Once upon a time, there were two boys named David who sought fame and fortune in the fabled world of golden Hollywood.
One of them had won the biggest singing competition on the planet, the other was his runner-up, and truth be told sometimes people forgot who'd won and who hadn't. The Davids didn't care which of them had won, anyway, and that was all that mattered.
These days, they had other things on their minds. It was spring, and, well, we all know what young men’s minds turn to in the spring.
"Hey, hero!" Cook said when he called on May 21 (the anniversary of their Idol win), like he always did. This May, he’d just come off the final leg of the Alibi tour and was relaxing in his house in Tulsa. It sounded like he was lying in bed. "How's the new album coming?"
"I'm kind of stuck," Arch confessed. He'd been keeping it from his producers because he didn't want to disappoint them, but he knew Cook would understand.
Cook made sympathetic noises. "You'll get your mojo back; you're just burned out after the awesomeness of The Other Side Of Down. Hey, you should make a Christmas album!"
Arch rolled his eyes. "Already did that."
"So you did." Arch could hear Cook thinking hard across the miles. "Fourth albums are hard. How about a road trip album? Or something with a running theme, you know, like a postmodern narrative."
Arch snorted. "I'm not even sure about what that means," he said, though of course he did, and Cook cracked up.
"Sorry, sorry! Okay, how about an album of fairytales? Think Bowie did one, and Kate Bush."
"I don't know about Bowie, but fairytales I can do," Archie said. "Why, didn't you think my last album had a theme or, like, a narrative?"
"Totally. Twelve positive songs about positivity," said Cook, sincerely, and Archie smiled. After Idol, Cook kept telling the press that he was the biggest David Archuleta fan, until Arch himself believed it, because it was the truth.
Archie shifted his cellphone to his other ear and stretched out on the bed. "How 'bout you? How's the last week of tour been?"
"Same old," Cook said. "I’ve actually dropped a couple more pounds, you won’t be able to recognize me! My mom thinks I've been working too hard."
"Moms think that! It's, like, part of their job description," said Archie, and heard Cook laugh.
"Yeah! Mine also thinks I need love in my life, and I think that's also part of her job description." Cook paused. "I bet yours does too."
Arch swallowed, because it was another true thing. Cook knew the Archuleta family too well. "Well, I kind of always tell her that I'm too busy."
"Not foolin' anyone, Archuleta. That song from your last record, "My Kind of Perfect"? If that wasn't your `I need a girlfriend’ song I don't know what is."
Cook started to sing See my future in a beautiful face, and to cut him off Archie said, "Okay, fine! Yes, everyone, my mom, my agent, thinks it's time for a girlfriend. And my friends too, apparently!"
Cook stopped singing and his voice got more solemn. "Seriously, Arch, I know you're busy, but you could probably find the time for the right girl."
Arch felt himself turn red, which was ridiculous; Cook was miles away. "C'mon, you should get a girl yourself."
"Dunno, I'm not doing that well with girlfriends," said Cook, musingly; Arch knew he was thinking about Kim and the other blonde model types he'd dated when on tour. "What if I tried a boyfriend, maybe that might change things for me?"
Arch said, before he could stop himself, "Doesn't Neal have a girlfriend?"
He heard Cook sigh, heavily. "I did not mean Neal. And, yes, he does. Think you've met her, her name’s Kira?"
Archie remembered. "She's nice," he said, and she had been, even with the tattoos and green hair.
"We should find you a nice girl, Arch."
It was Arch's turn to sigh. "Everyone expects that!" Yeah, and there'd been the mandatory dates with Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus – which hadn't gone that well, as he reminded Cook.
Cook said lazily, "You want a nasty girl instead, got it."
Arch snorted again. "I'm hanging up now!"
"No, no!" There were rustling sounds on the other end, like Cook had just sat up. "Okay, look, I got a fairytale narrative for your next album. There's this prince, and he's looking for the love of his life. But he's working too hard, woe is him, et cetera. He's gotta find someone before he's forced to marry the person the queen picks out, right? So his faithful and very attractive best friend decides to help him out by rounding up all the princesses in the land, and all the other princes too..."
Arch interrupted, "See, the problem with this story is that you should be the prince, and not me."
"Nono, in this narrative, it's you." Cook made a noise like he was waving his arms around. "And how do princes figure they've found the love of their life?"
Arch thought about the many Disney movies he'd watched. "Um, singing bluebirds? Glass slippers?"
"No, dude. True love's kiss!"
There was a short silence after this remark. Then Archie said, with great dignity, "I'm not going around kissing a bunch of girls, even if you pick them out for me. Or boys, either, though I guess I wouldn't mind dating them too."
Cook's voice took on a wheedling tone."How about...you get to pick me a bunch in return? I'm lonely, I need a princess. Or a prince, whatever."
Arch said, "Um, I thought I was the prince in this narrative?"
"Yes you are. C'mon, Arch, you're really doing me a favor, and my mom will be forever grateful."
"Okay," Arch found himself saying. "Anything for the future Mrs. or Mr. David Cook."
Cook snickered as he said goodbye to Archie. In the privacy of his Tulsa bedroom, he did a fist-pump of triumph.
Then he considered his next move. He realized he'd need some back-up.
He punched up Kris Allen's speed dial. Kris was in town for the next couple of months, deeply mired in that last inning stretch of work on his sophomore album. And in the months following the amicable Allen split and Katy's current and very public relationship with Ryan Philippe, Kris had been set up on too many dates to count.
Cook remembered how he’d first found out about the separation: it had been at Allison Iraheta’s 19th birthday last year, which she’d reprised at the snazzy STK restaurant in downtown La Cienaga. Kris had arrived with Kristy Lee Cook held at arm’s length.
Since then, Kris had been all too happy to update him with the latest news on the dating front, and to dodge the paparazzi by heading out to the occasional ball game and bar with a different Cook. Last month they’d celebrated Allie’s 20th quietly together, just the three of them now Adam was on tour in London.
Kris was awake when Cook called; he’d just gotten back from an evening in the studio. He said, gloomily, "I was shipped out on this red carpet thing with Kirsten Bell last week. And yesterday Adam and Tommy sent over this karate-black-belt Angelina Jolie lookalike, because they thought I should try something different!"
Cook paused at this. "How was it?" he wanted to know.
He could hear Kris shrug. "Different," Kris said. "Not different bad. Different different. It's just, I've been with Katy for years, it's hard to break outta that mould, y'know?"
“I do know, as it happens,” Cook said.
“Yeah, I know, you’ve got this deal with blondes of a certain type, am I right?” Kris snickered, and Cook groaned.
“Don’t give me a hard time about it, man, c’mon. I know I have a thing, but I’m trying to break out of it, same as you.”
“How so?” Kris wanted to know.
Cook explained his deal with Archie, and Kris was sympathetic. Then Cook asked, cautiously, "So, you think Archie should break out of his mould?"
Kris drawled, "Now that's an interesting thought."
