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Red White And Blue Jays

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Patrick Brewer is the last person David wants to see tonight.

He gets that it’s Patrick’s house and all, but like, couldn’t he be out on PEI educating muskrats, or whatever it is that First Sons of Canada do with their abundance of free time? David had been promised (admittedly by his mother, so he should know better) a titillating good time at the Canadian Prime Minister’s Halloween bash, and the vision he’d crafted does not include his nemesis.

He scowls at the dance floor, where Alexis is trying to teach Patrick the Monster Mash - as if she knows any of the moves, please . But Patrick apparently thinks it’s cute , judging by the way he keeps throwing his head back in laughter. David gags into his cocktail. 

He’s been annoyed by Patrick Brewer for as long as Patrick has been in the public eye. There’s not any one reason for it. He hates that Patrick makes it into best-dressed lists even though he clearly owns, like, one pair of pants and they’re probably from Men’s Wearhouse. He hates that sometimes when Patrick smiles, the corners of his mouth go down, instead of up, which, okay, isn’t really a rational reason to hate someone but is objectively annoying. Mostly, though, he hates Patrick because Patrick seems to be doing just fine with the entire world’s attention on him, while David sometimes can’t even get out of bed. 

Being the First Son of the US is definitely, objectively more harrowing. The way his family has been forced to grow closer over the last few years is in itself a testament to the scrutiny and criticism they’ve endured. Meanwhile, Canadians agree on everything, including how much they love the Brewers. And okay, sure, there have been certain perks to being the son of the most powerful man in the world. But apparently being able to avoid Patrick fucking Brewer isn’t one of them. 

His glass is empty again, and Stevie’s disappeared with a bottle of champagne, and he’s lost count of how many drinks he’s had so he might as well have one more. It’s on Clint’s personal tab, so it’s not like he’s stealing Merlot from the Canadian orphan population. 

It’s only when he’s already pushed through to the bar that he sees who’s standing there, in a white button-up with the top few buttons undone and a pair of black slacks, his hair a little unkempt. This is what passes for a costume for straight-leg, boot cut, fixed-smile Patrick Brewer. 

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” David demands, tapping his glass for the bartender’s attention. 

Patrick’s cheeks are flushed from dancing, and his eyes skitter over David’s own costume (Elton John circa 2013) with a small expression of amusement. “Um-” Patrick glances down at his clothes; David notices the slight edge of sweat around his collar and under his arms and at his hairline. “Michael Lewis. The-”

“The Moneyball guy, right?” 

Patrick grins. “I didn’t know you cared about baseball, David. Or is it the math that draws you in?” 

David rolls his eyes and inhales half of his refilled cocktail in one go. “As if. Brad Pitt brought him to a party once. I thought he was interesting until I realized the bases he was talking about weren’t sexual.” 

Patrick’s mouth does that annoying turned-down smile thing. “David, are you drunk?” 

David laughs harshly and peels away from the bar. Time to end this conversation; he’s reached his Patrick quota for the year. There are petit-fours over by the giant pumpkin-shaped cake that he’s been meaning to sneak into his pockets for later.  “ No . I’m not drunk. I mean, yes, I’ve had something to drink, some...six or seven things to drink, and I know I’m not as manly as you, or whatever, but I can hold my liquor-”

He hears a little huff behind him. Patrick has followed him, like a gnat, or a tsetse fly. Has David not telegraphed his hatred enough? 

“Listen-” Patrick starts to say. 

“No, you listen,” David snarls, spinning on the spot, free hand extended to poke Patrick in the chest, except Patrick is standing much closer to him than he’d realized. He collides with Patrick’s chest, sending Patrick stumbling backwards, his hand clenched in David’s lapel, dragging them both into the bright orange, definitely-costs-thousands-of-dollars, giant pumpkin cake. 

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“Okay, so you’re saying that cute little button-face just, like, pushed you into a cake? On purpose?” Alexis squints at him with a suspicious little smirk. “Then how did he end up in the cake too?” 

“For the seventh time, Alexis, he grabbed my jacket and dragged me down with him. I won’t pretend to understand his motives, but knowing his type, he wanted me to take the fall.” David pauses. “Metaphorically.” 

“You must admit, David,” his mother says, because yes, this is a goddamn family meeting to discuss the repercussions of David being innocently in the vicinity while Patrick Brewer was an asshole, “it seems highly suspect that such a sweet young man would intentionally perpetuate anything so crassly childish.”

“Can’t you all just once be on my side?! He’s not a sweet young man,” he says, inspecting his cuticles. “Everyone thinks he’s a good old Canadian boy, but he’s probably a dick jock in private, like Prince Harry during his Vegas phase. He’s duped his whole country, and all of you, apparently!” 

“Not helping your case there, babe,” Alexis winces. “Harry was always a perfect gentleman.” 

“You went on, like, two dates!” 

“One of those dates was a week-long trip to Bora Bora so that’s, like, six dates a day, if you count the number of times we--” 

Children ,” Johnny cuts in, with the voice he used to use for corralling squabbling Senators and which arguably won him the presidency. “I have a call with Mexico in ten minutes, can we focus?” 

