A/N: Read this please. Neely did NOT kiss Devon at the end of the last chapter. Go back and reread if you are confused because it'll make this chapter a lot easier for you to understand. Btw, All Along has been nominated for the SKOW awards for Most Memorable, and Neely and Devon have been nominated for best couple (Best Het). Thank you.


All Along

By KNE

Chapter 19- Getting her to smile


"So what's the favor that's got my best bud actually hitting his three pointers?"

Chris Donovan raised an eyebrow and smirked at Devon. He really wasn't used to hearing Devon ask him for any favors. Unfortunately, Chris knew for a fact that Devon had done a whole lot more for Chris then Chris had ever even considered doing for any other friend. Devon was like that. Just a genuine nice guy….

….who you happened to punch earlier this morning for a stupid reason. Chris scolded himself as he watched Devon slowly pick up the ball from the dirty ground and walk slowly to Chris. "Well?" Chris asked in amusement again, grabbing the ball from his friend's hands and began dribbling it between his legs. He really needed to work on his crossovers.

"It's about the winter ball coming up," he heard Devon say quietly as he turned to the basket and shoot. The ball hit the rim and bounced back out to Chris's hands. Dammit…he thought to himself. I'm rusty…

"What about it?" Chris nonchalantly replied, dribbling the ball once again. He should probably work on his fadeaways now that the basketball season was coming up. Though he wasn't all that bad when it came to those, he still wasn't that great compared to Travis Hughes, the star basketball player of Millburns High. "You going with Casey?" He asked, laughing at the thought. Of course Devon would never after his dreadful dating experience with the Queen of Pink. He felt Devon glare at him from his spot on the driveway, but shrugged. He already knew the plan. It was always the same. Typical high school dance plan for Chris Donovan and Devon Matthews.

Chris would end up going with some random girl from Clemington or some other school and Devon would eventually chicken out asking his mystery girl and end up going with Casey. Except this time, Chris was pretty sure that Devon would be going with Shauna instead. Shauna had been hanging around Devon a lot lately. And Chris wasn't completely oblivious to the way Shauna was actually trying to get his best friend's attention. After all, he was always attentive to things like that. Anyways, the agendas for school dances were pretty much the same as always. Once their dates spent a good five hundred dollars on their dresses, Neely would be given the job to run to the mall to buy both his and Devon's dress shirts. Once all of that 'matching' rubbish was taken care of, Chris and Devon would eventually just wait for their dates to decide when and where they would be picked up.

The first part of a school dance evening was Chris's least favorite part.

Pictures.

Why? Because pictures included the dreadful fake smiles that Chris had to pose just so that his date could be happy. Wasn't he a nice guy? The pictures would last about forever with all the cooing parents and giggling girls. Chris always found it irritating and uncomfortable. After his jaw was sore from smiling so much for all the blinking lights, the best part of the night would roll in.

Dinner.

Here, Chris would usually make the decision on whether or not he would be actually kissing his date that night. It depended on how well the meal went. Meaning….was there steak? Any girl who knew Chris well enough should know that steak was his favorite. He, Devon, and the rest of the guys that would eventually go with them would probably goof off while the girls took turns running to the bathroom to touch up their millions of pounds of makeup. It was quite predictable.

Once dinner was over, they would all pile into the limo and drive to school where they would spend the next four hours dancing to songs that Chris swore he heard ages ago. Besides that, either Chris or Devon would be crowned something and then get lost with the tons of pictures and girl throngs that formed around them.

All there was left to do was the after party usually held at some rich kid's house, preferably Tim Stanford who didn't even go to their school. But, everyone wanted to go to Tim Standford's party so it was A-OK. Last but not least, there was the waking up the next morning with a crazy hangover and no memory of the girl he had probably fooled around with the night before.

Very predictable. So what on Earth did Devon have to say that could screw up this year's winter ball agenda?

"I was wondering if I could ask Neely to the dance."

Hm. Maybe that would….

The ball in Chris's hands slipped out and Chris nearly fell over in shock. What?

"Huh?" Chris glanced at Devon and frowned. "Neely?" He slightly coughed and leaned in closer to his friend. "As in my sister Neely?" Chris eyed his friend closely and watched as Devon scratched the back of his neck nervously. The boy in front of him shifted in his spot and glanced up at Chris.

"Yeah…" He mumbled quietly.

Chris stared back confusedly.

Devon stared back anxiously.

The awkward silence was beginning to irritate Chris, so he did the only thing he could think of for a situation like this.

Chris Donovan burst out laughing, clutching his stomach with uncontrollable shakes. "Why (gasp) the (gasp) hell (gasp) would (gasp) you (gasp) want (gasp) to (gasp) do (gasp) that?!" Another burst of laughter and he was pretty much on the dirty pavement rolling around. Hopefully this wouldn't ruin everything, but the thought was quiet hilarious itself.

Devon was actually going to ask Neely? Like…for real?

Devon stared back quietly but a small playful smile had formed on his lips. "I've got reasons."

Chris swallowed and placed a hand on his friends shoulder, trying his hardest to hold in another burst of laughter. This was awfully…gutsy of Devon. First Jason grew balls and now Devon? Chris swallowed again and glanced up at his friend. "Did she threaten you?"

Devon sighed and shook his head.

"Is this a bet?" his voice suddenly hardened and the thought of someone, especially Devon, placing a bet on his sister was suddenly sinister. But of course, Chris knew better than to accuse Devon of something like that. Especially when Devon was Devon.

Devon shook his head harder with a raised eyebrow.

"Then why Neely?" Chris closed his mouth and watched his friend closely, a snicker ready to burst again. It was getting a little fun interrogating his friend. "I thought you were into Shauna—" He nearly laughed when Devon straightened up and shook his head again.

"No. I'm not into Shauna. And I want to ask Neely because I don't want to deal with all that drama with Casey and all those girls."

Sigh…

Chris scratched his head and turned away with the basketball again. "Drama?"

"It'll be easier if I just go with someone who won't have her hands all over me or something. Like…I'm tired of worrying about girls ripping each other's head off or me trying to find a good date. If I go with Neely, that'll cancel all that stuff and all I have to worry about is state."

"So you want to go with my sister because you're a lazy bastard and you don't want to get laid?" Chris laughed at his statement and positioned himself to take a shot. Devon was silent for a few seconds, making Chris wonder if he was actually going to say yes.

"Yeah…I guess," he muttered quietly.

Ha.

"Plus," Devon quickly added, "I remember Neely saying something along the lines of wanting to do something different since its senior year and all."

True. Steven Carmichael had pretty much proved that right. Steven Carmichael. The crying. The chick fight. Chris cocked his head as he pondered about his sister. Neely had already changed her high school image in the past few months to him. She was actually more like a girl now….

He shuddered at the thought.

"What if she wants to go with Carmichael?" Chris asked, wondering if Devon thought it was weird that he hadn't completely ruled out the idea just yet. Devon froze again for the hundredth time that night and placed his hands in his pocket, kicking a nearby pebble.

"Is…she with Carmichael?" He asked stupidly. Chris frowned and then shrugged.

"How should I know? I gave her permission a while back after Standford's party sort of….I think. I'm not really sure what I meant back then, but I always see them around each other. What if Carmichael is asking her?"

"You gave her permission to date him?" Devon suddenly blurted out. "What—why?" Obviously Devon had been living under a rock for a while now. He should have noticed that Chris hadn't strangled Steven Carmichael yet. Wasn't that enough of a hint that Chris might have actually gotten soft?

"Because you told me to you idiot!" Chris rolled his eyes and went back to focusing on basketball. Had Devon forgotten that night? Devon swallowed again nervously.

"Well, if Carmichael isn't or hasn't asked her. Is it okay if I just ask her?"

Chris shrugged and shot the ball. It hit the rim again and he cursed to himself. Thank god Devon was too busy blabbering like an idiot to realize that Chris had missed his last five shots. The subject of Neely always got Chris away with everything.

"And that's your favor?" Chris asked. Devon nodded his head. Chris smirked, "Pretty lame ass favor. I would have asked for something better. I don't care what you do but I don't know why you would want to spend your senior year high school winter dance with my sister. I don't even know if the twit can dance."

Devon's shoulder sagged in relief and he laughed. "At least she would be going and I wouldn't have to worry about Casey Craig."

"To tell you the truth, you probably would have more fun with Neilson. But honestly Dev, if you go with Neely, how fucking weird will that be to have to hang out with my own sister?" The idea was creepy. Though he knew Neely had seen him drunk and crazy at times, he still thought it was weird. "How do you even know she'll say yes?"

"I'm a stud…" Devon replied nonchalantly. Chris frowned and glanced at Devon.

