A/N: Knock, knock. Is anyone still here?

I am so incredibly sorry I fell off the face of the earth for almost a year. Aside from current worldwide pandemics, I've had some pretty big life events happen in the last few months that kept me away.

If you're still here with me, tell me how you're doing with everything going on.

I've got some oneshots that I'm finishing up and I'm working on my next chapter of His Reason.

Hang in there everyone!

We're All In This Together! Xoxo

Disclaimer: I don't own High School Musical.

Set up the food, set up the gift table, set up the music, set up the microphone.

Gabriella Montez ran through her to-do list as she wondered, for the fourth time that day, why on earth she decided to help Sharpay Evans throw a retirement party for Ms. Darbus, their old drama teacher from East High. People would arrive in less than two hours and, while she wasn't panicking, she was starting to wonder why she was the only one there to coordinate setting up with the staff.

The party was being held at Lava Springs, the country club owned by the Evans family. In true Evans fashion, it was glamorous and expensive and exactly the place Gabriella felt like she didn't , they needed a party space and Sharpay could, obviously, get it for free.

The banquet room she was in was coming together nicely. There were balloons being blown up and tied up around the room, a table dedicated to gifts, a guestbook right inside the door and there was a line of tables being covered with tablecloths for the food. Flowers and centerpieces were being placed on the tables and one of the staff was trying to set up the microphone, but failing miserably. Gabriella winced when the shriek came out of the speakers when the mic came too close to the speaker.

She suddenly wished the party were being held elsewhere, where she could have just thrown up streamers and dollar store decorations.

She grabbed the tape from her bag and made her way around the room and started to hang posters from every musical Ms. Darbus had ever directed and paused when she came to the poster for Twinkle Towne. Her own, much younger and naive, face stared back at her. Oh, how she'd love to be a kid again. So much had changed, come together and fallen apart since then and it would just be easier to go back to her high school days.

She ran her fingers along the edging of the poster and sighed before fixing her attention in the face of the male lead.

Troy Bolton.

The "Hottie Super-Bomb" of East High, captain of the basketball team, and the boy that broke her heart.

Ok, so, he didn't know he broke her heart, but he still did, nonetheless.

They had become good friends because of the musicals, stayed friends after they wrapped and kept in touch through graduation and college until he was signed by the NBA and it was like she didn't exist anymore.

For six years they were friends who apparently had an expiration date of: before the ink dried on his fancy NBA contract.

They haven't spoken in two years.

Not for lack of trying. She texted him every once in a while and still mailed birthday and Christmas cards to him. But, she never got a reply.

She sounded bitter. It wasn't that she wasn't happy for him, it was that she missed him and who could blame him for following his dreams? He was good, really good, and she was glad the LA Lakers had picked up on it because now he did what he loved.

She shook her head and taped the poster on the wall before taking a few steps to the right and taped up the poster for Senior Year, their second, and final musical, together.

Taking a step back, she gazed at the two posters and bit her lip. The two high schoolers were smiling at each other, bodies leaned toward each other. They obviously had chemistry.

No, Troy Bolton has chemistry, it's what happens when you're as charismatic as he was. He couldn't help that he connected with almost everyone he met. She'd seen it dozens of times to know she was no different than anyone else.

She jumped as a door slammed open and watched as a group of boys struggled to maneuver the familiar and heavy, throne-like chair through the door. Colorful slurs left the boys' mouths as they moved towards the front and center of the room, as directed by Sharpay's orders being shouted as she entered the room, before they dropped it and dispersed. Various friendly insults were thrown around the team of males as they shook out their muscles.

She watched as Chad, Zeke, Jason and Ryan all glared at the chair they'd just carried in, with Chad muttering something about being out of high school and the woman still drives him up the wall.

She giggled and turned back towards the posters and just missed seeing a body emerge from the group of guys and head towards her.

If the smell of him didn't tip her off, the way the hair stood up on her arms did, as he stepped into place beside her.

"Hey. I was wondering if we could talk later?" His voice had gotten deeper since she'd last heard it and she forced her eyes to stay on the poster in front of her.

