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by astolat

So there was this clause in the contracts, where as long as he was single, he had to go out with another 19E client for at least four weeks at their request. "It doesn't mean you have to, um, kiss them and stuff, right?" David had asked nervously, in the contract negotiations.

"No, no," the lawyers assured him. "Just be seen publicly together, photographed, say nice things, that's all."

That seemed okay. So David signed, and then didn't think about it again for three years, until his second album was almost done and his publicist Angie said, "So, listen, you know the big trendy thing right now is bi dating, and we were thinking—"

"What?" David said, and "Um," and "I don't think—" and finally, with a desperate burst of courage, flatly, "No."

It didn't slow Angie down for even a second. She just patted him on the arm and said lovingly, "I know you'd never violate the terms of your contract."

David called his lawyers. Apparently, if he did violate the terms of his contract, they could sue him and he would have to pay back the five million dollar advance, even though it had gone straight into the trust he couldn't touch until he was twenty-five.

He tried throwing himself on her mercy. "I, um, I just—I'm going to look really stupid," he said. "I get all, you know, shy, with someone I don't know, and—"

"Oh, that's all right," she said. "You know him, it's Cook. His people think it's going to be a hit with his core demos before he goes out on tour again."

"Oh," David said.

To ease into it, they met for dinner at Wolfgang Puck's newest restaurant and sat in one of the half-moon booths with candlelight. Cook looked out at the restaurant crowd and then looked at him, and David stared back helplessly, and then Cook said, "Have you heard the one about the penguins?"

"Oh my gosh, you are not telling me bad jokes all night!" David said, except Cook totally did, and after the first five David couldn't eat anything anymore because he was laughing so much, even though they were so totally lame.

"No, really, please stop," he panted out, finally. "Gosh, I can't breathe."

Cook was cracking up, too. "I can't believe you laughed at the pineapple one."

"It's, when you do ten of them, it's like they stop being bad and turn awesome," David said.

"Hang on, I can get more, there's this website," Cook said, taking out his iphone, and David yelped and wrestled him for it in self-defense, until they agreed on a temporary truce when their dinner showed up.

"So what the hell have you been doing lately, anyway?" Cook said. "Aside from growing." He poked David's shoulder. "Jesus, you put on half a foot."

"Oh, no, it's only like, four inches," David said, and sighed. "I kind of wanted to make six feet, but, um, I guess it wasn't in the genes."

"Aww," Cook said, kind of smugly.

David poked him back. "At least my little brother isn't taller than me!"

They hadn't really seen each other a lot in the last couple of years, so catching up would've been enough material for the night, but they didn't even need it—instead they kept getting sidetracked into one silly conversation after another, and they both totally forgot that they were supposed to go on to Vendome for drinks after and to get photographed. Instead they ended up just talking until it was ten, and then the publicist called and yelled at them, because the paparazzi had been waiting and waiting.

"Okay, fine, we'll do a kiss to make up for it," Cook said, rolling his eyes a little, and David didn't quite know how to say, um, actually—and so when they got to David's place, with the three tinted-window SUVs parked across the street, Cook put his hand behind David's head and tipped him back and kissed him. And, um. Cook was a really good kisser. His mouth was so soft, and he licked and nibbled and tugged and, and David was sort of clinging on to his neck, and then he reached back and blindly opened his front door, and Cook came in with him, and David lost his virginity on the couch in his living room.

Well, okay, David told himself the next morning, in the cold light of day. He was lying on his back staring up at the ceiling. He could hear Cook puttering in the kitchen. So, he'd, um, had sex. With a guy. With David Cook. It was okay. It was just one time. Everybody did stupid things and made mistakes, and he just—the thing was, he still hadn't ever really dated anyone. There hadn't been a lot of free time the last few years, what with finishing high school and doing college courses on the side while he toured and worked on the albums. He'd sort of gone out with a few girls from church a handful of times and he'd kissed a couple of them, but, um. It hadn't really done anything for him.

So he hadn't been prepared, and then there was Cook kissing him and being all whatever. David still wasn't sure how they'd ended up, well, going all the way. He'd mostly opened the door because, well, a kiss was one thing, but he didn't really want to be photographed kissing and kissing and kissing. And then once they'd been inside, he vaguely remembered stumbling backwards into the living room and Cook had been kind of laughing against his mouth, and then the couch had been right there. It'd just made sense to sit down, and Cook had sat down with him, and then—maybe he'd put his hand under Cook's shirt, and they'd sort of half laid back against the cushions to get comfortable, and then Cook's belt buckle had been poking him, and his belt buckle had been poking Cook, so they'd taken those off, and then Cook's hand had been right there, and, well.

