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Take My Heart (and Make It Strong)

Chapter Text

About five seconds after the first time David touched his cock, Patrick came, gasping both with pleasure and from the force of sheer humiliation. He shut his eyes and sat still in the driver’s seat of the car.

David’s broad, impossibly hot hands, slick with saliva and now Patrick’s come, gentled on him.

Patrick felt his low rumble of laughter. He thought he might die of shame. “Sorry,” he choked out. It was his car, but he felt the urge to tuck in, zip up, and bolt out the door into the night.

“I’m not sorry,” David purred into his ear. His hands slid away.

Patrick marshalled his courage. He opened his eyes.

David regarded his hands. He raised his index finger to his lips, slid it between them. His cheeks hollowed. David made a low ‘mm’ noise before he slipped the finger out with a slick little pop.

Patrick felt a new bolt of heat surge through him.

David’s lips quirked. “Totally worth it, but this is still very messy.” He hunted and found a couple of unused napkins tucked into the tray in the passenger door. He wiped his hands clean and looked from the napkin to Patrick’s crotch. “These are not high-quality paper products. Trust me, you wouldn’t want me to clean you up with them.”

Patrick didn’t realize what was happening until David had leaned over and sucked Patrick’s cock into the warm of his mouth. He was—oh, God, David. He couldn’t control the strangled noises of torture and pleasure that fought their way out of him. Patrick didn’t always get hard again quite this quickly. But he’d never been with anyone who made him feel the way David made him feel.

David released him. “Um. Do you—can I keep going?”

“Yes,” Patrick managed.

David’s mouth slid over him, and the driver’s seat suddenly slid all the way back; David had found its release.

Patrick’s hands found their way into the shock of David’s perfectly mussed hair. He smelled of juniper and sandalwood, two scents Patrick wouldn’t have been able to identify before he’d met David. David, who was often downright hygiene-obsessed, and yet was currently doing very dirty things with his tongue, filthy things he’d probably read about in avant-garde blowjobs-as-performance-art books back in the city, things mortal men from the suburbs weren’t allowed to know. “Fuck, David,” he moaned in the quiet of the darkened car.

David pulled back, the warmth of his mouth on Patrick’s cock instantly replaced by the grip of his fist. His lips were slick and swollen.

 “I’d be game to try, but maybe not here. It’d be one thing if we had an SUV or the ground outside wasn’t cold and dirt. Also, these skinny jeans weren’t an ideal choice,” David whispered.

“David?” Patrick let his control slip. He thrust his hips and his cock upward into David’s grip.

“Hm?”

There were words on his lips. But he’d never said them. Not to anyone. Previously, sex had been a messy, awkward, embarrassing proposition and he’d tried to buckle down and get through it with as much efficiency and politeness as possible.  

But now David Rose had made him come, was working on making him come again, and wore a coy, open-mouthed grin that suggested efficiency and politeness were optional.

Patrick gasped on David’s tight upstroke and met his eyes. “Suck my cock.”

David froze. Then he raised an eyebrow and grinned wider. “I can do that.” He bent down and did as asked, taking Patrick’s shaft between his gorgeous lips. He licked all over and sucked him deep, almost back into his throat. Then he let Patrick slip back out. “What do you want me to do again?”

For half a second, Patrick didn’t understand, overwhelmed by the sensation. But the way David didn’t raise his head, held Patrick’s throbbing head right against his lips… Oh. “Suck my cock.”

David’s mouth engulfed him again. He slid back, almost off.

Patrick, reflexively, put his hands on David’s head.

David held still with just the tip of Patrick’s cock in his mouth. He sucked ever-so-gently.

Patrick thrust up into his mouth. As he did, he heard a long, low moan escape from David. Something as primal as the way he himself felt. He thought maybe he understood, and lightly pressed down on David’s head.

David moaned and licked and sucked him; whenever he let off, Patrick pushed his head back down and David went eagerly, desperately, until finally he rose up, gasping, his lips slick, eyes wild. “Patrick, fuck my face.”

Patrick had never done that before. Also it seemed very much to him like something that needed discussion and negotiation. A text message heads-up at the least. But it was David asking. No, begging. So Patrick took David’s face in his hands, kissed him, and then pressed him back down. It was easy to do as he asked, especially with the way David’s muffled moans and noises filled the car, so easy for Patrick to hold him in place while he pumped his dick deep into David’s hot mouth.

The car rocked with them, but they’d fogged the windows and it made Patrick feel as if it were only them, as if this—this disrespectful and amazing thing—was more than okay, it was right. “Oh, fuck, David. David,” he cried out, and suddenly he’d stepped over the edge, right into a one-two-punch of an orgasm that sent him coming into David’s mouth.

But just as Patrick felt David swallow the last pulse, his mouth pulled away. Patrick watched as David threw himself back into the passenger seat, yanked open the fly of his jeans, and pulled out his cock.

It looked good. Really, really good. Thick and full and hard in David’s hand. Patrick had never seen it before. Oh, he’d felt it, straining against the front of David’s briefs as they rolled around in Stevie Budd’s loaned bed and did what David later referred to as ‘medium petting’ - but he’d been hesitant to do more. That night, he hadn’t wanted thoughts of hot, tall ex-boyfriends to stain their evening. And okay, then Patrick had still been a little… scared.

But not tonight. Tonight, he’d felt like a coiled spring. Like he might die if David didn’t touch him. Thus the offer of a detour on the way to drop David at the motel. Patrick wondered if David could possibly feel the same way. Patrick tried to orient himself, even though it felt like the car was spinning. He could return the favor. He’d never given a blowjob before, but his hand? He knew he could do that part. He hoped.

But David’s eyes shut. He threw his head back, baring his neck, and jerked himself once, twice, three, four times—and with a groan he shot his come into the air with so much force, it spattered the dashboard and the inside of the front windshield.

Patrick let out a shuddering breath. He pictured leaning over, licking the crown of David’s cock like he had all rights to it. Just the way David had with him.

But the spatter caught his attention. He imagined shrieking Ew! the way he’d heard both David and his sister say it and he laughed. Then he laughed at the inappropriateness of the thought.

“Shut up,” David panted, his eyes still closed. “Unless you’re laughing with me. Are you laughing with me?”

“Of course,” Patrick said. The air inside the car felt heavy and saturated with sex. David looked—well, fantastic. More so, even, with a sheen of sweat on his brow, his lips parted, his black and white sweater rucked up, his too-tight jeans open, his silky-looking briefs pushed down underneath his large and now-softening cock. Patrick thought about what he’d have done if David had asked to fuck Patrick’s face instead. If he’d let him.

Patrick’s pulse jumped. He thought he would. He thought he’d let David do whatever he wanted.

“Mm, okay.” David opened his eyes. He smiled at Patrick; a half-embarrassed, half-flirty quirk of his lips. Then he spotted the come. “Oh my God! This is—do you have any wet wipes? Moist towelettes?” He located a few more napkins and began cleaning up as best he could. “This is disgusting. I am disgusting!” David’s gaze cut to Patrick. His voice lowered. “Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of it and I can’t wait to do it again. Next time in a bedroom.”

“Yes.” Patrick cleared his throat. He joined the hunt for extra napkins and moist towelettes that part of his brain knew weren’t there. “Uh, yes, absolutely. Preferably without your sister or Ray anywhere nearby.”

“We could just be quiet,” David said.

Maybe David could be. “I like privacy.”

“Me, too.” He tucked the napkins away and regarded the streak on the inside of the windshield. “You might need some glass cleaner.”

“Yeah.” Patrick nodded. Ray would have some. Failing that, the store had a bottle or two and why did any of this matter at all after what had just happened?

“Um. Could you let a little air in here? It’s kind of swampy.”

They tucked themselves back in. Patrick turned on the car, hit the defroster, and lowered the front windows each a few inches. Outside, the dark country road stretched into the distance.

“Take a minute for the windows to un-fog,” David said. “We could… make out?”

Patrick was glad for the dark; he thought he might be blushing.

“Unless you’re one of those—I mean—I don’t care. But some people—I’ve heard don’t like it when you go down on them, and then try to kiss them. I guess they think it’s gross or whatever.” David shrugged and turned toward the window.

Did he? Patrick wasn’t sure. “Come here.”

David turned towards him.

Patrick flicked on the radio. A long way away, a station broadcast an old bluegrass standard. Too much banjo for Patrick’s tastes, but more romantic than the talk station. He leaned over and kissed David’s soft lips, tasting the barest hints of himself on them.

When they finally broke apart three songs later, Patrick said, “I like it. I mean. I don’t think it’s gross.”

David bit his lip as he smiled back.

I love him, Patrick thought, a full second before: Oh. So this is what it feels like.

*****

Patrick couldn’t go back to Ray’s after he dropped David off. He drove around darkened streets while his thoughts raced in excited circles. Did I? Did we? We just—I can’t believe I asked him. And he said yes. And that—we did. I did. Eventually he pulled over into another dark, deserted lot by the side of the road, turned off the car, and just sat.

He remembered the first time he and David had kissed.

He’d been full of butterflies leading up to dinner. Jacket? No jacket? Jacket, he’d decided, hoping that its presence would help convey what Patrick couldn’t say aloud: I want this to be a date.

He remembered his spirits sinking when he’d seen Stevie, having to go to the bathroom and regroup, giving himself a silent pep-talk in the mirror. You can do this. This is just a casual dinner. It always was. How much his heart had hurt, and disappointment had tried to talk him into leaving early so that David and Stevie wouldn’t have to put up with a third wheel who’d misread things.

Then how David’s eyes had shone when he’d opened his gift. How Stevie excused herself early. How his and David’s hands had brushed when they’d both reached for the last mozzarella stick.

Patrick remembered walking David to his car. Pulling up to the motel. How his pulse raced because David was smiling at him, ducking his head, speaking so quietly Patrick needed to lean closer to hear him. How a thousand voices in his head had told him what a good idea, bad idea, terrifying idea this was—and how they had all gone silent when David kissed him.

Afterwards, he’d driven around Schitt’s Creek for a good half-hour. He’d passed the town’s sign and remembered the time when he was fifteen, and his cousin Bill had driven them up just to get pictures of it. They’d joked—all of them, even Patrick—that Schitt’s Creek was where you went when you were fucked.