"…and what does being a stud have to do with you and Neely?"

Devon straightened up again and Chris wanted to burst out laughing for the second time. This was way too much fun. Devon shook his head.

"It doesn't."

"So you're actually considering asking Neels?"

"And you're actually considering letting me ask her?"

"I kicked your ass today for no reason, Devon. If you had asked me to wipe your ass, I probably would have too." Chris quickly dribbled the ball towards the hoop and made a lay up. He was getting better and better at those….

Devon snorted. "Kick my ass? You fucker, you threw it out of nowhere," he shook his head and caught the ball Chris had chucked at him. "You punch like a girl."

Chris laughed. "Wanna say that to my fist? HA! THOUGHT SO!" He bellowed when Devon made no reply and shook his head at Chris's childish ways. Devon dropped the ball to his feet and began juggling the ball.

"There's more to the favor though."

Of course.

"Letting you ask Neely to the dance is already sort of a handful, Devon. It's basically letting you ruin my senior winter dance." Chris dropped to the pavement and tossed his arms over his propped up legs. "What the hell do you want now?"

"I have to ask her, idiot."

"So?"

"Like…soon."

"So?"

"Like…tonight."

"So?" Chris scratched his head. "Dude, Dev. You're making this a bigger deal than it is. It's just Neely. I don't think she really cares for all that crazy stuff girls like Casey expect. Just make it simple. I don't really want to discuss how my best friend is going to ask my sister to a dance because he's a lazy bastard who can't make an attempt to find a good date."

"That's not true."

"Whatever," Chris yawned and leaned back on his palms. "Just ask her."

"I'm thinking of being a bit creative."

"So draw her a picture or something. Can we get something to eat?" Chris rubbed his stomach and glanced at Devon's house. Somewhere in there was a kitchen with food. The bright lights from the house shone brightly from inside, giving Chris a good peak of the refrigerator from the driveway. Chris cocked his head and glanced at the rest of the house curiously. Speaking of lights…why were there so many on at the moment? Was Shane inside?

"I can't draw."

"Devon. Do I seriously look like I care?" Chris shook his head and pointed at himself. "You're a smart kid. You can come up with some bright idea yourself."

Chris Donovan knew right at that moment that he would regret those very words as his best friend's eyes lit and a wide smile formed on his face.


-

I nearly fell over as I scrambled up quickly to my feet at the sight of my brother's figure behind me and Devon. My heart was racing. There was no way that Chris could be here…NOW. At this very exact moment with me and Devon on the ground…acting like a couple. What the hell was he doing here? The lights in the background illuminated the irritated frown on my brother's face, making me more scared than usual. Devon glanced over his shoulder, and raised an eyebrow at my brother. Slowly he sat up and climbed to his feet.

For some odd reason, it was evident that Devon was acting too calm for this ordeal. If anything, it should have been Devon getting the heart attack, not me. I stared blankly back from my boyfriend to my brother. Chris's narrowed green eyes glared at the both of us, obviously filled with some sort of hatred.

He was so pissed.

This was so not good.

I clenched my fist, ready for some sort of explosion from my twin and quickly tried to replay our conversation in my head from a few minutes ago. Was there anything that could have given it away? I had been so close to kissing Devon just seconds ago.

Did Chris see that?

Or did he overhear our conversation?

Did we look too close for comfort?

It was such a good time to panic. I could only squirm in my spot, unable to hold eye contract with my brother. The guilt was suddenly rolling in. I couldn't tell whether it was from actually being with Devon, or having my brother stare at me like I was his prey. I suddenly felt like I had become one of Chris Donovan's enemies. It certainly wasn't a very satisfying feeling.

"Are you done asking her now?" Chris suddenly spat, his arms crossed gruffly across his chest like the jerk he was.

I blinked.

Huh?

Devon smirked and scratched the back of his neck. "Yeah," he replied quietly.

Huh?

My head nearly rolled off my head as I watched my brother and my boyfriend exchange words. What the hell was going on?

Chris scowled and placed his hands on his waist. "I'm cold. I'm hungry. My favorite jeans are ripped because I spent the last few hours climbing your damn house just to put these lights up. I'm tired and I want to go home. So if you guys are done with….this….this over rated evening, let's be on our way." His fists dropped to his side and he sent another piercing glare towards Devon. "I hate you so much, Matthews. Anything but this!"

Devon only snickered and rubbed the back of his neck with a shrug, "My bad?"

…..what?!

I was pretty sure at the moment I looked as confused as ever. My head whipped to Devon. What in the world was going on? Devon only gave me a sheepish smile as Chris pushed passed us. It was then that I realized our Accord parked on the opposite of the side of the street. Why didn't I see that before?

"Hurry up Neels!" Chris hissed, not even glancing over his shoulders and leaving me to stare at his back in shock.

Everything was happening way too fast for me to comprehend. What just happened? And what was my brother talking about? And why hadn't he ripped off our heads yet?

When my brother was a good distance away, I turned back in shock to Devon.

"What…what just happened?"

"Well…." Devon trailed off and glanced back at my brother's retreating figure. It almost sounded like he wanted to avoid the topic. I cocked my head.

"Devon Jonah Matthews, I demand to know what is going on between my brother and you. Why is he here? And why hasn't he murdered you yet?" The cool wind blew suddenly, whipping my hair across my face. Good, movie effects were needed. I was too confused to just sit back and watch something that I definitely need to know. "Is that why you told me not to hug or kiss you?"

"Neely, he doesn't know if that's what you're worried about right now. And I wish he would react this way if he did find out." Devon pulled his sweater tighter around him and folded his arm across his chest.

"So…mind telling me what is going on?"

"I asked him a favor. I asked him if I could take you to the winter dance and he said yes," Devon replied nonchalantly. For some reason, his calm voice wasn't really cutting it for me. He couldn't just tell me that and expect me not to jump all over him with questions. Chris NEVER wanted me to go to school dances and even if he did, it was Devon! Going with Devon would require me to hang out with my brother and it was a thought I was pretty sure Chris didn't want to go along with.

Chris Donovan wouldn't just….let me go with Devon.

It couldn't be that easy.

It just couldn't.

"He just said yes?" I stared harder at the dark haired boy in front of me. "Just like that? No interrogating, no beating, no…bitching?"

"Well he did ask me some questions. He's your brother Neels, you know him better than that."

"Then why don't you do me the favor of telling me what happened and why he's actually not throwing some sort of fit? We both knew Chris well enough to know that him letting things go easily isn't normal." I placed my hands on my waist, ignoring the fact that Chris was probably getting angrier by the second waiting for me. It was obvious that Devon playing dumb at the moment wasn't making this any easier on me.

Devon smirked. "You know you look cute when you're pouting."

"DEVON!" I hissed. Devon only laughed and reached out to ruffle my hair. "Just tell me!" I whined.

The boy in front of me sighed and glanced back at my brother who was now sitting in our Accord. "He thinks I'm going with you as some sort of last resort."

I frowned. "What?"

"I told him that the only reason I wanted to go with you was because I didn't want to deal with other girls who would have their hands all over me. I told him I would rather focus on soccer and state." He scratched his eyebrow and turned back to me. "If I use that as an excuse with soccer, Chris will go along with anything. The state tournament is all Chris wants the team to focus on, plus, he came over to apologize earlier and it was a perfect moment to use as an advantage. He was pretty much desperate for my forgiveness."

I blinked. Heh.

Maybe I shouldn't have thought too much about it, but only one thing came to my mind. My lips parted and I let out a quiet sigh. "So, to get my brother's permission to ask me to the dance….you made our lie like…ten times worst?" I brought my hand to my forehead. "Do you know what this means?" I watched as Devon's eyes widened at my sudden words. This was….outrageous!

"I just…can't tell him, Neels. But I needed his permission to ask you. And I thought about it and maybe we have to slowly get it going you know? Maybe going to this dance together can give Chris an idea about it so it's not all so sudden when we drop the bomb on him." Devon watched me with his icy blue eyes while I stood silently.

He did have a point.

I shifted in my spot uncomfortably and glanced up at Devon's messy locks. Why did everything have to be so difficult?

"Is that okay with you?" Devon asked, lowering his head to search my face. "Because if it's not, we don't have to go to the dance toget—" I slapped his arm and turned away with a pout.

"Shut up," I mumbled quietly. Devon laughed and took a step back.

"Thought so."

"So he helped?" I asked, glancing over my shoulder to look at Chris. Sure enough he looked ready to scream profanities out the window. "He actually helped you set all this up?" I then turned back to the wonderful view of lights surrounding us. Chris suddenly showing up had taken my mind completely off what the point of Devon taking me here was. He had just asked me to the winter ball in the sweetest most romantic cheesy cliché way…ever.

