Ally isn't sure why he hates her; all she knows is that he does. And so, by default, she hates him too. She did nothing to make him hate her, yet he hasn't been nice to her since they met freshman year of high school. Now they're seniors, and at this point, she's pretty sure he's only a jerk to her out of spite or too much pride to admit that he had no reason to hate her in the first place.

Still, for two people who hate each other, they sure do spend a lot of time together. Her best friend is close with his best friend, which means they go out together in a group pretty often. Plus, he's in a lot of her classes, despite the fact that he doesn't really have the grades to belong in the AP program. And the cherry on top of the cake? They're neighbors.

That's actually how they met. His family moved in next to them a week before freshman year, and they hosted a housewarming party and invited everyone on their street. Her parents insisted that she try to make friends with him because they had already met his parents and were becoming friends. She probably would have anyway, since he was the only person there her age, but they actually did spend the whole party together.

After that, though, something changed. The next time she saw him was at school, and when she went up to talk to him and offer to show him around, he rolled his eyes and brushed her off. Ever since then, he's hated her for no reason and she's hated him because of it.

"Austin Moon!" the girl he's talking to exclaims playfully, smacking his shoulder while he smirks and leans against his locker.

Did she mention their lockers are right next to each other?

He leans forward and says something she can't hear, but whatever it is makes the girl smile, wave, and walk away. Ally pretends not to feel his judgmental eyes on her.

"Got something you wanna say, Dawson?" he asks her.

"Not to you," she says, closing her locker and starting to walk away.

"Hey, dumbass," he calls after her. "You know you dropped your phone, right? And Mom's calling!"

She turns, eyes wide, and rushes back over to him to try to get her phone back, but he answers it and turns so she can't reach it.

"Hello? Oh, hey, Penny!" he says cheerily into the phone. She reaches around him to try to grab the phone out of his hand, but he simply turns again so it's just out of her reach.

"Give it back—" she says.

"Ally? No, she's not here. I found her phone just laying on the ground. I didn't realize she could be so irresponsible," he says.

"Mom, that's not true!" she tries to yell into the phone, but he turns away from her again.

"Yeah, of course I'll give it to her…Oh, you're welcome…Okay, I'll tell her…Buh-bye." He hangs up the phone and she snatches it out of his hand.

"What the hell?" she says, immediately calling her mom back. "You're such a child, Austin."

"Sticks and stones, Dawson," he says with a mock pout, placing his hand over his heart and then walking away.

"Hello?" her mom says on the other end of the line.

"Mom!" Ally exclaims. "I'm so sorry about that. Austin took my phone, and—"

"So that was you shouting in the background," her mom laughs.

"Yes, it was."

"Well, aren't you and Austin just the best of friends?"

"Mom, no matter how many times you say it, he and I will never be friends," Ally says tiredly.

"I'm just speaking it into existence, dear. You two really should just work out your differences. Do you even know why you don't like him?"

"Because he doesn't like me."

"Besides that."

"He thinks I did something worth hating me over, when I didn't do anything to him. That's reason enough for me," Ally says.

Her mother sighs. "I just wish you two could be friends. Anyway, I called because I just remembered it: I wanted to remind you that we're decorating the Christmas tree tonight, so make sure you plan accordingly with your homework."

"Oh, I forgot about that," Ally says. It's two weeks before Christmas exactly, and come hell or high water, it's a Dawson tradition to decorate their tree on December eleventh. "I will," she adds.

"And the Moons are coming over for dinner."

Ally sighs, bringing a hand to her forehead. "Of course, they are," she mutters. "All of them?"

"According to Mimi, yes."

"Okay. Thanks for the heads up. I gotta get to lunch now, so I'll see you at home. Love you, bye."

She hangs up, takes a deep breath, and then walks to the cafeteria and sits down silently next to her best friend, Trish. Trish doesn't even seem to notice she's there, though, because she's busy bickering with Austin.

"Waffles are way better than pancakes!" she exclaims. "Even Dez will agree with me. Right, Dez?" she asks, looking at Austin's best friend expectantly.

"Uh, yeah, totally," Dez says, clearly uncertain about the whole thing.

"Dez, are you kidding me?" Austin asks.

"She'll hurt me if I disagree," Dez reminds him, which Ally knows is half-true. Trish tends to overreact when it comes to Dez.

"And Ally agrees, too," Trish adds.

"Well, she'll say anything to disagree with me, so it doesn't count," Austin argues.

