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Woke Up Married

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"I get married in a Chapel O' Love?" –Jennifer Gray, Back to the Future II

Archie woke up fuzzier than usual--his first thought was, oh no, if I have a cold we'll have to postpone recording. His mouth was dry, and his head was all tight and achy, like somebody had poured sand inside it when he wasn't looking. He rubbed his eyes, wincing a little, and tried to focus on the ceiling.

It took him a minute to remember where he was. In a hotel, sure, but he was always in a hotel, and there was nothing like four years of touring to make you lose track of which one you were in. Vegas, probably--yeah, they'd had the American Idol reunion show to kick off the new season, and he'd come out early to spend some time with Cook and the guys, and holy crap wait a second he was naked.

Archie sat straight up, a move that jerked the covers down the bed and made the equally naked person next to him look up and blink in the sudden sunlight, and—

"Archie?" David Cook said blearily. "What're you doing in my room?"

"Oh, no," Archie said, and fell out of bed.

He landed mostly on his side, with one foot and arm still tangled in the covers. He fought his way out of them.

Cook's head appeared over the side of the bed. "Archie?"

"Still here." Still naked. Oh, he was in so much trouble.

"Come back up here." Cook reached a hand down. "This is Vegas, man, I don't think you should be sprawled out on the carpet."

A flash of memory from the night before hit Archie, and he felt all the blood draining from his face. "Too late," he said faintly.

Cook stared down at him, confused, for a split second, and then it hit him too. "Holy shit."

"Oh God." Archie crawled to his feet, batting Cook's hand aside, and looked around frantically. His boxers and jeans were crumpled together next to the desk; he picked them up and tried desperately to untangle them. "Oh God, oh God, oh God."

"Archie," he heard Cook say from behind him, but he wasn't looking, he wasn't looking, he was just going to put on his clothes, he was, oh God. "Archie, whoa, calm down. It's all right."

"It's the exact opposite of all right," Archie said, yanking harder. Something ripped. "My parents are going to kill me."

There was a bit of a pause. "Would it even help to remind you that you're twenty-one and they can't actually--"

"No," Archie said, then caught his own angry tone and frowned. He turned back to the bed--keeping his jeans carefully bunched up in front of him--and made himself smile at Cook. "It's awesome that you're trying, though."

Cook grinned back. He was sitting cross-legged on the bed, sheet barely covering his lap, and the sun glinted off the chains tangled on his neck and the ring he was playing with on his hand. Archie felt something twist hard in his chest. No. Bad. Okay. Okay. He shook the jeans, and they knocked a bunch of papers off the desk. He leaned over to pick them up. Cook made a weird noise behind him.

He started to set everything back down and then stopped and grabbed the one on top back up again. "Cook. Cook!"

"What?"

Archie turned around and clambered onto the bed, abandoning his jeans. "It's okay!"

"I told you it was--"

"No, it's really okay!" He kissed Cook full on the mouth before shoving the paper in front of his confused face. "See?"

Cook looked down at it, shook his head hard, and then read it again. "We're--" His voice went up a couple of octaves. "We're married?"

"Thank God," Archie said, and collapsed on the bed next to Cook. "I was so worried."

"You were worried? Archie, we got married at--at Elvis's Chapel O' Love and Rainbows. And you're fine with that?"

"What?" Archie asked. "Do you think it's too tacky?"

There was a long silence, and then the bed started shaking. Archie lifted his head. Cook was bent almost double, shoulders shaking with silent laughter. Probably laughter. Archie reached up and put his hand on Cook's back, rubbing it a little the way Cook always used to rub his back when he got freaked out back in the day. "Cook?"

"Move over," Cook said, and flopped down next to Archie. "Okay. Okay. I'm pretty fuzzy on most of last night, so help me out here, sober sister. How did we end up getting m-married?"

"Well." Archie stared up at the ceiling. "I think we were--no, we--uh."

"You don't remember either?"

"I remember we had dinner," Archie said slowly. "And then you said since I was twenty-one now I should learn how to play poker even though I probably have the worst poker face ever."

"Okay, yeah. Was I right?"

"What?"

"About your poker face?"

Archie rolled his eyes. "I guess. Which is fine, since I don't actually gamble."

"But you did last night."

"Dammit, Archie, it's so good to see you again." Cook had thrown both arms around him and hugged him so hard he nearly came off his feet. For once, Archie hadn't resisted or cut it short; he'd hugged Cook right back, and been the last to let go. Nobody ever hugged him like Cook did, like he was sending a message from his body over to Archie's. "Don't head back right away—you have time yet tonight, don't you? I have an idea--"

"Last night was different," Archie said.

"Okay." Cook was silent for a while, staring up at the ceiling. "I don't like this. Not knowing," he added as Archie froze next to him. "I'm not that kind of drinker."

"Well..." Archie said. "There was that night on the tour with Jason and Amanda and the roadies."

"Who told you about that?"

Archie smiled grimly. "Nobody. You threw up on my shoes while they were trying to drag you back to your bunk."

"Oh." Then, tentatively, "I'm not usually that kind of drinker? Anymore?"

Archie snorted out a laugh.

They picked their way slowly through the evening: a table of their own in the VIP room. Hands of poker with an increasingly amused dealer. ("She agreed with you about my poker face." "I knew it.") Fans buying Cook drinks.

"Which people do all the time," Archie said. He was on his stomach on the bed, sheet pulled up to his waist. Cook had pulled on his jeans and was slouching against the headboard. He was still playing with his ring. His wedding ring. Archie didn't think he'd noticed yet.

"Yeah, but I don't usually get plastered from it." Cook frowned. "And you were just sitting there with your Sprite while I knocked 'em back?"

"And the juice," Archie said, and immediately felt lame.

Cook's eyebrows went up. "Juice? You ordered juice at a casino?"

"Somebody bought it for me!" Archie protested. He kicked at the sheet. "It was some specialty stuff. Cactus juice or something. I'd never had it before."

"What?" Cook lurched forward. Archie flinched backwards. "Cactus juice? You're sure?"

"I--I think so. What--" Cook's face was a little scary. Archie sat up, bunching the sheet up into fistfuls at his waist. "What did I do?"

"Archie, cactus juice is a kind of alcohol. It has tequila in it, and, I don't remember what all else. But definitely tequila."

"Oh--oh my g--oh." Archie's voice kept creeping higher and higher.

Cook inched forward on the bed and grabbed Archie's shoulders. "Archie?"

Archie laughed.

"…Archie?" Cook asked, grabbing him a little tighter.

Archie just kept laughing, gulping in air between whoops and shaking with them. Finally, he knocked himself off balance and fell forward onto Cook, who fell backwards onto the bed.

"Oof!" Cook said, and then, "Archie? Please stop laughing before you hurt yourself."

"Sorry," Archie wheezed, and tried to get himself under control. "Just--I got drunk and married in Vegas. Me!" He started giggling again, which was actually really uncomfortable because he was lying kind of crossways over Cook, but he couldn't help it. "Nobody's going to believe this."

"Well, that'll make the divorce easier."

Archie thought about that for a minute. Then he wriggled around, folded his hands over Cook's sternum, and propped his head on them. "About that," he said, looking up through his eyelashes at Cook.

Cook stared back at him, clearly suspicious. "What about that?"

"Do we have to get a divorce--you know--right away?"

Cook's expression went from suspicious to stunned. "What?"

Oh. Cook didn't…oh. Archie stammered maybe two words out before his courage deserted him entirely. "Never mind," he muttered.

He started to roll away, but Cook grabbed his shoulders and held him in place. "David James Archuleta," he said slowly, "are you hitting on me?"

He couldn't help but feel a little bit hopeful. "Aren't you allowed to hit on someone you're married to?"

Cook cracked up--like always--but he was kind of blushing, too, Archie noticed. "Words cannot express how flattered I am," he said, squeezing Archie's shoulder, "but I'm going to have to say no."

Archie gave a wistful thought to actual married, allowable, non-sinful sex, that he would, you know, remember all of the next morning, and then sighed. "All right. If you say so."

"I do."

"I can see you trying not to laugh." Archie climbed out of bed and dug for his jeans again. "Hey, I didn't think you knew my middle name."

"It's on the marriage certificate."

"Oh, right." That ripping sound from before had been his underwear; Archie chucked them at the nearest trash can and just pulled his jeans on. He was only a couple of floors away, it didn't matter. He turned around to find Cook flat on the bed with a pillow over his face.

"Come on, we might as well get up," Archie said. Cook didn't move, except to mumble something into his pillow, so Archie wandered over to the window. Now that he wasn't so distracted by everything else, he remembered that he was really, really thirsty. And possibly hungry, under the queasy feeling.

"Do you want to go get breakfast? Or I guess brunch, I don't really know what time--" He pulled the curtain open.

The flashbulbs went off like lightning, illuminating most of the room, including Cook, who had just sat up. In bed. Half-naked. Like Archie was.

He yanked the curtain shut belatedly.

He and Cook stared at each other for a couple of seconds. Then Archie said timidly, "Um...so that might be a problem, huh?"

Cook gave him an incredulous look. "That one guy at TMZ is probably having an orgasm as we speak, and it might be a problem?"

"Well," Archie said, stung, "at least we're married!"

Cook flopped down and grabbed for the pillow again. "Wake me up when the publicists call."

***

Archie hung up the phone and set it down on the table very gently. He looked over to the bathroom Cook had disappeared into when the phones had started ringing. "Cook?"

"Come on in, I'm just hiding."

Archie looked around the empty hotel room and stuck his head into the bathroom. "I'm sorry?"

"Metaphorically speaking." Cook looked up from where he was staring at his wedding ring. He was lying on some sort of little bench thing, and, okay, if you were going to hide from nothing in a bathroom, this was the one to do it in. It was bigger than the living room Archie'd had growing up, and it had two closets, a big glass cube of a shower, and a sunken hot tub thing with a couple of bottles of bubble stuff lying empty next to it. Archie was hoping Cook wouldn't ask if he remembered what had happened to them.

