Prepare for what might be the longest author note of my life. But please, please read it.
This story is everything to me and to think it's done now is absolutely heartbreaking. This story has caused many late nights, many upset nights, many happy nights, many... nights. It's been over a year since I've started this, many weeks before I updated it, many... things. This story is many, many things. It's so many things to so many people on here, and I'm sorry in a sense that's it's ending. I know when I look forward to an update to someone's story, seeing it end can be pretty sad. So, there is that. But there is one thing I hope this story taught you... I hope it taught you that people can be horrible and cruel, absolutely terrible to others, but there is always a reason to smile. You need to believe that. You need to think about it daily. Find something in your life and hold onto that. Many of you wanted a romance to end this story with. I know, I get it. I will admit, if it ended with any romance, it would have ended with Riker and Ally. There, I said it. But you know what? It would have taken away from the story. There is something seriously special about two people who are friends like them and when you put them into a relationship, it changes things. And that's just from the perspective of a normal relationship. This doesn't include how wrong it would be for her to date him when she works there. That's a whole other thing. This goes for Austin too. I get it. Auslly is everyone's thing. I can't lie. I love them together too... but again, their friendship is this beautiful, awesome thing. Anyway, this story was meant to break your heart and hopefully put it back together again. I wanted you to feel for these characters, want to help them... that's how a story should make you feel. It should make you FEEL things. To sort of quote a certain Austin Moon. That's the amazing thing about writing... it brings emotions.

Onto another part of this note. Sending out major thank yous to the following,
Brz, you first and foremost. Can I admit something here? When I got your first review I didn't know how to react. I'd never really had someone critique my writing and it sort of... scared me. I didn't know how to take it, I wanted to be angry at first, and wow, it's probably a good thing I didn't. You have helped me out so much throughout this story, not only as a writer but as a fan of the same show. You've given me more compliments than I can say thank you for and I thank you again just because. If I could send you a video of Ross giggling just for you, I would. Guys, don't be afraid to let someone say something about your writing. It will help you, as long as the person means well. And trust me, brz meant well and again, can't say thank you enough.
R5ismysoul/Elizabeth, you my friend are another one I can't help but thank a million times. From someone who enjoys reading what they write as well, thank you for sticking by this story no matter what, allowing me to rant from time to time and vice versa. You've become a good friend to me since this story started, and you're awesome. You also picked out an AWESOME band name and don't worry, you're one shot is coming. Stay awesome, stay sweet, and stay you. Because there is nothing you should change, got it?
Citylights at Midnight, as I don't want to use your name because I'm not sure if you're comfortable with it. YOU. You have made my ranting nights about this story so much better. You're easily one of my favorite reviewers, because you make me laugh and you know exactly how to get me hysterical while still knowing you actually read the chapter and care. Thank you for all the advice, all the compliments, and all the fun in the meantime.
DarkScribe81, YOU TOO. You also get points for allowing me to rant and such in your PM box. And you know I love short reviews. ;) Haha. Thanks for such encouragement on the chapters, for loving Rocky's mouth just as much as me, and for giving me even more ideas along the way. You also leave some of the best reviews I've gotten to read on this website, and I can't thank you enough.
CARLY, girl you're awesome. I don't know how often you get on here anymore, but you were the first person I can remember talking to on here in this fandom and it was so awesome to meet you a few months ago. You're literally the best ever and such a great writer, too. Remember that. :)

I wanted to go through every chapter to see who else has been there since the beginning, but honestly, it's just too hard. There are some of you who have reviewed every chapter and I want to thank you all so much. And to the anons who don't log in, you're just as appreciated. Your comments make my day. To go back and see over 700 reviews on this story is so overwhelming and I want to keep thanking you and thanking you for all you've done for this story. It's seriously the best and it means the world. I'm not a published writer. I write on here in my spare time for fun. This is what I love. This is everything to me. Writing. This is everything. Thank you for allowing me to have that.

