(A/N - What is with this one-shot phase I am in? This one is a bit longer than any of my others, but I hope you still read it and love it and review it, because then everyone will be happy, and yeah, so here's the story. :D )
What exactly makes someone a "keeper"? You know - that one person you find that you hope sticks around forever, that makes you feel complete. It seems as though a handful of teenage girls flit around, searching for the "one".
Unlike these flirty, surface-deep girls, Ally Dawson wasn't looking for a boy to temporarily make her feel giddy. Headstrong, intelligent, and gorgeous, that just isn't what she's searching for at the moment. Now, to call Ally a stick in the mud would be innaccurate - it's not that she was too concerned about school or her future to find a relationship. One day, she hoped to find love, just like everyone else. She, however, was far more wise than her peers, and knew the chances of finding your soulmate in the hellhole called high school were slim.
The first time she met him, Ally had no clue that this boy would be the "one" for her. Sitting in the Zephyr Street Cafe, hunched over her AP Physics notes, she didn't expect to fall in love - and at first, she didn't.
Admittedly, the waiter - a tall blonde with a charming smile - was cute. But, as mentioned before, Ally was more than surface-deep. Not giving him a second glance as he lingered near her table, she continued studying. After ten minutes, a voice interrupted her thoughts, shattering the silence she valued that had been accompanying her notes. "Can I get you anything?" they asked, and she jerked her head up, seeing the blonde server smiling down at her, an order pad in hand.
"No, thank you," she responded politely, but with a dismissive tone, before turning back towards her notes.
A beat passed before the boy sighed. "Look," he whispered, unfortunately capturing her attention once again. "If it was up to me, I would let you stay, no problem. But, it's the boss's rule that nobody can just hang out in here without ordering something."
"I'll just take a coffee, then," Ally said, shaking her head in frustration. Although a top student, even she had to study, and Blondie here was serving as a major cockblocker between the carefully taken physics notes and herself.
He nodded and walked away, coming back only a few minues after Ally could once again focus on the material in front of her. "Here you go," he said, placing her order on the table top.
Ally glanced up to mumble a quick "thank you", but faltered when she saw not only a cup of coffee before her, but also a bowl of cheddar-broccoli soup, a sandwich with the works, and macaroni and cheese. "I only ordered a coffee," she pointed out, trying to ignore the emptiness in her stomach.
He shot her a boyish grin. "I know, but I could hear your stomach growling when I took your order," he said. "Plus, I'm sure you'll need some brain food to help you through your study session."
The gesture was kind, albeit a bit forward. "Thank you," she said, shooting him a grateful smile. "But, I don't have enough money to pay for it." On top of being a seventeen-year-old receiving less than minimum wage at her father's music shop, she wouldn't receive her next pay check for a week.
"It's on me," he said, brushing it off. Again, Ally saw the gesture as extremely kind, especially considering she didn't even know his name. He made a move to sit down in the booth seat across from her, sliding her notes aside and gesturing towards the food. "Take a quick break, or you might overwork yourself." She nodded and began eating. "I'm Austin, by the way."
"Ally," she said, giving him a friendly smile after swallowing a bite of her sandwich. "Thanks again for this, I really did need it. There's no way I would study well on an empty stomach."
"What are you studying for, anyway?" Austin asked, grabbing her notes and flipping through them.
"AP Physics exam tomorrow," she said, rolling her eyes. "I've got everything down except for how to work this one equation." She pointed at a spot on the paper, before realizing that he probably had less knowledge of the subject than she did.
But, she spoke too soon. "Well, this is a freefall equation," he said, shocking her with his no-nonsense tone. "You know the initial velocity is zero, and the constant acceleration for a freefall problem is negative nine point eight meters per second squared. You also know that the ball is falling from eight point five meters, so you want to find the time. Just plug those numbers into that equation right there, and you should get-"
"One point three seconds," Ally exclaimed, finally understanding. "How did you know all that, if you don't mind my asking?" Austin had to be in college or something - he surely looked old enough. As a junior, AP Physics was an extremely advanced class to be taking, so she was sure that he had to be a little bit older than her.
