Hey everyone! I'm really excited about this two-shot. I originally planned on it being just a one shot, but I think the idea needed to be expanded on a little further and so... two shot it has become. The original idea behind it came from the song, Halfway to Heaven, a true account by Brantley Gilbert and how he felt after an accident in high school. I tried to keep some of the original ideas, but of course, added some of my favorite characters and such to make it a little more Austin and Ally. That said, it's definitely got some mature themes, and is definitely dark at times (are you really even shocked that I'm writing something dark?) The good news is, the story and the song are also about hope, and I think you'll notice that part more in the second half. Anyway, I'll shut up.
Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
She was the new girl, the quiet girl that no one really seemed to notice much. She didn't mind this. After years of traveling with her parents, different places to fuel their constant need of adventure, she'd learned that going unnoticed hurt less later when she was uprooted from her cozy new place. It was often when she finally got comfortable that they decided a new city was much needed.
So, Miami would not be any different. Yes, Ally made some new friends while she was there. To her, there was no harm in that in the technological age. She had friends across the country for this reason; friends coast to coast who were all so different. In a way, they made her well traveled too. One weekend, she could talk about hiking with Kensi in the mountains in California, or the next where she was sitting at a bonfire in the middle of nowhere Iowa with the rebellious Mona. That was what kept her sane, after all.
She liked people. They were interesting. Traveling made it so she got to know so many, and she was always eager to know more.
Perhaps that was why Austin Moon caught her eye. At first, he seemed like a typical case of high school jock, which had girls clinging to each arm, and enough football players surrounding him that it would be impossible to ever have an encounter alone. Not that she was trying to, per se. But she still found him interesting despite his rather bland persona. The reasoning behind this in her brain, she did not know.
"Austin Moon?" Dez Wade, her new friend scoffed when she questioned him about it. "Ally, in case you haven't noticed, I don't really fit in with that crowd."
Ally glanced at the chatting redhead, with his bright pants and over-the-top attitude, deciding he was probably right. He had to know something though, as he'd be at the school much longer than her.
"Why do you care anyway?" Dez asked, his voice lowering. "I don't think you want to get involved. I don't think he treats girls very well."
"It's not that," she finally answered him, giving him a slight smile. "I like people. I refuse to think anyone is that shallow."
"You give him too much credit," Dez interjected. "I have science class with him. He doesn't do much other than stare at his phone."
"Touché," she murmured. "That's what meets the eye. I'm talking underneath."
Ally made her way to her last class of the day, her history class where she took a seat near the back. Only because most of the other seats had been assigned and she was forced to sit where no one else did. It just so happened that Austin liked those seats too. He was completely oblivious to her, like most others, either not seeing her stares, or ignoring them for what they were: rude. Still, she studied him as he snoozed through their lesson that period, looking past the loud banter and wide smiles, to a more peaceful high school superstar.
He might as well consider class time, nap time. Her mind wandered back to him in the hallway, eyes lit up and a smile on his face. It was easy to put up walls; it was easy to fake things. The peacefully sleeping boy next to her didn't have these things though and she couldn't help but notice that with his eyes closed and his body still, he didn't look so confident anymore.
The bell rang, ending class. The teacher was the first one out of the room, rushing after gossip of a fight. Soon, other students left, leaving only Ally and the still knocked out Austin seated in the back. She had nowhere to be, as her parents were off in some scuba adventure until later that evening, so she waited. She wondered if waking the boy would do any good. Somehow, she could tell that this was probably the most sleep he'd gotten in weeks by the dark circles under his eyes.
As if fate wouldn't allow it, his phone blared and awoke him, giving her just enough time to jump up and rush to safety before he struggled to turn off the noise.
He caught a glimpse of her at the door, yelling for her to stop. She didn't.
It was easy to go unnoticed in the school. She wanted to keep it that way.
Ally decided later that afternoon to take a walk. She was thrilled that her parent's latest stop was warm all year round and that she was so close to a warm breeze. She put on some running shoes and jogged through the neighborhood, letting her music take her wherever she could go. She had a GPS on her, it didn't matter how far she got. She'd always find her way back. She ended up near the boardwalk, and she decided it was a great chance to explore the beach. She made her way through the bustling area, taking in the chance to study everyone. She saw couples, young children with friends, and even single people like herself just out on the water.