And last but not least on the thank yous... thank you to the show, Austin and Ally, and the band R5 who gave me characters and beautiful people to make my own characters into.

As this author's note winds down, please know this. If you are a writer on here, or not even on here, never stop writing. Write until you're mad. Write when you're happy. Write because it's honestly the only way you're going to get farther. A lot of people have asked me for advice on this story and honestly, I'm no better than anyone else on here. There is no professional writing that I did, this is all something you are capable of doing if you work at it. Creativity goes a long way. Use it. Enjoy it. Because it's an amazing thing.

And now that I'm pretty much done thanking you all forever, this is the last chapter. I think you'll like it. I like a happy ending. It doesn't have to be perfect, because it isn't and there is still so much for these characters to do and to learn, but this is their end for this. There will be one shots. There will be a multi chapter spin off... not a sequel. And there will be more from me, too. You can find my other stories on my profile, I've got two others currently up there. Please, follow along with me. I promise I'm not done torturing characters yet! ;) Haha. Anyway, be on the lookout.

And thank you one last time, for everything you've done.

Please let me know what you think. Enjoy!

"Ally, come on, the movie is about to start!" Rocky yelled from the rec area, his voice carrying over to her room. She glanced at the door, seeing no one trying to get her, and shook her head, only an answer to herself more than them.

"I'll be there in a minute!" she yelled back, rolling her eyes at the 'huff' she heard in return. Her hands were still gracefully typing over her laptop, trying to put into words what the last few months had been like at the shelter. It was sort of a closing chapter for her, putting a stamp on her time as a volunteer and addressing her start as an actual social worker. Her mind was buzzing, trying to come up with words faster than she could type and it didn't help that Austin and Rocky were arguing over guitar chords only several feet away, but she was determined to finish this.

The smell of pizza was overpowering, making it so much harder to concentrate as well. The other adults had gone out to a much deserved dinner of their own, one she had no problem sitting out on. She loved Trish, she loved Ryland, and she also liked Jackson but their personalities were so different, she could only cringe at the idea of what the dinner would be like. Once alone and not with work to talk about, she didn't want to know about the awkward silences that her ex boyfriend's brother would undoubtedly try to fill with meaningless and probably stupid comments. If it wasn't for his strong heart and truly good persona underneath, she'd swear he was an asshole.

And Ryland was just damn boring. Not even the crazed Trish could wake up a conversation like his. He found formulas fun… she had learned this first hand last week while taking on classes to get her other degree. He practically hoped at the chance to help her with the work. She made a mental note then to never hang out with him.

All in all, she didn't mind being surrounded by those in the shelter. Yeah, Rocky was still absolutely insane, and Austin was like his trainee, but she loved the passion they both had. Rydel was like an Adderall trip that lasted for days on end because she just never stopped. Ellington was… himself. He didn't open up as much as the others had, but she no longer felt like his life was a big secret she wasn't allowed to know. Every once in a while he'd make a comment, like that day in the hospital about exhaustion, and she'd know he'd been through something horrible himself. She didn't press. He'd come around eventually, if not to Kelly who might as well have moved in. Ally wanted to ask her about becoming a volunteer. She'd worked wonders with Oliver the other day, actually had him smiling and laughing.

Someone collapsed onto the bed, causing her to jump in surprise. And then there was Riker, grinning before her because he loved that. "You do that on purpose," she muttered, shaking her head. "I told that boy I'd be there in a minute. He's so…"

Riker nodded. He understood her. It was just something she could never get over. If someone asked her, she would say she believed in perfect matches, not only in love but in life and friendship. There was just something utterly special about their relationship and there would never be a way to put it into words.

"What are you writing?" he mouthed.

Ally blushed. "It's weird."

He raised an eyebrow, as if to counter the last few months here.