He hadn’t known then that the trip would someday change his life. That he would, one dark day years later and seven months into an engagement that felt increasingly like the worst mistake of Patrick’s life, have what he thought of as a nervous breakdown, quit his job, pack his things, break it off for good with his fiancée, have a blistering fight with his parents, and then spend the night driving until the town sign appeared. And how because of that trip and what had just happened, he would decide to ask for and say yes when the friendly realtor offered him—a random unemployed guy with red-rimmed eyes, a few bags, a guitar, and zero plans for the future—a room.

Now, Patrick sat in the dark and wondered if everything had worked out in the way it was meant to. If somehow, all the roads in his life had been leading him here, to David.

 “This is good. It’s going to keep being good. I’m not going to mess it up,” he promised himself.

Chapter Text

The next morning David came in late, kissed Patrick on the cheek hello, and kept his sunglasses on until he’d had two cups of coffee.

Patrick was fine with it; the moment he saw David, his heart started pounding. Hey, I think I’m in love with you, felt dangerously close to being something he wanted to say out loud, even though he knew it would be a terrible idea. Especially so early on. Especially with his business partner. Especially because he’d only recently figured out the whole liking other men thing. Especially because now he was officially—having sex—with the other men. Man. With David. This is fast, he thought.

“How are you?” David asked, when he’d woken up enough and the pre-lunch lull emptied the store. He laid his sunglasses on the counter. His eyes squinted as he adjusted to the light.

Patrick turned all the lip balm labels in the basket near the register to face outward. “I’m, uh. Good.”

David leaned over and rested his elbows on the counter, his chin in his hands. “Mm-hm, good like the honey-almond hand cream good, or good like those lemon-aloe bath bombs?”

Judging by the grimace when he’d said ‘aloe’ Patrick went with: “Definitely the hand cream.”

“Which you absolutely have used,” David said, in that way that meant I know you haven’t.

“Oh, every day. Look at my cuticles. They’re so soft.” Patrick held out his hand as proof.

David grabbed it and held on. “You should really be using this pomegranate cuticle oil I have if you want properly conditioned cuticles. You know, if you cared about your cuticles.”

“Should I care…?” Patrick asked. He threaded his fingers with David’s.

“Ideally, but you can’t be one hundred percent perfect at all times.”  

Patrick turned David’s hand over and pressed a kiss into his palm. The same palm that David had wrapped around him the night before. Hey, I sort of think I love you, he thought about saying again.

“You’re sure you’re okay? Because I feel like you’re kind of… quiet, right now, and that’s making my anxiety spiral a little bit because of all that stuff you said about going slow, and that’s kind of not my natural pace.” David made a face. “Was last night okay? Inviting me out wasn’t some test where I was supposed to push you away or something, was it, because if that’s your fantasy? I am willing but you might need to tell me about that in advance of…” He sagged against the counter. “Look, if you ever want to stop this thing we’re doing, please never try to be kind about it. I’d far prefer to be guillotined than, like, very slowly beaten to death with pillows.”

Patrick shook his head. “No. I don’t want to—of course I don’t want to stop. And I don’t—regret—last night.”

David wrinkled his nose. “You hesitated when you said ‘regret.’”

Nobody had come into the store, but Patrick glanced up anyway before he spoke. He played with David’s captured hand, mapping the lines on his palm, exploring the spots where his metal rings met skin. “I didn’t even get to touch you.”

“Oh.” David brightened. “Oh, is that—we could fix that now.”

Patrick’s cheeks heated. “The lunch crowd is going to start trickling in any moment.”

“So that’s a no on the exhibitionism, yes on the dirty talk?” David asked.

He could feel the blush spreading over his face, up into his ears. “Um. I don’t really.” Patrick choked on his own words, stopped, and tried again. “I’ve never done that. I’ve never—said that. Before.”

David stilled Patrick’s hand between his. “It was literally the hottest thing that has ever happened to me. And though I may have previously said something like what I said to you last night, you are the only one I’ve ever said it to un-ironically.” 

The door swung open.

Without releasing Patrick’s hand or tearing his eyes away, David called over his shoulder, “Welcome to Rose Apothecary.”

*****

It would be prudent, Patrick thought, to put the brakes on and take a few days, process this new development, and hopefully that would cut down on the amount of times per day he was tempted to confess his so-big-he-might-burst-into-song feelings.

Except now all Patrick wanted was for David to keep touching him.

David’s solid body pressed him up against the shelving in the darkened stock room.

“I want to know what you taste like,” Patrick whispered into David’s ear.

David made appreciative noises into his favorite spot on Patrick’s neck and made no move to get either of them out of their clothes.

It was Patrick’s own fault; he’d set ground rules. Kissing at work? Fine, but no tongue in front of customers. A little handsy-ness in the stock room? Okay, but over clothes only. In the beginning, Patrick had wanted to be able to keep some separation between work and play. And all right, he’d also had more anxiety about the, ahem, more physical aspects of their relationship. David had done… probably everything. Patrick had done… nothing.

Anyway, the stock room was packed full of boxes of merchandise that neither of them wanted damaged. It also just plain didn’t have a lot of room leftover for recreational activities. So Patrick had asked that they take anything more than kissing and an occasional grope in the back off the table.

David had been very respectful of that. Too respectful.

“Addendum to the stock room rules,” Patrick gasped.

David pulled back. “Okay. Um, we can call it a night—”

“All stock room rules shall henceforth be lifted after closing.”

David tilted his head. “Henceforth let us not use the word ‘henceforth.’ It reminds me of something my mother would say.”

Patrick nodded. “Noted.”

“But I like the rule change. Did you know that the store is closed right now?” David kissed him.

Patrick’s shoulder wedged up against a box of artisan doormats. “We might need to clear a little space in here.”

David nodded. “Space for a California king, got it.” He leaned back in for another kiss.  

They would maybe have room for a cot. And maybe David hadn’t understood him. Patrick squeezed David’s hips, pulled him closer, and let him feel just how much he wanted him. Or he tried to; David’s oversized sweater got in the way. Patrick tugged upward on it.

David murmured something about the sweater’s original release date, but helped Patrick take it off him. David couldn’t resist folding it and placing it on a nearby stack of boxes.

This was Patrick’s chance. He’d been thinking about this since before he and David had even kissed. He tucked his fingers into David’s front belt loops and used them for balance as he knelt. David’s belt buckle opened easily, even though Patrick’s hands shook a little.

“Are you sure you want to…”

Hearing David’s voice helped steady his nerves. Patrick nodded. He did, more than anything. His heart thudded in his chest. There in the close, quiet dark of the stock room alone with David, it was easy to imagine doing things to David, with David, everything he’d ever thought of in private. Patrick unbuttoned David’s jeans; David helped him ease them down around his hips. But he let Patrick find the logo waistband of his silky black briefs. He tugged them down, exposing David’s erection.

David’s cock jutted out, hard and proud. This close, he seemed bigger than Patrick remembered. His head leaked a drop of pre-come. Did he feel as hard as he looked? Did he ache for Patrick to touch him as much as Patrick wanted to?

Above him, David gasped. “Okay, I am not trying to rush this, I promise, but do let me know if you need, like, a flight plan—”

Patrick did not. He leaned forward. The head of David’s cock felt so soft against his lips. He licked the drop of fluid there away and tasted it. Not so different from his own taste, and yet somehow compelling and masculine and fucking David. He opened his mouth, making sure to tuck his lips down over his teeth, and let the heft of David’s shaft slide inside.

Above him, David made a small noise.

He ran his tongue over velvety soft skin. Patrick took slow, experimental licks and sucks, drawing shudders and shivers and moans out of David. I’m doing that, he thought. He likes it. He likes what I’m doing. And then wow, I really like this.

From there on it was easy to open to him, to slide David’s hard cock deeper into his mouth and back out to almost his lips. Finding a rhythm was trickier. Patrick didn’t always know how deep he could go until he’d pushed just past it, and catching his breath required him to use one of his hands to help out—which felt amazing, just holding David—but the gentlest of touches just behind his ear corrected him, guided him, and then even the rhythm was easy.

“Patrick,” David moaned. “I’m going to—”

Patrick didn’t let up. He felt it when David tried to signal him, but only kept up his relentless rhythm until he heard David’s breathless gasp and felt him thrust forward, roughly filling Patrick’s mouth with his cock and pulse after pulse of his come.

He stuck the landing—almost. Mid-swallow, Patrick choked and had to break away. He coughed and tried to mime down the wrong pipe before realizing it didn’t matter in the dark. He coughed until his throat felt clear. As he caught his breath, he was struck almost giddy by the thought that he’d just given David a blowjob. Going by the evidence, it had been a decent performance. And it had been really hot.

David hitched up his jeans enough to allow him to clamber down onto the floor next to Patrick.

“Hey,” Patrick said. His voice sounded like someone else’s, raspy and low. I love you.

David’s eyes caught the light. He looked about to answer, but instead lunged for Patrick, gathered him into his arms, and kissed him, all lips and passion and breath and a need that echoed Patrick’s own. David’s tongue did not care at all where Patrick’s mouth had just been.

Patrick surrendered to the kiss and the embrace. He leaned into David’s chest and felt the way his body shifted against his own. He let himself stroke the slope of David’s back, his hips, until he met the waistband of David’s still-opened jeans. He hesitated only for a second before he slid his hands underneath and squeezed David’s ass.

Patrick’s erection had flagged during his coughing fit. But now it came back as he imagined other things he might do to David. And then the fantasies of David doing those things to him made Patrick break off the kiss and tuck his face into David’s shoulder. He took a couple of breaths to recover his composure. He’d come fast the first time David had touched him. He wouldn’t let it happen again. Not when David had probably been with a few—okay, a lot—of more experienced, taller—Jesus, Patrick, stop it, he thought.

“Okay?” David asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Patrick whispered back. “Doing great.” He could feel the smile on David’s face against his neck, and that gave him a boost of confidence.

“Good, because I’m sort of having—a vision—right now. I need you to take off your clothes,” David said.

