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Fall Back | Straight Ahead

SUGAR BABY -- PG-13 (2/2)

[title] Sugar Baby (2/2)
[author] kissontheneck
[pairing] Cookleta
[beta] rajkumari905
[rating] PG-13
[word count] ~16,000
[summary] David Archuleta is a good student, maybe the best student. It’s totally fine with him when he doesn’t have anyone to partner up with for a group project in home economics; he's secretly thankful that he’ll have total control over everything. Yep, everything was going swimmingly until David Cook walked in the door.
[disclaimer] Surely, I have nothing to do with either of these fine young men, no matter how much I wish I did.
[warnings] Teenager ridiculousness, one weird POV shift, a couple intense moments
[author's notes] You all should know that rajkumari905 served as Head Cheerleader, Assistant Planner, and Editor-in-Chief on this fic, which very nearly makes her Second Author if you ask me. SHE IS THE BEST. (Also, if I recall this story started as a joke and now it’s 16,000 words. IDEK anymore.)




At exactly seven p.m., David got the car keys from his mother and headed out to the family minivan with Bocephus in tow. He’d emptied an old messenger bag to use as a baby carrier, which he hoped Mrs. Green wouldn’t object to too much. He had to place Bo down inside of it a bit, which technically could’ve been considered a suffocation risk.

The drive to Cook’s house took about ten minutes, and David couldn’t help himself from glancing over his shoulder several times at Bo in the back seat, making sure he was strapped in tightly. Finally turning onto Cook’s street, he was surprised to pull up to the Cook residence and find it fairly dark, with only a few low lights on.

David gathered up all of Bochephus’ things and walked up to the front door, being sure to knock loudly. If he’d learned anything he knew that the Cooks were always busy in other parts of the house and it wasn’t always easy to hear someone at the door. About two minutes passed in which there was no noise. David knocked again but was met with exactly the same result.

Immediately, David blamed Cook for not asking his mother if she could take Bo that night. It just seemed like exactly the kind of thing Cook would do. He knew he should’ve made Cook write that down and maybe even send him a reminder text. Dang it.

Carefully placing Bo down on the porch, David pulled out his phone and tried calling the Cook’s house number. He could hear the phone ring several times before being sent to voicemail. He didn’t leave a message because clearly no one was at home. He then tried calling Cook himself at the Lincoln House.

Cook’s phone rang forever before his voicemail picked up, and David couldn’t help but be a little bit snappy in his message.

“Hey, I’m here at your house,” he said stiffly. “No one is here. Did you forget to ask your mom if she could take Bo? This really isn’t very cool, Cook.”

After hanging up, David stood on the dark porch for several minutes, trying to figure out what he should do next. He supposed he could take Bo home and figure out how to take him to church with him. The idea just felt so embarrassing though that he wanted to think of almost anything other than that plan. He could drive around awhile and see if Mrs. Cook got home a little bit later. He could go get some ice cream or something. He could just wait there on the porch for who knows how long.

Then it occurred to him. He could go to the Lincoln House.

It wasn’t his favorite plan, but he figured it was the most efficient. There had to be a way Cook could keep Bo safe for half an hour while his band played their set. He picked up all of Bo’s stuff and headed back to the car.

David had to look up where the Lincoln House was on the minivan’s GPS system because he had no clue at all where the place was. It wasn’t like David to hang out on Saturday nights with other kids in his town who were basically practicing to hang out in bars later on in life. It turned out that it wasn’t too far from Cook’s house, so David was thankful that he wouldn’t have to drive all the way across town again.

Lincoln House turned out to be a pretty busy place, which actually made David feel more anxious than anything. Large crowds bothered him, and because he didn’t know where to start looking for Cook, he’d have to push his way past many strangers in his attempt to find him.

He’d been carefully dodging energetic teens left and right for several minutes before he realized that the band currently playing was being headed by an awfully familiar face. David stopped in his tracks, suddenly awestruck by Cook up on stage, guitar in hand and completely blending into his element.

“Hey, guys, we got one more song for you tonight before we gotta leave the stage,” Cook announced into the microphone. He was met by several boos of disapproval at the news they’d be leaving soon.

“Don’t worry, the band after us is like, the best band in town,” he assured the audience. “We’ll be hanging around here for awhile anyway, so come talk to us. And don’t forget that we’ll be here again next week, and every week, so come see us again!”

The crowd cheered and Cook’s band launched into their last song. David was kind of taken aback by it. He’d never really been into rock music, not the kind of crunchy, noisy, punk band kind anyway. But Cook’s band had a certain sound that teetered between that nonsensical racket and good, heartfelt music. David found himself enjoying it so much that even after only hearing the one song he felt extremely sad that the band would be leaving the stage.

Then, after watching Cook and his friends start to take down their set, David suddenly remembered that he had to figure out how to get to him before they left. Cook had said the band would be hanging around, but that seemed worse since they could be anywhere. Gripping the messenger bag straps tightly, David pushed his way through the crowd until he managed to get to the side of the stage that Cook kept walking back and forth with instruments in his hands.

“Cook!” David tried to shout over the chattering crowd and stock radio music that had started playing while the bands changed over. “David Cook!”

Cook looked up, surprise already overtaking his face. As soon as he saw it was David shouting at him, his eyes went wide and he grinned happily.

“Archie!” he exclaimed, jumping off the edge of the stage next to David. “You came to my show! I gotta say, I’m kind of shocked.”

A chill raced down David’s spine as he remembered what had happened the last time the two of them had been standing so closely together. He hesitated a second as he got lost in Cook’s piercing eyes before he could regain himself again.