She slowed as she finished that area, trying to catch her breath. Leaning against the old wooden platform, she noticed a small, dark building up ahead. From the looks of it, it was a Soup Kitchen. Ally thought it was placed in a weird area of town, but by the homeless people and others littering it, she knew she had been right. Interested more so by the picnic tables and the volunteers being outside, she neared closer. She could smell barbeque and corn even from her short distance.
That's when she halted. Standing over one of the homeless people, she saw Austin Moon. Tied with an apron to his chest, and a different kind of smile on his face, she was flabbergasted. He looked different, but not in a bad way. She felt her own smile creep up, and wondered what Dez would think about this. Everyone was deeper than their first encounter, she thought. Even popular jocks like Austin Moon.
Again, as if fate were out to either get him or her, he turned around. This time, she was spotted surely. He locked on her, eyes narrowing as he put two and two together. He recognized her almost seconds after that.
She was taken back and wondered if she should run. Then she decided she didn't have a reason to and planted her feet on the ground. "Hi."
"You were the girl next to me in history today."
"Yes," she decided. "I was."
He furrowed his brow, as if her direct answer bothered him. "Why were you watching me?"
He shrugged, "I noticed you were there as my phone woke me up."
Ally wondered what to say. It was not only rude but creepy to do what she did and she did not have an answer to why she did it. Curiosity did not help those who were caught when it came to crime. "You looked peaceful," she finally decided. "Like you do now."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "What?"
Ally smiled at him, trying to hide her own pleasure. "Nevermind. I'm sorry, I'm incredibly nosy sometimes. I didn't mean to bother you. I hope you have a great night."
She didn't pause, or look back, only started her run back home.
Ally found herself at some sort of beach bash not too long after her first real encounter with the mysterious Austin Moon. Actually, it was only two days later. She followed after Dez, and Trish, a loudmouthed, opinionated friend of his who he swore he didn't like. They introduced her to many others, high school students from both their school, the other local public school, and even the private school the next town over. Ally greeted each new person with a smile and tried her best to remember names. Sometimes, when you moved so much, they all kind of faded into the next. It was only when you got to know someone did they stick in her memory. Austin Moon was not there yet, but she hoped somehow he would be. Despite the fact that she'd avoided him almost completely since discovering him at the soup kitchen.
He'd attempted conversation in history class that morning with her.
"Are you just going to act like you don't know me now?"
Ally finally glanced his direction, "I'm pretty sure I don't know you."
"You had a conversation with me yesterday!"
"That is not what I mean," she stated gently. "What is it?"
"How come you read people so well?" he accused.
"That is a story for another time."
"Another time?" His annoyance was clear. "I'm sorry. I think now is a good time."
"We have class."
"Like hell I care," he growled. She glanced another time over at him, noticing that he looked stressed. His eyes had dark circles again, and his skin was missing the glow she remembered from the day before. Herself, a pale girl who practically burned when she stepped outside, was fast to notice when someone seemed out of place. Usually, his skin was like theirs. He almost seemed ill.
"I don't want to have this conversation right now."
Ally chuckled, "You are not a bad boy, so don't pretend to be one."
"I could be a bad boy," he countered. "How would you know?"
Again, she laughed. "Nice try."
"There is a party tonight. You should come."
"I don't do parties."
He again seemed thrown off by her statement, "Why not?"
"Why does it matter?"
He went silent and Ally resisted a smile.
"Forget it," he stated. "Forget I asked."
Granted, she really didn't do parties. It was too much chatter, too many drunk idiots who thought nothing more than to use someone else's money to have a good time. Still, she liked her two new friends and didn't want to act like a complete prude. So, she slipped on a bikini and a pair of shorts and made her way through the bumbling, intoxicated classmates, giggling every so often when Trish would point out facts about several.
"So, are you liking it here so far?"
She nodded, "I am. I don't like to like any place too much, but it's hard when a lot of people have been so nice."
"Why don't you like to … like a place too much?" Trish seemed thrown off.
Ally shrugged, taking a sip of her soda. "Move around a lot. I've gotten uprooted enough that I try only to get close to a couple. It makes it easier."
