A/N: Hey, everyone. So, technically this isn't my first A&A piece, since I deleted a multi-chap-in-progress that I lost all motivation to finish a while back. But I definitely intend to update this one frequently. I got the idea for this fic based on some leaked stills and clips of episodes to come. It's basically my guess as to what's going to happen in the Auslly arc this season, and some of these scenes come straight out of the leaked footage with very, very minor tweaks from me, so…

*This fic contains spoilers for Season 3.*

Disclaimer: I do not and never will own Austin & Ally. I also do not own most of the story line of this chapter because the basis is what I extrapolated from footage leaked from "Hunks and Homecoming."

A couple weeks ago, Ronnie Ramone had stopped by at Sonic Boom and asked Ally to clear up her schedule and make room for songwriting sessions with some new artist he wanted her to collaborate with.

The new artist was a guy by the name of Gavin…something or another. Austin hadn't bothered to learn his surname, seeing as the guy was presenting himself as some kind of easygoing "everybody's best friend" type of guy. At least he seemed to be, judging from the interviews that Team Austin had pulled up on the internet when they investigated him. (Ostensibly, it was to make sure that Ally wouldn't be working with a serial killer, though Austin couldn't deny hoping this new guy would be unattractive and dumb and totally not Ally's type. Or, barring that, at least tone-deaf and badly in need of Auto-Tune and only famous because he was mildly attractive. That would work, too.)

Austin remembered thinking, "Is this guy for real?" at one particular interview, in which Gavin had told Grace from EntertainMe Tonight that he believed in soul mates and true love and had never dated anyone before because he was saving his first kiss for "the One."

And when asked who his celebrity crush was, he had replied without hesitation, "Ally Dawson."

The reveal had hit Austin like a cannonball in the gut.

Of course. Ally's career had started almost a year ago. And she was gorgeous and smart and amazingly talented and pretty much the definition of perfect. Of course guys were going to notice. But that didn't mean Austin didn't feel he still had dibs on her. And it certainly didn't mean he would be okay with random guys ogling the girl he'd been so sure he would win back some day.

To make matters worse, Gavin's looks were certainly not unattractive. Ally had run into him once or twice at Ronnie's studio, and she had admitted that he was cute and seemed nice. And Trish, Dez, and even Carrie had agreed that Gavin was a "total hunk." It was like, in hoping for the worst to not be the case, Austin had somehow willed it into being. All he needed now was for Gavin to have an amazing voice, and then Austin could kiss Ally and their relationship goodbye. (Or not, seeing as she would probably be too busy making out with Gavin, and it's not cool to kiss someone else's girlfriend, even if the kiss is meant as a promise to never kiss her again.)

Austin had spent a week tossing and turning in bed at night, trying to work up the nerve to ask Ally out again. If he won her back, then she wouldn't be swayed by Gavin's silly romanticism, right?

Unfortunately, this was Ally, and no declaration of his unwavering feelings would do her justice. Serenading her wouldn't work either because he only had a week before Ally would start working with Gavin, which translated to only a week to write an awesometacular love song to sweep her off her feet. Austin's songs—that is, ones he wrote on his own—tended to be hit-or-miss, and he was very reluctant to take that risk. It would create a potentially very awkward situation if the song turned out terrible and Ally didn't have feelings for him anymore.

And if he had to hear her give him the "we can't be together because it'll get in the way of our careers" speech one more time

So in the end, Austin's sleepless week of worrying and brainstorming came up empty.

A week after Ronnie's announcement, Gavin showed up at Sonic Boom to start his collaboration with Ally.

He'd brought a large bouquet of flowers.

Austin had been sitting on the counter, waiting for Ally to finish her shift so that they could continue working on some songs he had in mind. He waited for Ally to go into professional mode and turn down the flowers with a "Sorry, I don't date guys I work with" and then dismiss Gavin with a "Sorry, this time every week is the only time I'm not too busy, and it's the only time I have for songwriting sessions with Austin."

Instead, Ally exclaimed, "Iris and freesia, my favorites! Thank you, Gavin, you're so sweet! Here, let me just put them in water, and then we can get started. Austin, can you lock up the cash register and close the store on your way out?"