Patrick barely paused before he got to his feet. He made short work of the button down and his undershirt. While he got undressed, he watched as David transformed the small stretch of floor with a couple of flattened cardboard boxes for padding and a throw blanket that’d have to come out of inventory. He also twitched aside the curtain, letting more light into the back room.

“Hurry, take off your pants,” David commanded.

Which, okay, clear direction. Patrick could work with that. He took off his jeans.

“Boxers, too.”

Naked. Right. Entirely naked, while David was fully clothed—okay, half-naked, Patrick amended, as he watched David pull his t-shirt off overhead, revealing his nicely muscled and hairy chest. Out of his clothes, especially his often bulky sweaters, Patrick had discovered David’s body was leaner and harder than he’d expected, pale where he stayed covered but also blessed with tantalizing dark hair. Now Patrick wished for a little more light. He wondered what David would look like stretched out on a real bed in the morning sunshine, his hair tousled from sleep, his skin warm. They hadn’t had a chance that night at Stevie’s; an early morning storm had sent Jack and Stevie back to the apartment before dawn.

David bunched up part of the blanket behind his head. His smile was full of promise. “Feeling shy?”

Yes. “No.” He summoned up a little bravado. “Just wanted your full attention.”

“Oh, you’ve got it.”

Patrick didn’t dare look at himself. Instead, he watched David as he slid off his boxers and kicked them aside. He resisted the urge to suck in his stomach. But he did stand up straight. He was so hard, he thought he might lose it just with David looking at him.

“You look…” David’s eyes swept over him. “Fantastic.”

David was obviously insane, but if it worked to his advantage… “Well, I do want to meet the standards of your vision.”

“Oh, getting you naked? That’s just part of the vision. The other part happens when you come down here,” David said. He reached up for him.

“Like this?” Patrick let David maneuver him so that he sat, straddling David’s hips.

“Just like this.” David reached into a box on a nearby shelf and pulled out a tube.

Patrick frowned. “Is that the—”

“Honey-almond hand cream. Slicker than you’d think, and hypoallergenic. It’s an excellent product and I think you should experience it.” David flipped the cap open. “I really want to watch you come.”

Patrick grabbed the base of his dick and squeezed. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You’re going to have to stop saying stuff like that if you want me to last.”

David pushed himself up on his elbows. “I don’t need you to last.”

Patrick leaned down and kissed him. He gasped into David’s mouth when he felt a slick fist wrap around his cock. David’s first stroke was slow; it made Patrick groan.

David broke off the kiss and stretched back out, folding one arm behind his head as he kept stroking Patrick’s cock and just… watched.

Patrick couldn’t bear it. He had to close his eyes and concentrate to hold out. But even though he couldn’t see it, he felt David’s gaze on him like fire. He tried to hold still. What am I doing with my hands, he thought, right before holy shit, I’m going to—but where am I supposed to—.  And then all thought went away as he felt David cup his balls. “David,” he cried, and opened his eyes.

David’s open-mouthed grin was predatory.

Patrick lost control, jerking hard into David’s grip as he exploded onto his chest, striping it with jets of his come. David played him like an instrument, stroking Patrick until the very last drop. Patrick found he’d grabbed onto one of the nearby shelves; he relaxed his hold and tried to catch his breath. He felt wrecked.

“This,” David said, glancing from Patrick to the come painting his chest. “This was the rest of my vision.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Patrick cleared his phone notifications without so much as a frown. He was in such a good mood that he listened to Ray talk about his podcast for nearly twenty minutes.

“And how is David?” Ray asked, once he’d run out of steam.

“He’s great,” Patrick told Ray as he packed his lunch bag.

“Word on the street says things may be getting serious,” Ray teased.

Patrick paused over his turkey sandwich. He cut it into neat halves. “We’re taking it slow.”

But Ray’s offhand comment followed him to the store and through opening. Was it serous? It felt serious to Patrick. But for all he knew, David considered them… casual.

No, not casual, Patrick decided as he turned on lights. But were they even exclusive? Sure, he hadn’t ever seen David hanging around with anyone else in town except Stevie, and Patrick was reasonably certain there was zero remaining interest in a sexual relationship there from either side, but even SC had its share of places to pick someone up. If David had ever been—frustrated—there was no agreement stopping him from finding someone else.

The sound of the door roused Patrick from his thoughts. He looked up, expecting the first customer of the day.

Instead, it was David, earlier than usual in an oversized white and black zigzag sweater and distressed jeans. He headed straight for the counter and leaned over it to give Patrick a kiss. “Good morning,” he said. He stroked the side of Patrick’s face.

He leaned into the caress. Patrick meant to say good morning. Instead he blurted: “You’re not seeing anyone else, are you?”

David blinked at him. “Uh, firstly? No. Secondly?” He frowned. “No. Just—nuh-uh. No. I am not.” His frown deepened, and so did his voice. He picked up a lip balm from the display and turned it over, as if the label had become the most interesting thing in the world to look at, and that’s why he couldn’t meet Patrick’s eyes. “Are you, um, seeing other people?”

“No. Of course not.” Patrick shook his head. He folded his arms and also looked at the lip balm. It really was nice lip balm. “I just—this morning Ray made some comment and I just thought. Well. We never specified. That it would be just the two of us.”

“I think I would prefer that.” David hesitated. “That is unless you really wanted to add someone else into the mix…”

“No, I don’t.” Patrick felt both relieved and exasperated at himself. He took a breath and tried again. “David, would you please be exclusive with me?”

Some of the worry lines on David’s face eased. “You know how much I love the word ‘exclusive.’” He tucked the lip balm back in the display. “I would be delighted, Mister Brewer.”

His heart soared. ‘Let’s be exclusive’ wasn’t quite what he wanted to say to David, but it was getting closer. Patrick leaned over the counter and kissed David. He’d worn a hint of cologne. Not something he did every day, Patrick had learned. But on special days, like the store’s opening, or when they’d gone out for dinner, he would. “You smell nice.”

“Mm. Thank you.” David twisted the rings on his fingers. “To be clear, exclusive just means we’re not seeing other people? There aren’t like, some mysterious rules I need to follow now, or…?”

Patrick shook his head. “Nope.”

“Just because I’m not—great at things like, um, relationships and having people I’m dating be able to stand me for more than a few weeks at a time, so.”

Patrick wanted to drag David into the stock room and just hold him when he referenced his not-so-happy track record. “You know, it’s been a few weeks.”

“You still like me?” David chuckled as if it were a joke.

But Patrick knew it was a real question. I love you. “I like you a lot.”

David absorbed this. “Well, I like you, too,” he said quietly, and swept away to greet the first customer of the day.

*****

Patrick was checking the barcodes on the new labels when he felt David embrace him from behind.

“By the way, I wanted to say that I appreciated you going along with my vision last night,” David murmured in his ear. “And I wanted to say that if you have any particular—visions—of your own, that I will try my best to accommodate them.”

“Yeah?” Patrick suppressed a laugh. He knew David was being sincere, and thought maybe he shouldn’t tease. But it was so much fun. “Because there is one thing.” He turned around and said seriously: “You know those really big foam cowboy hats?”

David couldn’t not make a face.

Patrick cracked into a smile for a micro-second.

It was long enough for David to get it; he schooled his expression into seriousness.

“There’s just something about them. They really do it for me,” Patrick explained.

“Mm.” David nodded. “How big are we talking?”

“The bigger the better. Like a six foot radius.”

David tilted his head. “It sounds like it would be physically difficult to stay upright wearing something that big?”

“The foam is really lightweight.”

David considered this. “Okay. Well, just to create a balanced feel for the fantasy, I’m going to need to also be dressed in comically large pants.”

Patrick paused. “Will you have to wear the pants the whole time?”

“They’ll be so large, you’ll be able to get into the pants with me.”

Patrick scanned a barcode. “I’m into it.”

“Good. Well, if you have any more visions, do let me know.” David went off to spritz produce and upsell customers.

After the afternoon rush had ebbed, Patrick found David restocking eye serum. He pretended to be interested in the age-defying masques below them as he asked quietly. “What about—with an octopus?”

David adjusted the placement of the serum jars. “Where would the octopus… go?”

“Oh, no, it would just also be there,” Patrick explained.

“Ew. Hm. Okay, yes,” David said.

“Did I mention we would all be in the same saltwater fish tank?”

“Hang on.” David shifted a jar over. “So we’re all floating in saltwater.”

“Yes.”

“And so the octopus could just like, swim over and do whatever it wanted to.”

Patrick shrugged. “I don’t like to put limits on him.”

David, again, considered this. “Okay, provided we have some sort of strategic net separating our below-the-waist-areas from the octopus and I have some kind of industrial-grade goggle on. Because a tentacle in the eye? Not a turn on.”

Patrick took a deep breath in and let it out. “I’ll talk to the octopus. I think we can meet you halfway.”

A voice behind them piped up. “Are you guys going to the aquarium?”

They turned.

Twyla beamed at them over her shopping basket. “I love the aquarium. Of course when I was little, they used it as a euphemism for when my Uncle Pete was in prison. ‘Where’s Pete? Oh, he’s gone to the aquarium again. He’ll be back in five to ten.’”

Wordlessly, David stepped away, leaving Patrick to chat with Twyla about life in prison and also fish as he rang up her purchases.

Near closing time, Patrick came up with another one. “What about lying on top of a really huge fresh, hot pizza?”

David didn’t hesitate. “Yes. Wait, how hot is the pizza? Never mind, yes.”

Patrick broke and laughed.

“And what is the topping situation? Can we also order another pizza that I can eat afterwards? I meant that we can eat afterwards. Or would it be fine to eat the second pizza while we—regardless, we’re going to need extra napkins.” David reflected. “I think I’m just hungry. Do you want to get dinner?”

After closing, they drove to Elmdale and the nearest semi-decent pizza place. As they ordered at the counter, David kept touching him on the arm, the shoulder, the back of his neck. Patrick liked it. It made him feel like he had some kind of sign on him – Reserved for David Rose.

They ate and took a stroll down Elmdale’s main drag. A lot of its shops were dark, but they both peered in and critiqued their issues.

On the drive back, David found an easy listening station playing Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got To Do With It? “I love this song, I love Tina, and I must have seen the movie five hundred times.”

