Ignite: A David Cook Fanfic
David Roland Cook stared into the black surface of his black coffee, examining his equally black expression with quiet scrutiny. He didn't like what he saw.
At first glance, he didn't look like hell exactly, but it came pretty close. The entirety of his complexion was pallid, a tired, off-white color. His skin was sallow, nearly translucent with fatigue and marred with half-shaven auburn scruff. He could clearly see tiny skeins of disconcerting blue beneath the skin at several points on his face: at the temple, thick and congealed under his eyes, weaving into his neck like fingers of a river. Angry fissures of red branched from his blue green irises as tokens of sleepless nights from the past two weeks. The muscles in his jaw were tensed like bear traps. David frowned at that, and a hard line puckered between his arched eyebrows as a result. Even his hair looked strained, if that were possible, sticking out every which way like barbed wire. He reached up with one hand and gripped a lock of it between his fingers; it was partially leached of its once vibrant reddish brown color.
Nope, scratch that initial appraisal. He did look like hell. There was no way around it. Neal was right, of course. Then again, David reminded himself quietly. Neal is always right.
"*****hole," he murmured softly, still gazing into the flat, cold mug of coffee now gripped between both of his hands.
"Excuse me, sir?"
David started a little before pulling himself out of his dark observations with an inward sigh. Quickly, he rearranged his features into a more suitable countenance, then he looked up and flashed what he thought a real smile would look like at the shy waitress standing before him.
"Nothing," he assured her, still maintaining his fabricated grin. He hoped he wasn't making her uncomfortable. The waitress gave him a slightly wary look. Realizing her uncertainty at his reply, David dimly remembered the bud still coiled around his ear from the rehearsal earlier, and he threw together a plausible lie to placate her.
"I was just finishing a phone call with my little brother," he said smoothly, pointing to the white plastic noise canceller embedded in his left ear. "Bluetooth. It's a newer model."
He could tell that the waitress was easy to fool once given even a half-tangible excuse, because she immediately relaxed and said, "Oh," with a shrug of her thin shoulders. David relaxed as well, marginally.
"Would you like another coffee, Mr. Cook?" the girl asked as she tucked away a stray hair, gesturing at the half-empty mug with her pen. David forced another smile and worked to instigate a cordial tone in his response.
"No, thanks. I was actually just about to head out. Bit of a long day."
She nodded with a sympathetic smile, and for a moment David wondered if the girl could see right through his fragile mask after all. His face faltered, and to busy himself he rummaged in his pockets for change. Silently, he paid the three dollars and twenty cents for his coffee, then added a generous two dollar tip for the girl's trouble. Surprised and embarrassed, the waitress stood stock still for one long second, but before she could gather herself to turn around and thank her customer, David was gone.
Ashlinne Jacie McCormick reflexively ground her teeth together when the woman checking her boarding pass shot her a pointedly incredulous look.
“Luxe Airlines?” she whined, smacking her wad of wintergreen gum like an overgrown teenager. “As in the private jet company?”
Ashlinne closed her eyes briefly before forcing a reply between her gritted teeth. “Yes.”
The woman still ogled her suspiciously, looking for all the world like she would unhinge her jaw from the acrobatics she was performing with her gob of gum, tucking and rolling it like a cow every nook and cranny of her giant maw.
“You don’t look famous,” she drawled.
It took all of Ashlinne’s fortitude to refrain from lashing out at the infuriating woman. Steeling herself, she drew in a deep, steadying breath and absently adjusted the pencil behind her right ear.
“My sister is Kezzie McCormick, the journalist,” she said, just barely managing to keep the sharp snap out of her tone. The words were fast and blunt; an explanation. “She booked the flight for me.”
The woman’s eyes, beetle-black and heavily caked with mascara, widened. “Oh,” she exclaimed. “Well, that makes sense, then.”
There was a brittle moment of silence before the airport employee noticed Ashlinne’s open, impatient hand.
“Oh,” she said again, and she hastily placed the embossed boarding pass back into Ashlinne’s waiting palm. “Er, Gate 5 is that way,” she added, pointing to the left hallway as an afterthought. She still seemed baffled by the fact that Kezzie McCormick, celebrity journalist extraordinaire, was Ashlinne’s sister.
Without another word, Ashlinne snapped up her suitcase handle, turned on the toe of her Converse slip-on sneakers, and left in an aggravated huff. The woman shook her beehive-hair head a few times before popping in another stick of wintergreen gum and heading for the nearest Starbucks.
“Touchy girl,” she murmured to herself.
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