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Take My Heart (and Make It Strong)

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“Patrick!” The panicked cry cut through the store’s quiet Friday morning.

“Hi, Ray.” Patrick got off the stepstool and wiped the dust off his hands. “What brings you to the store? Especially during prime real estate and photography hours.”

Ray Butani smiled his usual ear-to-ear smile, but it didn’t touch his eyes. “I need your help urgently. My second cousin Roberta has just had a cancellation, and she said if I could be there tonight I could consider myself the backup to her backup wedding photographer.”

“How many photographers does one wedding need?” Patrick asked.

“It is an Indian-Italian wedding; she could use five. But that’s not important. What is important is that I need a nice enough last minute wedding gift.”

“Oh, sure, we’ve got lots of stuff that’d fit the bill. What does she like?” Patrick asked.

“Uh. I don’t actually know her that well.”

David swooped in. “His and hers bathrobes. Very soft and surprisingly affordable. Back of the store. Come with me.”

Ray nodded at Patrick and followed David. Patrick readied a gift box.

They returned with the robes. “There was one more thing,” Ray said. “I was hoping for some sort of—a cologne? I want to smell memorable.”

The cords of David’s neck tensed. “That’s maybe not the adjective you want to reach for first when it comes to scent, but we’ll find something.”

Patrick finished boxing up the robes. He rang Ray up with the friends and family discount.

After a few minutes, Ray and David returned.

“Close your eyes,” David ordered.

Patrick raised an eyebrow, but did it.

“Smell this.”

Citrus. Lemon. Jasmine? “Hmm,” Patrick said.

“Now this one.”

Sandalwood. Vanilla. A hint of pine? “Okay.”

“And one more.”

Musk. Cinnamon. David.

“All right, open your eyes,” David said.

Patrick did.

“Which one did you like best?” Ray asked.

Number three was at the top of his list, but Patrick figured he was biased. “I liked the first one. Citrus, it’s refreshing.”

“But not like a cleaner?” Ray asked. “I like it, but I’m worried someone will think I’ve just been mopping.”

“Let me smell again?” Patrick asked.

Ray held out his right wrist.

Patrick sniffed. It actually was very nice. “Yeah, it’s great. I think that really works with your body chemistry. It’s subtle.”

“Okay, okay, you’ve both convinced me. Let’s go with the first one.” Ray crossed his fingers. “It might sound strange, but I’ve had good luck in the past meeting people at family weddings and I thought an advantage can’t hurt.”

Your family’s weddings? Patrick considered asking. “Well, I hope this helps.” He rang Ray up.

David cut in. “Be sure not to douse yourself in it. Less is more. You don’t want her to be so overwhelmed she has to back off. You want her to wonder what that amazing scent is, and lean closer.”

Ray nodded. “That sounds like good advice and I will take it. Thank you both. Patrick, I hope you’ll make sure to lock up the house tonight? Help yourself to any leftovers in the fridge. Unless the bride or groom doesn’t show up, I’m guessing I’ll be back late on Sunday. You’ll have the house all to yourself this weekend. Now—if you decide to throw a party? Make sure to Skype me in so I can say hello.”

Patrick thanked him and waved goodbye to Ray. Then he turned to face David.

David’s eyes were large. “A whole house to yourself.”

“That’ll be great. I can kick back. Relax.” Patrick tried to lean suavely on the counter, but his elbow slipped. He recovered. “Unless you might want to keep me company.”

David nodded. Then he just kept nodding.

Patrick nodded along. “I’m interpreting this as a yes?”

David’s next nod dropped his chin all the way to his chest.

*****

Friday afternoon stretched on and on. The store didn’t empty until closing, when a rush kept them even later, and closing duties delayed them after that. Patrick was partly grateful for how busy it stayed; David wasn’t the only one in their relationship capable of catastrophizing. Sure, he’d dreamed of the prospect of a real night alone together. But now that it had arrived, it seemed—a lot.

