Chapter 53

Disclaimer: I do not own High School Musical or any of its characters.

Troy got up early the next morning and headed out to run without Jack. Remembering the pounding the coaches at Berkeley had given him he intended to push himself as hard as he could and then return to the house to pick up his dad half way through so his father would help push him to keep going when he was tired. He headed to the sports fields and ran up and down the steps of the bleachers until his thighs began to feel like jelly then jogged slowly back to the house hoping his father wouldn't mind a slow gentle run this morning. He knocked softly on his parents' bedroom door opening it slightly so he could hear his father's response careful not to look in and invade his parents' privacy.

"Are you running this morning Dad?" he asked.

Jack rolled over and groaned. "Troy you're a sadist" he complained.

"Hey this is just payback for all the years you came in and dragged me out of bed to run. It's your fault I wake up at the crack of dawn feeling like I need to go running. I used to enjoy sleeping in and you ruined it for me" Troy complained half-jokingly.

"You don't know how much I regret it right now" Jack said dryly.

"Just get going so I can get back to sleep" Lucille said tiredly.

"Sorry Mom" Troy apologised leaving the room.

Jack leaned over and gave his wife a small kiss "I'm sorry for waking you up. I'll try harder not to in future" he said contritely.

"Just get up and run with Troy. You'll be complaining soon enough how hard it is to get up and run on your own" Lucille said smiling sleepily at her husband.

Troy handed his father a cup of coffee as he arrived downstairs. "Is Mom very upset with us?" he asked.

"No it's fine. She's glad that you still want to run with me" Jack reassured his son as he finished his cup and poured himself a refill.

"You do know you'd probably be able to keep up with me better if you didn't drink that stuff beforehand" Troy stated.

"If you're going to go out as hard as you did yesterday I couldn't keep up no matter what I did" Jack admitted dryly. "Are you going to go easy on me today?"

"After two cups of coffee I'll have to. I wouldn't want you to have a heart attack" Troy teased to cover his concern.

"Troy I promise you that my heart is in great shape. You don't need to worry" Jack said. He looked at the way his son was stretching as if he was preparing to push himself hard and asked. "Am I going to be able to keep up?"

"Yeah I've already been out running suicides up and down the bleacher steps I'm ready for a gentle run" Troy said.

"Did you have trouble sleeping again?" Jack asked.

Troy shrugged off his father's concern. "A bit" he admitted. "But I need to build up my cardio. I was completely wrecked after the training at Berkeley"

"Troy did you ever think that maybe the coaches at Berkeley pushed you that hard to find out how you would react"

Troy thought for a moment then shrugged. "Well I'm going to react by improving my cardio fitness" he said determinedly.

Jack sighed. "Troy that's not what I meant. How did you react at the time?" he asked.

"I did everything they asked of me. But I haven't been that exhausted after a training session since I had to beat the whole team to prove that you hadn't given me a place on the team just because I am your son. I'm sure they knew how much I was struggling at the end. I need to do better next time" Troy said missing the point.

"They probably pushed you that hard to find out how you react under pressure. How you perform when you are exhausted and really hurting, your determination to give all you can and your attitude to being treated like that. I'm sure they never intended you to believe you weren't fit enough" Jack said reassuringly.

"Well I hope you're right because I'm not sure how much I can improve" Troy said. "I've been training as much as I can for years, I don't know how I am seriously going to step it up much more."

Knowing that Taylor was no longer angry with him made going to school that week slightly more pleasant but Troy really didn't have much time worry about how Chad was coping with the change in his and Taylor's relationship or to appreciate the better mood between his friends. As one of the leads he was needed for almost every rehearsal during free period and lunch as well as after school each night. Kelsi and Ryan were also busy but as they weren't involved in the dialogue sections of the play they at least had some free time. Troy started packing lunch from home after having gone hungry on Monday because Ms Darbus commandeered all his out of class time not allowing him to visit the cafeteria at all. Kelsi also started bringing him food or demanding that they stop for a meal break around dinner time after realising that Troy hadn't eaten all day Monday.

Grateful for the support of his friends Troy made it through the gruelling week coming home and eating dinner while Skyping Gabriella before falling into bed each night.

"Hey Gabriella" Troy said smiling at the image that popped up on his screen as Gabriella answered his Skype on Tuesday night.

"Hey Troy. How's your day been?" Gabriella asked smiling back.

"Rehearsals were murder. I only got home half an hour ago" Troy said tiredly.

"Have you eaten?"

Troy laughed "twice" he admitted "we ordered pizza about six and Mom saved me dinner. Darbus went nuts when the pizza arrived."