"Um. Okay." Archie stepped into the room, tugging at the edge of his borrowed T-shirt. (It said "prefectionist," which Archie didn't actually get, but he knew better than to ask. Cook's said "the geeks shall inherit the earth," which Archie totally got.) "How did it go with Robert?" Robert was Cook's publicist this year--he burned through them pretty quickly for some reason.

"Fine," Cook said in a tone of voice that meant the opposite. "He's on his way out."

"Mine is too."

"How did Suzanne take it?"

Archie was pretty sure she'd been crying when he hung up. "Fine," he said.

"What does she want you to do?"

"'Stay right here, don't move, and don't get photographed by so much as a security camera,'" Archie recited.

Cook let out a long sigh. "Ditto."

Archie noticed another bench by the shower; he dragged it closer to Cook and sat down on it.

"So what are we going to do?" Cook asked.

"What?"

"We have to come up with a plan of some kind. Otherwise when Robert and Suzanne get here, they'll decide for us."

"Right, that's no good," said Archie, who'd just been vaguely relieved at that very thought. "What are we--I mean, I don't really know--"

"What are our options?" Cook asked. He sat up as Archie nodded. "Okay, well. We could go ahead and get divorced, but I have a feeling we'll piss off, like, everyone who's ever managed us if we do. I can hear the Britney Spears comparisons now…you do remember that, right?"

"Of course I do, I was like thirteen when--oh my gosh, stop making that face."

"Infant," Cook muttered.

"Cradle-robber," Archie shot back, and then he sat there and smirked while Cook sort of flailed at the thought.

"You are freakishly Zen about this," Cook said once he'd recovered. "It's kind of wigging me out."

Archie spread his arms wide. "I didn't do anything wrong! I mean, maybe dumb, but not wrong."

"Sodomy's not a sin anymore?"

He flinched, but he looked Cook square in the eye. "We're married," he said.

Cook leaned forward. "Arch, you understand that a lot of people are still going to freak out. I mean, your fans--"

"I didn't do anything wrong," Archie repeated, a little faster, a little angrier. "We got married. We didn't--"

"Okay, okay," Cook said, and it wasn't until he moved over to sit next to Archie and put an arm around his back that Archie realized there were tears burning at the back of his eyes.

"Look," he said, staring at the wall across the way, "I know you think I'm young, and naive, and that I don't--you know, that I'm not really smart about what's going on in the world--"

"Whoa, whoa," Cook said, rubbing his back, but Archie shook his head at him.

"--But I know, I know my fans and my friends and my, my parents," oh God, "are going to be mad at me, and you're cooler than me but it's probably not good for you either, I know, I do," and why had he ever laughed at this, this was the opposite of funny, this was really bad, and it was all his fault and--

"Archie. Archie. David."

Archie whipped his head around to stare at Cook.

Cook tapped him on the back. "Breathe."

He sucked in a wheezy breath. He still wasn't crying. He tried another breath, and that was a little better.

"So, not entirely Zen," Cook said, wrapping both arms around Archie.

"We're married," Archie said, conscious of how stupid he sounded. But it was all he had to hold on to. He rested his head against Cook's shoulder.

"I think you've come up with our plan, Archie," Cook said.

"I did?"

"Yep." Cook slapped Archie's shoulder. "Our plan is to be married. I mean, no apologies, no excuses. We're just going to rock the fuck out of wedded bliss, until, whatever, people stop paying attention, and we know the divorce will be just a one-day wonder. Okay?"

"Okay." Archie ignored all the parts of him that wanted to ask questions or still worry.

Cook sighed a little and leaned into Archie. Archie felt Cook's chin press against the top of his head as he looked around the bathroom. "Hey, is that bubble bath? What's it doing th--"

"We still didn't eat." Archie popped to his feet, ignoring the hangover head rush. He narrowly missed taking Cook out by the chin as he went. "Oops, sorry. Come on, if we don't eat we'll pass out and they'll get more crazy pictures. Do you think 'don't move' included 'don't order room service?' Should we just try the minibar?"

Cook shot him a look, but he got up and followed him. "Minibar. Come on, I saw a Snickers in there when I checked in."

***

The backstage area was crammed with people--singers, crew, people carrying instrument cases, people gesturing with clipboards. The speaker system above piped in the current performance, as well as backstage announcements: Season Six cast, places please. David Cook, David Archuleta, seven minutes.

"David, honey." Brooke threw her arms around Archie from behind. "How are you?"

Archie patted her hand absently. "Shh."

"What?"

He pointed down the hall, where Cook was wedged into a corner, listening intently to a cell phone.

"Yes, ma'am. Absolutely...yes, ma'am," they heard faintly.

"Is he talking to your mom?"

"Yes--oh my gosh, stop giggling." Archie sighed. "Why is that funny?"

"It's not so much funny as cute."

Archie had no idea what to say to that. Fortunately, Cook hung up the phone and started walking toward them just then.

"Hey, hon," he said, leaning across Archie to give Brooke a kiss on the cheek.

"How was my mom?" Archie asked.

Cook smiled big at him. "She sure loves you a lot."

Archie winced. "Sorry?"

Brooke giggled again.

"Isn't it time for places?" Archie asked, not at all desperately.

But of course they had to run the gauntlet of all their friends, too, even though everyone had had all day at rehearsal to stare at them and tease them and pull them aside to try and ask them questions they didn't want to answer. Cook was starting to look apprehensive every time Johns came near him.

"I will never forgive you, you know," he was saying to Cook, who responded by inching closer to Archie as they walked together. "I've been planning your stag do for years, and now you rob me of it?"

"What's that?" Archie whispered to Carly, just as Johns offered to throw Cook a belated one.

"Take you out, have some drinks--"

"You call it a bachelor party," Carly said.

"--a stripper or two, no problem--"

"No!" Archie said loudly enough that both Carly and Cook jerked to a stop. Johns swiveled around and stared at him, confused. "I mean...no. Thank you."

Johns was still staring at him, and Archie was in the middle of turning bright red when he felt Cook's left hand close around his right.

"My better half has spoken," he said cheerfully. "Maybe just a big party after the show? You can throw us a wedding reception instead."

David Cook, David Archuleta--

Cook was leading Archie away before the announcement had even finished.

***

Archie stood on the stage in the blackness, one earpiece out, listening anxiously to the murmur of the crowd as the announcer worked through Cook's introduction. Were they louder than usual? Were they getting ready to boo? But the spotlight came up on Cook, and all he heard was screaming.

Cook gave them a few seconds to quiet down and then raised his mike. "Hey, everybody."

More screaming. Archie smiled a little.

"I don't know if you all heard, but it's been a very exciting week for some of us in Vegas."

"Say it ain't so!" some smart aleck yelled.

"Yep, I got married," Cook said, and the wave of sound from the audience was deafening. Archie couldn't even really tell what kind of reaction Cook was getting.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Cook said, raising his voice and cutting right over them, "my husband, David Archuleta."

Archie's spot came on, and he walked over to stand beside Cook--how, he wasn't sure, since he couldn't actually feel his feet. The wall of noise continued to batter at them. He lifted his hand to wave out into the audience--just a sea of movement and flashing lights--and saw the glint of Cook's wedding band as he did the same.

"You ready?" Cook asked, tilting the mike away. He had an earpiece out, too, Archie noticed.

Archie let out a deep breath and smiled back. "Oh, sure. Music is the easy part."

Cook laughed. "All right, then." He reached out and snagged Archie's earpiece and tucked it back into place.

Archie took the few steps to the piano, sat down, and waited for the nod from Cook before he played the first chord of "Hello."

They'd worked out a very simple accompaniment that morning. Archie had heard Cook do an acoustic version a handful of times and tried to replicate the feel of that as much as possible. Cook, in turn, had refused to allow Archie to just sing unobtrusive background vocals, and had bullied him into doing some "fun harmony stuff" towards the end.

He tried to keep his eyes on the keys and his mind on the song, but he kept tilting his head to bring Cook into his line of vision. Every time he did, Cook would be looking back at him. Singing at him. Even when he belted out I love you so Archie felt it all the way down his spine. He had to drop his gaze back to the keyboard, which suddenly felt completely unfamiliar under his hands.

He found himself slowing down on the last few lines, lingering on the notes. Cook followed right along with him. They sang the last line together, is it me you're looking for...? and Archie reached blindly for the final chord as their voices trailed off.

The audience erupted again. Archie got to his feet and looked out. The spotlight extended out far enough that he could see the line of girls making up the front row; several of them were sobbing openly, he realized, alarmed.

Cook crossed the stage to him. Something alerted Archie at the last second, and he tilted his face up as Cook kissed him.

It all happened in, in this mash of details--the mike digging into the small of his back, the still-shock of Cook's tongue in his mouth, his hand sliding across Cook's beard, the way Cook kissed the corner of his mouth before he took a step back.

They stared at each other as the spotlights faded to black.

***

Cook didn't like having unnecessary strangers in his house, and besides most of Archie's furniture belonged to his apartment, so it was just the two of them and their assistants moving Archie's stuff in.

"Sorry about this," Archie said to Karen as he handed her a box of CDs.

She laughed and shook her head. "Does Cook apologize for asking you to do stuff, too?" she called across to Lanie, who was wrangling a garbage bag of clothes out of the van.

"Sometimes," Lanie answered back. She was tall and freckled and had red pigtails, the complete opposite of Karen, who was tiny and Korean and much, much bossier. "You'd think they'd be better at being rock stars by now."

Archie shook his head and ran forward to hold the front door for Karen.

"How was your trip home?" she asked as they walked up the stairs.

Archie looked over the railing at the living room down below. Cook's guitar and his guitar case were leaning next to the fireplace, and he could see the top of Cook's head disappearing into the kitchen as he took in the box of spices and things Archie's mom had given him for his apartment three years ago. "It was okay," he told Karen. "You know, everyone was--was surprised, but at least they know Cook."

He didn't mention the agonizing talks with his parents, separately and together, where he'd tried to lie as little as possible but as convincingly as possible, too. Or the way no one had woken him up Sunday for church. You could be gay and Mormon, and some places you could even be gay and Mormon and married, and it wasn't the end of the world, but his parents probably hadn't wanted to test if that was true in Murray, Utah.