The Sausalito sun was scorching, but Archie wasn't feeling the heat. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was currently wearing a tight t-shirt and tighter swimming trunks that his stylist had picked out.
He figured, a little miserably, that being at a launch party on the 19E thirty-foot yacht, surrounded by hot girls in bikinis and hot guys in Speedos, would probably have made anyone else hot under the collar. If they were wearing a shirt with a collar, anyway. But not him. Maybe he was a freak of nature.
"Archie, you made it!" Aha, that was the familiar voice he'd come here to hear. He pushed his shades up into his hair and squinted into David Cook's warm green eyes.
Cook was wearing shiny aviators, much baggier swim shorts, a limited-edition David Archuleta UP tour t-shirt - which totally made Arch blush - and a huge grin.
"Hey, Cook!" Arch tried to avoid Cook's bear hug - Cook's hugs were always great, but Arch didn't really want to hug anyone when he was wearing this few clothes.
"There's someone here I want you to meet," Cook said.
Archie's face must have showed the shock that he felt along his over-exposed skin, because Cook said, quickly, "Hey, I thought that was part of our fairytale-prince deal? We won't if you're not into it, Arch."
"No," Arch said, then, "I mean, yes, that is part of our deal, it's just, I have someone here I want you to meet, too!"
Cook looked at him over the rim of his aviator glasses. "Well, Mr. Archuleta, I can’t believe you're as devious as me. I approve! Did you talk to her about me?"
"Sure," said Arch excitedly, "and she said she'd be happy to be here as your date!"
"Exactly my M.O., who woulda believed it." Cook let out a low whistle. "So where's the lucky gal?"
Archie looked over Cook's shoulder at the crowd of colorful bikinis. "Over there!" he said, waving, and a couple of the bikini-clad started walking towards them purposefully.
Cook turned around and stared in the same direction as Archie, and then said, "Hoboy."
In a form-fitting blue bikini was the lovely Carrie Underwood - Arch was a huge fan, and he knew Cook was, too, and even more importantly, she was single again. And beside her, in red, there was another blonde whom Arch recognized from Idol, something to do with pickles...
"...Holy shit," Kellie Pickler said, looking at the two Davids, and then back at Carrie. "Is this what I think it is?"
"Language," Carrie said, absently. "Would David Cook happen to have called you a couple of days ago, Kellie?"
"You betcha," Kellie said, gazing at Carrie thoughtfully; Cook muttered, "Hello, I'm right here!"
"Hey, this isn't what you girls think!" Archie said. "I mean, it is, but it wasn't planned, I mean, Cook and me, we didn't tell each other we were going to call you both! It was supposed to be a surprise for Cook, and, I guess Cook had the same idea?"
"So this isn't some weird Idol double-dating scenario?" Kellie asked dubiously. Archie was pretty sure his blush didn’t go with his t-shirt, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
“Always knew you two boys shared a brain,” Carrie said, with a sweet smile. “Okay then, I’m supposed to be acting like I’m on a date with David Cook, is that right?”
“I think that’s the general idea,” said Cook. He’d gone bright red too – he was probably redder than Arch; he still had that fair skin that kind of sunburned easily.
"You gonna be okay, Kel?" Carrie asked.
Kellie shrugged. "I'm always okay, hon. You're the lady, I'm just crazy, right?"
"Don't sell yourself short now." Carrie hooked a hand in Cook's arm, winked at Archie, and then led Cook off into the crowd.
As the 19E cameras flashed for the two Idol winners, Kellie turned to Arch.“Wanna grab a beer?”
Arch swallowed; darn it, just when he was about to cautiously relax. “Uh, I don’t drink.”
“This is gonna be such a fun date,” she said, but she said it so artlessly that Arch couldn’t take offense. “Lemme get you a Coke then?”
Rather than explain to her he (still) didn’t drink Coke, either, Archie belatedly took control of the date and flagged down a nearby waiter to get the lady her beer. Then he tried to steer Kellie and their drinks to a shaded part of the yacht - this was kind of difficult because he was trying to be a gentleman and not touch any unclothed part of her, and she was, like, 95 per cent unclothed.
Finally he managed to get them privately seated near the rear end of the yacht. This posed its own problems because the contents of Kellie's bikini were that much closer to his eye level. A couple of 19E execs were seated nearby. Archie had to glare at them until they looked away.
Kellie sipped her beer. "So," she said, "you know why your friend Dave Cook figured we might hit it off?"
Archie couldn't very well say that he had no idea, because that would be really ungallant. Not to mention rude. "Maybe it's 'cause he knows I'm a fan of yours?" he tried. "And Cook knows I'm kinda shy, and he figured I might be more comfortable with, like, a fellow Idol?"
Kellie grinned. "You're shy, are you?" she drawled. "I remember you saying on Idol that you'd never been kissed. Bet that can't still be true."
Archie was never going to stop blushing, was he. "Actually, no, it isn’t?" he said, before he could stop himself.
"Musta been one of the Disney girls, or that Natasha Bedingfield," said Kellie, and Arch felt his cheeks get a million times hotter. She patted his hand. "Sugar, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. Sometimes I should just shut my huge mouth."
Arch knew she didn't mean it; she sounded like she didn't have a mean bone in her attractive body. Not that he was looking at her body, of course. "It's okay, I get like that too," he said. "Hey, maybe that's one thing Cook thought we might have in common!"
She giggled. "What, like we both don't have any mouth filters? Maybe." She lowered her head a little. "You wanna know why I said yes when Cook asked me?"
"Um, am I gonna survive the answer?" Arch asked, carefully.
She giggled again. She had a nice laugh. "Can you handle the truth? I said yes 'cause I think you're cute and talented, and like you'd be fun. And you seem like the non-bossy type, and after I broke up with my boyfriend Kyle I figured I could do with non-bossy for a change."
Arch wasn't sure if it was rude to say he was sorry about the breakup. She didn't seem too upset about it. He decided to go with, "If you wanted non-bossy, Kellie, I'm totally your guy." And, wow, that came out a bit more flirtatiously than he had meant, didn't it.
She didn't seem to mind, in fact, she let out a hoot of laughter and pushed his shoulder. "You are too cute. I knew I shoulda tried the whole dating younger guys thing sooner."
"I've never tried the dating older girls thing ever," Archie confessed, and she snorted with delight.
"How're you doing with it so far?" she enquired, moving closer. She smelled really good.
"It's different," Archie said honestly. "I gotta tell you, I haven't really tried much of the dating anyone thing, so I don't really know, but it seems different. In a good way, of course," he added hastily.
"Terrific!" Kellie said. "One of the things about us older girls is that we're kind of direct? We're not into playing games or anything. And we're awesome kissers."
Well, that was totally direct. Arch didn't mind, though, and was actually prepared for the even more direct turn the conversation took. It was a couple of hours later when she leaned in, blocking out the setting sun.
What do you know, she really wasn't kidding about the kissing part.