“I didn’t come to your show,” David replied, remembering that he was supposed to be annoyed. “No one’s at your house. Did you forget to ask your mom if she could take Bo?”

Cook had a blank expression for a moment as if he didn’t know what David was even talking about.

“No, I asked her,” Cook replied slowly. “Are you sure no one’s there?”

“I knocked twice and called the house,” David answered. “I told you to write it down or you’d forget.”

“Archie,” Cook replied, eyes softening. “I did ask her, I promise. And even if I didn’t, I can’t think of a reason why she wouldn’t be at the house.”

David felt a little bit badly, but at the same time this whole thing had become such an inconvenience that he couldn’t let it go that easily.

“Well, anyway,” he said, pulling the messenger bag off his neck. “You’re done with your set so here’s Bo. I told you I can’t stay up too late.”

Suddenly, the two were interrupted by one of Cook’s band members; David was pretty sure he’d heard Cook call him Andy a few minutes before.

“Hey, sorry,” Andy apologized, bending down so he could talk to Cook from the stage. “But your mom called my phone like three times, so maybe you should check your messages, dude.”

Immediately, Cook pulled his phone out of his back pocket and it occurred to David that even with it on his person he probably hadn’t been able to hear it during the show. That at least explained why David hadn’t been able to get a hold of him either.

Cook wore a concerned look as he gazed down at his phone, the soft blue light illuminating his face in the half-dark of the club. David could see that Cook’s mom had called about a dozen times. Finally selecting one of the voice messages, Cook stood with one hand over his ear in an attempt to drown out the noise so he could hear.

About five seconds in, Cook’s jaw went slack as his face drained of color.

“I gotta go,” he said before the message had even finished. “I… sorry, I gotta go.”

David tried to ask what was wrong, but Cook had already vanished into thin air.

~*~


Sunday morning, David tried his best not to reveal too much about the worn out messenger bag he was suddenly sporting at church. No one really asked about it, thankfully, and he’d been able to prop it near his feet in the pew where he could still keep an eye on it. He definitely thanked God that day that Bocephus couldn’t actually cry or anything like that.

But David’s perspective had totally flipped anyway. Something terrible had obviously happened to the Cooks and it killed David not knowing what was going on. As soon as he got home he tried calling Cook to find out if he was okay, if something had happened to his mom or something. He got no answer all afternoon, and after a while Cook’s mailbox was completely full. David couldn’t even leave a message.

He completed their assignment for Monday on his own, putting both his and Cook’s name at the top. He began outlining their final paper which would be due soon. He cleaned his room, helped Daniel with some homework, washed the dishes, and volunteered to take the trash out even though it was Jazzy’s turn. But none of it distracted him from wondering what Cook was doing at the same time; probably nothing as normal as what he’d done all day.

Monday morning moved slowly, and with a tremendous amount of solemnity he packed up his school things and Bo’s bag and headed out to the bus stop. He half-hoped that he’d see Cook there, though that didn’t make sense since they didn’t even live in the same neighborhood. Cook was absent from Mrs. Green’s class and David didn’t see him at lunch either. Part of him wanted to approach Andy and ask about Cook, but he never had the courage.

By Tuesday morning, David was really worried. Not about the project or any assignments -- he could totally do those on his own if he had to. But he hadn’t heard from Cook, and Cook’s voicemail was still full when he called so he figured Cook hadn’t been checking his phone lately either.

It came as a bit of a surprise then when at 8:23, Cook strolled into Mrs. Green’s class as if it were any regular day of him being tardy.

“Sorry I’m late,” he muttered as he slipped into his desk next to David. “I had to help Andrew get ready for school this morning.”

David sat frozen for a long moment, first of all realizing that that had probably been the reason Cook was late every single day of the year; he had to get his brother to school because his mom left really early for work. But secondly, of course, David was completely surprised by this nonchalant entrance.

“Where have you been?” David asked as the rest of the room was working in pairs. “I’ve called you like a thousand times. What happened on Saturday?”

Cook closed his eyes momentarily as if gathering himself before looking up at David. Dark circles framed his tired eyes, and for once it wasn’t smeared eyeliner.

“Um, my brother had to go to the hospital,” he answered quietly, absently fingering the corner of this worksheet.

“What?” David said as loudly as he dared in the semi-quiet room. “Andrew? Is he okay?”

“No,” Cook answered, solemnly. “I have another brother, he’s older,” he explained. “He’s married and everything. Anyway, he has brain cancer.”

David might’ve fallen over if he hadn’t already been sitting down.

“Oh my gosh!” David said, clasping one hand over his mouth. “What… is he… oh my gosh.”

“He lives a pretty normal life,” Cook answered, apparently used to responding to such reactions. “Just, this weekend was a bit rough, so they took him in for some treatment. He’s okay now.”

It didn’t seem to David like anyone with brain cancer could suddenly be okay after two days at the hospital.

“I’m so sorry,” David replied. “Just… gosh.”

“It’s okay,” Cook said again, looking down at his worksheet. “What’re we doing today?”

David couldn’t imagine talking about anything else, but clearly Cook needed the distraction. It was probably why he was at school at all. And maybe Cook’s older brother was okay, David didn’t really know anything about the situation after all.

“Today’s topic is problems with childcare,” David answered flatly. “We don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. We’ve gotten full points on everything, it won’t hurt us.”

But Cook was already scanning the half-page of reading, underlining things as he went along. David couldn’t help but feel absolutely terrible.

~*~


Cook couldn’t keep track of what day it was all week, which explained why he was surprised when Friday rolled around. One more day of school to get through and then he could just sleep the entire weekend away if he wanted to.

And he did want to.