"It's… my old blog," she admitted, showing him the page filled with teenage advice that she stopped posting on the moment she took the job here. It had been left empty for months now and she'd gotten the urge to make an update. It had taken her all day to come up with the perfect explanation that didn't put anyone's names or problems onto the website.

Riker glanced at the page quickly, as if he wasn't allowed to look. Ally smiled at him as he got up, and began to pace the room. Immediately, she sensed a change. "What's wrong?" she demanded. She had a feeling he didn't come in here to keep her company.

"I can't not tell you," he mouthed.

Well, that cleared things up. "Riker?"

"It's August," he mouthed, 'talking' quickly. She fought to keep up with his pace. "I have a few weeks before it happens but I don't want to be that person who tells you the day before."

Riker understood immediately she had no idea what he was talking about and sat down in distress. He seemed guilty, like he'd down something without someone's permission. Ally glanced at him, grabbing his notebook which never seemed to leave his side.

Promise you won't hate me.

Ally blinked. "Is that a serious question?"

He made an airy sound at her. "Promise," he mouthed.

Ally sighed. "Riker, I could never hate you." He waited. Ally huffed. "Promise."

I signed up for college with the help of Ryland. Its a few hours away. I won't be here starting in the fall. I mean, I'll be here. Weekends and all that as it's only a few hours away. I wanted to stay on campus part of the time, gain some independence.

She smiled widely at him, proud that he'd take the step to make something of himself. "That's great," she told him honestly.

He looked cautious by the smile she gave him.

"I'm going to miss you," she explained. "You've been here and my best friend for the last few months. It'll be weird to not have you right next to me when I want to see you. But that's something that we'll figure out."

At least you don't have to read a notebook to hear what I have to say. You can read it by text.

She giggled. "It would be pretty awkward to skype."

He rolled his eyes. That's not funny.

"We could, though. It'd be good to just see your face."

It's not like I'll be far. Like I said, I'll be back on the weekends.

Ally didn't want to admit the idea of him even being a few hours away scared her. He was her rock in so many ways, much like she was his. But it meant something to him and it would do well for him, so who was she to complain? It wasn't like she could keep him there forever anyway. It would be good practice for the day he moved out and got his own place.

He touched her arm. "Hey," he mouthed. Ally looked up in time for his arms to wrap around her.

"Tell you what," she said, getting up. "Forget the blog right now. There is a movie in there and hopefully some popcorn left, although I can't place any bets on that. Forget all this sadness and let's go eat until we have to put on sweatpants."

He followed her into the rec room. Ally took a seat between Riker and Austin, who both welcomed her with warm smiles. Austin didn't have to say a word, they just looked at each other, and there was something there that just felt like a sense of belonging.

Today was gonna be the day that they're gonna throw it back to you
By now you should've somehow realized what you've gotta do
I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now

"Okay, easy boys!" Ally cringed from her spot on the lawn, shaking her head at the two boys on the double sided ladder. It was supposed to be a surprise for Trish, but in a minute it was about to be two. Surprise, Ryland and Jackson fell off the ladder while doing this and now have matching casts! She rolled her eyes as Jackson leaned way too forward, feeling sorry for his future wife. The guy couldn't even unscrew a nail, let alone put a sign up. "Jackson, I swear, please don't hurt yourself. I don't want to have to explain this."

"I don't see you up here!"

She rolled her eyes again. "You insisted upon doing it, don't give me that."

"And that was before I realized that I'm a way better counselor than I am a handy man."

"The counselor is up in the air too," Rocky stated from next to her. "Literally and figuratively."

He glared at the boy from where he stood.

"Rocky, don't provoke him when he's up that high."

He grinned like he totally meant it, but apologized anyway. They still didn't get along most of the time, but it would be a work in progress. Rocky had trouble trusting people to begin with and Jackson wasn't the friendliest to him when he showed up. She was still taking the glares that Oliver and him shared as a victory (at least they didn't make threats anymore).

"How does this look, Ally?"

Ally stood back a few more feet. "Still a bit crooked. Jackson's side."

