Okay, I know it's been forever, I'm sorry. I actually haven't written much of anything in months. The only reason why this is going up is because I had literally every single section done for months now and I was tired of staring at the unfinished ending so I decided to throw together a crappy conclusion and post it tonight.
If any of you are at all curious as to why I've taken so long, it's mostly because my life is a raging shitstorm of unfortunate events. People in my family keep dying and I recently took up a job that has me working eleven to twelve hour days five days a week. So on my days off, I'm honestly too exhausted to write. It's a shitty job but it pays incredibly well and I'm trying to help my family with some financial problems so yeah.
Right, anyway, sorry for taking forever and for those of you still interested in my silly little fics, thank you for sticking around and being so patient.
And my sincerest apologies for the shit ending. I am painfully rusty and I don't think I know what writing is any more.
Dedicated to Miss-Rainy-Skies and xoxo Cherie, both of those lovely ladies proofread beginnings of this.
Disclaimer: Look, if I owned Austin and Ally, I would just abuse the power and write them into nauseatingly fluffy scenarios with no real substance, okay?
It was the perfect spot.
No, really, it was.
The grass was this vibrant and brilliant shade of green underneath this gorgeous, sturdy tree. The branches from the tree provided cool shade and kept the harsh sunlight out of your eyes. And from the vantage point under the tree, you could see across the quad and watch all the students milling about the campus.
So yeah, Ally liked to sit underneath this perfect tree with its perfect branches in the perfect shade, especially when she needed a perfect place to study. She'd found the spot a few days ago and had grown very, very fond of it.
However, on a random Wednesday, just a bit past noon, she found her perfect spot occupied.
She blinked. She blinked again. She rubbed her eyes with her fists. She opened her eyes.
He was still there.
Underneath the tree sat a blond guy, a pair of over-sized headphones slung around his neck with his books scattered out in front of him, all unopened. He sat with his long legs crossed and his back relaxed against the tree. A dark blue hacky sack flew up into the air and he caught it, repeating the action over and over with a bored expression on his face.
Ally shifted uncomfortably and mentally debated whether she should awkwardly ask him to move. Sure, it would be a bit rude of her since he had technically beaten her to the spot, after all. But really, it wasn't like he was doing anything productive under the tree, whereas she had very set plans to study for the next hour before her biology test.
In the middle of her warring thoughts, a voice spoke out.
"You gonna keep staring at me like that?"
With a startled gasp, the brunette jumped back half a step and her eyes refocused on him guiltily. He was still throwing the dark blue object up into the air and her eyes followed the movement of the ball for a second.
"Well?" he drawled. His tone bordered on curious, but it was as if he were too bored and lazy to fully commit to sounding so.
She bit her lip and walked up to him, stopping in front of him uncomfortably. "Sorry, it's just..." she trailed off, not quite sure how to ask him to move. She finally took a deep breath and set her shoulders determinedly. "You're in my spot."
He caught the hacky sack and didn't throw it back up in the air. At last, he focused his attention on the petite girl. "Your spot?" he repeated bemusedly, his eyebrow steadily rising up and up.
She gave him a curt nod. "Yes, my spot," she reiterated, the slightest edge to her voice.
A smirk settled over his admittedly handsome features and he cocked his head to the side. "This isn't your spot," he declared confidently, defiance sparking in his eyes.
Ally bristled at the laughter bubbling in his statement and put her hands on her hips. "I've been studying under that tree for the past week! It's the perfect place, okay? And I know I technically don't own the tree or anything, but I really, really like that tree and that shaded area and those branches and that patch of grass you're sitting on and everything else, okay?"
"And you want me to move?"
She deflated at his incredulous tone and wavered momentarily. "Only because I need to study for my biology test and that's the one spot that I can study without getting stressed out," she admitted softly.
He stared at her for a long moment, his features carefully blank. "Come here," he said after a while, gesturing for her to come closer.
"Why?" she asked skeptically, eyebrows knitting together.
He rolled his brown eyes and gestured more hurriedly with his hand. "Just come here!"
She shuffled closer to him and shifted the strap of her messenger bag on her shoulder. "Well?" she questioned, staring down at him in confusion.
He scooted to his right and reached his arm all the way around the tree, pointing to something on the trunk, near the ground, almost out of sight if you were to stare at the tree dead on. "Look."
Ally blinked and knelt down to the ground, squinting at something carved into the tree. "A.M.?" she murmured curiously under her breath, her fingers reaching out to trace over the letters. "Wait..." A sort of dreadful realization started to dawn on her.
"A.M. for Austin Moon," he explained with a laugh.
Her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. "You're kidding," she breathed inaudibly. She turned to look at him and found him staring at her with an amused smirk.
He held up one of his notebooks, his name scrawled in black sharpie across the front as evidence. "Sorry," he said with a toothy grin, sounding completely unapologetic.
