"Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is growing up." ~ Unknown.

No quote has ever described my life more accurately than that one; because if a year ago you would have told me that I would end up where I am, I would have laughed in your face… probably cry, and attempt to make a joke, but fail miserably (as always). But, as much as I don't act like it, I don't regret any of my decisions. I've gained and I've lost, I've loved and I've hated, I've succeeded and I've failed, but most importantly: I've come and I've gone. I've faced my fears and gained new ones, too. Everything that I've said and done has changed my life – some for the better, and some for the worse, but still changed me, nonetheless. But as I lay here, staring up at the stars, I begin to doubt everything I believe in, and everything that I believed was good suddenly turned into regret, starting with Austin walking into Sonic Boom with Dez and his goddamn corndogs.

*3 Months Earlier*

I leaned against the counter, rolling my nails across its surface, staring at the clock on the wall. I watched the seconds tick by, sighing and running a hand through my hair before laying my elbow on the counter and resting my head in my hand. I continued to click my nails against the wooden surface and looked around the shop, empty. I rolled my eyes and looked back at the clock, starting to daydream.

I was lounging back in a red and white striped beach chair, songbook in my lap, a yellow dress ending at my thighs, sunglasses on my eyes, staring out at the crystal blue ocean while feeling the sun's rays beat against my exposed flesh – I was at peace with myself and the world. I pushed my sunglasses onto the top if my head and swung my legs over the chair, feeling the warm sand under my feet and squish between my toes. I looked down and smiled, moving my songbook into my bag, wondering how I had even gotten to this point; I used to hate beaches! But yet, here I am, lying on the beach, tanning.

I stood up from the chair and made my way towards the ocean, where Austin was trying to teach Dez how to surf. I laughed aloud as Dez fell off of his board and Austin made his way back to shore. I moved my gaze back to Dez, who was struggling to get back onto his board, his face twisting in effort as he clutched the board with both hands. I laughed again, but scanned my eyes over the shore, looking for Austin – he promised to teach me how to surf today. I spotted him, running his hand through his sopping wet hair, getting it out of his face. He held his surfboard under his right arm as he made his way out of the water. I smiled and opened my mouth to call to him, but someone had already beaten me to it.

Kira.

I stopped dead in my tracks, watching as Austins eyes lit up and he dropped his surfboard onto the sand, opening his arms to catch Kira, who was running straight at him. She jumped into his arms, wrapping her arms around his neck while his wrapped around her waist, picking her up off of the ground and kissing her.

I sighed and turned around to walk back to my chair – it's not that I was jealous of her or anything like that; I was really happy that Austin was so happy! But lately, they've spent practically all of their time together, and this was supposed to be mine and his day… not 'lets-make-Ally-an-awkward-third-wheel' day.

"Ally, Ally, Ally, Ally, Ally, Ally, Ally!"

I snapped out of my thoughts and jerked my head up, to see Austin, bouncing up and down on his heels slightly, a huge goofy grin on his face.

Huh, I didn't even hear the bell ding.

"Austin, what are you so giddy about?" I laughed, getting off of the counter.

"Look!" He practically screamed at me while he fished into his pocket for his phone. He pulled it out of his pocket, pressed a few buttons, and pushed it in my face. I laughed and grabbed his wrist, pushing it out of my face slightly, waiting for my eyes to adjust as the words on the screen came into focus.

Jimmy Starr:

Hey, Austin. Just wanted you to know that I just got off the phone with my boss, who confirmed… drum roll… your 16 week world tour! 4 months, 32 countries, 3 continents, one million screaming fans. Bring whoever you want; I'll pick you up Thursday at 7AM sharp. Be ready, and be LOUD.

My jaw dropped along with the hand that was holding Austin's wrist and a goofy grin matching his spread across my face.

"No."

"Yes!"

"Austin that's amazing!" I leaned over the counter and threw my arms around his neck, burying my face in his neck. He wrapped his arms around me just as tightly. "I'm so proud of you." I mumbled against his neck.

"Hey, Al, I couldn't have done it without you," He said, pulling away from the hug slightly, but still holding his hands on my waist.