They'd gotten carried away, that was all. In a second he would get up and go to the kitchen, and they'd—well, it would be a little weird, probably, and then they'd maybe laugh it off, and then Cook would leave and they would go back to, um, only pretending to be together, and—David sat up abruptly and sniffed at the air. Was that bacon?

Cook shouldered open the bedroom door. He was holding a tray. There was a plate with a big pile of bacon, and another one with pancakes, and a jug of syrup, and a big glass of orange juice. David stared at him. "Okay, so first thing, I'm buying you a coffeemaker," Cook said, and he put the tray down on the bed and he leaned down and kissed David again.

"Oh, um," David said feebly.

"Tell me it's not against your religion to have one in the house," Cook said. "Because otherwise, we're doing this at my place next time."

"No, uh, what?" David said, because it wasn't the coffeemaker that was the problem, except he didn't know what to say. Instead he ate some bacon dipped in syrup, and some got on his fingers, and then Cook caught him by the wrist and licked it off him.

Carly laughed at him for about ten minutes straight when he called her. "Oh my gosh, this is not funny," David said.

Apparently Cook didn't do one-night stands.

"I can't believe you didn't know," Carly said. "Also, by the way, he doesn't break up with people. He has to be dumped."

"I don't break up with people, either!" David said desperately. "I've never even gotten past first base before."

"Then I expect to be in the wedding party," Carly said, which was so unhelpful.

David decided he was going to have to talk to Cook honestly about the whole thing, except when he called, Cook said, "Hey, man, I was just about to call you. John Mayer's doing an acoustic set at Salvo tonight, under the radar. Want to go?"

"Oh, wow, yes," David said, distracted, and Cook said, "I'll pick you up at eight," and he got them a booth in back and kept his arm around David's shoulders. They ended up necking a bunch in the dark, and David was totally not equipped to deal with this, especially after, when they got back in Cook's SUV and Cook drove them up to one of the scenic overlooks on Mulholland and started kissing David again.

Then Cook said, "Hey, here," and stopped, and got out of the car. Confused and kind of disappointed, David followed him around to the back, and Cook opened it and they climbed in, and David still didn't get why, and then Cook folded down the back seat, and, um, well, they kind of had sex again.

"Do you have to be anywhere early?" Cook said afterwards, yawning.

"No?" David said vaguely, so Cook drove them back to his place and took David upstairs to his bedroom and in the morning they had sex before breakfast, and, um, also after breakfast. They both had to go hit the studio that afternoon, but Cook said, "Want to go bowling tonight?" and David hadn't been bowling in years, and, well.

So that was how he ended up dating David Cook.

After flailing in confusion for a couple of weeks, David decided a little nervously that he was going to stop trying to get out of it. Sex was pretty amazing, even if it made him feel guilty if he thought about it too much, and they went out doing really fun things a lot, but none of that was what really mattered. What sold David on it was this thing where he came home at night and Cook was there.

Well, not literally, but even if Cook wasn't there there, he would come over a little while after, or he invited David over instead, or he at least called to say good night. They never seemed to run out of stuff to talk about—work, songwriting, lyrics, the crazy publicists—and sometimes they'd noodle on music together. And either Cook brought takeout, or David picked up enough for two, or they ordered out together or made Kraft Mac & Cheese or scrambled eggs, and even if it was late and they were both wiped out, they'd watch some TV together, or sometimes play some video games, or just lie in bed and read. David had just—he'd been so busy he hadn't realized how lonely he was, coming back alone to his dark apartment every night, and maybe a phone message from his parents on the machine.

Um, and, yeah, that was kind of the one big problem. He'd explained the whole dating thing to his parents beforehand, so they would know it was all fake, and now they were all just, well, indignant about all this stuff the paparazzi were making up, and, um, how they were doctoring photos of him and Cook to make it look like they were making out in public and stuff, and David really didn't know how to explain that actually, the photos weren't so much doctored, and he was sort of maybe really actually—

What made it worse was Cook had totally told his family, and they were all being really nice to David. Cook's mom had visited last weekend, and they'd all gone out to dinner together and she'd smiled and hugged him, and when Cook had gone to the bathroom, she'd told him Cook was really happy, in kind of this—anxious way? and she'd added, "It's probably been hard for you, too—there are just so many people here who aren't real."