Karen was looking kind of dubious. He made himself smile at her. "Cook's family was exactly the same when we went there. I guess it takes some getting used to."

"You're telling me," she said, and he sighed a little to himself. But then she surprised him by saying, "You guys are terribly cute together, though. It's surprising at first, but not after you think about it for a while."

He nodded, eyes on the floor. "Thank you."

***

"I think that's it," Cook said, pulling his head out of the back of the van. "Nicely done."

"Thanks again," Archie said to Karen and Lanie, who smiled back at him with identical cheerfulness.

"I'll wait for the cleaners at your place, and turn in the keys," Karen said.

"And I'll take the van back." Lanie jiggled the keys in her hand.

"Your job is cooler than mine," Karen said with an artistic sigh.

Cook waved her down as she started to walk past him down the driveway. "Wait!"

"Did I forget something?" Archie asked.

Cook gestured at the house; Archie followed his pointing finger up. And up and up. Cook's house was kind of ordinary considering he was a millionaire, but it was still probably seven times bigger than anywhere Archie had lived before Idol.

Archie looked back at Cook, who was still pointing somewhere just over Archie's shoulder. "I don't get it."

Cook sighed, then handed Karen a camera and walked up to Archie.

"Oh, wait," Archie said, backing up a step. He looked automatically for paparazzi, but Cook's driveway and yard were fenced and landscaped to a T, and nobody could see in.

"It's tradition."

Archie stopped and accepted his fate.

For all of the evil expression on his face, Cook didn't actually pick him up all bride-like. He just grabbed Archie in a bear hug, lifted him a couple inches off the ground, stepped over the threshold--Archie could see Lanie holding the door and grinning like crazy--and dropped Archie back to his feet.

"I got it!" Karen called. "Wow, that's just adorable."

Archie was getting used to how this whole thing worked, and wasn't even surprised when Cook leaned down to kiss him.

Cook let go of him, and Archie wondered for a split second if Cook ever wanted to keep kissing him when he stopped. Then, like he did every time he thought that, he remembered Cook naked in a hotel bed saying he didn't want to have sex with Archie again, and he answered his own question: no.

Maybe if Cook remembered the sex--which Archie still only did in bits and pieces, no matter how hard he tried--he would be more interested. Or, what if he was even less interested? Archie decided, again, that he wasn't going to think about this anymore.

"Okay," Cook said, shutting the door behind the assistants finally and turning around. "Tell me the next item on the agenda is pizza."

"Shouldn't we move my stuff? It's still all sitting in your room."

"Yeah, are you sure you don't want--"

"Cook, I am not kicking you out of your bedroom. There are a million other bedrooms in this house."

"Five."

Archie rolled his eyes.

"Okay, fine. Actually--" Cook waved a finger at him. "I have an idea about that. But first, pizza."

Arguing about what to have on the pizza, and who was going to pay for it, and what drinks to order with it, distracted Archie for a while, but over his second piece he finally admitted, "I wish there was just one person we weren't lying to."

Cook looked up at him, extra intense all of a sudden. He'd started giving Archie that look a lot lately, and Archie didn't really know if he liked it or not. "There isn't one person we could tell without having to tell sixteen other people, too."

"I know. I know."

They sat in uncomfortable silence for a while, and Archie was starting to feel like a total jerk for bringing it up at all, when Cook said, "It'll get easier. It'll just--I'm sure we'll get used to it."

"I'm sure you're right," Archie said, ripping his pizza crust into little pieces. "We'll just give it time."

Cook put another piece of pizza in Archie's hand. "Yeah, give it a month, six weeks. It'll be old hat."

***

Archie was stretched out on the couch, flipping pages in the dictionary, when the front door opened and shut. He quickly tossed the dictionary on the coffee table and picked up the book next to it.

"Hey there." Cook walked into the room, stopping at the doorway to toe his sneakers off like always. Today he was wearing a black T-shirt with a pinstriped vest over it, which probably meant he'd had an interview. "How was today?"

"Not bad," Archie said. "I have a new track for you to listen to."

"Awesome." Cook crossed the living room to the couch and wriggled up until he was laying stomach-down across the back of it. Archie braced himself against the cushions until the couch stopped shaking. One of these days it was going to tip over on Cook for real, and Archie was going to laugh at him the entire time he was dialing 911.

Cook was looking at the back of Archie's book, so Archie used the opportunity to sneak a look at him. His hair looked like it had been fancy-messy that day (definitely an interview), but it was falling down into just regular-messy now. And he still had traces of eyeliner on.

Archie took a deep breath, but all that got him was a lungful of cologne, hairspray, and sweat. He dug his fingernails into the side of his leg and tried to look casual.

"Why are you reading about--" Cook tilted his head to see the spine of the book. "About options and futures trading?"

"Oh, you know. I was reading this article about diversifying, and they suggested it. But it's incredibly complicated, and this book is just confusing me more."

"Did you ask Annie about it?" Cook asked. Annie had been the financial advisor for both of them since the Idol days.

"I will, as soon as I understand what I'm asking her. What?" Cook was smiling down at him all funny.

"What what? I didn't say anything."

"You looked--you know what, never mind." Archie stuck the bookmark back into the completely unread page and tossed it down. "You want to listen to that track now or after dinner?"

***

They ate dinner in the breakfast nook, trading bites of different kinds of sushi--Cook's latest kick. Archie was still fairly dubious about most of it, but he discovered he had a higher tolerance for wasabi than Cook did, and after that it was pretty much a race to see who could stuff their face with the spicy stuff faster, and they ended up with rice all over both their faces and the floor.

"I think there might be actual steam coming out of my ears." Archie drained his glass of milk.

"The milk…is still…cheating," Cook said, pausing for either giggles or hiccups. It was hard to tell.

"I didn't make you drink wine," Archie said reasonably. Cook giggle-hiccupped again.

They listened to the new track and argued about it while they cleaned up from the sushi. "It does not need more guitar," Archie insisted, grabbing a fork off the counter and shoving it into the dishwasher basket.

Cook was scrubbing down the cutting board. "It always needs more guitar."

"Rock elitist."

"Pop brat."

It was unfortunate for Cook that there was a bowl full of rice right next to Archie at that particular moment.

***

Once they'd cleaned all the rice out of their hair, their clothes, and the crevices of every appliance in the kitchen, they abandoned the field of battle for the living room.

"We playing tonight?" Archie asked casually.

"I don't know." Cook eyed him over his beer. "You ready to lose? Again?"

"I'll take that chance."

"Oh, really?" Cook grabbed the well-worn Scrabble box from the top of the bookshelf and tossed it onto the coffee table. "Bring it, Archuleta."

"Oh, I can bring it," Archie said, and turned crimson when Cook started choking on his beer. "Stop that."

Somewhere between Cook's triple-letter, double-word score and Archie's third failed challenge of the night, Cook said casually, "So, two months tomorrow."

"Yeah," Archie said, inching his two Es closer together. "You want to go out?"

"We should, don't you think?"

When Archie snuck a look, Cook was taking a deep drink of beer. "Absolutely," he said, and looked back down.

"Awesome," Cook said. "Hey, look, another triple."

Archie glared at the dictionary.

***

"I still think you could use more guitar," Cook was saying as they climbed the stairs that night.

"Good night, Cook," Archie said, stopping in front of his door.

"Good night, Archie," Cook mimicked. He caught Archie up in a one-armed hug. "See you in the morning."

Archie's "office" was two of Cook's old guest bedrooms, with the wall between taken out and the most expensive futon known to man surrounded by Archie's bookshelves, stereo system, and desk. It still felt a little like sleeping in a dorm room, but Archie refused to tell Cook that. He felt guilty enough about keeping the master bedroom, which was just ridiculous. Archie flipped the futon open and sat down on it for a second, looking at the picture of him and Cook on his desk. Carly had taken it at their "reception."

"Two months," he said softly. And then, "Shut up and go to bed, Archie."

He pulled himself up and went to get his sheets and blankets.

***

"So where are we going?" Cook asked, climbing into the passenger seat of Archie's Escape. Archie passed him his phone with the message from Suzanne. Cook looked down and made a scoffing noise. "Chateau Marmont again? She has no imagination."

"It's still better than that time Robert sent us to the Citywalk and we almost got mobbed to death by tourists."

"The food was better."

"Mobbed. To. Death."

Cook flapped a hand. "Whatever. I don't care how see-and-be-seen it is, these guys can't grill a burger without turning it into some whacked-out gourmet delight and charging you a month's rent for it."

"I tell you what." Archie pulled out of the drive and headed downhill. "We'll order something that doesn't look too stupid, and if we hate it, we'll stop at In & Out on the way home."

"Awesome," Cook said with delight, and Archie smiled over at him.

***

Archie handed his keys off to the valet and rounded the front of the car, trying to breathe normally. Cook was waiting for him at the edge of the parking lot. He held out a hand to Archie. "Shall we?"

"Absolutely," Archie said, and took Cook's hand, lacing their fingers together as they walked up the stairs.

The lobby of the Chateau Marmont was old-school Hollywood, and then some: fancy lights, velvet curtains, funny seating. Archie beelined for a loveseat before Cook could try and make him sit on the chaise lounge instead (last time he'd threatened to feed Archie grapes, too, it was really embarrassing).

"Can I get you something to drink while you wait for your table?" the waiter asked. He looked really familiar--Archie thought he might have been in Carly's last video.

Archie opened his mouth, but Cook squeezed his hand. "I will have a split of champagne, and he--" He patted Archie on the chest with his free hand. "--will have the fanciest, bubbliest water you serve."

"Bubbliest?" Archie asked as the waiter hurried away. "If I put that down in Scrabble you'd challenge me."

"Bubbliest. Most bubbly."

"I'm looking it up when we get home," Archie said, but his heart wasn't really in it, because Cook had let go of his hand and was running his hand up and down Archie's back idly while he flipped through the menu. Archie leaned in a little closer to Cook and looked around the room. He spotted two TV stars, one reporter getting distracted from an interview with someone Archie didn't recognize and trying to unobtrusively spy on them, and at least three people with cameraphones.