Ally released a heavy sigh and got up slowly. She looked down at him and tucked a piece of hair behind an ear. Red colored her cheeks and she fought to keep the embarrassment out of her face and voice. "Well, thanks for letting me borrow your spot, I guess," she said sarcastically.
Austin craned his neck to look up at her, throwing his notebook onto the pile of his things. "Glad you enjoy it as much as I do," he replied smoothly.
"I guess it's back to my dorm room," she muttered under her breath as she turned her back to him, starting on her way. She managed to make it a few steps forward.
His long, calloused fingers latching around her slim wrist halted her movements. Her eyes went wide from the unexpected touch.
"You know, we could always share the tree," his voice suggested in a lazy drawl.
She twisted her upper half around to look at him. "Share the tree?" she repeated tonelessly.
His eyebrows shot up as he continued looking up at her. "Surely, you must be familiar with the concept? It's something they should have taught you way back in kindergarten." She could hear the condescending tone in his voice.
Ally bristled at him, another smattering of red appeared across her cheeks. "Of course I'm familiar with the concept!" she snapped irritably.
The smirk reappeared on Austin's face as he gently let go of her wrist. He moved over to make room for her, patting the grass next to him in an enticing manner. "Well, have a seat," he offered.
She nibbled on her bottom lip uncertainly. "Um, it's okay. I can just—"
"Are you going to sit or not?" he sighed impatiently, opening up one of his textbooks and propping it open across his knees.
Ally rolled her eyes and gave in as she sat down next to him. She made sure to leave a respectful amount of distance between them. She pulled out her biology book and her corresponding notebook from her bag. She flipped to the correct page and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, settling against the tree to read over her very thorough and color-coordinated notes.
A line and a half in, she felt a looming presence over her shoulder and she slowly, carefully turned her head to the side, and was met with a close up view of his face. Austin was peering over her shoulder, an arm bracing his upper half as he leaned into her. Her eyes widened at the close proximity but he hardly seemed to notice as he leaned in even further, his chin practically resting on her shoulder.
"Jeez, those are some insane notes," he muttered, his features scrunching together in a horrified sort of confusion as he scanned the page.
"Wha—what are you doing?" she squeaked, feeling a flush creep up her neck and into her cheeks.
"Just looking at your notes," he said plainly as he looked up to meet her gaze. He stared at her blankly, not realizing he was invading her personal space, therefore making her very flustered.
She frowned and scooted a ways from him. "You could have just asked," she pointed out, handing him her notebook.
He nodded and then held up her notes, pointing to the nearly rainbow'd-page with his other hand. "You've got quite the color system here," he snickered with a smirk.
"Don't ask for my notes if you're only going to make fun of them," she snapped. She huffed and snatched her notebook back. "I'm trying to study! I have a test in less than an hour!"
The blond raised his hands in surrender. "Alright, alright. Sorry." At her pointed glare, he switched his feigned innocence to a more sincere look. "I won't bother you the rest of the time, I promise," he said, looking her in the eye.
She continued glaring at him, her eyes flitting back and forth between his. "Good," she muttered.
To her honest surprise, he kept his word.
A light nudge to her foot and she looked up from her textbook, squinting against the blinding sun, to see a towering blond staring down at her.
"Scoot over," he urged as he nudged her foot again with his own Converse-clad foot.
Ally ignored the feeling of disappointment—she'd been hoping to have the spot all to herself today—and rolled her eyes. She moved over so that she was no longer in the very middle of the shaded area to make room for Austin.
"Thanks." He smirked and sat down next to her. He threw down his things carelessly in front of him as he settled comfortably against the tree. "You got another big test today?" he asked as he nodded at her reading material.
"No," she answered with a shake of her head. "Just trying to keep on top of things," she continued with a shrug as she turned a page and continued to take notes.
"Ah," he nodded.
They entered a semi-uncomfortable silence, but she ignored the awkward air to focus on taking notes. She idly wondered what Austin was studying but quickly pushed that thought out of her head as she highlighted a new vocabulary word in her notes. As long as he was quiet, she couldn't care less what he was doing.
"So your name's Ally?"
The sudden comment made her hand jerk and the highlighter squeaked from the movement. She frowned at the word now encased in an imperfect rectangle of color. She capped the neon marker and looked over to Austin.
She didn't remember giving him her name during their last study session.
"How'd you kn—is that my notebook?" she abruptly switched her line of questioning. She stared at him, baffled, as he flipped through the pages of a familiar notebook with an air of nonchalance.
"Yeah," was his simple reply.
She tore her history notes from his grasp and frowned deeper at him. "And you couldn't ask to see it?"
"I didn't want to interrupt you since you seemed so intent on studying," he said with a raised eyebrow. "I was bored and it was sitting right there, with your name on it. Which, by the way, you were very rude during our last meeting because you never gave it to me." He tsked her and shook his head, a small mocking smirk appearing.
Ally blushed lightly. "Sorry," she said dryly. "But I was trying to focus on my studies," she reminded him in a dull tone. She pursed her lips and set her history notebook aside, out of his reach. "Austin, why aren't you studying anything?" she asked tiredly.
