Half a Tank of Confidence, an Austin and Ally one-shot

I do not own Austin and Ally. Feedback and prompts are always appreciated.

Three simple words should be able to roll off his tongue like they're the easiest thing to say in the world.

But the friendzone isn't equipped with a microphone. Just a wall of plexiglass, keeping them apart. The words would get lost. And if they were heard, they'd be chalked up to the bond of two best friends, not what they truly mean.

Why is it so hard to say "I love you?"

(clothespins)

He's helping her do the laundry. They're hanging the towels outside because it's such a gorgeous day. A gorgeous, windy day.

The wind swoops down and knocks the towel against her face. There's a brief battle.

It ultimately ends with a clothespin stuck to her head.

The more she struggles to get it out, the further it gets stuck. She looks adorably unkempt to him. That may have something to do with the way the sun is illuminating her from behind.

Gorgeous day nothing. Try gorgeous Ally.

"You want some help?" he asks. Her hands cease movement.

"Please." She allows him to weave his fingers through her hair. He tugs, a touch too hard. She cringes.

"Sorry." He yanks, and it loosens, bringing a small clump of hair with it. A tear slips down her cheek. "You know I'd never hurt you on purpose."

'Because, y'know, I love you.'

He keeps that part to himself.

(novel)

Laying out on the towel, she reads her book. It's a short beach read. One that she should be able to finish within the afternoon.

She could, if somebody would leave her be.

"Ally, did you see that wave? It was awesome." He props his surfboard in the sand.

"No, I was reading my book." This is only the fifth time she's had to remind him of that. No, she hadn't seen him beat Dez in a game of chicken. No, she hadn't seen the shark in the water.

It turned out to be a toy, but that didn't stop a small child from wetting their trunks. Also pointed out by Austin.

"Come on, we're at the beach. Put the book down and come have some fun!" he tugs her arm. She looks to Trish for help.

She's tanning, taking a nap. "Just let me finish this chapter."

He concedes. Two more waves. Then he'll be back, and she better be ready.

"Are you done yet?" he whines, seeing she's still reading.

'Pay attention to me; I love you.'

He closes the book on her. It's a lot easier than admitting the truth.

(pocket lint)

They're standing in line for the movies. He's going to serenade the ticket girl so they can get in free. He's a bit low on cash.

"Hello," wheezes a grown man from behind the counter.

"Who are you?" he panics. You can't ask a girl to the movies and then make her pay. That's not how it works.

"Albert." He points to his name tag.

Ally sets a hand on his arm. "Is there something wrong Austin?"

They excuse themselves from the line. He explains the situation to her, that he blew his allowance on a new jacket. He leaves off the detail about he did it to impress her. Not to sound vain, but that jacket made him look good. Really good. The sales lady told him so.

She's broke too. Her dad is still paying her with chicken fingers.

"Let's go do something else," he suggests, swinging an arm around her.

"Like what?"

"Anything."

'As long as I'm with the person I love, we could be jumping off a cliff and I'd be okay with it.'

They go for a long walk instead, on nice, safe ground. Nobody needs to break their neck today.

(gloves)

You think she would have learned after their last trip to New York. It's not hot and sunny like Miami. It's finger numbing cold.

Why did she forget her gloves?

"Come here, you're shivering." He sandwiches her hand between his. Rub, rub. Sparks fly. Ones of emotion, because only when you rub sticks together are you going to start a fire.

"You don't have to do that." She blushes, retracting her hand. It gets stuffed into her pocket.

So he takes the other hand. "You should buy gloves. It's like, ten degrees out here."

"Actually it's nine." His eyes narrow at Dez.

"It's nine degrees out here," he stresses. "We can't have you freezing to death."

'Because I love you and would miss you like crazy.'

"Yeah, Mr. Dawson would not be happy if we brought back an Ally-sicle."

Sure Dez, let's go with that.

(jelly doughnut)

It's the annual mad rush of the Valentine's sale. Everybody is racing around the mall, buying last minute gifts for their sweethearts.

If he makes it to the other side of the mall with this doughnut in tact, it'll be a miracle. For a Sunday morning, there sure are a lot of shoppers. Don't people sleep in on weekends anymore?