"She said we didn't have time to stop and eat. That we still had too much to do before Friday. She's totally stressing out" Troy explained.

"Do you know all your lines and dances?" Gabriella asked.

"Yeah that's not the problem. I'm having trouble acting like I'm in love with Sharpay. I feel really uncomfortable with it" Troy admitted.

"The kissing scene?" Gabriella guessed.

"Yeah" Troy said running his hand through his hair in frustration hating the thought of even talking about kissing anyone but Gabriella.

"Can't you just close your eyes and pretend it's me? You don't need to worry about cheating on me or hurting me Troy I know you don't want to kiss her" Gabriella attempted to reassure him.

"Closing my eyes would work if the conceited bitch didn't keep moving to put herself at a better angle. I need to have my eyes open to even hit her face and every time we practice someone laughs" Troy said miserably.

Gabriella knew Troy hated being laughed at. He came across as being super confident even cocky at times but that was mostly the fact that he knew what he wanted in life and had faith in himself that with enough determination and effort he would achieve his goals. He rarely seemed to care what other people thought and didn't respond to peer pressure very often but the thought of being the butt of a joke was something he worked hard to avoid.

"I'm sure they're laughing at Sharpay" she tried to reassure him.

"I doubt it. Chad recorded a couple of attempts. Even I had to laugh at how stupid I looked" Troy admitted sighing.

"Enough about my humiliations. How was your day?" He asked.

Gabriella smiled. "It was good" she declared. "I got assigned another long term group project and we met up in the library to get started. We got it all mapped out and decided who's going to do what. Tim's a real tech nut and he set us up a group site and a schedule to talk on line each week to discuss our progress" Gabriella said enthusiastically.

"I don't think I met Tim?" Troy commented trying to remember.

"He didn't come for pizza the other night. He's staying in a dorm with the current freshman for some reason and hangs out with them outside classes" Gabriella explained.

"Oh okay what's he like?" Troy asked.

"Quiet and serious but funny when you get to know him. He's not doing premed but majoring in biochemistry" Gabriella explained.

"Is the project just the two of you?" Troy asked.

"No there are four of us, I think you met Carly and Noah?" Gabriella said doubtfully.

Troy nodded.

"The way we divided the project, Tim will be in charge of keeping track of what information we have and what we need to research further and collating all the information before we divide it back up to write the final thesis" Gabriella explained.

"It sounds like a huge project" Troy said.

"It is we came up with 6 PICO questions for the search engines to see what information we can get before we start. It's not due until next May but we've agreed to try and get as much done over the summer as we can"

"Are you happier with this project group than your other one?" Troy asked remembering that Gabriella hadn't said much about her team for the other project except that she thought she'd be able to work with them which was unlike her raising Troy's suspicions that she was following her favourite maxim and not saying much because she didn't have anything positive to say about the group.

"We seemed to get along better but it's too soon to say which group will actually get their share of the project done on schedule" Gabriella replied. "That's why I really hate group projects" she complained.

"Do you have much work to do for tomorrow?" Troy asked.

"No actually I've nearly finished but there's stuff I need to do for Thursday that I want to make a start on" Gabriella replied. "What about you? You've been rehearsing all afternoon, have you got homework for tomorrow?"

"No I got it all done on Sunday after you left" Troy reassured her "we've only got two weeks left so most of the teachers aren't giving us homework."

"That's good" Gabriella said smiling.

"Are you going to come back to school next week?" Troy asked.

"I want to. I've missed being able to hang out with everyone and I need to use the computers in the library to start researching my projects"

"I thought you'd already started" Troy said surprised.

"I have used the search engines to identify potential articles but I need to actually read through the abstracts and download the relevant ones" Gabriella explained.

"Oh okay, maybe you could show me how to do some of that and I can help" Troy suggested. "I'm sure I'm going to need to know how to do that next year."

Gabriella smiled "I can do that" she agreed "but you will probably be taught how to do it in college."

"I know but I understand things better when you explain them to me" Troy said smiling at his wife.

"Are you going to get a job this summer?" Gabriella asked.

"I want to but it depends when we leave for California. Ryan's offered us all jobs at Lava Springs again if we want them" Troy answered.

"That might be a good option but I wouldn't want to let them down by leaving midsummer if one of us gets into a summer program at college" Gabriella said.

"We should find out in the next couple of weeks" Troy said. "We could warn Fulton at the start of the summer anyway."

A/N: Thankyou to Pumpkinking5, Wildcats2016, CimorelliMIA and speedsONEandONLY for your support.