Of All Things Berry
Of All Things Berry, an Austin and Ally one-shot
I do not own Austin and Ally or the music used in this story. This is per request of Aigoopi and Nd4ff. Reviews are greatly appreciated, as are requests.
The worn bristles of her toothbrush scrape at her teeth. Every crevice of her mouth needs to be clean.
How else is she supposed to have a winning smile?
You may be asking what she is try to win with this smile.
Well, if you must know, she is trying to win the heart of her best friend. The one that she convinced Kira that she does not like in that sort of way, because there is no way she is ruining this partnership.
Even if it does tug at her heartstrings like a six year old learning to play the banjo. (Which resulted in him breaking one of the strings. Her heart, however, is still intact, thank goodness.)
She spits into the sink, turning on the faucet. The water is cold, sending goosebumps up her arm. They're not the goosebumps she's become familiar with from being around Austin. They're the unpleasant type. The ones that say, 'hah, shouldn't have used all the hot water in the shower this morning fool!'
She turns the faucet off. With the toothbrush back in its correct hole, to the left of her father's (not to the right, which resulted in almost using his in a tired haze this morning), she shuts the bathroom light off.
Today is going to be a good day.
(the page breaks here)
As a congratulations for his number one video, second week in a row that is, they decide to throw a picnic. Except this morning it has begun to rain.
They agree to move the picnic upstairs into the practice room. Ally has offered to set it all up. So here she is, playing classical music as she floats around the room.
She was aiming for another station, but her mouse had other thoughts. And when the sound of the sounds of Vivaldi into the room, a touch too loud as she remembered that the boys had been watching videos up here yesterday, she, after turning down the jarring volume, had felt at ease with the piccolo. It cheered a happy tune.
The tune carried her over to the fridge, where she now stands.
She opens the fridge door. Sandwiches are on the menu today. Taking out a package of meat slices and a loaf of bread, she closes the door.
There isn't much space to prep. She opts to pull out the piano bench, kneeling on the floor. Hopefully it is clean, because she is wearing her orange jeans, and she does not want to look like a pumpkin that has just been picked from the patch, dirt stains included. Not that she wants to look a clean pumpkin either.
She's starting to second guess wearing these pants.
It shouldn't matter. Austin has a girlfriend. And even if he didn't, it's not a romantic picnic. Trish and Dez are coming too.
A few napkins cover the bench. She knows that the floor has been swept in the past week. But she can't recall the last time she thought to wash the bench, and there is no way she's serving sandwiches that taste like they've been sat on.
The song switches. The violins mimic her struggle to open the meat container. They've been vacuum sealed, and he nails are cut down to the nub.
It had started with a torn cuticle. She had fixed it, but then all the other cuticles looked inadequate next to it. This led to trimming of all the cuticles. Once they were done, her nails looked unfinished.
Something that should have taken two minutes at the most had taken ten as she trimmed, filed, and polished her now orange nails.
Well, at least they looked pretty.
She manages to open the package. Piling the turkey onto the bread slices, she considers the possibilities. She recovers the remaining meat, and opens the fridge again.
Perhaps a condiment would be best. Mustard could work.
Her hand follows the motions of the music. The mustard squiggles onto the bread, mimicking the pace of the highs and lows.
She folds the sandwiches together. At this point, the mustard has probably smeared. So much for her masterpiece. It's now a muddled messy of yellow and meat slices.
Mustard has coated her fingers (one sandwich had been subject to a very exciting part of the song.) She squirts her palm with hand sanitizer. The scent is strong, clearing her nostrils.
The song switches again, to something that is far too slow. It makes her want to curl up under that fuzzy white blanket of Trish's and fall asleep.
Instead, she changes the station to 60s music. A bit of old school should get her blood pumping. Her grandmother used to play this all the time at her house. They'd be baking cookies, and she'd be swinging her arthritic hips to the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
His voice cuts through the practice room. "Left a good job in the city..."
She sings along with him as she unfolds the cloth resting on the chair. It's not nearly as soft as Trish's blanket. It has that feeling that all waterproof cloths do, how they're just uncomfortable enough to stick to your legs but are too easy to wipe down to complain.
The creases remain. There's two, one running horizontal and the other diagonal. Whenever she gets one out, the other reappears.
"Rollin', rollin'..." she sings as she rolls on the cloth, steamrolling both creases out at once.
She's pleased to find that her strategy has worked. She's not pleased to find that the cloth is now crooked.
And she's really not pleased to feel that her hair is now ruffled. Pieces that are supposed to stay on the left are crossing over. With more time she could fix her hair.
With the time she has, all she can do is run her fingers through it and hope for the best.
She squats down. She tugs it gently to the right. Too far. One tug to the left.
