statement because there is zero percent chance of me letting you leave but what I mean is we can go back to your place if you prefer but I have an empty room and...it's thirty minutes we could spend catching up."

"Catching up?" She giggled as she leant down and picked her book up and stuffed it into her bag before reaching out for his hand and lacing her fingers with his. "If that's what you want to call it."

He winked at her as he picked up his own bag and pulled her closer to his body as he led her up to his room.

A few hours later both Troy and Gabriella were laying on his bed, him dressed in a pair of running shorts and her wearing his t-shirt as a pizza box lay on the floor at the side of the bed while he finished off a slice while she lay on her stomach and gazed up at him, allowing him to brush the fingers of his free hand over the arm she had rubbing lazy circles over his bare abdomen. It was after midnight, but neither of them noticed the time, content to stay in their bubble where such inconsequential matters such as day, night and time didn't matter as long as they were together.

Their time since they had arrived in the near empty dorms had been spent mostly in bed, only getting up to collect the pizza from the delivery man, or to get drinks from the kitchen and light, easy conversation flowed between gentle kisses and whispered promises.

"So you said you had a surprise for me, Ms Montez," Troy said with a wink as he dropped his crust into the box and rolled over slightly so he was perched on his arm while her hand wrapped around his side and began stroking his back almost instinctively as he looked down at her with smile. "Assuming you waiting outside my room to ravish me wasn't it of course..."

She gasped in indignation. "I was waiting to greet what I thought would be my tired and stressed boyfriend - you're the one who all but dragged me up the stairs and tore my clothes off when we got behind closed doors."

"Meh...toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe. The exact details are a little sketchy but I vividly remember that the end result was the same..."

"You, Troy Bolton," she said as she leant up and kissed him gently before pulling away. "Are extremely fortunate that I love you so much."

"Don't I know it," he winked at her as she laughed and leant over the bed so that her head wasn't visible. He grinned as he took in the smooth expanse of her legs as she leant over and fought against grabbing her up and continuing their earlier activities. God he had missed her. He shook his head to try and get his head back to the present as he got up and lay across the bed alongside her, unable to stop his hand trailing up her smooth leg before he dropped his own head down so it hung over the edge as well causing her to giggle as she looked at him. "What are we doing down here? Because, you know, generally the most interesting things are on the bed as opposed to underneath it."

She grinned as he kissed her and brushed his hand up her thigh again before she pulled something out of her bag before she nudged him to sit up as she knelt up on the foot of the bed and waited on him to right himself. "Okay - before I tell you though - you have to say that you will do a favour for me, please."

"Is this one of those things where I agree to it and I end up doing something embarrassing?" Troy asked as he sat up and eyed her suspiciously. He didn't think she would be evil especially considering she was away from the influence of Taylor and Kelsi, but she was a girl and a favour for the girl in front of him could be anything from spending an evening with her mother, a day studying in the library, or watching three movies that made her cry in a row because she was having a 'hormonal' day. "Because if it is, you should probably know that I'm open to everything given the proper persuasion..."

She shook her head and bounced slightly in excitement, seemingly missing his suggestive tone, causing him to laugh. It sometimes stunned him how endearing she got when she was happy and how she could move so seamlessly from being so incredibly sexy that he could barely keep his hands, never mind his eyes off her, to so innocent that she reminded him of a kid at Christmas. "Not embarrassing, I swear. It will just take a few hours of your time and is very manly and so on, so no embarrassment will ensue...?" She bit her lip and looked at him as though she truly thought there was a chance he could ever say no to her, and he couldn't help but nod causing her to bounce up and kiss him quickly before jumping back and kneeling back where she was again before she reached over and handed him her open wallet. His brows furrowed in confusion until he looked down and saw the card at the front. He read over it and lifted his gaze to see her as she watched for his reaction.

"You passed your test?"

She nodded and beamed at him causing him to grin in response as he leapt over and wrapped his arms around her, kissing the side of her head. "You passed your driving test! I am so proud of you, baby! I didn't even know you were sitting it."

"I didn't tell anyone in case I failed," she said as she pulled back. "But I need you to help me buy a car. I have some money saved but I don't know anything about cars and I'm scared I would end up buying something that'll fall apart or something. I know you have plenty of experience with cars that fall apart so..."

He feigned offence as she started giggling. "Hey! My truck doesn't fall apart - it just stops working. There's a subtle, but very important difference there."