“A good song. Not her best song. But a very good movie,” Patrick agreed.

“It’s what got me into Buddhism.”

Patrick raised an eyebrow. “You’re a Buddhist?”

“For like a summer. I had trouble with the whole ‘desire creates suffering’ part. And the meditating part. And the mindfulness part. But I do like yoga. Yoga wear,” he amended.  

He’d never done yoga. He had no idea whether he would like it. “Maybe you could show me some moves sometime,” Patrick said.

“I could show you some moves now,” David suggested.

The car felt too warm. “Maybe not while I’m driving.”

“You could… pull over?” David explored the give of his seatbelt. “Or we could go back to the store.” He paused. “Unless this is too fast. We did just have dinner. And we do have to work tomorrow.”

Patrick thought about taking it slow.

He drove back to the store.

*****

“Did you really…? The whole thing?”

“Everywhere you could put wax, I had waxed. I used to get kind of insecure about it.”

“It’s chest hair. Guys have chest hair.” Patrick played with said chest hair. David’s was dark and luxurious and not as thick as he made it sound. He wondered if David conditioned it. “I like yours.”

David made a hmm-ing noise. It hitched as Patrick found his nipple. “Full disclosure: I still do a little bit of, um, landscaping.”

They had to curl up together to lay down in the stock room’s narrow space. Patrick had managed to get David’s clothes all the way off this time, even if he did still insist on folding them before anything else happened. Patrick’s second time giving a blowjob had gone even better than the first, probably because David had beaten him to it and it left Patrick extra-relaxed.

Patrick used a fingertip to keep David’s nipple perked up. All he wanted to do was look at David’s body, to touch him. He thought if they’d had more space, he might try to kiss every part of him. “I’ve never had to worry about it. Never been able to grow much hair. This right now?” He gestured to his chin. “This is weeks.”

“Oh, I was wondering if you specifically were going for that length.” David giggled as Patrick found a ticklish spot. “Stop it.” He rolled them so that Patrick was on his back, David draped along his side. “You just wait, you’ve got a spot and I will find it.”

“I told you, I’m not ticklish,” Patrick said. But he let David search for an undiscovered spot anyway. Tonight it was easier to let David to look at and explore him. In the near dark of the stock room with only the display fridge’s hum as their soundtrack, it felt private, intimate.

David’s broad palm traced along Patrick’s ribcage. He bent his head to suck at a spot just over his collarbone.

Patrick shivered. It wouldn’t be visible there under his collar, and it would be visible to him later on if he wanted to remember. “You’re like a vampire.”

David soothed the spot with his lips and tongue while he kept up the search for Patrick’s alleged ticklish spot. He stroked down across Patrick’s stomach while he propped his head on his hand. “So. What if I were a vampire.”

Patrick blinked. “Uh. Oh. Is that… something you like…?” David did favor a black color scheme.

“Not really. There is such a thing as too much eyeliner.” David’s fingers found the faint trail of hair leading from Patrick’s navel to his now re-interested cock. “Um. Not to be critical, because I do realize that life circumstances have dictated that the only reliable place with privacy available to me is on top of a pile of cardboard like some vagrant—”

Patrick’s hips rolled upward of their own accord. “It’s more comfortable than the floor. And the blanket gives it class.”

David snorted. “Okay, what I am trying to do here is find out what you like, Patrick. What your ‘vision’ is. Or visions are. And if that is Interview with a Vampire cosplay or a giant foam cowboy hat—look, I would like to pretend I have more dignity than I do. I can make whatever—within reason—happen.”

It took a second for the blood to shift back to Patrick’s brain. “David. You know I don’t…” He shrugged. “I’m kind of new to all this.”

“I know. Just that we were—going slow. And now we’re kind of—not? And I would rather not crash this whole relationship into a wall because my GPS tells me to go somewhere you don’t want to be.”

Patrick tried to decipher the metaphor. “Are you worried we’re going too fast?”

“I worry I’m going to get so focused on—driving—in the way I am used to, that I will fail to see the railroad crossing and the oncoming train.” David leaned down and pressed a kiss into Patrick’s shoulder. His hand slid further down, almost to the base of Patrick’s cock. “Because I know what I like. I want to make sure I don’t miss what you like. Or what you think you might like. So if you ever want to tell me—”

“What if I think I’d like everything?” Patrick rasped. His hips came off the blanket, and his cock slid into David’s hand. He turned his head and pressed his lips to David’s neck, his chin, and his temple before he captured his mouth.

Chapter Text

He woke up the next morning and felt his collarbone, and the pleasantly achy spot where David had likely given him a hickey. Patrick wondered if it would be a little red or bright purple. He grabbed his phone; he had a text. From David?

From Rachel.

Patrick braced himself and read it.

Nonsense letters.

He knew this trick. She’d used it before. Heck, he’d used it before. It usually worked. He and Rachel had known each other for so long, it was always easier to talk than not talk. Except that when he’d left, he’d promised himself no more. There wouldn’t be any more torturing either of them by rationalizing that they could be friends and then falling back into a relationship. Just because something was easy, didn’t mean it would make you happy.

David made him happy.

Patrick took a breath and deleted the text. Now the unread text from his Mom moved to the top of the list. He sighed. He hadn’t called her since he’d left.

He hadn’t wanted her to worry about him. But he also hadn’t wanted her to assure him that it was okay, that he could talk to Rachel, give up on ‘finding himself’, come back and resume the old life he hadn’t wanted. He had also not wanted her to just show up—which she was prone to doing. So he’d sent a few initial texts with no real details. Yes, he was fine. He was renting a room. Where? A nice, small town. He helped people with their accounting needs.

But it wasn’t enough. They’d pushed, especially his Mom. Why, what, where, who, how, why, why, why repeated on a loop until Patrick had mostly stopped looking at the texts at all.

He felt guilty for pushing his family away. He missed them. Back home, it had been rare to go a whole weekend without at least calling for a chat. But he had no idea how they’d take this—the real him. Patrick barely knew how to handle it himself. He had no idea what his risk-averse, over-insured Dad would say about his choice to leave the world of stable employment behind for a retail start-up, or what his sister, Casey—who he was sure was still on at least two text chains with Rachel—would say about her non-refundable bridesmaid’s dress. He had no idea what any of them would say when he told them he was gay. If he told them. Maybe it was better not to tell them?

In the back of his mind lurked small, disquieting thoughts that part of the reason for not telling them was so he would have the option to go back to his old life. A safety net. Because no matter how right everything felt—what if he was wrong again? About himself, about the store, about David?

And once Patrick paid attention to those thoughts, the nastier they got. How do you not notice you’re gay? How big a fucking idiot do you have to be to miss something so goddamn basic about yourself for over a fucking decade? and Or maybe you’re not an idiot at all, maybe you’re just crazy, maybe these last couple of months are the anomaly, you just didn’t try hard enough back home, and you threw it all away because you wanted to have a tantrum about life being hard, you screwed over everyone and they’re never going to understand much less forgive—

“Okay, I’m going to get up now,” Patrick announced to his bedroom.

*****

“It’s just that I have a thing with Stevie after work. So I can’t.” David waggled his eyebrows, wiggled his hips, and shuffled his shoulders in the stock room’s direction.

Taking out a billboard would be more subtle. Patrick pretended not to get it. “I’m sorry?”

“I mean I… can’t.” David sagged against the counter.

“Ohh.” Patrick nodded. “You mean we will both have to survive a single evening apart?”

“You don’t have to act like that’s not a tragedy.”

“It is an epic tragedy. But I’ll just have to soldier on.” Patrick counted down the till. “You guys have fun. Paint the town red.”

“We will be more likely splitting a bottle of discount fruit wine at Stevie’s apartment, but I’ll let you know if more transpires.”

Patrick chuckled. When Stevie showed up before close, Patrick waved at her and sent David off.

Closing up alone took less time than with David’s help. But when they kept distracting each other, he supposed that made sense. He flipped off lights and checked the back door.

His phone went off. A text from his Mom.

Emergency please call. There’s…

Patrick locked the store’s front door behind him and jogged to his car as he hit the call button. What if there’d been an accident? What if someone had gotten hurt? Was his Dad okay? He’d been watching his cholesterol, but he still ate too much candy. Patrick had been totally selfish, just moving away. If he drove straight through, he could be home by—“Mom? Mom, is everything all right?”

“Oh, sweetie! I’m so glad to hear your voice. It’s been so long.”

“What happened? Is everybody okay?” he demanded.

“Well, there’s some news…” She started explaining it.

Patrick only made it five minutes down the road before he had to pull over. The air in the car felt thin, the road in front of him unsteady. He listened to his Mom speak like he was outside himself, watching the film version of his own life. When she stopped talking, he took a breath and let it out. “So the emergency is that—Dad ran into Mr. Armstrong, they’re short-staffed, and if I call by the weekend, I can have my old job back.”

“No questions asked, Patrick! You know how far he and your father go back. He said were a great employee, right up until you left—”

He could have it all back. His old job. Rachel had reached out. He could go back, pick up where he’d left off, and all would be forgiven. He could go back and make everyone happy.

Except himself. And there was no room in that life for David.

Patrick’s hands shook. Even if they hated him for it, it was too high a price to pay. “Mom, I have a job here.”

“Where is here, honey? You still haven’t told us. Or your friends. Your cousins are worried about you—we’re all worried about you.”

Patrick couldn’t breathe.

“I talked to Rachel this past Saturday. She wanted me to say hello.”

He opened his mouth, but nothing would come out. Not a yes, not a no, not a ‘how about the weather,’ not an ‘I’m sorry I’m such a disappointment.’

“If you wanted. If you’re not so far away these days. You could drive over for dinner this weekend. We could invite whoever you wanted.”

Patrick pictured David at dinner with his family. It was a strange image.

“I could give Rachel a call. Or have your sister do it. I’m sure she’d—”

“Mom, I have to go.” She said something else, but Patrick couldn’t hear it. “I have to go. I love you.” He hung up. His stomach knotted; his vision clouded. For a minute Patrick thought he might throw up or pass out or both. He managed to open the door. The scents of fresh evening air and warm asphalt rushed in, along with just a hint of manure in distant fields.