Before Trish could answer, there was a loud crash and two people suddenly dived in front of her, wrestling in the sand. She saw a few punches thrown, and blood stains appear. A crowd formed around them, cheering on the two unknown males bickering and fighting. Finally, Dez and another guy, a jock she recognized as Jace (one of the view who didn't seem like a complete dick), reached forward. Dez grabbed a fistful of one guy while Jace struggled with the other. Ally nearly gasped at the sight of the brunette, who Dez called Dallas. "You're fucked up man," he muttered to him.
"Shut it, Wade."
Ally glanced at Jace, who had the other person by the arm. She blinked repeatedly when she saw the swollen lipped but familiar faced boy. Austin Moon cradled his arm and looked back at her, before rubbing his sore face and the blood that stained it. Before anyone could say much else, a busty blonde with a curved smile walked right past Austin and latched herself onto Dallas. She giggled Austin's way and then sauntered with the dark haired boy until out of sight.
"Who was that?" Ally whispered to Trish, who also had her eyes on the embarrassed male before her.
"That was Molly Martin," she murmured back. "The head cheerleader for the rival school."
"And I take it she used to date Austin?"
"A while back," she murmured again. "I thought they broke up."
"Sounds like they just did."
"She wasn't dating Dallas," Trish countered. "So, that is news to me."
Jace patted Austin on the shoulder, whispering something to him. Austin shoved him off, pacing his way toward the refreshment table. She watched him down a beer in only seconds, before going for a second one. She had no idea what his history with the blonde girl was, but by the way he was trying to forget her by drinks, she knew it probably at one point meant a lot to him. Across the way, his swollen eye caught hers. He stared at her for a couple minutes before shaking his head, and heading the opposite direction.
Soon, the crowd broke up and everyone went back to what they were doing. Ally enjoyed her chance to talk with her friends more, and get to know Jace, the jock, who Dez swore was one of the few with a brain. Jace rolled his eyes, "Don't listen to him. He makes us all sound bad."
"Dude," Dez complained. "I'm talking about guys like Dallas."
"Guys like Dallas?" Ally asked. "What does that mean?"
"He's a dick," Jace said flatly. "We don't really like him."
Before anyone could say much else, a staggering blond boy entered their line of sight. Jace was first on his feet, seeing the keys in his hand. The others followed. "Dude, you're not driving home are you?" he asked. "You're drunk. Give me your keys."
"Nah man," Austin slurred. "It's all good. I only live a few miles from here."
"Austin," Jace countered. "Come on. Don't do that. You know better. I'll drive you home, just give me a minute." He reached for the keys, but Austin shoved them from his fingers. "Come on, man."
"Fuck off, Jace."
Ally glanced at Trish and Dez. Jace looked a bit annoyed, but also helpless by his friend's actions. He made a final attempt to wrestle them from the blond's grip and got a punch in the face for his troubles. Jace, much smaller than Austin, hit the ground hard and Austin despite being drunk surprisingly ran off quite well. Ally helped up the other boy, who only shook his head. "I tried, right?"
Trish was speaking to both him and Dez when Ally decided she couldn't let him go off alone. Of course, she didn't want to be hurt herself, but she didn't know where he would end up. When he caught her eye before, she saw the pain behind his. Somehow, she knew there was a lot more to the jock surrounded by so many others and figured this was not a night he should be alone. So, she tailed him.
Her heart plummeted every time she watched him swerve on the highway ahead of her. She prayed for his sake that there were not any cops out yet, and that he'd make it home without any further problems on his end. She wondered just what had happened between him and Molly and their once mutual friend in Dallas. Ally kept back, in case he realized he was being followed and shook her head. Getting drunk did not get rid of the pain, only hid it for a little while. A part of her wanted to tell him that in history class on Monday, but figured he wouldn't speak to her after what she pulled last time. She wondered if maybe she could head back to the soup kitchen where he seemed most relaxed and—she didn't get to finish her thought.
Before her eyes, she watched him speed up and skid, this time unable to take back control of the truck. It skidded to the side of the road, where she watched the wheels turn sharply in one last attempt before it flipped in the air. Ally gasped, signally to the side where he was, as she heard metal crashing and burning, sounds that she'd never want to hear, or wished to hear filling the air. The truck continued through the brush and into a more tree-heavy area, only stopping when it hit one of them. It steamed as she neared to a stop herself and slowly got out of the car, clutching her phone in her hands and wondering what to do. Clearly, she had to call the police. But she didn't know what she would find down there if she went to investigate when she was done.