Left with little choice, he forced a smile and a hello at Gavin, did as Ally had requested, and dragged his feet over to Shredder's Beach Club.

Trish's expression had immediately transformed into one of guilt when she saw him. "Crap, I'm sorry, Austin. Ally had to cancel four of your songwriting sessions to make room for Gavin, but she was afraid you'd take it badly. I was supposed to be the one to tell you yesterday at school, but I completely forgot, and then I slept in this morning and had to come straight to work because of this stupid promotion…"

"Trish, Trish, it's fine! You slipped up. We all do that sometimes."

She bit her lip. "Sorry again. There is a little bit of good news though."

Austin's ears perked at that. "And what's that?" He sure could use some good news after the past week of worry and stress and steadily declining hope.

"Ally's only going to be working with Gavin for a month—that's once a week. So you'll only be missing three more songwriting sessions before you should be back to normal."

One month? A whole month? Since when did it take an entire month to write a song? Austin couldn't even count on both hands the number of songs he and Ally had only spent a day or two (heck, even just a night) to write. Did Ally and Gavin purposely request that Ronnie give them an entire month to write their crummy song so that they could spend the majority of their time not actually working on said song? (Cue all the creepy-crawly little green-eyed monsters.)

Holy heck, what if Ally decided she liked working with Gavin much more than working with Austin and moved on to be Gavin's full-time songwriter?

"Oh" was all he said. So much for good news. He was pretty sure it ranked somewhere between "Ally canceled five of your songwriting sessions to spend time with Gavin" and "Ally and Gavin are engaged." Right up there with "You will never date Ally again because you're going to be music partners forever. Even though you never work together anymore anyway."

Trish seemed to sense his disappointment. "Look, I'm really sorry. If it helps, I could ask Ally to shorten her appointments with Gavin and squeeze in fifteen minutes for you."

"Thanks, Trish, but shouldn't I be the one to ask her? I mean, it is Austin-and-Ally time she's canceling on."

"In theory, yes," Dez interjected, sauntering up to them with his arm around Carrie. "But Trish owes you this one. Besides, buddy, you look like you just got hit by a bus and then dragged around Miami by your ankles behind a vicuña."

And that was how, a week afterwards, Austin found himself third-wheeling with Ally and Gavin in Sonic Boom, relegated to the benches by the door while the pair of Ramone Records artists sat practically glued to each other at the piano, trying to write a chorus.

"So I was thinking we could fit those two lines like this." Gavin played a few chords and sang, "Stuck on you, oo-ooh, always got each other's backs, we do…"

Darn it. He had a good voice, too. What was this guy—some dashing, cardboard-cutout-perfect prince straight out of a Disney princess movie?

Ally made a few notes in her songbook. "But then what about the 'so glad I got a guy like you' part? I kind of wanted to put that with 'always got each other's backs, we do' because the meters match so well."

"Hey, you're the expert. We'll go with whatever you want."

Were they writing a love song? Did Gavin just tuck a strand of Ally's hair behind her ear and tell her she's really pretty? Did Ally just blush and giggle? Austin scowled.

Did their hands just touch over the keys?

Austin's eyes widened. Was Gavin leaning in? Was Ally letting him?

Before he knew what he was doing, he had clamped a hand on their shoulders and planted himself on the bench between them. "Hi Ally, hi Gavin!"

Gavin looked surprised but sent him a friendly smile nonetheless. "Hey, Austin. What are you doing here?"

"Well," Austin replied, slinging an arm around Ally and ignoring her glare, "Ally and I always write together."

She shrugged his arm off. "Austin, our rehearsal doesn't start for another ten minutes."

"Well, that's okay. Are you guys writing the chorus? Here, let me help you with that!" He proceeded to play a tune that had been stuck in his head for a while.

Ally's hands on his wrists stopped him. "Austin, Gavin and I already have the tune for the chorus figured out. We just need lyrics for it."

"Yeah, you know, I was listening to it just now, and it's a bit too slow and sappy. Why don't you speed it up, make it more fun and catchy? Like this—"

Gavin interrupted his playing this time. "Sorry, Austin, but that's not exactly what we had in mind."

