A/N: I support Vanessa Hudgens. If you don't, don't comment. Shout out to Nel and Abby who provided/argued over a crucial part of this story. Thanks!
Vanessa Hudgens kept her eyes firmly closed as she followed her own mental instructions, inhaling the sweet aroma from the lavender candles she had surrounding her, and exhaling the stress from within her, praying it'd help relieve some of the tension in her muscles. Despite that she was inside. Despite that all of the doors to her house were shut, windows locked, and curtains drawn. Despite that she hadn't spoken to anyone all day, save for Evan and Britt, she could feel all of it mounting. Any other day, it wouldn't have bothered her. Any other day, seeing paparazzi on her way home from getting a manicure and pedicure for her looming premiere wouldn't have bothered her. Any other day, receiving a multitude of phone calls from her friends, sister, mother, and boyfriend wouldn't have bothered her. And any other day, she wouldn't have ignored those phone calls.
But it wasn't any other day. It was today, August 6, 2009. It was the day her new film Bandslam would be premiering in LA. It was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of her life. However, it wasn't. It wasn't because she made a stupid mistake many years ago. It wasn't because some asshole decided to capitalize on that mistake. And it wasn't because being happy was obviously too much to ask for.
Why her? It was the question that had been floating around in her head ever since she had received the call from Britt yesterday. Why her? Why again? Wasn't once enough for some people? Were there people out there who really needed to see her fail that badly that just when her career was good, and her future was looking bright, they'd drop a bomb like this? And they were meant for her boyfriend. The blogs plastered intimate photos of her all over their website as though these were intended for everyone. As though she wanted these photos of herself out for public viewing. As though she was the first fucking girlfriend who took erotic photos for her boyfriend.
Vanessa inhaled deeply, ignoring the tear that slipped down her cheek, and choosing instead to focus back on the warm water that surrounded her body as she sat engulfed in her whirlpool tub. She knew she had to get out soon, not only to begin getting ready for the premiere, but also because she didn't want to shrivel up like a prune. However, she was dreading it. Her headache had finally diminished, her muscles weren't tense, and as she inhaled the soothing scent she was beginning to feel like she could catch up on the sleep she had missed the previous night. Perhaps it wasn't all the Jacuzzi, but to be honest, Vanessa was perfectly content to not risk it.
Vanessa opened her eyes when she heard a familiar buzzing next to her. She didn't even have to turn her head to know that it was her phone, ever since she had put it on silent that morning, the buzzing hadn't ceased all day. Releasing a sigh into the previously quiet bathroom, she withdrew her hand from the steamy water and reached over to her phone, pausing momentarily to dry it on a nearby towel. There was really only one person it could be. Her family had long since gotten the picture that she didn't want to speak to any of them, Brittany would be coming over soon to get ready, and that merely left her partner in crime who she'd give anything to have by her side right now.
Lifting the phone in front of her face, Vanessa found her presumption to be right at the sight of her grinning boyfriend staring back at her. Sighing again, Vanessa weighed her options. She had spoken to him briefly the previous day; however, she had had to cut their conversation short before anything was really discussed. She had considered calling him back last night, but she just hadn't felt up to it. Today, he had called six times, and all six times she had ignored his phone call. It wasn't that she didn't want to talk to him, it was just that she didn't want to talk to anyone. Nothing anyone said could make this better, so it was up to her to put a fake smile on her face and appease her fans tonight. They hadn't abandoned her, she wouldn't abandon them. However, Zac was most likely one voicemail away from hopping on the next flight out of Vancouver, and while his director did love him, he didn't love him that much.
Tapping the screen, Vanessa brought it to her ear, "Hello?"
She heard a sigh, almost as though he had thought she was dead or something, "Six times, Van, really? I've been out of my mind with worry."
Vanessa leaned her head back against the pillow and shut her eyes, "Nothing to worry about," she said evenly, "and you shouldn't be thinking about me, you should be thinking about filming."
"Thinking about filming?" Zac asked sarcastically, "Yeah, right. Filming today was shit because I couldn't get my mind off of you…"
"You really shouldn't do that, Zac." Vanessa interjected, "Acting's your job, you love it."
