A/N: Hey guys! Apparently this is what happens when I buy The Lorax on DVD and watch it too many times. AU headcannons occur! And I really wanted this one to get on paper so it could stop frolicking around in my mind.
Also, our stories have like 15,000 combined views and while The Lorax isn't all that big of a fandom (or is it…?), and I'm not sure how many people this will reach, I'm posting this as a thank-you-guys-for-being-amazing-fic! So thank you my beautiful readers; we love you all!
~The Lovely Lady Block of GP
Summary: Ted thought of why he was even standing there, in the establishment of one of the richest men in the world. He remembered how he'd met him eating in a local diner in town, dressed down in tight jeans and white button up shirt—trying his best to look and act average. It seemed to fool everyone else, but Ted just knew. AU. Slight Tedler.
Ted had discovered the brightly colored, 40's styled, place on his way home from school years ago and ever since, every Friday afterschool it became a ritual to stop by the local diner for lunch. Milkshakes and various flavored sodas were a staple and homemade sweets were kept behind the counter, decorating most of the shelves; it's plush red seats, chrome back drop, and loud playing jukebox made it a trendy place for upperclassmen and college kids to visit—and sure, Ted was still an underclassmen when he discovered it, but he reasoned he was intriguing enough to pass. Plus, he had declared himself a self-imposed "honorary upperclassman" upon being friends with Audrey anyways.
And speaking of her, he knew Audrey came here often enough with her friends and on choice days he met up with her but today, it was only himself. Ted tossed his backpack into the booth and slid in after it, flittering through the pages of the songbook as he waited for the waitress to come over.
Today, it was the blond one, with the small waist and the big eyes, who came to take his order. She was chewing gum heartily and constantly glancing over at the barstool seating facing the counter, like there was something far more important than his order for a cherry cola. He kept following her gaze but she never spoke up. So he continued to stare, and the form became more familiar.
Curiosity getting the best of him, he picked up his bag and moved to the counter—taking a seat far enough away to be casual about it, but not too far. He could make out the guy's profile: a round, young face, an upturned nose, jet-black hair that flipped up in the very back at the base of his neck. Dressed down in a tight jeans and a white button up shirt to cover his tall, thin body—trying his best to act and look average and young enough to almost fit in perfectly.
But he'd heard the girls at school and even his own mother ranting about his attractive qualities, and seen too many pictures of him in the paper to forget his face. Even if he wasn't wearing his gaudy sunglasses and towering top hat that day. Ted just knew.
His mouth curved into a small grin and he thought that it couldn't have been a better day to stop by the diner afterschool.
The teenager slid over to the seat next to him at the counter, looking over at him obviously. The Once-ler looked too, shiftily, and then went back to jabbing his fork into the cake on his plate, glancing at back when he figured the other kid wasn't watching.
Ted leaned an arm on the counter and cupped his chin in his hand with nonchalant ease. "Sooo, you're the guy everyone looks up to in town? I thought you'd be more…I don't know," he waved his hand in the air, "…muscular."
The tall, lanky man straightened. "You don't have to be so blunt!" Ted's eyebrows rose a little, surprised that his voice was a lot more youthful and whinier than he expected it to be. "And be quiet," he continued, "the last thing I need is people knowing I'm me."
"I'm just saying." He took a sip of his soda and shrugged, "You seem to be doing a good job fitting in though. I mean, if my mom didn't talk about you so much, I might not have even recognized you." He stared him up and down, noticing how he placed his paper napkin in his lap and sat straight and proper. He took the thin napkin, put it on the linoleum counter and smiled when the man looked at him confused. "I'm helping you look more average."
The Once-ler was tapping his un-gloved fingers on the table, "Look, I'm not in the mood for sass today, kid. What do you want? Money?" He reached into his breast pocket where a few dollar bills poked out and slipped them under the counter, "Here. Just take it and get out of here."
Ted gawked how much free money he was just throwing at him. "Ah, no, no, man. Not what I'm looking for. Geez, am I really that awful?" He looked from the bills, to his face, and back to the bills, wondering if this was how he got the waitresses to stay quiet.
"No, you're not, it's just—"
"Bad day at the office?"
"Yep." The businessman took a hearty bite of his food and chewed irritably and pocketed the money again. "Does a day filled with never-ending paperwork, production cuts and a fall though with big-name clientele sound like a bad day to you?" He dramatically rubbed at his temples and wondered why he was blurting this out to a nosey kid.
Ted shrugged again, "I don't know, I barely passed economics. So, I guess, yeah."
The Once-ler sighed, but smiled handsomely, revealing pretty white teeth. "I did too."
"Seriously." He sipped from his coffee, Adam's Apple bobbing as he swallowed, "All I cared about was playing music." It was a lie, but he wasn't in to mood to openly explain his family matters, and his unsuccessful aspirations to please them.
"You were a band geek?"
"Pff, I'll have you know I played the guitar! Which is a lot sexier than any high school band instrument!"
Strangely, Ted didn't doubt him— he could picture him, not as the rock band type, but as the hipster-stoner type. Wearing formal hats and brightly colored scarves, playing original songs that blended alternative with a modern country twist. As Ted fantasized about what he was like when he was his own age, the Once-ler sheepishly scratched the back of his head and mumbled, "…I guess. Maybe. Yeah, I probably was…"
From the look on his face, The Once-ler was serious and Ted was already learning more about the business tycoon than he'd ever seen in papers. To the publicity, his life was strictly private and secretive, even wondrous. But there he was, being as average as Ted himself without much hesitation.
The teenager snorted, "You're also dorkier than I thought you'd be."
