Title: To Sing Is To Be Free

Author: The Bookworm's Magician

Beta: Esther-Channah

Rating: K

Character/s: Austin, Ally

Pairing/s: None

Spoilers: For the first episode

Summary: An in-depth look at two different people... who might not be so different after all.

Disclaimer: I don't own this, I never have and I never will.

AN: I really liked the first episode, and I decided that I wanted to get inside these two character's heads and figure out what makes them tick. I hope that I did them justice, and that you all enjoy!

To Sing Is To Be Free

When Austin was a kid, he hadn't wanted to be a singer. In fact, he had thought that it was a girly job. No, he was going to be a fireman! But then his mom had taken him to a Michael Jackson concert. With that one concert, everything had changed. He'd no longer wanted to be a fireman, but a singer. But when he'd told his father that, his father had frowned, sat down with him, and explained a few things to him.

He'd told him that being a singer would never work. That it was a pipe dream, and it would be better just to give up now. That, in fact, his chances were like a billion to one. When he'd finished his heart-breaking speech, his dad had patted his shoulders and asked if he understood. Austin had said "yes," of course, but in his head, the speech had only strengthened his resolve. He would become a singer.

When Ally was little, her mom died. It hit her dad hard, and when he finally came back to her, he was never the same. He began acting more and more like a kid, and Ally eventually became the one who was pretty much responsible for everything. Being responsible full time was often stressful, and the only escape Ally ever found was in music.

When Ally was singing or playing an instrument, she didn't have to worry about her dad or being responsible. No, the music was all for her, and Ally decided that she wanted that peace all of the time. So she told her dad that she wanted to be a singer. It turned out that pretty much the only time her dad would be serious was when he was crushing her dreams, and she hated him a little bit for that.

He had realized that she really did love music though, so he gave her a room above his store to work in, with a cheap piano and nothing else but storage boxes. But she hadn't really minded and had started practicing up there as soon and as often as possible. And it was in that room that she had really fallen in love with music; more specifically, with singing and song-writing. And she'd made a decision; no matter what her father said, she would be a singer.

It turned out that being a singer? Yeah, harder that he'd thought. Although he had a great voice, and could play practically any instrument you put in his hands, he couldn't write a song. All of his songs were horrible and if he'd actually tried to sing them in public, he would've been booed off the stage. It didn't deter him, though. He would be a singer—it might just take a little longer than he'd thought to become one.

It turned out that being a singer was harder than she'd thought. Although she had a great singing voice, could play the piano wonderfully, and her songs were really good—according to Trish, who was hopefully telling the truth—she had horrible stage fright. She could not sing in front of people. Not just sing, actually; just being up on stage made her want to puke. And while that bothered her a little, it didn't stop her. She would be a singer—it might just take a little longer than she had thought.

When he met Ally, he'd initially thought she was just one of those snooty, know-it-all girls who did nothing but try to tell you what to do. But when he came back into the store after Dez went home, he saw her walk up the stairs and go through a door, closing it behind her. Now, Austin was nothing if not curious, so he followed her through the door, ignoring the 'Employees Only' sign. He opened the door slowly, ready to stop if she said something—but then he heard her singing. He walked into the room and listened.

Ally had an amazing voice, and the song she was singing was great too, but it was going a bit too slowly. Speeding up the tempo would probably improve it. He didn't say anything, though, just listened. He'd never heard the song before, and he wondered if she had written it. He walked up next to the piano, hoping that she wouldn't notice, but ready with a harmonica and an excuse when she did. He told her how to improve her song, and then sang it his way. Then, because he was a guy, and also because he wanted to know how she would take it, he blew the spit from the harmonica all over her.

Not surprisingly, she kicked him out, encouraging him to obey 'Employees Only' signs in the future. Just to annoy her, he played the harmonica from the hall, amused by her 'Shut up!' kick to the door. He walked away, still holding the harmonica and humming her song to himself.

When Ally first met Austin, he was breaking two of the rules of the music store—at the same time. She was sure that he was just another one of those arrogant idiots, people who thought of no one and nothing but themselves. So when he left the store and her shift ended, freeing her to go up to her practice room, she'd thought nothing of him. But then she finished a verse, felt someone behind her, and turned to look. And then she screamed, because Austin the Idiot was standing right behind her.

She asked him how long he had been standing there, starting to panic a little—no one but Trish and her dad had ever heard her singing one of her songs!—and he completely blew off her question, asking about a harmonica instead. A harmonica? Really? And then he had the nerve to try to tell her how to improve her own song! Then, just when she thought her humiliation might be complete, he blew spit all over her!

So she kicked him out, even dragging him part of the way, and then he started playing the harmonica in the hall. So she kicked the door to shut him up and went back to her piano. The worst part of the whole thing, though? He was actually right about the song! She tried speeding it up, and it sounded ten times better. Ugh! She couldn't stand him!