As perfect as a picnic in the practice room can get anyway.
Outside, a flash of lightning cracks through the sky. The rain seems to be pouring faster now.
"You don't have to worry..." he sings, as if he can read her thoughts. Everything is going to be okay. They're inside and no one is going to rain on her sandwiches, or the strawberry cheesecake she's left in the fridge.
She's not worried.
The lightning flashes again.
Maybe just a little.
The room smells of rain water. She glances to the window, which she notices hasn't been shut all the way. She closes it, taking a couple of napkins to wipe up the small puddle that's accumulated in the corner.
Air freshener. There has to be some around here somewhere. She checks in the storage closet. The can is almost empty.
She shakes the can, praying for the best. A small mist of wild berries and honey sprays into the air. Then the can makes a raspberry noise (no pun intend, though accepted) as it runs dry.
"Come on," she mutters. She presses down on the trigger. Nothing comes out.
Shake shake. She can hear there is something still left in the can. Pressing on the trigger, one final time, nothing happens. She dejectedly throws the can in the garbage with all of the used napkins.
She checks the time. There's five minutes to go. Everything is set and ready to go, except for her. Her hair is still a mess.
That, and she smells like hand sanitizer and rain water. What a fantastic combination.
She pushes a few strands to their correct side. The silverware is all plastic. She can't see her reflection in any of the spoons. (Nor the forks or knives, but the notion is entirely ridiculous to begin with.)
Reaching for the hand lotion, she presses on the trigger. Pump pump.
The lotion, unlike the air freshener, squirts out. Her nose is hit with the strong scent of blackberries. It's too much. The grease piles up on her hands.
Great, she's used all the napkins. She'll have to go get more.
Why did she close the door behind her?
Maybe she can used her elbows. She holds her lotion soaked hands high, grasping the knob between her arms. It's tricky. Doors are much easier to open when you can use your hands.
The door opens, smacking her in the face. She jolts backward.
"Ally?" he asks. She rubs her forehead in pain.
"Why are you rubbing lotion on your forehead?"
She stops rubbing and pulls her hand away. He swipes his hand across her face, taking off the excess lotion. He works it onto his own hands. His knuckles crack.
"You hit me with the door," she answers, running her hands down her arm. She'd rub her hands off on her pants, but if she's not going to be a dirty pumpkin, she surely isn't going to be a greasy one.
He hugs her. "I am so sorry Ally. I didn't mean to."
She hugs him back.
"It's okay, really." She notices how he smells like her now, along with something else. He normally smells good, but right now he smells really good. "Hey, where are Dez and Trish?"
"Didn't she tell you? They aren't coming."
Ally's face falls. No, they most certainly did not inform her of this. Then she would have made two sandwiches, not four. And she wouldn't have had to cover the entire piano bench, leaving an extra two napkins to wipe off her lotioned hands. Which means she wouldn't have been hit by the door.
There'd be no forehead swiping, or apology hugs, or Austin smelling like her.
Wait, Trish wasn't bailing in an effort to make this a romantic date between the two of them, was she? That means she told Dez. She had promised not to tell anyone after that stranger.
The way that stranger had smiled at her this morning as she sold him a pair of headphones, just because he knew her secret. It was unnerving. Especially seeing as how Austin was a whole four inches apart from her, and everyone knew who he was. He probably thought that something was going on. Psh, he wishes.
So does she, but that's beside the point.
Actually, that's precisely the point.
"Did they say why they weren't coming?" She picks up two of the sandwich plates and puts them back in the fridge. Might as well save them for later.
"They said they're not leaving Billl's until the storm has passed." Billl had hired Trish that morning. There was no doubt in Ally's mind that she was enjoying the lack of customers. She's not so sure about Dez's company.
Outside, another flash of lightning goes off.
"Then why did you come?" Obviously he had braved the bad weather. She had noticed his shirt was damp during their hug.
"I wasn't going to let all of your hard work go to waste." He sits down on the cloth. He holds his hand out to her and tugs her down with him.
She smiles. He shouldn't be so nice to her if he doesn't want her to fall in love. It's impossible to ignore such kind gestures.
Considering he ran through the rain for her, after canceling his date with Kira to attend in the first place, it's probably an understatement to call it a kind gesture.
More like a 'I'm the sweetest person alive, at least when it comes to you' gesture.
"It's all right. They're just sandwiches."
"Really good sandwiches." She'd point out to him that they're just turkey and mustard, but she chooses to accept the compliment. There's no use in putting herself down.
Her strawberry lip gloss leaves a mark on her sandwich. She sets it back on her plate. "Yeah, but you didn't have to cancel your date with Kira. We could have had sandwiches any time."