After work, Patrick took David by the motel. He left and came back with the same bag, now presumably filled with gear for an overnight. Neither of them said very much.

When they arrived at Ray’s, the house stood dark and quiet. Patrick followed David in, turned the porch light on, and locked up behind them.

David stood at the bottom of the stairs. He caught Patrick’s eye and shouldered his bag. “I, um. I’ll just go—upstairs?”

“Uh, yeah, yeah.” Patrick didn’t know why he’d suddenly lost the ability to speak. “Do you—are you hungry?”

David shook his head. “But if you had a glass of wine…?”

“I can do that. Yes. I will—meet you upstairs?”

“Okay.”

They both laughed at nothing. Patrick went to the kitchen, where he’d stashed a bottle of a basic red blend. He wished he’d thought about raiding the store for something nicer, but figured it didn’t matter tonight anyway. This wasn’t about fine wine tasting; this was a little liquid courage. He grabbed two stemless wine glasses, poured, and headed upstairs.

David had turned down the comforter, taken off his shoes and his sweater, and stretched out on Patrick’s bed. His overnight bag sat open on one of the nightstands.

“Here. Something red-ish?”

“My favorite vintage,” David said dryly.

As Patrick handed over the glass, his fingers brushed David’s. And he spotted the bottle of lube and the box of condoms tucked into the top of David’s bag. His mouth went dry. Luckily, he had his own glass of wine. He sat on the edge of the bed and drank. Oh God. What if he couldn’t do this? What if it all went badly? Or it hurt? Or both?

“Do you remember,” David began, “the day after we first kissed? We were in the store and I asked to spend the night at your place because of the dead body.”

Patrick snorted. “You know how I can’t get enough of hot dead body talk.”

“Mm-hm, well, I remember that later on that day, you actually apologized to me for leaping to the insane conclusion that I just wanted to sleep with you.” David had propped himself up with pillows. His eyes glinted with humor. “Can I tell you a secret?”

Patrick nodded.

“I really, really wanted to sleep with you.”

Patrick felt the blush begin. He drained the wine glass and put it on the nightstand. “Well, I really, really wanted to sleep with you, too. But I was—you know, nervous.”

“Are you nervous now?”

He thought about lying. “A little. You?”

“Uh. If my anxiety were a cake?” David took a sip of wine. “It would be like a Great British Bake-Off four tier showstopper. With little fondant scenes depicting everything that could possibly go wrong.”

That actually made him feel better. “Is there one for an emergency room visit?”

“Right on the side.” David mimed it. “Next to the one where you realize you’re not into me and this has all been a mistake.” He looked down into his glass.

Patrick wiped his palms on his knees. He tried to laugh. “Does the cake have room for one where my performance is really—not good—and you decide we should just be business partners?”

David put his half-empty glass next to Patrick’s on the nightstand. “I may have to make the one where I accidentally slip and kick you in the face and it makes you hate me forever a little bit smaller.”

Patrick toed off his shoes and turned toward David on the bed. “How about the one where you ask me to do something, I don’t actually know what that thing is, and have to sneak into the bathroom and google it?”

“That’s a good one.” David nodded as he pulled his shirt off overhead. “That’s happened to me, actually, and it was a thing I did not want to do. Luckily, there was a handy bathroom window and a fire escape.”

Patrick took the shirt from him, folded it, and put it over on top of David’s sweater on his dresser. He began unbuttoning his own shirt. “That sounds scary. Were you in danger?”

“Oh, no. Nothing like that. But I’d already agreed to do it and so it felt less awkward to flee.”

Patrick both did and didn’t want to ask. He took off his shirt. “What was the thing?”

“Uh.” David made a face. “Let’s just say I would rather be in the tank with the octopus.”

“Hey. Don’t knock the octopus ‘til you’ve tried him.”

“Just so you know? The octopus goes on top of the cake. Like the very top.”

“Oh, yeah?” Patrick said as he climbed onto the bed and stretched out next to David. “He’s going to be heartbroken.”