"Now you're just lying," he mumbled. "It's fine!"

"Dude," Rocky said. "It's not."

He glared again and pulled it up a bit. "Bit more," Rocky taunted.

Ally just gave up. "Whatever. Just get down before you give me an ulcer."

He hopped off and stood back, shaking his head. "Your heads are crooked."

"What is going … oh my."

Cue perfect timing, Ally thought as she turned around to see a wide eyed Trish with Austin in tow, carrying groceries from the store. Ally watched as her eyes filled with tears and she glanced around to the others for some sort of explanation. "Who… who did that?"

They all pointed to Ally. She glanced at the old sign that was in the corner and shrugged. "It's your shelter now. You deserve the credit, no one else."

In big letters it read, Trish's Shelter where the sign had once read Marie's. It wasn't visible unless you were under the door, but it replaced the old one with her former boss's name, and to her there was nothing more fitting. Ally might work there, but the reason that they had a job, and the reason that the state didn't take the place over was because of her boss. She deserved the sign and more. Ryland and Jackson wrapped her into a hug as she just stared at it.

"It's all yours," she told Trish softly. "All yours."

"Ours," she mumbled to herself. "I don't work alone."

Backbeat the word is on the street that the fire in your heart is out
I'm sure you've heard it all before but you never really had a doubt
I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now

Weeks seemed to fly once everything calmed down. She grew quite fond of her daily trips with Rocky to his PT appointments, as they always had a conversation that would be remembered.

"Dude, no way Save Me, San Francisco is the best Train song of all time!"

"No way, Rocky. Drops of Jupiter is beautiful!"

"That is such a girl answer!"

"That is such a lie!"

"Oh, dude."

"Stop calling me a dude!"

He was opening up a lot more about his home state and telling her stories about when he was a kid. She often just listened, there wasn't much of a need to add anything, and they spent hours at times, just driving around because it felt nice. The summer was winding down, school would start back soon and while some might not change, she knew the time alone with everyone would slowly dissipate.

Sometimes they stopped for ice cream and went to sit by the beach, sharing stories with the others when they wanted to come. While he was able to play the concert, Rocky was still far from completely healed. The bullet had done a lot of damage to his muscles and made him weak, and that would take time to heal. So, he spent a lot of time relaxing with her and Austin, just enjoying themselves.

"Remember when we were in the mall and I made you try on that dress," Austin grinned.

"We were never going to mention that again, right?" she growled playfully.

Rocky jumped up. "Dress? Mall? Where was I?"

Often, they'd get into serious discussions about things that no one else could, and they found themselves losing track of time, Trish calling and wondering where her two kids were and the one adult. She supposed she should honestly be more responsible there, but wasn't it a form of therapy? The boys could talk for hours on the beach, open with each other and even her about what they went through, and things they believed in.

"Dude, my scar is so much bigger than yours."

"I needed almost two dozen stitches!"

"No way!"

"Yeah, man. It was brutal."

"How many concussions have you had? I bet I've had more."


She didn't want to take that from them. They still went to the state monitored things, but somehow, she had a feeling they did their own healing better this way. She'd never say that though, only added in on the conversation when it was her turn.

They often spent hours at a time, talking about a road trip across country, ending up in Rocky's old town.

"I bet we would find a ton of awesome places for music along the way."

"I bet we could find a ton of awesome places in general."

"I bet we could drive for hours with absolutely nothing on the mind but…"

"Fun," Austin said.

"Relaxation," Ally added.

"Freedom," Rocky determined.

And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I'd like to say to you
But I don't know how

Ally knew that Rydel had gotten very close to Taylor over the summer, but was surprised to hear what she did at a bonfire on the beach several days into the last week of August.

"Ally, I love him," she said quietly, seeing as he was only a few feet away. "More than anything I ever have before. Its keeping me up at night… it's like he completes me. I don't feel like there is a part missing from me anymore and when he looks at me, it feels like a movie. I can't remember how to breathe; I can't remember how to think. I feel… whole."