And I loved it. I was actually beginning to feel like a cheesy girl from a cheesy novel.

Devon nodded his head and glanced back at his masterpiece. "Him and Cody. Cody's inside doing who knows what, but it took a lot of work. We ran out of lots of outlets and had to borrow from the neighbors."

The thought of three boys running around frantically with Christmas lights made me smile. It really did seem like they put a lot of effort into it. It would explain why Chris was so angry and exhausted. But it made me happy that I was actually experiencing a moment like this.

A moment with my boyfriend, that is…

I smiled. "Thank you Dev," I muttered quietly. Devon only shrugged and smiled back, turning his head slightly away from Chris's direction.

"…only because you have me head over heels for you Neely Donovan. But, don't expect this sort of stuff all the time. Chris would be helping me anyways and look how much he's already pissing about it." Devon raised his chin back towards Chris and snickered. "He spent at least a good three hours complaining about this and that. He'll make a good mother some day…"

I laughed. Of course. What would a day be like with Chris not complaining all the time? I sighed and leaned back on my foot. My racing heart was now settling and was now only thumping towards Devon Matthews. For some reason, he had never failed to make me smile. Even during situations like Chris popping up out of nowhere. Maybe that was why I loved him?

"Thank you…" I whispered again. "I would kiss you now if I could."

Devon grinned. "I thought the rules were no kissing."

"You manage to make me want to bend them from time to time…."

And that was how the night ended. The two of us (minus Chris) smiling back to one another with the lights twinkling behind us. If my twin wasn't running around in the back of my mind, I would have kissed him right then and there. Devon Matthews….

Who was the smitten one now?


So there were only two things that Chris could do now:

Number 1) He would be smart and forget the Gabrielle pursuing. He would return to the normal ways of dating girls who were actually nice to him and were ten times prettier. His ego would go back up and he wouldn't feel so insecure about himself. And Gabrielle Potter? She would become another nonexistent red head in his world. All in all, this choice would probably make his senior year a lot easier.

Number 2) He would revolt against his philosophy and actually grow the balls to go for the red head. It would be a pain in the ass and his ego would probably get booted and kicked and stepped on and tossed into a flooding river a few times, but if he got her….

Chris frowned, he hadn't even thought about what would happen if he got her. The goal of actually winning her heart seemed so far from reach.

With a sigh, he glanced down at his feet. So, all he had to do now was choose. Choice number one or choice number two.

Maybe I should flip a coin…. The thought quickly crossed his mind but he shook his head. Trust him to gamble his feelings. Chris had always been a rebel. Maybe not against his own views but ever since he was little he had rebelled against others. In kindergarten, they had called him Mr. Opposite because he never agreed with the class. When they wanted to paint pictures of unicorns, he painted pigs instead.

It would be crazy of him to not do the impossible. He liked a challenge and he loved a fight. And Gabrielle Potter? She was a challenge and a fight…all in one. Plus, after her little speech about him from before, he was sure he had some sort of chance. Even if it was really really really really really really really slim.

"Number two it is…." He whispered to himself and then bent down to pick up the large box of t-shirts besides him. "Here goes nothing…"

She was standing not too far from him, directing James Goodwin and a few of his peers here and there. It was Tuesday morning, and all student council members had the day off classes to help organize the Senior Banquet. Even though Chris was excused from attending class, he still found it irritating that he had to wake up just as early to go to school. Chris cleared his throat and quickly walked to her side with the huge box in his arms.

Just go with the flow. Just be yourself?

He dropped the large box on the floor harshly, and nearly laughed when Gabrielle jumped at the loud impact. With a smile he wiped his hands together and turned to her. "Here ya go!"

Gabrielle gave him a strange look before glancing down at the cardboard box. "Are those the t-shirts for the guests?"

"Hell yeah..." he muttered. "I got some shirts made for student council too. Mrs. Doll said I could." He grinned as Gabrielle stared back at him with raised eyebrows. Quickly glancing away, he ripped open the box and pulled out the first shirt stacked on top. He tossed it lightly at her before turning to grab more handfuls for the rest of the members who were beginning to crowd the box.

"That one's made especially for you, "he winked as Gabrielle tucked her clipboard under her arm. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as she unfolded the shirt and held it out in front of her.

With wrinkled eyebrows, she slowly red the three letter word on the grey t-shirt.

"Red?" she glanced at him. "You made me a shirt that has 'red' written on it?"

Chris smiled triumphantly. "Yup!"

"How is this relevant to me?"

Tossing a few shirts to Scott Meryl and Bethany Hue, Chris pointed at her hair. "You have red hair. That's how it's relevant to you." Gabrielle only stared at him strangely again while he tried his hardest to not look like an idiot.

"It's so plain though…" she muttered.

"Just put the damn shirt on, "Chris quickly spoke, when he saw James Goodwin pushing his way through the throng of people. Ha…

"Where's my shirt?" The loser in glasses asked, eying the box dangerously. Chris nearly rolled his eyes but plastered a fake smile.

"Oh Goodwin! Here's your shirt!" Quickly picking up the shirt he had buried at the bottom of the box, he tossed the shirt ruthlessly at James Goodwin's face. James clumsily stumbled and held out the t-shirt in front of him. Chris grinned at the boy's own three letter word.

FAG.

"Donovan!" Gabrielle shouted, ripping the shirt from James's hands and chucking it back at Chris's chest. He couldn't help but laugh at the situation and the look on James Goodwin's face.

"What?" He faked innocence and then held the shirt out in front of him. "The word suits him so damn well. This is the next best thing to a tattoo." He knew this one action was probably chucking away his brownie points with Gabrielle (not that he had much anyways), but it was an action that had to be done. As much as James may have been the Godly figure of all the student council members, he did not impress Chris at all.

Plus, he was always flirting with Gabrielle. And Chris did not like that one bit.

Gabrielle turned away quickly from Chris and glanced at the signs posted on the walls that would later direct the seniors. She was probably angry now. Spending a day with old people really wasn't his thing, but it was his only chance of spending some sort of quality time with Gabrielle. Of course, things weren't exactly going his way with James popping out every now and then.

"Donovan, can I talk to you for a second?" Gabrielle turned from her spot and pointed at him harshly. Judging by the tone of her voice, it was going to be another lecture that Chris was probably going lecture back and screw up his chances. It was the only thing anyone could really expect. Both of them were too stubborn for their own good.

Even Chris knew that. Chris groaned silently to himself and grabbed his own t-shirt from the box before following the red head further down the hall.

Don't screw it up….

With a smirk on his face, Chris tossed his grey t-shirt over his right shoulder and crossed his arms over his chest. "My, my, look at this. The day's just begun and I'm already getting my dose of Gabrielle Potter."

Gabrielle suddenly stopped and whirled around to face him. "Why are you always picking on James?"

"Because he flirts with you…" Chris replied quickly. It was fun to see the color rise to Gabrielle's face. It was clearly evident that she was not expecting that kind of answer. Swallowing, she looked away from him and rubbed her neck.

"That's…" she started and cleared her throat. "That's…that's not a good reason." Chris couldn't help but smile.

"It's a damn well good reason. How would you feel if some girl was all over the guy you fell for?"

It was way too much fun. He had certainly found his way out of trouble now. Gabrielle only pouted slightly and crossed her arms gruffly over her chest, trying her hardest not to look at him in the eye. Ahh…Chris was always good at putting a girl in a discomforting position. Cocking his head slightly he leaned forward. "You wouldn't really like the girl right?"

She took a step backwards and turned her head to face him. "I…"

He leaned in closer while his grin widened. "You what?"

Gabrielle frowned and swallowed again. "I think you're just being immature."

"Trust me, Red; my feelings are anything but immature towards you." He winked at her before turning away. But of course, like always, Gabrielle Potter stunned him by grabbing his arm harshly and pulling him back towards her. He stumbled slightly and glanced at her with surprised eyes.

"Donovan!" She hissed loudly while her eyes pretty much engulfed him. Chris would have backed down but instead he cocked his head.

"Potter?"

"Don't say that stuff out loud…." She started quietly, glancing at the group of student council members watching from the corner of their eyes near the box of t-shirts. Chris raised an eyebrow and glanced over to them as well.

"What do you mean?"

Gabrielle snapped her mouth shut and turned to him. "I mean…don't say that stuff and if you idiotically decide to say it, don't let anyone hear you."

Hm.

Chris raised an eyebrow and leaned back. "You mean…you don't want everyone knowing how I feel about you? Why?"