He put off worrying about it, though. He was working really hard on the album, and Cook was about to leave on his tour—he was opening for the Foo Fighters, and he was really nervous about it. "I'll call it a win if they don't boo so loud I can hear it over the in-ears," he said, joking, except he kind of meant it.

"Oh my gosh, I don't know why you don't just do a solo tour," David said. "They told you they could sell out—"

"Dude, I'm opening for Grohl," Cook said. Whatever, David totally didn't think it was worth being hissed at by some dumb rock snobs.

"So, yeah," Cook said into the mike, when he came out on stage for the first show—David had flown out to Austin for it, and um, maybe he was sort of getting it now, because the place was—it was scary. The arena was huge, and the floor was totally packed, that was the first thing, but it was more just—it was a really intense crowd. Most of them were already standing, even the ones filing into the nosebleed seats, and a lot of them were screaming, "Foos! Foos! Foos!" and some of them really were booing, which was so rude.

"So," Cook said, "I was on this little karaoke show a while back—"

"So what the fuck are you doing here!" some guy in the front row yelled.

Cook laughed and then he repeated it to everyone, and then he said, "That's two of us who want to know, man, because this is seriously fucking ridiculous. Well, except I do know, I'm here because I'm not a fucking moron, and when they say hey, you want to open for the Foos, you say yes, and you say thank you, and then you go and hide under the bed for a week—" and people were laughing, and he added, "Seriously, I got to be at their dress rehearsals this last week. You tell me you wouldn't do that for money."

He strummed a couple of chords, looking over his shoulder at the band setting up, and then he added, "So I can tell you guys, this show is going to be fucking amazing, and we're going to do a few songs for you guys until they're ready to come on—" and Neal hit this crazy run on guitar and they were playing Long Way To Summer, and people were clapping and dancing.

Cook played for an hour, and by the end of it the whole place was packed and cheering, and after he'd left the stage and the Foos had come on, at their first break Dave Grohl said, "Fuck, can that guy opening for us blow, or what? Dave Cook, people, give it up," and there was whistling and applause and it wasn't just polite clapping. A little while after that, David managed to struggle out of the jumping crowd and get backstage. Cook was so happy he was practically glowing, and he grabbed David and kissed him, and then they had to go find an empty dressing room.

David had to go back to L.A. after the first show, and he was too swamped to get out to a lot of them, but Cook would send silly photos in email and sometimes send back a present—he liked to buy really weird stuffed animals—and he called every night after the show and David would lie in bed talking to him for an hour sometimes. It wasn't as good as having him around, though, and David felt kind of down sometimes after hanging up, even though he was so busy he practically didn't have time to think.

Anyway, a few weeks later, they were getting ready to release the first single off his new album, and Angie came by and said, "So, David, listen, we're going to have a little single-release party, get a few people to come—"

"Okay," David said.

"—and I'd like to set you up with Myrna Westing," she finished.

"Um," David said. He had a long argument with her about what single meant in the contract, exactly, and finally she got him to agree to just having Myrna come to the party, and that he would do a photo or two with her, and that would be it, Angie swore.

He was a little bit nervous about the release, but it wasn't as bad as with the first album. He was pretty happy with the single, and the album was going really well, so he could kind of enjoy it more this time. Everyone seemed to be having fun at the party. Myrna was nice, too, he guessed, even if Angie kept bringing her over and making them pose for another photographer.

His parents had flown in for the party, which was the best part; David hadn't seen them in what felt like forever, and he spent as much time as Angie would let him just talking to them. "Davey, isn't that over with, yet?" his mom asked quietly.

"Huh?" David said, and looked around as the noise level went up, and he stared, because Cook had just come into the room. He'd had a show in Montreal yesterday and another one tomorrow, eight hours' flight away, he'd apologized he couldn't make it, and—"Oh, um," David said, helplessly.

Cook came over, grinning, and David realized with a sinking feeling that he was about to get kissed in front of his mom and dad, and then Angie sort of darted in between them. "David Cook!" she said. "It's great to see you, we weren't expecting you."

Cook paused and then shrugged a little and said, "I had a couple hours free," with a side smile at David, and then he held out a hand. "Hey, Jeff, it's great to see you again," and then he shook David's mom's hand, too, although she hesitated taking his, and he looked a little confused.