She nodded and leant over and kissed him. "I know. I love your truck - it has...character."

"Yeah well, your car is not going to have character because I am not letting you drive anything that isn't perfect. I am so, so proud of you," he stated as he hugged her. "I thought you were going to wait until we got back to Albuquerque where the roads were less crazy?"

"Well, I was going to, but I figured it was about time I learned so that it wasn't only you who had to do all the travelling between campus' and since someone doesn't like me riding the bus, it was pretty much the only thing I could do to contribute," she smiled as she pulled back. "Plus, this way when we're driving home you don't need to do all the driving."

He chuckled as he looked at her and felt his stomach dance. "Have you any idea how cool it is that you consider Albuquerque home?"

She blushed and looked down. "I know, considering I don't even have a place to stay there." She shrugged before she met his eyes again. "It's just...it's the first place that I ever felt like I fit, so...yeah, I guess it's home. I wish my mom didn't move."

"I don't think you need to worry about a place to stay. I heard there was this basketball slash musical star that had a bit of a thing for you in High School," he said with a wink as he leant back against the pillows again with a smug smirk on his face. "I'm sure he wouldn't see you out in the cold..."

"Really?" She bit her lip, feigning coyness. "You really think the Rocketman would let me crash in his room? He is so cute!"

His eyes widened before he pounced at her, causing her to shriek in laughter as he pinned her to the bed. "Care to try again?"

She continued to giggle as she looked at him. "Try what again? Oh, you want to hear more about Jimmie? Well, he saved the senior year musical when the star went gallivanting around the country, and he also apparently scored the game winning basket to win the Championship. He is so awesome!"

"Awesome, huh? Tell you what, I'll make this really easy," he said as he leant close and began kissing down her neck. "Tell me you don't find my stalker cute and I promise I'll let you go..."

"He is very cute though so I would be lying," she giggled causing him to growl against her skin as he began tickling her with his free hand, causing her to laugh madly.

"Lying? Really?"

As he made no move to get off her, or to stop his tickling she began gasping for air through her giggles. "Okay, okay! I'm sorry Troy! He's not cute! I'm sorry!"

"You're really sorry and not just saying it to soothe my ego so I let you go?" Seeing her nod through her laughter he stilled his hand, but left it in place. "Now tell me that you love me and that I am a far better catch than any kid who is trying to be me."

She giggled as she pretended to think. "Will you let me up if I do?"

"I can't guarantee anything," he said as he trailed his hand up from her stomach slowly, causing her to take a deep breath at the sensation before he took one of the hands he had pinned and held it down so that both her hands were pinned by both of his. "Apart from the fact that I won't let you up if you don't."

She laughed again as she ran her leg up the outside of his. "Meh, that's an empty threat because I could get you up off me if I really wanted to."

"Really?" He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "Because from where I'm sitting, Ms Montez, you look pretty much at my mercy."

She bit her lip seductively and he saw her eyes twinkle with mischief as she slowly wriggled slightly in order to free her leg more fully so she could drag it slowly down his leg before she craned her head up to meet his lips in a soft, teasing kiss. She pulled back slightly from his lips before she began to kiss his jaw line before returning to his lips and ghosting kisses all around them. Her leg never stopped rubbing against his as she raised her pelvis slightly towards his making him inhale sharply as he fought to keep his focus, but the combination of her teasing kisses and touches made him lose his composure slightly and he let go of one of her arms in order to direct her face towards his lips in order to stop her teasing. As he caught her lips and went about exploring her mouth, he felt her free hand come round his neck towards his nape where it played with the hairs there for a moment before it trailed down the front and began trailing down his chest, her nails moving gently over the skin, causing him to moan slightly before it dipped lower down to his abdomen. His thoughts were long gone then and he let her other hand go free as he brought his free hand to the edge of the T-shirt she was wearing and running up her smooth legs, pulling her closer to him in the process until he found the warm expanse of skin of her abdomen.

Somewhere after his hand had reached her mid-thigh yet before he had managed to achieve his goal of removing his shirt that she was wearing, he felt her nails dig slightly into his back while her hips bucked up to meet his and he groaned at the pleasure of it as he abruptly felt her shift underneath him so she could roll over and somehow he found himself laying on the bed, his own hands pinned as she perched over him, her eyes twinkling in delight as she pulled back from the kiss and he came out of his lust filled haze and saw her smirking down at him. "Wha...what exactly just happened?"