"Morning Ally. I brought breakfast." She'd gotten there early to open the store.

"Thanks. I'm starving." Breaking her own rule of no food in the store, she takes one of the bags.

He groans as she pulls it out. "Man, all the jelly leaked out of your doughnut."

Stupid people with significant others. For having the nerve to tell someone they love them, for squishing her doughnut. Either one.

"It's okay." The frown on her face doesn't match her words.

"We can split my maple doughnut." He holds up the second bag. His breakfast is dented, but still edible.

She wipes the jelly from her fingers. The napkin gets trashed. "You sure?"

'I'm not going have you go hungry. I love you too much.'

All he does is nod.

(apple seeds)

He'd never seen it done before. She'd eaten the entire apple, core and all.

"How did you do that?" He stares down at his own apple core. It's meant to be disposed of, not eaten. That's where all the seeds are.

"What'd she do?" Dez asks, walking into the store with Trish.

Austin takes a bite of his own core. Ick, he needs the garbage can. "She ate her apple core and seeds."

"You do know that apple seeds are poisonous, right?" Trish watches in disgust as he spits out what he's eaten.

Is Ally going to die? Here he was, being impressed, when death may be upon her. There are so many things he hasn't said to her. He can't work up the nerve to say he loves her this quickly.

His eyes grow wide with concern.

"Don't worry. I'd have to eat a lot of apple seeds to have any serious problems."

"Oh, good."

He can now resume breathing.

(mardi gras)

"Yo Dawson, wanna earn your beads?" someone yells across the hallway. He flashes a dangerous smile. All the girls surrounding her are wearing them. As much as she wants to fit in, she's not comfortable with what it takes to get them.

Seriously, all these girls showed off their chests for a string of beads? Where was the self respect in that?

Austin appears behind her. "Leave her alone Johnson."

"What are you, her boyfriend?" he teases. While Ally might not know of his crush, it's pretty obvious to the rest of the world.

"Leave her alone." It's definitive and territorial.

"Whatever. I bet they're not that great anyways." He nods toward her chest. She colors.

After the bully's gone, he pulls a candy necklace out of his bag. He pulls it around her neck. "Some beads of your own."

Her face returns to its natural color. Nibbling, she smiles at him.

"Thanks Austin. You didn't have to do that."

'I'd do anything for the girl I love.'

He shakes his head, like it's no big deal. Now, would it be so wrong as to nibble off her neck?

The necklace. He totally means the necklace.

(frog dissection)

In the back of the lab room, her hands cradle her face. There is no way they're doing this.

"It's not that bad. See, he's already dead." He waves the frog in front of her. One of the arms brushes her nose.

She is not going to be known as the girl who faints during dissection.

Goggles down. Gloves pulled as high as possible. "Then you can be the one to pin him to the board."

The group next to them named their frog. If he gets any bright idea to name their frog, she's leaving.

He slits the stomach open. Gross, the remains of his last meal are still in there.

"Looks like you got a female," the teacher notes.

A hungry mother frog. Of all the luck. "Hooray."

He notices her soft tone, bringing her closer. Now is not the time to hug, with frog guts on his hands.

"You make the next cut." For the sake of her nerves, he adds, "I'll be right here."

'I'd never leave you. I love you.'

Frog dissection is not the place to be making love confessions.

(hashtag)

He's updating his Tweeter account.

"Writing a new song with Ally Dawson. Sounds amazing," he reads aloud.

"Just finished the second verse. Hashtag hot new single!" she says, updating her own account.

An hour later, once the song is done, she does another update. Hashtag still a hot new single.

He's noticed lately that's she's been on a tagging kick. Everything has some sort of afterthought. He's tried to copy her, but there's only ever one thing that comes to mind.

Hashtag love you Ally.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, why?"

"You've been staring at your Tweeter page for ten minutes now."

He posts his tweet, without the hashtag.

Someday, not today.

(zoom)

"Just a headshot. It's for my new Tweeter icon." She poses in front of the blank wall.

He likes her icon. There's nothing wrong with that dazzling smile, or the shine of her eyes. But if she wants a new one, he'll help.