She stayed stoic and kept her hands steady while placing another poster on the wall.

He cleared his throat and turned towards her to try again, "Do you need any help?"

"No, thanks. Check with Sharpay or Chad." Literally anyone but me, she added in her head, and closed her eyes in frustration when the rest of the posters fell from under her arm.

He frowned at her hard tone and bent down to pick up the fallen posters.

She watched out of the corner of her eye as he gathered the posters and stood back up to hand them to her.

"I'll, uh, try again later then, I guess," he said quietly and walked towards Chad.

She watched his retreating back, noticing he'd bulked up more, cut his hair short and dressed a bit better than the last she'd seen him. Of course, she'd known all this from his TV interviews, but it was more prominent in person.

Her eyes swept down his left arm to see the chunky, dark brown, corded "friendship bracelet" she'd drunkenly given him while in college, resting comfortably on his wrist. A pang shot through her chest and she sought support from the wall she was standing beside. She'd taken hers off a year ago, when she realized he wasn't going to return her calls.

Set up the gift table, have Ms. Darbus' table ready, talk to Sharpay about the speeches, avoid Troy.

She ran through her new list as she stepped into the warm air, with her arms crossed and her face tipped towards the sun.

Back inside, Troy watched Gabriella through the window. She was just as beautiful as he remembered. She had a green and white summer dress that fit her curves, a white sweater overtop. Her smooth legs and shapely calves led to her feet which were strapped into a pair of brown wedges. Her hair was longer and left in her natural curl, which he loved, and she had half of it pinned back. Her face was flawless, with just the smallest amount of makeup on her face, something he hadn't seen since he'd moved to LA. He missed that about her. All the girls in LA had layers of makeup caked on. It made him cringe when he would hug a girl and come away with makeup on his shirt.

He missed her. He screwed up, and he missed his best friend.

Time seemed to stop when she turned around to come back inside. Their eyes met and he could see the hurt written plain as day across her face. He wanted to look away, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from hers.

She was the first to move, a Lava Springs employee had interrupted their moment. He sighed and brought a hand to the back of his neck, a sure sign that he was uncomfortable.

"It'll be ok, man" came Chad's voice from beside him before his hand came to rest on Troy's shoulder.

Troy sighed, "I'm not sure about that. She's forgiven me for a lot, but this might not be one of those things."

"Well, we can worry about it later. Right now we're getting the side eye from Sharpay and Taylor, and you can't talk to her if you're dead."

Troy nodded and let Chad pull him to where the two aforementioned women were to be handed his orders.

Avoid Troy

It was the only thing left on Gabriella's to do list once the party had been set up.

She greeted the guests as they filtered into the room. They marveled at the decorations and the planning that had gone into the party, saying how wonderful it looked and how much Ms. Darbus would appreciate the gesture. She cheered when the woman of the hour finally arrived and blushed when Sharpay called her out, saying the job well done was all her doing, when Ms. Darbus complimented the party.

"Oh, dear Gabriella! I know I've said this many times, but this party is just marvelous!" Ms. Darbus called out as she hugged the young brunette.

"Of course Ms Darbus! It's the least I could do after you've done everything for me. I wouldn't be who I am today without you."

The older woman threw her arms around Gabriella and embraced her tightly again before floating to the next group of guests.

Gabriella smiled and watched as Ms. Darbus interacted with her guests, she was obviously a well loved woman. There were hundreds of people that filtered in and out of the room, some family, some colleagues, others were former students, even Mr and Mrs Bolton had shown up. Sure, she had unconventional ways of teaching, but her impact was huge.

Her eyes scanned the room, smiling and nodding in acknowledgment of those she made eye contact with. She faltered when her eyes locked on a pair of bright blue ones and froze.

He was watching her.

She visibly swallowed and sipped the champagne that she held, wishing she could just get a drink from the bar that was set up in the corner of the room. But what kind of host would she be if she got wasted before the toasts? She'd allow herself a drink once the party calmed down.

He made a move towards her, but Gabriella was quicker, and made her way over to sign the guest book.

