A/N: I was overwhelmed by the support for the last chapter! Thanks to the reviews from wildcats2016, zanessafan19, Bluebell140, EllaBieber19 and pumpkinking5.
Disclaimer: I don't own HSM or any of its characters
When Troy took his seat at Old Trafford, he was pumped up. All week long Chad and Jason had been telling him how tough this match was going to be. Sure the Liverpool game the previous week was a nerve-shredder because of the history between the two clubs, and recent off-field events, but Tottenham was a good team. The biggest test of the season so far for United, they had repeated on countless occasions. Then the bad news that United's captain, their best defender, was out for two months had rolled in, only adding to the long list of injuries for the club. The worries expressed by his friends were palpable among the crowd around him. Yet, Troy was pumped. As a basketballer, and former captain himself, Troy thrived on moments like this. When he began to feel the hint of unease, he embraced it and used it to spur himself on. He only hoped his new team could do the same. Of course, that wasn't the only reason Troy was pumped. Ever since his talk with Kelsi last week, Troy had been thinking about the mysterious brunette. After the pain of the anniversary slowly began to fade, he had become more and more accustomed to the idea of starting over. It had been a year and a half since he and Melissa had broken up, and she was now getting married. She, her husband and their daughter were going to be a family, and probably live happily ever after. Why shouldn't he get some of that happiness? It was time to close that chapter of his life, and move on. It might as well be with this girl that he felt some connection with.
"Hey Troy, catch the game last week?" Gary grinned at him. "Finally beat the Scousers in their own backyard!"
Troy nodded back with a smile. "We finally broke that penalty hoodoo too! Shame about the injuries though."
Gary nodded gravely. "Our two best players gone. It's a massive blow, especially Vidic defensively. Could really hurt us today."
"Let's hope not."
Two minutes later, Troy was holding his head in his hands, along with 70,000 other fans in the ground. He shot a glance at Gary who was shaking his head in disgust.
"Unbelievable," Troy muttered. "It's just unbelievable."
"It's bullshit, that's what it is," Gary snorted. "Conceding so early at home, to a defender no less! What is going on out there?"
Troy shook his head, expressing similar disbelief. His energetic start to the day was fading fast, not at all helped by the empty seat to the other side of him. The crowd around him was unsettled by the early goal, and the ground was eerily silent, despite the packed stadium. This didn't change over the next forty five minutes, as United conceded yet again, and showed no great attacking intent. At half time, the home fans seemed more relieved than anything that they would catch a break from the disaster they were watching unfold before their eyes.
Troy stayed in his seat, reclining back and letting his eyes close in a moment of peace. This wasn't what he had expected from the day. From the few matches he had watched up till now, he had never seen Manchester United play so poorly, and from the highlights Chad and Jason had showed him on YouTube from previous seasons, he knew this was an abhorrent anomaly. On top of the disappointment of the scoreline, he couldn't help but feel betrayed by the universe. He had finally made the decision to ask a girl out, and she hadn't even showed up. Didn't the fates owe him one? He felt the air shift around him, and he cracked his eyes open to see the focus of his thoughts looking at him startled.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," she said quietly. It was the most he had heard her say, and he had to admit he liked the sound of her voice. It was soft and innocent, yet seemed to have a certain strength underlying it. Troy gave a quick silent thanks to the fates he had invoked moments earlier, before seizing his opportunity.
"Not a problem at all. I was just resting my eyes anyway. I'm Troy, by the way." He extended his hand with a smile.
The girl stared at his hand for a second too long, before seemingly remembering her manners, and accepting it. "I'm Gabriella."
"Nice to meet you, Gabriella. I guess we'll be seeing a lot more of each other." At her wary look, he rushed to clarify. "I mean because we both seem to have season tickets, and our seats are next to each other."
Gabriella relaxed and smiled at him. "Yes, I guess we will."
"So I guess you're a big United fan? Do you live around here?"
Again Gabriella appeared caught off guard, and Troy hoped he hadn't come on too strong. He was eager to prolong the conversation, and had said whatever came to his head.
After her initial hesitation, Gabriella nodded. "Yeah, I was born and raised a Red. I've been coming to the games for years. And what about you, Troy? You're here from the States to study at the hospital?"
Troy looked at her in confusion. Her eyes widened, and a light blush spread across cheeks.
