Chapter 1

My name is Troy Alexander Bolton. I'm nineteen years old. In high school, I was revered as the king of the basketball court. Admittedly, I wasn't too bad at singing and dancing, either. Versatility was just one of many blessings that I was fortunate enough to have throughout my high school career. I was also extraordinarily popular.

AndI loathed it. Why people worshipped me for supposedly resembling a Greek god, and for being able to dribble, shoot, and dunk a ball, I'll never know. Aside from being the team captain, and the whole resemblance to a marble statue thing, my skills were really no greater than those of any of my teammates.

My greatest assets, however, are my two best friends. Everyone has at least one. I must have done something noble in a past life to deserve two.

One of those friends is Chad Danforth. He and I have known each other since preschool. He helped me to hone my skills at the sport my dad loves. The sport that somehow made me a god among our high school peers.

I have many fond memories of Chad and me sneaking around, pressing ourselves to walls, diving behind couches, and ducking under coffee tables to avoid detection. In our minds, we were secret agents, cool as K and J, as suave as James Bond and packing as much, "mojo", as Austin Powers, only without the bad teeth, the hairy chest, and the, "groovy", British accent. I was King Arthur and Chad was Sir Lancelot, and we rode off to slay the dragon, save the princess, and defend Camelot.

-Number 14-

In middle school, Chad enlisted me to help him woo this girl, a supposedly cute French exchange student. Back then, I had no idea how to recognize when a girl was attractive. I guess you could say I was kind of a late bloomer. Anyway, Chad asked me to write a poem for this girl. I compared the green of her eyes to, "the emerald grass beneath us as I sweep you off your feet". Needless to say, she laughed at him, and ended up rejecting him for the poor kid with braces who was mocked for being a teacher's pet. I felt terrible, but Chad didn't blame me. Instead, he decided that poetry was for, "wusses", anyway. I later consoled Chad by informing him that his bushy afro, which is honestly the coolest hairstyle I've ever seen, and probably the reason I approached him in the first place back in preschool, was too cool for Genevieve Belrose.

When we graduated from the eighth grade, we went up to my tree house, our childhood sanctuary, shook up cans of root beer, and doused each other with the fizzy, sugary spray in celebration. Chad had already made up his mind that high school girls were more mature, and would appreciate his charms more than our middle school classmates could. I humored him. I wasn't so much looking forward to playing the dating field, as I was looking forward to growing up. The future was full of possibilities, and entering high school opened the door to so many of them.


My freshman year, I met the Evans twins, Ryan and Sharpay. They were both blond, and dressed in outfits right off of the pages of a magazine. They had just transferred to our school district after moving from Rhode Island, and were the cause of a ton of gossip. Sharpay savored the attention, fluffing her Barbie Doll blonde curls, talking loudly about herself, and fluttering her eyelashes flirtatiously at all of the guys around her. Ryan, meanwhile, hung back, his nose buried in an anthology of poems by Edgar Allen Poe. Occasionally, he'd peer up to listen to his sister. Whenever someone talked to him, however, he jumped, his face paling, which brought out the color of his lips, and then shrunk back into his book.

I remember thinking, None of the other guys have lips that pink.

People around me whispered, "Look at how tight his jeans are", and, "No boy has hats that sparkle". I couldn't see the problem with any of that. When that awful three letter "f-word" was spoken, Sharpay's brown eyes gleamed threateningly, and I shared her anger. First of all, I hate that word, along with any other derogatory slur. And, second, how could they be disgusted by Ryan over something like that? So what if he liked tight pants and sparkling hats? It wasn't hurting anyone.

On his way out of homeroom, Ryan was pushed over, thanks to an elbow jab by some guy who was about five times his size. I'm not sure what happened afterwards, but Chad remembers having to hold me back. He claims that I was about to lunge for the asshole who assaulted Ryan, even though the guy hadn't so much as looked at me funny.