When Patrick felt less light-headed, he recognized the spot as being not far from where he and David had parked a few nights ago. His phone vibrated again and again. He ignored it.

What could he even say to make them understand? His life had been perfect on paper. It’s just that despite everything he’d had, he’d still felt like he was drowning.

When he felt better, he started the car and drove back to Ray’s.

To call Ray chatty was to call the ocean a little damp. But that night he took one look at Patrick, made them both a cup of herbal tea, and put on the movie classics channel without saying a word. Patrick drank the tea, watched 20 minutes of the movie, and went to bed early.

Just as he was getting settled, his phone vibrated again. Patrick sat up, threw the blankets off him, grabbed the phone, and readied himself to say something serious and boundary-setting that started with the word ‘no’—

But it was a text from David.

Adrenaline flowed out of him. Scrolling down on his list, both his Mom and sister had texted him too, earlier. He ignored them and opened up David’s.

It was six eggplant emojis.

Patrick blinked at his phone. As he looked, another message came through. This one a string of peach emojis. It was followed by collections of winky faces, kissy faces, hearts, lightning bolts, and more eggplants. He texted back: David, are you drunk?

Stevie is drunk, the answering text read.

Patrick got back into bed. He pulled up the covers. Hi, Stevie, he sent back.

It’s not me I am David. U have a hot bod, want to be my dessert 2nite? Cake, ice cream, pie emojis.

Patrick caught himself smiling. Sorry, ‘David’. I am already in bed.

SEND NUDES!!!

He cracked up. You first.

To Patrick’s surprise, a blurry, flesh-colored photo came through. He turned his phone to try and figure out what it was.

NOW U!!

Patrick took a selfie. He thought it might not be wise to send it, as bare shoulders didn’t really count as a nude and it might just encourage her. He sent it anyway.

Two sets of ellipses signaled typing. But suddenly the screen flashed to an incoming call. Patrick picked up. “David?”

“Okay, that was not me,” David said. “I was in the bathroom. Stevie drank all the scuppernong wine. First off, what the fuck is a scuppernong? Second, we are exclusive, which means you are not allowed to sext with Stevie, drunk or no.”

That’s right, we are, he thought. Patrick sank down further under the covers. David sounded a little slurred himself. “Gee, David, I thought it was you.”

“Okay, I? Am a better text-tor. Text-tar. Text person. Than Stevie. No, stop it—” The phone clattered onto something.

Patrick frowned.

Stevie came on the line. “Patrick, I sent you a picture of my butt.”

Ah. “Yes, thanks for that,” Patrick said.

She cackled into the phone.

David reclaimed it. “Uh, I need to go? We might need an exorcist.”

“Okay.” He smiled into the phone like somehow David could see him. “Goodnight, David.”

“Goodnight, Patrick.”

He hung up and put his phone on the nightstand next to the now-empty cup of tea Ray had made for him.

Three minutes later, Patrick’s phone buzzed again, and again. 

He checked it.

David, likely with Stevie’s help, had sent him a close-up shot of a single nipple. The text that followed it read: You’re the best followed by four more eggplants.

*****

The next day, Patrick considered changing his phone number.

Not because of Stevie Budd and her poorly-focused nude photographs, but because apparently his Mom had sent out an all-hands bulletin to the entire Brewer clan. Judging by the sheer volume of texts and calls he’d received, she’d been letting him have some space and was now done with that gambit.

“How do you have seventeen text notifications?” David asked. “Do you not read your texts?”

“How come you can take advantage of your extra height to read over my shoulder, but you can’t restock the top shelves?” Patrick put his phone face-down on the counter. It buzzed again.

“What if I sent you an emergency text?”

“I’m in the store with you, David. You could just turn your head and say, ‘Hey, Patrick’ and then tell me what you wanted to text me.”

“Hmmkay. It’s just that it’s a more effective medium for certain types of communication.” David had gone for a dramatic all-black ensemble that day.

Patrick’s phone buzzed again. He picked it up to turn it off.

David cleared his throat.

Patrick glanced up.

David clutched a box to his chest. “You may have, um, missed a text from me. Late last night. So.” He cleared his throat again and floated away to stock the highest shelves.

Patrick waded through the texts from family. He brought up David’s. “Wow,” he announced to the store.

Three of their customers glanced over at him.

Patrick smiled at them in a way he hoped seemed relaxed and friendly, and in no way betrayed that his—that David—had sent him an actual nude. As in fully unclothed, one hand holding the phone pointed at the bathroom mirror while the other propped against the jamb of its door. His mouth was a stark line of concentration. Judging by the deliberate angle of his hips and state of arousal, David had given the pose some thought.  

Patrick took a deep breath, closed out of his texts, and put down the phone. 

Later, when the store had cleared of customers, David caught his eye.

Patrick came over. “…So I got your text.”

David ducked his head and stayed focused on the tiny jars of local jam in front of him. “Uh, if you feel the impulse to delete that and let us never speak of it again, fine.”

Patrick shook his head. “Oh, I’m not deleting it. Ever.”

David pressed his lips together and nodded slowly. “Okay. Then just keep in mind. Bathroom lighting can be harsh. Also I was still a little drunk.”

Patrick decided to let him off the hook. “It sounded like you both were a little drunk last night.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure Stevie will be functional today.” David’s lips quirked. “Even I may need a rest day.”

From across the store, Patrick’s phone buzzed again.

David opened his mouth.

Patrick blurted something he’d been meaning to ask. “Hey, do you want to sleep over tonight?”

David blinked. “What, you mean at Ray’s?”

“Yeah. I know there’s not a lot of privacy. Ray does like to just barge in places, so I would advise against nudity. But he might make breakfast. We could just hang out, watch a movie. Restfully. Then go to sleep.” Was that too PG?

“Okay.” David tilted his head. “You’re okay with Ray—knowing?”

“He already knows about us.” Patrick had a Twilight Zone moment. “David, the whole town knows about us. We kiss hello. Customers see it.” The nearest display box sat just a touch askew. Patrick straightened it. “You are the one who told your entire family about us the morning after our first kiss—”

“Uh, I told Alexis and she told my family, we’ve gone over this, but also there are, um, levels? In how two people are perceived. Depending on how they conduct themselves. Together.”

Patrick borrowed one of David’s favorite phrases. “I don’t know what that means.”

“Well, there are…” David sidled closer. He slung an arm around Patrick’s shoulders, drew him in, and pecked him on the cheek. “Public displays of affection.”

“Okay, uh-huh, following you.” Patrick put his arms around David’s waist.

“Then there’s the whole, ‘we’re sleeping together but the whole walk of shame thing is still part of it’ level.”

Patrick bristled. “I’m not ashamed of—”

David cut him off with a kiss. “Then there’s the level where you’re just… sleeping. Sometimes. Toothbrushes are involved. Alarm setting happens. It’s very domestic. And, um, it is perceived differently.”

“Okay.” Patrick thought maybe he got it. If David started sleeping over, Ray would no longer have to ask whether it was serious. And whatever Ray knew, the town would know fast. “And you’re—not ready for that?”

Ten different expressions moved across David’s face. “I don’t usually make it to that level.”

Now Patrick understood. ‘Going fast’ was different for David than it was for him. “Well. If you change your mind…”

“No. No, I’ll come over tonight,” David declared. “I will just need to run back to the motel for my overnight bag after work.” He kissed Patrick on the cheek and then moved off toward the back room.

Patrick couldn’t stop the grin from spreading across his face. “You know, while you’re back there, you could bring some of those brooms out front.”

David grimaced as he glanced back. “No, I cannot.” He paused. “The sleepover invitation—that doesn’t mean we can’t also spend some time in the stock room beforehand, does it? It’s not an either-or situation.”

Patrick had hoped it wasn’t. But he kept his eyes wide and innocent. “David, don’t make me walk of shame with you over to Ray’s.”

David rolled his eyes and strode into the back.

“But the shame, David, the shame!” Patrick called after him.

*****

“I liked the part where I told Ray he had a lovely home, and he told me to ‘bring the whole family next time.’ I will not be bringing the family for a sleepover,” David promised Patrick. “Ever.”

Patrick pulled up the covers. “Ray’s an extrovert’s extrovert. I think that’s part of the reason he has so many businesses. He loves people.”

“Sounds exhausting.” David tucked the comforter under his chin, so only his head poked out. “Speaking of, are we sleeping?”

“Oh, David. We are going to sleep together so hard.” Patrick turned off the lamp.

David burrowed in at his side and closed his eyes. “I know you’re joking, but this bed is really comfortable and I already came once tonight, so.”

Patrick flushed. He felt David’s warmth through his t-shirt and tried to ignore the fact that at the mention of sex, his body had perked right up again.

David opened one eye. “So I have noticed that, um, you seem to be skilled at—jumping back into the fray.”

Patrick was tempted to joke about it. But the darkness and closeness helped. “Uh. I never need to. You know. A second time. I just… can. It’s always been a thing.”

“It feels good, though? You don’t have to like, push yourself, or…?”

“No, it’s good.” With David, everything had been good. “But I don’t want you to feel like you have to, you know, jump back in with me. If you’re ever tired, or.”

“What about a third time?” David asked. “In a row. Can you do that?”

Patrick thanked the darkness for being so dark. “If I am… inspired.”

“Oh my God!” David gasped. 

“Shh.” Patrick nudged David’s legs with his knee. “We’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“You just told me you have superpowers!”

Patrick clapped his hand over David’s mouth. “It is not a superpower, it can be very inconvenient, and Ray doesn’t need to know any of this. He hears everything.”

David pulled Patrick’s hands down under the covers. “Okay, well, obviously not with Ray in earshot, but you and me? We are going to have a night soon where we go for the triple.”

Jesus. Patrick took a slow breath. “I thought you didn’t get baseball references.”

“Who’s talking about baseball? I’m talking about getting you to—”

Patrick interrupted him with a kiss. “I know. Listen, I don’t want to do anything else tonight. Not with Ray down the hall. But can we bookmark that for—some time in the future?”

“Okay,” David agreed, though his lower lip pouted forward.

“I’ll see you in the morning?” Patrick asked.

“Yup. Sleeping. I’m just going to sleep.” David made a show of nodding and closing his eyes.