Ally chimed in, "Yeah, we're not writing dance pop here. It's not Gavin's style. Sorry, Austin, but I think you'd be more helpful if you go over there and wait until we're done."

Well, that went well, Austin thought, fuming as he took a seat near the cymbal display in the corner of the store. You've managed to get rejected and get Ally mad at you all in the span of two minutes.

It was uncharacteristic of Ally to just brush him off like he was some kind of pesky mosquito, though. Ally was usually very careful not to hurt anyone's feelings. I must have really ticked her off when I interrupted that almost-kiss, he realized. In fact, it seemed as if Ally had really wanted to kiss Gavin—in the middle of doing her job, no less! Whatever happened to the Ally who'd repeatedly (but reluctantly) shut Austin down, for the sake of their partnership, whenever he even hinted at wanting to get back together?

A few minutes later, the entire cymbal display came crashing to the floor. It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that Gavin had been gushing along the lines of "Ally, you're so talented! I never would have come up with this one my own! How did I get so lucky?" every time Ally said anything, and the whole scene was just so sappy and wrong, and Austin was seeing red…


(The reverberation from the cymbals all over the floor might have messed with Austin's memory a little.)

"…And then Ally kicked me out of the store."

Trish and Dez burst out laughing but quickly stifled their giggles as Austin scowled at them over his untouched smoothie.

His manager wiped away a few stray tears. "Sorry, Austin. But come on, you have to admit that was funny. Legendary over-two-nights internet sensation Austin Moon knocking a bunch of cymbals off a display and then getting thrown out like a misbehaving puppy. I thought you'd outgrown that klutziness."

"Anyway, I don't think Ally letting me within a hundred feet of the store is going to be happening anytime soon." The fifteen minutes Ally had promised Austin hadn't happened either. After the cymbal incident, he'd wisely decided to keep his mouth shut and not remind her that she was supposed to spend more time with him once she wrapped up her session with Gavin. "So you can tell her that she doesn't have to make room for me after Gavin anymore."

"Aw, are you sure? You're her best friend, Austin. She wouldn't want you to feel awkward and out of place in Sonic Boom. It's practically your second home."

"Yeah, well, seeing as she's meeting with Gavin on Austin-and-Ally time and laughing at all his dumb jokes and writing his style of music, I feel like Ally's replacing me, in more than just one way, if you know what I mean."

Dez quirked an eyebrow. "So…you're saying you don't want to write anymore with Ally for the rest of the month…because you're uncomfortable watching Ally and Gavin flirt." He took his silence as confirmation. "Correct me if I'm wrong, buddy, but weren't you the one who told her it was time to move on and date other people? Like, literally seconds after she told you seeing you with Chelsea made her insanely jealous?"

Crap, he had a point. "Well, yes—but I…" Austin fumbled, playing with the straw in his smoothie, "I—I don't know."

"Don't you want Ally to be happy?"

"Of course!"

"Then why would you have a problem with her and Gavin? Austin, you and Ally agreed that not being together was for the best so long as you were music partners. You can't just tell her to stop being hung up on you and then get mad and want to keep her to yourself when other guys express interest in her."

"I know, guys. It's just that…I'd always hoped that Ally and I would eventually get back together again. I just wasn't ready to see her move on so soon."

The gleam in Dez's eye told Austin that his best friend was relishing his Dr. Cupid role. "Look, Austin. As Ally's best freckled friend, I'm all for her putting herself out there and meeting new guys because it really isn't fair for her to have to deprive herself of happiness waiting for you. It's like giving her a pickle and telling her she can put it in her mouth, but she can't swallow it.

"But, as your best friend and longtime Love Whisperer, I think you need to quit sitting on your feelings, or you're going to go insane. If you don't want her to go out with Gavin, then you need to tell her how you feel. Otherwise, you're just using her friendship as a consolation prize, and that's just dishonest and unfair to Ally."