-Stick To The Status Quo-

Sophomore year, Chad and I made the basketball team that was headed by none other than my dad. He swears that the fact that I'm his son didn't affect his choice to put us on the team. Some of our teammates, however, weren't as quick to agree.

Ryan and Sharpay became co-presidents of the Drama Club, and because sports and performing don't mix, and are part of conflicting social circles, I hardly saw or spoke to either of them. Especially Ryan. Chad grew to intensely dislike Sharpay, referring to her, and Ryan, by extension, as, "overgrown show-dogs".

That didn't stop Sharpay from constantly trying to chat me up whenever she got the chance, however. She was among the girls that suddenly swarmed Chad and me, along with the rest of the team. We were more appealing now that we had positions at the top of the social pyramid. I don't know how many girls asked to be my girlfriend, or to go out with me. While Chad appreciated the attention, letting the girls touch his hair, and fawn over his new letterman, I found excuses to keep the girls from touching me, and turned them all down. I felt bad about rejecting them, because getting shot down by someone you really like is terrible.

Then, I learned that those girls were just blindly following the crowd, and that guilt over hurting their feelings turned into something like nausea.

-Breaking Free-

Junior year, the team elected me captain. My dad was so proud. During winter break, I met Gabriella Montez at a ski resort in Colorado on New Year's Eve, when we were reluctantly paired together for a karaoke duet at a party. When I returned to Albuquerque and East High School, I was surprised to find that she had followed me, due to a transfer through her mother's work.

Gabriella and I, having discovered a love of singing together, something that had nothing to do with basketball, decided: Why not try out for the winter musical together? We ended up tying with the other two who auditioned for the leads; Ryan and Sharpay. Naturally.

Chad and the rest of the guys on the team were not happy about my callback audition. Participation in rehearsals for the audition made me lose focus and miss practices when we had a championship game against our long time rivals at West High in a matter of days. More than that, the basketball guy being in the musical made people believe that they could be more than their clique determined they were capable of. The drama geeks and the brainiacs attempting to mingle with the basketball team wasn't something that Chad could handle. So, Chad and the guys attempted to undermine Gabriella and me.

But, ultimately, my brother from another mother recognized the wrong in what he was doing, and eventually helped us to ace our callback audition. But first, I made sure that my teammates and I made amends to Ryan and Sharpay, after realizing that they were trying to "protect themselves" by trying to keep me out of the school musical.

Gabriella and I won the roles of Twinkle Towne,-yes, that's really the name of the show- leads, Arnold and Minnie. Sharpay and Ryan wound up being our co-stars. During rehearsals for both our callback audition, and the musical, itself, Gabriella and I got closer. She helped me to realize my love of being on the stage. I helped her to overcome her stage fright. One day, we started holding hands in the hallways at school, and soon, we were inseparable. At some point, we became East High's, "It", couple.

To this day, however, I still don't know for sure which one of us made the first move.

Chad also hooked-up with his co-conspirator; president of the Chemistry Club, Taylor McKessie. Taylor had tried to discourage Gabriella from pursuing a relationship with me, so that Taylor could have Gabriella for the Scholastic Decathlon. Chad confided in me that there aren't any girls like Taylor, and that he totally dug the sexy librarian look, and that lent to the attraction. I gave him my full support. Even though I knew that I was on Taylor's list, for whatever reason.

-Work This Out-

Over the summer, I made sure that we all got jobs together. Unfortunately, they happened to involve working at the country club owned by the Evans family. Sharpay used this opportunity to try to tempt me with the promise of scholarships, knowing how worried I was about my future, in order to get closer to me. I guess I was sort of a prize to be won by her. As I think back on it now, it's funny that her attempts only resulted in driving me away from her, and toward her brother.

I had a falling out with both Chad and Gabriella, due to my dickish behavior from letting the perks of my promotion, and being in the favor of the Evans family, go to my head. And, because of my new Italian shoes. I had treated Chad like less than my best friend, and even less than a co-worker. I was absolutely horrible to him. I missed events that I promised I would attend, and even missed dates with Gabriella. While pursuing that scholarship opportunity, I ruined her summer, even after she had expressed that she wanted a summer worth remembering.