"No, waffles are objectively better than pancakes," Ally says, biting into her sandwich. "Face it, Moon. You're outnumbered."

Austin scrunches up his face. "Yeah, I'm not taking anyone seriously who never learned to chew with their mouth closed."

Ally rolls her eyes and swallows her food. "Says the guy who grew up wealthy yet never learned not to burp at the dinner table, or put the toilet seat down, or aim."

"Okay," Trish interrupts as Austin opens his mouth to fire something back (probably talking about how that was one time because he saw a spider in the bathroom and it startled him, which she still doesn't believe). "That's enough. We're all eating, and for once I'd like to have a nice lunch with my friends without you two trying to rip each other's throats out."

"Yeah, the sexual tension is making my apple slices turn brown," Dez complains, biting into one of said apple slices.

"We don't have sexual tension," Ally says through gritted teeth as her stomach turns over at even the thought of it. "And your apples are turning brown because you're not eating them."

"Yes, I am," Dez says, his mouth full. Ally wants to point out that Austin doesn't complain when Dez talks with food in his mouth all the time, but she does it once and Austin is suddenly the etiquette police. But she bites her tongue, instead finishing her sandwich in silence.

After lunch, Ally opens up her locker to grab her books for AP Chem. But the locker slams closed before she has a chance to. She turns and sees Austin standing over her, his hand still on her locker.

"Can I help you?" she asks.

"Yeah. Can you maybe not broadcast my personal life to the entire school?"

She rolls her eyes. "It was Trish and Dez. And you started it."

"I don't give a fuck about the toilet seat or whatever. I'm talking about the money part, dumbass."

"It was still just Trish and Dez. They both know your mom's the CEO of—"

"Sh—shh!" he says, putting a finger to her lips. She immediately cringes and smacks his hand away, wiping off her mouth. She doesn't want to know where that hand has been. "I'm serious. My mom and I don't like people we aren't close to knowing about it."

"Well, I know about it."

"Our parents are close, dumbass."

"Okay, call me a dumbass one more time—"

"Just don't talk about the money, okay? Or…anything else."

She knows exactly what he's talking about. "You don't actually think I'd tell anyone about that," she says doubtfully. Does he really think she's that bad a person? When she didn't do anything in the first place?

"I just had to be sure," Austin says. "Not even Dez knows, so…"

"Hey." She tilts her head and meets his eyes. "I would never talk about that," she says seriously. "And I know you don't talk about it either, but if you ever wanted to…"

He swallows. "Yeah," he says quietly, his voice strained. "I know."

She believes he really does know she'd be there for him if he needed her. And what's more, she'd like to think he'd do the same for her. They may be mortal enemies or whatever, but they have a complicated connection beyond that. And they both know it.


It's a miracle that their family dinners aren't incredibly awkward with Austin and Ally always glaring daggers at each other across the table and not-so-subtly scoffing at everything the other person says. But somehow, their parents don't even seem to notice. Or, if they do, they pretend not to. And Austin's younger brother is too oblivious to even realize Austin and Ally hate each other.

"Mom, can I have more pasta?" the seven-year-old asks.

"Of course, honey," Mimi replies, scooping more onto his plate.

"Seems like Max is going through a growth spurt," Ally's dad notes.

Max's face melts into a toothless smile. "I'm gonna be taller than you soon, Lester!"

"I'm sure you will," he laughs.

"Austin, Ally, if you two are done, could you go get the ornament boxes from the garage and start unpacking them in the living room so we can decorate the tree before dessert?" Ally's mother asks.

"Sure, Mom," Ally replies, standing up and taking her dish to the sink, rinsing it off, and then putting it in the dishwasher. Austin follows silently.

Then they walk down the hall and out to the garage and each grab a big cardboard box full of ornaments to carry into the living room. Then they open their respective boxes and pull out smaller storage bins full of Christmas ornaments. As Austin stands back up to his full height after hunching over the boxes, his head hits something hanging from the ceiling.

"Is this fucking mistletoe?" he whispers to her, grabbing the plant between two fingers and examining it.

"Austin and Ally are under the mistletoe!" Max shrieks from the entryway between the kitchen and the living room. Both of them turn to look at him, and he giggles before running back into the kitchen.

The talking in the kitchen falls silent, and Austin rolls his eyes.

"I'm not fucking kissing you," he says.

"Austin, language!" Mimi scolds from the kitchen.

Then, all three parents appear in the entryway with arms crossed and eyebrows raised.