He shrugged. "I'm taking a break. I just got out of a really long and seriously boring lecture and I'd rather not use my fried brain at the moment."
She gasped in fake shock. "You have a brain that's usable?" she said in a mocking tone.
His smirk grew and he gave her an impressed look. "There's some snark to you, isn't there, bookworm?"
The corners of her lips twitched but she schooled her expression. "As a college student, that's not necessarily a bad thing."
"Spoken like a true bookworm," he said with a click of his tongue. But the smile he shot her let her know he was teasing her.
She eyed him with mixed tones of exasperation and amusement. "Well, I'd appreciate it if I could study in peace."
Austin rolled his eyes. "Alright, fine." He took out a notebook and a pencil from his backpack and pulled his headphones over his ears.
They remained quiet the rest of the time.
But she did catch him smirking at her while she color-coded her notes.
Austin appeared to be in deep concentration as his eyes scanned the passages of his textbook, so Ally didn't bother greeting him as she quietly sat down next in the grass next to him.
"Hey," he muttered absently as his eyebrows furrowed and he flipped a page.
"Hi," she said.
"Are you cramming for a test?" she finally asked.
He sighed and looked up from his history book. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and nodded tiredly. "Yeah." His arms reached up and he stretched with a loud groan. "God, I am so not looking forward to this test."
She looked at him sympathetically. "I'm sure you'll do fine," she said helpfully.
Austin snorted. "That's easy for you to say, bookworm." He gave her a look. "You probably look forward to taking tests." The words left his mouth in a clipped, harsh tone.
She squirmed uncomfortably at the truth to his jabbing words.
Austin winced and rubbed his temples. "Okay, dick comment, I'm sorry," he apologized quietly.
Her eyes softened. "It's okay," she said tentatively.
He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm just—history always stresses me out because it bores the hell out of me and I definitely didn't pay as much attention as I probably should have..." he trailed off with an awkward cough.
"When's your test?"
He glanced down at the watch on his wrist and groaned again. "An hour and a half."
"I can help you study," she offered.
He looked at her in surprise. An eyebrow lifted slightly. "You haven't got your own stuff to study?" he asked.
She did, actually. She had a test in two hours and she didn't know the material quite as well as she would have liked. So basically, that meant she couldn't recite it backwards. In her sleep maybe, but not backwards quite yet.
"No," she lied. "I can help you."
His face broke out into a wide grin and he nodded in relief. "Thanks, Ally."
Her stomach did a flip.
"It's nothing. Let me see your notes."
"So guess what," the words were a direct demand and Ally glanced up curiously. Her eyes followed Austin's form as he moved to a sitting position next to her.
"Guess," he ordered again.
She frowned. "Can I have a hint?"
"The zombie apocalypse is not coming," he stated, very seriously.
She gave him a huffy sigh. "Austin, that leaves everything else."
Austin rolled his eyes. "Fine." He paused, thinking about a hint. "It has to do with my grades."
"You're failing?!" she gasped in horror.
"What?! No!" He recoiled and looked at her, highly offended. "Jeez, Ally, I can tell that you have so much faith in my intelligence and studying skills," he scoffed sarcastically.
She looked properly chastised. "Oh no, I'm sorry," she muttered with an apologetic wince. "Um, er... so it's a good thing about your grades, then?" she stuttered.
"Yes," he said tonelessly as he stared at her with a blank expression.
"You made the honor roll?"
"Too high, Ally, too high. Aim a little lower."
She wracked her brain for what it could possibly be. "Um. You recently passed a test?"
Austin lit up and tapped a finger to his nose with one hand and pointed at her excitedly with his other.
Her eyes widened. "Oh, oh!" she cried, quickly catching on. "You passed your history test? The one I helped you study for?" she asked happily.
The blond laughed and nodded. "The grades were posted this morning. I got an A!" He looked at her gratefully as her eyes brightened at the news. "Thanks, Ally. I really owe you one."
She shook her head. "Don't worry about it," she stated earnestly as she waved him off. "I was happy to help."
He rolled his eyes at her modesty but knew to let the matter drop. "I just can't believe you managed to make history sound interesting," he said incredulously.
Ally looked sheepish. "It's a gift, I guess," she said with an awkward, little shrug.
Austin grinned at her. "I knew sharing my tree with you would come in handy at some point," he joked.
She laughed and matched his grin. "Well, if you ever need help with anything else, I wouldn't mind helping you."
He looked at her as he carefully considered her offer. "Hm... I do have another test in my calc class coming up soon. How good are you at math?"
She beamed at him. "I was a mathlete!"
And God, he really, really wanted to make fun of her. It was just too easy.
Instead, he grinned affectionately at her, pulled out his calculus book, and opened it up for her to see.
So the test was a week away. She didn't need to know that. Besides, it's never too early to start something, right?
"So, um, I brought something today," Ally started up nervously. She fidgeted with her fingers as she stared down at him.