It took me a while to come around. My revelation was sped up when I found out that Sharpay had prohibited employees from participating in the talent show. That was the last straw.

I finally realized that I valued my friends over a scholarship. "Brothers fight, but they're still brothers", was what Chad and I said as I apologized to him for being such a jerk. We took each other into a hug. I was surprised that he was so willing to forgive me after the way I had acted. I apologized to the rest of my friends for ruining their participation in the talent show.

While I fulfilled my obligation and performed with Sharpay, I realized exactly what Ryan had to deal with on a regular basis as both Sharpay's brother and her singing partner. Because of that, I had gained a new level of respect for him. And, for the first time, I really, truly spoke to Ryan. I tested the sensation of his name forming in my mouth as I apologized to him, as well, for him going to the trouble of choreographing a show with my fellow Wildcats, only to have his sister selfishly forbid them from performing.

I watched his face light up, his bright pink lips parting to reveal a dazzling smile of bright white teeth with an overbite that can only be described as adorable. I felt like I was in love. Ryan and I shook hands, initiating skin-to-skin contact for the first time. I felt a charge between us, and sparks danced along my fingers. Then, just like that, it was over, and he was telling me to sing with his sister, even though I told Sharpay that I wouldn't. I just couldn't say no to Ryan and his blue eyes.

I walked back to find a sobbing and miserable Sharpay, sucked up my pride, and told her I would sing with her, because Ryan had asked me to. I made sure, though, to specify that I would only do the show if the Wildcats could also do the show. Ryan's time and effort, along with whatever accusations Sharpay threw his way for assisting her enemies, would not be moot points if I had anything to say about it.

Sharpay said, "You're a good guy Troy. In fact, I think I like you better than I like myself." Her eyes widened as she remarked, "Did I just say that?" I had to admit to myself then, that she really wasn't that bad. Although she was still incredibly high maintenance, and capable of being utterly terrifying.

When I returned to Ryan, he informed me that his sister had changed songs. I told him that I couldn't possibly learn a new song before the show, but he seemed more than confident in my abilities, assuring me that Kelsi would help me with it. Kelsi Nielsen, the Drama Club's composer, and a sweet girl who had helped Gabriella and me with our audition, took hold of my hand, and raced off, taking me to the piano in the music room so that I could learn the new song.

Ryan was right. I learned it fairly quickly, and soon found myself being rushed onto the stage. Despite feeling rather empty, I stood front of an audience that had my mom and dad sitting at the front of it, wearing a white suit and blue shirt to match the sky backdrop behind me. After everything that had happened during those weeks, I was finally performing like I had said I would. But, someone important was missing.

I sang my verses and, to my surprise, the voice that joined mine wasn't Sharpay's over-the-top, overbearing, nasal one, but a sweet soprano that I was very familiar with. I looked out past the stage lights, into the crowd, and it parted to reveal dark curls, olive skin, and brown eyes, all on a familiar petite form that was slowly making her way to me.

Gabriella. I didn't stop to question how she had gotten there, or how she knew the song, or even why she was back after she had gone days without speaking to me since our break-up. The point was, she was there. She reached me, and offered me her hand. I took it. She leaned into me, we pressed our noses together, our voices harmonizing, and just like that, everything was okay again.

Once I had time to think about it, my reunion with Gabriella during the talent show seemed orchestrated. I suspected that Ryan had had a hand in it, with him telling me that his sister had, "switched songs", on me, even though he never owned up to it.

Why he'd do that for me, the guy who demoted him to co-star, I didn't know. But, I did realize that he was totally different, a separate existing entity from his sister. He was so much more than Sharpay's, "poodle", which is what some of the more mean-spirited people at school, including Chad, had referred to him as.

I shared my first kiss with Gabriella under a cascade of water beneath a star-filled sky. It was the perfect romantic set-up; scenic, like something out of a movie. We had finally gotten the summer that we wanted.