"Well?" Penny says. "You know the rules."

"Does that mean if Lester and Mom got caught under the mistletoe, they'd have to kiss?" Austin asks.

"You know it doesn't work like that, honey," Mimi says. "You two both need to swallow your pride and embrace the Christmas spirit. And who knows? Maybe there'll be a Christmas miracle and you'll be able to set your differences aside for at least a little while."

"Austin and Ally sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" Max giggles, running to Mimi's side.

"I'm calling CPS and telling them our families are trying to force their kids to make out," Austin says.

"No one said anything about making out," Lester says.

"Just kiss me so they'll shut up about it," she mutters so only he can hear her.

"Jesus Christ," Austin says, rolling his eyes and leaning down to press just about the shortest kiss ever to Ally's lips.

"See? That wasn't so hard," Mimi says. "And now we can go back to the dinner you two interrupted," she jokes. And just like that, their families are back in the kitchen, talking about something completely unrelated as if nothing even happened.

"If you had just sucked it up and done it, that would've been a lot less painful than it was," Ally tells him, moving both cardboard boxes against the wall. "You know how our parents are."

"Yeah, well, they should know how we are," he mutters.

"They're just messing around. Give them a break," Ally says. "There are worse things your mom could do than tease you about kissing me." She tries not to let the hurt show in her voice, but she knows he picks it up.

It's not that she particularly wanted to kiss him (although the thought has crossed her mind), but he didn't have to act so disgusted about kissing her. He may hate her, but she'd like to think he can at least acknowledge that she's attractive, like she can do for him. But apparently not.

She starts walking down the hall again, and she hears his footsteps behind her.

"Come on, don't be like that," he sighs. He actually sounds like he didn't mean or want to hurt her. "You know that's not what I meant."

"I know," she says.

"Then why are you walking away?"

"Because there's one more box to get."

She opens the door to the garage and gestures to the box to prove her point. When she walks into the garage to grab the box, Austin follows.

"My mom's trying to be normal, after what happened. She's overcompensating."

Ally hesitates. "It's okay. I don't blame her. Or you."

"She just…she wants something to believe in, you know? And since your parents were family friends and their marriage turned out so well, she wants that for me and Max. And since I have you, she's…projecting."

"Austin," she says, turning to face him. "It's okay."

He looks at her for a split second before running a hand through his hair and looking past her, over her shoulder. "He should fucking be here."

Ally presses her lips together and immediately tries not to think about how his lips were on them only a minute ago, albeit only for a millisecond. Is he really talking about his father? Now?

"Yeah. He should. But it isn't your fault that he isn't," she says.

"Then why do I feel like it is?" He meets her eyes again, and he looks pained.

"I don't know," she says quietly. "But it isn't, okay? He's the one who left. He made that choice."

Austin sniffs, and she pretends not to notice the tear that rolls down his cheek as he looks down. "Max still asks when Dad's coming home from his 'business trip.' What are my mom and I supposed to say to that?" He sniffs again. "And is he gonna think I abandoned him too if I go off to college?"

"Austin…" Ally says, her voice barely above a whisper as she tries to keep her own emotions in check. He's never been vulnerable like this in front of her before, and he's certainly never cried in front of her. If he doesn't seem to mind that she's seeing him like this, he must really be upset.

She wraps her arms around him, mostly because she doesn't know what else to do, and combs her fingers through his hair slowly. He hesitates for a second, but then he hugs her back even tighter and buries his face in her shoulder.

They stay like that for a while, and Ally knows that their parents are probably having too much fun just talking to remember the Christmas tree. And as long as Max doesn't bring it up, they pretty much have all the time in the world.

Austin moves so his chin is resting on her shoulder, probably so she can hear him when he says quietly, "He was the one who made me do all the AP classes. And he always got mad at me for not getting good enough grades. The last thing he said to me was that he was disappointed in me."

Ally squeezes her eyes shut. As much as Austin can be an asshole, she knows he doesn't deserve any of this. So she keeps running her fingers through his hair, which seems to relax him a little, and says, "You can't blame yourself. Not for him leaving, and not for your grades either."

"He probably still thinks I wasn't trying. But I do try."

"I know you do," she says. She sees him studying and doing homework every night; her window faces his. "But his opinion isn't worth worrying about. He isn't worth it."

"I know," he says quietly. "It's just hard. He's my dad. And what if my mom thinks the same thing?"