She giggled and leant down to plant another kiss on his lips before she pulled back. "Now who's at whose mercy, Wildcat?"

He gasped in indignation. "That's cheating! You can't just kiss me like that because naturally I'm going to get distracted."

She grinned and shrugged her shoulders before she leant down to him, stretching her body along his as she did so. "All's fair in love and war, Bolton."

"You do realise that I will get my revenge for this, don't you? You won't even see it coming."

"You're not that unpredictable," she teased as she leant down and kissed him again. It was slow and soft and he found himself sighing at the languid contact. He had missed this - missed touching her, kissing her, the taste of her, laughing with her. He had just missed her. "Despite that, I guess I still love you, Troy Bolton."

He sighed as she let go of his arms and he snaked them around her waist, holding her tight. "I love you too," he whispered before he rolled them over again and perched above her, causing her to squeal with laughter again as he tickled her once more. "Even though you are a cheating little tease at games like this and never let me win."

Troy lifted his head up to look at her, and saw her eyes scrunched up in laughter and her cheeks tinged pink and grinned as he leant down and kissed her again. "I really, really missed you...so much."

She sighed and brought her hand up to his face and gave him a warm smile. "I missed you too. It felt so much longer than ten days..."

"I know! Everyone was like 'it's only ten days' but it felt like a month or something. Can you believe that we were ever considering going to schools in different states?" He said as he pulled back from on top of her and instead lay down beside her at the foot of the bed so they could look at each other. "I hated basketball during this trip. Especially at the end."

She offered a weak smile as she took his hand, caressing the back of it gently with her thumb. "Troy...you're not responsible for everyone else. You can hold your head up and everyone who was watching could see that as well. You don't have anything to feel ashamed off."

He groaned as he closed his eyes. "Deep down I know that, but I can't get Chad's look out my head, or the reaction of the crowd...it was like they were disgusted by me."

"I know," she whispered. "But Chad was just upset that they lost, not with you and the crowd were just angry that you chose somewhere else. If you weren't good, they wouldn't have cared. It's almost a compliment."

"Thank you for talking to him," he said quietly as he kissed her hand. "Although I don't know whether I should be upset or not that you called him before you called me..."

She gave him a sheepish grin as she bit down on her lip. "I thought you two should talk so I took a chance."

"I can't believe you watched the game. I was so sure you had class. I mean, not that I'm not grateful but I wouldn't have thought law professors were going to look favourably on one of their brightest skipping to watch a basketball game. You didn't get in trouble, did you?" He asked and immediately noticed her posture shift slightly at the mention of her course and realised that something wasn't right with her. They hadn't really talked a lot about what had happened with each other since he got back, being too caught up in spending time with each other, having fun, talking about his time at home and their friends and playing around but now he was beyond curious about what he had missed with her. "Enough about me tell me what has been happening with you since I left. Classes been good and everything?"

She sighed as she looked around before she sat up beside him, pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her head on them as she looked at him. "Um...maybe you would prefer to wait to talk about me."

That got his full attention as he sat up beside her and looked at her. Something was definitely off. "Why? I think I'd rather just hear it now. What's up?"

"Okay, but you can't yell at me. I already had a massive argument with my mom about it so...please; don't yell at me tonight, okay?"

"You fought with your mom? Why didn't you tell me?" He asked as he took her hand. Gabriella was really close to her mom so it would have taken a lot to cause them to have a fight, never mind a 'massive' one. "Gabriella?"

"It was last week. You guys were going to play Washington and you were so psyched for the game that I didn't want you to worry..."

The memory of a conversation from before that game flitted through his mind. He had called her and he knew she had been crying, but she had insisted it was simply because she had been watching a film that always made her cry and she had proceeded to change the subject to his trip. "So you weren't crying because you had just watched that guy die in Atonement again?"

"No," she murmured before looking down. "I'm sorry I lied I just didn't want you to worry about something so silly before an important game."

He groaned as he leant his head back. One day she would grasp the fact that in a choice between basketball and her, she would win every single time. He rarely got frustrated with her, but this was one of the sore points - where she would keep things from him in some bizarre belief that it was better for him if he didn't know. "You know how my priorities lie, don't you? You pretty much top everything so, for future reference, I don't care if I have an important game, or a theatre group, or a big test coming up, or it's like 4am, I want to know why you're upset, okay?" Seeing her nod he took a deep breath and squeezed her hand. "So...you want to tell me what happened?"