Angie tugged David away, saying, "David, I'm really sorry to interrupt, but I need to circulate you a little more, okay? I'm sure your family and—friends will understand—" and David was grateful at first, because it felt like an out, but when he glanced back, his mom and dad had sort of turned partly away from Cook, so it was like he was standing there alone, and he had a strange look on his face.

Angie kept David moving for another hour, and when he finally escaped, he didn't see Cook anywhere. Then he caught sight of a couple of girls coming in out from a balcony, giggling, and he went out—Cook was there with a beer, leaning against the balcony, looking out at the city lights.

"Um, hey," David said. "Thanks—thanks so much for coming."

Cook didn't say anything for a second, and then he straightened up and smiled, but it—it was all wrong, it wasn't a real smile. "I should've checked before crashing," he said.

"What?" David said. "Oh—no, um. I mean—no, I—"

"I didn't, uh," Cook said, and then he stopped and said, "I just didn't know I was the dirty little secret." He was still smiling.

David just opened his mouth and shut it again, because nothing was coming at all, and he was starting to feel really weird, sort of queasy and—and sweaty, and—

Cook nodded once and said quietly, "Good luck with the album, man, all the best," and he put his beer down on the ledge and walked past, and David turned sort of jerkily and watched while Cook walked straight through the party and to the door and left.

"Wow, okay, that could have been a disaster," Angie said, poking her head in. "Huge messy breakup stories are not what we want. Listen, I've got the photographer from People here—"

"Oh my God, shut up," David said, and he put his hands over his face and he was crying.

He freaked out his mom and dad, and Angie too—he totally didn't care about Angie, though—because after they got him out of the party through the back way, he still couldn't stop crying. He threw up in the back seat of the limo when it drew up outside his place, and he looked out and saw the dark windows and suddenly realized Cook was never going to be there, ever again—he was never going to call, or—and David couldn't help it, he just put his head down and heaved, helplessly.

They got him inside, and his mom turned on the light, and all the stupid weird stuffed animals were sitting on his couch, the platypus, and the Santa Claus wearing the Hawaiian shirt, and the green squid-monster thing with the wings, and the only reason David didn't throw up again was he didn't have anything left in his stomach. "Don't," he said, when his mom tried to rub his back. "Don't," because he didn't want—it was his fault, he'd—and Cook's face—

They made him go upstairs to bed, but he didn't sleep at all that night, just lay shivering under a lot of blankets, and in the morning a pile of clippings arrived full of photos of him and Myrna everywhere, captions like Archie's New Flame? and one paired with a shot of Cook leaving the party, stone-faced, which was labeled Idol Match Breaks Up?

"Davey," his dad said, sounding kind of shocked. The clipping was shaking—oh, it was his hands. His mom made him sit down, and David felt weirdly numb and cottony.

"Was—was it—serious?" his mom said, finally.

"It was everything," David said, and he started laughing, because he'd been so—he'd made fun of his friends, when they were all moaning about breakups, and now—and his mom was hugging him and he sobbed into her shoulder.

Angie showed up at noon with this determined bright smile on her face. His dad let her in, and she came into the living room. "David, we have—" She broke off for a moment when she saw his face, but she rallied and went on, "I—I know you're still tired from yesterday, but, we have some radio, and," she hesitated, but then she said, "and I'd like to have you at lunch with Myrna—"

He stood up, shaking off his mom's hand, and Angie added in kind of a slightly high voice, "The contract—" and then stopped talking.

"I don't care," he said. "You can throw out the album and sue me, I don't care. I quit," and he got his wallet out of the front table and walked out.

It took him ten hours to get to Montreal, on the first flight he could get from LAX, and people kept staring at him and asking him for autographs. He signed on autopilot and blinked away the flashbulbs from cameras, and when he finally got to the stadium, the tour buses had already left for the next stop: Buffalo, seven hours away.

He went back to his rental car and got on the road. He went as fast as he could, and he didn't stop to eat anything, except he had to get gas partway so he got a Sprite and a candy bar. But when he hit Buffalo, he got lost and took an extra hour to get to the arena, and by the time he pulled up, the buses were already there. There was a huge crowd of fans gathered around them, and fences and everything between them and the backstage.

David stared at it from his front seat, clutching the steering wheel, and gulped. He didn't know what to do. This was the kind of thing where he would call his manager and they would talk to somebody and then someone would magically show up and take him inside, except he guessed he didn't have a manager anymore, since he'd quit, and he didn't know anyone here. He'd even left his cellphone at home.