"She doesn't," Ally tells him. "She is so proud of you."

"How do you know that?" he asks her, pulling away to meet her eyes.

"Because she brags about you to my mom every day. And Max wants to be you when he grows up. Austin, don't let your dad, the man who left your family, define you. Worry about the people who are worth it."

He sniffs again and wipes his eyes, clearing his throat. "You know, Dawson, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were being nice to me just then."

Ally smiles a little. He's back. "Then it's a good thing you know better, isn't it?"

She brushes past his shoulder lightly to grab the last ornament box, but he catches her wrist before she can. When she looks up at him again, his eyes are storming and his jaw is tight, and she wonders how the hell he could seriously be mad at her right now.

But then he swallows. "It wasn't supposed to be like that, you know," he says quietly.

She tilts her head, looking up at him. "What?"

"The kiss." Her heart pounds. "It wasn't…it wasn't supposed to be like that. In front of our families and everything."

"Well, you know how our families are," she tries to laugh it off, but she can hear her heartbeat in her ears and she can barely think straight as she tries to read his face.

He shakes his head. "It wasn't supposed to be because of some fucking mistletoe or our parents pressuring us."

She swallows. "Then…how was it supposed to be?"

"Like this," he breathes, pulling on the wrist he's still holding until she's so close to him she can see the specks of gold in his eyes.

She inhales sharply in surprise, and then he's kissing her. She kisses him right back without even thinking about it, closing her eyes and wrapping her arms around his neck after he lets go of her wrist to wrap his arms around her. He seems to hesitate for a second, so she parts her lips first and sure enough, he follows suit. When their tongues connect, his entire body seems to relax for a moment, as if he's been carrying this tension around with him. But almost as quickly as he relaxed, his muscles tense up again as he tightens his grip around her waist with one arm and moves his other hand to the back of her neck.

Then he takes one, two steps forward, making her step backwards until she's pressed against the door leading back into the house. He leans down more and kisses her harder, like he's on some sort of time crunch and can't get enough before that time runs out, but then he pulls away. For a few seconds, they stand in silence, foreheads pressed together, eyes closed, ragged breaths intermingling with one another.

Then, right as she's about to ask the first of a million questions she has and then tell him to kiss her again and never stop, he moves his hand from the back of her neck to her cheek and lifts his forehead off of hers. He puts his thumb under her jaw and tilts her head up slowly as their breathing starts calming down. She's about to open her eyes to look at him, like she assumes he's looking at her, but then she feels his lips on the soft spot right under her jaw. She shivers and lets out a surprised, breathless laugh that she doesn't even have the brainpower to be embarrassed about.

He must mistake the surprise for hesitation, because he pulls away slightly. "Do you want me to stop?" he whispers.

"God, no."

When he starts kissing her neck again, she can feel the smirk playing on his lips, but she can't even find it in herself to care. She tilts her head back against the door to expose more of her neck to him and even pulls on his hair a little when he gets down to her collarbone, exposed by the loose sweater hanging off her shoulder. So he stays there, probably creating a hickey that she'll have to cover up (although, since it's winter, she isn't too worried about it). Then, as he makes his way slowly, agonizingly, back up her neck, he hits another sensitive spot.

"You're good at this," she sighs breathlessly.

He doesn't take his mouth off her skin, but she feels him smirk again, and it's so frustratingly hot that she wants to wipe it right off his face. Preferably with her mouth.

When he does kiss her lips again, it's the lightest brush of his lips against hers before he pulls away completely. He lets go of her and her arms fall to her sides, but she feels him rest his hands on either side of her head. She also feels him watching her as she stands there, eyes still closed, cheeks probably flushed, with her face still tilted up towards him as if she's anticipating him doing it again. She forces herself to calm her breathing a little before opening her eyes to finally look at him.

His lips are a little swollen and tinted red from her lipstick. His cheeks are flushed too, and his eyes are darker than she's ever seen them. They stand there, breathing in sync, staring at each other and taking in what just happened, longer than they probably should.

"Well, fuck," he whispers.

She laughs a little, and then he laughs a little too, and she's pretty sure it's because neither of them knows what to do now and they're both kinda freaking out. He glances down, and then he moves one of his hands to fix her sweater so it covers her collarbone, and she hates the satisfied look he gets on his face when he does it.

"What now?" she asks him quietly.

"Now," he exhales, as if he's just realizing himself that they have to go on with their lives after this moment. "Now, we go unpack the last box."