The next day, Austin couldn't stop humming a song. He had no idea where he'd heard the song; it wasn't a pop star one—he should know, he'd been looking for it since he'd woken up—and he couldn't get it out of his head. He knew all the lyrics, all the notes, the instruments that he could play to make it sound best. He knew that he couldn't have written it, because he'd never written a good song in his life. He decided not to mention the song to anyone, and just hoped that he could get it out of his head. Unfortunately, Dez heard him humming it.

By the end of the day, Dez had convinced him to sing the song and he'd let Dez record and post it online. So they spent a couple of hours singing and recording, and when they finally finished, they were both exhausted. The last thing they did before Dez left was search one last time for the song, and when they didn't find it, they posted the video online. Dez left soon after, and Austin crashed on his bed. His last thought before he fell asleep was: 'I hope that a couple of people like the song.'

He'd woken up around one in the afternoon, still slightly tired and ravenously hungry. So he went downstairs and fixed himself a bowl of cereal. Halfway through the bowl, he remembered the video, got on the computer and logged in. The next thing he knew, there was cereal on the computer and he was staring dumbfounded at the screen.

He was startled into motion, running upstairs while calling Dez frantically, waiting impatiently for him to pick up the phone while he got dressed. When Dez finally picked up, his voice heavy and scratchy from sleep, Austin didn't give him time to say anything other than hello, telling him to get his lazy butt into motion and to check on the video. He hung up on Dez, and, unable to wait any longer, ran over to Dez's house. Dez met him at the door, and they celebrated ecstatically for two days straight; all the while watching the number of hits climb from the hundreds to the thousands to the millions.

The rest of the week passed by in a blur of TV interviews and numbers in the two million range. He and Dez went a little crazy with the attention, making weird products and action figures. They were on a popularity high and they might never have come down if a furious Ally hadn't knocked on his door.

The next day, Ally couldn't get Austin out of her head. She thought about him when she got up, when she was at work, when she tried to practice (the stupid song was better when you sped it up, dang it!), and when she was hanging out with Trish. But she wasn't thinking about him in a romantic sense, oh no. More like in extreme irritation.

She actually spent most of the day trying to figure out if she had seen him before. Did they go to the same school? That was a possibility. She and Trish were pretty much loners and didn't meet many people. At the mall, maybe? Also possible. She was pretty sure that that had been his first time in the music store, though.

Eventually, she gave up and tried to forget about him. It had almost worked, too, until Trish came into the store in her ridiculous magician's outfit and started singing her song out of nowhere. She couldn't believe the nerve of this guy! She wasn't a big one for revenge, though, so she wasn't actually going to do anything about it, but Trish convinced her to try to talk to Austin. So that was how Ally found herself knocking on Austin's bedroom door…

After Ally and her friend left, Austin couldn't stop feeling guilty. He was a singer now, and he was even famous, but he had gotten there by stealing someone else's song. He felt like a weasel; a big, mean, song-stealing weasel.

Dez seemed to sense his mood as they wrapped up for the day, Dez reminding him that he'd pick him up that afternoon for the The Helen Show. Austin paced for a while, trying to get rid of the heavy guilt, then finally giving up and trying to lose himself in music.

When Dez came to pick him up, he had been playing the drums for hours and was sweatier than he had been than after his earlier working out. Dez gave him twenty minutes to shower and get dressed, and then they left. The drumming had successfully distracted him and when they got there he was ready to rock.

He managed not to think of her while singing, but he couldn't avoid it when Helen asked him if he had any other songs. He lied and said that he had lots, but inside he was panicking. What was he talking about? He had no other songs, and the only good song that he did have he had stolen from someone else! So when Helen asked him to come back on tomorrow and sing another song, he realized that he had no choice. He had to ask Ally for help.

She couldn't believe him! He not only stole her song, but then he wouldn't even tell the truth! He had some nerve! See if she ever gave him another one! She went back to work, trying to forget about him and the song—which was hard, because everyone and their dog seemed to be singing it. She had almost succeeded, too, when Trish came in and convinced her to try to tell everyone the truth by breaking into The Helen Show. She almost hyperventilated from thinking about it. What had she been thinking?

After her failed attempt, though, she was determined to forget about him. So what if he had one song? She could always write more. So she went back to work, ignoring Trish's righteous indignation. And then he showed up, begging her to help him. She refused at first, still furious with him. Then he brought up his father.

That hit a chord with her, so she reluctantly agreed to help him. It definitely did not go well at first. He didn't like any of her suggestions, and she didn't appreciate his attempts to help her "have fun." Five minutes in and she's already been ready to give up. He was just as exasperating as she had expected, and nothing worked.

Finally, Austin said he had an idea. Ally watched bemused, as he ran around doing odd things, talking Dez and Trish into doing something, and putting up strings of lights everywhere. When he was done, he hit the light switch, and her entire store was transformed.