She stomped her foot like a two year old. "Donovan! You don't like me! But please don't make it look like you do!"

She was such a strange girl. And why was she trying to deny his feelings anyways? Women with brains were just too confusing. Chris smiled and shrugged. "Fine? But under a few conditions." His smile widened as the idea suddenly crawled its way into his head.

Gabrielle frowned. "There can't be conditions, Donovan. It's just something you'll have to do." She was awfully bad at negotiating.

Chris smiled. But, she was cute and that made up for anything.

He sighed and took a step closer to her. Gabrielle's arms dropped her side loudly and she took a step backwards quickly. "What are you doing?" she demanded loudly. He only took another step and smiled seductively.

"Oh nothing. Just….admiring your presence," he sang loudly. He glanced at the group of people still watching their student council president 'lecturing' him. Obviously they were still clueless as to why Chris even bothered with her. With the rate that he and Gabrielle were at, he wouldn't be surprised if they looked like the world's biggest enemies…minus him and Aiden McAdams. Chris bit his bottom lip and leaned closer for his seductive act. Gabrielle's frown deepened and she took another hasty step backwards.

"Donovan!" She hissed. "Stop it!"

"Then rethink those conditions," he suggested coyly.

"What exactly is it that you want from me? Why are you so…so…impossible?!" She threw her arms in the air crazily while Chris leaned back.

"Just the other day you were telling me how awesome I am and now—"

"I was NOT telling you how awesome you were."

"Yes you were," he deadpanned, a smile still plastered on his face. "I'm just being me! You like me for me right?" Her jaw dropped but nothing came out. She only crossed her arms over her chest.

"What are the conditions?"

"You and I are partners for the day." He didn't even give her the chance to retaliate. Instead he flicked the tip of her nose and turned away with his cocky smirk. If he couldn't win her with his charm, then he might as well somehow force her to be with him, at least long enough to understand that Chris Donovan was not joking about his feelings towards her.

Not at all.


-

Chris leaned back in his seat as he watched all the elderly people around him chit chat and eat their meal. He wondered if old people really got their kicks out of nasty cafeteria food at the Senior Banquet held every year. Would he end up doing the same thing one day? He chuckled to himself at the thought of an old version of him and Devon sitting at a table with no teeth. Shrugging to himself, he straightened up to peer across all the gray haired people laughing at jokes. Where was Gabrielle?

He smiled when he caught a glimpse of her hurrying across the room with her stupid clipboard. She looked overwhelmed and intensely focused on heading towards the kitchen. He chuckled to himself. They had probably run out of carrots or something.

Only Gabrielle and her student council goons would fret about silly things like that. He watched her quickly swat a stray strand of hair from her face and disappear through the doors. Ahh, what I sight. He never remembered being so attracted to a sweaty girl in food rage. He had been at her side most of the morning, doing all the heavy work while she ordered him like a slave. She really was stubborn…and impossible. But maybe that was why he liked her so much. Maybe it was like a test.

The chase was hard. Chris never really had to chase before. Not when it had been so easy to get a girl before. Senior year really was different…

"Why don't you be a man and tell her how you feel?" A sudden raspy voice interrupted his rendering thoughts. Chris's head dropped to look at the table where he was sitting. Though he really hadn't spoken much, it was surprising that all the old people at his table were now staring at him. Last time he was paying attention, they were all talking about the 'young' days.

He scratched the back of his neck and turned to the little bald old man sitting next to him who had made the comment. "What?" he asked quietly. Now that the whole table was staring at him, he suddenly felt tiny. Like a child….besides the fact that he pretty much was a child compared to them.

The old man next to him gave him a goofy grin. "You've been staring at our Gabby all day."

'Our' Gabby?

"Huh?" Chris replied stupidly again and glanced at the table of folks who nodded in agreement with the little old man. "I don't really know…" he started, but an old woman with large pearls around her neck held a hand up.

"We may be old, Hun, but we're not blind. You've been watching that sweet girl all day and it's killing us that all we've seen is the two of you bickering like children."

He raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to protest but another woman next to the little old man spoke up. "Maybe it's called one of those…'love hate' relationships?" She suggested and giggled to herself. "Frank and I had one of those." Her arms wrapped around the little old man while the rest of the older women at the table exchanged adoring looks at one another.

Talk about cheesy.

Chris swallowed and flashed one of his charming smiles to the group at the table. "Is it that obvious?" he asked innocently. Every graying head nodded while he rubbed the back of his neck guiltily.

Another woman sitting to the right of Chris tapped on his arm lightly. "Are you new to this program? I don't remember seeing you last year. Gabrielle has always introduced us to all the new members...and you're such a handsome boy. I wouldn't have forgotten such a delicate face like yours…"

Delicate? He brought a hand to his face. Maybe it was because he shaved that morning?

He smiled at the woman and nodded his head. "Yeah I'm new this year. Gabrielle's not really that fond of me so that's probably why she hasn't introduced me to anyone." He glanced around the table again. "My name's Chris by the way. Chris Donovan." He pointed to his name tag proudly.

"You're not going to just give up are you? Just because a girl isn't very 'fond' of you, doesn't mean you can just give up," Frank suggested loudly. "You're a good looking fellow. I don't see why you shouldn't give it a try."

"Frank! This isn't 'back in the day.' It's probably a lot more different then how it used to be. Men these days don't have as much confidence as they used to. Isn't that right Christopher?" One of the women spoke up turning to Chris.

Chris stared back clueless. First of all, hadn't he introduced himself as Chris? And second of all, they were talking to Chris Donovan for God sakes. He was the definition of confidence.

"Well, Gabby's different," he replied back, unsure of what to say. It wasn't like they would really understand what happened between him and her. They all wouldn't adore him this much if he told them about hurting Gabrielle's feelings back during freshmen year or about how he had been the biggest asshole to her in the beginning of his punishment.

"Of course she is. Gabrielle is such a charming girl. I don't understand why there aren't more boys pursuing her…" The woman in pearls spoke, glancing around to see Gabrielle emerge from the kitchen. "Does she have a boyfriend?"

Chris snorted, "No. But there's this guy who keeps getting in the way." He was surprised at his own openness to the old strangers. Never in a million years would Chris actually see himself complaining to people about situations like this.

"You mean that boy?" The woman in pearls spoke again pointing towards Gabrielle. Sure enough, James Goodwin was once again in the picture. He was following Gabrielle around like a lost puppy. An annoying lost puppy. Chris frowned and clenched his fist.

"The one and only…" he muttered.

"Well go fight for her, boy!" Frank, the old little man slammed his palm into the table and punched Chris on the shoulder lightly. "Don't just sit around and mope. Give the man some competition."

It was obvious that the women at the table were still hopeless romantics and the men (well, Frank) wanted to see some sort of brawl. Chris nodded his head and smiled. They had definitely been cooped up in the nursing home for too long. Maybe he should impress Gabrielle by making the banquet more interesting than it already was. Plus, he was sick and tired of sitting around and doing nothing. And Chris was pretty sure that everyone else in the room was thinking the same thing.

They were just too old or too scared to do anything about it.

Chris laughed and made a fist at his new plan. "Alright!" exclaiming loudly, he glanced at his new friends. With a swift movement, he turned to the woman in pearls and held out his hand gently.

"Would you like to join me for a dance?"


"Nope. Nope. Nope." Chris frowned at the pile of CDs as he chucked each and every one of them aside. What the hell did the janitors listen to on a daily basis? Chris had managed to find a small boom box in the janitor's closet and hurry it into the cafeteria. But now as he glanced at the CDs, he wasn't sure there was anything that would really set the mood for a party. Tossing another CD aside, Chris quickly dropped to his knees to plug in the boom box. He was keeping Mrs. Gosling waiting (woman in pearls) but it really didn't matter now since there was obviously no good music.

This was just wonderful.

"Donovan, what are you doing?" Gabrielle Potter suddenly appeared at his side with her hands on her hips. She had thrown her messy red hair into a pony tail and was probably now fuming at the fact that Chris looked like an idiot in front of everyone with his tiny boom box. Maybe the radio had some good music? Chris quickly began playing with the knob of the boom box, but only received static as his answer.

"Dammit!" he hissed to himself, ignoring the red head beside him.

"Donovan. What. Are. You. Doing? Why are you fiddling with that?" She crouched down next to him.

"Nothing. Don't worry about…" He quickly replied, lifting the CD player and glancing at the antenna. Maybe if he had James Goodwin hold the damn stick, the static would go away.

"I'm in charge of this event. I have to know what you're doing. Everyone is staring at you."

"I said don't worry about it," he muttered again, turning his attention back to the knobs.