He pushes himself away from the door, away from her, and her body instantly feels ten degrees colder. She watches him pick up the box. "Are we gonna talk about this?"

"What's there to talk about?"

"Austin, this changes everything!"

"Does it? Cause it seems like Dez was just right about the tension and we released it."

"So, we just go back to normal," she says incredulously.

"Sure," he replies with a shrug.

Her jaw drops, and she watches him open the door and go right back into the house as if nothing happened. Is he serious right now?


At school the next day, she still can't get the events of last night out of her mind. She's so distracted that she accidentally locks her phone in her locker, and Trish has to snap in her face to get her back down to Earth.

"Hey, you okay?" Trish asks.

"Huh?" Ally says. "Uh, yeah, I'm fine. Just…tired."

"Oh," Trish says. "Well, I was just asking you where you got that scarf. It's really cute. Is it new?"

"No," Ally replies, and she can almost hear Austin smirking at his locker behind her. "I just…haven't worn it much since I got it for Christmas last year."

"Who gave it to you?" Trish asks.

"Um…" Ally looks down at the scarf, and then she almost immediately feels like passing out when she remembers where she got it. "Mimi. Austin's mom gave it to me," she says through gritted teeth.

Austin snorts and tries to cover it with a cough, and Trish looks at him around Ally. "What's your damage, Austin?"

"I just…think it's funny that Ally wants my mom's hand-me-downs," he says after clearing his throat.

"Your mom has good style," Trish replies with a shrug. "Besides, it must be nice for her, since she doesn't have any daughters."

"Mmhm. Anyway, I should get to class. See you guys later."

Ally doesn't breathe until he walks away, when she finally exhales.

"What, you can't breathe the same air as him now?" Trish asks, rolling her eyes.

Ally immediately thinks back to how she was literally breathing his air after their kiss last night, when they just stood there staring at each other. And then he went and acted like nothing ever happened for the rest of the night, and now today, too.

She doesn't know why she's surprised; it's Austin. Stuff like that means nothing to him, despite everything he said before he kissed her.

But really, it should mean nothing to her, too, since she's supposed to hate him. (Yeah, right.)

"No," she finally responds to Trish. "I'm just…trying to be the bigger person by not reacting to him."

"Oh," Trish says. "Well, that's actually kinda mature of you."

"Thanks."

In every single class that he's in with her, she catches him looking at her. Granted, he catches her looking at him too, but she'd rather not think about that. Lunch is the worst part of the day, because she has to sit facing him and she can't just stare down at her food the whole time, no matter how much she wants to. Plus, that's when her scarf starts bothering her, and he can clearly tell.

But then, as she starts walking home from school, Austin catches up with her. For the first time ever, he actually walks home with her.

"What do you want," she deadpans.

"What makes you think I want something?" he asks immediately as she scratches at her neck yet again.

"You wouldn't be willingly spending time with me unless you wanted something." Finally, she gets frustrated and just takes the scarf off, scratching everywhere it was touching.

"That's not true," he says.

"It is true, but if you need more explanation, you haven't brought up the hickey or the scarf yet, which means you're trying not to piss me off, which you would only do if you wanted something."

"Fair point," he concedes. "So, look, since I'm eighteen, my mom wants me to go to her company's fancy Christmas party at some fancy hotel on Saturday, and she wants me to bring a date."

"So, why don't you invite an actual date?"

He rolls his eyes. "Because you already know my mom, and she loves you. She really implied that she wants me to bring you. And I actually know you, since I've only really flirted and hooked up with the other girls I could bring."

"What happened to hating me?" she asks.

"What?"

She looks over at him, and his eyebrows are scrunched together. He actually looks confused.

"What do you mean, 'What?'" she asks him. "You've hated me practically since we met."

"I never hated you."

She stops walking, and so does he. He still looks confused. "What are you talking about?" she asks him. "We can't stand each other. We bicker and argue and insult each other all the time."

"Yeah, we bicker and tease each other, but I only get annoyed because you're actually mean to me."

"Yeah, because you hate me. Why should I be nice to you?"

"I don't hate you, though," he says again.

"You blew me off as soon as school started freshman year," she reminds him. "I wasn't cool enough for you."

He knits his eyebrows again, and then his eyes widen in understanding. "Oh."

"Oh?"

"Look, don't worry about all that, okay? What matters is that I don't hate you, clearly—" he gestures to the hickey on her neck, and she narrows her eyes in annoyance— "and I really need you to come with me to this Christmas party. If not for me, then do it for my mom."