"You can't ignore me all night," He whispered in her ear when he came up behind her.

"Troy, I don't want to do this right now," she kept her eyes on the book as she signed her message.

"It's important," he said and leaned his hip against the table.

She glanced up at him with fire in her eyes, "So I'm only important when it's on your terms? Good to know. Well it can work both ways then. I'll let you know when I have the time."

She shoved the pen into his chest and pushed her way around him, just in time for Sharpay to take the mic.

"Hello everyone and thank you for joining us on this monumental night. I can't speak for everyone here, but I know for myself, Ms. Darbus is one of the most influential people in my life. I owe my success in high school and my adult life to her. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you."

The crowd erupted into cheers as the older woman wiped her tears and made her way to the front of the room to hug Sharpay.

"Ms. Darbus has compiled a list of her favorite performances and behind the scenes moments over the years and she's asked that we watch them with her, so without further ado," Sharpay motioned to the screen behind her as the first clip ran.

Troy ran his hand through his hair, scrawled a message on the page and made his way to the small bar and moved to stand behind Gabriella, but made sure to keep his distance just as their version of "What I've Been Looking For" came onto the screen.

"I didn't know she filmed auditions," he said quietly to himself.

"One of the film kids filmed Sharpay and Ryan's for a project. I didn't know until Sharpay told me a few years later and she showed me the clip a year ago. The guy must not have stopped the camera," she said and mentally slapped herself for falling victim to him again.

He nodded and stepped back to lean against the wall with his leg crossed over the other and his arms folded over his chest. His eyes flicked back and forth from the screen to her, watching her reaction when the first lines of "Breaking Free" rang out through the room. A sadness seemed to wash over her as she watched the younger version of themselves dance together across the stage. She had pulled her bottom lip between her teeth to chew on it and she crossed her arms in a way that just screamed protection. From what? He wasn't sure.

The next series of clips showed them and their friends getting ready for Senior Year. Troy chuckled to himself when the pictures of him getting stuck in the auditorium chair, him and Chad running into the stage with Jimmie's and Donny's clothes and of him and Gabriella rehearsing "I Just Want to be With You" where she painted his neck.

His smile slipped from his face when the clip cut to the actual performance night when he gave her a bouquet of roses on stage during the performance. He had asked his dad to pick them up before coming to the show. Why hadn't he realized it then? His excuse then was that she was the lead female and his best friend, so she deserved the flowers. But looking back now, he knew it was because he loved her. Because the smile and tears in her eyes when he surprised her made it worth it.

His eyes snapped to the same woman just in front of him when her hand moved up to her face. Was she crying? The room was dark, but illuminated by the projector and his heart clenched when the glare of the screen highlighted the tears on her cheeks. She was crying. Why was she crying?

The video showed more clips from the recent years before ending with a message to Ms Darbus saying thank you as cheers erupted throughout the room. A cake was wheeled out to the front of the room and before he knew it, Gabriella was up at the front helping to cut the cake. He joined their old group of friends and got in the slow moving line for some cake.

"How's it going?" Chad asked quietly.

"She won't talk to me, man. I keep trying but she just pushes me away."

"Maybe it'll get better once the party settles down. You know how she is."

Troy nodded and turned to step up next for some cake. He smiled at Sharpay and took the cake from Gabriella's hands, not without sharing a look with her. She bit her lip and turned to hand Chad his piece. What he had to say could wait.

An hour later, Gabriella sighed and sipped on the Jack and coke she was holding as she listened to the karaoke that was going on inside. She was sitting out on the pool deck, her shoes long removed and she was up to her ankles in the pool. She moved her feet so the water swirled around them, watching the ripples spread out over the water.

She was waiting for him to show up, knowing he'd watched her all night for this moment. She wasn't sure what either of them would say to each other, but she knew it needed to happen. She needed to clear the air, move on. If he didn't want to be her friend anymore, then so be it.

Footsteps, a few minutes later, told her it was time. She blew out a breath and willed her heart to stop beating so loudly. Her natural fight or flight response told her she just needed to run. Run far away. But her heart never agreed with her head, so she waited for him to reach her side. She needed this.