"Donovan! Here! Are these okay?" Chris spun around and sighed in relief as Scott Meryl hurried into the room with a few CD cases in his hands. Grabbing them from the boy, Chris turned his attention back to Gabrielle and grinned.

"Dance with me," he spoke quietly but quickly, cursing at his fingers as they squirmed to open one of the CD cases.

Gabrielle frowned, "What?"

He mentally groaned at her reply and turned back to the CD player, slipping the CD inside.

"Donovan. You can't dance. This is a banquet, not a dance." Of course, leave it to Gabrielle Potter to try to ruin things. She needed to pull the stick out of her ass. If not now, then when? And that's exactly what Chris told her before he grabbed her wrist and pulled her to the center of the cafeteria.

There was an eruption of cheers from the seniors as Cher's song "Believe" began playing loudly through the speakers of the tiny boom box. "Donovan! Stop it!" Gabrielle hissed at him wide eyed. Chris only threw his head back and laughed. He always liked this song. Neely and him used to spend their time jumping on couches when they were younger, singing and dancing to the song. It was the next best thing to the Pokemon song. "Donovan!"

"Shut up and dance!" He retorted.

"No! This is so disrespectful. Think about our guests!"

"I am thinking about the guests! What's a party without some music and dancing?"

There was a burst of cheers again and both Chris and Gabrielle turned their heads to see Frank and the rest of his table stand up and dance to the music. Chris nearly cracked up at the sight of ten old and dying folks trying their hardest to 'boogey' to modern music. At least they were saving his ass. Maybe old people weren't so bad? Clearing his throat, Chris pointed at the woman in the pearls.

"Mrs. Gosling! Save me a dance!"

The woman winked at him before turning back to her dancing and letting out a loud squeal. Chris laughed again and turned to Gabrielle with a cocky grin. "See? They like it."

As more people hurried to the dance floor to show their moves, Chris hurried over to a dark haired elderly sitting alone and took her hand. He felt like he was apart of some comedy movie with him being the only young guy dancing while everyone else around him was over sixty years old. He found himself actually having fun. Truth be told, this might have been the highlight of the day. It would be a lie if anyone denied it.

All the student council members watched from afar, unsure of what to do. The senior banquet had always consists of speeches and a long and boring meal. Never once had there been dancing…especially to fast beat music that would seriously cause a stroke among the seniors. The song had barely started, but now every elderly person had waltzed onto the small open space in the cafeteria, ready to party. Now this was why Chris was called the king of all parties. "I haven't done this in years!" The elderly woman, whom Chris was dancing with laughed while trying her hardest to keep up with Chris as they hurried across the floor.

"Me either!" He shouted back. His past years of dancing consisted of him moving slowly to the beat while girls grinded up against him like no tomorrow.

Chris had to admit, this was a lot more fun…even if his partner was four times his age. He caught a glimpse of Gabrielle still standing in her spot on the floor while everyone around her danced. She looked surprised at Chris's turn out.

Chris grinned. Finally, he had won something.

"Dance, Darling!" A woman called out to her. Gabrielle only offered a nice smile but bit her lip like a shy little girl. She glanced around herself and made an attempt to leave the floor but Chris had already caught her hand before she got the chance.

With eyes wide Gabrielle stared up at him confusedly. "What do you want?"

"Just dance. That's all I want. You don't have to dance with me or anyone else. Just dance…" Chris nodded towards the people in the room. "Look, no one here's Michael Jackson. Relax and quit worrying about the banquet. Just dance…"

"I can't—"

Chris smiled at her thoughtfully and pointed a finger at her noise.

"Potter. Just dance."

And though it took more than ten seconds to get her started, Gabrielle Potter actually started dancing with him. She was shy at first, finding it awkward that she was actually going to dance and not follow her own agenda. Chris smiled. Screw the stupid agenda. This was much better.

They let go of hands and parted slightly… but Gabrielle was dancing. And that was enough for Chris. He smiled as the people on the floor enveloped them and clapped to the music as Gabrielle let out a laugh and covered half her face shyly. As humiliating as it probably was for her, she looked good.

No one had to say it out loud. But she was having fun. Gabrielle Potter was having fun because of Chris Donovan. Taking one last glimpse at the girl he fell for, Chris turned away with a soft smile still plastered onto his face.

Score.


"You smell different," Devon told me quietly. I bit the end of my Clemington long sleeve shirt and kicked my legs up towards the sky.

"Do I?" I answered, glancing at him from the corner of my eyes. The two of us were lying down in the cold grass in my backyard with our feet pointing in opposite directions but her heads next to one another. The house was empty since my brother and mother were gone for most of the night. Even if Chris did show up, he probably wouldn't suspect much since Devon was always over anyways. Just hopefully, he wouldn't find us in a bad situation. Devon turned his head and chuckled as our noses bumped into one another.

"Yeah, you usually smell like Chris. Today you don't."

I frowned. Finding out that I smelled like my brother, who was by the way usually a dirty smelly jock half the time, was not a good thing. "Umm…is that a good thing?"

Devon shrugged and turned his head back to face the night sky. "Well, every family has their own distinct smell. Maybe it's the laundry detergent you use or something."

Or maybe it was because I changed my shampoo?

I giggled and swapped his arm as he laughed loudly. "You sound retarded." Our laughs died down quietly as I snuggled closer to him and swallowed. "How was practice today without Chris?"

The question was typical. Since Chris's sudden involvement in student council, the school had agreed to allow Chris to miss one to two practices a week for school events. Today was the senior banquet, where the elderly from the nursing home would spend their day enjoying a meal with student council and reuniting with old friends. Chris had been happy about missing the day at school, but he had been a bit upset over having to miss practice. The state tournament was only two weeks away and would be held out of the state due to the incoming weather conditions.

Training for the state tournament was a big priority for Chris, but it was obvious that something was in the way. I was pretty sure the rest of the team weren't envying Chris all too much either. Since the fight between him and Devon, Chris had made it clear that he just wanted the team to focus on State.

Of course, that was impossible if he was too busy trying to pursue Gabrielle Potter. My brother was always bad with timing. Always bad.

Devon shrugged, "Quiet. Less competitive?" He laughed. "It's never really 'soccer' unless Chris is there."

"Are you nervous? It's senior year. Any game from now on may be your last," I pointed out, pulling my cap off my head.

Devon smiled, "The only thing I'm nervous for is seeing you in a beautiful dress for the winter ball, which I still have to ask you, what color is it?"

Color? Dress?

I laughed and turned to Devon. "I don't know. We still have a few weeks before the actual dance, Dev."

Devon shrugged. "True. But I think you're the only girl without a dress." The thought of buying my dress this early on was quite a bit surprising. I hated shopping and everyone that knew me, knew that. My last trip to the mall was with Steven, and that had felt like ages ago. Finding a dress would be a nightmare. I cringed and buried my head with my arms.

"What a nightmare," I muttered.

Devon chuckled and patted my head. "You'll look gorgeous. You don't even have to try that hard. I just can't wait till then!" He immediately sat up. "I have it all planned out. All you have to do is show up looking beautiful."

I stared up at him from my spot on the grass and giggled. "Excited now are we?"

Devon nodded his head like a little boy and pulled his baseball cap down harder onto his head. "Hell yeah. I can't wait to dance with you. Can you believe that we've never dance? Like Never." He grabbed my hand and pulled me up to my feet. "That's what I'll be looking forward to most. Dancing with you." Wrapping his arm around my waist, Devon lifted me up and spun me around.

He pumped his fist in the air when he set me down and grabbed my shoulders. "I think dancing with you will be like one of those…unforgettable moments in our relationship."

I cocked my head and reached up to push away a stray lock of his hair. "Dancing with me, eh?"

"All the girls will be so jealous. They say I'm a good dancer, you know?" He winked at me and wrapped his arms around me. "And all the guys will be so jealous that I got Neely Donovan to go to a dance with me. It's going to be insane."

I rolled my eyes and pushed off him. "First of all, guys won't be jealous over you taking me to a school dance, Dev. Second of all, the girls will think that the only reason I got a chance to even go to a dance with you is because Chris and you are best friends. They'll think it's a pity shot." I pointed a finger at Devon. "No one is going to suspect that you actually want to go with me. You're Devon Matthews for god sakes. You're like everyone's dream guy. You should hear the way girls talk about you in locker rooms after gym."

Devon frowned and walked over to one of Chris's soccer ball on the grass. "That's ridiculous. Do you know how many guys out there want you? Why wouldn't I want you? I'm surprised no one's figured out that you were my mystery girl." He glanced at me and smirked. "I can assure you that guys want you more than girls want me. They're just too scared to admit it with Chris lurking in every shadow and corner out there."