It was a pretty short kiss, though he couldn't expect anyone to full-on lip-lock someone else at a 19E publicity event. He was pleased he'd managed to keep his hands to himself. "No bluebirds," he said, a little sadly, when she pulled away.
"Sugar, you've been watching too many Disney movies," she said, putting her hand against his face. It wasn't true love's kiss, or whatever Cook had called it, but it was really nice.
Cook let the fabulous Lady Underwood hang on his arm and pose for photographers. As well she might - post-divorce, she looked like she was in amazing bikini-wearing shape.
He didn't really want to think about her shape; he wasn't wearing nearly enough clothes for that. Instead he went off and got a glass of champagne for her and a beer for him, and then came back and hung around until the photogs went off to find other celebs to monopolize.
It wasn't Archie's fault; he wasn't to know that this was the one blonde in Hollywood Cook could never have. In fairytale narrative parlance, she was the damsel who had got away.
In fairytales where the glass slipper fit perfectly, where the prince successfully rescued the princess, she didn't usually confess that she was already betrothed to another. Or, more accurately, the stories where that happened – in Camelot, in Verona – were the ones that ended in disaster and lovers dying and the kingdom burning down whole.
But balcony scenes weren’t Carrie’s style, and Cook fell back on the safety of their shared industry. "Congrats on the new album! Looks like you might make the Grammys again this year.”
Carrie shrugged, a gesture that used to make his throat go dry. "The critics like heartbreak. Or so I'm told."
Cook wasn’t really sure what to say to that. “Are things better now?” he asked, gently.
“As well as can be expected, I guess.” She tossed back her glass of champagne, and then patted him on the arm. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be such a downer. It’s tiring being brave and smiley all the time. I know I can be myself with you, at least. You and Kellie, you guys are the best.”
Cook said, too-brightly, “Always happy to be of service!”
The look in her eyes told him he wasn’t hiding things that well. She said slowly, “Sometimes I wish things were different."
Cook swallowed. "I've always wished the best things for you," he managed, after a while, because it was the truth.
She looked like she might say something else, then thought the better of it. "You're a good friend, Dave."
They finished their drinks. Eventually, Cook said, trying to lighten the mood, "We’re really rocking this date, Underwood."
"Sorry,” she said again. Cook wasn’t sure if she’d ever apologized to him before, and here she was now having done it twice in as many minutes. “Archie thought we might have fun together this afternoon."
"Well, we'd always had fun, so I guess he was right about that."
They sat in silence; after a while, Carrie put her arm through his and put her head on his shoulder. Her hair smelled of oranges and sunshine, and like all the things he’d once desired.
Much later, after Carrie had wandered off, and the yacht had turned round and was heading back to the Sausalito docks, Archie reappeared.
He was alone; he looked tousled and a little dazed. Cook grinned despite himself– it looked like Kellie's fairytale narrative wasn’t rated PG.
Arch sat down beside him. “Y’know, I thought really hard about doing something to you, but I thought your band might miss you if I shoved you over the side of the boat."
Cook gave him a nudge. "I thought you wanted to try something that people didn't expect."
"Yeah, well, I kind of didn’t expect you to go for something this unexpected!"
“Why, there was no soul-mate spark? No true love’s kiss?” Cook enquired.
Arch blushed hotly, and Cook hooted with laughter. “Okay, so there was kissing of a non-true-love variety? Way to go, Archuleta!”
“Hush! People will hear you. And I don’t believe in kissing and telling.”
Cook subsided, still snickering. "Okay, okay. At least this wasn’t a complete write-off. You’ll totally see her again, I bet - whenever there’s kissing involved there’s always seeing her again - and in the meantime I get to try again, right?"
Archie was still blushing, and he said, “Well, only if it means I get to try again. How was your date with Carrie?”
Cook sighed. “We’re good friends, Arch. We’ll always be good friends, and I guess that’s all we’ll ever be, according to this story.”
Archie looked at him with those huge, not-so-innocent eyes. “Oh. Okay,” he said quietly, and clapped Cook on the shoulder in the sympathetic, friendly way Carrie had done. After a while, he said, “So, that means I do get to try again?"
Cook said, grimly, “I guess it does.”
After the unsuccessful double date, Arch thought he should get some belated advice. He called Brooke, who was between filming episodes of Change of Plans.
Brooke was her usual sage, comforting self. "Oh, sweetie! I could've told you Carrie wasn't a good idea."
"I thought she'd be perfect for Cook," Arch murmured.
Brooke said, "I know Cook used to have a real thing for her, but she was married, and now she isn't anymore I think the moment has kind of passed them both by. When it comes to dating, timing is key."
Arch thought hard about this. "I guess this might make more sense when I've had more dating experience?" he said, eventually. "Anyway, you've got to help me; I don't know who else might work for Cook. Cook likes blondes who sing, right? But the only ones left are Miley and, like, Lady Gaga, and I don't think they're Cook's type."
Brooke was silent for a while, too. Then she said, "Why don't we see if we can mix it up a little."
Direct message from DavidArchie: We should get together to plan our next move!
Direct message from thedavidcook: My, someone’s eager to get back on that horse. Okay, Romeo, after Fourth of July.
"Can you hear me?" The image of Cook was small and overly pixelated, the voice out of sync with the picture. Arch frowned; Cook really needed to get a better Skype camera.
"We should upgrade the desktop, Drew keeps putting it off." Cook waved his hand slowly across the screen. "And, how awesome was your Fourth of July concert? I know Kellie woulda dug your new jeans."
Archie blushed – suddenly he was pretty glad about the poor camera quality. “Um, they’re just my old jeans from last year!” he said.
“More rips in strategic places, don’t think I didn’t notice. Okay, down to business - I'm thinking yacht and swimsuits don't score high up on the Archuleta perfect date scale."
Arch shrugged, "I’m not that difficult, Cook. I like things that are casual, you know; walks on the beach, mini-golf, concerts."
Cook held up three fuzzy fingers. "Too Harlequin romance, Archuleta, you're 21, not 91. Too precious. Too...actually, this one's not bad. Who you wanna see?"
"Jason Mraz is playing the Performing Arts Center next month, I was gonna ask Michele if there were VIP tickets left? Oh, and West Side Story's on."
Cook high-fived the screen, which shook warningly. "Gimme a week, and you won't be sorry. It'll be A+ Archuleta perfect date material, trust me!"
Exactly seven days later, front row tickets to West Side Story at Pantages Theater off Broadway arrived by Fedex.
There was one cheery DM from thedavidcook: Tony and Maria and True Love await! The prince's sidekick will arrange for a carriage. Be ready by 6 pm.
And on concert day three days after that, the doorbell rang promptly at 6 sharp. Arch ran downstairs and opened his front door to Season Nine's Aaron Kelley.
It was Arch’s turn to say, "Hoboy.”
Aaron was wearing a nice shirt and dark jeans and a hopeful expression, which clouded over immediately at the sight of Archie’s face. "Uh, I...maybe I should go?"