David leaned into him. “He’ll get over it.”

Patrick took David’s face in his hands and kissed him. He felt himself start to smile, and felt David return it. They took their time undressing each other. Patrick had left the bedroom lights on, but he didn’t spare much thought for what he looked like. He just enjoyed David spread out on his sheets, and how luxurious it felt to be able to reveal more and more of his naked skin without worrying about banging into shelves or falling off the couch. He grinned as he yanked David’s last sock off. David paid him back by stripping off Patrick’s boxers.

He fell into David’s arms, let David press him back into the mattress. He was gentle. Always had been, like Patrick was a fragile, precious thing. Patrick’s nervousness melted away. He loved David, loved everything they’d done together so far. Why wouldn’t more be even better?

Patrick broke first. He nearly knocked over David’s overnight bag getting out the lube. It took an agonizing minute for him to figure out how to open and unseal it while David’s mouth toured his body. When David’s tongue found that sensitive spot just behind Patrick’s balls, he moaned and raised his knees further. “Here. Please,” he begged. He passed David the lube.

David’s tongue teased his opening first. And just when Patrick thought he might shake apart, a slick finger replaced it, entering him slowly, carefully. It didn’t hurt. There was pressure, like when he’d experimented himself, and it built into an intense fullness that made Patrick desperate to move, to feel.

Suddenly the fullness shifted, and David’s finger found a place inside him that sent shivers of pleasure through him. Please, Patrick thought, and then he was saying it, repeating, “Please, David, please,” as David sucked his cock and fucked him with one finger, then two until he came.

Someone had turned down the sound on the entire world. Patrick could hardly hear or see, and when he came back he found David curled into his side, smirking at him. “What?”

“Nothing,” David said. “I just don’t think I’ve ever heard someone scream my name like that and I’m kind of enjoying my new status as a sex god.”

Patrick thought about this. “Would you call that screaming? I don’t think I’d call that screaming. Moaning, maybe a little shouting—”

“Uh, I know when someone is delirious with ecstasy because of something I did—”

Patrick pressed his body against David’s and kissed him. He could feel David’s erection pushing against his thigh and he shivered. “You want to keep talking, or you want to fuck me?”

“I don’t see why I can’t do both,” David murmured. He nuzzled Patrick’s chin. “You good to keep going?”

Patrick nodded. While David located the lube and the box of condoms, he caressed David’s body, delighting in the gasps and little hitches of breath he provoked. 

“You know, you’re only making this more difficult,” David panted. “I am trying to focus.” His second attempt to open the condom packet failed.

Patrick grinned. “Gee, David, I thought you were a sex god?”

“Okay, my hands are very slippery, and commentary is not helping.”

He looked and sounded a little on edge. “Give me that.” Patrick took it from him. He managed it on the first try. He pushed himself up and found David’s cock, already slick. He stroked it and rolled the condom on over it. But their angle wasn’t quite right. Patrick grabbed a pillow and put it underneath him while David lined himself up.

Now that Patrick wasn’t on edge, he watched as David’s eyes closed and lips parted, and was struck again by how gorgeous he was. He pushed in and, oh, okay, Patrick had to breathe deep against the pressure. He gripped David’s shoulders and braced himself. “Fuck,” he muttered.

And then David was in him, huge and hard, flush with arousal and the exertion of holding himself still. “Patrick,” he gasped.

“You’re good,” Patrick murmured. “It’s good.” And it was. He groaned as David started to move. Every thrust filled him and made him tremble. David hit that same perfect spot his fingers had found earlier, and after a couple of minutes, Patrick had to grab his cock. He stroked along. The bedsprings creaked and groaned with their combined weight.

David’s thrusts sped up. He bent Patrick back further over the pillow and gripped Patrick’s hips as he thrust in. He watched Patrick. “I’m—”

“Yeah,” Patrick murmured. “Do it. Come on, David.” He sped his strokes in time with David’s.