What she didn't expect was a plate of food to come into her line of sight,

"I know you. You haven't eaten since this morning," came his deep voice.

Her stomach growled loudly and she blushed brightly when he set the plate down on her lap.

"May I sit?"

Tears sprung to her eyes at his question, formalities hadn't been their thing in years.

"Sure," Her eyes dropped to her lap to take in the selection of foods on the plate. Carrots with ranch, meatballs and provolone and a slice of cake and a deviled egg, "Thank you, but you didn't need to do this."

"Someone's gotta take care of you when you run shows like this."

She saw him shrug out of the corner of her eye and she let out a dry chuckle at his words. His words hung in the air and they fell into an awkward silence as she ate the food.

He pulled his socks and shoes off and stuck his feet in the water, thankful he'd worn shorts that day.

"I'm sorry," he said and watched as her chewing slowed to a stop. "I'm sorry I've been an absolute ass to you with no explanation."

Her silence both urged him to continue and told him she was pissed and didn't want to listen.

He let out a breath and brought his hand over to her line of sight, turning his body slightly to face her, "I've worn it everyday since you gave me this bracelet. I know in the grand scheme of things, it's not important and won't give you reason to forgive me, but I never once took it off."

She started to chew again and he looked up towards the stars before starting to speak again, "I've missed you so damn much and I'm not going to tell you that your anger is valid, because you know it is, I just couldn't say any of this over the phone."

He wiped his sweaty hands on his shorts before pulling his wallet out of his back pocket and producing a small business card, "Before I get into why I'm really here, I have a card for you. It's from a friend of mine that's interested in maybe hiring you. I know you've been struggling to find a job in your field. He wants you to call him,"

She took the small business card from him and flipped it over a few times, trying to find her words, then said, "How does he know he's interested in me, Troy?"

"Your mom sent me your resume and I forwarded it to him. Your mom said something to mine and mine asked if I could help out one night when we were talking ..."

She set the plate down beside her and crossed her arms, "So my not getting a job has made its way back to the guy who was once my best friend so he can take pity on me and get me a job, or he's hoping to use it as leverage to get me to forgive him. Wonderful."

Her bitter tone made him wince and he dropped his head, "It's not like that, Brie - Gabriella," he corrected himself when she shot him a glare.

"Then what's it like, Troy? I've tried to talk to you how many times in these last two years only to be ignored? You think you're some hotshot basketball player who doesn't need to have his friends from back home? Or is it just me? Because I know you still talk to the rest of the group. I've sent you birthday and Christmas cards, I've texted you, called you and now that you decide to return home, you want me to fall at your feet just because you say sorry? No thank you." Her voice was steadily rising and she knew she was coming close to her breaking point.

"Please just let me explain," he tried.

"Now you want to talk. How convenient." She turned her body toward him in a fit of rage and set her plate down.

"You have every right to be angry at me, I agree with you there and I'm not asking you to forgive me with no questions asked. I just thought it might be a good idea to talk to him, that's all."

"But I'm not a charity case, Troy! You can't just come back into my life and tell me you have this potential job offer lined up for me and think everything's alright!"

"You're not a charity case."

"Then why does it feel like that?! I-"

"Because I'm an asshole."

"You got that right!" She huffed as she swept her hair up into a ponytail and watched him frown.

"What?" She asked.

He reached his hand out towards her collarbone, his thumb running lightly over the scar that he'd never seen before. "What's this?"

"I was in a car accident about a year ago when a drunk driver hit me and totaled my car. Luckily this was my only injury. I got it from when the windshield broke." She pulled the collar of her dress out so she could show him the scar that ran from her collar bone, to the edge of her shoulder.

He frowned as his thumb followed the line and dropped his hand to the ground, like it was suddenly made of lead. His mom never mentioned that she was in a car accident.

Like she was reading his mind, she said, "I asked your mom to not say anything. I didn't want you to feel like you needed to reach out because I was hurt. I want a friend that's always there, not just when he feels bad."

He agreed, he deserved that.

"But you're ok?"