The pages of the menu stopped moving. Archie looked over at Cook, who was looking at him with a half-smile. He smiled back.

"Champagne? Sparkling water?"

Archie dragged his attention up to the waiter. "Thank you," he said, taking the offered glass (and double-checking to make sure it really was just water--he was a little cautious these days). "So, um, a toast?"

Cook held out his glass expectantly.

Archie made sure he had a good grip on his glass. "Here's to two months of rocking the fuck out of wedded bliss," he said.

Cook let out a bark of laughter so loud everyone in the vicinity went dead quiet. "Sorry," he choked, and buried his face in Archie's shoulder. His champagne wobbled dangerously.

"You all right?" Archie asked the top of Cook's head.

It nodded. "Yeah," Cook said, emerging with a flushed face and watery eyes. "Just--dude. That was awesome."

"I practiced," Archie admitted.

"Even better." Cook tapped his glass against Archie's. "To that." Archie watched, fascinated and a little unnerved, as Cook tilted his head back and drained the entire glass in one shot. He barely remembered to take a drink of his own water. Then he hurriedly set it down as Cook leaned in to kiss him.

Like always, Archie was torn between being self-conscious they were in public and wanting to enjoy every second. A few months ago, he would have said that going out in public and being stared at was an unpleasant part of the job, and something to be avoided whenever possible; these days, he'd drag Cook out to celebrate a hangnail if he thought he could get away with it.

But they were still in the middle of everywhere, so Archie let Cook pull away from him and tried to not look, um. Like someone who'd rather be making out with his husband than doing just about anything.

The waiter showed up to take them to their table almost immediately, probably because they were making a scene in his lobby and maybe they wouldn't if they were eating. They'd also gotten a table in the far corner of the patio outside, in full view of all the other tables but set a little apart.

"Nicely played," Cook said, smirking, after they sat and ordered. He waved his newly-filled glass in a circle. "Do you think Suzanne did this, or the management?"

"Maybe the management called Suzanne," Archie said. He flipped another page in his menu. "Oh, they do have a burger. I think."

"If you 'think' they have a burger, it's not a real burger. Man." Cook was frowning down at his own menu. "I will never get over the weird stuff rich people eat."

Archie nodded.

"Appetizers and In & Out?"

"I think so," Archie said reluctantly. Appetizers meant a shorter dinner. But In & Out meant more time in public…they had fans there too. (They probably had more fans there than here.) As long as they went inside to eat… "Which appetizer should we get?"

"The one that looks like it was potato skins in another life." Cook set his menu down and reached for Archie's hand. "A much poorer life."

"Just like us," Archie said, and had Cook laughing.

***

"Real" dinner was two combos, two chocolate shakes, and a couple dozen autographs and pictures, which meant the food took twice as long to eat and was noticeably cold by the time they finished it.

"So much better than the fancy potato skins," Archie said, tossing away his (lukewarm) shake as they headed out of the restaurant. They were holding hands again, still, and Cook had been rubbing his thumb over Archie's wedding ring on and off for about the last fifteen minutes.

"Awesome fries," Cook said, patting his stomach.

"Yeah, which were better, yours or the half of mine you ate?"

"It's not my fault it takes you longer to sign your name than me."

Archie scoffed.

He snuck a look over his shoulder as they approached his car. "They're all still staring out the windows," he said in a stage whisper.

"Hm." Cook looked sideways at him. "You wanna?"

"Why not?" Archie said casually. Sort of casually. If Cook asked, he'd say his voice had gone all scratchy from the shake.

Cook swung around, his back to the passenger door of the car. His hands came up to cradle the back of Archie's head; Archie leaned forward involuntarily.

"Happy anniversary," Cook said, his breath puffing out hot against Archie's lips. He kissed him.

Archie suffered through about ten seconds of gentle, almost platonic kissing, before the whole night--the whole two months--caught up with him. He surged forward, and felt and heard Cook's breath whoosh out as Archie mashed him up against the car door.

"What--" Cook mumbled against his lips. Archie pushed against Cook's shoulders, holding him in place, and leaned up harder into him.

Cook froze for a second--Archie's hands clenched into fists--before grabbing him, pushing against him, and kissing him back with the same intensity. Archie's heart jolted, and for a minute, he thought--it seemed like--

And then Cook let go. Archie fell back a step. Cook looked down at him, panting out a sharp breath. He brought one hand up to rub across his mouth.

"Sorry," he said, looking slightly away from Archie--over his shoulder, back at the restaurant. "I didn't mean to--you know--"

Archie threw a hand up, waving it in the air between them. "No, don't even--I--it's fine, it's fine. We should, we should go."

"Yeah, we should," Cook said. Archie dug for his keys, fumbling for the button for the locks, and left Cook climbing into the passenger seat while he made his way the long way around the car. He stopped around the back, safely out of sight of everyone, and swiped a hand across his eyes.

"All right then," he said, climbing in on his side, "mission accomplished. Let's get back to your place so we can sleep off all this food."

***

Archie got in huge trouble the next day because none of the vocals he was tracking were good enough. "What's wrong?" his producer, Steven, kept asking. "Are the lyrics a problem? Should we fiddle with the arrangements?" Karen even winced on a couple of takes--and Karen was usually really good about not letting on when he sucked.

"You know what, it's the singer, not the song," Archie said after probably the tenth crappy take. "Can we take, like, fifteen? My head's not in the game. I need a minute."

Steven made one of those incomprehensible hand signals, and the room went from a professional hush to a recess burst of noise. Archie looked around at the people milling, chattering, and of course all looking at him out of the corners of their eyes, and broke for the door.

He found a semi-quiet hallway a few studios away and called his dad. He tried to make it light and cheerful, "Just checking in, Dad, how's everybody?" But his dad was his dad, and knew him better.

"What's wrong, David?"

"Oh, nothing big. I just--I'm just struggling with this song. I can't wrap my head around it or something."

"Which one is this, the new one you just got?"

"No. It's, uh, the love song Cook and Andy cowrote. The waltz tempo one?"

"Oh." Archie leaned his head against the nearest wall, next to somebody or other's gold record. Finally his dad spoke again. "You know, Davey, this record is a big step for you. They're making a huge move to reposition you--"

"I know, Dad."

"Cook's numbers are holding fine, but yours--"

"I know, Dad. I'm the one running like a hamster on a wheel trying to fix all this, all right?"

There was another silence. "Do you want me to come up for a couple of days?" his dad asked, finally.

Archie pushed himself away from the wall. "I really appreciate it--I do--but no. Maybe I'll come down and see everyone in a couple of weeks, when Cook's tour starts. How's that?"

"You know you're always welcome," his dad said. "Or, you know, you could both come down the next time he's home."

"Thanks, Dad," Archie said through a suddenly scratchy throat.

After he hung up, he stood there, head bent, for a few minutes, before taking his phone out again.

***

He went back to work, and after half an hour had advanced to a couple of mediocre takes, when everyone in the control booth looked up mid-chorus. Archie jerked off his headphones as Cook came into view.

"Let's break for lunch," Steven said, and Archie had no choice but to come out of the booth.

"Hey," he said, trying to look straight ahead at Cook and ignore all the other people.

"Hey," Cook said. He held up a takeout bag. "I brought you a wrap from Jerry's."

"Oh, thanks," Archie said, startled into smiling. He looked around the booth, which was still packed. "Uh..."

They ended up back in the corner Archie had called from, with napkins spread around them on the floor.

"So what's wrong with the song?" Cook said.

"Nothing's wrong with the song!" Archie said through a mouthful of chips. "That's not why I called you! I just wanted to tell you I'd be back late tonight, because...it's just a bad day," he said, stuffing a chunk of sandwich in before he said anything stupid. Last night hung heavy in the back of his mind. Especially after that, he should never have called Cook. He'd just wanted to tell him, to hear him--to talk to him for a minute.

"You know how you're a sucky liar?" Cook said, raising an eyebrow. "Something's wrong, Archie."

"I'm a better liar than people think," Archie said sullenly.

When he looked up, Cook was staring down at his sandwich. "Yeah, I guess we both are now." Archie's stomach twisted. Cook looked back up. "But there's still something going on with the song. Can I help?"

Archie figured he should probably be mean and say no. But of course he wouldn't. "Yeah, you want to listen to it through one time and see what you think?"

Back in the control room, they listened to one of the mediocre tracks. Cook stood behind Archie, his arms looped around him and his head resting on Archie's shoulder. After a few reluctant, stiff moments, Archie gave up and put his hands on Cook's arms, tapping out the waltz beat next to Cook's wrist tattoo.

"Hmm," Cook said. He kept his chin on Archie's shoulder, so it sort of rumbled through Archie's bones. "Have you tried it faster?"

"It sounds like it's coming out of a jack-in-the-box when we do," Archie said glumly.

Cook laughed. "Maybe just a little faster. I don't know, you just sound kind of bummed to be in love. There are a million sad love songs in the world. This isn't one of them."

Steven looked annoyed--but nodded his head. "Let's try it, folks."

Archie headed for the control room door, with Cook right behind him. He stopped just past the door when a hand dropped on his shoulder. "You want me to stay?" Cook asked.

He looked back, super-conscious of all the people again. Work people, even. (Karen was pretending like her phone was much more interesting than him; she was probably texting Lanie.) And last night... "Do you want to stay?"

Cook's hand tightened on his shoulder. "Absolutely."

Archie nodded.

He blew through it in one solid take, eyes on Cook in the control room the whole time. When he was done, his throat was sore and he had sweat rolling down the back of his neck, but Steven was smiling broadly when he looked over at him. "Now that is more like a David Archuleta song," he said. "Just like that again, everyone."

Cook had slipped out the door, Archie noticed. He turned back to the music.

***

"People?" Archie asked, blinking over at Cook.

Cook nodded at him. "Robert says--" he paused, listening to his phone. "He says they want to do a cover; they'll shoot it before I leave for the tour, but it'll go up right before your album drops."