Huh. "You're right, Dez. Ally can't possibly know I still have feelings for her unless I tell her… Now I just need to figure out how to work up the courage to do that. What if she doesn't like me anymore and dates Gavin anyway? Then our entire friendship would get awkward and weird, and then our partnership would be even worse than it was when we were actually a couple, and then we won't be Team Austin and Ally anymore…Why would I do that?"

Trish spoke up. "If it helps, Ally hasn't actually told me anything about Gavin. So there's a chance that they're just writing a love song because Ronnie thinks it would be a good marketing strategy to try and get Ally's fans to check out Gavin's music."

Right. And there was also a chance that zebras were real, and Ally still returned Austin's feelings.

Because large stadiums packed full of screaming fans still made Ally a little nervous, Ramone Records had decided to debut Gavin at a small gig in the Marino High School gymnasium, in front of an audience that mainly consisted of cheerleaders (including Dez and Chuck) and football players after the last game of the season.

Austin lingered by the exit as he waited for Ally and Gavin to return from doing their vocal warm-ups. He'd decided to put off telling Ally his feelings until after her collaboration with Gavin was over. Ally was busy all the time, and it wouldn't be fair to burden her with having to choose between him and Gavin while she was already worrying about school, and her career, and her collaboration, and Sonic Boom, and deciding between going to college and becoming a full-time recording artist…

His hand felt sweaty as it felt around in his pocket for a slightly crumpled notecard. The night before, he'd rehearsed several versions of the speech he was going to give Ally before finally deciding on a simple "Seeing you having so much fun working with Gavin made me realize that I still have feelings for you." (What? It was indisputably better than "You make me feel…feelings.")

Panic momentarily overcame Austin as he realized that the card wasn't there, before he remembered that he'd pitched the stupid thing into the trash this morning. What was the use of reciting a memorized speech? This was Ally, his quirky and adorable best friend, and she deserved something from the heart.

Ally's your best friend, he repeated to himself as he made his way over to the crowd before the small makeshift stage. You can talk to her about pretty much everything, so just be completely honest with her.

Next to him, Trish shot him a quizzical look and raised her eyebrows at Ally, who had appeared in the doorway with Gavin in tow. "I take it you're going to tell her after the gig? Good luck!"

He nodded in thanks and applauded along with everyone else as Ally and Gavin took the stage.

Gavin spoke into his mic, "Hey, y'all, thanks for having me. I just wanted to say, it's a real honor to be singing with this beautiful, talented young girl right here."

Austin rolled his eyes as Gavin shot Ally an openly admiring look, and the girls in the crowd collectively aww'd. Seriously, how cheesy could this guy get? And why did no one else object to how unprofessional he was being, flirting with his coworker?

Ally, however, just grinned coquettishly and replied, "Thanks, Gavin. This song is called 'Me and You.'"

Austin pushed all thoughts of his confession to the back of his mind. After all, it would probably be better if he actually paid attention to the performance. Would also probably serve as a better opening to the dreaded Conversation than just blurting, "AllyIstilllikeyou."

It seemed as if the two had taken his advice to speed up the song, make it catchier and more upbeat. Unfortunately, it only annoyed him that he'd helped make Ally's and Gavin's song better. And he had to admit that it was a good song.

But was it really necessary to keep dancing around each other and looking at each other like that the whole time? And did Gavin have to twirl Ally and then hold her like that? Austin felt the burger he'd had for lunch threaten to make a reappearance, and he was pretty sure it had less to do with the fact that in fewer than two minutes he would be handing his heart over to Ally and hoping for it not to splat, and more to do with the fact that Ally and Gavin were practically grinding!

Besides, duets were his and Ally's thing.

When the song ended, Austin wasn't sure whether to be relieved that he wouldn't have to bear witness to any more of Ally's and Gavin's gyrating or terrified that he would soon be suspending his heart over a pit of knives by a thread and handing Ally the scissors.

Why couldn't he just throw Gavin into the pit?

Because murder is illegal. Right.

He finally managed to get her alone when the crowd started to disperse, and the band was cleaning up, and Gavin was off getting congratulated by his new fans.

"Ally! You guys sounded awesome up there!"

(What? It was true. Technically. He hadn't said anything about the way they looked.)