David, his forehead dewy with sweat, shook his head and slowed down. “Mm-nh. You go first. I want to watch.”

Patrick thumped his head back against the bed. “Oh, not fair, David, not fair.” But he couldn’t stop, not now, not so close. “Come on, fuck me, get me there, I’m almost—”

Maybe all he needed was to ask, because David sped up, meeting him, and suddenly Patrick was right there again, gripping David tight as he tumbled over the edge and came onto his stomach.

A moment later, David shuddered over him, thrust into him hard, and joined him in a sticky, sweaty, utterly fantastic afterglow.

Patrick just breathed. He was almost sad when David slipped out of him. But not so sad when David had to dispose of the condom, and Patrick got to lay there and watch the confused looks on David’s face as he tried to figure out where a good place to put it would be. “Bathroom trash?”

“Ah.” Naked David nodded and opened the bedroom door, vanished, and returned. “Really glad Ray isn’t here right now.”

“Me, too.” Patrick appreciated the view and didn’t move. Could he move? He wasn’t sure anymore.

David came back to bed. He lay naked on his stomach next to Patrick. “Would you say screaming that time? Begging? I’d definitely say there was begging.”

Patrick rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t drum up a witty response. “Okay, you’re a sex god.”

David blinked. He gave Patrick a dopey, delighted smile, leaned over, and kissed him. “And we didn’t even get to the triple.”

“Oh my god, David,” Patrick groaned.

*****

They did have to open the store on Saturday. Getting out of bed was tougher than it had ever been. Especially because, yes, okay, Patrick realized he was a little bit sore. But also because David was naked and right there, and Patrick didn’t even mind that he had morning breath, bed head, and could only groan inarticulately until he’d had a cup of coffee.

“Opening up today seems cruel and wrong,” David whispered over his second cup in Ray’s kitchen.

“Well, we don’t have to open tomorrow. Do you want turkey or ham?”

David squinted at the cutting board. “Can you do turkey-ham with the crusts cut off?”

Patrick could.

That afternoon, Patrick got a text from Ray with a photo of a dimple-cheeked brunette. He showed David. “Her name is Francesca. Apparently the cologne is working.”

“Cute,” David pronounced. “And going by the name, there’s a chance she’s not a direct relative.”

More than once, Patrick caught David watching him from across the store.

Closing up took longer than usual. It often did on Saturdays, when they had more customers and deliveries than usual, dairy that needed to be put in the fridge, cleaning to be caught up on—

David pulled off his blue cleaning gloves. “Um. …So I’m kind of tired?”

Patrick hated to admit it. “Yeah, me too.” He hesitated. “Also, maybe the tiniest bit stiff.”

David pursed his lips as he raised his eyebrows. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”

Well. At least they’d had a great Friday night. David probably needed a break from him. “Do you want me to take you back to the motel?”

“Oh. Um. No? But I noticed Ray’s DVD collection included a copy of Hope Floats…?”

“You’re on a real Sandra Bullock kick lately.” Patrick flipped off the lights. Right then, he didn’t think he cared whether David made him watch every single one of her movies.  

“Her down-to-earth everywoman charm speaks to me.”

They went back to Ray’s. He’d invited them to the leftovers, David noted, which included a very decent half of a meatloaf. Patrick didn’t think he considered a full tub of cookies and cream ice cream ‘leftovers’, but figured that since Ray had been texting him grinning selfies and wedding pictures most of the afternoon, he would be gracious enough to let Patrick replace it.

They stretched out on the couch under a blanket, had too much dessert, and cuddled close together, each leaning on the other. Patrick thought the movie was forgettable. Instead, he tried to memorize the way his life felt right then. 

When he woke up in the dark, it took a minute for him to place himself on Ray’s couch under a blanket, David’s arm around him. “Oh, geez, did I fall asleep again?”

“It’s okay,” David said.

“I’ll make it up to you.”

“It’s fine.” David squeezed his shoulder. “I’m not used to this part.”