Austin looked up at her from his seat on the ground. "Okay." He sounded bored. And then he went back to reading the book in his lap.
"Um, I need you to get up," she mumbled shyly.
He looked back up at her again, but this time his eyebrows were furrowed in confusion. "Why?"
She fished around in her book bag and pulled out a folded up red and pink floral printed blanket. "I need to lay this out."
Austin scoffed at her. "You never brought a blanket before."
Ally blushed. "I know. I kept forgetting, but I finally remembered it today."
He continued to look unimpressed. "Ally, we don't need the blanket."
She faltered. "But I'm wearing a skirt!" she blurted.
Austin's eyes traveled up and down her bare legs. "It's a very nice skirt," he complimented with a wolfish smirk.
Her blush deepened and she shifted her weight from foot to foot. "The grass is going to be itchy and I don't want stains on my skirt," she explained with pleading eyes. And then she pouted, just ever so slightly.
Austin slumped forward and sighed. "Okay, fine," he relented with a roll of his eyes. He gathered his things and stood up. "Here," he said as he handed her his things.
Her arm reached out and he exchanged his books for her blanket. He shook out the large piece of fabric and with short and quick flicks of his wrists, he had the blanket fluttering down perfectly in one smooth motion.
Austin turned to her and gestured to the blanket with a flourish. "There you go."
She beamed happily at him and sat down. "Thanks," she said as she placed his things next to her.
"You're welcome," he said with a tight smile as he joined her on the picnic blanket.
"And we can lie down now, too!" she said excitedly as she grabbed her study materials, laid them out in front of her, and settled comfortably on her stomach.
He grinned wickedly. "I like the sound of that." He moved to lie down on his back, but pillowed his head using the small of her back.
She froze at the weight. "Austin, what are you doing?" she sputtered, swiveling her head around to glare at him. The blush adorning her cheeks effectively ruined the glare, though.
"Studying," he replied with a straight face as he pulled his knees up and laid a book open across his thighs.
"No, I mean—would you—is that really—"
He tore his gaze away from his book in mock-annoyance. "Ally, please. I'm trying to study," he said with a tired sigh.
She seethed at him as he laughed at her with his eyes. "Fine," she bit out. "Comfy?" she added bitterly.
"Yes, now that I have my own personal pillow." He wiggled his head around and she blushed harder at the contact. He shot her a quick grin. "You should bring the blanket more often," he said. The mischievous twinkle in his eye didn't go unnoticed by her.
"Shut up and study," she grumbled as she turned back to the textbook laid out in front of her.
He laughed and she couldn't help the small smile tugging at her lips in spite of her exasperation.
Ally was in the middle of reading Pride and Prejudice when an apple was suddenly thrust under her nose. Her head jerked back in alarm—her skull almost connecting with the tree—and she blinked rapidly at the offered fruit.
"You like apples, right?" Austin drawled casually from his squatting position in front of her. He took a bite from a second apple in his other hand, crunching noisily.
She bookmarked her page and gently set her book down. "Yeah, I do. Um, thanks." She gently took it from him, her fingers brushing slightly across his.
He quickly spun around and joined her in a seating position against the tree. "You remembered the blanket," he observed with a smile.
She picked at a spot on the blanket next to her thigh. "You told me to bring it," she said as nonchalantly as possible. She took a small bite of her apple. It was juicy and delicious and she'd been itching for a snack all day.
His smile widened and he rifled through his book bag to pull out two drink pouches. "Capri Sun?" he asked as he held up one of the pouches.
She swallowed the bite and smiled at him. "Thanks."
He threw it at her and she fumbled clumsily in a failed attempt to catch it before it finally landed in her lap awkwardly. He laughed at her embarrassed blush. "Sorry. I should have just handed it to you." He shot her an amused look. "But we are less than a foot away from each other."
"I'm just horrible at any sort of catching or throwing. Especially the catching." She gave him a pained look. "You should have seen me during gym in high school."
Austin tried to imagine an even dorkier Ally running around in gym clothes and flinching at every sort of sports ball that flew toward her. He smirked at her. "Not your thing, huh?"
"I have absolutely no athletic skill, whatsoever," she stated bluntly before taking another bite from her apple.
His hand reached out and caught on one of her wrists. "Jeez, then how do you stay so thin?" he marveled as he gently straightened her arm out to examine it. He squeezed experimentally. "Well, I guess you're all skin and bones. There's not much muscle here," he mused as his eyes started at her bare shoulder and trailed south.
She blushed under his scrutiny. "Why don't you study a textbook instead of my arm?" she suggested dryly.
He threw a flirty smirk at her. "Oh, I don't think I mind studying this material," he said as he turned her wrist to gaze at the milky skin of her forearm. He placed his apple on the fabric of his book bag and with his newly freed hand, he walked his forefinger and middle finger up along her arm.
She bit back a smile as his fingers continued their journey up to the bend of her arm. "I don't think anybody's going to quiz you on my arm," she joked.