"I love you." Zac told her firmly, his voice sounding as if he couldn't believe how calm she was sounding, "In case you forgot that little tidbit when you were ignoring my six calls, I do love you, and I do worry about you. At least your mom told me…"
"You called my mom?" Vanessa asked, knowing she should've been surprised, but finding it difficult. Zac did have a tendency to overreact to certain things.
"Of course I called your mom," Zac retorted, "you could've been kidnapped or dead!"
Vanessa rolled her eyes, feeling a true smile tug at her lips for the first time since she heard the news, "Zac…"
"I was relieved when I found out you were at least ignoring their phone calls too." Zac told her, "I thought for a second maybe you were mad at me, maybe you…"
"Zac," Vanessa interrupted, her tone sounding more soothing then cold, "I know you didn't leak the pictures, I know you had no part in this. I'm not mad at you, if anything, I'm mad at myself."
"No," Zac protested, "Vanessa that's stupid."
Tears were beginning to form in her eyes, "If I wasn't such a little slu…"
"Hey!" Zac barked at her, "No one calls my girlfriend a slut, especially not my girlfriend, got it?"
Vanessa chewed on her bottom lip, sniffing to keep the tears from falling down her cheeks, "Zac…"
"Look," Zac stated firmly, "you're just a girl who took some pictures for your boyfriend. That may make you foolish or whatever, but it does not make you a slut. You've. Done. Nothing. Wrong!"
"Then why does it feel like I have?" Vanessa exploded, suddenly finding her sadness and embarrassment burst into anger, "Why does it feel like I need to apologize? Why does it feel like I've let my parents, my sister, you…down? If I've done nothing wrong, why does it feel that way?"
"Because you're a good person," Zac told her, "because you're beautiful, smart, and funny." Vanessa sniffled, bringing her other hand up to wipe the few tears that were escaping, "Because you have a great family, wonderful friends, and an amazing boyfriend." She couldn't help the sad laugh that escaped her lips, and she knew that that was what he was going for, "And most importantly, they want to be you. And since they cannot be you, they want to tear you down."
Vanessa leaned her elbow on the side of the tub, resting her head against her hand, "Well, they're doing a hell of a job."
"But you're stronger than them." Zac told her confidently, "Do you remember how hard this was the first time? Do you remember how you didn't think you would be able to make it out of it in one piece? Baby, we have the record for number one musical movie opening ever, we went all over the world promoting our asses off, we performed at the Oscars! You came out of it stronger; you'll do the same with this."
Vanessa attempted to blink back her tears, "I wish you were here." She mumbled out, hating how weak she sounded.
"I know," Zac said firmly, "believe me I know. You couldn't possibly wish me there anymore then I do, but as soon as I wrap filming on Friday, I'll be on the next flight out of Vancouver, I promise."
She nodded, despite that he couldn't see her, "I know." She shut her eyes and willed all the tears from her eyes, "I know," she repeated, "and I know how bad you feel, I'm sorry."
"This is what you're gonna do," Zac began firmly, "you're gonna get out of bed, you're gonna walk to your humongous closet, choose some fucking sexy dress that makes all the men and some of the women drool over you, and you are going to wow them tonight, got it?"
Vanessa felt a small smile dance on her lips, "I'm actually in the bathtub."
There was a pause, "What?"
She smiled, "You said get out of bed, I'm in the bathtub."
She could practically see him roll his eyes, "Fine, you're going to get out of the bathtub, you're gonna dry off, you're gonna walk to your…"
"Thank you, Zac." Vanessa said sincerely.
"You don't have to thank me, babe." He told her, his voice soft, "All you have to do is get your ass out of that tub before it gets pruney and make sure you wear underwear." Vanessa burst out laughing, feeling a full smile spread onto her face, almost making it feel as though it had been days since she had done it, "You're gonna go out there, you're not gonna make any apologies, and you're gonna show them that you're an amazing actress with amazing talent, and nothing…no one…can change that."
Vanessa wiped at her eye, "Baby…"
"Nessa?" Vanessa turned her head towards the bathroom door when she heard a knock, "Are you in there?"
"Yeah," Vanessa managed out, doing her best to sound like she wasn't crying, "I'm…uh…on the phone."
There was a pause, "In the bathroom?"