He'd be stupid to deny her request for one on one time.

"Smile," he commands. His finger slips on the zoom button.

Whoa, those are some big brown eyes.

"Did it take?" she asks through clenched teeth.

"Hold on, I accidentally hit the zoom button." And accidentally got lost in your eyes while he was at it.

The picture is taken, and he fails to resist telling her how beautiful she looks.

"You're too sweet."

'It's only because I love you.'

"I'm being honest." This earns him a hug, head resting against his heart.

Can she hear it racing?

(xylem)

To help study the anatomy of plants, he brings her a flower.

That's what he tells her. It's more along the lines of 'I love you so here's a flower that is a fraction of your beauty.'

"But Austin, if we use the flower to study, we'll destroy it. We should stick to the diagrams." She gestures to the papers sprawled across the table.

"I'll put it in some water then." Filling a vase, he drops the flower inside. He needs to find a place to set it. One where she'll see it, and think of him, often.

The bathroom. Everybody goes to the bathroom.

Being associated to a toilet would not be the best thing. In that case, he should flush his dreams of asking her out down the toilet now.

Her bedroom. She's probably in there the most.

Except her eyes will be closed, as she'll be asleep. Then she won't see the flower anyway.

"What's taking you so long?" she calls, straightening the papers.

Kitchen table it is.

(bruises)

His eyes land on a purple spot on her arm.

"What happened?" He grabs her arm in an effort to show her what he means.

"I got in a fight with a cupboard." He chuckles at her lame attempt of a joke.

Lips touch the bruise. Kissing makes every injury better, a known fact. If only her lips had gotten in a fight with the cupboard. That would grant a speedy recovery.

"To make you heal faster," he covers, in case she got the wrong idea. The wrong idea is the right idea, but he can't have her knowing that. He needs her to think it's for purely medical reasons.

"I feel better already," she kids. She laughs, and he feels his heart melt.

'Gosh, I love you.'

The words almost fall from his smile, but their friends break the moment.

He should be angered. All he feels is relief. He's not ready for this.

Even if he wants to be.

(limbo)

Days later, she repays the favor. They're at Nelson's birthday party. Most of the guests are younger, and therefore shorter.

So when the limbo bar goes low, it gets way low. And Austin is a tall kid.

"Oww!" he shrieks, rubbing his nose.

"Are you okay?" Ally steps out of line to check on him.

"I bumped my nose on the stick. And then because it jerked, I bumped my head." He's going to have two parallel bruises in the morning.

That is, if medical kisses aren't a real thing.

He gets two.

"To make you heal faster," she mimics. The word 'love' lights up behind his closed eyes.

How hard is it to injure the mouth?

(yawn)

There is something positively feline about her yawning. He's never been a fan of cats, as he's more of a dog person, but he finds it adorable.

Also, contagious.

Just like her smile, and her laugh, and every other thing she does.

"Don't do that."

"Don't do what?" She looks up from her math homework.

"Don't," a yawn, "darn it. Now you've got me yawning too."

She purses her lips. He can tell another is on its way. While he'd love to see that face again, he does not want to get into a yawning war. There is no way of getting out of those things. All you do is get sleepier, and they can't fall asleep.

The satisfaction of having the girl he loves fall asleep in his arms is immense, but they have finals to study for. Ones that can't afford to be interrupted by love confessions.

"I'll try not to." Her mouth quivers, and his hand slaps over it. He will not let it escape.

Her breath is warm on his palm. It tingles.

Maybe it's better to let her yawn.

(ukelele)

He's proud of himself. It took all night, a bulk tub of pudding and most of his energy, but he did it.

He wrote a song. A love song that said everything that Ally needed to hear.

Plucking a ukelele from the display, he waltzes over to the counter. She's helping a customer.

It's fine, he can wait.

Another customer approaches. Nerve stay with him.

A half hour passes. He relies on what little nerve he has left to sing her his song.

'And that's why I love you girl.'

"And that's why you're my best friend," he sings in lieu of the line. Running on half a tank of confidence is not ideal in these situations. He needs to be smooth and suave. Electric and irresistible.