"Soft, smooth skin, with the complexion of milk," he muttered. "A freckle, to the right, just two centimeters above the crease of the elbow." His eyes darted up to meet her brown ones. "I'd ace that quiz," he said in a low, confident whisper.
She stared back with wide eyes. She swallowed nervously, but held his gaze in mute shock. The blush in her cheeks deepened before she finally averted her eyes. "I, um, I really need to finish this chapter," she mumbled at last.
Austin chuckled knowingly and gently dropped her wrist. "Okay. I'll leave you alone for the rest of the time," he said, the playful smirk on his face never dropping. He grabbed his usual book and pencil from his book bag.
"Thanks," she murmured softly.
She didn't tell him that this was her fourth reread of one of her favorite books. Or that she knew the material like the back of her hand.
Ally blinked in surprise at the unoccupied spot under the tree.
It was a Wednesday. Austin always beat her to the tree on Wednesdays.
She frowned and looked around at the other students milling around the campus. There wasn't a shock of blond hair in sight.
She shrugged off her uneasiness and pulled out the blanket from her book bag. She started to unfold it slowly, telling herself that he's probably just running late or something.
She got to the last fold when all of a sudden, a body swung down from the tree right in front of her.
Ally shrieked in absolute horror and dropped the blanket. Her hands flew to her chest and she staggered backwards, her spine hitting the trunk of the tree rather uncomfortably.
Austin cackled hysterically at her fright from his upside position, the back of his knees hanging from a branch. He curled up slightly, doubled over from his laughter. A hand gripped the branch for extra support and the other wrapped around his ribs.
The blood that had drained from her face mere seconds ago flooded back with a vengeance as she felt her ire stir up. "Austin Moon!" she bellowed, pushing herself off the tree. She stalked forward and came to a stop in front of the blond. "For crying out loud, what was that for?!" she demanded as she stabbed him in the chest with a finger.
It took a long moment for his laughter to peter out. She glared at him in the meantime, with tiny curled up fists on her hips.
"Man, I've been wanting to do that for ages," he confessed with a wicked grin.
"Do what exactly?" she growled. "Give me a heart attack?"
"You should have seen your face!" he snorted as another round of laughter erupted from him.
She rolled her eyes. "Just get down from there and help me with the blanket, alright?" she snapped.
He bit his lip to keep from laughing again and he swung to a sitting position before jumping down from the branch. He reached up and grabbed his stuff perched on one of the opposite branches. "C'mon, you've got to admit, that was pretty good."
Ally rolled her eyes again, but a corner of her lips quirked upward ever so slightly. "Maybe I'll give you props for that scare after my rapidly beating heart gets a chance to calm down."
He chuckled and bent over to pick up the blanket she had dropped. He started to lay it out when Ally suddenly started laughing at him. He frowned and gave her an odd look. "What?"
"Nothing, nothing. Just—just hang on," she giggled as she walked up to him, her eyes hovering near the top of his head.
Austin frowned in slight apprehension as one of her arms reached out—the one with the freckle—and brushed lightly at the tips of his bangs.
A few leaves fluttered to the ground.
She bit her lip in concentration as she continued messing with his hair. The leaves were gone, but she continued fussing with bangs, clearly not happy with their disarray. Due to their considerable height difference, she had also pressed herself onto the tip of her toes.
Not that Austin minded. He spent the time taking in the adorable little crease of concentration between her brows, staring at her impossibly long lashes, and studying the natural pink of her perfect lips.
The tiniest crinkle in her nose was probably his favorite, though.
"There!" she finally huffed as she took a step back to admire her handiwork. She smiled appreciatively at his newly swooped fringe.
He blinked and shook himself out of his reverie. He quickly shot the petite brunette a devious grin. "Thanks." And then, just because he knew it would annoy her, he shook his bangs and ran a hand through them, effectively ruining her work as his hair stood up all over the place.
The smile disappeared. "Austin!" she cried exasperatedly.
Austin merely laughed as he spread out the blanket for the both of them.
Ally looked up from her book—this one was for leisure and not a class, surprisingly—and saw Austin holding up two oranges. She smiled and told him, "A snack wouldn't hurt." She closed the book to put it down.
He grinned down at her and tossed one of the oranges up in the air before catching it with ease. "You think you're ready?"
She inhaled dramatically and squared her shoulders. She held up both of her hands in preparation. "Please don't hit me in the face," she pleaded with a wince.
His eyebrows furrowed. "Ally, I'm not an asshole, jeez." And then he very, very gently tossed the orange into her awaiting hands.
She caught it in the crook of an elbow.
Close enough, Austin decided bemusedly.
"Yay!" she cried delightedly. "I caught it!" And then she gave him a sheepish look. "Sort of," she amended.
"It was a good catch," he said, clearly humoring her.
She rolled her eyes but thanked him anyway as they started to peel and eat their oranges in a comfortable silence.
"So what were you reading?" he asked after popping his last orange slice into his mouth. He tried to lean over her lap to catch a glimpse of the title.