I scoffed and sat down on a porch chair while Devon began juggling the soccer ball. "It doesn't matter. As soon as anyone finds out that we're going to the dance together, all hell will break loose. Your fan club will murder me. Casey will probably murder me. Shauna will probably feel betrayed—"

"Shauna?" Devon trapped the ball and glanced up at me. "She just has a minor crush on me. It's not your fault and plus our excuse is that I didn't feel like going through all that girl drama. That's why I'm taking you. She'll understand."

I snorted and shook my head. I was no expert on the whole issue of guys and girls. But, this would have been a perfect moment to say that 'boys were stupid'. Devon glanced at me and wrinkled his nose. "Why are you shaking your head at me?"

"I'm pretty sure it's not just a minor crush, Devon." I tucked my knees under my chin. "In fact, you're probably her mystery guy."

Devon raised an eyebrow. "Wanna put your money on that one?"

I grinned and dropped my head. "I think she's planning on telling you how she feels."

Devon slowly picked up the soccer ball from the ground and tossed it up in the air. "How do you know? Shauna Neilson only dates guys that haven't dated Casey Craig. That rules me out."

"Well she told me."

"Stop feeling so guilty, Neely. If she likes me, she likes me. But there's nothing we can do because our situation is already as complicated as it is. I don't have any feelings for her. Shauna's just a friend. Even if there wasn't a 'you', I probably wouldn't like Shauna that way."

I sighed and scratched the side of my head. "She's my friend though. She trusted me and now I've stolen the guy that she likes, and since we can't really tell anybody about 'us' I feel more like an evil bitch leading her on." It was true. All the times Shauna had secretly told me about her crush and feelings for Devon, and all the times I had just smiled and nodded made me feel even more guilty.

Devon let out a loud groan and quickly dropped the ball to hurry to me. Crouching down to my eye level and leaning towards me, Devon smirked.

"Stop moping, Neels. You can't steal someone from someone if that person didn't even belong to that someone in the first place. And second of all, you had your reasons to keep it from her."

I raised an eyebrow. "Even if we do tell everyone our excuse, everyone's going to say, 'he should have just asked Shauna. That wouldn't have been drama-filled'."

It was true. Our motive and our excuse were pretty horrible. Shauna would still feel betrayed no matter what. It was a lose-lose situation. Though Chris was our ultimate problem, it didn't change the fact that there were still other people who would be affected by our new relationship.

"We don't have to tell them then," Devon suggested, leaning back onto his bottom. I stared at him and let out a small laugh.

"Like how we don't tell anyone about how we're actually a couple, or how we're keeping this thing a huge secret from Chris for the time being, and how we aren't really kissing for the sake of Chris? How much are we going to add to the list, Dev?' I deadpanned. Devon shrugged and leaned back on his palms.

"Well, we can just tell Chris to keep it on the down low. And then I can just tell people I'm not going to the dance because I have to go to some family event. And then we just show up at the dance together…like a surprise." He made it sound so easy.

"And what do you suppose we tell them when we do show up?"

"That my plans got canceled last minute and Chris ordered me to go to the dance, and the only available 'date' was you. That way you won't come off as a guy stealing bitch, and I won't come off as a complete asshole." He winked at me and grabbed my hands. "I just want your first high school dance to be fun. But don't have too much fun, save that for prom." He quickly leaned in for a kiss on the cheek and walked back towards the soccer ball that he had left back on the lawn.

"So what do we say to Shauna when we tell everyone then?" I asked from my spot on the porch. Devon stopped and turned slightly. I could see his blue eyes flashing even though it was dark outside. His dark hair was once again messily thrown all over his perfect face. Truth be told, my boyfriend was adorable and handsome all in one. I would probably never get over the fact that I landed someone as perfect as Devon. Never. He was right when he said all the girls would be jealous.

Putting his feet on the ball, Devon began juggling the ball again. "We tell her the truth." He glanced up at me. "That you were my mystery girl and you have been since the day I met you." He let out a quiet gasp as he nearly let the ball drop to the ground. I only watched him quietly while he continued. "We tell her that since the day I saw you, I've always wanted to run my hands through your hair, and I've always wanted to touch those lips." He smirked but kept his eyes on the ball as it bounced up and down on his legs and feet.

As I listened to his word, it was clear that he had spoken those words before. If I had remembered correctly, it had been right after a memorable trip to Subway so long ago. I stood up and let out a small laugh. "Is that so?"

He nodded his head. "And if she asks, 'why Neely?' I'll look at her in the eye and tell her I love you because you're different from all those other girls that I know…that you are your own person and you don't care what other people think about you. And that's what makes you special." Still focusing on the ball Devon, smiled lightly to himself and glanced up at me for a mere second as I approached his side. "I'll tell her that even if you don't try, you're the most beautiful girl I've ever met. You make me laugh…you make me mad…and you make me jealous every time a guy turns his head to look at you." He spoke slowly, his voice not even cracking as the ball landed on his chest.

I chuckled and shook my head but he smiled and continued. "And if she asks why it took so long to tell everyone, I'll tell her that it was a lot harder than she thought. I'll tell her that it hurt. It hurt that I couldn't tell you about my feelings….that I dreaded that one day Neely Donovan would wake up and realize that she wants someone to love, and it wouldn't be me, but some guy who doesn't even know the real Neely Donovan." He stopped for a few seconds and then opened his mouth to speak again. "I'll tell her that I've loved you since the day I met you five years ago, and that there hasn't been a girl since then that has made my heart beat like crazy."

I placed my hands on my hips and dropped to stare at my shoes, "So cheesy, Devon Matthews," I muttered quietly with a smile. I didn't remembering it being so cheesy before. Maybe it was because I had already landed the boy?

The ball finally dropped to the ground and he turned to me with a silly grin. Running his hands through his hair, Devon kicked the grass and cleared his throat. "So how was that? I worked so hard on that speech and I didn't even get to use it. I figured if I used it again, I could earn some extra brownie points—"

I didn't let him finish because I had already grabbed him by the collar and kissed him.


-

Chris Donovan zipped up his jacket before picking the heavy trash bags and tossing them into the dumpster. He couldn't wait for the team to head out to Florida for the tournament. It was all he really was looking forward to besides his meetings with student council and Gabrielle. He hated the cold and he didn't enjoy indoor soccer as much as outdoor. Plus, with basketball season coming up, his schedule was beginning to get more complicated and hectic.

The senior banquet had been a success. There had been no heart attacks or strokes and everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves, all thanks to Chris. He would proudly accept it if they would just admit that he had been the sole life of the banquet. He smiled to himself. Being the sole life of the banquet was beside the point though. The point of the night was that Gabrielle Potter danced and enjoyed herself. Surprisingly, that alone made Chris feel good. After all, he was the one who initiated it.

She danced AND talked to him. And not only that, she had grabbed his hands and danced. Though it was probably due to the mood and the fact that everyone was trying to swing dance, it was still better than nothing. It was almost Christmas for him. He always did like Christmas….

"Donovan?"

"Fuck!" Chris nearly jump a foot in the air as Gabrielle's tiny face was suddenly in his. What the hell was it with people showing up out of no where in the dark? Especially when he was busy daydreaming about Christmas and shit.

"Sorry sorry!" Gabrielle chanted with a concerned voice. "I thought you heard me coming." Chris only dropped a hand from his chest and shook his head.

"Obviously not." Chris swallowed and turned away until his racing heart slowed down. Control yourself, dammit. Don't snap at her! "What's up?" He finally glanced back at her, realizing that Gabrielle Potter was alone outside with him….in nothing but her 'red' t-shirt and dirty jeans. "Aren't you cold?" He pointed to the sky. "Snow's coming in early this year."

Gabrielle glanced up at the sky and hugged herself. "Do you need help?" She asked quietly.

Huh?

Chris stared back at her confusedly. Not only was she offering to stay with him 'alone'. But, she was now offering to help him? "Are you sick?" He asked stupidly. Gabrielle dropped her head and frowned.

"Excuse me?"

"Are you sick?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Cuz you're here and not in there," he pointed to the building where the rest of the student council members were surely cleaning up. James Goodwin was probably among them, searching drastically for the missing red head.

"Oh," Gabrielle shrugged lightly and folded her arms across her chest. "I just wanted fresh air."

There was an awkward silence while Chris bent down to pick up the rest of the black trash bags on the ground. When was he voted the garbage man on student council? Gabrielle shifted in her spot and kicked a nearby rock. It was obvious that there was something she wanted to say to him. Only she probably didn't know what to say or how to say it.