He found a pay phone at the side of the parking lot and called Carly with his credit card. "Hey," she said, a little flatly.

"Oh," David said. "I—I'm sorry, I don't—if you don't want to talk to me—except, please, I don't—please be mad at me later, I don't know how to get in, and—"

"Get in where?" she said.

"The stadium, in Buffalo," he said. "There are all these fans outside, and, I don't know the security people, and—"

"Wait," she said, "you're in Buffalo? How did you—"

"Oh my gosh, what difference does it make—I flew, and then I drove," he said. "But I can't just walk through them, and—"

"Aren't you supposed to be in L.A. doing press?" So he had to explain the whole quitting thing, and why he couldn't call his manager, and he was so tired he wanted to cry, even if he hadn't already wanted to cry anyway, and finally Carly said, sort of warily, "All right, where are you?" and he told her where he was parked, and she said, "Just sit tight."

She hung up and he went back to the car. After a bit, he folded his arms against the steering wheel and rested his head on them. It was pretty cold, but he didn't want to sit there idling the engine, it was bad for the environment. He wondered a little dully what he would do if no one came, or—or if Cook wouldn't talk to him. He sort of dozed off, and then someone was tapping on the passenger window, and he jerked up and looked, and Cook was standing there outside the car, in sunglasses and a hat.

The fans were all still standing around the buses with their signs, but their backs were to the car. David stared at him, and then he realized the doors were locked, so he fumbled with the door locks—oh gosh, he hated Fords so much—for like five minutes until he got them open, and Cook slid inside.

David hadn't actually figured out what he was going to say, so he just sat there dumbly. Cook wasn't looking at him, he was staring straight ahead out the windshield. "Carly called me," Cook said finally.

"Oh," David said, and didn't say anything else. Then he thought, maybe Cook would leave, so he blurted, "Please don't go."

Cook's eyebrow went up in that huh? kind of way, and he turned and said, "Uh, I just got here," and then he broke off as he looked at David. "Are you okay?"

"No," David said, duh, and then he said, "Oh, I have to throw up again," and he managed to open the door and be sick outside instead of in the car, which was the only way this could have gotten worse. Cook muttered, "Jesus," and put his hands on David's shoulders and tugged him back in and grabbed some of the napkins from the gas station for him.

"Please," David said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I didn't tell them, I just—I didn't know I was in love with you, like, forever love, I thought it was just dating, and it was going to stop someday, and please don't dump me."

Cook was holding on to him, and he sort of laughed, and then he stroked his thumbs over David's face. "Dude, you dumped me," he said, but he didn't sound all that mad anymore.

"I didn't, I what?" David said, leaning into the touch.

"You know, with the dating someone else thing," Cook said. "It's kind of a passive-aggressive dumping method, but I've run into it before, so—"

"I'm not, oh my gosh, Angie was dating Myrna more than I was," David said. "I didn't kiss her, I don't want to kiss her. I want to kiss you."

"Well, okay," Cook said, "under normal circumstances that would be my cue, but you just threw up all over a parking lot, so why don't we get you a hotel and a toothbrush, first."

David took a little while to work through that, and then he said, "Wait, does that mean you're not breaking up with me? Oh, oh my gosh, it does," and he grabbed Cook by the shoulders and kissed him, and then he said, "Oh, sorry," and looked to see if he had any Sprite left to rinse his mouth out.

Cook laughed, even though he was kind of wiping his mouth and wincing. "Okay, you're practically delirious. Did you tell Carly something about, uh, firing 19E?"

"I quit," David said. "Angie wanted me to go on another date with Myrna, and I said no, so— Oh, um. They're probably going to sue me, and I don't have any money—I mean, I have it, but it's all in the trust, so, um, I'm probably going to have to move home for a while—will you come see me in Utah? I mean—um, why is that funny?"

"Dave," Cook said, "I guarantee you right now 19E is having senior management meetings freaking out about how they're going to change your mind. Your single's already at number one on the downloads chart."

"It is?" David said. "Oh. That's pretty cool."

Cook made him change seats with him after that, and drove him to the hotel they were going to be staying at after the show, and pretty much put him to bed. David curled up already fading even before Cook got his sneakers off, and sort of vaguely heard Cook talking on the phone. "Jeff? Hey, it's Dave Cook—" and then he was gone.


Carly did get to be the matron of honor.


= End =

With many thanks to svmadelyn for the prompt & to her and Terri and giddy for the beta! <3

All feedback much appreciated!
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