She crosses her arms. "Fine. For your mom."

He gives her a half-smirk, half-smile. "Thank you, Ally," he sing-songs, and she resists the urge to smack him.


"Is that your prom dress from last year?" Austin asks her as she gets into his car on Saturday night.

"Yeah. It's red and meets the party's dress code. Why, is it not up to your standards?"

"No," he says, shaking his head as he pulls out of the driveway. "I just recognized it, is all. It makes you look like a princess."

She opens her mouth, expecting to need to fire back an insult, but then she closes her mouth in surprise. "Oh. Um, thank you…?"

"I'm trying to tell you you look nice."

"I'm just not used to compliments from you. Thank you. You…look nice too."

And he really does. In dark blue pants, a white button up, and a dark blue blazer, he looks cleaned up and distinguished. Add to it the festive red tie, and he could distract her easily with just his looks alone.

At the party, they get some food and see his mom first, and she gushes over how beautiful Ally looks and how handsome Austin looks. Then she points out how Austin's tie matches Ally's dress, to which Austin responds with a reminder that the theme of the party is red and green, since it's Christmas.

Ally then loops her arm through Austin's as he leads her around to meet all of his mom's coworkers. Well, the ones he knows, anyway. And finally, when they sit down at a table and get a chance to breathe, Ally takes in just how date-y this whole thing is.

"So, I counted six out of the eight people we talked to that thought we were dating."

Austin shrugs. "You'd assume it too, wouldn't you?"

"Well, yeah, but you didn't correct them."

"Neither did you."

He looks over at her and leans towards her with that stupid smirk, and his eyes glint with silent laughter. He knows he's pissing her off, and he knows this whole thing has been killing her since their kiss the other day. But the worst of it: he knows how badly she wants him.

A slower song comes on, and he stands up and holds out his hand. "May I have this dance?"

Anything to escape that smirk. "You know I suck at dancing," she says, taking his hand and following him to the dance floor anyway.

"Good thing it's just standing and swaying," he says pointedly as he rests his other hand on her back while she puts her free hand on his shoulder.

She clears her throat and looks away from him. "You don't have to be such an asshole all the time," she mutters.

"Oh, but it's so damn fun," he replies with an annoyingly cute grin.

"What's gotten into you?" she asks him, shaking her head in disbelief. "You were so reserved for the past four years."

"Well, I finally decided that I don't give a fuck."

She meets his eyes again. "I thought you never did."

"In some things, yeah. But in others…" He trails off, and he's quiet for a few moments. Then he leans down until his mouth is next to her ear. "Wanna get out of here and go exploring?" he whispers.

She shivers, and she almost doesn't care that he didn't really answer her question. She nods, and the low chuckle that comes from his throat as he stands up straight again gives her goosebumps.

Still holding her hand, he leads her out of the ballroom where the party is being held and into the lobby of the hotel. A staircase catches her eye, so she tugs on his hand and they climb the stairs together.

"I didn't dislike you that first day of freshman year," he suddenly says, letting go of her hand as they climb another staircase, and then another one. "It was…a conversation I had with my dad."

She tilts her head and looks over at him. He avoids her eyes, continuing down the long hallway at the top of the stairs.

"Mom and I were talking about you. I was saying how I thought you were cute, and then my dad pulled me aside so my mom couldn't hear. He said that I was too…too good for you, that I should go for girls with more money, better social status, basically with more I could get out of them, you know?"

She frowns, but her mind is swirling with all this new information. He thought she was cute? He was gonna go for her?

"And I listened to him, because he's my dad, and I didn't wanna disappoint him by going for a girl he didn't approve of. But it really pissed me off, obviously, because the whole thing was so fucking stupid, and I guess I must've taken it out on you that day since I was frustrated that I couldn't even try to…well, you know." He sighs. "I guess it just snowballed from there, but…I'm sorry for making you think I hated you for no reason."

She swallows, still processing it all. She doesn't say anything, and they walk through a big set of double doors onto a massive balcony that juts off the side of the hotel, over the cliff it sits on, and overlooks the ocean below. They walk all the way to the railing, and she can't even appreciate the view because of everything racing through her mind right now.

"And I hope you know it's not true. What he said about you, about me being too good for you or whatever, it's not fucking true."

"I'm sorry for being mean to you all these years and hating you because I thought you hated me," she says, not looking at him.