Patrick liked seeing him like this. He liked David here with him, in his bed. He felt warm and tender—“Hey, David?”

“Hm?”

“Is that your hand?”

*****

Patrick woke up with David and the blankets wrapped around him like vines. He didn’t think he could get out of bed if he wanted to.

Not that he wanted to.

David’s head pillowed on his chest. He’d drooled a little on Patrick’s shirt. He looked sleepy and content, his eyelashes fanned against his cheeks, his always-twisting expression utterly still.

Patrick held him and let himself just… look. I love you, he thought. And as he laid there with it, that warm feeling turned, became gnawing and fierce and it told him you’re not crazy, you’re not wrong, this is amazing, this is worth it, he is worth it, you are worth it. Patrick’s eyes felt bright; he blinked it away.

The bedroom door burst open. “Good morning,” Ray sang.

Patrick sat up, dislodging David, who blinked awake like a startled owl.

“I was just going to make some waffles and I wondered if either of you would like one.”

“That’s okay, Ray,” Patrick began.

“Frozen or homemade?” David croaked.

“Oh, homemade, I make them in the waffle maker. They’re quite fluffy. A good size.”

“I would like two, please,” David whispered before he receded underneath the covers.

“Uh. Why don’t you put me down for one,” Patrick said. When Ray had gone he said to David, “Sorry about that.”

“Are you kidding? Alexis never made me waffles. G’morning.”

“Morning, David.” The arm wedged under David started to fall asleep. Patrick wasn’t sure he cared.

Chapter Text

David’s keys jingled. “I am going to pick up this week’s order from Holly Farms.”

Patrick decided to be magnanimous and not comment that he should’ve done it yesterday. “Okay, I can hold down the fort. Might even get some cleaning done, if it stays slow.” He nodded at David from behind the register. “Not that I’m telling you to take the rest of the day, it’s definitely going to pick up later—”

David stood straight and tall. The stars on his sweater ringed his neck like a collar. “If you run out for lunch or a tea or whatever before I get back, would you turn on your phone? Just in case they change the terms or the car quits, or—you know.”

Busted. “Of course.” Patrick nodded. “I’ll probably stay here. I’m still full of waffle.”

David took off his sunglasses. His voice lowered. “So. I may know a thing or two about having an eccentric family. If you, um, wanted to talk.”

Patrick sighed. He rested his elbows on the counter and let his head hang down. Where to start? How much to say? Patrick did not want to get into the whole Rachel situation with David. “It’s just. They think they know exactly who I am and should be. And that what I want now is different than what I thought I wanted then is somehow insanely confusing to them.” He shrugged and frowned down into the counter. The wood could use a polish.

David moved to the front of the counter and listened.

“Nothing in my life felt right. And it seemed like any attempt of mine to say something like ‘hey, maybe I don’t want to spend my whole life under a flickering fluorescent light working on the same three spreadsheets’ somehow got brushed off. The worst part?” He glanced up at David. “I know I’m the one who let it get brushed off. I could’ve stood up anytime and said no. But when everyone else in your life is telling you that there’s one correct way to do things, and they seem like they know what they’re talking about…” He shook his head. “You think you’re just an idiot who should’ve tried harder. That’s what I did for a long time. Tried harder. Until I couldn’t.”

“You are… not an idiot. At all,” David said quietly. “You are the smartest, best person I know.”

Patrick shot David a smile. But it was hard to feel smart, lately. “Well, until I leave everything here and take the job offer, they won’t think so.”

“A—a job? There’s a job?” David’s eyebrows wrestled with this.

Patrick sighed. “My old job. The one that made it hard to get out of bed in the morning. I guess I was pretty good at it, though, because my Mom told me that my Dad talked to my old boss—they were college buddies—and I’m welcome back if I just give them a call by the end of the week.”

“O-oh.” David’s voice cracked.

Patrick read the alarm on David’s face. “Don’t worry. I’m not taking it.”

“No, well, good. But it’s—I guess that would be a lot of pressure. From your family.” David’s voice jumped an octave. “What does that job pay? Just curious.”

Patrick thought about that morning in bed. He saw in David’s stiff posture and nervous expression an anxiety that echoed his own. David cared about him. He felt it. I love you, he thought. “They couldn’t pay me to go back.”

“Well, I’m just saying, if you decided to consider it. Not that you would. But if you did, that you should let me make you a counteroffer.”

Patrick caught himself grinning. He knew what the books looked like. “David. With what money?”

David sniffed. He shifted from one foot to the other. “It just so happens that my business partner is very good at making money appear from thin air.”

Patrick felt like hauling him over the counter and into the stock room. He laughed. “So if I stay here, it’s like you’re saying I have unlimited income potential.”

“Based on your ability to make that income appear, yes.”

Patrick pretended to think hard about this. He rapped his knuckles on the counter. “You know, I just don’t think that other offer can compete. This one…” He looked David up and down. “Is pretty attractive.”

“I know you’re mocking me, but that made me feel good.” David kissed him. “Do please turn on your phone if you leave. The car made a weird noise last week and tow truck drivers make me very uncomfortable.”

“Bob drives the tow truck.”

David put his sunglasses back on. “Like I said.”

*****

He couldn’t keep avoiding them forever, Patrick knew. He turned on his phone. His notifications lit up like a fireworks display.

The front door’s bell rang.

Roland Schitt hung half-in and half-out of the doorway. “Heya, Patrick. You want to open the back door? I figure it’ll be easier to load the couch in that way.”

“Couch? What couch?”

“The one from the motel storage shed. David and Stevie worked out some sort of deal. He said you guys needed it for your break area in your stock room?”

Patrick considered asking more questions, including just when this deal had been worked out and if it involved scuppernong wine. Then he thought about what might happen in the stock room with a raised surface softer than a floor. “We might have to shuffle some things around. Let’s see how big it is.”

He and Roland had to relocate a section of shelving from the stock room to the back of the store and restack some boxes, but they got the couch in along the back wall with a minimum of heaving.

“You’re going to want to clear a little more space around it,” Roland advised him as they surveyed the faded pink paisley print couch. “Fire codes and whatnot.” He coughed hard and pounded his chest. “Say, you guys sell lozenges?”

Patrick spread his hands. “We have breath mints?”

Roland waved it off. “No thanks. But, ah, speaking of medicinal substances—”

“Yeah, we had to stop carrying that tea.”

“Aww.” Roland took off his baseball cap and fanned himself with it. “Jocelyn really liked it. What about bath salts?”

Patrick studied the couch. It looked like it’d be just big enough for him to stretch out on, if he tucked his knees a little. Maybe it would be less ugly in the dark. “We only have the kind that you put in a bath.”

“Well, maybe next time then. Say hi to David for me.” Roland loped out the back door and got into his truck. He leaned out of the window. “Hey, Ray told us you guys are getting serious!” Roland shot him a thumbs up and drove the truck off.

“Okay, that happened,” Patrick said to himself.

A cluster of customers camped at the front door while he’d dealt with Roland; Patrick let them in and lost himself working. David reappeared not long after, but the crowd kept both of them busy. They didn’t have a real chance to talk again until David turned the key in the lock and flipped the sign from open to closed.

“So while you were gone, Roland dropped off a couch,” Patrick said.

David stretched his chin into the air and dropped it to his chest. “Is it maybe the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?”

“Maybe uglier.”

They went into the stock room to look at it. David grabbed their throw blanket from an upper shelf and draped it over the back. He stood back and re-appraised it. “If I had eight more blankets…”

Patrick clapped a hand on David’s shoulder. “What if we just turned off the lights? Give it a test drive.”

David leaned toward him.

“After we close up, of course.”

They knocked it out in record time. David opened a bottle of prosecco, poured two glasses, and handed one to Patrick before they turned out the lights and adjourned to the stock room.

Patrick shifted around on the couch’s cushions. “Hey. It’s comfortable.”

“Mm. It could be worse.”

They clinked glasses and drank. David slouched into him. Patrick draped his arm around David’s shoulders.

“We need an espresso machine,” David said.

“Could be a good way to bring customers in.”

“I meant more for us.”

“We’d have to price it out.”

“It would be a cost savings because it would cut out coffee runs.”

It wasn’t the worst idea. That had been the leather ponchos that Patrick had had to nix their very first week of working together. “We’ll look into it.” Patrick smelled mint and sage when he pressed a kiss into David’s temple. “New shampoo?”

“Mousse sample from a vendor. Like it?”

“Smells good.”

They drank. Outside, the occasional car drove by. Inside, the display case hummed.

“It would be really bad. If you left. For the store,” David said.

Patrick held him closer. “I wouldn’t do that. To the store.”

*****

No clothes had come off. The mood had shifted too far. But not in a bad direction, Patrick thought.

“I mean it, don’t like, vanish into the night,” David said as they stood by their cars. He’d borrowed the Rose family car to make the day’s pick up. “Because I have a history with that sort of thing.”

“I swear, David, I will be here in the morning.” Patrick kissed David goodnight and they parted ways.

Patrick drove back to Ray’s, but found extra cars in the driveway. He’d forgotten Canasta night.

It was just Ronnie and Bob and Gwen this time, though once in a while on other nights, Roland and Jocelyn joined in. Patrick said hello and helped out by refilling the spinach dip and tortilla chip bowls.

“You and David will have to join us one of these nights,” Bob suggested to him. “It’s a couples game.”

Patrick hesitated. He didn’t want to join the Canasta crew.

Ronnie saved him. “Bob, you gonna gossip or are you going to play? Ray and I are developing a strategy, here. Nice to see you, Patrick.”

He escaped to his room. He took his phone out of his pocket.

He went and got ready for bed. Brushing his teeth put off Patrick’s facing the notification screen for a few seconds longer. The sounds of a cutthroat Canasta battle floated up from downstairs.

By the time he came back to the phone, Patrick was calmer. He could do this, he told himself.

His sister Casey had sent the latest message. So Mom just called me… it began.

He took a deep breath, bracing himself for fury, and opened the text message string.

It stretched back weeks, a series of little timestamped messages in gray boxes. Things like How are you doing? and Are you dead? If you’re dead, text YES to confirm. and Are you watching the slaughter tonight! 21 to 0. Epic! along with pictures of her yowly black cat, Sheba. And then one of her in a mint green dress with tulle, fingerless gloves, and bright beads captioned 80s night! Cyndi Lauper obvs.