"Oh, wow! But--they'd come here?" Archie looked around the living room. "I don't know." Neither of them had ever let people with cameras in their homes.

Robert's voice squawked some more on the other end of the phone, and Cook laughed. "Seriously, how many chances of a lifetime do two people need, Robert?" Squawk! "All right, all right! I'll talk him into it. Yes. I'll call you back. No, Robert, not until I call you back. I know. Bye!"

"I don't know," Archie said as soon as Cook put the phone down.

Cook looked at him over the stocking feet he had propped on the coffee table. "I only want to do it if it's okay with you," he said, which was not at all what he'd said two minutes ago. "But I think it could be really good for you. It's perfect timing, and it's more, you know, mainstream."

"You hate People," Archie said. "You hate all those magazines."

"I do," Cook said easily. "I hate a lot of things we have to do to keep our jobs. I'll still do 'em."

Archie sank down in the couch a little more.

Cook laughed. "I know. Look, call Suzanne. Make sure she's on board. If not, I'll tell Robert no."

"He'll kill us."

"You know, I haven't driven a publicist into early retirement in over a year. It's about time."

Archie leaned his head back against the couch. "What are they going to take pictures of us doing? Playing music and stuff?"

"I don't know. Just everyday life?"

"So, playing Scrabble and having food fights?"

"I insist on the Scrabble. America deserves to know," Cook said, sounding like a TV announcer.

Archie knew what he wasn't saying, though. What the photographer and magazine people would expect from the "Idols at home."

There were a lot of reasons to say no. He wasn't going to use them, though.

"As long as the Scrabble clause is in there, then yeah," he said. "Absolutely."

***

"Agh, how much time left?" Archie was stuffing sheets in a laundry bag--of all days to leave the futon messed up.

"Fifteen minutes," Cook called from the hall. "I'm going to go help Lanie and Karen pick up the living room."

Archie tossed the bag into the hall closet and dashed back into his room to grab a collection of things--his watch, a couple of photos, a paperback--and ran them into Cook's bedroom.

The doorbell rang. Archie groaned and took one last look around one bedroom, then the other.

Cook was standing in front of the door as Archie clattered down the stairs. He was barefoot, but then again, Archie realized as he slowed down to approach them, so was he. A frightening number of people were out there, headed of course by Robert and Suzanne.

"Okay," Cook said, sliding an arm around Archie's shoulders as he came up next to him. "What's on the agenda, guys?"

Standing, apparently. Lots and lots of standing. Archie made small talk with Suzanne, which took about three minutes, and Robert, which took about three seconds, because they kept breaking off to stare at the photographer like they could control him with their minds.

Also, the living room being basically rearranged, revealing at least five of Cook's old socks under the couch, so they could do stuff with lighting.

"You guys are moving everything back when you're done, right?" Archie said, and "What?" as Cook cracked up next to him.

"Don't you have the muscle, Archuleta?" Cook pinched Archie's bicep.

Archie squawked and poked him. Behind him, he heard a shutter click.

***

Archie was right. Once everything got set up, they spent most of their time dinking around on their guitars. Archie sat on the couch. Cook (totally unprompted) (of course) balanced on the back of the couch.

"I'm fine," he said the third time he overbalanced and almost fell over backwards. ("David!" Robert said, again.)

The whole couch wobbled. "I keep telling you," Archie said. He edged over until he was sitting squarely on Cook's feet, leaning back against his knees.

Someone giggled in the background. Probably Lanie. Archie tilted his head back; Cook was looking straight down at him.

"Stay still," Archie said foolishly.

"Yes, dear," Cook said.

"And don't hit me with your guitar." Archie ignored both Cook's kooky expression and all the photography going on around them and played the first chord that came to mind. It turned out to be the opening bit of "Imagine," and he wasn't even going to try and guess why. Cook picked it up quickly enough, and they noodled together--no singing, it wasn't good for the pictures, but Archie hummed the melody as they went.

"Okay," one of the People people said when they finished. "Now, about your bedroom."

Cook and Archie looked at each other.

***

Playing Scrabble in bed--or at least on the bed? Cook's idea, naturally.

By the time they were done getting arranged (and styled, don't forget styled), they were on opposite sides of the bed, with Archie leaning against the pillows and Cook flipped so his head was at the foot of the bed.

"This is a completely unrealistic picture," Archie said. Cook froze where he was putting a tile in place and looked up at him. "You gave me words that don't, you know, suck."

Cook grinned up at him--the real grin, with his cheeks all round and his eyes wrinkling up. "You're getting better. Even if you haven't memorized the dictionary yet."

Archie, who had just stopped blushing from being on the bed, turned red all over again. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"He has hidden depths," Cook said to one of the many people crowded in the room with them. "He looks like this nice sweet dude, and then bam! The competitive spirit kicks in, and he'd sell his grandmother to beat you at a hand of cards."

"That is completely untrue," Archie said.

Cook raised an eyebrow. "Why, because gambling is a sin?"

"It sure was the last time I gambled with you," Archie said, and saw the second Cook made the connection to their wedding--which was easy because it was followed by hysterical laughter and Cook accidentally knocking half the board out of whack.

"Just for that," Cook said, and put C-A-C-T-U-S as one of the words.

***

Archie did actually put his foot down about putting all the rooms back together. He and Cook stood in the doorway to the kitchen, watching the last of the equipment make its way out the front door. The photographer had gotten fascinated with their guitars, abandoned next to each other by the fireplace, and was taking a bunch of close-up pictures of them.

"That wasn't so bad," Cook said. "They were only a little bit of an invading army."

"I don't think Patton cleaned up after himself," Archie said. "Stop laughing! I did graduate from high school, you know."

Cook choked off another laugh when Archie glared up at him more. "Sorry, sorry. Although I tell you, if you had been telling Patton to pick up after himself, dude mighta done it." He bounced his knuckles lightly off Archie's chin. "You can be fierce."

Archie snorted. "Yeah, right. I'm a tough guy."

"Tougher than you think," Cook said quietly, and his loose fist slipped down to rest against Archie's chest.

Archie just looked up at Cook, feeling the press of the side of Cook's hand against his chest, and the warmth where their hips almost met. His hands curled and uncurled at his sides.

Cook leaned down a fraction of an inch more. "Archie?"

"Yeah?" Archie sucked in a breath.

There was a noise next to them, and they both looked over. The photographer was standing about two feet away, clicking rapidly.

"Don't let me interrupt you," he said, and Archie could hear Cook letting out a sigh next to him. He looked back up; Cook was shaking his head a little. He wrapped both arms around Archie's shoulders and pulled him into a tight hug; Archie splayed his hands across Cook's back and held him just as tight.

"You know I think you're awesome, right?" Cook whispered into Archie's ear, on the side away from the photographer.

Archie nodded against Cook's neck. He didn't know if it was hope making him lightheaded, or if it was fear, or disappointment.

The shutter kept clicking.

***

Archie opened his email a few days later to find a message from Suzanne, with a giant zip file attached to it that held every single picture from the photo shoot. He stared at one of the ones from the kitchen doorway a while, but Cook didn't turn around in the picture and tell him what he was thinking. He saved everything to his computer--and, after a moment's thought, to his phone.

Knock-knock. "Hey," Cook said from the open door.

Archie turned around, moving his shoulders in front of the computer screen and setting his phone face-down on the desk. "What's up?"

"Johns called. Dinner tonight with him and Stacey."

"Oh! Okay, great." Archie told himself not to be disappointed, Cook needed to see people before he left. "I'll just have leftovers from--"

"What? No. Us and them."

"Really? I mean--well, don't you guys want to hang out, just you?"

"I see him all the time," Cook said, which Archie didn't think was exactly true--Johns had been back home for a couple of months--but, "Come on," Cook was saying, leaning farther into the doorway. "How many chances are you and I going to have to hang together before I go?"

Archie tried to keep his smile from taking over his face. "Sure, then."

***

The truth was that Johns was still kind of weird around both of them. Not, like, mean weird, or judgmental weird, just--he still looked surprised every time he saw the two of them together. Archie tended to get quieter and quieter in response, trying to give him and Cook as much space as possible. Tonight, though, Cook was right up next to Archie in the booth. As soon as they'd ordered, he put his arm across the back of the seat, solid across Archie's back and shoulders, and left it there, even while he talked a mile a minute with Johns.

"You're going to rattle around in that house, aren't you?" Stacey asked from across the table.

"I might need to have my mom mail my teddy bear from back home," Archie said, and winced as the other two turned to look at him.

"You have a teddy bear?" Cook asked.

"...no?" Archie said, with only a hint of desperation showing, he was sure.

Johns laughed.

"Really, no!"

Stacey gave him a sympathetic look.

***

After dinner, they somehow ended up at the nearest indie record store. Cook flipped through album after album, giving a running commentary on how well designed each cover was or wasn't. Johns looked on, pointing out bits and arguing with Cook at random; Stacey and Archie talked quietly near the front of the store.

The clerks behind the counter and the other customers were better at ignoring them than most places--probably because it wasn't cool to know who the American Idol people were. Archie sometimes thought people pretending not to know him was even more uncomfortable than open staring, because it made him have to pretend he wasn't being noticed, and just, enough already. But he played along, smiling at Stacey and not looking over her shoulder at the people sneaking looks at Cook. They were doing a ton better ignoring him.

Or so he thought, until the music over the store speakers stopped for a moment. Archie recognized "Crush" right away, of course, and dropped his head a little. "Oh, man."

Stacey laughed when she heard his voice. Archie looked over to see if Cook had noticed. He was singing along, oh, embarrassment, and he and Johns started doing a little shuffle-step when the chorus kicked in. Archie did all the right things, smiled and blushed and nodded along, and tried to ignore the flare of jealousy he felt at Johns and Cook dancing so close to each other. It felt familiar, and he remembered looking over at them during the tour and feeling something he hadn't been able to identify at the time.

...Oh. That explained some things. He stuffed the thought back down and hoped it never popped up to torment him again.

Cook and Johns danced their way up to the front of the store, and Cook grabbed Archie around the waist, swinging him around in an awkward circle. Behind Cook's back, Stacey was giggling as Johns fake-dirty danced with her.