Vanessa couldn't help but laugh at Brittany Snow's confused voice, "I'll be right out." She turned her attention back to the phone, "Brittany's here…"
"Go!" Zac insisted, "Get ready. I expect to see tons of pictures of you smiling and laughing tonight, got it?"
Vanessa nodded, "Got it."
Vanessa tugged at her dress as she descended the steps of her home, clutching onto the railing so she didn't fall in her three inch heels, "You're sure this isn't too short?"
"I'm sure!" Brittany insisted behind her, "Honey, I don't know if you've taken a good look at your legs lately, but they're pretty freakin' amazing." She smirked, "No wonder that damn boy can't keep his hands off of you on the red carpet."
Vanessa reached the landing first, turning to look at her friend, "He can," her grin transformed into a smirk, "he just chooses not too."
Brittany rolled her eyes while Vanessa turned and began walking through the house, "Mom? Dad?"
"In here, sweetheart."
Vanessa immediately began heading towards the kitchen, finding her mother, father, sister, and publicist, "Hey guys, are we ready?"
"We've got about ten minutes until the car arrives." Britt informed her, "You two look lovely."
Vanessa smiled in appreciation, "Thanks Britt."
Stella sidled up next to Vanessa, wrapping her arm around the twenty year old's waist, "So guess what Dylan said?"
Vanessa tilted her head, "Is Dylan your new boyfriend?"
Stella made a face, "Yuck, Van, Dylan Efron!"
"Dylan Efron?" Vanessa questioned, her brow furrowing, "Said about what?"
"He said he supports you," Stella told her with a smile, "and that everyone should stop being immature and calling you a slut."
"Stella!" Gina protested.
"What?" Stella asked innocently, "I was just telling her what he said."
Vanessa looked over to her publicist, "Said where? Dylan isn't famous…he doesn't wanna be famous."
Britt was smiling, "He twittered about it."
Vanessa blinked, processing what had just been told to her. It wasn't that Dylan didn't like her or anything like that, but he was her boyfriend's little brother. He purposely interrupted them whenever they were making out because he thought it was funny, he was everything a bratty little brother should be. And he was…sticking up for her?
"Wow," Vanessa felt herself say, "Dylan…did that?"
The doorbell rang in the background and Britt immediately pushed off of the counter, "That must be the driver, I'll get it."
He slid out of the room unnoticed by Vanessa, "I should call Zac and get his number." Vanessa began digging through her clutch for her phone, turning to her sister, "I mean, would you do that for Zac?"
Stella shrugged, "I don't know, you're nice, Zac's kinda a horndog."
"Stella!" Greg scolded.
"Vanessa," Britt said from behind her, causing Vanessa to turn, her eyes widening at the vase full of white lilies he was carrying into the room, "I believe these are for you."
She gasped as he slipped between her and Stella and set them on the counter in front of her, "Is there a card?" Vanessa asked rhetorically before beginning to dig through the flowers.
"Like you need one," Brittany said, a smirk toying at her lips, "we all know who they're from."
Ignoring Brittany, Vanessa snatched the card from its position, tearing it open to find a typed note, "Dear beautiful," she started, reading the card out loud, "Have fun tonight, you're going to be amazing. Love, Zac."
"Aww…" Brittany started, "Major boyfriend points."
Vanessa leaned forward, inhaling the scent of her favorite flower, barely registering the doorbell ringing again, or Britt slipping out. Pulling back, she seized her phone from its position in her purse, yanking it out and dialing a very familiar number, turning and walking out of the room to get a little bit of privacy. It rang once, "Hello gorgeous."
"I love you." Vanessa said simply, "I know I've probably said that a million times, but I really really really love you."
"The feeling's mutual, babe." Zac returned, "Now go, call me later."
"I will." Vanessa promised, "Oh, and thank Dylan, he's kinda a dork, but I love him."
There was a pause, "My…brother…Dylan?"
Vanessa smiled, "Yeah, he put on his Twitter that he supported me and…stuff…so just tell him thank you, I would…but…"
"No, no, no…go! I'll tell him, even though I had no idea he was planning on doing this." The last part was mumbled, as if he was talking to himself, "Kick ass, Van."
She smiled, "I will."