"Eh, probably not." I laughed.

"I want you to come with me." His smile stayed plastered on his face, but his eyes stared into mine with a seriousness that I didn't know he possessed.

"What?"

"You heard me."

"Austin I don't… I mean… Just, like…" I stumbled over my words, trying not to look at Austin because the look he was giving me made it nearly impossible to say no.

"Please?" he asked softly.

I sighed, and then smiled. "Help me pack?"

"Allyson Marie Dawson you are the absolute best!" He grinned and pulled me back into the hug by my waist, which I returned gladly, laughing.

"I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I fucking love you." Austin barely took a breath between each word, slurring them all together as he released his grip on my waist.

I just smiled back at him, "I love you too, Aus."

Thursday morning rolled around and I was beyond excited. My alarm woke me up at 5:30 (not that I had gotten much sleep the night before, anyways) and I jumped out of bed. I looked to my floor to see Trish, still fast asleep. I rolled my eyes and made my way towards the bathroom to shower, not even bothering to attempt to wake her up; that girl could sleep through a bear attack.

I closed the bathroom door behind me before sliding the shower door open and turning the water on. I grabbed a towel from the closet and put it on the sink, then turned around and stripped from my pajamas, stepping into the shower.

I knew that I had over an hour until Austin and Dez got here, so I took my time in the shower. I stood under the steady stream of warm water with my head down, watching the water drops drip off of the ends of my hair. I put my hands on the wall in front of me and closed my eyes.

"You looked so happy when I saw you with her, and I'm so glad I knew you before you met her; so I know how guys are before they get her"

My eyes snapped open and I jerked my head up, turning away from the stream of water and grabbed the shampoo.

It was no secret that I hate… really don't like Kira; but the lyrics about Austin that I just thought up were irrational and uncalled for. He's my best friend – nothing more, nothing less. And the fact that we were going on a 16-week tour without Kira? That was just a bonus.

I washed the shampoo out of my hair and finished showering, realizing that this was the first shower I'd ever taken without singing. But, then again, I had a lot on my mind. Hell, I still have a lot on my mind.

I turned the water off and grabbed the towel off of the sink, drying myself off and wrapping my hair in the towel, slipping my robe over myself, feeling the softness and warmth from it instantly. I used my sleeve to wipe off the vapor from the mirror before grabbing my toothbrush and toothpaste from behind the mirror. I finished brushing my teeth and rinsed out the sink, running my tongue along my top teeth at the same time. Turning around, I opened the door and turned off the light, walking back into my room.

"Trish, wake u-" I started, walking into my room until I saw her sitting on my bed, fully dressed and brushing her hair, talking on the phone. She held a finger up at me, signaling to wait a minute. I rolled my eyes and rubbed the towel over my hair before removing it and walking over to my dresser, tossing it into my hamper on the way.

"Yes mom... Okay, I love you too. Bye!" Trish said, smiling into the phone as she ended the call with her mom and looked up at me. "Good morning, sunshine!"

"What are you doing awake?" I laughed, grabbing my brush and running it through my hair a few times, de-tangling the knots that had formed from the shower.

"I'm too excited to sleep," She remarked nonchalantly, tossing her hair over her shoulder and crossing her legs. "When do Austin and Dez get here?"

I glanced over at my alarm clock, 6:15. "They'll be here in like fifteen minutes, Trish." I laughed slightly, turning around and facing my vanity mirror, beginning to French braid my hair while it was still wet. Screw blow-drying it, I had a plane to catch. The thought of going on tour made me grin from ear to ear, which Trish noticed, because she started laughing at me.

"Ally, stop grinning like an idiot. Seriously. It'll give you smile lines – and when you're forty, they're not pretty, let me tell you." She was completely serious, which just made my grin even bigger as I finished the braid and tied it at the end with a small white elastic.

I rubbed my hands over my face, looking at myself in the mirror and debating on wearing makeup, but a knock on the door made my decision for me.

"It's open!" I called.

My door creaked open, and looking in the mirror I saw my dad poke his head into my room, a sleepy smile on his face. "Austin and his friends are here, and breakfast is ready, sweetheart."