Hearing Andrew crashing around in the kitchen, Cook forced himself out of bed and out of his room just in time to catch his brother lining up about five frying pans on the stove with a carton of eggs teetering awfully close to the edge of the counter.

“What are you doing?” Cook demanded, rushing over to turn off all the burners.

“Mom said I could make breakfast,” Andrew explained.

Andrew was twelve, so it wasn’t totally insane to think he could do it, but Cook still seemed baffled by his decision to do this on a school morning.

“Drew, it’s 7:30, we don’t have time for this,” Cook said sternly as Andrew’s face slowly drooped. “Besides, she probably meant like oatmeal or something.”

“She said I could do it,” Andrew tried again, but his tone of voice showed he knew he’d been defeated.

“Maybe tomorrow, buddy,” Cook offered, genuinely disappointed that he had to burst Andrew’s bubble. “You gotta get dressed right now.”

“Mkay,” Andrew sighed, padding out of the kitchen in his too-short pajama bottoms.

Cook shook his head as he started to put the pans away. As he placed the eggs back into the fridge he noticed a note his mom had left for him under a Mickey Mouse magnet.

Davey, can you please go to the grocery store after school and get some things -- list below. You can keep the change as always. Love, Mom.

A twenty dollar bill had been attached to the note, and Cook shoved both items into his pocket. Luckily, he had nothing else going on after school that day, not even meeting with David. David had been panicky all week, jumping every second to relieve Cook of any work that had to be done. Cook had tried to resist David’s incessant offers of help until finally he agreed that they’d take a break Friday afternoon since it was the weekend.

It’d been exactly the thing he’d hoped to avoid this year, however, the inevitable overcompensation of people feeling sorry for him because of Adam. He didn’t like special treatment and he didn’t like not pulling his weight just because his family had a few difficulties. Everyone had difficulties in life, so Cook didn’t see why he had to be treated any differently.

Of course, the energetic compassion that came from David was hard not to appreciate, and it really warmed his heart that David plunged full-force into helping other people. David’s absolutely honest being was one of many reasons why Cook had dared to kiss him the week before.

Which reminded him that they hadn’t had a chance to talk about it all, and by now Cook could only imagine that David was too freaked out to even think about it. It was probably for the best anyway; Cook didn’t need the added stress in his life at the moment.

Getting Andrew out the door was difficult as usual. The kid was just too distracted by his random thoughts to get his shoes tied in a timely manner, and as usual by the time Cook gave his little brother a ride on his bike to the middle school, he was a half an hour late for school himself.

For all of first period, David yammered non-stop about things that Cook couldn’t remember even moments later. The whole morning ended up being a total blur, in fact. Bo had been traded off to him and that was seriously all he could remember had happened all day. He vaguely understood that David would come by after church on Sunday to pick Bo up, and that was it.

Thankfully, Cook remembered his mom wanted him to go the store, which took him a little out of his normal path home from school. She’d only asked for a few basic things, but Cook totally misjudged how all the items would fit on his bike rack along with all his school junk too. Arranging everything as well as he could manage, he hopped back on his bike in somewhat of a hurry, remembering that Andrew was probably already home from school and that he shouldn’t leave him alone for too much longer.

Cook had had a paper route a few years back, which helped in deciding the most efficient way back home. He knew the streets like the back of his hand, so deciding to go down the busy Morrison Street was a no-brainer. He’d have to be careful, but it was definitely the quickest route back to his house.

He’d been making good time, amusing himself by trying to recall all the families who lived on Morrison to whom he’d delivered newspapers as a kid when he rolled up to 17th Street, a green light in his favor to keep him sailing on through to home without having to stop.

Suddenly, just as he started across the crosswalk, a car flew through the intersection without stopping at the light, causing Cook to slam on his brakes as hard as he could. Despite his best efforts, he could only swerve into Mrs. Calahan's rose bushes, sending his backpack and everything else strapped to the bike rack flying out into the street. The screeching tires and retreating engine sound told him that the driver hadn't bothered to see if Cook was alive or dead, but luckily he seemed fine other than a few scratches from rose thorns. As the irresponsible driver sped away, Cook got up, dusted off his shirt and cursed into the street.

Turning, he first saw that the paint on his bike had been badly damaged. This alone angered him enough to yell because he’d custom painted the thing only a month before. But it took him a second to realize that everything he’d been carrying had fallen off the bike as well; his backpack, books, the groceries his mom had asked him to get, and…

Grainy white sugar covered the street, sparkling like frost on a cold November morning. Cook stared for a long time, frozen in shock and unsure what he should do. His hand slipped into this back pocket, fingers gripping his phone. He’d navigated to David’s phone number but couldn’t bring himself to press “dial”.

Little Bocephus was dead.

~*~


Cook sat on the edge of his bed for a long time, brooding. He’d stormed past his brother, dropping what remained of the salvageable groceries on the dining room table and ignoring Andrew calling after him.

“David, what happened? Are you bleeding?”

He was bleeding, but he’d taken the stairs two at a time up to his room, slamming the door behind him anyway. He’d been sitting on his bed for about two minutes (all the while ignoring Andrew knocking on his door) before it completely registered how much his head was pounding. He might have hit his head or something, and there was definitely a scrape on his chin, but the most terrifying thing was still the realization of what had happened, of what he’d done.

And now he had to call David. Because the longer he waited the worse it would be. If nothing else, he knew by now that David would ask too many questions, like when it had happened and how. He could already hear David asking why he’d taken so long to call him, and it’d only been about thirty minutes.

Taking a deep breath, Cook took out his phone again, attempting to reconstruct the facts in his mind. Ultimately, only a bag of sugar had been lost, not a big deal, right? It wasn’t actually life and death. And Mrs. Green already explained that in case of a tragedy, there was an alternate assignment in order to still earn full points. So it wasn’t a problem. He just had to tell David that their assignment had changed.