She turned to the book and blinked. "Oh, it's just The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky," she answered with a mild shrug. "I read it a while ago, but with the movie coming out recently, I wanted to refresh my memory before I went and saw it."
His eyebrows shot straight up and he pointed at the book. "Wait. That's not an assignment for a class?" The surprise was evident in his voice.
"Um. No, it's not," she answered tentatively.
He grinned at her curiously. "I thought you only used the tree for studying?"
Her eyes widened and her mouth worked soundlessly for a few moments. Her cheeks turned pink, then red, and finally she stuttered something. "And reading! I like reading."
Not the most intelligent thing she's ever uttered, but it was the truth. And that had to count for something, right?
Austin rolled his eyes. "Bookworm," he said affectionately with a teasing smile.
"Well, at least I study more often than not. Half the time you're just sitting there, listening to music!" she pointed out.
He snorted. "Ally, you come here to study, but I come here to relax," he said. His lips quirked into a smug smile. "My tree, remember?"
Ally gave him a strange look. "And you can't listen to music or relax in your dorm?"
Austin shrugged. "I like being outside, in the fresh air. My room is tiny and even tinier with my roommate. I mean, he's really cool and everything, but sometimes I just need some space."
"Oh. I guess that makes sense," she said in a tiny voice. She looked at him curiously. "So are you just going to listen to music today? Or are you actually going to study something?"
He snorted. "Ally, if you're taking a break from studying for the first time since we've met, then I'm sure as hell not studying or doing homework."
"... Damn, I forgot my iPod in my dorm room..."
She gave him a dry look. "So what? You're just going to sit there?" she asked sarcastically.
Austin's nose wrinkled in distaste. "That sounds awful."
She rolled her eyes. "Well, while you figure out a way to keep yourself entertained, I'm going to be reading this excellent novel." She picked up her book and opened it to where she'd bookmarked it before. She read exactly two and a half sentences before Austin curled a finger in the spine in between the pages and pulled the book down from her eye level. Her eyebrows furrowed in irritation and she snapped her eyes up to meet his. "Yes?" she asked curtly.
"I'm bored," he said bluntly.
"That's not my problem." She tried to bring the book back up so she could read, but he tugged on the book down until it was in her lap. "Austin! Let me read."
She sighed resignedly and put the book away, which made him grin happily. "Okay," she said with a clearing of her throat as she turned back to give him her full attention. "What do you want to do?" she asked in a voice that sounded like she was trying to humor a small child.
He wracked his brain for a possible idea and then snapped his fingers before pointing at her. "I got it!" he said as he reached into his bag. "Let's work on your hand-eye coordination."
Her brow furrowed further. "What?" she asked flatly.
"We'll just throw this back and forth." He grinned and pulled out his hacky sack, something she hadn't seen since the first time they'd met.
She eyed the object in distaste. "That doesn't sound like fun."
He rolled his eyes. "Let's turn it into a game. And maybe by the end of it, you'll be able to catch things without flinching." He chuckled at his own joke.
"If that hasn't happened despite my many years of gym class, I highly doubt it's going to happen today," she said dryly.
"Oh, c'mon! How about... if you miss, you tell me something embarrassing about yourself."
She frowned. "That's not fair at all! You know how awful I am at catching things!"
He gave her a challenging look, completed by a smirk. "Then don't miss!" he taunted.
Her frown deepened. "What happens if I catch it, then?"
"If you catch it, I'll share something embarrassing about me," he said with a shrug.
Her eyes squinted in careful consideration. "This still seems horribly one-sided..."
He sighed. "Okay, okay. It doesn't have to be embarrassing. Just share... whatever about yourself. But make sure it's news to me. How does that sound?"
Ally smiled slightly at that. "But you have to stick to the embarrassing stuff!"
"Fine," he agreed with a sigh.
"Oh, whatever, Austin. Knowing me, I probably won't even catch the hacky sack at all," she huffed.
Austin smirked and repositioned himself so he was sitting cross-legged a foot away from her. "So you ready?" She held up her hands and scrunched up her face in adorable concentration. When she nodded at him, he tossed her the hacky sack.
She caught it in her right hand. She still flinched, though. But hey! Progress.
"You caught it!" he cheered, pointing at her.
She lowered her hand and blinked at it in awe. "Oh my God, I totally did!" she laughed as she waved it around excitedly. And then she gave him a smug little grin. "Okay. Now tell me something embarrassing," she demanded giddily.
Austin inhaled and exhaled. "My middle name's Monica," he mumbled under his breath.
It took her a full minute to calm down before they could continue the game.
A giggle stirred him from his slumber, but not enough to fully wake him.
"Austin?" a soft voice whispered.
He grunted and shifted away from the sound.
"Austin. Wake up."
He buried his face in his book bag, used as a make shift pillow, and screwed his eyes shut.
A heavy sigh reached his ears. And then, "Austin, you should get up. I can lay the blanket out and you'll be a bit more comfortable."