“Hmm?” Patrick let David pull him closer.

“Someone wanting to be with me. You know, when I’m not buying the drinks.”

Patrick wasn’t sure what to say. He held David tight. 

“Also, I’m not… actually… a sex god,” he confessed.

Patrick snickered.

David nudged him. “No, listen. Will you—stop laughing.”

“Okay, okay, sorry.” Patrick settled back in. He was pretty sure David could feel him smiling, though.

“I just mean—while I absolutely would do my best to fulfill any of your—visions—um. I don’t…? Like? Everything.”

“Okay,” Patrick said slowly. “Like what don’t you like?”

“Um.” David tensed. “I don’t like—my face in a pillow. It’s hard to breathe like that. Or like if I can’t see you. It makes me feel like I’m not really there? Or that I’m not supposed to be there. If that makes any sense.”

Patrick thought he understood. “Okay. That’s—that’s fine, I can—”

David barreled on. “Also, hot wax? What is that. That’s something you only do to remove hair and it is never fun. Handcuffs? Why. Scarves, ties, soft rope, but locking metal cuffs? No thank you; I like my wrists. Certain things—I’m going to want to shower before and after I have them done to me. Like I enjoy them, but only when I have a handle on my own hygiene situation. For whatever reason, the reverse is not usually the case, don’t ask me to explain it, that’s just how I roll. Surprise threesomes. Uh-uh. I’m not saying never, but it should work like getting into a show at Fashion Week: by invitation, after you have been thoroughly reviewed by the entire agency, and only an incredibly exclusive crowd should even be considered.”

“Oh, no, I’ll have to cancel next week’s lineup,” Patrick said.

“I am trying to be honest.”

“No, I know.” Where had all this come from? “Just—I don’t think you have to worry about me arranging surprise threesomes. Ever. Or much of the, uh, bondage stuff? That’s not a no on that.” And thank goodness once again for low light, because he knew he was blushing. “I’m just—having fun doing what we’re doing.” Patrick considered his words. “And I think I can guess about what you have to shower for—”

“Maybe it’s best you don’t,” David advised.

Patrick tried not to let that throw him. “—But I can’t think why that would be a problem. Other than it might mean certain things shouldn’t be attempted in the stock room.” He shifted. “Speaking of. Uh. The triple?”

David turned toward him. “No?”

“Just that if it does happen, great. But like—if it’s something I have to try and make happen…”

“It’s got to be organic?”

That was a word for it. “Basically. Otherwise it’s just pressure.”

“Mm.” David nodded. “That is a note that I will take.” He relaxed into Patrick’s side. “I feel like we’re getting really good at talking.”

“We’re not bad,” Patrick agreed. He wondered again about what had prompted David’s outpouring. And a thought struck him. “Hey. Have you ever told anyone else... about the things you don’t like?”

David was quiet. “It’s just that at the beginning of relationships, I tend to be very—accommodating.”

Patrick could see that. He could also see how that wouldn’t work out in multiple ways. “So you either went through with things or found fire escapes..?”

“Luckily, New York has a lot of them. Fire escapes. I’m not good at climbing, though, I have a natural fear of heights. For many reasons. ...Um. Yeah, so. I just. Thought you should know.”

“Well, yeah. Good. I’m glad you told me.” The quiet and dark spread out around them. It felt a lot then like being back in the stock room.

“Just to be clear, the octopus thing is a joke?”

With every bit of him that loved David, Patrick fought his natural urge to say no. “Yes, David.”

“Okay. Just checking.”

*****

Patrick loved David asleep. Even when he drooled. Even when he snored. Even when he rolled over like a man not used to sharing a bed, and Patrick had to push back to keep his rights to half the mattress. “You are the octopus,” he muttered around three a.m., when David snuffled and tried to sleep-joust with him again. But he couldn’t be too mad when David wrapped him up in his arms, kissed Patrick’s shoulder in apology, and promptly fell back to sleep.