It's silent as the computer loads a new song. He chews what is in his mouth. He's being polite, but with the gap in the music, and the awkward question, it feels like he's doing this to stall.
She stuffs her sandwich in her mouth. There is no way she is going to yell at him to hurry up.
Simon & Garfunkel come on. The instruments introduce the song, no voices yet.
Torture. This is torture.
"How did you know about that?" he finally asks, swallowing.
"Trish said something." She picks at her crusts. She tears one side off, and a stream of crumbs fall onto her lap. Austin brushes them aside. "Was I not supposed to know?"
He sucks a dot of mustard from his thumb. "No. It's just I knew that you'd feel bad if you knew."
She tears another piece of crust off. She doesn't want to be eating large doses of food for when he drops the bomb. She knows one is coming, but she doesn't know what it is yet. All she knows is that she has this feeling.
And no, it is not the butterflies dancing in her stomach.
"I would have invited her. I could have made more." The crumbs tumble down the front of her shirt.
This time Austin does not brush the crumbs away.
"Next time," he promises. He takes a big bite, mustard coating the bottom of his chin.
This is the last time she'll ever make sandwiches while listening to classical music.
She restrains herself from humming along to Do Wah Diddy Diddy as she finishes her sandwich. The big bomb never comes, so she returns to taking normal sized bites. He darts his tongue out of his mouth. The mustard is out of its reach.
"I ran out of napkins. I didn't realize we were so low, and then I had to clean up a mess by the window." She places her plate on top of his.
"It's fine." He runs his thumb across the glob and sticks it in his mouth. Popping it out, he says, "See? Not a problem."
She gets up. The cloth sticks to her pant legs, and makes a noise as she peels off of it. Taking the cheesecake from the fridge, she grabs the forks. The strawberry smell reminds her of their hug and how he smells like her and that something else that she still can't place.
"Dessert," she announces. There are four cheesecakes from Mini's on the tray. There was supposed to be one for each of them. But since it is just the two of them, what's the harm in splitting them?
"Ally, I don't think we needed forks for this." The tray gets set between the two of them. They move in closer so they can share.
Yup. He still smells like blackberries. And currently, mustard. That's not the only other scent though.
She cuts her first piece into quarters with the side of her fork. Jabbing one, she answers him. "I'm trying to make mine last."
Everyone knows you could eat it in one bite. Two bites and their picnic would be over. Eight bites, and then he can go back to his girlfriend. It's sad logic, but logic nonetheless.
He copies her. "That's really smart."
She leans in for another piece at the same moment he does. Their foreheads collide. She drops her fork to rub it.
"Sorry." She picks her fork back up and pokes at the piece again. It slides onto her fork.
"That reminds me. How's your head?" She glares at him as he shovels another section into his mouth. You don't hit a girl in the head twice in one day and then ask her all nonchalantly how it's feeling. Of course it is going to be sore.
He means well. She shouldn't be sarcastic with him.
"It still smells like berries."
"I think that may be me."
She takes the opportunity to sniff him. Her shoulders relax. It should not be this pleasant to smell someone else's boyfriend.
No matter how good they smell.
Or how in love with them you are.
"You smell like something besides berries."
"Laundry detergent?" he asks. There is no way that the irresistible scent that is Austin Moon can be laundry detergent. There has to be some sort of shampoo, or cologne or something.
She shakes her head. "What shampoo do you use?"
"Well, this morning I ran out, so I had to use my mom's shampoo. I think it was strawberry." Half of his cheesecake falls off of his fork, onto the plate.
Great. The mystery of what he smells like will never be solved.
All she'll ever know is that he smells like laundry detergent, his mother's shampoo, and her lotion. Quite the combination.
"Hold me, hold me and never let me go until you've told me, told me..." Mel Carter sings. With his face that close, she wants to take his advice. Except there's this tray of cheesecake between them.
There's also the fact that he is dating Kira between them.
She backs away, picking her fork up. More food in the mouth to keep more words from coming out.
Even with the tray cleared, there is too much between them. Or there should be. But he decides it's a good time to hug her, to thank her for the meal she guesses, and they are closer than before. Together they smell like berries.
And apparently laundry detergent.
"So kiss me, kiss me. Make me tell you I'm in love with you," Mel suggests. Don't encourage her. She's trying so hard to be the good girl. The best friend who is happy for him, and not falling deeper.
Why does he have to smell so good? Why can't he smell like radishes, or moldy Play-doh, or anything that isn't him?
He pulls away, looking into her eyes. She recognizes that look. It's the same look he gave her one their fake perfect date before Dez came in. Now cue Dez running in through the door. Uh, Dez?
Thunder crashes and lightning flashes. He isn't phased by it at all. His face is getting closer. It feels so right.