She had grinned. "So why don't you tell him that?"

She bounced up and they snuck off somewhere to be alone. He was good to her in every way that she deserved. He saw past the scars on her body, the ones others were so quick to judge her for, like it was an infectious disease. He saw what those at the shelter saw, a beautiful girl who shined like gold and had a smile that could pick a fight with the sun and win.

I said maybe you're gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, you're my wonderwall

Saying goodbye to Riker proved harder than she thought. Ally spent about an hour trying to hold back tears, both from how happy she was for him and how sad she was to be losing one from the 'nest' of sorts. While she had wanted to drive him there, Trish had gently insisted that Ryland be the one to do it, as he had to talk with the college itself, set up specific needs. Either way, she was hugging him tight and telling him that she wanted to be made aware of everything he did.

"I'm seeing you in five days," he mouthed in amusement.

Ally scowled playfully. "Fine. Then just go. See if I care."

She turned away to make him laugh and she felt his arms wrap around her waist, pulling her back just as playfully into a hug. He burrowed his face into her neck as she gave him a kiss on the cheek, handing him a new notebook when she was finished. "What's this?" he mouthed.

"I know you have one, but consider this our notebook. Write what you want in it. You don't have to write songs, or you can. Its for us, to share. When you come back on the weekends, we'll switch off. You get it for a week, and so do I. I figure it'll help both of us deal with the difference in a creative way."

He beamed. "I love it."

Ally grinned at him, still holding the gaze until she was forced to break it by the other adults. He waved one more time before he went through the door.

"Are you okay?" Trish asked quietly.

Ally laughed a little, shaking her head. "It feels like he's going across the country."

The door opened suddenly. He came running back in, and wrapped his arms around her. "It's going to be a long five days," he mouthed weakly.

Ally smiled.

"I love you," he mouthed.

"I love you too, Riker."

He left again.

"You have to let them go," she told her softly. "Life goes on. Life moves on."

I said maybe you're gonna be the one that saves me
I said maybe you're gonna be the one that saves me
I said maybe you're gonna be the one that saves me
You're my wonderwall.

I don't know how to start this, or even how to say how these last few months have been. There are so many words to describe how my volunteer experience went and many things I learned while there. Many people have questioned my absence. I can say that I'm sorry that you all went so long without hearing from me and not to expect any more blogs after this one. I say this with a smile on my face though, as I'm making a difference in a different part of my life now. It's not only my job, it's my livelihood. It's everything to me, and this blog brought me to it. This blog started something for me that I can never repay. The blog brought me to my family.

Hi. My name is Ally Dawson. I'm 21 years old and I'm a social worker.

You see, I started to volunteer for a shelter here in the city. I didn't know what to expect from it, or how to even manage what I was given. There were days when I thought this isn't for me, there is no way I could do this. There is a lot of horror in this world, a lot of unfair things that happen to wonderful people who deserve so much more than what they've got. They are put through a living hell, an absolute terror of a life for months or even years on end. They are hurt. They are scared. They are broken.

They are victims. But they don't have to stay that way. The amazing thing about the shelter is that no one stays a victim. Of course, you could if you'd like to. But that's another thing about these people. They're survivors. They take the pain they face and they turn it into a positive. They fight through fire to be people they'd like to be, not who others see them as. And it's not easy for them, either. They do it though. They survive, they persevere and at the end of the day, they have a smile on their face.

These are special people. They deserve all the love in the world and they get it here. Of course, much like most places, there are problems along the way. And I faced plenty of them in my time. When is the road ever smoothly paved?

I wish there were words to describe this place. You'd never know its changed lives unless you were here. You can see it everyday here. And it's such an amazing feeling.

And with that, thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for taking a journey with me and allowing me to help you all over the years. I can say that with my degree, I couldn't be in a better place. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I have found my home.