A/N: I'll reiterate what I wrote in the author's note of my other story. Yes, I realize it's been a long time since I've updated. Yes, it sucks, school's kicking my ass in the time department, and while my spring break is coming up which will hopefully allow for me to get a little writing done, until summer, I highly doubt updates will be anywhere close to consistent. I really appreciate you guys sticking with me, I love where I'm taking this story, and I hope you guys will too.
He didn't come home that night.
Gabriella fiddled with the Scooby Doo bandage still resting on her pointer finger as she kept her arms wrapped tightly around the two year old shifting on her hip. Jack and Sarah were back on their way to Albuquerque, Gabriella and Alex having dropped them off at the airport that morning. They had argued, neither of them wanting to leave Gabriella, and to be honest, she really couldn't blame them. With as little as they saw one another, piled on top of having just found out Troy was alive, it was always difficult to leave. But they had to. Troy may have not told her what happened in the time he was away, or even what was occurring now that he was back, but he was right, there was danger out there, and while she was in this, they weren't. Still, that didn't make them leave any faster, nor did Troy's noticeable absence the previous night.
Gabriella expected him to be upset. If the roles were reversed, she'd be upset as well, and while the last thing she ever wanted to do was upset or hurt him in any way, she couldn't go on pretending. Pretending wouldn't take away the two previous years. Pretending wouldn't change the fact that Gabriella watched them bury who she thought was her husband. Pretending wouldn't change the nights she'd cried herself to sleep. And pretending wouldn't help them move forward. But still, she felt bad. There were better ways to handle it. Ways that didn't involve telling her husband that the night they had spent together was a mistake.
"Momma?" Gabriella blinked out of her thoughts, her eyes moving from the silver elevator doors in front of her to her curious looking son, "Why can't I play with grandpa?"
Gabriella smiled softly at the pout resting on his lips, "Grandma and grandpa had to go home, remember?"
Alex's bottom lip jutted out, "But I don't wanna go daycare."
Gabriella mimicked his pout, "I know baby, but mom's gotta work." Leaning in, she pressed a kiss to his forehead, lifting her free hand to move his hair out of his face, "You like daycare. Ms. Robinson's gonna be there. You like her, right?" Despite that he was still upset, Alex nodded his head. "It's gonna be fine, honey. And mom promises she'll come down and see you on her lunch, would you like that?" this time, Alex nodded vehemently, causing Gabriella to smile, "You're my favorite little boy in the whole world, you know that?" smiling bashfully, Alex buried his head into Gabriella's shoulder. The elevator doors dinged, signaling their arrival onto Gabriella's floor, and she adjusted Alex on her hip as the doors opened, "Mom's just gotta stop by her office and then she'll take you downstairs, alright?" she asked rhetorically as she walked out of the elevator, cutting to the left towards her office.
The office was silent, as it often was in the morning, and Gabriella wasted no time making it into her office. Setting Alex down to sit atop her desk, Gabriella peeled off her purse and laptop case. "Are you excited to have dinner with mom tonight?"
Alex nodded his head as Gabriella opened up her laptop, the screen instantly springing to life, "Good, mom's gonna make your favorite." Hearing a knock on her door, Gabriella looked up to find one of the office aid's, Carol, occupying it, "Hey!"
Carol smiled, "Hey, Lexi wants to see you." She informed Gabriella, "A pipe burst in the file room and while they salvaged what they could, they couldn't save it all."
Gabriella stood up straight, groaning, "I saved copies of most of my files…but not all of them."
Carol sent Gabriella a sympathetic look, "She divided them up downstairs and wants you to fill in what you can."
Gabriella nodded, "Alright, right after I drop off Alex."
Carol smiled, her eyes moving to the two year old that was staring at her curiously, "Hey buddy."
Alex held up the plush dinosaur he had carried with him, "RAWR!"
Carol laughed and Gabriella smiled at her son's antics, "He always turns into a dinosaur before he has to go to daycare." Gabriella reached up, running a hand through his messy hair, "Mommy's little dinosaur."
"Would you like me to take him down to daycare?"
Gabriella shook her head, "No, I'll drop him off on my way down to the filing room, thank you though."
Carol disappeared from the doorway and Gabriella looked down at Alex, the little boy picking at the skin of his dinosaur, "It's okay baby," she leaned in and pressed a kiss to his forehead, "you're gonna have lots of fun, I promise." Shutting the lid of her laptop, Gabriella seized Alex's side, lifting him down to the ground, "Come on, mom's gotta get to work." Holding out her hand, Alex slipped his tiny one into hers, allowing Gabriella to lead the toddler out of her office.
"I thought I heard that we had a visitor here today." Gabriella turned as she and Alex reached the elevator, smiling at the sight of Lexi coming towards them, her eyes focused on Alex. "How are you doing, Alex?"
"Rawr." Alex laughed out, Gabriella feeling his arm curl around her leg as he buried his head into it. He could be outgoing when he wanted to be, but for the most part he was rather shy.
"Well 'rawr' to you too!" Lexi responded, shifting her gaze onto Gabriella, "I trust you heard?"
"Yep." Gabriella quipped, jabbing the elevator button, "Should be a fun day." The doors dinged behind her, "I'll drop him off and head on down."
Lexi smiled, "Perfect, Roger will fill you in on what needs to be done." She nodded her head in the direction behind Gabriella, "Do what you can."
Gabriella spun around, finding Roger's form occupying the elevator, his eyes focused on them with a seemingly blank expression on his face. Blank to everyone but her. "Going down?"
Gabriella looked down, unable to hold his gaze, "Um, yeah." Grasping Alex's shoulders, she led him into the elevator with her, "Second floor." Roger pressed Gabriella's floor, causing the doors to close, and the elevator to begin moving. Turning her head, Gabriella looked towards Troy, hoping to find him staring back at her, and feeling a pang when she found him staring straight forward as though she was any other person.