He has a girlfriend, that voice of reason in her head says.
It feels so wrong.
The lights flicker. It's as if it is a sign from the universe. One that says to stop him before he does something he'll regret.
"Did you see that?" Looking out the window, she can see the wind has picked up.
"Huh?" He takes the situation in. One minute he had been eating cheesecake, and then another he was leaning in, like he was going to kiss her. Which was totally wrong, because her name was not Kira, and she was most definitely not his girlfriend, because his girlfriend did not smell like blackberries.
Then why does he smell like blackberries, and not like her flowered perfume? And why does he like this so much better?
So very, very much.
Right. It's because Dez and Trish got stuck in the rain and he decided to come to her picnic to make her happy. Because making her happy made him happy.
He knows what would make him happy right now.
"The lights flickered." Sonny and Cher's voices cut off after she says this. They're no longer saying how they have each other, calling each other babe.
Funny. The lights have gone out too.
"I think the power went out," he says, stating the obvious. He wraps an arm around her. The room is chilly, and they can share body heat.
A few moments pass. "It's quiet."
More stating of the obvious. They might as well make a list, starting with how they're both in love with each other, and ending with how they aren't going to do anything about it.
It's nice to use Kira as an excuse. But if they're being honest, there's more to it than that. There's that whole 'fear of losing your best friend' thing.
His phone rings. It's in his right pocket, but he pulls it out with his left so he doesn't have to unwind his arm.
"Hey Austin." He feels a twinge of guilt. He should be more excited to hear from his girlfriend. "You stuck in the storm too?"
He wouldn't call it stuck per se. Stuck implies that he doesn't like it.
He looks at the girl stuck under his arm.
Definitely not stuck.
"I'm in the practice room with Ally. It is pouring here."
"Yeah, I'm stuck home. I don't think I'm going to be able to meet up with you later." They're supposed to be going to the movies tonight.
He smiles, though he should be frowning. What is wrong with him?
"That's too bad." He hopes he sounded disappointed. It only means more time for him to be with Ally. He's been getting these feelings lately, and he wants to see where they go.
"Ever notice how whenever we try to get together, it rains?"
Indeed, this is the third time it's rained this week. There was that date in the park, and then again, right as they were eating lunch at Mini's. Now again tonight.
Okay universe, he gets the hint. But he can't tell her he's dumping her because of the rain. Not unless you send him a monsoon.
"Weird. Must be a lot of water in the sky or something." Ally raises an eyebrow at him. He hasn't told her who is on the phone. He rubs her side, signaling for her to not worry about it.
"Maybe." He waits for her to say something else. She doesn't.
"You don't think it's a sign, do you? Like the universe is trying to tell us something?"
That thought was supposed to stay inside his head.
"What would it be telling us?" Her tone is a touch accusatory. He didn't mean it to offend her. Though if someone had suggested that his relationship was like a rainstorm, he wouldn't be pleased either.
"I dunno." The wind howls at him. Ally shivers beneath his grasp. "It could mean anything."
She pauses for a moment. Then her voice is oddly cheerful. "I'm sure you'll figure it out Austin."
It's creepy how her mood flipped so quickly. He pulls Ally into his lap (at this point, her body is shaking in the cold) and leans his chest against her back.
"So I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"I think it'd be better if you didn't."
"Why not?" He breathes in, and he can smell the blackberries. That couldn't be the answer, could it?
"The universe has spoken. Who am I to argue with the universe?"
"You're Kira Starr."
Ally hears her name and realizes she shouldn't be doing this. She shouldn't be curled against his chest while he talks to his girlfriend on the phone. It's wrong.
He tightens his hold on her. She can't escape.
He says something that she doesn't hear. Her thoughts are arguing far too loudly for her to focus on his conversation.
The phone gets tucked back into his pocket.
"Quit wiggling around." He places his legs on top of hers, effectively locking her into place.
"We shouldn't be doing this."
"Kira broke up with me." He doesn't sound upset. It's more of a reason as to why they should do this.
The lightning cracks again. What does the universe want now?
"Did she say why?"
He rests his head on her shoulder. "She said she wasn't going to argue with the universe."
She turns her head to look him in the eyes.
It's hard to look someone in the eyes when your eyes are closed.
She hadn't expected that to happen. At least she finally figured out what that big bomb was.
"So kissing me is your way of making peace with the universe?"
"No, kissing you is my way of saying I like you."
Maybe it isn't his fault that it's raining. Maybe there really is just too much water in the sky. Maybe it'll pour for weeks, and they'll have to float away on the guitars to get more food.
One thing's for sure. If he's stuck here, he's stuck with Ally.
But like he said, is it really being stuck if you like it?
The storm goes on.