Arch sighed. "He thought he'd get me someone totally like me, I guess.” Then he realized he was talking to himself, and being really rude to his, his date at the same time. “Sorry, Aaron, sometimes I think out loud. Please don't go."
"I will totally get it if you're not into it," said Aaron, miserably. "I mean, you're probably not into boys, or fooling around, and I've had the worst crush on you since you sang "Imagine" on my season, and when Cook asked me if I wanted to go out with you, I said, are you crazy, sure! Sorry. I’m not sure what I'm saying half the time."
"Me too. Relax." Arch narrowly avoided calling him kid. It was a kind of cool feeling, actually. "Come inside, okay? Cook said he would send a car, or actually he said he'd send a carriage, I thought he must be kidding, but I dunno where it is."
Aaron said, “It’s out there. It's not a carriage, it's a stretch limo, I came here in it? Cook sent me this long list of date instructions and this was the first: go find the limo and get in.”
“Cook sent you a -?” Arch stopped himself from asking what the instructions said. Maybe Watch out for how he sometimes thinks he’s 91, or talks to himself? It better not have said Don’t let him get away without the kissing - Archie wasn’t sure that Aaron was 18 yet. “Cool. That’s cool. Let me just get my coat.”
West Side Story was one of the few musicals Archie really liked, the others being The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music. He knew Cook was a big musical theatre fan, and last year Cook and Archie and Adam Lambert went to watch Wicked on Broadway, which had been really amazing.
Archie wasn’t sure if it would be rude to talk about the other guys during his date with Aaron, or to talk about another musical while he was at this one, but neither Aaron nor West Side Story itself seemed to mind.
Their seats were really good, nobody seemed to recognize them, and best of all, Aaron seemed to be relaxing a little – he started telling Arch about how his English class had actually done Romeo & Juliet in senior year, and how his self-titled country album was doing, and whether he should go to college or stay in Nashville where his career was actually taking off.
“Y’know,” Arch said, “you should really go to college, if you want to. Maybe not now if you’ve got concerts lined up, but soon. Education is cool, you know?”
Aaron said, “You haven’t gone, though! Too busy with music stuff, right?”
Archie thought about this. He’d kind of drifted into not going to college, though he did think about heading to BYU when he had some down time; maybe even New York. School seemed another world away, but he was reminded about how much fun he’d had in high school, and how important it was. “Maybe I will,” he said slowly.
“Great,” said Aaron, grinning, and Archie found himself smiling back.
The curtains rose and the lights came up on the teenage gangs in the first scene. Aaron watched wide-eyed, and when the Jets’ leader Riff came onstage he whispered, “Mercutio, awesome!” to himself, whom Archie vaguely remembered was the matching Shakespeare character.
Archie remembered singing during Wicked, and people telling him to hush (and Cook muttering fiercely to the husher, “Excuse me, do you know who this kid is?” and then Adam, snickering, had had to tell Cook to hush). He knew how rude it was, but he couldn’t help it: the songs in West Side Story were irresistible, and so he sang along very softly under his breath.
During “Tonight”, the big duet which everyone knew, it must have been Number One in, what, the 1970s?, he realized Aaron was singing softly, too.
He’d heard Aaron sing on Idol, of course, but he’d forgotten what an edgy, exciting voice Aaron had; it really surprised him.
Onstage, the secret lovers sneaked out to meet each other in the mall. Tony took Maria’s hand, and they started to sing Archie’s favorite song.
“Make of our lives one life,
Day after day, one life.
Now it begins, now we start
One hand, one heart.”
Arch realized he was singing again, not very softly; he hurriedly stopped before anyone told him to hush. Then he also realized there were warm fingers threading through his.
In the darkness beside him, Aaron was looking at him - now Arch thought about it, it was the same way he'd looked at Arch when Arch had come to sing on the Season Nine results show. He clung to Arch’s hand, his eyes shone.
Arch felt a slow, happy feeling fill him like he thought champagne might; he felt warm inside. As the song came to an end, and everyone else started clapping, he lifted Aaron’s hand to his mouth and kissed it gently.
A couple of days after Archie and Aaron’s date, Cook got v-mail. He opened it up, and Archie’s bright eyes and brighter grin filled his screen in high-definition. It figured that Arch had a much better vidcam than he did; the kid practically lived to make video logs.
"So, West Side Story with Aaron was nice," said the onscreen version of Archie. "And, um, we might see each other again, the next time he’s back in L.A. So, score for the prince's best friend!"
Archie made a fist-pumping motion that made Cook grin. Then he waved his hand in confusion. "Or the prince, or whichever one you were again.”
“Anyway! It's my turn! And I figure you really wanna go..." Arch leaned into the camera, gleefully: "...mini-golfing!"
Which was how Cook ended up waking up bright and early on a Sunday morning, loading his custom mini-golf clubs into his SUV.
The August sky was blue and cloudless. As a concession to the Archuleta-sanctioned date, he’d gotten dressed in a preppy red golf T-shirt and tighter shorts than he usually wore to play with Rob and his regular crew. He’d also put on clean socks for a change.
When his doorbell rang, on his doorstep there was a lovely brunette whom he recognized instantly.
“Hey,” said Sara Bareilles.
She was wearing a quirky, baggy collared shirt with even tighter shorts. Her two-tone golf shoes sparkled; he was pretty sure her socks were clean.
"Oh, hi," said Cook, surprised. He knew he shouldn't be; she was one of Archie's favorite singers, and Cook himself had "Love Song" on his iPod. He could just hear Arch muttering to himself, "She's so cute and talented! She should totally be Cook's type, if he knew what's good for him!"
She was cute and talented. She didn't have to be a blonde for Cook to appreciate the shine of her long, dark hair or her direct gaze.
On the ride over she talked earnestly about the upcoming Presidential re-election campaign, the merits of Joni Mitchell’s “Mingus” phase versus “Court & Spark”, and blueberry pancakes. Cook tried to hold his own but he wasn’t sure if he was succeeding.
On the crazy golf links, she proceeded to give him a run for his money, too. “I just think the first world needs to reach out its hands to India and China and help incentivize the governments to implement carbon emission laws, not just criticize, you know?” she said, chipping her neon-green ball over a replica of the Taj Mahal, and Cook made a mental promise to buy some carbon credits to offset his SUV fuel consumption.
“How about we make this more interesting, say, five bucks a hole?” she asked, with a glint in her eye.
Cook had never met a girl like her. “Make it ten,” he said.
Which was how she ended up a hundred dollars up at the end of their two hours, at which time he knew all about the revised tax on royalties in the Cayman Islands and that she jumped up and down like a schoolgirl and said “Yay to the yay!” when she hit a good shot, which was totally adorable, and he still had no idea why she’d be interested in coming out on a blind date with him.
Well, she seemed like a direct girl, and they were both too old for game-playing.