-Start Of Something New-

I spent time with Ryan, learning that Sharpay had betrayed him that summer. She had decided to kick him out of his own show, so that she could sing with me. I wanted to take the blame, but he refused to allow that.

With the betrayal of his closest companion stinging him like an open wound, he was an easy target for my all-too-friendly social circle. I guess Gabriella shared my thoughts on Ryan's smile being "dazzling". During our falling out, she seemed pretty quick to try and cozy up to him, looking for comfort.

"She must have missed the memo," Ryan had said with a strange laugh to his voice.

He didn't need to tell me then what he meant. We all sort of knew. The swaying of his hips, his perfectly coordinated flamboyant outfits, his endless supply of hats, and polished fingernails gave it away. But, somehow, it clicked into place, just then. A grin on my face, I playfully nudged him, he nudged me back. My arm tingled, and my stomach fluttered pleasantly.

-Summer Nights-

Chad and Ryan were both in attendance when I had my first beer; a Budweiser, at a party at Lava Springs. I couldn't turn down a dare, after all. The bitter amber liquid washed down my throat, causing it to burn. My vision blurred and my thoughts were clouded. I could feel Ryan next to me, his eyes, the color of a summer sky, watching me intently, their glow brilliant. Chad hung back, unwilling to drink because Taylor frowned upon alcoholic consumption, and because he knew his mom would hand him his ass were he to come staggering through the door with bleary, bloodshot eyes.

After that first beer, I was pretty out of it. After drinking more than half of a second beer, I was smashed. When I staggered, it was Ryan who braced me, his hands on my chest. The touch sent shock waves through me in a way making contact with Gabriella never had. My gaze focused on his lips, and I found myself wondering what they tasted like. I can only hope that I didn't say something idiotic in my half-drunk stupor.

Chad disregarded my sudden attraction to Ryan, dubbing it a, "symptom of inebriation". "You were drunk, man. Most guys want anything, including other guys, when they're hammered. "

-Now Or Never-

Senior year came, and as the end of the year activities bared down on us, Stanford University began calling Gabriella's name. She was torn between me and our friends, and attending a school worthy of her IQ levels.

I encouraged her to go to Stanford, to follow her dreams. She told me that she was better at saying, "good bye", and then left the next day without so much as one. Chad was busy with Taylor. Ryan was the choreographer of the spring musical, and I was the star of it. Just as Gabriella had done in my absence over the summer, I leaned on the blond boy. And damn, I'm indebted to him for his patience.

Ryan devoted extra time to perfecting my performances, encouraging me with that beautiful smile of his. If he caught me moping, he'd share his lunch with me, he and Kelsi taking up stations, beside me.

I was torn between attending the college my dad wanted me to, alongside Chad, so that I could fulfill my dad's dream of seeing me play in the NBA, or further pursuing my newfound love of performing by going to Juilliard, the prestigious school Ryan and Sharpay seemed destined for.

And, then there was Gabriella, and the fact that I missed her. The fact that we had planned that she would fly in from California to attend our senior prom with me and the rest of our friends, was one of the only things keeping my spirits up.

Ryan and Kelsi's friendship was greatly appreciated, and was the only other thing that put a smile on my face. Especially when Ryan slipped me little fun-size Milky Ways or Reese's Cups, and our fingers brushed together, causing that wonderful tingling.

On the day before the prom, Ryan took me aside to guide me through a simple maneuver that I just wasn't getting while dancing with Gabriella's replacement in the show, Sharpay. I spun him around, going through the moves flawlessly. He lent more than he realized to the ease with which we moved. His body fit so naturally between my arms; small, svelte, and curvy.

As I spun him out, he looked into my eyes, his light voice and his expression nothing but encouraging. "See? You've got it."

I couldn't stop myself from leaning into him, watching as his eyes widened and his face lit up simultaneously. "You're easier to dance with than she is," I told him, desperate to make him understand something.