"Am I crazy or fallin' in love?" Cook sang. "Come on, Archie. Put some hips into it!"

***

The morning Cook left, Archie snuck down in the morning, picked his way around the pile of luggage in the living room (comprised mostly of every single guitar Cook owned), and started the coffee.

By the time Cook stuck his head into the kitchen, Archie was juggling a spatula and a cheese grater in one hand and a carton of milk in the other. "What...?" Cook scratched the side of his head and yawned. "What's going on?"

"Your coffee's on the table."

Cook blinked at him, then at the table. "What?"

"Drink. Your coffee. David," Archie said.

Cook sat down kind of abruptly and reached for his mug.

Archie wished he'd brought his phone into the kitchen with him so he'd have a picture of Cook, ruffled and confused and dorky and drinking coffee with his eyes closed. "Come on, as soon as you get on the bus you can go back to sleep," he said.

"Mmf. Neal wants to go over...I forget."

Archie refilled the empty mug. "Tell him to call me. I'll explain why he should wait until lunchtime."

"Like you're not going back to bed as soon as the door closes behind me."

Through the magic of two pans and a burned finger or two, Archie got both omelets done at about the same time. He and Cook sat there with Cook's third cup of coffee. Archie looked out the window; there was just enough sunlight to outline the orange tree in the backyard.

Cook drained the mug and stood up with it; Archie leaned forward and snatched it neatly out of his hand.

"You won't go back to sleep after four," he said. "Possibly ever. You can have orange juice."

Cook squinted down at him. "You know I'll just have more on the bus."

"Not if you go to sleep, right? Or there's apple juice."

"Yeah, but is there cactus juice?" Cook asked, his head deep in the fridge.

Archie threw a balled-up napkin at Cook's butt.

"I felt that!" Cook called.

***

The car came as Archie was defending the coffee pot from Cook, spatula versus wooden spoon.

"Archie-ie!" Cook whined, reversing the spoon to poke Archie in the arm.

"You have press to do tonight!" Archie smacked the spoon away with the spatula handle.

The doorbell rang.

"Ha, saved by the bell," Archie said, smiling brightly.

He was miserable.

He followed Cook out to the driveway, sidestepping people burdened down with guitars. Lanie was waiting for him out of the way of all the commotion. She handed him a Starbucks cup.

Archie gave a mental shrug. Cook was going to do whatever he wanted on the road. Might as well start now. (Might as well stop thinking about Archie now, a mean little part of his brain chimed in.)

Cook handed the cup back to Lanie. "It's all yours. I'm under orders."

Archie ducked his head and blinked hard.

And then Cook was right in front of him, and Archie stepped into the hug, wriggling around until they were pressed as tightly together as possible. Cook's beard scraped against Archie's temple. He pulled back just a little, which gave Cook room to reach down and kiss him.

When they broke apart, Cook's hands were in Archie's hair, and Archie's fingers were tucked into Cook's belt loops. "Don't cry," Archie said under his breath. "If you cry, I'll cry."

"Then we're screwed," Cook said. He brushed his thumb across the corner of Archie's eye. "I'll call, okay?"

"Call a lot," Archie said.

"You call too. Don't worry about interrupting me--no, seriously, don't give me that face--just call. Anytime I'm not on stage."

"Okay."

Cook nodded a couple of times, then looked over at Lanie--Archie had to remember again that there were a bunch of people around them--who motioned him into the car. He squeezed Archie's shoulder and climbed in.

Archie stuck his suddenly-empty hands into his back pockets and stood there until the street was quiet.

***

Archie was already tucked into his futon, humming the waltz song to himself as he stared at the ceiling, when his phone rang. He lunged out of bed for it.

"Hello?"

"Archie!" Cook's voice was a little too loud and a little too loose. Archie could hear people chattering and laughing in the background.

"Hey," he said, sitting back down onto the futon. "How's it going?"

"They had sushi for dinner!" Cook said, sounding kind of startled by the concept.

Archie laughed. "Imagine that."

"It was awesome." There was a pause. "Dude, I just called him," Cook said, muffled. Someone else said something Archie couldn't hear. "Yeah, okay. Archie? Sorry, I have to go."

"Oh. Okay."

"Sorry," Cook said again. "Hey. Why aren't you sleeping in the bed?"

"How do you know I'm not?"

"Heh. Go to bed," Cook said. He said something else muffled, and then he was gone.

"Goodbye," Archie said to the phone. "What was that?"

He decided to at least go look in Cook's bedroom, because clearly something was up--

There was a giant teddy bear, like, person-sized, tucked under the covers of the bed.

Archie pulled out his phone and texted Cook: !!!!!!?

He got a one-word text back: AHAHA!

"Crazy," Archie mumbled. He jerked on the comforter. "Crazy crazy. Also drunk, and crazy." He muttered his way into bed, stretched out the length of the bed with the teddy bear at his back, and fell asleep instantly.

***

Cook kept his word. He called every day--after sound check, sometimes, or from the bus if he could get cell service. Archie's phone filled up with pictures of state line crossings, band members asleep on the bus, cheering fans as seen from the stage, and of course a million self-portraits of Cook, each dorkier than the last.

After a few days, Archie worked up the nerve to call Cook, who sounded so crazy delighted to hear from him, Archie blushed for the whole call. He got in the habit of calling Cook every couple of days, and he must have had pretty good timing, because he never got him when he was too busy to talk.

He didn't send pictures unless Cook made him, but he did email Cook some of his album tracks- as usual, he was recording twice what he'd need, which Cook still made fun of him for. He even sent Cook a set of lyrics he was working on, and they came back with so many notes and suggestions that Archie knew he'd get to give Cook co-writing credit if he recorded it.

About halfway into the tour, Archie was at his computer putting together his email to Cook when the phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Archie."

"Lanie?" he asked blankly. Then his heart sped up to double-time. "Oh my gosh, is Cook okay?"

"He's fine, he's fine. He wants to talk to you."

Archie looked at his computer clock, then at the tour schedule tacked to his corkboard. "Isn't he on stage right now?"

She laughed. "Hang on."

And then he heard the muffled roar of a concert audience.

"Archie?"

"Cook?"

"Hi, honey," Cook said, his voice high like he was about to laugh. "Just thought I'd give you a call from work."

"What are--"

"Say hi to everyone," Cook said.

"They can hear me?" Archie asked, and a deafening cheer answered him. "Uh, hi everyone?" They cheered again.

"So do you know why I'm calling?" Cook asked.

"To mess with me?"

"David James Archuleta. Did you forget our anniversary?"

"Cook!"

"Five months today." More screaming from the crowd. Archie really wanted to know what Cook had just done there.

And then Archie heard Cook hit a chord on his guitar. He put a hand firmly over his mouth as Cook started singing "Light On."

Cook normally played the song full-bore, with hard chords and power vocals. But this time, maybe because he was accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, his voice was quieter and more tentative, and...and sweet, Archie thought. His lungs burned and his eyes were stinging.

Cook finished, and the noise Archie made trying to get air in went mostly unheard under the crowd screaming.

"Happy anniversary, Archie," Cook said, still quiet.

Archie knew he was going to sound all choked up, he couldn't help it. "Thank you," he said. Fortunately whoever was running sound cut the line, and the phone went quiet in his ear.

He set the phone down carefully and buried his face in his hands.

***

Archie never consciously admitted he was counting down until the tour was over, but his mood did get a little bit better as the weeks went on. He finished his recording sessions and started band rehearsals; did dribs and drabs of press; and spent a surprising amount of time with Johns, Stacey, and whoever else was in town. He even spent a week down in Murray--Cook called as they were sitting down for dinner one night and talked to every single person in Archie's family, which was nerve-wracking. And really nice.

And then...and then.

It was about a week and a half before Cook's last show of the tour, home in L.A., and Archie's mood had gone from cautiously optimistic to borderline giddy. He was on the couch, working on his and Cook's song; there were papers scattered across the coffee table, and he had a pencil jammed between his teeth while he tried two different chord sequences. He almost didn't answer his phone.

"Huhwff?" he asked, then spit out the pencil. "Sorry, hello?"

"David?" Suzanne asked, her voice high and tight.

His stomach clenched.

***

AMERICAN IDOLS' FAKE MARRIAGE, the headline screamed. MODERN-DAY MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE?

Archie stared at the computer screen, dizzy with emotion. He pushed away from the desk and stood up, but he was barely two steps away when he swung back.

The horrifying thing was, they'd used all these false details to come to all these true conclusions. None of their secret sources sounded like anybody Archie knew, even if he had any friends who might lose their minds and talk to the gossip columns and who would know the real story. Plus it was all stuff like "they can't get far enough apart from each other when they're not in public" and "they wouldn't spend any time together if they didn't have to," which wasn't--

It didn't matter if it wasn't true. It didn't matter that the whole reason they'd reportedly gotten married was to help their album sales, which would have been a giant laugh in other circumstances. It mattered that the stupid thing was up on the website, with five million people in the comments going to town on it, and of course Suzanne was going to say--

"We have no response to this at all," she said when he called her back. "I've talked to Robert, and he agrees, legitimizing it in any way is a mistake."

"Fine," Archie said shortly. "Whatever."

There was a pause. "David, it really is a bad idea to react. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big a story--"

"Sure, which is why you called me at home instead of slipping it into my press clips on Tuesday?"

Another pause. Archie blew out a breath, exasperated with himself, but he wasn't going to apologize even if he probably should. "Look, I just don't like them calling us..." Liars? Not in love? Yes, he thought. "Mercenaries," he finished.

"Honestly, honestly, it's not a story unless you make it one," she said. "Everyone knows you're in love, and--what was that?"

"Dropped a book," Archie said, nursing his left foot and looking at the dent in the door of his room.

Suzanne sighed. "Promise me you won't react? Publicly?"

"I said I wouldn't," Archie said, but less cranky and more resigned.

"Have you talked to Cook about it yet?"

"He's not picking up his phone."

"Okay. Well, I'm sure Robert has talked to him by now."