The sleepy bond dragged himself into a sitting position, blinking at a fuzzy image of Ally blearily before stretching and yawning. "Sorry," he said, the apology filtering through the yawn. "My roommate kept listening to different exploding sound effects for his short film." He rubbed at the dark circles under his eyes. "It kept me up all night."
She looked at him sympathetically. "It's okay. Here. Stand over there and I'll put down the blanket."
He did as he was told and when she was done, he crawled back onto the red and pink blanket he'd grown so fond of over time.
"There's a banana and a Capri Sun in my bag if you want it," he offered sleepily. "Already ate mine."
Ally smiled at him as she pulled out Pride and Prejudice to read another chapter for her literature class. "Thanks, Austin," she said. She settled against the tree and sat with her legs out in front of her, crossed at the ankle. "You can take your nap now."
He yawned again and crawled over to her. "Don't mind if I do," he muttered tiredly before dropping his head in her lap and closing his eyes.
She looked down at him in alarm and nudged him in the side of the head with a gentle hand. "Austin. That's not funny," she frowned. She nudged him again, a little harder this time around. "Austin," she repeated in a firmer voice. "Get off."
Austin turned on to his side, his nose pointed at her torso, and nuzzled his cheek against her jean clad thigh. "But you're so comfy..." he murmured, his words coming out slightly slurred, "... and you smell good..."
She blushed and her shoulders drooped in defeat when she saw his chest moving up and down in relaxed and even breaths. He was clearly already asleep. She sighed a bit in fond exasperation, before starting to read from where she left off.
Austin shifted quietly in his sleep and she glanced down at him worriedly, afraid that she might wake him. The hand that had nudged him, still in her lap, wiggled its fingers experimentally. She bit her lip nervously and stilled, just in case he started to stir. He didn't and she relaxed as her fingers started to gently run through his hair. She giggled when she noticed him smiling ever so slightly.
She continued playing with his hair for the remainder of the time.
Ally didn't look up from the book in her lap. She merely grunted a reply and waved at him absently.
"Did you rent out the whole library or something?" Austin muttered with a raised eyebrow. She was in the middle of the blanket, surrounded by books. He took in the stack of books next to her book bag, the two towers on either side of her, and the two books opened in front of her, along with the one in her lap.
She finally looked up at him. "Finals are coming up," she said simply, as if that were the only explanation he needed. As soon as the words left her mouth, her eyes landed on the textbook in her lap again.
"Ally, they're two weeks away," he reminded her in disbelief. He moved to sit down next to the tree.
She shrugged. "I just want to make sure that I'm going to know all the material."
He mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like 'bookworm' under his breath.
She stilled and shot him an annoyed look out of the corner of her eye. "Heard that," she stated flatly.
"How did you even fit all of those books in your bag?"
"I didn't. I have a second bag in my book bag and I carried the rest in my arms," she muttered, still not looking up.
"You want me to stay quiet, don't you?"
"That would be ideal, yes," she said as she flipped a page.
He sighed and set an apple and a Capri Sun down next to her. "Here's a snack," he said.
She finally gave him her full, undivided attention. "Thanks, Austin," she said softly as her lips curved upwards for the first time during their conversation. She reached out and took a bite of her apple.
And so Austin kept his word, and stayed quiet for an extended amount of time.
Until Ally yawned, sat up straighter, and took a moment to stretch. He paused and looked up, eyes following her movements. When she went to lie down on her stomach, he impulsively called out to stop her.
She frowned and her head whipped around to look at him. "Why?" she asked suspiciously.
Austin quickly averted his gaze and flushed. "Uh, never mind. Carry on," he mumbled.
Ally blinked in surprise. "What is it?"
"Nothing," he bit out roughly.
"Austin? Is something wrong? Are you okay?" she asked slowly.
He flinched and coughed awkwardly. "Promise not to be creeped out?"
Her eyebrows shot up and she fully turned around to face him. "Um, sure. I promise," she said gently.
Austin flushed further and flipped his sketchbook around for her too see. "I, uh, probably should have asked first. Sorry," he apologized with a wince.
Ally's eyes widened in shock, and she found herself speechless as she stared at a sketchy pencil drawn portrait of herself. It was a profile view of her features, with her hair tucked behind an ear. Her lips were set in a firm line of concentration and her eyes were downcast because she was reading from her lap. Austin had finished the contours of her face and most of the shading, but the drawing stopped and faded out around the area where her neck met her shoulders, giving her the appearance of a floating head, with the ends of her hair also needing to be filled in.
"Oh, God, this is really creepy, isn't it?" he muttered in horror as moved to close the sketchbook.
She immediately shook her head emphatically. "No, no!" she insisted. She scurried over to him on her knees and Austin would have laughed had he not been horrified by revealing his sketch of her. She plopped down next to him and she leaned over to take a better look at the drawing. "Oh, wow..." she whispered, her breath catching just slightly.
He swallowed thickly and offered her the sketchbook. "Do you want a better look?"
