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by astolat

Cook liked touching people. Really liked it. He would hug any fan who asked, and kiss them on the cheek, and let them cry on him. He'd hug reporters, too, and he'd pick up small children, like he wasn't scared he was going to drop them, and he'd get into contortions to hug people in wheelchairs. He'd press himself up against fences and let people touch his beard and once Archie saw him letting this girl nuzzle his cheek, and okay, so she was a pretty cute girl, but she was a total stranger!

And sometimes people put their hands on his ass, and it was so not an accident, even if some of them pretended it was, like, oh, wow! I didn't realize I had my hand on your butt. When it happened to him, Archie always wanted to jump a foot away and also be like, hello, what did you think it was! But Cook just grinned and didn't say a thing, and when they had walked away from the fans and were inside the stadium or whatever, he would still be grinning, and sometimes he would actually sort of jump up and down in the hallway and yell, "Whoo!" and say, totally serious, "This is amazing." And if people had been really grabby, he'd just roll his head back and forth and grin at Archie and grip him by the shoulder and shake him a little and say, "Man, is this ridiculous or what?"

What, totally what, Archie always wanted to say. He liked the bodyguards, because they pushed people away before they could do that kind of stuff to him, as much. Cook usually made his bodyguards stay back—probably, Archie thought a little meanly, because they cramped his style of letting everyone grope him.

And if you were around him enough, like, for instance, if you were his co-star, and you did a whole bunch of press with him, then he would get really used to you and this kind of switch would flip where you weren't so much allowed in his personal space—anyone and everyone was allowed in his personal space—as you became part of his personal space. After that, as soon as you got in range, he'd sling his arm around you, or sometimes he would pick you up, or sometimes he'd hug you, or ruffle your hair, or even kiss you, like, on the top of your head, and if he was touching you and you were ticklish and maybe made a noise—not a squeak—he would just tickle you some more on purpose until you were gasping so hard you couldn't even talk.

Archie had no idea how to get Cook to stop. He had thought, when Cook started it around the end of the season, that it was just something he did because of the whole, big-brother thing, for the cameras. And people really loved it, everyone went all "awww" and stuff, and Archie was even partly almost grateful, because he always felt sort of stiff and awkward on stage, and when Cook glommed onto him, it was like Archie got a bit of his energy, and he could sometimes watch those bits on television after, even though usually it just made him cringe to see himself.

So anyway, he hadn't said anything, and he hadn't said anything while Cook was doing it during the press circuit, either, because it was somehow totally new and scary to be on all these TV shows, even though more people watched Idol than any of them. Mostly because Archie didn't know how to do what they wanted from him. He could sing, that was what he wanted to do, not give weird interviews that were the same ten questions over and over, especially when three of the ten were creepy questions about his dad, which, Archie really just wanted to punch whoever was asking. So even though it made him feel squirmy, he was comforted a little bit, too, when Cook put an arm around his shoulders, or whatever.

He'd expected it to stop once they were off-camera and done with all that. But it totally hadn't. On the buses, Cook would sit down next to him in the seats to watch the countryside go by, if it was a cool place, like when they were going through the mountains, and sling an arm around him again. Archie slept on the top bunk over his, and sometimes Cook would stand up and lean on Archie's bunk and read stuff to him or tell him a joke, and he'd reach in and poke Archie in the belly if Archie wasn't paying enough attention, or even just for the heck of it. In restaurants, when they did booths, Cook would usually be next to him, because Archie was kind of small and Cook was kind of big, and they fit in one side pretty well, and there would be plenty of room, but somehow they would still wind up pressed up against each other, and Cook would nudge Archie the whole meal being all, eat your vegetables, or haha, look what Johns just did, or, whatever.

The thing was, Archie hated being touched. Not just the scary people who grabbed onto you and wouldn't let go, but like, he didn't even really like his mom or his friends touching him. Not in a weird way, it wasn't like he'd get freaked out or something, he just didn't like it all that much. He'd always had to remind himself on stage not to flinch when Ryan Seacrest patted him on the back or gripped him by the shoulder. He still kind of had, a few times, and it made him look really stupid on screen when he saw it back. He'd managed not to do that with Cook, somehow, despite the ticklish feeling he got every time, but okay, so now that part was all over, and Cook wasn't stopping, and how was Archie supposed to get him to?

He thought about saying something, but he couldn't see how, without it coming out weird and maybe even mean. Cook had been really nice, and he was always trying to, like, make everything fun, even when stuff was crazy and they were all tired. When Archie thought about saying to him even just I don't really like to be touched, or something like that, he got this uncomfortable feeling in his stomach that was even worse than the shivery whatever when Cook touched him. Cook would be all—well, first he'd be all, oh, okay, no problem, but, it would totally be embarrassing, and he'd probably feel bad, and he'd probably avoid Archie after. Archie didn't want that, he just, you know, didn't want to be getting hugged all the time like some kind of giant cuddly stuffed toy.

He finally told himself okay, he was just going to deal with it for the tour, and after that, it wasn't like he was going to be hanging out with Cook or anything. That made it easier. Archie tried to stay out of arm's reach, when he remembered to, and he just sighed privately and put up with it when Cook started pulling him in close during the final group song, and the times when Cook came up behind him and hugged him while they were signing autographs, and when Cook grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him while they were up on the Empire State Building at midnight, their day off in New York.