"Can you remember when we were back in my room having the picnic and I told you that I wanted to ask my mom to stay in Albuquerque so I could take classes at U of A?"

He nodded slowly as she turned around slightly to look at him before she continued. "I was going to stay. That's why I didn't tell you about Stanford. That's why I didn't even tell my mom about the early induction thing - because I was going to stay and I knew you wouldn't let me if you knew. But...then Sharpay found out and told everyone because, clearly she hated me, and you said I should go so..." she trailed off for a moment as she seemed to be looking for the right way to explain. "The whole law degree at Stanford thing was never my dream and I was...I was looking for someone to tell me that it was okay for me not to want that and when I fell in love with you it was like I could see that I didn't need to follow the kinda pre-determined path that I was always supposed to be on. It was like I saw possibilities, and options and what I could do if I wanted to, which is why I was going to stay," she bit her lip and looked down as she thought for a moment.

"I would have stayed, you know? I was just too scared to argue with my mom about it, especially after we had talked about it and you said I should go. My mom, Taylor...you, everyone who mattered to me wanted me to go so I went. My mom has always had this dream for me to go to Stanford and study law. I mean that's all I heard, all the time. Be a lawyer, be like your dad, he would be so proud of you to go to his school and be like him and then go do a post grad in Boston, like him but...I'm not like him, Troy. I...I'm me. And I told my mom that last week when I..." She took a deep breath and leant down to her bag again and pulled out a couple of books and handed them to him. "I changed my major to Education with a minor in Musical Theatre."

He looked down at the books and saw one of childhood development and education and almost smiled. This was what he had always seen her doing. It wasn't that he hadn't believed that she could be an awesome lawyer; it was just that it seemed so contradictory to her natural personality.

"It's just...can you really see me yelling at people in court? Or...I don't know, working with criminals, or arguing divorces? I like math, and science and singing and...and not having to yell at people. It's not me and I should have said that to her last year, or before everything happened with us, but I was too scared to do that and disappoint her, but I knew that if I didn't do it now then it would be too late. I just...you were so brave when you stood up and went against what everyone else wanted for you and I felt like such a fraud in comparison because you took all that risk, and all that drama and I didn't do anything so...so I thought I should...man up, or something less masculine and more girly but meaning the same thing."

"So you decided to change?"

"Yeah. I just...I wanted to know if I made a mistake, it was my own mistake, you know? But...my mom got mad - things were said, she yelled, I yelled back, she called me a disappointment, I cried and called her over-bearing, she told me how ashamed my dad would be of having a daughter as selfish and ungrateful as me, I cried again, she left, I cried some more and then ate my weight in chocolate as I watched your game before crawling into bed and that was pretty much the last conversation me and my mom have had in the last week," she gave a bitter laugh as she looked down and bit her lip. "So please, if you're disappointed in me for not doing law, or angry at me for not doing this sooner so you could have stayed in Albuquerque can you please pretend you're not for a few days until my mom is at least speaking to me again because I really don't think I could take the two most important people in my life being mad at me."

He looked at her for a second before he immediately wrapped her in his arms and began stroking her back comfortingly, trying to work out everything she had said. The argument with her mother hadn't been a small one, it had been massive and it was because she wasn't doing as she was told and it frustrated him that he hadn't been there for her. "Why would I be mad at you? I'm not mad at you for this, baby. I think you did the right thing. I always found it hard to picture you as a lawyer but I thought that's what you wanted so I didn't say anything but you will make such an awesome teacher. Your mom will see that too."

She shrugged in his embrace as she leant her head on his shoulder as he kissed her hair. "I think she just...it's like I'm taking my dad away from her again because that was his big dream. I just, I know it's being selfish to do that to her, but I...I can't be like them, even though I want to. The people in my course are so...I feel so out of place amongst them. I don't think I want to be like that anymore. A few years ago I could have handled it, but when I met you everything changed - I mean I had friends and people who liked me for being me and instead I'm just another smart girl who is trying to be top of the class and they look at me like they resent me because they know I don't want it as much as they do yet I find it easier than them. I don't mean to but... "

"Hey," he interrupted her quickly. "You don't have to apologise for being smarter than the others. It's like...should I apologise for being better at basketball than someone?"

"Of course not," she said as she sat up and looked at him. "But you worked hard to be so good at basketball, Troy. I just..." She made a face and shrugged her shoulders. "I just...got lucky with my brain."