Turning her head back to the front, Gabriella released a breath, "I'm sorry, alright?" she said in a hushed voice, "I never meant…"
"You meant every word." His voice was like ice, slicing through her heart. "Don't insult my intelligence by telling me differently. And don't use our kid to get me to talk to you."
"I didn't…" The elevator doors opening interrupted Gabriella, cutting any opportunity for the pair to have a conversation short as a couple of people made their way into the elevator between Gabriella and Roger.
Feeling a tug on her jacket, Gabriella glanced down to find Alex staring up at her curiously, holding up his toy, "Carlos wants to ride."
Gabriella tried to blink away her pain in an attempt to hide any sort of discomfort from Alex, gripping under his arms to lift the boy up onto her hip, "Carlos wants a ride?" Gabriella asked rhetorically, "He's an awfully demanding dinosaur." Once settled in, Alex tucked his head underneath Gabriella's chin, snuggling close to her. Gabriella smiled softly down at him, "Did Carlos just want a hug?"
Alex nodded his head, "Rawr."
Gabriella laughed quietly, pressing a kiss to his forehead, "I love you too, baby." Feeling the elevator stop, Gabriella glanced up at the panel to find that they had reached her floor. Gabriella began pushing through the others in the elevator, making her way to the front, "I'll see you downstairs."
She didn't expect him to answer. Troy was supposed to be Roger right now, and being Roger and yelling at Gabriella in an elevator in front of her son and two witnesses would not go over well. But she wished he'd say something. As she made her way out of the elevator, pausing to glance back inside as the doors closed, she wished he'd say anything.
Because his silence was ten times worse than any words he could ever say.
Gabriella slammed the door to the staircase open, her heels clicking violently against the concrete floor that covered the basement, echoing inside the almost empty room, "You son of a bitch!"
Troy grinned, a sarcastic laugh escaping his lips as he continued to sort through the damp file folders sitting on the table in front of him, "You do know that statement technically insults my mother, right?"
Gabriella came to stop in front of the table he was working at, "In front of our son? Really? In front of Alex?"
"You're the one that brought him to work." Troy pointed out, "You're the one that insisted on speaking to someone that has no interest speaking to you."
"Grow up, Troy!" Gabriella practically spat out, "You're not eighteen. You can't get pissed at your girlfriend and storm out; it doesn't work that way anymore!"
"I know I'm not fucking eighteen!" Troy countered, "And I'm not having this conversation with you. You're files are over there," he extended his arm, pointing to a group of boxes, "most of them are intact and you can work on the rest elsewhere."
Gabriella shook her head, "No, we're doing this now, we need to talk."
"Last time we talked, we fucked," Troy shot back, "and that didn't work out so well for you."
Gabriella turned her eyes towards the ground, "Look, I'm sorry about that. Yesterday was not a good day for me…"
"Sucks for you, files are over there." Grabbing a pile of papers in front of him, Troy turned, stalking away in the opposite direction.
"Troy don't be like this." Gabriella pleaded as she followed him, "In the past couple of days, I just found out that my husband is alive and that all the people I thought I could trust, I can't." Troy veered to the left, and it was obvious to Gabriella that he didn't have any destination in mind, he was simply just trying to get somewhere where she wasn't. "Talk to me, Troy. If we're gonna work through this…"
"I don't wanna talk to you!" Troy burst out, wheeling around to face Gabriella, "I don't really know how many different times I can say this before you actually realize that I. Don't. Want. To. Talk. To. You." Gabriella opened her mouth to speak, but Troy quickly cut her off, "No, don't speak. Right now, the last thing I want to do is hear you talk. Right now, I don't even wanna see you. Right now, I wanna quit just so I don't have to work with you. But I can't." Troy was angry, there was no doubt about that, but despite his anger, Gabriella could see the pain and hurt swimming in his eyes, "Because next month, or next week, or maybe even tomorrow…I will want to see you, and talk with you, and be with you. But right now, I can't." spinning around, Troy stalked back over to his work table and slammed the files back to where he had picked them up from, "I just can't."
Blinking away the tears that were threatening to spill, Gabriella swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. "So…you want space?"
Releasing an angry breath, Troy didn't dare look over towards Gabriella, "I want you to go upstairs and do your job." He said in an even voice, "I want you to take care of our son." His eyes moved over towards her, sending her a purposeful look, "I want you to keep your nose out of places it doesn't belong. And yeah…" he paused, waiting for Gabriella to lift her eyes to meet his, "I want a little bit of space."
Gabriella felt her lower lip begin to tremble, and she knew it was only a matter of time before the tears began to fall, "Okay…if that's what you want." Dropping her chin, Gabriella made a beeline for the elevator, making sure to avoid any sort of eye contact with Troy as she jabbed the up arrow, praying that the elevator came quickly.
Troy sighed, plopping down into a chair, "You can't go upstairs crying."
Gabriella sniffled, bringing her hand up to wipe away the few tears that had escaped, "I'm not crying." She said unconvincingly, "Why would I be crying? Everyone said we'd never make it. I can't say I wasn't warned."
Troy propped his head up with his hand, his middle finger and thumb massaging his temples, "Gabriella…"
"No, it's fine." Gabriella said quickly, "I'm fine." Watching the doors open, Gabriella wasted no time stepping inside and pressing her floor, "But, for your information," Gabriella started, stopping the doors from closing with her hand, "I didn't bring Alex to work to use him. I brought him because he goes to daycare here." Pulling her hand away from the doors, they instantly began to shut, "You'd know that if you had been here." She tacked on just before the doors closed, not even attempting to hide the disdain in her tone.