Patrick’s laugh caught in his throat. He recognized the mint green nonrefundable bridesmaid’s dress. Two taps later and he’d dialed her.

She picked up. “Patrick?”

“Hi, Casey.” Words left him. He grabbed at anything. “You made a good Cyndi Lauper.”

Quiet came over the line. “You missed like the best night that night. Okay, we can all agree getting drunk and throwing cinder blocks off an overpass is a bad idea, right?” She told him the story of what had befallen Larry, who was a step cousin and fond of mushrooms and bad decisions, and by the end of the tale Patrick’s sides hurt from laughing.

He almost wasn’t expecting it when she finally got around to asking, “Hey. What happened?”

Patrick usually locked up at this point. But he knew he couldn’t do that anymore. “I, uh.” He tried taking another breath. “Wasn’t in love.” A fresh wave of shame arrived, which, yup, great job, Patrick. “I’m so sorry. I just—I couldn’t do it. I tried really hard.” And it was funny, but once he started in, everything poured out. He told Casey about going ring shopping with a pit of dread in his stomach, about going to dinner with Rachel and her parents and having to leave to throw up in the restroom, the instant regret following the proposal, the way the wedding planning gained momentum and pressure with each passing day, and of all the times he and Rachel had broken up, or had tried to break up, before it had all become official.

Then he started telling her about the days he’d gone in to work, opened up the same three spreadsheets, and spent entire eight hour stretches staring at the screen without so much as checking a field. How he’d started drinking his way through evenings and weekends. How he hadn’t been able to pick up his guitar. How everything in his life had started to feel gray, even though he was trying his hardest to make it all work. How sorry he was about all the wasted planning, energy, money.

“If I makes you feel better, you can always venmo me the cost of the dress. No—I’m kidding, do not do that, I got my money’s worth in John Hughes themed drinks out of it. Geez, Patrick. You know I don’t care about a stupid dress, right? I care about my brother.”

He heard a quaver in her voice. “I know Rachel’s your friend.”

“She doesn’t hate you either.”

Patrick felt on the verge of cracking. “Mom and Dad—”

“Could use a kick in the ass. Seriously. Let me call them and talk to them.”

“A grown man should not need his little sister to run interference for him.”

“Uhh, do you remember who told them I flunked out of culinary school?”

Right. “That’s ancient history—”

She tsked into the phone. “I owe you one.”

“No, I need to be the one to call her.” He needed to put his foot down.

“Come on. Give me ten minutes. I’ll just soften ‘em up for you.”

“…Okay,” he agreed.

When Casey hung up, Patrick scrolled through his other texts. He had expected them to be full of all caps anger and exclamation points. But… they were kind. He texted hello to Aunt Lydia and assured her that whatever she’d heard was a misunderstanding, he was fine. Cousin Bill showed up in his texts, worried and jokey; Patrick sent him a startled cat gif – he would get it.

Several minutes later, mid-text to his cousin Ann Marie, Patrick got an incoming call. He steeled himself and picked up. “Hi, Mom.”

She didn’t say anything for a few seconds. He almost thought the call had dropped when she finally said, “I’m… not always the best listener. I didn’t know you were so unhappy. I’m so sorry, sweetie.” She started to cry.

About half an hour later, Ray called, “Knock, knock!” and burst in through Patrick’s door. He took a step back, his eyebrows raised. “Uh. The game wrapped up. I was just going to say goodnight. I’ll—come back?”

Patrick wiped his eyes and smiled. He had the feeling he looked even worse than the day he’d met Ray. He shook his head. “It’s okay, Ray. I’m just talking to my Mom.” He spoke into the phone. “Mom, it’s Ray, he’s the guy I mentioned who’s renting me the room?”

“Hello, Patrick’s mother! I like to think of us as roomies,” Ray called.

“Tell him hi for me.”

“She says hi, Ray. Goodnight,” Patrick said.

Ray backed out. He left the door open.

“He sounds nice.”

“He is nice. Most people here have been—really, just great.” Patrick got up off the bed and closed the door.

“Just… where is ‘here’? You don’t have to tell me. But I will not come and show up on your doorstep until I am specifically invited.”

“Casey told you not to, huh?”

“She may have suggested I’d have two children not speaking to me.”

Patrick sat on the edge of his bed. He’d told her and Casey why he’d left, and a little about his life including how he’d become involved with the store and how well he got along with his business partner, but he hadn’t mentioned their relationship. He wasn’t sure whether it was cowardice, protectiveness, or simply that he already felt so raw. But if his Mom, Dad, or Casey did decide to show up in town, they would immediately find out.

Maybe that was okay. He would tell them. Just—one hurdle at a time.

“You’re never going to believe this,” Patrick said. “I’m in Schitt’s Creek.”

Chapter Text

When Patrick pulled up to the store, the lights already blazed. Inside, he saw David glide from the back room into the stock room. He got out of the car and unlocked the front door. The bell announced his arrival.

David burst back through the curtain and into the store. “Oh. Hi.”

He seemed a little—surprised? “Morning. You’re here early.” It wasn’t time to open yet; Patrick locked the door behind him.

“I wanted to get started on putting out some of the deliveries, so.” A few boxes stacked up by the register. David usually came to give Patrick a kiss when he walked in. Now, he stood at the counter and looked lost.

“Great.” Patrick drifted closer. He put his hands in his pockets. “You have a good night last night?”

David’s hands moved as though conducting a concert only he could hear. “Alexis is in a real self-improvement phase. She spent half the night reading me inspirational quotes. Gigi Hadid has a lot to say about personal growth.”  

David didn’t ask how he was. “Okay, well I had a good night,” Patrick said. “I talked to my family.”

“Oh?” David pretended to be absorbed in unpacking the first of the boxes. “That’s, um, that’s great.”

“Yeah. My sister. And my Mom, for a while.”

David stopped unpacking. He chewed his lower lip. “Is everything okay?”

“It’s, uh, not a hundred percent. But a lot better. Like a lot. My Mom can be kind of a steamroller, but she’s—she means well.”

“Well, I have no idea what that’s like,” David said. “Any updates on the job situation you mentioned..?”

“David,” Patrick said gently. “I’m not leaving.”

“That’s—that’s good.” David still seemed subdued.

Patrick dropped his lunch bag on the counter and stepped forward, into David’s space. His hands found David’s hips through his bulky black and white sweater, and began to push him backward.

“Wait, what are we—?”

Patrick guided David back around the counter, through the curtain, and into the stock room. He pushed until David sat down heavily on the couch. He climbed onto David’s lap, pressed his shoulders to the back of the couch, and kissed him.

For a moment, David stayed hesitant. Then he melted into Patrick, meeting his kiss with a desperate hunger.

Patrick gave himself over to it. They’d barely been apart for a night, and already he wanted David again, wanted to turn the lights out, keep the closed sign up, and say yes to every idea David had. He slipped his tongue into David’s mouth. He couldn’t hold back a moan when David’s hands slid from his back to cup his ass.

David broke the kiss. His voice was a low purr. “Now, remind me of the stock room rules again.” He urged Patrick’s hips forward, grinding them together. “Because this isn’t after we’ve closed.”

Patrick felt wild. David’s hardness matched his own, but layers of clothes stood between them. What were the rules? He didn’t care. He just wanted to be naked, to worship David’s beautiful cock, to suck him and stroke him, to make David come, for David to make him come over and over, to feel David inside him, fucking him. God, he would give anything for David to fuck him.

David stilled. “Say that again.”

“I want you to fuck me,” Patrick whispered. “Please, David.”

“Okay.” David’s eyes closed and his brow furrowed. “Um. Not that I am not, absolutely, one hundred percent, with every fiber of my being on board with that, but that’s something I want to do when we have some time and—”

“Fine, fine, later then,” Patrick cut him off. “Just, hurry.”

David was so surprised, he let Patrick help him take his sweater off. They both scrambled to get out of the rest of their clothes. David took longer.

Which worked for Patrick, because he had just enough time to toss the throw across the couch cushions and stretch out before he pulled a very naked and interested David down on top of him. The position wasn’t unfamiliar; they’d spent the first few weeks of their relationship in poses like this, just clothed and more vertical. So it felt new and intense to feel all of David’s weight on him, naked skin electrifying Patrick everywhere they touched, hot breath in his ear, hard cock sliding alongside his own.

Briefly, David’s weight vanished. Patrick groaned in protest, but he came right back. David’s slick hand stroked Patrick’s cock and then his own. The scent of honey-almond hand cream reached him. Patrick wondered if he’d forever associate the smell with David and sex; then he didn’t wonder anything because David rocked their hips and cocks together and now they could go faster, harder, yes. If Patrick closed his eyes it was almost like David was inside him. He ran his hands down the length of David’s back and urged him on. The impulse to confess his feelings seized Patrick again, but he knew he couldn’t say I love you. So he said everything else. Yes, I love this, please, touch me, fuck me, David, David, David.

“I’m—” David gasped. His hips stuttered.

Patrick opened his eyes just in time to watch David’s expression twist from torture to ecstasy as he came. A few more thrusts and Patrick joined him.

David collapsed on top of him. They breathed hard for a few moments.

A phone buzzed.

“Is that yours?” Patrick asked.

David spoke into Patrick’s chest. “Alarm. Time to open the store.”

“I didn’t think you knew what our official opening time was,” Patrick teased.

David socked him very lightly in the side.

Patrick laughed.

“And he says he’s not ticklish.”

“Oh, I’m not, I am fully laughing at you,” Patrick said.

“Fine. Just for that, you get first shift at the sink.” David rolled off him. He found a few tissues and they both cleaned up the majority of the mess.

Patrick kissed David’s cheek. He cleaned up as quickly as possible in the stock room’s tiny half bath and broom closet, and re-dressed. He thought he looked normal enough in the mirror.

When he got out, he found David sitting on the couch, the throw around his shoulders, just staring into the middle distance. “You okay?”

“Mm? Yeah, fine.”

The front door jiggled.