He saw the look of almost disgust on her face and he didn't like it. He hated it when she thought that her intelligence was something to be ashamed off or that it was something that she should hide from other people. He understood why, she had told him a little about her experiences at other schools and he knew the 'freaky math girl' label was by far the tip of the iceberg in terms of her alienation because of it and he knew those scars would be slow to heal. Nonetheless, he wanted her to be as proud of herself as he was of her.

"Gabriella, you work harder than anyone. You study, you read, you help other people study - you work hard to be as smart as you are. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. If other people have a problem with it then it is their problem."

"I hope so, because I really don't want to spend four years with people giving me the evil eye because of it," she smiled as she leant against him. "I wish my mom could understand everything like you do. I know it's a bit selfish but..."

"Hey, it's not selfish to follow your own dreams," he stated confidently. "If I did what my dad wanted I would be in Albuquerque just now without you and absolutely miserable. We're not our parents – at the end of the day, we have to do what's right for us. They're the ones being selfish if they cannot accept that."

"I let her think for so long that I was doing this. I came here and I made you leave your friends and your family because I was too scared to say 'you know what? I don't want this anymore' to anyone. I'm so sorry, Troy," she whispered as she grabbed his arm closer. "Really, really sorry."

He sighed as he stroked her arm and closed his eyes. Ever since they had come here she had tried to thank him for moving to be with her and apologising for 'making' him do it. He didn't need that though - he was happy he could do it. He loved her and sure, he would have loved to have been closer to his friends and family, but he hadn't regretted the decision for a second. He just wish she understood that and stopped beating herself up over it.

"Hey, you have nothing to apologise for. You didn't make me do anything because I came because I wanted to, and you know what? I haven't for one second regretted that decision and as for your mom, she'll just have to get over it. You'll make an awesome teacher," he whispered against her ear. "Making lots of other freaky math girls for poor, love sick idiot jocks to fall in love with..."

She giggled and he smiled in relief at the sound as he held her closer. "Only if they're insanely lucky freaky math girls." They sat in silence for a few moments before she spoke again. "I think I made the right decision though. I mean I know my mom is angry at me, and the fact that I haven't seen her in a week is probably a good thing as she's maybe calmed down about the whole thing, but I think once she calms down that she'll see that this is the right thing."

"Whoa - back up! What do you mean you haven't seen your mom in a week?"

His mind was reeling. He hadn't realised the argument had been that bad and he knew that Gabriella would have at least attempted to make the peace if she were able to, so that meant that either her mother had left, or Gabriella had left and that thought, of her being on her own while he had been away, was terrifying to him. He knew she had lived on her own for odd days here and there when they were back in High School - but the difference had always been that he had been a phone call away, or their friends had been close. If anything had happened then, there would always be someone close by, but out here there was no one.

"Did she kick you out?" The thought terrified him, and his mind started running through scenarios of what could have happened while he was away and none of them were making him feel better.

"No. No...she didn't kick me out. Not yet anyway," she gave a small laugh trying to lighten the atmosphere in an attempt to soothe him, but he could see that it was a genuine possibility with the way she flinched as she said it. "Um, after the 'your father would be so ashamed of how you're ruining your potential and all the hopes and dreams he ever had for you' talk, she left and apparently asked her company if she was needed elsewhere so she could have time to 'think' because 'staying here was making it difficult for her not to strangle me when she looked at me' or something so...yeah, she...left. She's in...Michigan, I think. I'm not really sure to be honest. She gives me a call, or texts me to let me know she's alive and make sure I'm alive but that's about it. I should probably apologise I guess and then she'll maybe come home...but I don't think I did anything that bad."

"You didn't," he quickly reassured her, feeling himself getting mad on her behalf at her mother. He knew a thing or two about pushy parents, but he hadn't quite had that level of emotional blackmail from his dad. "Gabi - if anyone should be apologising it should be her. She had no right to say what she said about you, and no right to storm off like a kid who wasn't getting their own way."

"I know," she sighed as she played with his fingers. "It's just with it being Thanksgiving, you know? I was kinda hoping we could work things out but she said she won't be home until the first of December which is...gonna be weird. You'll still come over after your game the night before though, right?" She turned and looked at him and he almost laughed at how panicked she looked. As if she had anything to worry about in that regard. "I know I'm not as good a cook as my mom, but I promise it will be good, and that I won't poison you and I swear I won't complain if you want to spend all day watching the football whilst having a three hour phone-call with your dad or Chad and the guys complaining that Detroit are still getting the Thanksgiving game even though they suck. You...you are still coming, right?"