Except that David had cared more than anything for Bocephus and taken every detail with absolute seriousness. Again David’s number stared up at Cook through his darkening room and all Cook wanted to do was run away.

He punched “dial” anyway. It only rang one and a half times before David answered.

“Hi, I’m glad you called. I was just thinking that if I do the dishes for Claudia for a week she miiiight agree to watch Bo next Wednesday…”

Cook sighed, casting his eyes to the ceiling. The rock and roll posters that papered the entire space didn’t help distract him from the inevitable news he’d have to deliver. David hadn’t seemed to notice Cook’s silence, however, and was still talking about mowing the lawn for Daniel as a part of his master plan of trade-off babysitting.

“Archie.”

“... and of course Mom keeps reminding me she’ll babysit anytime, but I don’t want to take advantage, you know? That seems responsible and --”

“Archie.”

“... but of course, I haven’t even thought about your family, so maybe I’m just overthinking it…”

“DAVID!”

Cook could only imagine the startled look that must’ve accompanied the sudden dead silence that fell on the other end of the line. He knew he’d been sharp, but there was just no other way to get that guy to shut up once he was on a roll.

“Um, is something wrong?” David asked timidly.

“Sorry,” Cook mumbled. “But yeah.”

“What’s… what’s happening?”

Cook sighed again, deciding he just needed to say it.

“Bocephus is dead.”

There was a beat, and then shuffling.

“Wh… what?”

“Archie, Bo is dead, I’m sorry.”

“What are you saying?” David asked. It was apparent he was trying to keep it together, but his rising voice betrayed him.

“I had to go to the store for my mom after school. So I was coming home from a different direction and had to go down Morrison, you know? And I forgot how busy it can be down there and I was coming through the last intersection when this asshole just flew through there and nearly ran me over. Luckily, I was able to steer off the road, but all the groceries… my books, and… and Bo went flying into the street.”

An audible gasp broke the breathless silence, and Cook stopped talking. He didn’t want to say anything else and possibly couldn’t.

“So… where… where is Bo now?”

Cook’s eyes fell closed as he answered. “Basically all over the intersection of Morrison and 17th.”

“How…”

“Well, I just said how.”

“How could you do this?” David suddenly sounded indignant.

It took Cook a second to understand David’s tone of voice.

“What! What do you mean how could I do this? It was an accident!”

“Did you strap him in properly? Were you using the padded backpack like we talked about?”

Cook couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and he’d had just about enough of David’s safety precaution talks.

“David, look. There was hardly any room on my bike rack. I put him on as well as I could. And I almost died! Like, did you miss that part?”

David huffed -- actually huffed -- and replied, “And Bo did die.”

Cook didn’t know what else to say. The line was silent for a long time before David finally said, “I have to go. I have to pray before I go to bed.”

There wasn’t even a possibility for Cook to say goodbye before the click rang in his ear.

~*~


David couldn’t manage to get himself up in the morning. He ignored his alarm for over an hour, which meant once he finally pulled himself out of bed he didn’t have time for running or for a shower. It didn’t matter. He was pretty close to not going to school at all. Twenty minutes of glowering at the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling, however, brought him to the conclusion that if he wasn’t actually sick he should go. And he wasn’t, of course, he just had a broken heart was all.

He managed to get dressed in time to run downstairs and grab his lunch and an apple before running out the door. He’d very nearly forgotten to kiss his mom goodbye if she hadn’t intercepted him at the door.

“Are you okay, mijo? You’re never late.”

David managed to mumble some ridiculous excuse about not sleeping well (it wasn’t exactly a lie) before slipping out the door, only to make it to the bus stop at about 7:24 and thirty seconds. He was still panting as the school bus door creaked open towards him.

Though he ended up being perfectly on time for school, David didn’t want to go into first period. That was home economics, after all, and he wasn’t sure he was ready to see Cook’s stupid face so soon. He was liable to punch him or some other uncharacteristic thing he wouldn’t usually do.

Still, he went into class, head down so he wouldn’t accidentally make eye contact with anyone.

Mrs. Green got on with class in the usual way. Though David usually didn’t pay a lot of attention to roll call since he was at the very top of the list, he for the first time noticed Mrs. Green saying, “Cook. Not here? David, do you know if Cook’s running late?”

David glanced up from his notebook, surely looking surprised. Why on earth would he know that? Cook was always late anyway, so it wasn’t exactly a mystery. He cleared his throat.

“I, uh, not that I know of?”

“Okay,” Mrs. Green replied, marking the roll call sheet. “Just thought since you were partners you’d know something. Evans?”

Thirty-five minutes of class rolled by and Cook still hadn’t shown up. Obviously he was too embarrassed to face David, which gave David a slightly smug attitude about the whole thing. Yes, he’d thought about skipping school, but he wasn’t so irresponsible. And he could do without seeing Cook anyway.

The last few minutes of class, Mrs. Green allowed everyone to work on homework as she wandered around checking on people’s assignments. When she got to David she looked concerned.

“Are you okay today, David?”

“What?” David asked, genuinely surprised by her question.

“You look a little tired. Your hair’s all flat.”

David stroked his hair as he said, “Oh, I got up kind of late this morning.”

Mrs. Green nodded understandingly. “Where’s little Bocephus this morning? You know he’s supposed to come to class with you.”

All at once David felt his heart plummet into his stomach. Not only did he feel guilty that he’d forgotten that tiny detail, but by the reminder that Bo didn’t even exist anymore. He’d burst into a million pieces.

“Um, Cook had him over the weekend,” David said. “So… so I guess he’s still got him.”