He's quiet for a second. "I get why," he says. "You thought I hated you for absolutely no reason. I'd be mad too. I think that's why it snowballed so much, because then I kinda thought you hated me for no reason."

"What a vicious cycle," she says with a small laugh.

"It's not all bad," he says with a shrug, resting his forearms on the railing and looking down at the water. "It's kinda fun messing around with each other."

She looks over at him. "You like when I'm trying to piss you off?"

He smirks a little and looks over at her too. "You said once that I'm an attention whore and that's why I bother you all the time. You weren't completely wrong." Then the smirk fades and he moves away from the railing, so she turns around with her back to it to face where he's now standing in front of her. Then he says quietly, "And when you wanted me, Ally…" He shakes his head as if he's at a loss for words, and then he grabs her hand and holds it on his chest, where she can feel his heart pounding underneath.

She swallows. "Yeah. Me too."

He presses his forehead against hers. "I haven't stopped fucking thinking about it," he breathes. "I still can't."

"We should go back inside," she whispers, and everything in her is screaming at her to shut up. But she knows that if they start again, stopping will be ten times as hard as it was last time.

"Yeah," he says, "we should." But he makes no effort to move, so she has to be the one to gently push him away from her.

When she looks at him, he looks disappointed but not upset or discouraged. He knows her better than she thought he did, and he knows why she couldn't let them get lost in each other on that balcony. So, ever the expert at pretending nothing happened, he takes her hand, loops her arm through his, and leads them back into the party.

Mimi sees them almost immediately, and she walks over with a smile. "I'm so glad you two were able to make it," she says. "But I know how boring these things can be, especially for kids your age. I just wanted to show you what it's like, you know? You two can head home if you want. Or stay, if you're enjoying yourselves."

"We're probably gonna head home, then," Austin says coolly. "It was a nice party, though, Mom." He kisses her cheek, and Mimi smiles again.

"It was really nice," Ally adds, and Mimi squeezes her hand.

"Okay. Drive home safely. Seatbelts!"

"Yeah, yeah, Mom," Austin says, rolling his eyes. "We will."

On the drive home, Ally works to take all the bobby pins out of her hair in the mirror, more to distract herself than anything else. There are a lot of pins to find; fancy parties mean fancy hair styles.

"How many of those do you have?" he asks incredulously at a red light.

"Too many," she replies, running her fingers through her hair and pulling out two more pins.

"It looks like at least a hundred."

"It probably is."

She relaxes back into the seat, all the pins out of her hair, as Austin turns onto their street. When he parks in his driveway, they sit in silence for a full minute, both unmoving. This isn't going to be mistletoe, or being caught up in emotions. This is going to be more real than ever.

He looks over at her. "So…do you wanna come inside…?"

The uncertainty in his voice is cute, and she nods to make sure he knows that he was right about everything. Then they get out of the car and walk into his house, where she grabs his tie and pulls him into her as soon as he shuts the door behind them.

He wraps his arms around her and practically melts into the kiss, and it hits her that he's been waiting four years for this. If she's being honest, she sorta has, too.

She pulls away after a few seconds. "Sorry," she says quickly. "I knew you were gonna start talking, and…"

"You couldn't wait?" he asks her with a smirk as he sets his keys down and kicks his shoes off.

"Don't act like this is all me," she says, bending down to undo the straps on her heels and take them off. "You were ready to strip on that balcony."

"Was not."

"Were too."

"You caved first, though. Just now, I mean. So you don't get to talk."

"You caved before me, the other night."

He rolls his eyes. "You fucking piss me off, you know that?"

"You made the mistake of admitting you love it. You got nothing on me now, Moon."

"Shut the fuck up," he mutters, grabbing her hips and pulling her into another kiss.

She pushes his jacket off his shoulders and starts loosening his tie while he unzips her dress and, without disconnecting their lips, walks them to his room. He moves forwards, pushing her backwards inside, and shuts the door behind them before turning on the light.

"I swear to God, Ally…" he mutters as they pull away so she can pull his tie and his shirt over his head.

He doesn't finish the thought, but she gets the idea when, after discarding her dress, she trips over it and they fall over but he refuses to miss a beat. He braces himself on one forearm and rests the other one on her waist while she wraps both arms around his neck.

She panics when his hand moves to the waistband of her underwear, his fingertips breaching it just slightly. "Austin, Austin," she says quickly, breathlessly, placing her hands on his chest and pushing him away a little.