He reached out and brought her hand to his mouth, placing a small kiss against her knuckles as he kept his eyes on her. He couldn't believe that her mother would do that. He could get that she was upset, and disappointed for whatever ridiculous reason, but to leave her daughter in a strange city on her own as a punishment wasn't something that he had ever thought that Maria Montez would have stooped to. "Believe it or not, I was coming to spend time with you and not your mom, so as far as I'm concerned, having you all to myself can only be a bonus and I wouldn't miss it for anything. But, as you know, I hate football so you'll have to think of something else to amuse me for the afternoon because you are not getting away with feeding me and dropping me down in front of the TV while you study or read or something."

She gave him a dazzling smile and hugged him tightly before turning back into her previous position, their hands locked together. "I'll think of something. Thank you."

"You're coming to my game on Wednesday, aren't you?" He asked against her hair, wanting her near him after their enforced separation. He needed a friendly face in the stands, even though he was playing at home. He just needed someone who would be on his side regardless of whatever happened on the court. Plus, part of him wanted to show her off, although he would never admit that to her. He got an almost primal thrill out of her wearing his name, his number, cheering him on in public. Watching her watch him...it was...exhilarating and made him feel ten feet tall.

"Of course - I love watching you strut your stuff. I missed watching you play the last couple of games," she smiled. "Plus, now I'll be able to drive myself home if you want to go to the after party instead of you having to worry about me."

"Yeah, like that's happening," he said with a shake of the head as though the idea was crazy. He had never been a person for partying every week after games - he would go after championships, or after division clinching wins, but not every week. Even as Captain he had made it clear that a win wasn't a reason to celebrate - a win was what they should be expecting of themselves and if they wanted to party then all they had to do was stack up enough wins to actually accomplish something worthwhile. Being in college didn't change that fundamental belief - or the fact that he would always have more fun spending time with his girlfriend than he would at a party watching everyone get drunk. "We'll go out after the game. Catch dinner and a movie or something - just you and me."

"Can I drive?" She asked with a grin.

He laughed at her eagerness at showing off her driving skills and pressed a kiss to her hair. "Are we going to be fighting about who drives where now?"

She nodded and gave him a small smile. "So can I?"

"Fine," he pretended to groan as he spoke. "Providing we find you a car beforehand and you can put up with having a co-pilot, because I have 18 months of 'are you sure we're going the right way', 'no, I think we missed our cut off' and 'we're never going to make it on time if you keep going so slow' to make up for, you can drive." He grinned whilst doing a bad imitation of her, causing her to gasp and slap him lightly again.

"You are so never getting a ride in my new car."

"Maybe your new car will be so girly that I won't want a ride in it?"

She gasped again and folded her arms. "Says the guy who stole a pink golf buggy, right?"

"That was for work?"

"That was so not for work," she snickered, her eyes glistening with mirth as she looked up at him. "That was you being scared to mess up your pants and shoes in the mud and acting like a girl."

"We were going to a party! I wanted to look nice for you!"

She turned to him and gave him an 'are you kidding me' look, causing him to blush at the memory. "For one, I wouldn't have cared if you had shown up in basketball shorts, and for two - that is a really lousy excuse considering I was standing there with my dress soaked, my hair sticking to my head, mascara running down my face, mud up to my ankles and holding my heels before you suggested stealing the golf cart to get us to the party."

He chuckled more fully at the memory. Their last day of work at Lava Springs in the summer before senior year had been eventful. The staff party was arranged for the evening, but Troy and Gabriella had decided to have dinner and spend some time together beforehand and had, unsurprisingly, ended up on the golf-course with a picnic and a blanket. The two had talked, made out, laughed and ended up snuggling together on the blanket looking at the sky and talking about what their future was going to bring. Next thing either of them was aware of was waking up just as raindrops began falling on their heads. Gabriella had found it hilarious as Troy began panicking and she happily began splashing through the rapidly forming puddles around the course and taunting him for not taking part. He, having been warned by his mother and his father to look smart in case any college recruiters were present, reluctantly begged off and his reluctance made her laugh even more as she spun around by herself, singing softly, trying to tempt him to join her. The temptation to touch her, and to blow off the party was so high that he was forced to hijack the nearest golf buggy which so happened to be Sharpay's hideous pink monstrosity just so he could get to the party quicker, solely to prevent his parents killing him because he was unable to resist the temptation of dragging her somewhere where they could be alone. Sure, he should have thought a little about them showing up in the state they were in, but at that moment he hadn't cared that the pair of them were going to look like drowned rats, or that he was essentially rejecting his girlfriend who was like a fricken goddess standing there tempting him, or that he would be teased mercilessly for the rest of his life by said goddess for his insistence of driving the damned pink cart - all he cared about was getting to the damn party as quickly as possible in order to fulfil his requirements of showing up before getting the pair of them the hell out of there.