“So,” he said, when they’d stopped at a nearby diner for lunch, “I never asked you why you agreed to this set-up. I mean, I realize you may think girls fling themselves at me all the time, but I can assure you that’s far from true.”
She snickered at his attempt at self-deprecating humor. “You mean it’s just part of the David Cook myth? The hordes of female fans begging you to bed them, they don’t exist?”
“Look, if I had dates coming out of my ears, would I have David Archuleta trying to fix me up?”
She grinned. “You have a point. Actually, it was Brooke White who called me – I know her friend Summer really well. She said you were smart and funny and hadn’t had a date in months, and, you know, I’m a sucker for good causes.”
Cook said, “Good to know I rank up there with third world debt and the ozone layer,” and she snickered in a very unladylike manner.
“Much better joke. I think I should keep you around just for that.”
He liked her smile. She leaned back against the shiny plastic of the diner seats with careless grace.
Cook offered, “I don’t just do jokes. I’m pretty good at mixing drinks and mowing lawns. And playing music occasionally. My dancing’s about as good as my golf, though.”
She pointed her finger at him. “I’ve seen you dance! It’s better than your golf. You should totally take me.”
And it was as easy as that. “How about Saturday?”
“I have to head to Chicago for a thing next week, but Saturday is totally doable.” She leaned in. “Have to say, Brooke was right about smart and funny. This isn’t a bad cause at all.”
Direct message from DavidArchie: So how did it go????
Direct message from thedavidcook: Hole in one, Dr. Cupid.
Direct message from DavidArchie: don't know if I like the sound of that haha
Direct message from thedavidcook: Relax. I'm kidding. It means you were right, mini-golf is fun. Much better than regular golf. Also I let her win!
Archie went home to his mom’s in Murray to try to write. Cook spent the time in the studio. They exchanged texts about Cook’s band-member wrangling, and Arch’s continued writing dry spell. Arch returned to L.A. for the VMAs, which Cook skipped, and Arch only managed to catch up with him on Columbus Day.
Cook said, "Hey hey! We just laid down some awesome piano tracks today and I thought of you. How's Aaron?"
"Okay. We text some. He was in L.A. a couple of weeks ago, and I took him to Lilliputt-putt Land. Speaking of which, how is Sara?"
"Okay. We hung out on Memorial Day. No golf clubs involved. She’s hitting the road soon for her new album.” Cook’s voice did that gear-changing thing that Arch knew meant he was going to switch subjects. “How’s writing?”
“I am, like, so stuck it’s unreal,” Arch said glumly. “Y’know, I’ve been thinking – maybe I should go back to college, since the writing thing doesn’t seem to be working so well these days.”
There was a silence on the other end, like maybe Cook was weighing what to say. “College is always good, Arch. But you should only go if you want to, not because the writing thing isn’t working.”
Archie let out a long breath. “I guess I could write and go to school. It’s what you did, right?”
Cook said, cheerfully, “Well, when I went to college, I wasn’t doing Ellen and playing the Rose Bowl on the side, I have to tell you. Look, maybe what you need is a co-writer.”
Arch said, firmly, “I learned a lot the last time I co-wrote with Joy and the other Nashville people, and they’ve made a lot of suggestions this time which have been awesome, but I really, I want this album to be really about me this time, you know? I don’t need anyone new.”
“Maybe what you need is another date,” Cook said hopefully, and Arch sighed.
“I dunno, Cook, I’m not really in the mood these days, I bet I’d be a really bad boyfriend right now.”
“Love will totally inspire you!” Cook made a little puppy-dog whining noise. “One last time, Arch? You get to do me, too. C'mon, how lonely am I, right?"
Archie tried to hold out, but he was helpless against the puppy-dog whining. “Fine. All right. One last time." Heck, at least trying to find a date for Cook would be a welcome distraction.
Cook hung up and then dialed Kris Allen’s number. He had no idea where Kris was this week; the last time they’d hung out was before his date with Sara, though, and come to think about it, he remembered seeing photos of Kris and Ingrid Michaelson at the VMAs.
“Hey,” Kris drawled. “My new record drops next month; you coming to the party or not?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” said Cook, “unless it’s on account of me being hurt I’m not on your A-List.”
“C’mon, Dave, I’m sending invites to everyone this late. Simon told me he’s not coming out of the principle of the thing, whatever, and Adam pretended to cry, so please don’t give me a hard time as well.”
Cook snorted. “I can totally pretend to cry.”
“It’s not like we all haven’t seen you do it before,” Kris said. “Although, I will admit, you cry pretty, my friend.”
Cook wondered whether that was true. Then, hotly, “It’s not like you never cry!”
“Heart of stone, that’s me,” said Kris, sounding a little tired; it made Cook frown. Cook knew that wasn’t true, knew that Kris cared. He imagined the lines on Kris' face and wondered what it'd take to make them go away. Kris sounded like he was trying to shake off his mood, too: “Hey! Ingrid told me you were spending some time with her buddy Sara.”
“News travels,” Cook said. “Archie clearly thought I should try something new, too.”
He paused, considering what to say next; it surprised him when what came out was, “She sees it as her job to improve my dancing, but we’re just friends. Also, she’s busy, I’m busy, you know how it is.” And as he said that, he knew it was true, as well.
Kris made an understanding sound. “How’s everything else on the Project Double Date front? I saw Archie at the VMAs alone – I guess he and Kellie Pickler didn’t hit it off?”
Cook said, “Think she was a bit too different, though I think he’s still seeing her. And Aaron’s a sweet kid, and I think they got along, but he’s still too young, you know?”
Kris said, musingly, “You know, I’m not sure why I haven’t thought of this before. Though if Archie messes with her, I’m afraid I’m going to have to break the kid’s arm.”
“C’mon, tell me.”
“Hang on, let me patch her in,” Kris said.
Archie had actually never spent Halloween alone in L.A. house before. At his mom’s, Halloween was always a pretty big thing, especially when his sisters were younger and liked to dress up as little mice or fairies and he’d escort them through the neighborhood trick-or-treating and collecting candy.
In the last couple of days, though, the writing started to come back slowly – Cook’s suggestion about post-modern fairytales actually was working – and Arch didn’t want to interrupt the flow by heading back to Utah.
Anyway, Jazzy and Amber were getting too old for dressing up, though Archie had Fedexed them some candy anyway like the good big brother he was.
After lunch, Archie called home, worked for a bit on his new song, and then checked his Twitter, which was full of his friends tweeting photos of their Halloween costumes.
He grinned to see that nealfingtiemann was apparently planning on dressing as a pirate, and so was calevis24 - he didn’t know why everyone’s guitarists were tall and blond and obviously into the same kind of dressing up. He should totally see if he could hire one himself.
Then he checked his direct messages. There was one from Cook that hadn’t been there this morning.
Direct Message from thedavidcook: Hey Romeo, trick or treat? Someone’s going to ring your doorbell soon, you have to pick!
Oh. My. Heck.