“I’ll get it. Take your time.” Patrick went, opened up, and had helped their first and second customers before David appeared. He did look fine, and perfectly dressed, pressed, and coiffed down to the last hair on his head. But still, some small thing seemed off.

Halfway through the morning, Patrick caught David staring at him from across the store. He waved.

David flashed him a complicated smile-frown and looked away. He busied himself with unpacking deliveries.

Patrick found a reason to sideline him later. “You really okay?”

“Yes.”

“Really.”

“Mm-hm.”

Patrick took a breath. “Okay—”

“When you mentioned the other job I sort of started to avalanche about what would happen, would I ever see you again, long distance relationships are hard, would you meet someone back home immediately, how am I going to run the store?! If Alexis worked here she would sample us blind and I don’t know how taxes work.” David’s pitch reached an anxiety crescendo.

“I can teach you how taxes work.” He moved closer, using peering into the box as an excuse to let his elbow nudge David.

“I also have been thinking about—look.” David glanced around the store. A pair of shoppers milled in the personal stationary area. He lowered his voice. “We started off—slow. But we’ve been going—fast. Physically.”

“Yeah.” Now Patrick was worried. “Do you want to slow down?”

“No, I. I’ve been a phase for people before. The further we go, the better the chance we run into some things that—could be a little much,” David said. “And it also occurred to me. The more we check off the list, the closer we might be to you being—done.” He started unpacking a set of specialty sriracha-infused chocolates in tiny gold bags.

“Because once you’ve had a blowjob there’s no point in having one again?” Patrick tried to joke.

David stared hard at the chocolates.

He sobered. “David. I’ve liked everything we’ve done so far,” Patrick said. “The reviews are in. All positive. Comment cards are glowing. You’re right, there’s a lot we haven’t done that I am...” How to put it? “Excited for? But maybe not prepared for? Because I’ve never done it. But that’s part of the reason I’m excited to try it with you. Because I trust you, and—” I love you. “I know that even if I really screw up, you’ll be there.” He took David’s hand in his own, squeezed it.

A moment later, David squeezed back. His nose wrinkled. “Uh. I spend a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop? Kind of a character flaw.”

Patrick shrugged. “You can’t be one hundred percent perfect at all times.”

“You like stealing my lines.”

Patrick nodded. “That’s my character flaw.”

*****

David had not said ‘slow down.’ But Patrick thought maybe that was a good idea, to give him time to get used to the idea that Patrick wasn’t leaving and wasn’t using him to tick off some sexual fantasies to-do list. Since they’d spoken David seemed happier, but still quieter than usual. He wanted to reassure David that he wasn’t going anywhere in a way that words couldn’t. Maybe take him out? Patrick suggested they go see a movie, or have dinner at the café.

“Would you want to come by the motel? I think ‘While You Were Sleeping’ is on. Alexis has a class thing she has to do, so we should have the room relatively to ourselves.”

David had never invited him over before. “Relatively?”

“My Mom and Dad live next door and they like to visit. A lot. But if my mother comes in and it’s past makeup and wig hours, you will be taking an oath of silence as to what you see.”

“Sounds fun. Count me in.”

After they closed up, Patrick drove them over.

The motel room’s grimy blue-green brick and wood paneling only distracted Patrick for a moment; small touches like a framed art print, sweater organizers, a nice cedar chest, and a bathroom lined with enough beauty products to stock the store gave away the identity of its inhabitants.

“It’s not much,” David said. “But the roof has only leaked once and you can’t argue with the price, so.” He folded his arms across his chest.

His posture and the flippant tone gave him away. David showing Patrick this room was a big deal. The more time Patrick spent with David, the surer he was that David’s ‘it’s whatever, I don’t care’ meant ‘I really care.’

Patrick put his hands on his hips and appraised it. I mean, sure, it could use a new coat of paint and new carpet. But it had potential. “There’s a good amount of space here. It’s way bigger than my room at Ray’s.”

“You’re not sharing that with your sister.”

“That’s true.”

There wasn’t really room in David’s twin bed for both of them, but if they cuddled up together it worked. David put the movie on the semi-ancient TV. The commercial breaks left them room to talk, too.

“Fun fact: this is Sandra Bullock’s fourth best romantic comedy performance.”

“What are the three that beat it?” Patrick asked.

“Oh, we’ll get around to them.”

Which sounded a little like a promise to Patrick, and made him cuddle in closer.

David’s parents knocked, at least, before they burst in.

“Dhay-vid…” Mrs. Rose entered and paused in the center of the room, as if finding her mark. Her hand floated toward her throat. “Oh. You have company!” She smiled. “Hello, Pat-trick.”

“Company? Is it Stevie? Stevie, we need to—” Mr. Rose came in. “Oh, hello Patrick.”

“Hello,” Patrick said. He felt like he should get up, but David’s arm stayed around his shoulder. And it wasn’t like they were doing anything illicit. Lying on a bed and watching a movie with the guy you were dating was totally normal, Patrick did realize. But somehow it still felt a little thrilling.

“Um, hi, we’re in the middle of a movie.” David’s chin jutted out for emphasis. “What do you want?”

“Your father and I need the car tomorrow, dear,” Mrs. Rose said. “We have an engagement in the closest metropolis—”

“Elmdale,” Mr. Rose supplied. “She means Elmdale.”

“Well, it’s positively teeming with excitement when compared with the attractions in this town,” Mrs. Rose declared. She beamed at Patrick as she perched on the edge of Alexis’ bed. “Wouldn’t you agree, Patrick? I'm told you and David get to Elmdale with a fair frequency.”

Patrick couldn’t tell if she was dressed for bed or not. The brooch and vest threw him. “We had pizza there a few nights ago.”

“Ah. A rustic Venetian eatery! What fun.”

David cut in. “Okay, again, one, we are in the middle of a movie. Two, Alexis has the car tonight and I think plans for it tomorrow, so you’re going to have to work it out with her when she gets home.”

“When is she getting home?” Mr. Rose asked.

“Do I look like her keeper? Send her a text.”

“She’s not answering. Could she have her phone off?”

“How would I know if she has her phone off?!” 

While David and his father spoke in raised voices, Mrs. Rose leaned toward him. “How’s the store, dear? Is it doing well? You’ll tell me if our David is in any way mistreating you.”

“Uh.” Patrick shook his head. Could she not see David’s arm around him? “No, we’re good. The store, and us.”

She stuck out her lip in an exaggerated frown. “It’s just that he’s made worrisome choices in the past. And we’ve decided we’re quite fond of you.”

He wondered whether her ‘we’ included Mr. Rose, or was more of a royal ‘we.’ “Thank you, Mrs. Rose.” That seemed a safe response.

“Oh my God!” David disentangled himself and shot to his feet. “I don’t know where Alexis is! I am not abusing Patrick! Get out of my room, please, before I miss the scene where Sandra Bullock admires Bill Pullman’s chair. Out, out, out.”

Mrs. Rose winked at him before she let David shoo her along with her husband back into their room.

David shut their door and flopped back down onto the bed. “I’m sorry about that.”

Patrick stifled a laugh. He would never admit to David that he found them all extremely entertaining.

“What?”

“Nothing, I’m just glad your mother likes me.” He burrowed back in at David’s side.

“Hm. It’s very annoying.”

Patrick raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“I never get to say things like, ‘I don’t care what you think, I’m still seeing Patrick!’ or ‘Patrick agrees with me!’ because they’ll just say, ‘How is Patrick?’ or ‘Oh, well if Patrick thinks it’s okay.’” David slid one socked foot between Patrick’s ankles. “By the way, if you ever want to make my Dad really happy, ask him for some business advice. Even if you don’t take any of it.”

Patrick rested his head on David’s shoulder. “I mean he did run an entire home video empire at one point. I’m sure he has some good tips.”

“See, this is why they like you.” David nuzzled the side of his head. “So annoying.”

Patrick laughed until David shushed him. He’d seen the movie before and it had been a long day. When his eyelids got heavy, he leaned into David’s warmth and drifted off.

“…having boys here,” Alexis whispered.

“Uh, Patrick is not some rando, his falling asleep can be interpreted as a legitimate criticism of While You Were Sleeping’s weak third act, and it’s my bed. I can decide who sleeps here.”

“It’s just I am really single and the thought of you two in here getting your cuddle-cooties all over everything is just—ew, David, ew. Ew!”

Patrick heard the bathroom door shut. “Alexis is back.”

“Yeah.”

“And you’ve infected me with cuddle-cooties?” He opened one eye. “Or have I infected you?”

“It’s impossible to know.” David kissed him.

“I think we might have an acute case.” Patrick rolled onto his back, pulled David down on top of him, and kissed him.  

The bathroom door opened, then slammed shut. “EW!” Alexis shouted from behind it.

*****

They got back on track.

The store kept doing well. David followed up with new vendors while Patrick crunched numbers. They shared register work and restocking, though David needed an occasional prod—and, all right, sometimes outright mockery—to start cleaning. Sure, there were annoyances: thieving kids, serial item returners, people who came to look but never bought anything, and Mrs. Rose. But it all worked, somehow.

And at the end of every long day, they’d close up, possibly pour a glass of wine, and go make out on the couch in the stock room. Sometimes that’s all it was. But usually they did more.

Together, they refined their repertoire. Patrick figured out just how to tease David’s cock to get him to lose control and thrust into his mouth. Once David used his cell phone to time how fast he could make Patrick come twice in a row. Then after a couple of days of strategizing, he tried to beat that time. (He did – by forty-five seconds.) They tried 69ing, which Patrick enjoyed, but he thought it took too much coordination. Trading handjobs while David straddled his lap? Fantastic.

His favorite discovery, though, was laziness. Not that a desperate sexual frenzy wasn’t amazingly hot—it was—but taking their time, letting the want and the need and sensations build while they just rocked their bodies together—brought Patrick to the most intense, shaking orgasms of his life.

So far, anyway.

He drove himself a little crazy wondering about it. Each night after he got back to Ray’s, no matter what they’d done or how good David had made him feel, Patrick would shut his eyes and think about what David was holding back. He even rang himself up a tube of the favored hand cream at wholesale while David was out at a pickup, brought it back to his room, barricaded the door, and practiced.

Chapter Text

“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.