Patrick wasn’t so used to sharing a bed either.

Sunday morning was full of false starts. No reason to get out of bed, so why get up? Patrick buried his face in David’s hair more than once and went back to sleep. Except the last time he woke up, David wasn’t there.

Patrick frowned. His head crashed back into the pillow. He rolled over into the empty place David had been. Still warm. Finally he heard the faint clunk of the pipes. David must’ve been taking a shower. This all seemed fine and not worth getting up for, until something tickled the bottom of his foot.

Patrick twitched, snickered, and rolled over. “Quit…” he trailed off.

Naked, freshly-showered David Rose stood at the foot of the bed. He stroked his cock like an afterthought as he appraised Patrick still in bed. “Morning.”

“Wow,” Patrick breathed. He started to sit up, then thought better of it. “Hey, so I’m having this vision.”

“Oh?”

Patrick watched the muscles in David’s arms and abdomen move as he stroked himself. “You should come over here.”

“Yeah? Like—like this?” David swung by the nightstand for before he climbed onto the bed and straddled Patrick’s hips and rapidly hardening cock. “This good?”

“Perfect. Almost there. Ohhh.” Patrick had to take a breath as he felt David roll the condom onto his cock. His pulse jumped as David guided him back between his cheeks. “Whoa, hey, do you need—”

“I’m good, I started in the shower without you. You’re going to have to catch up,” David said as he slid down onto Patrick’s cock.

For the first few minutes, Patrick held David’s hips. For the next, he gripped the headboard’s metal rails. He never stopped swearing, gasping, begging, and panting as David sat astride and rode him, not stopping or slowing to watch Patrick this time, oh no. David threw back his head. His lips parted. He muttered dangerous, filthy, sexy things back; things that Patrick couldn’t quite hear because he was trying desperately not to come, and David’s ass was so hot and tight.

Just went he thought he might lose it, David tensed. His thighs shook. He jerked himself hard and fast, and Patrick stole their rhythm back from him, fucking David as he surrendered to his pleasure and came hard.

It only took a few more strokes for Patrick to unravel. He knew he moaned David’s name. And suddenly David was in his arms, kissing him, slick sweat and come and dampness leftover from the shower between them.

“You’re…” David began. “I…” His eyes shone. He shook his head.

I love you, Patrick thought. “Thank you,” he blurted.

David blinked. “For what?”

His heart came up with a flood of responses. For being with me. For letting me in. For showing me what it’s like when it feels right. For making it okay to not know what I’m doing, and for making falling asleep to Sandra Bullock movies and counting inventory highlights of my life. For giving me the reasons and courage to be here, and happy, and me. But as he was looking for the words, David interrupted.

He stroked the side of Patrick’s face. “I think I get it. Um.” David looked down, and when he looked back up, his eyes were even brighter. “Thank you, too.”

Patrick kissed him.

Eventually, they cleaned up. They ate cereal for breakfast in the kitchen, naked.

David tagged along to the grocery store with him. Patrick grabbed Ray a replacement carton of ice cream, and a second one ended up in the cart next to it while David tried to look innocent and avoid eye contact.

They brought the groceries back and finally, it was time to drop David back off at the motel.

Patrick kissed him goodbye. “See you tomorrow.”

“Mm-hm. Bye.” As David headed for his room, he looked back at Patrick in the car and shot him a grin.

Back at Ray’s, Patrick put on the laundry. He thought about meal prep and the week ahead. Or tried to, anyway. But he kept thinking about David. And he had a song in his head. Just a couple of notes. What was it? Maybe if he played it. Where had he put his guitar, anyway?

He’d left it propped up in his closet. Patrick couldn’t remember when he’d last played it. He also remembered mentioning to Rachel months ago that he should probably just get rid of it, since he never used it. But now he took it out, tuned it, and found the notes he was thinking of. Then he found a few more.

“Oh. I know this one,” Patrick told his bedroom. And he smiled.