He grabbed her hand and danced with her a little, then they both watched as Dez and Trish glided down to them. He convinced her to try dancing, so she did the weirdest moves she could think of, gauging Dez's, Trish's, and Austin's reactions. Austin was surprisingly nice about it, laughing a bit at her, yes, but also pulling her up and helping her do a better one. She was pleasantly surprised at this, and also at the fact that she was actually having fun. She also found herself inspired, so when they stopped dancing and all three looked at her with eager eyes she smiled and told Austin that she was ready to get started. They all cheered, and she and Austin moved to the piano.

Dez and Trish left after the first half-hour when they sensed that it was going to take awhile. She found herself having fun that night. Austin, when he wasn't being an exuberant song-stealing jerk, was fun to hang out with. They spent all night coming up with the song, and both contributed equally. He was absolutely horrible with lyrics, but once she got the ball rolling, he was great at keeping up and suggesting improvements.

It was weird at times, being alone in the music shop with a boy at night; but mostly they just focused on the music. Austin, she discovered, was just as obsessed with music as she was. They talked, too, when they took breaks; about their fathers, the instruments they played, when they'd started singing, their best friends, and their lives in general. Their lives were radically different; he was popular, she was most definitely not; he was outgoing, she didn't like to talk much at all; he hated reading, she loved it. About the only thing they had in common was music. Music, however, was big enough to bind them together.

In the morning, they finished the song minutes before Trish and Dez got there, and Ally was slightly sad. She was sure that Austin was going to leave and not come back until he needed another song. But he surprised her utterly when he invited her and Trish to come along. She accepted, still slightly stunned, and they set off. They got there early, so that Austin could teach the band his new song. While they were waiting, Ally, Trish, and Dez wandered around talking until the band was ready to start.

And that was when Austin came up, panicking because the piano player was sick and he needed a new one. Ally was definitely not okay with it, but the piano player was gone and there was no one else and no more time. At least the piano area had curtains that she could hide behind…

Austin watched in amused horror as Ally crawled off the stage. When she'd said that she had stage fright, he hadn't thought that it was that bad. He stepped away from the wall and moved over to Helen. She looked at him with very wide, very shocked eyes, and he could do nothing more than shrug. This was just another facet of Ally that he had become aware of.

After Austin had finished making excuses and apologizing for Ally's destruction—and promised to come back another day to actually perform the song—he walked backstage to find that Ally and Trish had already left. He sighed and told Dez that that had definitely not been his best plan. Dez laughed and agreed with him, and then they left for home.

When he got back, he decided to check on the video. He looked it up and smiled again when he saw that the numbers of visitors were still climbing. He lost his smile, however, when he saw that he had a grand total of 1 'dislike' on his video. He clicked on it, wanting to see who it had been and his heart sunk when he read the name AllyCat88.

It lifted a little when he saw when she had disliked it. It was before she had come to his house, and probably when she had just figured out that he had stolen her song. Still, he was kind of hurt that she hadn't changed it. He was thinking about that when he heard his mom yelling that he had a letter. He ran downstairs, grabbing the letter and running back up to his room. He opened the letter and gaped at the contents.

The check was for the first show, and as they had agreed, he'd been paid a thousand dollars. The smile that appeared on his face at the sight of the check's worth was practically blinding in its intensity. He had the perfect idea for this money…

Ally looked around open-mouthed at her practice room. It was her practice room, wasn't it? She hadn't walked into the wrong room by accident, had she? Nope. It turned out that Austin had fixed it up to apologize, and also because he hoped that she would agree to become his song-writer for real. (It turned out that he had already hired Trish as his manager.)

She wasn't sure at first, but when she looked around at the physical proof of his apology—he had spent the money from The Helen Show on her!—and her reluctance faded. She agreed, and as the others cheered and the four of them decided to celebrate, she knew that she had made the right decision.

Austin yawned again as he got ready for bed. He, Ally, Dez, and Trish had spent the rest of the day together, going out for dinner and then to a movie (they had spent five minutes arguing over what to see. Ally and Trish carried the day and they went to a chick flick that he and Dez had complained about but had secretly enjoyed) before heading home. It had been a really fun day. He was about to shut down his computer before bed, when he realized that he had a notification on his video about a change in status.

He looked it up, and the resulting smile could have lit up the room. AllyCat88 now liked his video. He went to bed that night still smiling.

Ally yawned again as she got ready for bed. She, Austin, Dez, and Trish had spent the day together, going to dinner and then to a movie (she and Trish had managed to convince the boys to go to a chick flick, and she could tell that they had secretly liked it) before heading for home.

She had had fun today, and—her eyes flew open as she remembered that she still had something to do. She quickly went to her computer and brought Austin's video up on the screen. The '1 Dislike' was glaringly obvious on the page. Did she really want to change her status? If she did, that would mean that she had forgiven him—had she forgiven him? Yes, she decided; she had forgiven him. She changed her status quickly and went to bed that night smiling.