Number, an Austin and Ally one-shot

I do not own Austin and Ally. Reviews and requests please!

The are seven billion people in the world. There's no way to ever meet them all. Some may live in a palace on the other side of the earth, others in a box on the side of the road. There'll be people that she passes by, the ones she'll serve, the ones she'll never meet.

And then there are the people who mean the world to her. It doesn't matter that there are over six million people she'll never love. What matters is that there are the handful of ones that stick close.

Some just like to stick closer than others.

Looking back, way, way back, there was a time when Austin was only a number. He was one of seven billion to her.

Now he's one in seven billion to her.

It hadn't started with a touch. In fact, it had started with a pair of corn dogs. But that's not where her memory dwells. It goes back to that one spot, where she knew that he wasn't going to be one in a crowd.

They had been sitting at the piano bench, writing their song. That's when it had happened.

Their fingers touched.

If she really cares to think about it, it's not the first time she's touched someone she barely knows. She's given lessons to plenty of kids on this piano, fingers curled over theirs as they learn the keys. Her fingers have brushed against the palms of customers as she doled out correct change.

It is the first time that she felt something. Something that wasn't 'ew, pass me the hand sanitizer' or 'wow, their hands sure are callused.' More along the lines of 'hey, maybe this could be something.'

She had no idea.

(So we dance and we laugh and we touch)

He slowed his incessant scribbling down. Her clown picture was now ruined, along with her defenseless blue crayon.

"You broke my crayon," she repeated in a much calmer voice.

"I'll get you a new blue crayon." He took his time, dragging her hand across the page. All the way left. All the way right.

It's as if he enjoyed holding her hand.

He hadn't loosened his grip.

She gave into the motion of his hand and followed along. If he didn't have to force her, there'd be no reason to push so hard, right?

Apparently not. His hand stopped altogether, and she thought that he was going to let go. Which it had, after a tight squeezing. She picked up the other half of her defunct crayon, tossing it in the garbage.

"What are you doing?" she asked as he caught her arm swinging back. He stuck a red crayon in her hand.

"Now you try coloring outside of the lines."

"What lines? You colored over them already." Only bits and pieces of the original picture peeked out from under the massive scribble.

He folded her fingers over the crayon. "Just let go and have some fun."

She drew a red line over the blue. Catching her hesitation, he grabbed her hand again.

She would have to learn the hard way.

(Yeah we dance and we laugh and we touch)

As much as she didn't want to admit it, there was one downfall to all those golden star stickers. Laundry.

"Thanks for helping me take all the stickers off." She pulled a star off her skirt, sticking it on the page in her book. The stars were not going to go to waste.

"No problem." He took another off her sleeve. The left one was clean. The question was, would he continue down her arm, or move to the other sleeve. He knew better than to get too close to certain areas, but there was no reason her elbow would be off limits.

It was stuck. There'd be no way to get it off without causing some pain. "Could you get the ones on my back? I can't reach."

He left her elbow. Pushing her hair aside, he tugged at the stars. One of them tore in half.

Surely she wouldn't miss one star. He tucked both pieces into his pocket, where they would stay until her found them later that night. That's when he'd remember working his fingers down her spine, and how she squirmed, evidently ticklish, as he removed the stickers.

He'd remember gently taking the stars out of her hair, trying not to pull the hair with it.

He'd remember yanking them off her skin, quick, like a bandage, per her request, and how the spot felt rough beneath his thumb afterward.

Not that his thumb ever lingered.

Well, not for too long anyway.

(Gonna party all night 'til the sun comes up)

She came down the stairs, shoes off. Now the bathroom was clean, and after a long night, she could get some rest.

"You're still here." Her shoes got set on the counter. Without them, she felt even shorter than usual.

"Yeah," he replied, hanging his head shyly. Trish and Dez had already left. There was no reason for him to stick around.

They stood in silence for a moment.

"I'm glad you decided to stay." He wound his arms around her. Without her shoes, he had to bend down farther than usual.

It didn't make it any less worth it.

Standing on the tips of her toes, she reciprocated. "Me too."

It should have been uncomfortable. It wasn't like their other hugs, where he could go down a little bit, her going up a little. It was a full stretch. It was long too, not separating until her dad came out of his office.

