Oxygen and Potassium, an encore

I do not own Austin and Ally. I was asked about doing a follow up, so here it is, as requested. Please enjoy and review.

He can't hear the conversation over the sounds of his own breath. His frame isn't the only thing thinning. His patience is, overtime.

Cloud nine needs a change in weather.

"So you'll help me?" Dez asks, watching his friend drown half a bottle of water.

"Of course."

He finds out later that he's agreed to a double date that night. They're going to an Italian restaurant, and he knows that his girlfriend is going to make him pay for it in the morning, like last night's pizza binge, but he's his best friend. He has to help him out.

Even if it means sitting through a triple date with Ally and Patrick, because he had asked her to, just in case they didn't show up.

The tables are shoved together. So are their elbows.

Can big men make small talk?

The conversation has an awkward flow, and he asks Dez to scoot out so he can go to the bathroom. He makes a beeline for the door.

Fresh air hits his nostrils, and he tries to relax. This shouldn't be weird. Being friends with your friend's boyfriend is a completely normal thing to do.

Frenemies is more like it. Patrick is a nice guy and all, but he has the girl. The one who is still in the restaurant, laughing at his jokes over a plate of fettuccine. The one who is sitting next to his girlfriend, who is laughing just as hard, seemingly unphased by the absence of her boyfriend. It's been five minutes. Hasn't anyone thought to check on him?

He cuts behind a waiter and arrives back at the table. Taking his seat, he spears his ravioli.

"You missed it," Ally informs him. "Patrick said the funniest thing."

They retell it for him, and he surrenders a smile. He keeps it plastered on for another twenty minutes, and when the waitress circles around asking about dessert, he shakes his head.

"I have to get going to finish that song for tomorrow." Taking out his wallet, he pulls free a bill. "Ready?"

"I can help with that," Ally offers, grabbing for her purse.

"You don't have to. It's fine." He places the salt shaker on top of the money to keep it from flying off the table.

His girlfriend pushes her seat back. "I can take you home if you want to stay. Austin can take Ally. It'll be a date swap."

That's not even funny.

She says yes.

On the walk home, his hand bumps Ally's. This wouldn't have happened if he had been driving, with his fingers wrapped around the wheel, not hers.

'Let's walk to the restaurant, rev our metabolisms.'
Why does he have to be dating a fitness freak?

She lets her hand linger next to his. Not intertwined, not fleeing. Touching.

Touching like when they're seated at the piano, and his hand accidentally glides over hers, like old times.

His thumb sinks into the key, disturbing the moment.

"It's late. I should get some sleep, or I'm not going to be able to jog in the morning."

"Are you sure?" Her doe eyes make him want to backtrack, stay that extra time, even if he falls asleep on the cement in the morning.

Heck, if he could backtrack, he'd go to that princess party, convince her not to move on.

He sure hasn't.

(the heart breaks here)

Austin convinces her to run on the other side of the street. A different view he promised her.

If she knew that he was only trying to run into Ally, she didn't say anything.

When he realizes that she too has swapped sides, for reasons unknown, he frowns. Hands on knees, he rests for a moment. Maybe this is fate's way of making him keep his distance. There's still this road between them, and chickens only cross roads in child jokes.

This is no joke. This is him stuck, because he's mentally snapped. This is her jogging back to him when he doesn't respond to her cries to speed up.

This is her, getting tackled by a dog.

"Ringo!" Patrick waits for a car, runs across.

Ally, abandoned, double checks for traffic and runs after him.

Hey, now they're on the same side of the road. Is that fate too, monkeying with him like he's a toy?

Screw fate. He's taking charge.

"I caught your little runaway," she says, handing him the leash.

"Thank you." He wraps her in a hug, and it lasts way too long. "She must have recognized you from last night."

"Last night?" Ally asks. She hadn't considered what had happened after they left the restaurant. She had assumed that they'd finished the meal and he dropped her home, end of story.

"We went to my house so she could see my new gaming system. This girl can play!"

"Psh," she blushes. Rubbing Ringo's head, she eggs him on. "I'm so going to beat you in our rematch tonight though."

If his girlfriend can hang out with her boyfriend, no strings attached, he can hang out with Ally without feeling guilty, right?

He's going to say right, even if he's wrong.

(the heart breaks here)

He sleeps through his alarm. Between finishing the new song, and the running, both on the streets and through the scenarios in his head while Jimmy listened to his new piece, he's exhausted. Grabbing a pair of shorts off the floor, he slips into them.

No new messages on his phone.

He runs out, heading in their usual direction. He spots Ally and Patrick across the street. There's a third body.

That's his girlfriend.

"What's going on?" he asks once he's made it across.

"You didn't show, so I asked Patrick if I could join his walk today." She doesn't ask if he wants to break off and run with her. She stays at his side, Ally lagging behind.

Ally does not look pleased.

He falls in step with her.

"They've been like this all morning." Her voice is laced with annoyance.

He swears he hears thunder, via cloud number nine.

Austin prays for rain.