Archie sent Cook a direct message that said, REALLY GOSH WHAT, to which there was no response, and then he called Cook and let his cell ring and ring until Cook finally picked up.
“Relax, I’m not going to send over someone in a sexy nurse’s costume. Unless, you know, you like that kind of thing.”
Archie was having problems keeping his arms from flailing like they were going to drop off. “Cook, it’s still daylight out!”
“I hope you have a costume picked out for tonight,” Cook snickered horribly; it sounded like he was going to die laughing.
“You, I, I am never, never –” But before Arch could get to, “speaking to you again”, the doorbell did in fact ring.
“Think fast, Archuleta!” snorted Cook, and Arch flung his cell onto the bed and ran downstairs as fast as he could in case there was in fact a girl in a sexy nurse’s costume on his doorstep and paparazzi were hiding in the bushes waiting to take a photo.
The thought that the paparazzi would be waiting to take a photo of him and the sexy nurse only stopped him for an instant.
Then he took a deep breath and flung open the door.
“Hey hey,” said Alison Iraheta. She was wearing a black t-shirt, black jeans, a fuzzy tail, and kitten’s ears, and looked as cute and wholesome as could be.
Archie felt the relief wash straight through him. He flung his arms around her and didn’t even care about TMZ.
“Oh my gosh, Allie, it’s so good to see you!”
She was laughing. “Who did you expect? We haven’t hung out in ages. I see more of your friend Cook than I see of you, and he said, you need to remedy that, girlfriend. Also? I heard you were having some writer’s block? Me too, so I thought we could bitch about it together, no?”
“Yes. Come in, come in,” Archie said, and she did, carrying her guitar case and a paper bag from Safeway, tail swishing behind her.
Allie was on college break from Berklee. She brought a six-pack of Dr. Pepper, nachos, and Golden Delicious apples, and a stack of sheet music half-filled with the new songs she’d been writing.
She settled onto his rug and spread everything out on the floor like she’d been there forever.
“Show me!” Archie said excitedly, and she handed them over. He paged through them, sheets covered with Allie’s messy handwriting, and titles like Nothing Like You and Believe. “Oh my goodness, Allie, you’ve got so much material here!”
“Most of them aren’t finished yet,” Allie said, a little quietly, taking the sheets back – Arch had never seen her restrained or shy, but she looked kind of like she was holding back, like there was something she wasn’t sure she wanted to say.
Gently, he told her, “Why don’t you sing me something that’s nearly done? Just pick one.”
Again there was a pause, and then she took up her guitar.
“This one’s called Breathe In,” she said.
Arch watched her hands move skillfully over the guitar strings, her red hair falling across her face.
“Remember to breathe
Remember to breathe in
Things aren’t as tough as they seem
Things aren’t as dark as they seem
This life we're living in,
Can get you down sometimes
But you gotta breathe in
You just gotta breathe in
And you know you’ll be fine,
You know you gotta be fine.”
She sang it simply, without the kick and growl she’d been famous for. Even stripped bare, though, she sounded phenomenal. Nobody sang like her, that was for sure, and the song itself sounded so much older and more heartfelt than anything she’d ever done before.
There was an ache in Arch’s chest when she was done. He knew how hard it had been for her after the numbers on her solo album – it had been so unfair, it was such a fantastic album, she should have done so much better.
He clapped long and hard and cheered loudly. She put the guitar to one side, smiling a little. Her kitten ears were slightly askew.
He wanted to hug her again, but he settled for patting her hand. “That was great. Really great.”
“You think?” There was that hesitant look again. “Y’know, I really think, if I can finish these songs and really get my act together, this will be the album that’ll rock people’s socks off.”
“I know you’ll keep going with this, Allie,” said Arch. “You love it too much, and it loves you,” and he wasn’t sure what he was saying exactly, but she looked at him as if a light had gone off inside him.
“I know! This album is going to be really all me, you know?”
“I really liked your last album!” Arch said before he could stop himself, and then he wanted to kick himself because of course not everyone had liked it, and then Jive had dropped her without even giving her a chance.
She looked down, and Arch really wanted to kick himself. In the butt, maybe with boots on. He was such a moron. “Allie, I am so sorry, I never said…”
“No,” she said, breathing quickly, “no, but you sent me the nicest text after that, and then you called me when I was on tour with Adam, and that was so nice. And I know what you tried to do for me with Jive, too.”
“Oh.” Archie had almost forgotten. He’d been finishing up recording on The Other Side of Down when Michele told him about Allie’s news, and he’d gone to his A&R exec and told her it wasn’t fair. When Karen told him it wasn’t up to her, he’d asked to see the VP.
Michele had been kind of horrified; she’d told him later that it hadn’t been the smartest thing to do, especially with his sophomore album ready to drop, but he hadn’t really cared. Later he’d found out that Adam had tried to do the same thing and it hadn’t worked either.
Archie wondered how Allie had found out. Not hard; he guessed the industry was pretty small. “Um, you weren’t really supposed to know about that?”
Allie said, “It was important to me to find out who my friends were, you know?” She kept looking down, her voice sounded a little wobbly. Arch didn’t know what he’d do if she started crying. For the first time in his life, he felt like punching through a wall.
He reached for her hand again and this time, instead of patting, he held on. “You know I’m your friend,” he said, and it sounded stupid and not enough, but he felt her fingers curl around his.
“Do you remember…” Her voice caught; she had to clear her throat. “Remember what you texted me that time?”
Arch had to think. He followed her tweets, he texted her occasionally, not as often as last year, or the Season Nine year maybe, but he couldn’t really remember. “Um, which time?” he asked, feeling like a moron who didn’t care and couldn’t keep track of the stuff he said to his friends.
“The time you said we should have lunch and hang out?”
“Oh, yeah. I did say that, didn’t I?” Arch remembered now. He also remembered feeling a little… “So, um, why didn’t -?”
“…Because,” said Allie, “I didn’t wanna drag you down with me, son. I thought, you being still signed to Jive and all, it might make trouble for you.”
“Really? Gosh." Arch squeezed her hand. “Allie, I thought it was ‘cause you didn’t wanna hang out with me. Which, you know, is totally fine! I just thought…”
“No,” Allie said, looking up at him finally. Thank goodness, she wasn’t crying. “No, I totally wanted to see you. And I’m here now, in this stupid kitten outfit, because your friend David Cook said maybe I should come over.”
Arch looked down at their joined hands. It was like a window had opened in his head.
“So, you’re here,” he said, slowly. “What do you wanna do? We could work. We could order take-out. We could go trick-or-treating, except that I don't have a costume, I mean, you don't really want to see my roller-blading shorts, trust me. And it’s so not a stupid kitten outfit. It’s really, totally cute.”
She giggled. "I actually wanna see the blading shorts. But, why don't we see what you got? Maybe we can get each other's songs unstuck."