Mrs. Green smiled and nodded again. David felt terrible. Had that been a lie? He decided it probably counted as one, which made it even worse. He knew perfectly well where Bocephus was, and it wasn’t in care of Mr. David Cook.

“Okay, well, make sure to check in with him after school, all right? If Cook’s sick, you’d better get ahold of Bo so you can take care of him instead.”

Mrs. Green patted David’s shoulder and turned away to talk to someone else. All David could do was sink down in his chair.

~*~


When David was mad, he cleaned. Scrubbing surfaces was his favorite thing, but Jazzy was on kitchen duty this week and had already done it all. Other than picking up a couple stray socks on the floor, his own room was tidy, so all he could really do was plop himself down in the beanbag chair by his window and cross his arms tightly over his chest.

He was so mad. How could Cook have been so stupid? How could he have just ruined their sugar baby like that? Images of little Bo filled his mind as he wondered if he’d need to arrange a funeral.

At first he didn’t notice the light nicks against his window pane until a loud thunk startled him out of his angry thoughts. For a moment he wondered if a bird had hit the window, but it was dark out so that couldn’t have been it. Another clatter against the glass and David was on his feet, hands pressed against the window. The glare from the neighbor’s garage light obscured everything, so he unlocked the window and pushed it up. As soon as he hung his head out, he had to dodge a small rock hurtling towards his face.

“Hey!”

“Sorry! I didn’t know you were there. I can’t really see.”

David rolled his eyes, tempted to just slam the window back closed. Cook was standing in the side yard like he’d suddenly been cast in Say Anything or something.

“What are you doing?” David hissed. “Forget how doors work?”

“Are your parents gonna let me in at 11pm?”

David pursed his lips, annoyed that Cook was right, though he’d not been totally aware it was quite that late.

“Go away!” David whispered loudly.

“I have something for you!”

“You can give it to me at school tomorrow. Good night!”

David made to close the window for real this time, but Cook persisted.

“I can’t give it to you at school, it has to be now. Will you come down?”

Sighing, David sat back down on the beanbag chair, resting his chin on the window sill. He wondered if Cook would just stand there all night if he didn’t at least let him get out what he’d come to say. Probably. David Cook seemed like that kind of guy.

“Fine,” he relented, hooking his fingers on the window frame. “I’ll be right there.”

Luckily, the rest of the family had gone to bed, but that also meant he’d have to sneak down the stairs, unlock the front door, and ease it open ever so softly. Cook had already made his way around to the front porch. In the dark he was nearly imperceptible given his dark clothes and boots. He’d also brought his backpack as if it were a regular day after school or something.

“Hey,” Cook greeted, obviously trying to sound friendly. “Nice pajamas.”

“What do you want?” David replied bitterly, tugging at the cuffs of his striped pajama shirt.

“I brought you something,” Cook said, gesturing to his backpack. “Um, can we go sit somewhere?”

“Whatever,” David said, waving a dismissive hand in the air. “Why not? I’ve already snuck out of the house, we might as well go break some laws or something while we’re at it.”

Even in the dark, David could perceive Cook’s hurt expression.

“Archie, I’m sorry you’re mad.”

“Please stop calling me Archie,” David snipped. “And I wouldn’t be mad if you hadn’t killed our baby.”

“David,” Cook said, sounding heartbroken. “I didn’t… I didn’t do it on purpose. You know I didn’t. It was an accident.”

“I don’t even want to say it again,” David said, “but you’re so careless, I can’t believe it. Though I don’t know why I’m surprised, actually.”

Now Cook’s eyes matched his hurt tone of voice. “What… what’s that supposed to mean?”

David didn’t want to answer, mostly because he felt the answer was so obvious. Cook was a guy who never planned anything, who turned homework in late, whose student calendar was as crisp and unused as the day it’d been issued to him. So obviously -- obviously -- this was a guy who was gonna mess stuff up, who didn’t take precautions. David had trusted him, but it still happened.

“Nothing,” David murmured, wrapping his arms around his middle. “Are we done here? It’s getting cold and I have to be up in five hours.”

Cook still looked sheepish, but he obliged by slipping his backpack off onto the porch swing and opening it up. Carefully, he pulled out something that looked so terribly familiar that David gasped when it saw it: a five pound bag of sugar with green crinkle-cut hair and diamond-blue eyes.

“What…” David muttered breathlessly. “What is that?”

“I stayed home today ‘cause I was remaking Bo,” Cook replied quietly. “I tried to make him just like the original, but I might have forgotten a couple things. But I think he’ll pass.”

David couldn’t believe his eyes. He also couldn’t believe the contradicting feelings he was experiencing. Making a new sugar baby was so obviously against the rules, yet the fact that Cook had stayed home from school touched him as well. It was confusing to say the least.

“We can’t… we can’t take… that,” David pointed at Bo #2, “to school with us. Are you crazy? I’ve never cheated a day in my life.”

Cook swallowed hard, clutching poor little Bo #2 to his chest. “Please don’t be mad, David. I was just… I just wanted to fix everything.”

“Please just take that back home and make a cake with it or something.” David’s words were firm, but not as harsh as before.

“I’m sorry, David,” Cook said again.

David sighed. “It’s okay,” he relented. “We’ll tell Mrs. Green what happened in the morning. Go home and get some sleep.”

Perhaps the saddest thing David had ever seen in his young life was the sight of Cook descending the steps of the front porch, backpack over one shoulder, sugar sack clutched in one hand with the full moon shining through his flyaway hair.