"It's great Austin. But it sounds more like a love song than a best friend song. Maybe you should change the last line." She sets the ukelele on the counter so his hands are free to hug her.

He wishes she knew the truth.

(trigger)

Refilling his water gun, he gets soaked from behind. "Dez, I am so going to get you."

"I'm not Dez." Finger on the triggers, she aims at his face.

"Ally?" he questions through a stream of water. Blocking his face with one hand, he caps his gun with the other. "Why do you have two guns?"

"Trish gave me hers."

He aims at her, but is distracted by another stream of water. He coughs.

Stopping for a moment, to make sure he is okay, she gets drenched. "I can't believe you fell for that!"

They drench each other to the bone.

"You faked me out." She pretends to be offended.

"Oh come on, you know I love you." The words come out without warning. Is this the right moment?

Dez blasts them with his gun.

Now is not the moment.

(quart)

Sometimes the simplest of tasks can cause the greatest of problems.

"I can't get the milk carton open." It's frayed and torn.

This is why she bought milk by the gallon. Plastic jugs were easier to handle than paper cartons.

But cartons of milk are cheaper, and her father can be thrifty about these things.

"Let me try." He tears at the other end. Nothing works.

It's silent, aside from his frustrated grunting, so she asks him a question. "You love me?"

He gives up and stabs a hole in the carton with a pair of scissors.

"What?" He hadn't heard her. He pours the milk over his cereal.

"Nevermind."

(emoticon)

He's doing promotional work for his new cd while she's stuck at the store.

Her phone buzzes, making her jump. Thank goodness he's not there to see it. That'd be awfully embarrassing.

"What are you up to?" she reads to herself.

The store is empty. "Not much. You?"

He smiles at the quickness of her reply. He's on break, balancing grapes on his tongue. Sitting up, one falls to the ground.

"Two marriage proposals so far."

"Don't run off on me now."

'I wouldn't dream of it. I love you.' He backspaces out of the message. Texting is not the way to do this.

"I promise."

He inserts a smiley face for good measure. Hearts will come in due time.

(ort)

Depositing a dollar in the box, she takes a cup of feed.

"I'm going to feed the llama!" he says excitedly, following her to the pen. She picks the the pig.

Placing her hand in front of the creature, he digs in. She giggles profusely. "It tickles."

The llama nearly bites off Austin's hand. He should have been paying more attention.

Some people shouldn't be so distracting.

"Your girlfriend's cute," the owner remarks. Her smile is wide enough to break her face in two.

"Thanks." He's not going to correct her.

He'd love to make that a reality.

(diapers)

He's been roped into babysitting with her. Over the phone, she had asked for help. He was anticipating somebody who was potty trained.

"Hold his legs down."

Nope, it was a baby.

"I'm trying." He takes hold of a flailing limb. The other smacks him in the face. Then it's captured.

"Just hold him steady while I change his diaper." She inhales sharply at the stench.

Bending over to get a diaper from the baby bag, she misses the flow of yellow that hits Austin in the face.

"I am never having kids," he says when she hands him a towel.

"I want to have two. That way they're never alone." She disposes of the diaper.

If he loves her, he'll do it for her. He'll be a father, coated in projectile pee.

"Well, maybe I could have a daughter."

(salsa)

"I could have sworn you said we were taking a salsa class." He swivels his hips for emphasis.

They enter the classroom. "I did."

It's a kitchen, and there are couples waiting behind work benches. There's a woman wearing chef's garb, but most are in ordinary clothes and aprons.

"How is this a salsa class?" He stands next to her behind the front table.

"We're making salsa." She motions stirring, eating and patting of the belly. "Not dancing the salsa."

Hip shimmy.

For looking ridiculous, he sure feels warm and fuzzy inside. What's it going to take to see that hip shimmy again?

She assigns him to cut the onions. It makes his eyes water.

"Wait a second." His knife stops, and she wipes his eyes with a tissue.

"Thanks."

It's stupid that he can't hold back his tears. Tears that aren't caused by the fact that his arms aren't around her dancing, or that he can't bring himself to say I love you. They're onion tears, an innate reaction. He can't change that.

He can change the first two though.