"Okay!" Arch drew his hand away and went for his own stack of sheet music. It was a much skinnier stack than hers. He had ten songs that were unfinished and one that nearly was. He uncovered the keyboard and played that through for her.
"This is, like, a kind of a sequel to 'My Kind of Perfect'," he told her. "It's called 'Once Upon a Time'."
"The intro is really pretty," she said encouragingly.
"Thank you? So this is verse," and Arch played the melody through for her so she could hear the progression and the chord change. "Then the chorus," said Arch, and he started to sing the unfinished lyrics.
"We’re the heroes of our story
And we say how that story goes
We can change the ending as everything unfolds
I stood under your window
You rode into my heart
We can write the lines together and hear our story start
Yeah, we can hear it start..."
Arch saw the way she looked at him, kind of open-mouthed. There was something in her face he didn't recognize.
He had to look down as he concentrated on the minor key of the bridge, and so wasn't watching as she got off the floor and walked over and kissed him.
Dimly, Arch heard his fingers slip against the keys; she picked his hands up and squeezed them tightly. She had to tilt her face and body up to his and everything about her was softer than he'd ever thought possible.
He kissed her back; she tasted of soda and popcorn and her own self.
When he let her go he saw blinking blue spots. "Oh my heck, they weren't kidding about bluebirds," he muttered, swaying a little.
Allie frowned at him. "Dude, did you forget to breathe?" she asked.
Her kitten's ears had slid down over her forehead. Arch pushed them back up, and then cupped her face in his hands.
"Who needs to breathe around you?" he said, and then, "Man, they weren't kidding about the sappy stuff either, it just comes out!"
Allie put her arms around him. "What can we do to stop it?"
"You could kiss me again to shut me up," Archie said hopefully and a little dizzily, and Allie did.
As it happened, they didn't get around to digging out Archie's roller-blading costume or trick-or-treating. Somehow, most of the evening was spent ordering take out and lying on Arch's sofa, and trading kisses and stories and more kisses. Arch was discovering that the thing about True Love's Kiss was that you didn't want it to end ever.
Eventually Arch also discovered it was 2 am. "Oh boy," he murmured, sitting up. "I'd better drive you home before your sister kills me. You don't have class tomorrow, right?"
"I drove here!" said Allie. "I parked in back; I can drive home myself, dude, no trouble."
Arch touched her cheek, brushed her hair away from her face. "Allie, I want to drive you, it's okay," he said. "Then I'll come get you tomorrow morning, and we'll drive back here and you can get your car... Does that sound good?"
"Sorry," Allie said, grinning. She hooked her fingers in his belt loops. "I didn't hear anything after 'I'll come get you tomorrow morning'. You really coming?"
Her smile looked a little shy again; Arch had no idea why. After what they'd been spending the last couple of hours doing, he thought she should have a pretty good idea of how he felt about her. "Hey, I want to see you tomorrow morning," he said. "Night and day, breakfast and lunch, I feel like we've spent enough time not seeing each other."
She giggled; he knew he was babbling, he didn't care. "We have," she said. "Kris told me I should have called you earlier."
Arch shook his head. "Kris was in on this as well?"
"Yeah!" Allie sat up too. "We hung out with Cook at my birthday party this year, and before that. And I've been keeping an eye out for Kris after his split with Katy. Adam keeps finding these awful girls to fix him up with."
"Oh man, really? Sounds like I got off easy with Cook!"
"Yeah! And so when Cook said he wanted to fix you up, Kris said that we'd hit it off. So we thought we'd send me over to you for Halloween, for a bit of a laugh, y'know, but..." Allie blushed. "But I was actually kind of serious too."
"Best decision ever," said Arch, and kissed her again. Then he said, "You know, I wanna fix Cook up, too. I don't know if Cook mentioned our deal, but there's this thing. He's actually really lonely."
"Really?" Allie shifted against him, and put her chin on his shoulder. "Well. Maybe we should do something about that."
Cook pulled himself out of bed with a vengeance, ignoring his splitting hangover.
He was fine. Little men weren't tromp-tromping up and down his skull with steel-toed boots, there wasn't a poisoned lake the size of Mordor in his mouth, he was in perfectly good shape for his afternoon interview with Jim Cantiello. Maybe he'd had one too many drinks last night, but he hadn't taken the punch with eyeballs floating in it too seriously, and he was now paying the price.
On the way to the shower, he nearly tripped over the thick velvet cloak from his Prince-of-Darkness costume. Why he let Neal talk him into hitting the Halloween party circuit when they should be recording, he'd no idea.
Well, as he stood under the shower jets, maybe hindsight had finally begun to lend him a clue. The Kris Allen Band had been out in full force at the 19E party, and the last he'd seen Neal and Kira, they'd been cosying up piratically to Kris' tall, handsome guitarist Cale, who had coincidentally been wearing an identical swashbuckling Capt Jack Sparrow costume; there was some guitarist hivemind going on somewhere.
Cale's wife Katie had been dressed as a barmaid, and the way Kira had been looking at her... Cook tried to remember if he'd ever had a foursome, and came up short.
Kris had come dressed as a cowboy; he'd also come with a matching cowboy date, blond and wholesome like cowboys were supposed to be - Adam had obviously been expanding Kris' repertoire. Eventually Kris had wandered over, though, and they'd spent much of the night leaning against the bar, knocking back the eyeball punch and watching Kira and Katie slow dance.
And speculating about how their kitten had gotten on with a certain frustrated songwriting prince... With that reminder, Cook shut off the water and grabbed a towel and rushed back to his desk to boot up his Twitter account.
Sure enough, there was v-mail from Arch.
"Hey, Cook!" the image of Arch said cheerfully. His hair was tousled, he had bags under his eyes, and he was grinning like Cook has never seen before. "Guess what? That last date, I think it kind of worked."
"I'll say it did," said Allison beside him. She was grinning too. The kitten ears were nowhere in sight. "You and Kris made a pretty good plan!"
"I wanna thank you guys too," said Archie, "and we should totally get together for dinner really soon, before you head home for Thanksgiving, okay? Let your prince buy you something nice."
"I don't get this prince stuff," Allie said, elbowing him. A strand of her hair fell across Arch's shoulders and he flipped it gently to one side. Then he looked pointedly at the screen.
"Also, our deal is still good, isn't it, so, you'll let me try one more time, okay, Cook? I'll try to give you as much notice as you gave me!"
Cook snickered as the screen flickered back to Replay. Arch's grin was angelic, and he didn't trust it one bit.
"Those crazy kids," he muttered to himself. Suddenly, he felt lighter than air, his hangover gone.
He had to let Kris know. Kris wasn't answering his cell, though; probably he was sleeping off the eyeball punch hangover.
He'd text after Jim. Direct message to KrisAllen4Real: SUCCESS.
Archie had bugged Cook until Cook gave him a date, and then Arch and Allison had taken Cook and Kris to dinner at Thomas Keller's new wagyu burger joint.