The next morning her legs would ache, but she didn't care. What she cared about was hugging her best friend, because he was here, and she was here, and they weren't planning on parting any time soon.

Medicine can cure body aches, but she would have never lost the heartache.

('Cause it feels like the world disappears around us)

Was the electricity turned up in there, or was it just her?

Because she had seen Austin without a shirt on before, and it had not created the sparks that were going off in the fun house. Big flashy sparks that she ignored, because as his best friend, those kinds of things aren't supposed to happen.

Buttoning his shirt, she fumbled with the holes. The lights were flickering. Just as she would find the hole, the light would dim, and she'd lose the button.

"I think you're ready," she had said as the maintenance man passed by.

He checked his reflection in the mirror. It looked good to him. "Awesome."

His hands held onto her sides as he moved her out of the maintenance man's way. She smiled her thanks at him and he smiled back.

He better have fixed that light soon, because she was feeling sparks again.

When Trish asked him to fix his shirt, Ally made sure to keep her hands off. There was no way that she could do that out in public. People would assume things. Things that couldn't be correct, because there was no way that she could be falling for her best friend. Even if her fingers had relished the feeling of his skin beneath them.

Out here she couldn't blame the sparks on the fun house.

(When we dance, when we laugh, when we touch)

They didn't always touch each other. Sometimes they touched other people. Those could be the worst moments, when they had to watch someone else make them happy. It wasn't that they didn't like to see each other smile.

It was just better when they knew they caused it.

For example, him with Kira. At first, she didn't mind. Kira was a nice girl that her best friend happened to think was pretty. She wasn't her competition, because there was nothing to fight over. Not that she could think of.

That moment on the blanket had changed things. It wasn't that it was the landmark between best friend and crush. Those lines had blurred long ago. It was more like something had sparked in her brain, that made her realize there was something to fight for.

Except she had never been good at hurting people. So instead she hurt herself, stowing those feelings away in a place only she could reach.

For not being good at hurting people, she did a fine job of getting her revenge. She didn't even have to try. One touch, one hug with Elliot, and already the wheels were turning.

Hurting him was never intentional. They would never do something like that on purpose. It was like when he had accidentally hurt her, dating Kira. These things aren't planned. When she touched someone, she didn't take the time to wonder how anybody would feel about it. It was 'I hugged Elliot and I felt happy'. Not 'Elliot received my hug and felt happy unlike Austin.'

If only she had known why he wasn't happy. She could have fixed it all. She could have kept her distance.

Touch is a dangerous thing. It can show how much you care, with a hug, or a hand tucking that stray hair behind an ear. But it can be destructive, showing how much you hate, or don't care. Whether it be a slap, or a punch, or the absence of touch completely.

Absence always is the worst. It's better to know that someone hates your guts and ignore them than wonder if they care if you are there are not.

Because then you have the chance to change it. Sure, you can make it better. You can also make it worse, and get lumped with the rejects. That's a place no one ever wants to go.

No one who has ever loved, that is.

Life could be easier without touch, but a whole lot duller.

It's not dull when his hand touches her hand on the piano. When he feels that jolt of whatever it is, that makes his heart beat out of his chest so far that he thinks it's going to fall to the ground. That jolt that he doesn't get around his girlfriend, who he is not leaning towards, hoping to kiss.

That's not her voice, bringing him back to the real world. The one where he is not her boyfriend, and he's the jealous best friend.

"We should try a different key."

Translation: We should not be thinking about kissing each other when you have a girlfriend and this could potentially ruin our partnership, so let's work on the song and pretend that nothing happened.

The door opens, and there stands Kira. She sees his hand, which has fallen to Ally's knee. "Austin, can we talk? It'll only take a minute."

He stands, setting his hand on her shoulder. He knows it shouldn't be there, and it's tempting him, but he lets it sit there long enough to make her look at him.

"I promise I'll be right back." He lifts his hand and follows her out the door.

It's tough, falling for someone you can't have. One touch, and the feeling loiters around, staying far past its welcome. Why couldn't she have fallen for someone who she could have, to hug and hold hands and kiss?

For now, she'll have to stick with what she has.

His hugs. His hand. No kiss. The kiss she could've had, only to throw away the chance.

It shouldn't matter. It's only a touch, one of seven billion.

Except it's not. It's his touch.

He's not just a number.