"Okay, thanks, dad. We'll be right down." I smiled, turning around to look at him as he shut the door.

"You might wanna put some clothes on first, dear." Trish piped up from her sitting position on my bed, which made me look down and realize that I still had my robe on.

"Oh… right." I raised my arm and pointed to her in embarrassment, walking over to my closet and opening the doors, scanning my eyes over the assortment of dresses, jackets, shorts and tops that I had hanging up. I pinched the bridge of my nose before reaching in and grabbing a plain pair of black high- waisted shorts and a green and white striped tee shirt. I slid on my shorts underneath my robe before un-tying it and slipping the shirt on over my head and tugging it over my plain white bra, tucking it into my shorts.

"How do I look?" I asked, turning back towards Trish, putting my hands on my hips and glancing down at myself.

"Comfy. Can we go eat now?" She whined, standing up off of the bed, grabbing her bag with her and slinging it over her shoulder.

"Yes, we can go eat now." I laughed, grabbing tan gladiator sandals and sliding them on, then walking over to the door and opened it, Trish following right behind me.

"I smell pancakes!" Trish exclaimed, perking up and rushing past me down the hallway and running down the stairs. "Austin save some for the fishes!" She gasped, reaching the bottom of the stairs.

I rolled my eyes, making my way down the stairs and walking into the kitchen, seeing the back of the head of a redhead with his head down on the table, laying on his arms, breathing slowly and steadily, and a blonde mop-top with a grey beanie thrown on his head, a red and blue flannel hanging loosely on him, his head bent but moving, sighing with content every now and then. Dez and Austin.

I grinned and slowly crept up behind Austin and wrapped my arms around his waist, squeezing tightly, making him cough on his bite of pancake, then laughing and pulling my arms away from around his waist, turning around in his chair, before letting go of my arms and hugging me back.

I pulled away from the embrace, "Good morning!" I smiled, turning to Dez and slapping him on the arm, to which he startled awake, sleepily smiling at me and loosely waving his hand in the air before flopping back down onto the countertop and drifting back to sleep.

"These pancakes are delicious." Trish mumbled from the other side of the counter top, her mouth stuffed with pancake bits, causing both Austin and I to look at her and laugh.

"As always!" Austin remarked, grabbing his plate and standing up, walking over to the sink and dropping the plate into the soapy water with a small 'splash'. "Anyways," He pulled his phone out of his pocket and smiled. "Jimmy should be here any minute. Al, do you need help with your bags?" He asked, walking towards the stairs, facing me.

"Sure, Austin thanks." I smiled, following him up the stairs to my room, where the door was already open and my bags were laying next to my bed. Austin grabbed the larger bag and I grabbed my carry-on backpack and walked out of my room, Austin following behind me, bag slung over his shoulder. We walked down the stairs and just as Austin set my bag down next to Trish's, Dez's, and his, the doorbell rang.

Austin was the first one to reach the door, and he flung it open, to reveal Jimmy standing at the door in a business suit, his phone pressed against his ear and a small smile on his face. He quickly ended his call and stuffed his phone into his pants pocket, acknowledging Austin standing there and he stepped inside the house, Austin closing the door behind him.

"There's my favorite superstar! You all ready to go?"

"Yes sir!" Austin grinned, "Dez, Trish! Let's go!" He yelled behind him, as Dez and Trish stumbled out of the kitchen, Dez tripping over his own two feet and Trish laughing at him.

"Oh! Before I forget, Austin," Jimmy started, making all of us look back at him. "I have a little surprise for you." A sly smile appeared on his face as he grabbed the door handle, turning it open, then yelling "Bring in the surprise!" Then stepping away from the door, as the sound of a car door slamming shut and footsteps pounding against the pavement in a run filled the silence. Then a familiar brown haired, tan beauty poked her head in the door, giggling out, "surprise."

"Kira?" Austin gasped out, taken aback before grinning as she walked into his arms, hugging him tightly.

"Daddy said I can go with you guys!" She laughed, her face buried into his neck.

"Thank you Daddy Starr!" Austin laughed out loud, looking at Jimmy.

