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[Pre-slash] [American Idol] [David Archuleta/David Cook] [PG-13]

~600 words for the very lovely, generous [ profile] aohatsu, who bid on me in my [ profile] help_japan thread here. Taking a second to pimp myself out, guys, because it's a great cause, and if you can afford to chip in, please do! I still have 3 ficlets waiting to be given away!

count the money and the miles back home to you

It's not, like, an exact science or whatever, this Protector business.

(Which--David's not even a real Protector yet; he's only a Junior, and people don't - Gods don't tell Junior Protectors anything, it's really frustrating.)

So the only thing he really actually knows is that he's supposed to keep Cook safe. But how he does that, he's pretty much making up as he goes along.

He stops Cook from tripping up and scraping his knee when they meet in the sandbox in first grade (and he has the battle scars to prove it). He puts out an almost-fire Cook starts with his ice cream cone (even though it's his favorite flavor). He follows Cook to the public pool every other day so he can make sure Cook doesn't drown (and he really, really, really hates swimming). He practices sleeping like Van Gogh, so Cook always has someone watching over him (and still the thought of the 15-minute window he spends napping every four hours makes his heart stop dead in his chest).

He learns to ignore that little stutter in his pulse he feels whenever he's around Cook, that low curl of warmth that unfurls in his chest when Cook smiles (because that isn't - Cook's a demigod , he's -- and David isn't even human).

Finally being at Camp Half-Blood, finally getting to tell Cook the truth, to show Cook -- that doesn't change a thing.

He's still Cook's Protector.

Which is why he's waiting at the gate with his backpack slung over one shoulder the night Cook decides to take a walk--

"Into Hades!" David says, flapping his hands ineffectually at Cook.

"No," Cook says, but his eyes are twitching a little, and David would have known he was lying even if he hadn't already been Cook's best friend for, like, ever. "Just a walk. A normal walk. In the forest. Paranoid much, Arch?"

"Yes," David says, without missing a beat. "Always."

Cook's mouth twists as he looks away. "Yeah," he says. "Just doing your job."

"Yes," David says again. But also. Also...

"Arch," Cook says. "Don't do this. It's not - this is my problem."

David shakes his head. "Cook, you're my friend. I want to help."

Cook turns back to him, then, and his eyes are darker than David's ever seen them. He watches David for a long, hard moment with the same look he gets when he's trying to figure out the crossword, and David measures the breaths he takes between each heartbeat, slow and calm. Then Cook nods. "Okay," he says, and nods again, firmer now. "Let's go."

David's startled into a bleet - he'd expected to have to fight much harder - and he clamps a hand over his mouth when Cook blinks. "Um," David says, with as much authority as he can muster, "Okay. We should--yes."

He starts walking before Cook can see the flush creeping up his neck.

It takes a second, but then Cook's falling into step beside him. "Archie," he says roughly, after a second. "I'm glad you're - I just -- thanks."

"Always," David says, smiling, and he keeps smiling till Cook finally, reluctantly, smiles back.

(He means it, too. Even after he winds up carrying a decapitated head around in his backpack; after he almost falls asleep over the wheel of a truck; after getting drugged up in Vegas; after driving two hundred miles over the speed limit to get away from Vegas; after watching Cook walk out of Hades with Annabeth and his mother, Cook's voice whispering, "I'll come back for you," in his head the whole time--

Even after all that. David never stops meaning it.)
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