"Yeah, I'm ok." She said quietly then dropped her eyes back down to the deck.

"Will you please call him? I think this might be a good fit for you."

She let out a sigh and pressed the heel of her palm to her forehead, "yes, Troy. I will call him. Thank you."

"I'm sorry I haven't been around. It is you though. You're the reason I haven't talked to you." His heart clenched when her eyes shot up and met his. The look on her face made him feel like he'd just kicked a puppy.

"What?" Her lip trembled and she pulled her feet out of the pool then stood up and started to pace back and forth on the deck, her wet feet leaving prints on the concrete.

Troy closed his eyes. He was doing this wrong. He pulled his feet out of the pool and stood up, "I miss you."

"Then why are you ignoring me?" She suddenly whirled around, mid pace, and looked at him. "What did I do to make you ignore me?"

Fear flooded his body as he stuffed his hands in his pockets before answering with "Honestly? I needed to distance myself from you."

She jerked like she'd touched a live wire, "Excuse me?"

He brought his left hand up to run over his face and let out a groan. "I thought I was doing what was best."

"All you had to do was say you needed space and I would have given it to you. I thought we were honest with each other? Do you realize how long it took me to stop agonizing over you? I constantly asked myself what I did to make you not want to talk to me. I replayed our last conversations over and over to see if I said something wrong or if you seemed angry and you didn't. You just cut me out as soon as you signed that contract."

Her voice rose as she unleashed her anger on him and one glance toward the window beside them let him know the party goers were no longer interested in the karaoke anymore, and were more interested in their conversation. He cleared his throat and motioned to the small crowd by tipping his head in the direction of the window.

"Oh god," she gasped and quickly turned away from the window to hide the humiliation on her face from the onlookers. She was sweating from her outburst and the humid air and strands of hair stuck to her face. She tried to cool herself off by fanning herself with her hand, but it was pulled away from her when Troy grabbed her hand, picked up her shoes and led her towards a porch swing inside a gazebo which was shielded by the trees that surrounded the pool area.

He helped her onto the swing and knelt down in front of her to slip her shoes on and strapped them before standing back up in front of her. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked off into the distance where a storm was brewing. He watched the lightning flash across the sky, thankful the storm hadn't reached the country club yet.

They sat in silence for a few minutes and he spent the time working out what he'd say to her. He didn't want to make things worse, not after he'd realized the time spent away from her was the wrong thing to do.

She let her eyes wander over his body, taking in every inch of the man standing in front of her. She tried to commit everything about him to memory, in case this was the end of their friendship. Her eyes snapped to his face, but she could tell he was far from the moment they were in and his hand was clutching the bracelet on his wrist tightly.

"Trooooyyyyyyy!" Gabriella had a smile stretching across her face as she stumbled down the steps, one hand clutching the cup overflowing with beer and the other hand holding a dark brown piece of cord.

Troy chuckled and wrapped an arm around her waist when she was in reach and pulled her down on his lap. She shrieked as more beer sloshed out of her cup and quickly drank more of it so she "didn't lose any more" as she had put it when she finished the cup.

They were currently at a party being held in the house belonging to the U of A sorority chapter that Gabriella and Sharpay were members of. The chair they were in was the only space available when he'd showed up, so he quickly downed a beer then grabbed a second one before hurrying to claim the seat. The party had been going on for about an hour before he'd shown up, so he wasn't surprised the place was packed and that Gabriella was already tipsy.

"Hi, beautiful. Whatcha got there in your hand?" He kissed her cheek and pulled back to look at her, her cheeks and nose rosy from the alcohol.

"It's a friendship bracelet! I made them for us. Do you wanna wear one?"

Her childlike behavior made his heart skip a beat as he watched her balance the cup between her knees. He'd fallen for her hard and fast when they'd first met, but Troy didn't know it then. He was only a high school boy, focused on basketball and college scholarships. When he'd realized what the feelings were, it was too late. She had categorized him into the friend zone and he couldn't do anything but accept it.

His skin burned where she touched him as she slipped the chunky bracelet over his hand and let it rest around his wrist.