"You looked so hot that night," he sighed thinking back to that day. "You really do have an unhealthy obsession with the rain - it makes you all hor..."

She raised an eyebrow, almost daring him to finish his thought causing him to hold his hands up in surrender. "Hey - I'm not complaining, at all! Just stating a fact. On that note, I really think that we should move to Seattle after we're finished college..."

He winked at her, causing her to blush and look away before turning back to him, failing to hide the smile on her face or the laughter in her voice. "The fact is, Wildcat - that you chose to ride a pink, sparkly, furry lined golf cart to save your outfit rather than stay out and dance with your girlfriend who looked far worse than you ever could and didn't care about her appearance even though she was going to be attending a party hosted by the girl who had not only tried to steal her boyfriend a few weeks earlier but who was primped to blonde perfection in her designer outfit and perfect hair and makeup. You, sir, were worse than a girl."

She leant close and tapped his nose as she finished causing him to roll his eyes. "Okay – for one, you could have shown up in a sack and still looked hotter than any person there, designer outfit and primped to perfection or not, and two - I would have been grounded for a year if we'd have missed that party and you were being evil and trying to entice me by looking so fricken sexy so I had to steal the damn golf kart to prevent the pair of us getting busted for doing wholly frowned upon public acts on the damn fourteenth fairway! Anyway, how the hell did this turn back to me?" He pondered out loud, causing her to laugh harder before she leant against him again. "If I promise not to tease you about your car, do you promise to banish all talk of the golf buggy incident to the back of your mind?"

"I suppose I can do that, for you," she giggled as she leant against him and they sat in an easy silence again before she spoke. "Troy? You're really not angry with me?"

"I'm not even close to being angry with you and I know you'll be a great teacher," he said with a nod. "You'll have a queue of lovesick teenage boys following you around. It's like the ultimate fantasy for a guy to have a hot teacher..." He squinted his eye as he looked at her. "Actually, remind me again why this is a good thing?"

"Yeah, because Lord knows I was fighting them off with a stick in High School," she giggled as she leant her head against him, placing a kiss against his chest as she did so. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Just...for understanding. For...for not being angry. For sticking with me even though I'm such hard work some times," she sighed against his chest. "I love you so much. I don't know what I would do without you."

"That's not something you're going to have to worry about," he stated confidently as he pulled her up towards the other side of the bed, so they could lie against the pillows. "You know," he said quietly, almost afraid to break the atmosphere in the room. "This is the first time in nearly two weeks that I've felt like myself."

She closed her eyes and cuddled closer to him as she laid a kiss on his throat. "Same here. Does that scare you?"

He thought for a moment and felt himself smile. It wasn't scary at all. It was...exhilarating. Exciting.

"No. It probably should...but, it doesn't. At all. That's insane, right? I mean...it is crazy, isn't it?"

He felt her smile against his skin as she pulled back slightly so she could look at him and she brought her hand up to caress his ear. "I guess I'm crazy right alongside you then because it doesn't scare me either."

They just looked at each other, eyes locked, her hand still at his ear and the unspoken bond strengthening with every second. They were it for each other, and they both knew it, and as opposed to being scared by that knowledge, it reassured them and made them long for the future they would spend together.

He reached up and took her hand and pressed a small kiss to her wrist before sliding down the bed slightly and pulling her down to lay beside him. "Come on, let's sleep. I intend to wake ridiculously early to have my wicked way with you before we go car shopping so you really need your energy."

She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You know, I do more than provide you with sexual gratification, Wildcat..."

"I know that," he stated in mock indignation. "You also give excellent massages after practice, you make the rest of the guys on the team jealous as hell of me, you make the best waffles, you stroke my eg-"

His teasing was cut off by her hand getting placed over his lips as she looked at him with a smirk. "You are so lucky that I love you and missed you so much."

He responded by pressing a kiss to her fingertips and pulling her close before he repeated for the second time as he closed his eyes and held her close. "Don't I know it."