It was a really nice evening. The kids held hands and talked about how Arch was going to start going to Berklee in the spring, and how Allie had just been signed by A+M. Arch had finally finished writing his postmodern fairytale album and had started scheduling recording time, much to the relief of Jive, who'd pretty much agreed to everything else he'd wanted to do.
"Nice job, man," Kris said, raising his glass to Archie, and Cook kissed Allie's bright head.
"The best thing I've done all year, and that includes the new record. Congratulations, sweetheart."
Arch said, taking her hand, "Cook talks like that all the time, he doesn't really mean it. Except when he does." He lifted his glass to Cook too, and winked meaningfully. Kris glanced across, eyebrows raised, and Allie tugged him over to whisper gleefully into his ear.
Cook's house felt empty when he got home from dinner. Neal and Kira had gone on holiday to celebrate the end of recording, and Drew had gone to their mom's house in Blue Springs a week early to get a head start on Thanksgiving.
Cook mentally shook himself. He loved his own company. He was going to catch up on Always Sunny In Philadelphia and the latest season of Fast Forward, and absolutely enjoy the short break from work.
A couple of days later, the message came.
Direct Message from DavidArchie: Michele says your schedule for tonight is clear, and so it's date night at home for thedavidcook! Popcorn and munchies and Shrek!
"Here we go," muttered Cook. He figured he'd better shower and get into clean jeans. He wondered if he needed to get flowers or something. Fortunately his housekeeper had cleaned up this morning, or Cook might be conducting this date in the worst lazy-bachelor mess known to man.
When he was towel-drying his hair the doorbell rang.
Shit, this was shaping up to be a date with really bad hair. "Coming!" he hollered, checked himself in the mirror, then bolted downstairs.
Kris stood on the doorstep, outlined in the sunset like a voyage home.
Cook stared. "What," he managed, "are you...? I mean, someone's coming..."
"Yeah, me," Kris said, and took hold of Cook's clean, damp shirt and kissed him.
Cook hadn't been kissed like that in a year. Maybe he hadn't been kissed like that ever in his life.
Kris was gentle and insistent at the same time, the shape and size of his mouth bigger than a woman's but no less soft. His hands curled, tense and very strong, around Cook's face, tilting it down to meet him. His thighs aligned between Cook's like they belonged there.
Cook had to close his eyes against the glare of the setting sun. He felt his breath huff out of him, felt Kris' tongue sweep over his, felt himself open up to Kris, despite the years of carefully guarding his heart from Kim and Carrie and all the models, despite everything.
Kris kissed him for a moment more, and when he pulled away Cook was rooted to the spot in surprise. In more than surprise. The sun was in his eyes, he couldn't see, couldn't catch his breath, with Kris in his arms.
Kris was shaking his head, breathing fast as well. "Hot damn, those kids were right, who woulda thought."
"What," Cook said. It seemed it was the only word he could say. The kiss burned all the way to his bones.
"Let's go inside," said Kris, and took his hand.
It was cool and dark in Cook's hallway. Kris kicked the door shut and said, "Sorry"; finally Cook could see that he was smiling. His mouth was swollen, red around the edges from Cook's beard, he was so unexpectedly gorgeous it wasn't surprising Cook's brain had just shut down.
Kris ran a hand through his own hair, which was mussed at the top. "I guess that was a bit forward of me," he confessed. "But you wouldn't believe how many frogs I've had to kiss to get to you, Dave."
Cook swallowed. "Archie asked you...?"
"Yeah, and Allie, too! And it kind of made sense. I mean, I was friends with Katy through high school before we started dating. And I'm friends with you, you know?" Kris smoothed down the front of Cook's shirt with one warm hand. "So they said I should try to see if we'd work as more than friends? And Archie said the direct approach might work on you."
"He did, did he," Cook said, and thank God, he'd seemed to have regained the power of speech, his synapses started firing again, making up for lost time. "This was a pretty direct approach, Allen."
Kris looked at him a touch hesitantly. "So, did it work?"
"Well, I dunno," drawled Cook. Fireworks were going off in his brain. He put his hand on the back of Kris' neck, the skin warm and browned by the sun. "Coulda been a fluke. We should try again to be sure."
"Whatever you say," Kris murmured, and let Cook pull him close.
Direct message from thedavidcook: You know I think I actually saw bluebirds too? This is some crazy narrative, Prince DavidArchie.
Direct message from DavidArchie: I knew one day Disney would happen to you!!!!
Direct message from thedavidcook: You were right all the time. Thank you.
Cook ended up bringing Kris home for Thanksgiving. "You know, as an experiment. If the Cook/Foraker clan gives you hives, you can bail early."
Kris ended up staying, though - through Thanksgiving in Missouri, and the flurry of festive music and Christmas specials and holiday cheer that followed.
Archie and Allie headed back to Utah for Christmas, but Cook got a very early Skype call on his birthday.
Still half asleep, Cook staggered to his new computer, and there were two dark heads wearing matching Santa hats and singing a pop-rock a capella medley of "Happy Birthday to You" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland".
"Aw, Archie!" Cook wailed. "It's too early!"
It was difficult to stay mad, though, with determinedly pretty harmonies coming out of the screen.
"A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight,
Walking in a winter wonderland."
Kris had gotten out of bed, too; he elbowed Cook in the side and said to Archie and Allie, "You guys are too cute."
"We're trying to kill everyone with the sap this Christmas," Allie said. "Is it working?"
"You gotta dial up the sappiness factor," Kris said. "Sweaters with your faces on them, music videos of you dancing in the snow, matching rings... Wait, what?"
"...Um, too late?" said Allie, and held up her left hand. Cook's upgraded Skype cam caught the icy diamond flash on her finger.
"Babe, that is so fantastic," Kris breathed, and Cook actually had to press his thumbs to his eyes before he could say anything.
"You know I'm gonna be your best man, Archuleta, no two ways about it."
"Wouldn't have anyone else," Arch said softly, and put his hand to the screen. Then he cleared his throat. "How’s everything on your end?"
Cook said, "Well! We're both booked at the Penchanga for New Year's, and before that Kris has a coming-out date with Jim Cantiello at which I am planning on making a surprise guest appearance. So. Things are good on this end too, my prince."
Arch smiled. "I'm glad we've finally sold you on bluebirds and fairytales."
"I draw the line at small woodland animals," Cook said, but he couldn't keep up the snark. Onscreen, Archie and Allie were smiling, like a perfectly-matched prince and princess of legend, Utah snow falling outside their window. Kris put his feet in Cook's lap.
It was as if Arch could read his mind; the kid had an unerring sense of what really got to Cook, he always had. Very softly, he said, "Merry Christmas, you guys, may it last throughout the year. And, the end; they all lived happily ever after."
"Or at least, until next year's Idol Gives Back," said Cook, trying to be flip; he hadn’t changed that much, no sir, there was nothing in his eye.
He had to say, though, with Kris curled warmly at his side, it was easy to think in terms of happy endings.