~*~


David could hardly sleep. Sure, Cook had made him angry about the whole making-a-fake-baby replacement, but after he’d trudged back upstairs to his room, a sinking sensation weighed on him. Cook had tried to make David happier after the accident. He’d gone out of his way to do it too, skipped school and everything. And while David would never condone such a thing, it really should have meant more to him.

He sighed as he plopped down on the edge of his bed. The dark sky caught his eye and he thought about Cook walking home now, head hanging and sad.

Dang it, he could be really dumb sometimes.

Though he tried to lay down, David couldn’t fall asleep. He tried reading, watching something on his computer, then just staring at the ceiling. He saw his bedside clock flip over to 3 am before finally drifting off, uneasy feelings still coursing through his veins.

Six o’clock came way too early, of course, even if he did usually get up at five to go running. But it also came with a certain kind of urgency. Bad dreams had made David feel even worse about snapping at Cook, so although he was absolutely groggy, he did his best to hurry through getting ready. He wanted to get to school quickly, to talk to Cook as soon as possible. He at least needed to apologize, if not more.

At 7:10, David found himself eagerly pacing by the front door. He had a few minutes to spare and his nerves were wreaking havoc on his entire body. His fingers had smoothed over the surface of his cell phone about forty times before something dawned on him. Cook was always late to school. Always. If that were the case today as well, he wouldn’t have a chance to really talk to him until at least lunch time, which wasn’t a guarantee either. But he had Cook’s phone number saved in his phone. So he decided to call him.

A groggy, nearly unrecognizable voice answered after five rings with, “Andy, if this is you, we’re gonna have words.”

David froze up.

“Um, Cook? This… this is David.”

A pause so long that David though Cook had hung up on him followed. Then there was a sniff and a rustling of what sounded like blankets.

“Hi. What’s up? What time is it?”

“Um, 7:12,” David answered, wondering if Cook was still in bed. “I’ve gotta catch the bus, but I just wanted to… um.”

There was a sigh and a yawn and then, “Wanted to… ?” Cook sounded more than grouchy.

“Talk to you,” David finished, apparently realizing he didn’t know what he wanted to say specifically.

Cook sniffed again. “Well, we’re talking,” he said gruffly.

A lot of times David hesitated in speaking, unsure of what he’d say at any given time. And then sometimes he’d just get going and ramble endlessly. This seemed to be one of those times.

“Okay, well, I feel badly that I snapped at you last night, and I realized later that you worked really hard on trying to fix things even though it wasn’t really right, and I shouldn’t have been so mean to you, and--”

“David, David, David,” came Cook’s rushed reply. “Dude, that’s too much for me only being awake for two minutes.”

“I… sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Cook said softly. “Look, it’s 7:15. Go catch your bus. I’ll see you at school. We can have lunch together if we don’t get a chance to talk during class.”

David swallowed hard, a little unsure of what he was hearing. “That… would be great,” he said, feeling some relief pour over him. “Oh shoot, it’s 7:16, gotta go!”

David could’ve sworn he heard a faint chuckle before he hung up the phone.

~*~


Sort of miraculously, Cook slid into his seat exactly as the bell was ringing, which garnered a surprised/impressed look from David. It didn’t go unnoticed by Cook, who grinned sheepishly at his friend. At some point during Mrs. Green’s ten minute introduction, Cook’s desk seemed to creep its way closer to David’s, though it was also possible that David was hallucinating. (He’d only gotten three hours of sleep and missed his morning run, after all.)

When the time came for Mrs. Green to check on all the groups, both Cook and David froze like deer in headlights.

“How’s it going on Team David?” she asked kindly as she took a seat next to them.

“Well,” Cook began, clearly still embarrassed by what he’d done. He cupped the back of his neck with a hand and tried to look anywhere but at Mrs. Green.

“We, uh, had a problem,” David managed to say.

“Oh?” Mrs. Green said, brow raising.

“Yeah, Little Bo, uh, got hurt… sorta,” David fumbled.

“How hurt?” their teacher questioned.

“Perhaps more than a little,” Cook admitted, doodling on a piece of notebook paper.

“Like, surgery level injured?” Mrs. Green inquired.

“Like, no piece of him was ever found again,” David finally choked out.

Mrs. Green’s eyes went as big as saucers. “What happened?”

“I was riding my bike home,” Cook explained, “and I almost got hit by this car, right? Anyway, I crashed and Bo went flying and--”

“And he’s kind of in a billion pieces,” David finished for him.

Miraculously, Mrs. Green smiled.

“It’s okay guys, you’re not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to have something like that happen. But instead of doing your summary presentation, you’ll need to do one on a related topic.” Mrs. Green chuckled lightly when David made a horrified face. “Don’t worry, David, I don’t think you deserve a topic like child neglect or anything like that. It’s clear it was an accident. Maybe just child safety in transportation, okay?”

David nodded, firmly biting his lip, and Cook let out a tremendous sigh. It was funny, because David hadn’t up until this point pegged Cook as someone who would’ve worried so much about it at all. In fact, Cook had been the one who had tried to tell him it wasn’t a big deal way back at the beginning of their troubles.

The rest of the morning went comparatively smoothly. David got his math exam back with a 92 written at the top, his biology teacher used his homework example on the board, and his Spanish teacher asked him if his mom wouldn’t mind coming to class to do a talk about Honduras. By lunch he’d nearly forgotten the tragedy that was home ec class.

Mrs. Archuleta always made her kids’ lunches, and because it was high school, most of the upper classmen didn’t bother to even set foot in the cafeteria longer than they had to. This left David exactly zero reason to go in there, and he was just about to take the steps up to the library when he remembered that he was supposed to meet Cook. Or, at least, he thought he was. They hadn’t exactly discussed it since 7:15 that morning, and Cook wasn’t even awake when he’d said that, so David panicked a little wondering if he should seek him out in the cafeteria or what.