Still, she made the call and was told an ambulance was about ten or so minutes out. Austin must've lived farther on the outskirts of town than she realized, and cursed, hoping that it wasn't too far. Finally, she took a deep breath and slowly eased herself down the hill, stumbling several times as she neared the wreckage. Her throat caught at the sight of his truck close up. It was practically destroyed, the metal mangled in parts where she was sure that there was no way he was alive.
She kneeled beside the overturned truck, hoping whatever she was about to see would not scar her for life. Much to her surprise, he was simply hanging upside down with his eyes closed, a nasty gash on his forehead bleeding onto the steering wheel. That was all she could see though, as the way the truck had fallen made it so it was hard to see much else. With a shaky hand, she reached forward to look for a pulse when he groaned rather audibly.
"Austin?" she asked shakily. "Can you hear me? It's Ally from school."
He groaned again as she finally touched him.
"Austin, can you open your eyes? Help is on its way. Hold on, okay?"
He did as he was told and Ally saw the pain he was in just through them. "Hi," she said with a gentle smile. "I'm Ally, remember? Can you tell me where you're hurt?"
He tried to move, but whimpered instead.
"Don't move, don't move," she pleaded with him. "Help is on it's way." She felt stupid saying the same things over and over again, but she didn't know what else to do.
He shuddered. "Everything hurts," he pleaded. "My chest is on fire."
"Okay," she soothed, trying to hide her shock when she peered inside the truck and saw that he was pinned. "It's going to be okay."
"I'm so stupid," he murmured. "So stupid."
"We all make mistakes," she told him, trying to get the hair out of his eyes. He hissed when her fingers came in contact with the cut. She retracted almost immediately. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I was just trying to see how bad it was."
"Why are you out here?" he murmured. "You were at the party. You said you didn't do parties."
"I don't," she agreed. "I don't know why I was there."
"Still doesn't answer my other question," he coughed, grimacing. "Why are you out here?"
"I was following you."
A tiny smile formed on his face, "So, it wouldn't be the first time."
She shook her head, "No! I came upon you at the soup kitchen, thank you very much. I am not a stalker."
He tried to laugh, but it must've done more harm than good. "Ah, shit. Shit."
"Shh, shh," she murmured, shaking her head. "Okay, no more jokes."
He smiled a little, she noticed that he was missing a couple teeth from the accident. Slowly, she watched him try to move one of his arms. While she objected, he kept going until it was out of the vehicle. It was bloody and bruised, but otherwise in tact. He motioned for her to come a little closer. Ally understood and took his hand, squeezing it gently. "You're going to be okay, Austin."
"It hurts," he again stated, squeezing her hand this time with so much force she had to shift her weight so that she didn't scream. "Holy shit, it hurts."
"Focus on talking to me," she suggested. "Why do you volunteer at the soup kitchen? Doesn't seem like a jock like thing to do."
He narrowed his eyes, "What does that mean?"
She immediately tried to explain herself, "I was trying to explain to a friend that there was always more to someone than meets the eye," she told him. "He didn't believe it. But when I saw you at the soup kitchen, you obviously proved that. At school, you're always surrounded by your friends, by girls, and practically unreachable. You are like a superstar. But at the shelter, you were at ease, like it was second nature. That doesn't come without a reason."
He sighed shakily, again squeezing her hand as he closed his eyes. The pain must've shot up. "I spent a lot of time there with my mom when I was young," he admitted. "They helped us get back on our feet after my father left us, and I always try to remember it's where I came from. You don't have to be someone with a lot of money to fall, and I think that's important to remember. Every day people go through bad times, and I want to be there to remind them they can overcome it."
Ally smiled at his secret. It was quite something nice. "That's exactly what I like to hear," she admitted. Off in the distance, she could hear sirens, though they weren't that close yet. "I thought there was more to you and I'm glad I was right."
Austin chuckled, "After tonight though, do you really think there is? I got drunk because of a girl and then crashed my truck driving drunk. I must look like a major loser right now. You should've just left me here to crash alone. I deserve it."
"No, you don't."
"How would you know?" The sirens got closer.
"Every day people go through bad times, and I want to be there to remind them they can overcome it," she repeated with a tiny smile. "I think you know who said that."
Before he could answer her, his breathing hitched and his eyes rolled back.
"Austin!" she shrieked. "No! Austin!" She shook his arm more than she meant to.