Chris lifted his head. "Did you have fun tonight?" He needed to break the ice. Hopefully she would say yes. He had heard her laugh and giggle so much that it was obvious the bitchy ice queen act had melted away in a second. Gabrielle smiled and leaned against the dumpster.

"Yes, I did," she swallowed, "I wanted to thank you. I can't even remember the last time the elderly had so much fun at a Clemington outing. I didn't think they were capable of dancing."

Chris chuckled and turned to her, "Don't think so little of people. They might surprise you." It was true. He had barely acknowledged Gabrielle in the beginning and now she was all he could think about.

Gabrielle nodded her head in agreement. "Everyone really liked you. That's a surprise because you don't even give a crap. No one at the nursing home admires James as much as they admired you tonight."

Chris mentally cheered at her compliment, but tried his hardest to act indifferent. "Really? I don't know what to say…"

Gabrielle cocked her head and smirked, "Stop being so polite and just say what you want to say. Bash James or something!"

He snorted and turned to lean against the dumpster as well. "So you volunteer at the nursing home every week, work your ass off for the school as the student council president, and still manage to deal with people like James Goodwin and me. Is there anything that you don't do?" He dropped his head to look at his shoes. He gasped slightly as he saw the dirt stains on his shoes.

No! They're new!

Of course he couldn't fret just yet. He had finally gotten Gabrielle Potter to willingly talk with him, yet he now had the sudden urge to rub his shoes clean. He bit his tongue and lifted his head to the red head next to him. Gabrielle smiled and shrugged again.

"You know, Donovan—"

"Why do you always call me Donovan? What's wrong with just Chris?" He interrupted quickly while stuffing his hands into his pockets.

Gabrielle frowned confusedly again and tilted her head. "What's wrong with me calling you Donovan? All your friends call you Donovan."

"All my guy friends call me Donovan," he corrected. Chris nodded to himself and smirked. "It's not like I call you Potter all the time."

"But you do."

"But I call you Gabby more than I call you Potter." What was he trying to prove anyways? Chris cleared his throat and looked up at the stars. The sky was no longer clear. The warm nights were now gone and winter was going to roll in any time. Slowly he looked down at himself, and then hesitatingly, reached towards his zipper to unzip himself.

"Well, if you really do want to be called Chris…" Gabrielle sighed and looked up as well. Chris licked his chapped lips and slid his jacket off of him. He quickly tossed the jacket in her arms and then turned back to the sky. He wasn't really Mr. Romantic. He was the kind of guy girls killed to have but only held onto him because of the image. He could never really play the part of the good boyfriend. There were plenty of times Chris had found himself unromantic.

Gabrielle stared hard at the brown jacket in her hands and then faintly smiled. "What's this for?"

Chris rubbed his arms and sent her an odd look. "It's for you to wear because you're too stupid to bring your own jacket outside."

She narrowed her eyes and shook her head before chucking it back into his arms. "And let you freeze when it was my choice to come out here without a jacket?"

ARGH. Why did she have to be so damn stubborn? Nothing went right with this girl. Absolutely nothing. Chris Donovan was pretty much handing himself over on a silver platter and she still couldn't even accept his lame attempts at 'romantic'. Chris glared at her and chucked the jacket back in her face. "Wear the jacket, Gabby."

"It's not necessary."

"You thanking me wasn't necessary, but you still did it anyways. Just wear it; it'll make me feel a lot better and you'll be a lot warmer." Gabrielle stared at him incredulously and then glanced down at the jacket in her hands again. Was it really that hard to wear his jacket? Was it really hard to accept his act of kindness?

"Dono—Chris, I don't need your jacket."

"Yes you do. You have all those little goose bumps on your arms and you're shivering like a naked dog. Don't lie to me." Chris smiled triumphantly when Gabrielle glanced down at her own arms to see the goose bumps. Slowly, she rolled her eyes and draped the jacket over her.

Score. This was twice that he had won against her. Twice!

He suddenly wanted to dance again.

With a smug smirk, Chris backed up to take a look at her. "See? It suits you well. You look good and you're warm."

A pink tinge was very noticeable on Gabrielle's face, but Chris ignored it and went back to leaning on the dumpster. How romantic was this? The two of them and a dumpster. There was another long awkward silence between the two of them and Chris couldn't help but look back down at his stained shoes. "So…" Chris trailed off. "Do you want to get milk shakes after we're done cleaning up?"

He mentally prepared himself for some sort of disaster, but Gabrielle stayed still…staring at the gravel beneath them. It was almost nerve wrecking

When she didn't answer a minute later, Chris began kicking the heel of his shoe. Maybe she hadn't heard him? "Gabby?"

She turned to him and gave him an apologetic smile. "I actually have plans after this…"

Oh.

Chris shrugged and began playing with the hem of his shirt. He and Neely had this thing where they always needed to play with their shirts when there was nothing to say. Now would have been a good time. He was turned down again for the four hundredth time.

Talk about playing hard to get. Except…she most definitely wasn't 'playing'.

"That's too bad," he piped up, trying not to hardest to let his guard down. "I would have paid for it and saved you a good buck fifty."

Gabrielle snickered and hugged herself once again. "James and I are actually getting ice cream afterwards. You can come if you want." Or not.

James effing Goodwin. Chris let out a loud sigh and rubbed his hands together with a cough. "No thank you."

There was a pause in which Chris wanted to strangle himself. He blamed himself for letting his ego get this big. Now as Gabrielle and James deflated it, he felt the need to roll up into a ball and mope. Gabrielle, obviously seeing his state of distress kicked off the dumpster and turned to him.

"We can go for milkshakes tomorrow after your practice?" She offered nicely.

Chris's head snapped up. What was this? A pity offering? Did he look that much like a puppy that got kicked a few times? "The offer sounds sort of dangerous coming from you," Chris muttered. Gabrielle laughed.

"Don't be ridiculous. We'll still have to go to some unknown isolated ice cream shop. I still don't want to be seen in public with you."

Chris frowned and kicked off the dumpster as well. "You're horrible. God, you really know how to twist a knife."

"People gossip, Chris." Gabrielle gave him a sideways glanced while the two trotted back to the school entrance. "I just don't want people saying stuff about us in the wrong way. It would have been fine if you didn't have such a record in your playboy ways. I've never even heard anything about you having a normal friend that's a girl without the word 'benefits' in it."

Chris feigned pain and then rolled his eyes. "Whatever. I'm fine with the way things turned out tonight whether I get a milkshake or not. I met some pretty cool people who aren't ashamed of me." He smiled at the thought of Frank and the pleasant table that had totally backed him up with the dancing. Gabrielle warily slid of his jacket and glanced at him.

"I'm not ashamed of you. I just don't want people gossiping. I mean, after the auction and stuff I already had enough harassing me about it."

Chris merely shrugged. For some odd reason, he knew that Gabrielle would probably be getting crap from the rest of the girls from the school. After all, she never really tried and yet she had his attention. Any girl would be jealous. He honestly didn't want another Jessica Welch attack again.

He chuckled to himself and scratched the back of his head. "I'm happy," he blurted out like a little boy. Gabrielle sent him another wary stare.

"And why's that?"

"Because you're semi being nice to me. I feel like I've just climbed Mount Olympus and back." He flexed and gave her a sideways glance. "It's a good feeling."

Gabrielle only gave him a faint smile before tossing the jacket to him. "You're being nice to me too. It's...different."

"Good different? Or bad different?" Chris stopped to face her. Gabrielle only laughed and shook her head.

"Good different."

"YES!" He pumped a fist and threw an arm around her shoulders friendlily. He felt her tense immediately at their contact but soon her shoulders sagged and relaxed. Good. She needed to relax. "Yep, today is a good day…" He sang to himself as they pushed open the doors of Clemington High School.

Upon entering the building, they were spotted by a few student council members calling their names.

The night was going to end sooner or later, and even if Gabrielle did turn him down once again. Chris Donovan felt like he had accomplished more than he had expected.


The loud slamming of the front door indicated that Chris was home. Sitting from our spots on the couch, Devon and I both turned away from the television lazily to see Chris stroll inside with the biggest grin in the world, molded onto his face like wax.

Someone was in a good mood…

"Hey hey hey!" He called out excitedly, tossing his jacket to the ground and jumping over the couch to sit in between Devon and I. "What's on TV?"

"Nada," I replied. It was obvious Chris could care less what was on TV. He looked to excited to even concentrate on the tiny thing. He tossed the remote control aside and threw his arms around Devon and I childishly.

"This is a good night, guys. A good night!"

Devon frowned and swatted Chris's arm away. "Stop strangling me, dickwad."

"Let's go celebrate!" Chris ignored him and tightened his grip. "Steak and Shake, anyone?"