"Yeah? And you're an annoying kid, you know that? Cute. But annoying."
"Thank you. I think." It wasn't the annoying part that tripped him up and, not to brag, but he knew he was strikingly cute; it was just hearing it from the richest man in town. Oh, and it was the way he said it and how he smirked like it was some big secret and held eye contact with him longer than he had before. His eyes were nice though— blue and wide, with dark eyelashes longer than his own. Light brown freckles dusted under the tops of his cheeks and across the bridge of his nose. His face was framed by his dark black hair— and was Ted staring?
"So, seriously, you didn't come over here just to talk to me did you?"
"Not at all." His face heated up and he turned away. What was he? Turning into Audrey?
The Once-ler wiped his mouth clean with the napkin and pushed his empty plate toward the waitress, thanking her politely as she walked away tripping over herself in the process. "What do you want?"
"I, uh," for some reason what Ted came over to demand now seemed lost to him. He'd expected the guy to be a total asshole and now that he wasn't, he kind of felt like the asshole.
"Come on kiddo, out with it." He leaned an arm on the counter, cupping his round face into his palm, "What is it? A date? You want a date don't you? Should have expected this…"
"Huh!? What—?! N-no—! I—I'm underage and—!" Ted bolted up, shifting in his seat and waving his hands before pausing completely, "Expected this? Wait, what's that supposed to mean?"
The Once-ler watched him squirm and laughed, "I'm a little offended, but, hey, I understand; a cute guy like you must have a girlfriend."
"I don't, actually, and—gah, stop calling me cute!" Before he buried his heated face in his hands, Ted saw the Once-ler's blue eyes lingering again and noticed how they crinkled slightly while he smiled. And how his cheeks were tinted a light pink.
"Well you must not mind it too much since you're still sitting here."
"Ugh! A job. I want a job— Two, actually!"
This time, it was the Once-ler who was taken back. Out of all the times people approached him, it was either over money, sex, or simple adoration…but a job? This one was new. "I, ahh, look kid. Remember the whole bad day thing?"
Ted frowned, "Yeah I know but…" He leaned in closer to the man next to him, "Look, I don't know what your deal is, if you've been rich your whole life or whatever, but I live with a single mother who just lost her job and my retired grandmother. We're shit out of luck right now and I'm looking for something, anything." His voice was level, his brown eyes narrowed seriously, and he grabbed the sleeve of his white shirt, "I don't care what it is. Don't you need a driver, a, a janitor, a—butler? I'll do what ever you want, seriously! I'll—I'll even go out on a date with you. As long as you pay me for it afterwards."
The businessman was looking down at the kid; his eyebrows raised in an astonished but amused way. "I don't knooow…that might be soliciting a minor."
Ted looked down at the ground, still limply holding onto the other's sleeve. "I'm serious."
This time he didn't see the Once-ler reach for his breast pocket again to pull out the wad of cash. For the waitress, he placed an amount on the table that paid well over the price of his food and over an 18% tip; for Ted, he kept out the rest.
"Hey, kid? Take it."
He listened to the voice next to him and his gaze met his hand, clutching far more bills than he previously bribed him with.
"What? No. I don't want it—I need to earn this myself. I can't keep coming back to you. I'll probably never see you again, anyways so—." But before he could finish, he felt the hand slide into the pocket of his red jacket and come back out with nothing.
Breast pocket now emptied into the boy's pocket. "Just, take it. As a starter. I know where your coming from and I can't give you what you want right now, but I'll help."
And before Ted could say anything, the Once-ler reached for the receipt recently placed in front of him and reached for the pen he'd spotted behind the counter. "What's your name, kid?"
His eyes widened and his lips turned up into a wide, disbelieving smile, "Ted. My name is Ted Wiggins," and listened to the rich man repeat his name before sliding the receipt into his pocket.
He stretched tall, lanky arms extending well above his head—like writing the kid's name down was too much work for one day— and stood from the swiveling stool. "Well, enough good deeds for one day," he looked out the window to see the sun just beginning to go down, "time to get back. Ugh, the amount of meetings I have today…" Then he felt something tight and squeezing around his waist; Ted's head rest on his chest. It was a quick sensation but it was something honest that the Once-ler hadn't felt in a long time. But before he could really hug back, Ted was gone, arms at his sides and eyes darting around the room like he thought everybody saw him.
"Thank you. You don't know what this means to me, thank you so much."
"No problem, cutie." His brown hair was ruffled and the man in front of him smiled back unlike any smile Ted had seen in the pictures of him. But it didn't stop Ted from casting him a dirty look, though he soon retracted it.
"You're lucky you impressed me."
The Once-ler shrugged, "I try," and began to walk away, strangely not wanting to leave yet. "I'll get back to you, Ted. Promise."
Outside the window, the teenager saw a well-kept, antique car pull up and wait on the curb. Before the other left he added, "Honestly, I thought you were really going to suck. Turns out you're a pretty okay guy, Mr. Once-ler."
He chuckled in return. "I'm not all bad all the time," he walked out to the curb and gave a curt wave to Ted before getting in the passenger seat and disappearing. Leaving Ted in the dinner, hand in pocket, feeling the cash with disbelief and child-like excitement.
And days later, when he'd pulled up at their home, this time in his pricy, gaudy limousine, and stepped put wearing his rich suit and green tailcoat, Ted could hardly contain his anticipation; and for the first time in a long time, the Once-ler actually felt like he did something good.
A/N: …This might actually continue as drabble ficlets. Mayyybe…!
Thanks for reading-drop a review if you so please!