"I'll wear it every day until I die or it falls off. Whichever comes first. Scout's honor." He declared with a wink and lifted his right hand to hold up the scout sign and let a smile stretch over his lips when her eyes lit impossibly brighter at his admission.

"One problem, you weren't a scout!" She said with another giggle.

"Fine. Pinky promise?" He held out his pinky and watched her link her pinky with his. Their eyes met, then she leaned forward to press her lips to his in a quick kiss. They pulled away and next thing he knew, she was off playing beer pong with Sharpay, like the kiss didn't register with her.

Oh, but it registered with him. He wanted to talk to her about it, but when he saw her the next day, she acted like nothing happened. So, he did too and never spoke of the kiss that lit him up inside. And that fire stayed lit over the next few years, even when they didn't see each other.

"Troy? Where are you?" She called him back to the present and gasped slightly when his eyes met hers. It was like his eyes were glowing, almost like the bioluminescent waves that glowed blue at night she'd seen on the news.

"I was thinking about when you gave me my bracelet. I promised you I'd never take it off and I haven't. Not one single day. Do you know how many times I get asked about it? I never tell them where I get it though."

She wrapped her hands so tightly around the chains that were holding up the bench that they turned white and said, "Why?"

"Because the press would spin the story. They would turn the story into something it's not. They'd say it's from a lover, and while I would love for that to be true, it isn't. But they'd say it was and they'd dig and dig and dig until they found out who it was. And once they found out it was you, they wouldn't leave you alone."

"Lover?" Her voice sounded strangled as the word passed her lips and Troy felt his eyebrows knit together then shoot to his hairline when he realized what he'd said.

It's now or never, he thought as he scrambled for words so he didn't mess this up.

"Uh, yeah. They'd turn the story into whatever they want and us as a couple would be the one they'd most likely go with."

"And you'd be ok with that being….true?"

"Well this wasn't supposed to happen like this…" He let out a dry chuckle and motioned in her direction before placing a hand on the back of his neck. "But, can you blame me? God, Gabriella. I've been in love with you since high school. You're beautiful and smart and kept me on my toes. You can't tell me you're surprised? I did my best to hide it, but it was inevitable that I'd fall for you."

She was back on her feet and pacing again and before he knew it, she was standing in front of him. The blow to his cheek stung and he lifted his hand to where she'd slapped him.

"Why'd you ignore me? For two years!"

"I did it for you!" He exclaimed and held his arms wide open. "I did it because I needed things to settle down in LA."

"That doesn't even make sense!"

He took a few moments to compose himself before trying again.

"When I left for LA, I already knew I was in love with you, but you never showed signs you felt the same way. Especially after our kiss. I didn't want you to feel like you needed to follow me to LA if I told you how I felt. So I pushed those feelings away as best as I could and distanced myself from you. It's been the worst two years of my life without you. I've been trying to figure out how and when to tell you this. I just couldn't call you up one day and drop all this on you. It had to be in person. You could say I'm a bit selfish, wanting you to myself and handing your resume to my friend, but I just want you within a hypothetical reach."

She held a hand up, "Wait a minute, we kissed?"

"Yes, the night you gave me the bracelet." He watched intently as her fingers touched her lips before continuing, like she was trying to remember the moment. But the moment passed as quickly as it came and she fired off the question he'd been dreading the whole night.

Where is the job located?"

"California. San Bernardino." The words hung in the air between them as she processed what he just told her.

"Troy, I can't afford to go to California! My friends, my mom, my apartment ...they're all here."

"Then I'll rent out a little place for you or you can stay with me. It's about an hour away from me, but we can make it work. I just miss you."

"Do you? So where were you when my job was cut at my previous job? When I was in a car accident? When I finally got my dream apartment?" Her voice broke slightly as she listed memories, both good and bad, that he'd missed. "For the last two years, all I wanted was my best friend, but he never showed. Why do I have to bend when you suddenly want something? Troy, do you know how crazy you sound?"

She started pacing again, but he stepped into her line and grabbed her hands before continuing.