"I took AP Physics with Mr. Bonners last year," he explained, mentioning Ally's current teacher. "I'm a senior at Melgrove High, just a year above you." Ally was about to ask how he knew that, but, as if reading her thoughts, he shrugged. "Everyone knows who Ally Dawson is - you're the top spot in your graduating class. I'm sure you'll do great on your exam tomorrow."
She grinned, thankful for not only his compliment, but also, his help and the food. "Moon," somebody called out, and the duo glanced up to see the cafe owner standing there with her hands on her hips. "Your break is over, get back to work."
He nodded and quickly stood up - Ally couldn't believe that he actually wasted his entire lunch break by helping her. "Bye Dawson, good luck on that exam," he said, giving her a two finger salute and bright smile.
He began to walk away, but she felt the need to thank him one more time. "Austin," she called out, making him turn back around. She gave him a light smile and a wave. "Thanks - for everything." That charming smile took over his face again as he nodded, then headed back for the kitchen. Needless to say, it wasn't true love at first sight - but, Ally was definitely interested in getting to know him more, and Austin silently hoped that he could see her more often.
Their second meeting was when the acquaintance-type relationship began to grow into friendship, if not, something more. Nearly two weeks after their first encounter, the two hadn't seen each other again, except for occasionally in the hall, when they were either too busy or too nervous to interact. This particular Tuesday, however, left Ally extremely stressed.
A few days earlier, she found out that the small pond at the mall that she has grown to love would be paved over into a parking lot. The spot was a tranquil environment for her - where she went for peace, or inspiration to write a song. Over the past few days, she had been asking around for people to protest alongside her, in hopes of saving the pond, its animal residence, and the quiet that surrounded it. She had asked all her friends to join her.
"Dallas, you know that pond outside the mall?" she asked one of her good friends.
"Hey, Dez, if you come help me save the mall pond, I'll help you make a new gingerbread family," she offered.
"Trish, could you please come help me protest the paving of the mall pond? You know how important it is to me," Ally begged her best friend.
Unfortunately, everyone declined her offer - not because they were mean, or didn't care about her - she was their friend. Unfortunately, the owner of the construction company is the husband of Principal Monroe - and there's a huge chance that anybody who tries to intervene could get into serious trouble.
So, she wasn't exactly in the best mood as she trudged into the Zephyr Street Cafe that late afternoon. She made her way over to a booth and slumped into the worn leather seat, dropping her head onto the table. "What can I get for you?" a familiar voice asked, and she immediately knew that it was Austin.
"Do you sell alcohol?" she asked bitterly, lifting up her head to see him grinning.
"No, especially not to minors," he said, furrowing his eyebrows. "I didn't peg you as a drinker." She said that she wasn't, and he finally noticed the look on her face. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"It's a long story," Ally groaned, pulling her hair into a sloppy bun on the top of her head - what she usually does when too stressed to worry about keeping her hair nice.
He glanced at his watch, then shot her a sympathetic look. "I've got time - I can take my break," he said, standing up. "But, you look stressed, so I'm going to go make you something to cheer you up." With that, he took off towards the kitchen, and came back a few minutes later, with a tall glass in hand. He tugged off his apron and tossed it behind the counter before setting the glass in front of her. "One large chocolate milkshake, on the house."
"Thanks," Ally said, smiling as he sat back down across from her. "Wow, this thing is huge - big enough for my to drown my sorrows, at least."
"Alright, tell me what's on your mind," he said, leaning forward a bit - is he actually interested? It's sweet that he cares enough to listen to her even when they only knew each other a few weeks.
"Okay," she said, taking a sip of the milkshake and a huge breath. "So, there is this little pond just outside the mall - it's so quiet and peaceful, and the perfect place to go when I want to be alone. Well - I'm not alone, there are a bunch of animals around, but I don't mind them - especially Pickles the goose. Anyway, I go there sometimes to study, or for peace, or to write songs - it gives me inspiration. But, they're paving it over into a parking lot, and I can't find anyone to protest with me."
"Wow," Austin said, eyes wide. "I can see why you're so upset, that place seems to mean a lot to you." Ally nodded her head solemnly. "You know - I could come protest with you."
"Really?" she asked, eyes going wide with excitement.