Finally the tour was over, and Archie slept for most of a week, and then he had to start recording for real. He was really excited to get into the studio and work on the album. Jive had sent a car for him, and he packed up a bunch of stuff he was going to leave there day to day—his new acoustic guitar, and some sheet music, and a sweater and a favorite pillow for naps—and they got him there and showed him his own private dressing room. It was tiny, but pretty cool anyway, with a twinsize daybed and a closet and even a little desk with an outlet for his laptop. He put his stuff away and grabbed his music for the first session and walked out the door and bumped straight into Cook coming out of the one across the narrow hallway.

Cook caught him, saving the pages from flying everywhere. "Hey!" Cook said, laughing. "Seriously, they've got you across the hall?"

"Um, I guess," Archie said, and Cook hooked an arm around his neck as they walked down to the recording rooms.

So, things did change after the tour. Now they were together all the time. Archie saw Cook more than he saw his family or any of his friends. Cook left his dressing room door open most of the time, because the tiny room was a little more tiny for him, and also so he could call across dumb jokes to Archie, or try out lyrics on him. Archie liked that part a lot, Cook was really good at writing lyrics, and it was cool to watch his lines go through like ten versions, one word at a time changing, and see how that changed the rhythm and feel of the song. He tried doing some of that himself, too, and Cook would suggest other words and things, and sometimes they'd play together.

Except also, sometimes Cook would show him finger positions by sitting down behind him on the daybed and just putting his hands on the guitar in the right place. Or, sometimes he'd hold a chord and have Archie work on just the strumming, or the other way around. And, okay, Archie was getting a million times better on guitar really fast, but it was kind of awkward having Cook practically wrapped around him like that, and he wondered what someone would think if they came by and saw them.

He even thought, once, what if—maybe—if Cook meant it that way. Like, if he was really, well, flirting or something. Except David saw Cook flirting, for real, and he was, um, totally not subtle about it. He would just sort of go up to a girl and talk to her for a little while, and then sometimes he would go out to lunch with her a bunch of times, or sometimes they would just, like, disappear for a while. One time Archie came back to his dressing room, and the door to Cook's room was closed. Archie had left his guitar in there from last time, so he knocked once casually and opened the door, and Cook was on his daybed with one of the sound engineers, um, in his lap, and she had her shirt off and her skirt hiked up and her hands braced on his shoulders and her head thrown back and her lip caught between her teeth, and Cook was staring up at her really intently, and they both jerked and stared at Archie, who literally fell down backwards trying to shut his eyes and close the door and get away and apologize all at the same time.

"Uh," Cook said afterwards, coming over and knocking sheepishly, with Archie's guitar in his hand.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry," Archie said, still cringing.

"No, uh, I, uh," Cook said, and then he cracked up laughing and sat down on the floor in the middle of the doorway, and Archie couldn't help laughing, too, and Cook said, "I swear I'm not a complete slut," and Archie said, "Um, you kind of are," and Cook looked at him indignantly, and then he said, "Oh, god, I kind of am," and covered his face.

So, Cook wasn't flirting with him. He was just being all touchy and happy and whatever. But, well, after that Archie just couldn't take it anymore, even though it would really suck if Cook got hurt feelings and didn't want to be friends anymore. He struggled through another week, and then Cook poked in with his guitar and said, "Hey, want to try this with me?"

He sat down behind Archie again, and put both arms around him, and Archie took a deep gulping breath and said, "Don't."

"Huh?" Cook said, absently. His hands were on Archie's wrists. "You just want to—"

"Don't," Archie said, louder, and he started trying to get it out, "I can't—I don't—it's just, I don't—I know you don't mean—I can't—when you, um, touch me—" and Cook sort of went really still behind him, his hands still on Archie's skin, and Archie stopped talking, because it was coming out all wrong, and he tried to pull his brain together and plan out the words, like lyrics.

Before he could open his mouth again, though, Cook said, quietly, "Hey, it's okay. Dave, it's okay. I'm sorry, I didn't even—I should've thought, I guess."

"No," Archie said, feeling kind of shaky and relieved, because Cook didn't sound mad. "You couldn't—I mean, how could you know, and—I don't—I'm just—weird, or, something—"

"No, you're not," Cook said. "You're amazing."

And then Cook let go and stood up, and went to the door. Archie sat up, worried, and was about to try and stop him, to say, no, please, stay, except Cook didn't leave. Cook closed the door, and then he turned around and came back to the daybed, and he got on it again and cupped Archie's head in his hand and kissed him.

Archie opened his mouth to say, um, what? But instead Cook started kissing him more, with, like, tongue. Archie didn't exactly know what was happening, but he knew this was totally not the idea.

Except Cook was lowering him gently down to the bed, and Archie didn't seem to be stopping him. He didn't stop Cook unbuttoning his pants, either. He was having trouble breathing, and he had that same awful squirmy shivery feeling again, and Cook's hands were on his skin now, all over, sliding his t-shirt up over his head. The feeling just got worse and worse, and worse, and oh, god, he never wanted it to stop.

Cook was still kissing him, but also saying softly, "Shh, I've got you," and Archie heard himself saying, "Please." So, um, apparently this was the idea, and he just hadn't realized it before.

"Here?" Cook said, right up against his ear, and Archie said, "Yes," and then Cook said, "How about here?" and Archie said "Yes, oh gosh, yes," and then Cook laughed softly and sat up and took off his shirt, and he lay back down with Archie and said, "You know, it's okay to touch me, too," and Archie said, dizzy, "Yeah, I know," and reached for him.

= End =

With many thanks to giddy and Ces for beta, yay yay! ♥

All feedback much appreciated!
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