"Yes, I do know. I want you. I want you to be where I can see you whenever I want and where I can take you out for dinner again to spoil you, where you can come to my games and sit right behind the bench and cheer me on. Together or not, I'll take you however you'll come."

Gabriella closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, "Troy…"

He dropped his head and squeezed the hand he was still holding before letting go and stepping away. "I know it's selfish, Gabriella and I'm sorry," he said as he stuffed his hands in his pockets.

"God, Troy this is so messed up. Do you know how much you hurt me?" Her thick voice pierced his heart.

"If I have to say sorry everyday, for the rest of my life, I will. I don't expect you to have an answer for any of this tonight, but will you at least think about it? Even if you turn the thought of us down, at least give the job a shot. There's a whole world outside of Albuquerque and you'll love it."

"I just need to think, okay? This was a lot dropped on me and…I just need time, Troy." She backed away from him and raced back to the country club just as raindrops started falling on them. She placed her hand on the knob and allowed herself one last look at him. His hands were jammed in his pockets and his eyes were staring intently at her as if he wasn't willing to accept that she was walking away. She felt her heart break when she turned the knob and stepped inside the country club just as the sky opened up and poured water on him. Tears fell steadily from her eyes as she left the shattered man standing in the pouring rain.

Three weeks was how long it'd been since the party and since he'd talked to Gabriella. He'd texted and called a time or two, but they always went unanswered. He'd thought of reaching out to his friend to see if she'd contacted him about the job, but Troy didn't want to hear from someone else that she'd turned him down.

He reminded himself that he'd deserved this. It was exactly what he'd done to her and he had no one to blame but himself.

Troy groaned in frustration as yet another basket missed the rim. He didn't know why he was trying anymore, he'd been off his game since he came home. He was so lost in his thoughts that he almost missed the sound of commotion near him. The sounds of shouts and cameras clicking made him look around his property to make sure no one had managed to make their way into his backyard to snap pictures. It took him an embarrassing amount of time to realize the noises were coming from his own front yard.

Troy made his way from the back yard, through the house and to his front door and looked out his window to see someone standing on his front porch with a suitcase and the hood on their sweatshirt pulled over their head.

He was just about to call security, when he recognized the sweatshirt the figure had on.

It was his East High sweatshirt he'd given to Gabriella when he'd grown out of it.

His heart skipped a beat and he swore his mind was playing tricks on him until the figure pulled out their phone. He'd been able to catch a quick glance at the face before his suspicions had been confirmed.

It was Gabriella.

On his front porch.

In California.

He pulled the door open just as she was lifting her hand to knock and felt all the air leave his lungs when she lifted her eyes to his.

"Hi, um, can I come in?" She asked quietly and with a panicked look on her face.

Only then did he remember his yard was full of photographers who were getting their fill of Gabriella standing there in front of him. He took her bag from her and ushered her inside and pulled the blinds down so they couldn't be seen through the windows.

"I'm sorry to just drop by, I didn't realize those people would be sitting on your street.I hope I didn't cause you any trouble." She kept her eyes on the floor and shuffled her feet.

"Don't worry about that. You won't cause any trouble." Lies. His agent would be on him so quickly, he thought, but said, "I would have picked you up from the airport, assuming you flew here, of course."

"I wanted to let you know in person that I took that job, I start next week."

He couldn't stop the smile that spread across his face, even if he tried. He threw his arms around her and pulled her close, before realizing his mistake and quickly let go. He wasn't sure where they stood yet.

"I also wanted to let you know that I did some thinking." Her eyes were now focused on the string that was hanging off the sleeve of the sweatshirt she was wearing.

"And?" His heart was pounding in his chest and he wondered if she could hear it. He was sure he'd die of a heart attack soon if he couldn't get it under control.

"I don't have to be in the office except one day a week, so can I stay here?" She asked with a smile on her face and a glint in her eye.

Troy was sure he'd heard her wrong, but when he registered her smile, he felt a weight lift off his shoulders. She was back and she was here. They could work the details out later.

With a dramatic pause, he finally said, "Yes, you absolutely can stay here."

A/N: I might have a small part two for this. Does anyone want it?