He nodded, grinning. "Sure, why not?" he shrugged. "It seems really important to you, and for some reason, that makes it important to me." They both blushed and looked away for a few seconds. "So, when is this protest?"
"Well, they're trying to pave on Saturday, so I was thinking we could go out there a few hours before hand, sit down, mark our territory, make signs-" she spoke quickly, getting excited that somebody was finally going to join her. When she realized that she was rambling, Ally blushed and looked down. "Sorry, this is just a huge deal to me."
"Well, if it's something you're passionate about, you shouldn't be sorry," he said, holding her gaze. Then he broke into a shy smile. "Besides, I think it's kind of cute when you ramble."
Ally blushed for a third time - since when does she blush? "Okay, so here's what we need to do..." she trailed off, explaining everything she hoped to get done by Saturday.
Over the course of the past week, Austin and Ally have become pretty good friends. She stops by the cafe every day that she can, and on his breaks, they made signs and t-shirts. They got a list of signatures on a petition against the destruction of the pond, and even started hanging out at school. Sometimes he would walk her to her classes, and he joined her friends for lunch every day.
Today was the day - the duo just arrived at the entrance of the pond, clad in matching "More than just a pond" t-shirts, protest signs in tow. It was about ten minutes until the bulldozer was scheduled to arrive, and Ally was beginning to freak out. What if we get hurt? What if we get in trouble? Or worst of all - what if we can't save the pond?
Austin sensed her nerves, for he reached over and placed his hands on Ally's shoulders, to keep her from pacing. "Ally, calm down," he said gently. "We're going to save it, I promise."
"What if we don't?" she asked, near tears. Nobody understands how important this place has truly become to Ally over the years.
She was on the verge of hysterics, but Austin gripped her wrists, pulling them towards his chest. "Ally, listen to me," he said firmly. "I know this place is important to you, and I know that you're important to me - which makes this pond important to me. I'm not a quitter, and I can tell that you're not either, so if we both put up a fight, there's no way that this pond is going to be paved over." Ally smiled up at him, just realizing how close they really were. Their foreheads were brushing against each other, and after holding each other's gazes for a few moments, they both began leaning in, about to close the already small gap between their lips.
Unfortunately, a bulldozer chose that moment to pull up, honking at the two protesters. They quickly backed up, blushing and avoiding each other's gaze, while an angry construction worker walked over to them. "Kids, I don't have time for this," he said, rolling his eyes. "Just pack up your little protest and get out of here."
"Sir, we're not leaving," Austin said, stepping forward in front of Ally a bit, to protect her. "This pond is extremely important to us, and we're not going to let you pave it without a fight."
"Honestly," the man shouted, throwing his hands in the air. "Look, Mr. Monroe figured something like this would happen, so he already has police officers with the warrant to pave this place. So, unless you want to be arrested, I suggest you leave."
Austin made a move to say something else, but Ally stopped him, stepping in front of him. "Fine," she mumbled dejectedly. "But, sir, this pond is home to many animals - could you at least make sure they find a new environment, first?"
Obviously expecting more of a fight from the spunky girl, the man's face softened. "Sure thing," he said, nodding towards Ally. "I'm no murderer. Look, I don't want to be the bad guy, this is just part of my job. But, you have my word that I won't pave over this place until every animal has a new home."
Ally thanked the man, then grabbed all of our stuff and walked off, leaving Austin to trail behind her, confused. After all the work they put into this, she's just giving up? "Ally, wait," he called out, running after her. "Are you sure you're okay? I know how important this place is to you."
She nodded, giving him a reassuring answer. "As long as Pickles and the other animals have a safe home, it's not a big deal," she shrugged. "Sure, this place is important to me, but - it's not about me."
The next day, all of the animals had been relocated, and unfortunately, the pond was paved over. Ally went to visit Austin at the cafe, but found that he wasn't there - which was odd, since he always worked on Sundays.
At school the next morning, she approached him. "Austin, where were you yesterday?" she asked worriedly, hoping everything was okay.
"I got fired," he shrugged, but she could tell that he was upset. When she asked why, he turned away, avoiding her gaze. "I was kind of supposed to work Saturday. My boss said that if I didn't come, she was letting me go."