He looks at her, those eyes swirling but not frustrated or disappointed. His eyebrows are scrunched together, and his cheeks are rosy. He tilts his head in confusion.

"Not tonight," she says quietly.

His swirling eyes get a little clearer with understanding, and he moves his hand back up to her waist. She was expecting him to look disappointed like he did when she stopped him from kissing her on the roof, but his eyes are just sparkling the same way they have been every time she's gotten a glance.

"I'm sorry," he whispers.

She shakes her head. "It's okay. I'm just…not quite there yet."

He sits back on his knees and offers her a hand. She frowns a little, worried that he's gonna just send her home now, but she takes his hand anyway and he helps her up.

"You okay?" he asks her softly.

"Are you done with me now that I don't wanna have sex with you yet?" she asks.

He knits his eyebrows together. "No…? I just thought the floor was probably uncomfortable for you and I was getting rugburn. Figured since we had already stopped we could just move while we were at it."

"Oh," she says, sighing in relief. "I really didn't wanna have to hate you again if you just sent me home because of that."

"Come on, Ally. It's me."

"Yeah. It's you. Hate to break it to you, but you're a bit of a horndog."

He thinks about it for a second. "Good point. But I'm telling you now that you could say you don't even wanna touch anyone until you're married and it wouldn't make me think of you any differently."

"Really?"

"I've been waiting for this since I met you, and until the other night I thought I'd never even have a chance. Yes, really." His eyes are sincere, and she realizes that his feelings for her must run deeper than she thought they did.

"Okay. Well…everything up until when I stopped you was good," she says.

"Then get the fuck over here," he replies, opening his arms expectantly.

As soon as she's close enough, he tightens his arms around her and falls backwards onto his bed. She gasps in surprise, but then he kisses her and she can feel the genuine smile on his face, so she just kisses him back.

Then, she pulls away and starts kissing his neck the way he did to her the other night.

"What are you doing to me?" he mutters when she stops in one place, but she knows it was more to himself than to her. "You know I'd do fucking anything for you, right?" he says, seemingly taking this opportunity to say what he hasn't been able to when his mouth has been preoccupied. "Because I would."

She sits up a little to look down at him, and he searches her eyes. He moves some of her hair behind her ear, and then trails his hand down to her shoulder, her chest, her stomach, her waist, and then stops at her hip. "You probably think I'm saying all this because you're half-naked and on top of me, and that's probably why I'm actually saying it out loud, to you, right now, but I swear to God it's the truth. Every time I see you, I just wanna be close to you. Do you know how fucking impossible it's been trying to act indifferent and trying to think of shitty insults when we're arguing?"

"It's hard to insult you, too, you know. Even when I was mad at you thinking you hated me…it wasn't easy."

"It's okay if it was," he tells her with a small smile. "And it's okay if all you want me to be is a not-quite-fuck buddy."

"That's not all I want you to be. But this is all very new, you know?"

He nods. "God, can you imagine if anyone knew about this? If our parents knew?"

They both laugh a little. "We'd never hear the end of it," she says. "The I told you so's and the questions…"

"Trish and Dez wouldn't be any better," he adds. "I'm pretty sure they already think we've been secretly fucking the whole time."

"Probably," Ally agrees. "Maybe we shouldn't, y'know, do anything just yet. I mean, publicly. Labels, or whatever."

"That's probably a good idea," he says, moving his thumbs in small circles on her waist. She isn't sure he even knows he's doing it, but she's having trouble thinking straight. "Figure stuff out free of anyone else trying to influence our feelings. So how do you wanna do this?"

"Why don't we just…take winter break, hang out, and see where we're at when school starts again?" she suggests. Then she runs a hand through her hair and sits back more. "I can't believe I'm talking relationships with you right now."

"Sounds good to me." He props himself up on his elbows and smirks at her. "Please. I know for a fact you've thought about it before."

"There's a difference between it crossing my mind once or twice and actually being here." She gestures to herself sitting on top of him. "And stop smiling like that."

"Why don't you make me?" She can tell he's teasing her, baiting her, and that he's loving every second of this, but she kisses him again anyway, giving him exactly what he wants.


been feeling like writing enemies to lovers, so this entire thing was born between the hours of 10pm and 3am last night. not sure how i feel about it. it was gonna be a one-shot but it was getting too long so my christmas gift to myself (and anyone who enjoys this fic i guess) is a two-shot. anyway thanks for reading n i miss u a&a babies