He lingered awkwardly outside the cafeteria doors, occasionally having to dodge kids shoving through as if they’d never heard of the possibility of other humans being there before. At one point, David thought he saw Cook’s friends, Andy and Neal, and he sort of nervously watched them both wander over to the big oak tree that stood outside the front of the school. Biting his lip, he tried to see if Cook was over there.

“Hey!” came a voice from behind him, which made him almost drop his lunch on the ground. “Looking for someone?”

David whirled around to find Cook grinning at him like an idiot.

“You scared me!” David exclaimed, catching his breath. He gripped his lunch bag even tighter. “I, uh, was just, thinking about where…” David didn’t finish the sentence because he didn’t want to presume Cook was joining him, especially since the friend he thought was Neal was waving at Cook now.

“Where do you usually go?” Cook asked, apparently completely oblivious to Neal.

“Um, Mr. Yamada lets me sit in the library, even though people aren’t usually allowed to eat in there,” David answered quietly.

Cook nodded. “Cool, let’s go.”

That was it. Cool, let’s go. Something about those three words made David’s heart skip a beat.

“Don’t you have your lunch?” David asked as they turned back into the building.

“Yeah,” Cook said, gesturing to his backpack.

When the two of them entered the library, Mr. Yamada greeted them kindly, his brow raising at the sight of Cook walking past him. David secretly wondered if Cook had ever even been in there outside of class but was too afraid to ask.

“I like to sit by the Ficus,” David said, putting his lunch bag down on the table there. Cook followed, dropping his bag on the floor and then rummaging through it for his lunch. Lunch turned out to be a generous word, however; he only took out two things, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a Mountain Dew.

David eyed him for a few seconds before saying something. “Um, is that it?”

Cook apparently didn’t get what was wrong. “Yeah?” He took a huge gulp of his soda.

“That’s crazy,” David said, immediately digging into his lunch bag. He carefully laid everything out, taking the extra napkin his mom always included and putting half of his tuna sandwich on it before pushing it in Cook’s direction.

“What’s this?” Cook asked, taken aback.

“Tuna fish. Eat it.”

“I’m not gonna eat your lunch,” Cook replied, pushing the sandwich half back. It merely gave David the opportunity to add a half a string cheese and two cookies to the napkin. He pushed it back.

“Archie…”

The way Cook said ‘Archie’ stung his heart in a good way, and he was secretly glad Cook had gone back to calling him that.

“There’s plenty here!” David protested. “Seriously, there’s a thing of baby carrots in here too. Want some?”

Cook just stared at him.

“Sounds like I should stop while I’m ahead.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” David replied seriously. There was a beat of silence and then he looked up to find Cook gazing at him.

“What?”

“You, Archuleta.”

David’s fingers fumbled with the straw of his juice box. “What… what about me?”

But all Cook did was smile and shake his head before taking a giant bite of the tuna sandwich.

“You’re weird,” David said, more out of feeling like he should say something than anything else.

Another moment of silence passed, during which David caught himself mindlessly stirring his pudding cup. Cook was fiddling with his bag of chips when David finally broke the silence.

“So, like, I’m really sorry,” he said, tapping his spoon on the edge of the plastic cup. Cook looked up, his bangs (which were actually starting to regain their natural color for once) hanging across his eyes. Gah, why did that make David feel so weird in his stomach, anyway?

“Archie, honestly,” he said, flicking his hair out of his face. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine!” David said loudly, immediately realizing he’d overreacted. “I mean, I was really mean to you, so I’m sorry.”

“Well, we’re cool, okay?” Cook said, shoving some chips into his mouth. “I shouldn’t have tried to cheat.”

“Yeah, but…” David trailed, suddenly not wanting a single bite of anything in his lunch. He felt too guilty. “Like, you worked hard. You were trying to cheer me up and I just totally brushed it off. It was…”

Cook swallowed his mouthful of chips and watched David thoughtfully.

“What?” he asked.

David could barely look Cook in the eye, but snuck an embarrassed look up at him anyway.

“It was sweet.”

Cook’s eyes went wide for a half-second before he regained himself and coolly replied, “Yeah, let’s not let that get around, huh? I have a reputation to uphold around here.”

This totally caught David off-guard and he laughed really loudly.

“What reputation?” he gasped, clutching his stomach. “I mean… what?”

“I have a reputation!” Cook replied, though he was laughing too now. “Stop! Stop laughing at me, Archuleta!”

But David couldn’t help it. It was like something had broken inside of him, like some web of stress and anxiety had just burst and all his tight little threads were suddenly unraveling.

“Stop laughing!” Cook threw one of his Doritos at him.

“Hey!” David protested, picking up a baby carrot and tossing it across the table, which hit Cook square between his eyes.

“Oh, that’s it, Archuleta!”

“Boys! What’s going on over there!”

Both Davids froze in their spots, half out of their chairs, each straining to hold their laughter.

“Sorry, Mr. Yamada!” they said in unison.

~*~


For the next week the two Davids worked like a well-oiled machine to complete the extra work that needed to be done for their final essay and class presentation. For the first time all year, Cook took detailed notes and even put reminders into his phone. David didn’t know what had gotten into him, but didn’t want to risk pointing it out just in case it made him stop.

David also continued to ask about Cook’s family every single day just to make sure things were going all right. Cook always answered positively and didn’t miss any more days of school, so David finally relaxed a little about it. It didn’t, however, keep him from wondering what other mysteries Cook kept from the world about himself. Instead of making Cook seem like a moody punk rock kid with oddly colored hair, David found him more intriguing, and actually changed his view on a lot of people at school that he didn’t know very well.