"Chris!" I whined as I tried my hardest to twist out of his hold. Chris only smiled cheerfully. "Dude, Neels. Do we have any beer left?" He turned to Devon with wide eyes. "Want a beer, Dev?"

Devon chuckled as his best friend jumped up to his feet. "Why the hell are you so jumpy? Friggin grasshopper—"

Chris spun around, trying to hide the smile creeping onto his face. "No reason! Neely, make some popcorn!"

I laughed and tossed my hair back over my shoulders. "Why? What's up?"

My brother shrugged nonchalantly while he opened the fridge to peer in with narrowed eyes. "Do you believe in life after love?" He sang loudly to himself and pulled out a carton of juice instead of a bottle of beer. I giggled and glanced at Devon, uncertainty written across my face. Devon only shrugged at me and then turned back to stare at my brother. Chris turned around to face us, still smiling.

"Juice, anyone?" He offered innocently.

"Chris Donovan—" I started, but Chris had already set down the carton of juice and jogged past us to jump on the couch. Grabbing the remote control, he flipped to a soccer game, and let out a laugh.

"Guys. Sit." He motioned quickly, while he bounced his leg up and down. Devon and I gave each other another unsure look before walking around the sofa and plopping down next to Chris. Chris sighed and leaned back, crossing his legs at the ankles.

"Why are you in such a good mood?"

"Because…." The smile returned and he looked up towards the ceiling thoughtfully. Sliding his hands behind his head, Chris lowered his voice to barely a whisper.

"Because, I got her to smile."

While Chris was busy being smitten with his own thoughts, I turned to the dark haired boy on the other side of my brother. Devon glanced at me and cast me a warm smile. We were both thinking the same thing.

Chris was happy. Chris was doing good. And maybe…just maybe, the secret wouldn't have to stay a secret for long.


A/N:

I know. I know. I know. Three months of waiting and all you guys get is a chapter about Gabrielle and Chris. Please don't be mad! I needed a filler and I needed these two to get somewhere. The next chapter will have more Neely and Devon parts. I promise. After all, the main couple is Neely/Devon.

Let me make some clarifications as to what happened in the end of the last chapter and the beginning of this chapter. Neely did NOT kiss Devon at the end of chapter 18. She was very close but then she stopped, leaned back, and asked Devon the question. Chris then shows up looking angry only because he was 'cold, hungry, tired, and his favorite jeans were ripped'. So basically, I ended chapter 18 making it look like he had found out, but really, he didn't (obviously if you've read this chapter already). I just really couldn't believe how many people actually believed that he found out that way and that soon. Maybe because I'm incredibly horrible at writing and my communication skills are whacked. LoL. Please don't be mad that it's taking forever for All Along to finish. Though there are only 18 chapters, I know All Along's chapter lengths can equal about 100 chapters compared to a lot of other stories on fictionpress.

Just for fun, play the song "Believe" by Cher while reading that part with Gabrielle and Chris. It made me want to dance while I typed the scene. It's just a suggestion…

I'm actually proud of myself for updating this early compared to the one year wait of hell. I'm just sorry I have to disappoint you with the Gabby/Chris fluff (if you want to call it that) and not Neely/ Devon action. I'm also surprised at the amount of new readers I have gotten since my last update. It's pretty cool! It keeps me happy and motivated. It's also probably very unfair for those readers who have kept up with this story since forever ago. You guys were the one that had to wait that whole year for the update. So sorry! As for the new readers, if you do decide to leave a review, let me know how you found this story and what you think. Btw, do any of you guys keep up with my profile? I try my hardest to keep up with my writing and the newest updates on All Along. You guys are awesome and I love reading your reviews. What makes thinks even more interesting is that some of you read the story with your friends. Haha…iono…I find that cute and funny and that you guys have your own mini 'update now!' groups. I like it.

Also, Thank you so much for those of you who actually read the whole last chapter author's note. It seemed a lot longer when I was typing it, and like this one, I am oblivious to the questions I have to answer from fans. I'm so incredibly sorry if I don't answer your question. And for my readers who did read the authors note, here is my wonderful mention of you guys (don't get mad if I dnt put you it, I might have accidentally deleted it): ihrtbks, elephant121, You' .Know, Lexxa, Troy4ever, Michelle, CanesFanCatty, Kiki (), simpleandtrue, Dee, angelgrl, Cleo, Rubyscarlet, Moonlit Rendezvous, lilmisspanda, Lethargiclove, goodbyemylover (what an incredibly sad penname btw), Maraudess, unerasable words, JIJ, DSLuverGurl123, fluffykitty, Katie, Lock. VII, MiSS COO-KiEz, Circles in the Water, oo-BlackRose-oo, Silent-Rebel, Early Morning Dawn, Crystal949, flamesflyer, jess, Vitreous, Agent Raindrop, MovieLvR4Lyfe, pixaroo, scissor shaped, Marea, starwishes, Avschick33 (who btw is very fun to talk to!), Lalaith, Lena Niccolas, Artemis Claire Priden, rainey, no. one. In. particular, Raelia, blueaquarius89, jenna, R.P. Sawyer, Esvee (the silent admirer..lol), Anatidaephobiac, Kace08, murphy1086, Dark Start at Night, mode, topsecret32, anon, andthefroggiedied-,Mishca, andXso SheXpulled theXTrigger, firefly-lady, peter rabbit, crazystar0, LadyLuck7, ingeniously crunchy, suggestive eyebrows, Gypsy Feather, Ri, Allison Smith, swimchickslam, books4me, minute-glass, Girl Anachronismo07, okey-dokes, amy, chic rebel, cloverluck11, Alison Ashley, x-TheSmallPrint-x, holding-on-for-him, Qcmist8, iadoreyooh, xSecretRainx, smudged lines, somuchformyhappending, ., RedPillow, Lyona, WTEmily, Ravestna, Ginne, Twirl, Zhou Bai Ling, Skye-Blue07, CallMeCute, reen, emonee, gleez, Indypigen, Lyren, SitaDarkAngel, Wandless, daretobe-different, AngelofSatan, beebee83, psychotic emo lover, Kris, hubbabubba, swiss01, Man Eater, Etherealia, Zoloft 22, typicallyazngurl, pottazcutey, auDACiouSsQuIRRel,

Soooo…who actually spent their time searching for their name? lol…I'm sorry if I didn't add yours. So I've taken notice to compare the number of hit All Along gets to the number of reviews. And boy, there is a huge HUGE difference! HUGE! Ginormous. I guess a lot of you guys out there are like me, eh? Read but no review. Bwahaha. So I was reading this website where all the known stories of fictionpress were getting critiqued and rated, and the person who rated me (which was low in a way…) was surprised at the number of fans I had. Though I'm not really affected, I now feel like Maximus from Gladiator! LoL..you know…win the crowd/people...

Ha. Ha. Ha. (Yeah, I know…lame). So I guess it's kind of like being Britney Spears back when Britney Spears was actually popular. Bad at singing….but had a large amount of fans? Anyways, never mind that. I would now like to take the time to thank all the people who voted for All Along for the Muse Elimination. All Along won for the category of Romance! WOOHOO! It makes me so happy & I was up against some pretty insanely popular stories.

$$$ For those of you, still reading, All Along has been nominated for the SKOW awards for Best Het (Best couple! Neely and Devon!) and Most Memorable. So if you have the time, please check out the site, nominate (definitely nominate some stories), vote vote vote, and read the stories! The link are on my fictionpress profile. It's an honor to be nominated! An honor! I think 99 of the reason why I got the motivation to type this chapter was because of the nomination! I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully All Along will do well this time around.

I've been having this urge to know my readers. Actually, I really want to find out if there is anyone out there that went to my high school or is attending the college I will be going to. But….I'm that paranoid person, who fears internet stalkers. So, does anyone have an idea how I can do that? Iono…I'm just really interested in finding out. Btw, if you have been reading this authors note up to this point, type 'red' at the bottom of your review. This is getting fun!

Last but not least, the All Along website will soon be posted for my dear fans out there. And even though it's not a big deal, the picture (s) of Neely will be revealed. Don't get your hopes to high up there! Like I said, imagine the characters the way you want. I've been working on the website, and even though it's pretty basic, and pretty plain…it's the best that KNE can do. LoL. For all those fans that have sent me pictures and banners in the past, if you still have them, please do so and send them again. I would like to put them on the website album for All Along fans to see. I love them so much! The site will probably be out in a couple days because it's still in construction and I'm incredibly busy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Don't forget to review and let me know how you thought of the chapter/story/ any other questions and concerns/ something funny for me to read. Vote at SKOW and be safe!

KNE