"Cook won't say anything," Archie said. "He knows how to handle these things."

***

Most of the video was jerky, and the sound was awful, but two things were unmistakable: Cook lunging at the guy in the TMZ jacket, and what he screamed as Neal and Andy dragged him away: "Don't call me a fucking liar, you asshole!"

***

Archie lay crossways on Cook's bed, his head on the teddy bear's back, and stared at his phone. His parents' phone number: send to voice mail. Suzanne: voice mail. His manager: voice mail. His sisters, one after the other: voice mail. Suzanne again. Karen. His folks again. Robert: blink at phone, then send to voice mail. Suzanne. Claudia again. Suzanne. Suzanne.

When Cook finally called, Archie had to jerk his hand away before he sent it to voice mail reflexively.

"Are you okay?" he blurted out first thing.

"I am going to lose my damn mind," Cook's voice was low and harsh, "because I have spent the last hour and a half being lectured by a bunch of people who think I actually care what the scum-sucking bottom-feeding lower levels of the quote, media, unquote, think of me. And I still wish I'd punched that guy. Did you hear what he--never mind. Are you okay? Every time I tried to call you, someone new would call to rip into me."

Archie could hear pounding over the phone. "What's that? Where are you?"

"I locked myself into the bathroom on the bus," Cook said. He raised his voice. "Knock it off! Can I have five freaking minutes to talk to my husband in here, or is that 'likely to provoke controversy' too?"

"Cook, you gotta calm down," Archie said, thinking anxiously of Cook's old blood pressure problems.

"I am totally calm."

Archie waited.

Cook finally whuffed out a half-laugh. "Okay, maybe I'm not totally calm."

"Maybe not."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't tell everyone to fuck off and call you earlier. I'm sorry I did anything at all--I know it only made it worse, I knew it when I did it, I just couldn't let him say that shit about you."

"Holy cow, will you breathe for a second?"

It almost sounded like an actual laugh this time.

"Do you want me to come out?"

"No. I mean, I do, but no." Cook sighed into the phone; Archie tugged at a loose thread on the comforter. "It's going to be a zoo now, thanks to me. I'll just grit my teeth until I get home."

"Okay." It wasn't that he was disappointed; he didn't want crazy camera people all over him even more than they would be here in L.A. Just... "Keep somebody with you all the time, okay? Neal or Lanie or someone."

"To protect me from myself?"

"Please?" Archie asked.

"All right, fine." There was something closer to knocking on the door this time, and Cook groaned. "I guess I'll go deal with the universe again. Listen--listen. We need to talk when I get home, okay? Don't let me chicken out or anything. We need to really talk."

"About--am I going to like this?"

"Honestly, I can't even guess right now." The knocking was back, less polite. "I'm sorry, I have to--"

"It's okay," Archie said. "Go. And maybe don't drink any more caffeine tonight?"

"I make no promises," Cook said, sounding normal again for a second. "I'll call you tomorrow."

Archie hung up the phone very, very carefully.

***

Eight paparazzi-filled days later, the tour buses pulled into the Nokia Theatre, past the line of extra security and the screaming fans rattling at the fence. Archie stood off to the side, hands shoved deep into his pockets, and watched all the buses but one empty out.

Finally the door to Cook's bus opened, and Archie was moving before he even thought about it, hunching his shoulders away from the screams and the cameras. He nodded hi at all the band members as they passed him--Andy ruffled his hair, and Kyle gave him a slap on the back in passing--and then all that was left was Cook, standing just in front of the stairs to the bus.

Cook looked paler than Archie could ever remember seeing him--his lips were almost colorless, and his eyes had smudged blue shadows under them that looked like bruises. He opened his arms, and Archie hugged him carefully. Cook wrapped his arms around Archie's back and buried his face in his neck.

"How bad has it been?" he asked softly.

Worse when you stopped calling, Archie thought, but he said, "Noisy and crowded, that's all. How about you?"

Cook just shook his head.

"David?"

They both jerked around, almost knocking their heads together. Lanie stood in front of a group of people with serious expressions--Robert and Suzanne, naturally, and a couple of people who looked like they were from Cook's studio.

Archie looked up at Cook, who was starting to look pissed off just at the sight of them. "You know, Robert," he said, "I was pretty specific when we talked yesterday."

"Look, I've been talking to Suzanne, and we really want to start working on--"

"If you say damage control one more time," Cook said, loud enough to carry past them, and Archie darted a quick look towards the reporters.

"Cook," he said.

Cook ran a hand over his face. "Bottom line, Robert, I can't do this right now. And I won't. Lanie already set up the meeting tomorrow. Just let me get through today and get some sleep, and--"

Robert started, "David, I don't think you--"

"And, if you talk to me again today you're fired." Cook stared Robert down while he gaped (Archie noticed Suzanne behind him, trying to inch off to one side), and then turned and walked into the building, keeping one arm firmly around Archie the whole time.

They got inside and Cook dropped his arm, so Archie took a step away. He looked up at this tense, exhausted person standing next to him and for the first time in a long time thought, if I could go back and not drink that tequila...

"I'm so sorry," he said.

"Don't," Cook said, and waved a hand in the air. "I just--I'm going to find a dressing room and sleep until sound check, okay?"

Archie nodded. "I'll be here." He jammed his hands back into his pockets as Cook walked away.

 

***

Cook was wired after the show, but still exhausted underneath it, so Archie nudged Lanie as soon as everyone at the meet 'n' greet had actually been met, and she talked him out of there. They ended up in a limo back home, partly to avoid cameras and partly to fit all the guitars.

Archie lay on the backwards-facing seat as the driver navigated the freeway home. Cook started out slouched in the corner opposite Archie's head, but pretty soon he was lying flat too. He drummed his hands on his stomach and hummed along to some melody in his head.

A voice in the back of Archie's head kept trying to warn him, this is it, this is the last night... He wasn't stupid. He knew what Cook was going to say to him. He knew how everyone was going to look at them tomorrow at the meeting. He should probably be thinking about where he'd left his suitcase when he got back from Utah, or what hotel he should stay at until he found a new place.

Instead, he blocked it all out, let out a long deep sigh, and just drifted for a minute, eyes closed.

"Hmm?" he heard, and he looked over to find a pair of sleepy eyes focusing on him.

"Just...living in the moment," he said. "I guess."

Cook smiled at him as his eyes closed again, and Archie spent the rest of the ride home memorizing every line and shadow of this man he was married to, for at least one more night.

At least one more night.

***

"I'm not unpacking anything," Cook said, toeing his shoes off next to the pile in the hallway. "I'm not even moving anything. I might not even move me."

Archie slid off his shoes and nudged them over to the hall closet. "You're not a horse, Cook. You sleep lying down."

Cook gave him a goofy, if tired, smile and Archie felt himself smiling back.

"Come on," he said. He walked over to Cook, turned him around, and guided him toward the stairs, one hand on Cook's arm and the other on his hip. Cook laughed as he stumbled along.

Up the stairs they went, down the hall, past Archie's room, into Cook's. Cook twisted to look over his shoulder as Archie followed him all the way into his room, but his eyes went back to the bed as soon as Archie flipped the light on.

"Ha! It's just as cute as I remember." He beamed at the teddy bear. "What are we going to do with it now?"

Archie had gone around him and pulled the covers down on the bed. Then he came back up behind Cook, turned him around, pushed him down until he was sitting on the bed, and started unbuttoning his shirt.

"Archie? What are you--uh--" Cook's face was a perfect blank.

"I'm taking your clothes off," Archie said, somehow managing to sound perfectly reasonable--if a little scratchy--around the giant lump of fear in his throat.

"I'm not that tired."

"Good." Archie wrapped a hand in Cook's open shirt to hold him still and kissed him.

Cook kissed him back right away, not hesitating or pulling away at all, and Archie thought, please, please don't let this be force of habit after all these months. Please let him want--

"Archie?" Cook did pull back, oh God, one hand coming up to cover Archie's on his shirt. "Are you--"

"Shh," Archie said, and mashed their mouths back together. "Please." He was half-muffled, but Cook let go of his hand and grabbed the back of Archie's head.

Archie yanked on Cook's shirt until he finally tugged it off. He kept his mouth on Cook's as he ran careful, tentative hands up his back, and around to his chest. Cook's lips got softer and his kiss got messier; he made a sound into Archie's mouth that made his stomach flip and scrabbled his hands up under Archie's shirt. Archie broke away just long enough to pull it off and toss it somewhere behind him. Then he pushed Cook farther back on the bed and climbed up on top of him. He lay flat against him, weight on his arms and chest pressed flat against Cook's, and kissed him some more, letting Cook run his hands up and down Archie's back.

"Ar-Archie," Cook said against his mouth. Archie pushed up and leaned down to put his mouth on Cook's collarbone. "Oh, God," Cook said thickly.

Archie spread his hands flat across Cook's chest and kissed his way down between them, drawing a line to and from each of his tattoos. He had a flash of Cook doing this to him, hot tub bubbling and the two of them half-laughing. Cook's hands were on his shoulders, now, flexing harder as Archie paused with his lips just above the waistband of Cook's jeans.

He applied all his concentration to undoing Cook's fly, easing him gently out of his jeans and briefs, sliding them down his legs and off. They fell to the floor at the foot of the bed.

Cook propped himself up on his elbow, looking down the length of the bed at Archie like, like he was going to start asking him--Archie lurched forward and kissed Cook again, making him slip back down.

And then Cook had a hand on his back and was rolling with him. Archie felt the teddy bear brush against his shoulder as the ceiling spun into view.

"If we're doing this--" Cook said, and Archie put a hand on his mouth again. Cook shook him off so they could kiss again. And then Archie's jeans and boxers were crumpled up somewhere by his head, and his hand was tangling with Cook's between them, and it was just like before and nothing like before, all at the same time. Archie choked off a gasp that wanted to be a sob as sparks broke out behind his eyelids.

"Holy shit," Cook said, collapsing on top of him.

Archie finished cleaning them up as best he could--he'd never really liked those boxers anyway--and hooked his fingers in the sheet to pull it up over them. It dislodged the teddy bear, which rolled even farther into the corner where the bed met the wall.