There was a charge between us like the one between metal and a magnet. I was locked in his eyes and suddenly, all I wanted was to hold him, to press my mouth longingly against his, run my hands over his body… grab that dangerous tail…. until Sharpay rudely pushed between us, demanding her turn with me. Exasperation filled my body. I felt a slight pang in my chest when I caught a last glimpse of Ryan, and saw a look of dismay on his soft face.

-Can I Have This Dance?-

Like Chad, I later brushed the attraction to Ryan off. I was just stressed, worn out, and Ryan's so beautiful, not to mention supportive, of course I would feel some amount of desire for him. The phone call I got from Gabriella while Chad and I were showing my prom tux off to my mom, reminded me of Gabriella's significance in my life. I was truly ecstatic for first time in weeks.

Until she told me that she couldn't make it to prom and graduation with our friends like we had planned.

My heart dropped like a two ton weight into the pit of my stomach. I wanted to plead with her to come. After all of the wait, after getting my hopes up, I didn't want to believe what I was hearing. She wasn't ready to, "be a little adult", and make adult sacrifices. Coming to see me would have "hurt her too much".

Maybe I should have heeded Chad's advice when he told me to let her go, and to start moving on.

But, she told me she loved me. "I love you, Wildcat". Those words echoing in my mind decided it.

I drove one thousand fifty-three miles, from Albuquerque, all the way to Stanford, in my unreliable old truck, to bring her prom. To see her. I waited for her in the branches of a tree until she came to me.

She greeted me with, "I don't believe this", and then her signature, "You're crazy, Wildcat."

I presented her with a corsage, and we danced around a huge tree in the campus courtyard as the sun set. We could almost imagine that we were dancing with all of our friends in the decorated gymnasium, back at East High. In fact, I did imagine Ryan dancing past us with Kelsi, staring at me as he went.

Then, Gabriella and I drew each other into a kiss. Or, rather, three kisses. They were all awkwardly chaste, not at all like the passionate ones in the movies, where the actors slip each other tongue and press their bodies together while a blaring romantic score emphasizes everything. But, I was so happy to see Gabriella, to hold her again, just how peculiar that contact was didn't matter. I closed my eyes and went with it.

I managed to convince her to come with me back to East High to perform with our friends one last time. I thought of Ryan's blue eyes sparkling as he saw me, that smile breaking out on his pale face, and how I didn't want to disappoint him after all of the hard work he had put into this show, after all of the work he had done with me, by not showing up. Thinking of Ryan in general, how I used to simply pass him and Kelsi in the hallway at school without a second thought, that, despite this, they had become two of my closest friends, and that I would be saying goodbye to both of them, all too soon, made me incredibly emotional.

My heart raced with the feeling of urgency to get back.

-Gotta Go My Own Way-

I was a puppy loyally following his master. I made the decision to attend the University of California, Berkeley. It offered me the option to take theater and play basketball. Its campus was also 32.7 miles away from Gabriella, the girl that I wasn't sure that I loved, but felt like I needed anyway. I needed her to teach me how to waltz, to help me pick out my clothes, and to make my decisions for me. She, "inspired my heart", after all.

We can be so stupid sometimes.

Unfortunately, Berkeley was 967.3 miles away from my family and Chad. For the first time in our lives, my best friend since preschool, and I, would be attending different schools. I understood that he was upset. I was saddened as well, but I consoled him by informing him that our favorite sport would reunite us soon. Sure, we would be wearing the jerseys of opposing teams, but lingering on that would have hurt too much.

A/N: Here it is, the first chapter of my personal canon of the events in the life of one Troy Bolton, following his graduation from East High School. While I realize that this chapter is fairly long, I had to get the recounting of the three movies out of the way to establish the plot. The next chapter will be all from my mind, and as this is written by me, this story WILL contain slash in future chapters. If that bothers you, please look up a Troyella. There are scores of them on this site.

If you can, please leave a review and let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: All characters and songs pertaining to the High School Musical Universe are © of Disney. Until I attain the rights to these characters (in my dreams), I do not intend to make a profit off of this work, or any other.