At the end of their presentation, the class had a lot of good questions, which David and Cook were able to field with absolute perfection. Though they weren’t supposed to know their grades until later on, Mrs. Green secretly mouthed “A+” at them from the back of the room, to which David couldn’t help but beam brightly.

As they sat back down in their seats, David felt a strange mixture of relief and disappointment that their project was over. He glanced at Cook for a fleeting second, his heart hurting a little that he wouldn’t have any reason to hang out with Cook every day after school anymore. For a brief moment, David could’ve sworn he saw the same in Cook’s eyes as well.

The rest of the day flew by. Not only did Mrs. Green not give any homework for the first time in a month, but neither did any of David’s other teachers. As he exited the school at the last bell, the sun was shining and the air was cool and pleasant -- the perfect combination for a relaxed afternoon reading on the public library’s expansive mezzanine level. He was walking briskly to the line-up of school buses when he suddenly heard someone calling him from behind.

“Hey, Archie! Archie! Wait up!”

David turned around, fully aware that his bus was the next one to leave and that he’d better get on it right now. But it was amazing how quickly that fact flew out of his brain when he saw Cook running towards him, backpack slipping off his shoulder and with one of his boot laces untied.

“Archie, I was hoping I’d catch you before you were gone.”

David was absolutely puzzled. Their project was over. They’d turned in their report about their experience and made their presentation about childhood accidents. It was officially time for Cook to go back to hanging out with Neal and Andy and for David to go back to spending all his free time staring at his computer in his room.

“Um, okay,” he replied, sort of stupidly. “What’s up?”

“Well, I just, uh, I wondered if you wanted to come over?” Cook squinted into the afternoon sun and raised a hand to shield his eyes.

“Uhhh.” David had frozen on the spot, and for some reason his heart began racing. “Our project is done though,” he said finally.

Cook gave him a quizzical look. “Yeah, well, duh. I want you to come over and hang out? Sometimes on Fridays we order pizza and watch movies, which we are tonight.”

David probably hadn’t been invited to someone else’s house for movies since he was twelve or something. And now Cook was? What was happening?

Cook adjusted his backpack strap and brushed his purple hair out of his eyes. “Maybe you could stay over?”

At this suggestion, David choked on literally nothing. “What… are you sure?”

“Archie…” Cook said, sounding slightly let down. “I thought… we’ve got something going here, right? Am I wrong?”

David wasn’t completely clear on what “something” meant, but even if it just meant friendship, David wanted that really, really badly. He had such a hard time making any friends at all, and Cook was so at the top of his list of potential long-term friends. Potential friends and also potential -- yes, he’d finally decided -- more than friends. But that was a daydream, right? Right?

“Well, no, I… I just thought like, we’re so different so I didn’t think…”

In one fluid motion, Cook dropped his backpack on the ground and reached his hand up, cupping it around the back of David’s neck. Right there in the middle of all 1500 students of Woodrow Wilson High School clamboring for their rides home, Cook planted his lips on David’s and must have held him there for upwards of twenty terrifying seconds.

After pulling away, all David could do was stare, which Cook apparently found really funny. Breathing wasn’t something David knew how to do anymore, which immediately resulted in him feeling very lightheaded.

“I,” he stammered, blinking more than usual. “My bus… I need to…”

“Your bus left like three minutes ago, dude,” Cook chuckled. “I’ll give you a ride though.”

Every sentence of this conversation was becoming more confusing than the one before.

“What, on your bike?”

“Yeah, just hop on the back, no problem.”

“Cook, that’s so dangerous!”

David Cook very nearly collapsed on the ground he was laughing so hard.


~*~

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Comments

( 6 Kisses On The Neck — Win Me Over )
rajkumari905
Dec. 16th, 2014 02:43 am (UTC)
THESE CUTIES ARE SO CUTE I LOVE THEM

I ALSO LOVE YOU

AND THIS FIC

:DDDDDDDDDD
kissontheneck
Dec. 16th, 2014 02:51 am (UTC)
Awww! <3 <3 <3

I literally couldn't have done it without you. MUUUUUUAH~!
abovetheruins
Dec. 16th, 2014 03:16 pm (UTC)
THEY'RE SO CUTE. THIS IS SO CUTE.

Not only did you give us 16K (I might have flipped when I saw that. Long fic is my weakness.) but it's amazing and so cute and kdsjfskdfldslf

Archie being so invested in the sugar baby and Cook being the "cool" kid and their first kiss and that ending

AHHH IT'S ALL AMAZING, IS WHAT I'M GETTING AT.

*off to reread*
kissontheneck
Dec. 19th, 2014 04:41 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh, thank you so much, madam! I had such a good time writing this and laughing at Archie and swooning over Cook and GUH. They do this themselves, you know. I have no control.
rhiminee_1
Dec. 19th, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC)
This is PERFECT. Omg I miss fic with these two and am just asodifjaodsifjoasdijfoiasdjfoisjdafpoijasdopifjoiasdjfoiajsdfoijasd about this one!!!!!

Archie is the most precious sugar daddy ever ok.

THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS. I WANT TO READ IT AGAIN. AND AGAIN. You are 100% fabulous <3
kissontheneck
Dec. 29th, 2014 08:06 am (UTC)
YOU USED THE WORDS "ARCHIE" AND "SUGAR DADDY" IN THE SAME SENTENCE AND I'M DYYYYIIINNNGG.

Okay, now that that's out of the way... thank you!! <3 <3 <3 Seriously, I'm so happy others enjoyed it because it was super fun to write (even if every other day I was asking Pri if it was too ridiculous). Oh man. Thank you.
( 6 Kisses On The Neck — Win Me Over )