"Hey, I'm still your manager, superstar." Jimmy remarked with a straight face, eyeing Austin. "And I expect you to behave." Saying that, he smiled. "Okay, now, are we all ready to go?"

"Yes we are!" I clapped my hands together, slinging my bag onto my back, clutching the straps tightly.

"Perfect! Then let's go." Jimmy walked out of the front door, snapping his fingers as 2 large men rushed into the house, grabbing our bags and then walked out after Jimmy. I looked at Trish and laughed, shrugging my shoulders as we followed suit out the door.

"Man, your life is just like… awesome sauce!" Dez yelped excitedly from behind us, clearly talking to Austin.

"Hell yeah it is." Austin laughed right back, his voice right behind me.

"Oh, Aus! Daddy got us a private jet, did I tell you?" Kira giggled from behind me.

"Only four million times, Kira." Austin laughed it off, but his tone of voice sounded extremely annoyed and that made me smile.

I slid into the limo and Trish followed me, sitting directly to my right. Dez followed her, then Austin and Kira, and finally, Jimmy. The driver shut the door behind Jimmy and soon enough, the limo was moving forward. I smiled and looked at Trish, whose smile matched my own.

"Alright guys, it's about a 15 minute ride down to the airport, where we'll be joined by the band, then we'll board the jet and it's about a 16 hour flight down to Sydney, Australia. But, with some arrangements, we should be there in about…" he looked down at his watch. "12 hours, tops."

"Sydney's our first stop?" Austin asked, dumbfoundedly grinning.

"Yes it is."

"But I hate kangaroos!" Dez whined, slumping in his seat and folding his arms angrily across his chest, which made us all laugh, remembering the time he ordered a Kangaroo and it beat the shit out of him in front of the entire mall.

"Sucks to suck." Trish laughed, elbowing him in the side, making us all laugh harder.

"I don't get it." Kira said, confused and twirling her hair around her finger.

"It's an inside joke." I remarked, still slightly laughing.

"Oh." She remarked, rolling her eyes at me.

I bit my lip so hard to keep from saying anything that I swore I was going to bite a hole right through it, and I started bouncing my leg to distract myself. Trish noticed my frustration and put her hand on my shoulder, leaning in and whispering in my ear. "Maybe there'll be an accident where she 'mysteriously' disappears in the outback of Australia, never to be seen again." She winked at me, which made me laugh.

Before I knew it, I was climbing out of the limo and staring at a jet plane. I had never seen one up close and personal before, and it was huge. My jaw practically dropped, still staring at the jet in front of me, while everyone around me hurried about; either boarding the plane, or packing luggage away inside the cargo hold.

Apparently I had been staring in awe for a while, because I felt a hand on my shoulder and I jumped out of my thoughts, turning to look at Austin, his hand still on my shoulder. "You okay?" He asked, genuine concern in his voice, a worried gleam in his eyes.

"I'm fine Austin. I've just never been on a plane before… let alone a big ass jet plane." I laughed lightly, grabbing my left arm with my right hand and shifting nervously on my feet.

"Al, you have nothing to worry about. Jimmy said this pilot has flown practically everyone in the industry, and that this company has top –notch safety records."

"I'm not worried! I'm just… scared." I replied sheepishly.

"Al, like I said, you have nothing to be worried about. Besides, I'll be by your side the whole time." He smiled down at me and moved his hand from my left shoulder to wrap his arm around me.

I laughed out loud, "Well don't lie to me, Aus." I gently pushed him away from me.

"I'm not lying!" He put his hands up in defense.

"You're gonna sit by Kira, I'm not that dumb."

"Once we're up in the air, yes, but she's been on thousands of plane rides – she doesn't need me to sit by her for takeoff. But you do. So I pick you." He smiled. "Now, can we actually get on the plane so they don't leave without us?"

I smiled back at him. "Thank you, Austin." I quickly threw my arms around his neck, giving him a quick hug before pulling away and tugging my bag against my back. "Let's go."

He grinned and threw his fist into the air, "Success!"

I just laughed at him and started walking into the plane.