Ally beamed. "Thanks, Austin! I'm glad you liked it. And, hey, there's something I wanted to tell you."

What was this—some weird kind of best-friend telepathy? "Me too!"

"You go first," they said at the same time. "No, you go first."

Austin scratched his neck nervously, and Ally laughed.

"Then I'll go first," she decided. She took a deep breath as Austin held his. "I just wanted you to know that I'm not going to be working with Gavin anymore."

Really? YES!

Oops, did he say that out loud? "Oh, uh, I mean…aw, why? I thought you guys worked so well together." Great recovery, dude.

Could it be that Ally had missed him, too, after an entire month of partnership hiatus? Maybe this whole "romance" between her and Gavin really was just a marketing strategy for Ronnie Ramone. Maybe the stars were aligning, and the universe was finally on Austin's side again!

"We do," Ally replied. "I just didn't want to complicate things."

"How would it complicate things?" Stupid question! Don't you remember how she couldn't even write with you because she barely had time to work with Gavin? Now tell the girl how you feel!

"Because Gavin and I shouldn't work together…if we're going to date."

THUD. What was that? Oh, nothing. Just his heart momentarily forgetting how to do its job. No biggie.

"Wait. You guys are dating?"

Ally shrugged, oblivious to his anguish. He really did deserve a Golden Globe for hiding it so well.

"He asked me out," she elaborated. "So…I'm going to go on a date with him."

Oh, man. I should have gone first…

He'd better get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for what he was going to say next, playing the part of the supportive best friend.

"That's…great! You guys will have fun," he finished lamely.

Ally's doe eyes held a mixture of shock and relief. "So you're good?!" Her grin widened, and she reached out for a hug.

That weird best-friend telepathy thing was back. Thanks for being such a great friend thank you thank you I love you, she seemed to be conveying through the gesture, and his heart simultaneously soared and plummeted because this was an Ally hug, but in a way it was also a goodbye hug.

As Ally skipped off to find Gavin, Trish, who had apparently witnessed the entire exchange, tentatively approached Austin's side.


"Don't tell me. I'm an idiot."

"Actually, I was just going to say that I'm proud of you. You put your own wants aside to make her happy."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better? She's dating Gavin now. If that's not bad enough, consider this: When can Ally possibly have time for dates? She can only find it by canceling on Austin-and-Ally time!"

The Latina sighed. "You really are an idiot. Didn't you see she was doing you a favor? You can either be her partner or be her boyfriend; you can't be both. She decided to put your career and your dreams first and date Gavin instead. Of course she's going to make time to write with you again! Besides, it's not like she's gonna be with him forever."

"How do you know that? Didn't you see the way she looked at him when she sang? Or how happy she was—" he noticed the new happy couple embracing on the other side of the gym "—is?"

Trish rolled her eyes. "Didn't you hear those song lyrics? 'Always got each other's backs'? 'Stuck on you'? 'It's okay to be me next to you'? 'Always got a friend in me, that's the way it's gotta be'? She was writing about you! Even if she didn't know it at the time, she'll figure it out someday."

"You're only saying that to make me feel better, but thanks for trying, Trish."

Besides, once Austin swallowed his pride and jealousy, he had to admit that Gavin was good for Ally. She loved all things girly and romantic, and he was exactly what she needed. Someone who could unabashedly tell her she was gorgeous and amazing and perfect. Someone who could come up with cute nicknames that weren't "goosepickle" or "Ally I-don't-know-your-middle-name Dawson."

Maybe it was for the better. Austin had heard somewhere that people often confuse the source of their happiness, believing that happiness results from getting something you want when in reality, happiness is the absence of desire. People get new cars or new houses or new smartphones or new relationships and feel happy when those desires are met, but it's always a matter of time before another desire comes along, and so they continue to chase these desires for temporary happiness… Maybe it was time to let Ally go, return to appreciating just how lucky he was to be her friend.

Maybe Austin would finally be happy once he stopped wishing their friendship were something more.

A/N: Please let me know what you think. I know this first chapter may be a little depressing, but rest assured that this fic will end the way you want it to…depending on whose side you're on. ;)