Cook arranged himself so he was flat on his stomach next to Archie, wedged between him and the bear, and rested his head and shoulders on Archie's chest.

"How can that possibly be comfortable?" Archie asked. He rubbed his hand across the back of Cook's shoulder.

Cook rumbled with contentment. "'M sleeping."

"Sorry."

"Now we have to talk tomorrow," Cook said into Archie's skin.

"Shh," Archie said again, hiding his face under his free hand. "Shh." Tears slipped out from under his fingers.

He waited until Cook was boneless and snuffling into his chest, and then edged his way out from under him. Cook rolled over and propped his head on the bear instead, and Archie tried to smile as he turned off the bedroom light and closed the door behind him.

He didn't come back.

***

In some small part of his brain, Archie was actually proud of the email he sent around to his family and anybody work-related he thought of. It was very casual, all, hey guys, just wanted to let you know I'll be out of touch for a couple of days, don't worry about me. He kind of hoped they all thought he was holing up with Cook. Of course, that would make things harder to explain later, but--

The email to Cook was a lot harder. It took him an hour and a half to get from his first draft, which sounded like a horrible emo song, and not in the good way, to his last one:

Hi Cook,

I'm really sorry about last night. I knew you wanted to talk, and I shouldn't have been pushy. It's been a long week, not that that's an excuse.

Although really, I don't want to talk about it if we don't have to. It's kind of embarrassing, you know? I think we should just get on with it. I'm going to go back to Utah for a couple of weeks, and I'll have my lawyer call yours about getting stuff filed. And then we'll just let the reporters be crazy until they realize we're actually kind of boring and go follow someone else.

I hope we can still be friends. You're really important to me.

I won't be available for a couple of days, but I'll call you when I'm back at my mom and dad's.

Archie

By the time he got all the emails sent, there was a little bit of light coming in through the curtains of his hotel room. A flash of memory came back to him, and he smiled grimly as he went around the room closing all the blinds and curtains on every single window. This was a boring old Travelodge by the airport, and nobody'd looked like they recognized him when he checked in, but still.

He turned off his phone and his computer, crawled into bed fully dressed, and fell asleep with his arms wrapped around a pillow.

***

"Archie!"

Archie stirred, looked around in confusion, then groaned and pulled the covers the rest of the way over his head.

"Archie!" He picked his head up again. Someone was banging on something. He turned his head--the door, okay, but who was--

The door actually shook with the force behind whatever was hitting it. "David Archuleta, I know you're in there! Open the goddamn door!"

"Cook?" Archie flailed about trying to untangle himself from the covers. "What are you doing here?"

"Posing for the paparazzi, what do you think I'm doing here? Open the door!"

Archie stumbled the rest of the way to the door. The early-afternoon sunlight hit him full in the face as he opened it, and he threw a hand up. Cook was just a giant dark blur. He pushed his way in past Archie and slammed the door shut, but Archie could see a bunch of vans down in the parking lot.

"Oh, this is just going to make it all worse," he said miserably. "How did you know I was here?"

"It wasn't legal, and I don't want to talk about it," Cook said flatly. Archie fully focused on him--he was wearing the same clothes he'd come home in last night, and his hair was one giant tangle. His eyes were bloodshot, and he had lines along his forehead Archie had never seen before, probably because he'd never looked as mad as he did right now.

"Why didn't you just email me back? I emailed you last n--when I got here."

"Yes, I saw that email," Cook said, his words clipped and tight. "But since you didn't answer any of the sixteen times I emailed you back, or when I texted you, or when I called you, I think that's kind of beside the point, don't you?"

"I was asleep," Archie said.

"You were asleep." Cook stalked to the far wall of the room, spun on his heel, and came back about halfway; Archie shifted his weight to his back foot. "You turn everything around on its head, twice in a matter of hours, and then you sleep the sleep of the just and righteous? Nice."

Archie caught himself inching back again and stopped. "I--should have stayed--"

"Damn straight."

He fixed his gaze on the edge of Cook's beard. "I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry--" He had to adjust his gaze when Cook took another step forward. "I messed up last night. You were tired and upset, and I shouldn't have made you, um--"

"Wait. Are you apologizing for, for what, for fucking taking advantage of me?"

Archie stared down at the floor.

"David. Hey, look at me." When Archie looked up, Cook didn't have the hard lines across his forehead anymore. He just looked confused. "I don't think we're talking about the same things here. I'm upset because you took off and left me a weird Dear John of an email that doesn't even make sense."

"I just don't see why we have to sit around and talk about it," Archie said, rubbing at his chest. "If we're going to get divorced, we should just go, and do it, and be done."

Cook's face went hard again. "Okay."

"Everyone already knows, well, sort of. And it doesn't make any sense to keep ly--lying about it. And you know it, and I know it, and I just didn't want you to have to say it, so--and I don't really want to talk about it now...either..."

He trailed off, because Cook was moving towards him again, a strangely determined look on his face. Archie took a step back--and came up flat against the door he'd forgotten was there.

"Cook?" he asked. "Um--you're kind of--"

And then Cook was pressing him back into the door with his whole body, and kissing him breathless, and Archie pushed back and kissed back and held on.

"Oh," he said, on a long gasp, when Cook pulled his head back.

"Now he gets it," Cook said, dropping his head to kiss the corner of Archie's mouth, and his cheek, and the edge of his jaw.

He took a deep breath, diaphragm to lungs, and waited for Cook to look back at him.

"I love you," he said in a rush.

Cook squeezed his eyes shut, and Archie put a hand up to brush away the tear there. "I love you too," Cook said, and kissed him again, harder. "I swear to God, I love you."

His hands were shaking as he pulled Archie to the bed.

***

This time, when Cook curled up on him, Archie just looped one arm around his shoulders and ran his other hand along the edge of Cook's beard. Cook made an agreeable rumbly noise and burrowed further into Archie's chest.

"So when did you know?" he asked. "You know. That you weren't lying?"

Archie tipped his head back so Cook couldn't see him blushing. "Um. Do you remember the first time we went out in public, in LA? The concert at the Roxy?"

"Yeah, Raine let me come up and sing with them."

"You sort of bounced offstage--" Cook had danced around in a little circle when he thought no one was watching. "And then you grabbed me and hugged me and ran back to keep watching them. Wow, I feel like an idiot."

"Stop it," Cook said, and worked a hand free to tug at Archie's ear. "I'm taking you to every concert I go to from now on. Want to come on tour with me?"

Archie blushed harder. "When did you figure it out?"

Cook leaned his chin on his wrist and looked up at Archie.

"Well, there's two answers to that question," he said. "When did I stop thinking about you as this awesome friend who I, you know, sometimes wanted to see naked--I knew you were blushing," he said, and Archie pushed at his shoulder. "Sorry, sorry."

"Anyway."

"Right. Anyway, I knew it was more than that when--when they dragged me off that fucking excuse for a journalist. I was so beyond pissed off that he was saying we were lying. And then I guess I knew why."

"You didn't say anything," Archie said, trying to sound casual and not accusing.

"I couldn't take the chance you'd leave."

Archie tightened his arms around Cook.

"And then I woke up this morning," Cook said, moving himself forward and up until he was directly above Archie, "and I knew it was love, with a capital L, like we write songs about, and you were gone."

"I'm sorry," Archie said, his voice barely a whisper.

"Don't be sorry. Just come home."

Archie sank both hands into Cook's tangled hair. "Of course I will," he said, still hushed, and pulled Cook down so he could kiss him.

"I'm sort of afraid of how happy I am," he said a long time later, making Cook laugh where he was using his teeth at the base of Archie's throat. "Do you think it's always going to be like this?"

Cook picked his head up. "I guess we'll get used to it."

Archie remembered a kitchen table, and a slice of pizza, and couldn't help the smile. "Absolutely."

***

"Trivial Pursuit is weighted in favor of the Americans," Johns argued, handing a box over to Cook.

"Oh, please," Cook said. "If you don't know more about American pop culture than Archie, I'll eat one of the pie pieces. At least anything that happened before like 1999," he added as Archie elbowed him.

"Don't you guys have a Scrabble game?" Brooke asked. She was re-assembling Michael and Stacey's Outburst game, which she'd taken apart so she could read the instructions.

"It's in the bedroom," Archie said absently. He looked up to find everyone staring at him.

"Oh, really?" Carly asked. Her husband snickered.

Archie looked over at Cook, who was grinning stupidly at him. He grinned back. "We have photographic proof."

"Oh, yeah, when's that drop, next week?" Johns asked.

Both Archie and Cook nodded. Archie said, "They did a second interview a few days ago. In case, you know, 'recent developments' had changed anything."

"So stupid," Brooke said. "Like anyone could look at the two of you and not think, screamingly in love!"

"It's their job, I guess," Archie said.

"Isn't that right, Cook?" Johns asked. Cook looked sort of sheepish; Archie laughed and leaned his head on Cook's shoulder for a moment.

"Jeez, you try to kill one photographer, and you never live it down," Cook muttered.

"Nope," Johns said cheerfully. "So, did you have to pass a lie detector test for the second interview, or what?"

Archie rolled his eyes. "No, they just made me get all romantic and stuff about it."

"Made you, ha," Cook said.

"Oh, what'd you tell them?" Brooke asked.

Archie leaned back against Cook. "The truth. That I didn't figure out I was in love with Cook for forever, but once I did, I, um--" He was probably blushing like crazy. "I knew I wasn't ever going to leave him. And isn't that what marriage is supposed to be?"

Johns opened his mouth, a wicked glint in his eye, but Stacey put a hand over his face. "I think that's lovely, Archie," she said firmly. Everyone else chimed in, even the husbands--except Johns.

"All right, all right," he said, after both Stacey and Carly pinched him. "Love, bliss, all that. Enough of this chick flick business, and enough of these board games, too! Are we rock stars or what, ladies and gentlemen? Cook, get your guitar--I want to hear some music. Cook? Oh, for the love of God, will someone pry those two apart?"

--the end--