We got settled down in our seats, Austin giving me a window seat (after much arguing), as the pilot announced for us to buckle our seat belts because we would be taking off shortly. A chill ran down my spine and I realized I was cold, so I grabbed my bag from the floor and opened it, pulling out a black sweatshirt with white and grey plaid along the collar, and slid it onto my shoulders, even though it was huge on me, I smiled at the instant warmth. I cracked my neck and sighed, before glancing over at Austin who was just staring at me, smiling.

"What?"

"That's mine."

"This?" I gestured to the sweatshirt. "I know. Do you want it back?" I asked, beginning to slide it off my shoulders before Austin put his hands up.

"No! Keep it, Al. It looks better on you, anyways." He smiled, settling back into his seat.

"I bet I look drop - dead gorgeous in it, right?" I smirked, tossing my braid over my shoulder and giving him a pouty lip.

"Oh, of course Ally." He laughed, turning his head towards me and laughing. "What all-nighter is that one from?"

"The first one." I smiled.

"You mean, before I went on the Helen show?"

"That's the one!" I laughed, remembering how I had trashed the Helen show set because of my stage fright. But that was the day that Austin and I wrote our first song together, and the next day, became partners and friends.

I felt the plane begin moving and I gripped the arm rests tightly, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. This is it.

"Ally." I heard Austin say my name softly, and I opened one eye to look at him, and he held out his hand for me. I smiled and grabbed it, locking our fingers and squeezing his hand tightly as the plane picked up speed. I felt myself falling back slightly and I held in the small squeal I felt in my throat, gripping Austins hand tighter and he squeezed my hand back, leaning over to me.

"If you keep squeezing my hand that hard, you're gonna break it, Al." He laughed, whispering into my ear.

"Sorry." I mumbled back, loosening my grip, almost completely letting go of his hand, before he grabbed it again tightly.

"I never said I wasn't okay with a broken hand."

I looked back over to him and smiled as he ran his thumb over the back of my hand. I sighed and let my head fall back against my seat, closing my eyes again.

"Ally."

"Yes, Austin?"

"You're flying."

My eyes shot open and I nearly jumped out of my seat, staring at Austin.

He laughed, "Look out the window."

I turned my head to look out the small window, to see nothing but crystal clear blue ocean underneath us and white, puffy clouds and blue sky surrounding us. "This is amazing."

"I know it is. I told you that you had nothing to worry about." He laughed from beside me.

"Thank you, Austin." I smiled, looking back at him.

"You can go back to sleep, Al."

"I was sleeping?"

"Yep, you sure were. Cuddling my hoodie and everything." He laughed, winking at me before getting out of his seat and walking towards the back of the plane. I rolled my eyes and pulled my knees up to my chest, bending my arm behind my head and laying my head against it, staring out the window, a smile on my face. I let my mind wander through memories, song lyrics, movies, jokes, the future, everything. And I closed my eyes, smiling, before popping them open again and reaching frantically for my bag with my song book in it, quickly opening to a blank page and scribbling down some lyrics.

I've got it down, you showed me again; just so you know. Don't push me around, I know you resent that I'm alone. Pity and mercy do nothing for me; you know me better than anyone.

I smiled with content, closing my book and putting it back in my bag and dropping my bag on the ground next to my feet, before turning my head and looking out the window - but the sky was different.

The sky wasn't clear blue, and the clouds weren't pure white and puffy - the sky was... grey. The clouds weren't visible, and the grey just kept getting thicker and blacker and the seconds ticked by. I scrunched my eyes in confusion, turning my head to ask someone a question, but before I could, the plane jerked forward and I bashed my head against the portable t.v. attached to the back of the seat in front of me. My head got fuzzy and my vision was blurry, my ears ringing. I tried to maintain my composure, but all I could register was someone yelling to fasten our seat belts and prepare for an emergency landing, along with someone screaming, 'Oh my god.' over and over again.

I put my head in my hands and went to click my seat belt together, but the plane jerked again, my head slamming into the seat in front of me once again, and before I blacked out, I head a loud 'crash' and saw the back of the plane completely separate from the rest of the plane, spiraling down toward whatever was below us at this point, and all I could think was,

Holy shit, the plane's crashing. And I'm going to die.

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