"Austin," Ally exclaimed, shaking her head. "You should have gone to work. I can't believe you risked your job for me - I mean, I appreciate it, but, why?"
"Ally, I told you," he said, smiling down at her. "You're important to me. It's not a big deal, I didn't really like working there anyway." She knew this wasn't completely true, and inside, felt awful, knowing she was the reason he lost his job.
"Austin," she mumbled, sighing deeply and engulfing him in a hug. "I can't believe you did that for me." He hugged her back, gently running his fingers through her chestnut curls.
Feeling entirely responsible for Austin getting fired, Ally begged her father to give Austin a job at the Sonic Boom, explaining her story. Lester agreed - he needed another employee anyway, and it was clear to him that his little girl had feelings for this boy, even if she didn't completely understand them herself.
"Austin, come on," Ally said, grabbing his hand and pulling him through the mall the next day. She hadn't yet told him about getting him the job - she wanted it to be a surprise. Once she pulled him into the music shop, she handed him a brand new name tag, and introduced him to her father. "Welcome aboard, Austin."
It took him a minute to understand, but when he did, he grabbed Ally by the waist and spun her around, hugging her tightly. "I can't believe this, Ally," he exclaimed, running over to shake Mr. Dawson's hand and thank him for the job. "I won't let you down, sir."
"I'm sure you won't," Lester said, immediately taking a liking to the boy. Glancing over at his daughter, he winked at Austin, smirking a bit and lowering his voice. "And I don't just mean work. Take care of her, alright?"
Austin blushed, understanding what he meant, but nodded anyway. He made his way back to Ally and hugged her again. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," he chanted.
"It's the least I could do," she replied, shrugging her shoulders. "It's my fault you lost your other job."
"Ally, I don't even mind that," he said, shaking his head and taking her hands in his. "This job is so much better, anyway - I'm surrounded by instruments. And the best part is - I get to be with you all the time." He lowered his voice a bit and bit his lip at the last part, looking away shyly. Ally blushed as well, but also grinned, leaning up to kiss his cheek gently.
Two weeks have gone by since the destruction of the pond, and Ally has finally gotten over it. She missed it of course, but, Austin had a plan for that. "Ally, would you please stop asking?" Austin chuckled, shaking his head. At the moment, he was holding a blindfolded Ally by the waist, gently guiding her through a grassy area. For the past ten minutes, she had been asking where they were headed, but it was a surprise.
Finally, they reached their destination, and Austin pulled the blindfold off the petite brunette, revealing a small body of water in the middle of a flowery field. "A pond," Ally exclaimed, running over to it.
Austin chuckled at her excitement. "I know it's not the mall pond," he said. "But, it's the next best thing. Plus, it's exactly a ten minute walk from both of our houses - right in the middle. I thought maybe we could come out here to meet sometimes, if we ever need to talk, or need peace, or just want to be with each other."
He blushed madly as he said this, but Ally just grinned, nodding. "That sounds great," she agreed, hugging him tightly.
"That's not all, though," he said, a mischievous glint in his eyes. Suddenly, a loud squawk sounded out, and Ally spun around to see Pickles the goose. She ran over and ran her hands over his feathers, nearly bursting with excitement.
"Austin, you're the best," she exclaimed, launching herself into his arms. "My dad was right, you are a keeper." As soon as the words left her mouth, she blushed, but smiled shyly up at him anyway.
"Oh?" Austin asked, raising an eyebrow. "And what exactly makes someone a 'keeper'?"
"Well," Ally said, now beaming. "You know when something's wrong with me, even if I don't. You always spend time with me, and help me whenever you can. You let me rant to you, or pour my heart out when I need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. You risk so many things just to see me happy, and you make me feel like I'm important."
"That's because you are," Austin whispered, leaning his forehead against hers.
"And, you've become one of my best friends," Ally rambled. "But, I was thinking that maybe - uh, maybe we could - be more, or-"
Austin saved her from the awkward statement by pressing his lips to hers. And they shared their first kiss, though there were many to come - because after all, he is a keeper.
(A/N - well, I'm not completely sure how I feel about it, but I kind of like it, and I wrote it during my free period at school today, so... I hope you enjoyed it. [: Please let me know!)