She nodded and gently took it from his hands. She held the sketchbook in her lap with one hand, the other clutched to her chest as her eyes soaked up the drawing. Her free hand reached out, as if to touch the portrait, but she stopped short, her hand suspended in mid-air. She turned to Austin with a curious look. "Why me?" she questioned quietly.
He scratched the back of his head nervously. "Uh, you've, uh got a really cute profile," he admitted. His eyes widened at he quickly amended his previous statement, "Good! I meant good! You've got a good profile."
She gave him an odd look, but waited for him to continue.
Austin cleared his throat. "I didn't want to bother you so I decided to focus on drawing something. That way, I'd be able to stay quiet," he explained. "And you were concentrating and staying still so I figured you'd be a pretty good subject to draw."
She shot him a small, lopsided smile. "And because of my good profile?" she teased gently.
He flushed again and Ally realized that she'd never seen him blush so much in one setting. It was nice to have the tables turned for once. "Uh, yeah," he said thickly, "and because of your good profile."
"Well, it's amazing," she said in a soft, encouraging voice as she handed back his sketchbook. "That's easily the best I've ever looked, so kudos to you," she added jokingly.
Austin sighed and then frowned as he studied the drawing of her. "I didn't get your eyes right," he muttered, his lips pursing in a displeased fashion. "They're softer in person and your nose isn't all cute and crinkly like it usually is when you're concentrating on something."
Ally felt heat creeping into her cheeks as she listened to his description of her. "Oh," was the only thing she could manage in a small voice.
He looked up and smiled at her. "Well, it's not finished, but do you want it?"
She lit up and her eyes darted to her portrait and back to him. "Really? I can have it?" she asked in awe.
Austin smirked. "Only if you promise to let me draw you again in the future."
Her eyes widened in surprise. She pointed to herself with knitted brows of honest confusion. "You really want to draw me again?" she asks incredulously.
He laughed and nodded. "Yeah. How about next time?"
She blinked a few times, trying to speed up the process of her brain catching up. "Um, okay," she said shyly after a moment.
Austin carefully tore out the page from his sketchbook. "Cool. But I'm keeping the next one," he said as he handed her the unfinished drawing.
Ally laughed. "Alright. Sounds good." She took the page and gently ran her fingers over the pencil, careful not to smudge anything. She found an empty folder and placed it inside, making sure not to damage any part of the page. She placed the folder into a binder and put it in her book bag. "Thanks, Austin," she murmured in quiet voice of appreciation.
Austin smirked at her. "I plan on getting your eyes right next time, anyway."
On the day of Ally's last final, she was on her way past the tree she had shared so many times with Austin, a fond smile on her delicate features. She no longer had a reason to visit and within a few days, her dorm would be packed up and she'd be heading home for the summer anyway. Upon that realization, the smile faltered and she knew she'd be missing her blond study companion through the summer months.
So focused in her thoughts of her unlikely friendship with Austin, she didn't hear the familiar voice calling her name.
The hand flying down to her shoulder finally caught her attention, and she jumped in surprise at the touch.
"You scared me," she murmured with a frown.
He chuckled, the hand on her shoulder snaking over to her other one to pull her in close. Austin shot her an easy smile, before turning his eyes over to the tree. "I'm gonna miss this," he said, eyes still staring ahead at their spot.
"Me, too," she said, a sad smile on her features. She relaxed into his half-hug, her head leaning over to rest gently on his chest. "But I guess I'll definitely get a lot more reading done this summer without you distracting me," she teased, trying to keep the mood light.
He snorted. "I livened up your bookwormy life, and you know it," he said haughtily.
She laughed and looked up at him. "But I'll never admit it."
Austin turned, grinning down at her. "You'll keep in touch, yeah?" he asked hopefully, eyes searching hers.
Ally swallowed nervously, feeling something strange fluttering in her stomach. Ignoring the butterflies, she felt herself nodding mechanically. "Of course," she promised softly.
He gave her a delighted smirk and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "My phone number's in the back of one of your notebooks." And with that, he stepped away from her and winked.
She blinked rapidly in surprise as she watched him take off, her hands already rummaging through her bag for her notebooks.
Ally gave an exasperated chuckle when she found black sharpie scrawled in the back of one of them, just like he'd said.
Call me sometime this summer, bookworm. Oh and PS, check out the tree, will ya?
She raised an eyebrow and she walked up to the tree, eyes scanning the bark and the branches for a few minutes. Her eyebrows furrowed and she bit her lip in concentration, wondering what Austin could have possibly wanted her to check.
A sudden thought struck her and she dropped down to her knees, brown eyes searching the trunk of the tree for Austin's engraving. Her breath hitched when she found a new added name below his. She bit her lip as her fingers reached out to trace over the initials of her own name.
Laughter escaped her and she didn't even notice the grin hurting her cheeks as her eyes and her fingers traced and retraced the two names carved into the tree.
Maybe she wouldn't have much time to read this summer, after all.