"I heard you telling Gary last time," she stammered.
"Yeah, I'm here for my final year of medical school." Troy grinned to himself. So she had not only heard his conversation, but also remembered enough of it a fortnight later. That had to be a good sign.
"Oh wow. Were you always a fan?" Gabriella asked.
"Nah, not really a soccer fan at all. But, my parents gave me the ticket as a good luck gift, and I'm really getting into it."
"This match isn't going that well," Gabriella pursed her lips. "I know we can never count United out, but it looks like trouble."
"Well they got the win against Southampton, and that was late on. Maybe you'll bring them good luck," he winked at her.
She blushed again and giggled, "Maybe."
Cheers brought them back to the game that was about to restart. The voices around them sang loudly, urging their team to get back into the match. At 2-0 down, it seemed that the fans had decided that if this match was going to turn around, everyone would need to do their part, including the supporters.
"U-N-I-T-E-D, United are the team for me..." they chanted. After a couple of cycles, Troy grasped the lyrics and joined in, along with Gabriella and Gary. With one voice, it seemed almost inevitable when a goal was finally scored to reduce the deficit to one goal.
"Nani!" Gabriella shrieked in excitement.
"I told you, you're good luck," Troy beamed. As they settled back into their seats, the smiles on their faces dropped in an instant. A small section of fans could be heard on the other side of the ground, but the rest of Old Trafford was deathly silent. In a brain fade, United had let Tottenham score again. 3-1. The silence lasted seconds as the crowd took it upon themselves to decide this was definitely not on. The chants roared back at a higher volume than ever before. It was an almost violent reaction, and again it was rewarded a couple of minutes later.
"3-2!" Gary exclaimed.
"This is crazy," Troy laughed. "Three goals in three minutes! Is this really soccer?"
"Football," Gary and Gabriella corrected, before laughing along with him.
"Now they just have to finish it off. They can't afford to switch off again," Gary warned.
Gabriella nodded. "Chelsea," she said pointedly.
Gary shook his head in agreement, while Troy stared blankly between them.
"Last season we were 3-0 down against Chelsea. We did amazingly to get back to 3-3 with fifteen minutes to spare, but we were too excited with the fact that we had equalised that we didn't put enough pressure on Chelsea and score the winner. We can't take it easy," Gabriella explained.
To Manchester United's credit, they didn't take it easy. Chance after chance was created, but the crossbar, the upright posts and the Tottenham keeper denied them time and again. The clock was running out, but the fans kept singing, and the players kept running. It was a group effort, and for that 40 minutes it was almost a collective mind that was operating. Yet, somehow, against all odds, Tottenham held firm.
The whistle blew, it was all over. The United players sank to their haunches on the pitch, and the fans sank into their seats. The air of regret was palpable. But for their horrible start to the match, they had played a good game.
"A game of two halves, if ever there was one," Gary shook his head. "I'll you kids next time."
"That was... I don't even know what happened," Gabriella looked at Troy, perplexed. "What happened in the first half?" They both got up, and headed towards the exit.
"I'm not the most knowledgeable," Troy admitted, "but it looked pretty bad. They really had no possession."
"Well we looked good in the second half. Hopefully Rooney's return will spark some good football again."
As they climbed down the steps, and walked out of the stadium, Troy looked at Gabriella. This was his chance.
"Well Troy, it was really nice talking to you. I guess I'll see you at the next game." Gabriella gave him a warm smile.
"Wait, Gabriella. Do you want to grab a cup of coffee or something?"
Gabriella bit her lip. "I... I can't."
"It doesn't have to be today. Just... whenever you're free?" Troy winced internally at how lame he sounded. He was horribly out of practice, not having asked a girl out on a first date since he was thirteen.
Gabriella backed away from him. "I can't. I just can't. I'm sorry Troy." She hugged her coat tighter to her body, and turned away. Before Troy could respond, she had merged with the crowd, and was out of sight.
"What just happened?"
Sorry about the short chapter, but like the fans in attendance at the match I was upset by the loss :( So Troy and Gabriella finally met properly, and Troy took the big step only to get rejected. This is obviously not what you guys want, but don't lose faith just yet! After reading the reviews I have actually brought their meeting forward (this wasn't meant to happen for another chapter or so) so I do listen to you guys!