She could hear emergency workers getting close, calling out her name. "Down here!" she yelled. "We're down here!"
"Please hurry," she whispered back. "Please."
The empty seat in her history class haunted her the next day, as she tried to focus on the lesson and not on the condition of the blond boy she may have gotten to know a little better under horrible circumstances. She was guilty enough to begin with; she'd run when the ambulance and help arrived, claiming that she didn't know him and that she'd only stayed for his comfort. Austin Moon rode to the hospital alone.
It didn't take long for news to spread, though. All through her day, she heard stories about what could have happen, some close to the truth and others claiming insane stories like Dallas had run him off the road, Molly cackling in the seat beside him. Of course, she knew the truth, but from the looks of it, she was the only one who did. Austin didn't need the stigma of a jock that drove drunk just yet. He still had more of a story to tell.
She only hoped he got to tell someone it. Last she'd heard from Jace, he was in critical condition, having flat lined twice the first night from too many crushed ribs. His lung had been punctured by one and that was only the start of his severe injuries. A part of her wondered if he'd even remember her because Jace said he'd sustained a severe concussion to top it all off. When she asked him if they thought he'd make it, he only shrugged his shoulders and gave her a sad, pleading look. She understood. They hoped so, but weren't so sure.
"What hospital is he in?" she'd asked during lunch. "I had a conversation with him the other day. I'd like to at least leave flowers."
Jace had no idea just how close they'd gotten in that short time when waiting for the ambulance and a thought plagued her: would she be the last one to have seen him alive?
This consumed her as the bell rang and she hurried to her car. With a pounding heart, she drove to the hospital with a tiny vase and balloon, hoping that they'd let her in. The ICU meant usually only family, and if you were lucky, close friends. Ally had moved around enough to usually play her cards quite well, and she hoped that his mother was not there. She would play the girlfriend card if she had to; they'd never have to know. A popular jock that had tons of friends worried for him? She rubbed her eye make up and her nose a couple times, hoping it did the trick.
"Hi," she sniffled to the woman at the front desk. "I'm looking for Austin Moon's room. I'm his girlfriend. I just got a call from his mother."
The woman looked at her with sympathy, searching the name. "I'm afraid he's still in the ICU, sweetheart. You have to be family to get in."
"Is his mother here, do you know? I'm sure she'd vouch for me."
"He doesn't have any visitors listed at the moment."
"Please," she pleaded. "His mother told me he is in really bad shape." She wiped a few tears, which truly did fall for the boy. "I don't want to lose him. I need to see him."
The woman shifted on her chair, looking at the security guard who only shrugged his shoulders. She gave the girl a card, and a look. "You only have fifteen minutes," the woman warned. "The flowers have to stay in the nurses' station; they aren't allowed in the ICU. The balloon is alright though."
"Thank you," she gushed, rushing to the elevator. She'd see Austin soon.
Upstairs, she quickly found the area where she needed to be, showing her card to the woman at the station. She took her flowers and told her the room number, telling her similar things as did the woman downstairs. Ally smiled, a little to herself. She wouldn't need that long; she just wanted to tell Austin, even if he was still unconscious, that she was there for him. She knew what he'd been through and understood that she was the only one who truly knew the truth.
In the room, she was not surprised to see he didn't look much better than he did in the truck. Still, it left her almost breathless and she quickly found a seat before she lost her footing from shock. Hooked up to so many machines, she knew he really was fighting for his life. Ally finally made her way closer, taking the same hand in which she held that night for him, pleading and hoping with him until help came. She only hoped that one day he'd remember it; she really didn't want to go back to being the creepy girl who kept running into him and looking like a stalker.
"Hi, Austin," she started, knowing he could probably hear her. "It's Ally. Not-Following-You Ally. Just Ally. I should've went with you to the hospital that night, but I didn't really know if it was a good idea, either. I'm sorry if you wanted me there. They say you're having a rough time and I can see why. I think you've got a pretty good record going here for having injuries and all that. But please, hold on. You've got the entire school hanging on your recovery, and you need to get well. You still have a lot to do in this world, and I say that from my heart. I might not know you well, Austin Moon, but I've seen enough. Don't give up on all of us." She squeezed his hand. "I can't stay long, but soon as you're stronger, I'll be back. You're going to be okay." She stood up, still holding his hand. "Okay."