He will change the first two.

(vibrations)

Jumping, her knee hits the piano.

He doesn't mean to, but he laughs. She is too adorable, getting scared by the vibrations of her phone.

She grimaces. "Hi Dad."

Ice gets wrapped with a towel. He brings it to her, waiting for her to finish.

"What did your dad want?" His hand settles on her knee, pressing the ice to it. If his hand wasn't freezing, he'd be enjoying this more.

He'll let his fingers turn purple.

"He's staying an extra day. He won't be back until late tomorrow."

'How about I sleep over and show you how much I love you?' He could stay up late watching movies with her, kiss her goodnight, make her breakfast. All things that don't require putting your head in the gutter. He's not one of those cliched teen romance movies.

"You should stay at my house tonight. You've been alone all week." He worries about her. Somebody is bound to notice she's home alone. Then they're going to break in and do dirty things to her. Or steal all of her stuff.

"That would be nice."

His worries dissipate.

(iron)

He was surprised that they had an ironing board in the house. More surprised was he over the fact that his mother suggested he learn to use one if he wanted to impress Ally at the party tonight.

"What are you doing?" she comes down the basement steps, stooping as to not hit her head.

"My pants were wrinkled."

She surveys the disaster on the board. "How long have you been working on it?"

He smiles sheepishly.

"An hour." Registering the look of disappointment on her face, he goes on. "I got the left leg done, but then it wrinkled when I did the right. So I had to redo it and -I'm not having any luck."

"Step aside." Slipping out of her heels, she takes the iron from him. He studies her technique.

His mother comes downstairs. "Austin, why aren't you wearing any pants?"

Ally slides them off the board. Seeing that he's in his boxers, she turns red.

"I'll wait upstairs."

Great. He blew his chance. They had been all alone, and he could've kissed her cheek as a thank you for all her hard work. With any luck, she'd turn her head, and he'd say he loved her, and the iron would burn a hole in his pants.

It would have been worth it.

(keebler)

"What were you thinking?" She sits against the bathroom door, listening to an entire package of fudge cookies empty into her toilet.

"Those elves make magically delicious cookies." He flushes.

She turns around to face the door. "Dez shouldn't have dared you to eat the entire pack."

More hurling, a flush.

"Go back to him and Trish. I'll be fine."

"You're sick." Her phone vibrates. Her head hits the door.

She replies to their text, suggesting that they go home. They'll have to pick up the movie marathon a different day.

"Really Ally, go have fun."

She opens the bathroom door, sliding into the room. "They're gone. They said to tell you to feel better."

Her fingers rub his back. He wants to thank her, say he loves her.

His body has other plans.

Flush goes the toilet.

(wine)

Returning from the altar, she sticks out her tongue. Communion wine is disgusting. No wonder they don't go to church.

"Ew." He takes a seat next to her.

There has to be something in her purse. She digs around for piece of gum.

"Want half?"

"Yes."

His breath takes on a minty tone, and he's busy thinking about how perfect it would be to kiss her right now. God, forgive him. He should be singing along with the chorus, but there's an angel beside him. How can he refuse?

She has the wrapper. His gum would have to sit in his hand or get stuck to the pew.

He keeps chewing, stealing glances at her.

They're not coming back until Christmas.

(roller coaster)

She's terrified, so he takes her hand. They're going to face the giant roller coaster together.

They're going up so high. The sound of the rickety tracks gets louder.

"Ready for the drop?"

Her eyes shut in response.

He screams for the remainder of the ride, and she finds the strength to open her eyes.

"Exit to the right," a voice says over the intercom.

"Are you still scared?"

"No, but I may be deaf." She rubs her ears.

What strikes him at the moment, he'll never know. He mouths the words 'I love you.'

"What?"

'I love you,' he mouths again.

"What?"

He kisses her. "I love you."

"Oh."

"Oh?"

It's not hard to say I love you. It's just hard to deal with the aftermath. When teasing leads to serious tones, and monosyllables.

"Oh."

And then she kisses him. She's not deaf, but she loses track of all the sound around her. All she hears is him mumbling that word against her lips.

"Oh."

Oh indeed.