His parents shouldn’t make sense as the First Couple - David would be the first to say that, was the first to say it. They have no idea how most of America lives, they’re self-absorbed, and they have more dirty laundry than the cast of Survivor . Then again, what’s more American and presidential than that? But, to everyone’s surprise (except maybe Johnny and Moira’s), it works. No one is better at crafting a deal than Johnny Rose. Moira has schmoozed and disarmed everyone from Perez Hilton to a few choice dictators. And, improbably, they’ve managed to keep their foibles to the charmingly innocuous variety, which has led the media to paint them as human and humble and even, on a few occasions, funny. (David and Stevie send each other screenshots of the most off-base assessments of his parents. He’s glad it’s working for them and that his dad is actually turning out to be a successful president, but funny ?) 

“Now, Clint has assured me he’s not mad, which is no great surprise, because-”

“He’s Canadian,” David and Alexis mutter together. It’s Johnny’s explanation for everything Clint Brewer does. 

“Right. But the media’s another matter. They see it as a classic case of the rough-and-tumble Americans pushing the nice Canadians around. And while I’m sure it’ll blow over by tomorrow, it wouldn’t hurt for David to make an apology, maybe on Twitter-”

“Oh come now, John,” Moira interjects pityingly. “We know you’re the big man around here, but this is my area of expertise.” She faces David with an expression he recognizes from her days of directing off-Broadway productions. “David, my first-born, my injudicious offspring. In crises such as these, PR is everything. E-ve-ry-thing. Canada is our longest, strongest, truest ally, our lady to the north, and it behooves us to do our utmost to maintain and even strengthen that bond.”

“So send Alexis to flirt her way into Patrick’s straight-leg denims,” David suggests, throwing his hands into the air. “The tabloids will love it and Patrick will forget all about his vendetta to ruin my life.” 

“Oooh, you know, that’s not a bad-” Alexis says with a shoulder-shimmy. 

“Thank you, Alexis, but unfortunately the weight of this reconciliation must fall on David’s sturdy shoulders,” Moira says, patting the air above Alexis’s forearm appeasingly. 

“Dating between ruling families also tends to give the appearance of backroom deals,” Johnny’s chief-of-staff, Jocelyn, adds apologetically from the corner. David and Moira both jump, having honestly forgotten she was there. “Even with Canada.” 

“So what the fuck do you need me to do?” David groans, slumping back into his chair. 

“That’s the spirit, David,” his mother nods, undeterred. “I’ve been parlaying with Marcy Brewer, dear woman, and we’ve got just the thing. Simple, elegant, not too complicated for our sweet boys’ sakes. You’ll fly to Canada tomorrow to spend the weekend trotting about with young Pat, and convince the press that you’ve long been close compatriots and that the cake incident was merely a misunderstood moment of youthful horseplay. Show the world how much you two savor each other’s amity, and then you’ll be off the hook.” 

David frowns. “Just this weekend?”  

Johnny and Moira laugh; even Jocelyn joins in. “Oh no, dear, the weekend is just the start,” Moira chuckles. “It’ll likely take six months, minimum, before we can consider your image rehabilitated. And with the reelection next year, well...” 

“Oh my god, you want me to pretend to be friends with him for a year?

“And we’ll need a few Instagram tweets a week,” Johnny adds. “Maybe some well-placed banter in the comments-” 

“This is cruel and unusual punishment! My - my carefully crafted feed will be completely ruined!” David splutters. Because it will be, but also because it’s easier to be mad about that than to justify exactly how much he loathes the idea of spending time with Patrick. 

“It’s either this or make a public address that preempts Jeopardy , son,” Johnny says firmly. 

“God! Fuck . I misspoke, it’s not Patrick ruining my life, it’s all of you !” David whirls up from his chair and scrubs his hands over his face, forgetting in his distress to be worried about keeping his skin pristine for his upcoming official portrait. “I still don’t see why I should do this. You obviously care about it far more than I do - you fix it!” 

“If you do this for us, David, dearest,” Moira wheedles, “if you do this and you effectively convince everyone of your and Patrick’s friendship, your father will appoint you as Special Advisor for Arts and Culture.” 

“I will?” Johnny says sharply. 

David glances between them suspiciously. He curls his hands to his chest, a reflex, a preparation for emotional self-defense. “Why would you - why would I want that?” 

“The prospect of redemption, after the galleries,” his mother replies, carelessly tossing his past and present self-loathing through the air as if it weighs as little as feathers. “A chance to prove yourself. To leave a mark. To claim the spotlight on your own terms .” 

“Are you sure that’s not what you want?” he says testily, but he’s always been uncomfortably like his mother. That similarity has offered her an inconvenient insight into his mind, even when she hardly tries. He can see that she recognizes that now, that she smells blood. 

“A real position, David,” she persists, over her husband’s whispered protestations. “The recognition and acclaim you wanted, without our help this time.” 

“Okay, except it would absolutely still be with your help, since you’d be making the position for me, giving me the resources and the title, and I’d basically be working for you?” 

“Can’t you just for once lean in?” she erupts, startling him back a step. “Instead of moping around the house all the time?” 

“I haven’t been moping , I’ve been regrouping .” 

“I think you should accept Mom’s proposal, David,” Alexis whispers, tugging on the edge of his over-pant fabric. “Otherwise it’s, like, another four years of TMZ pieces about ‘the forgotten fourth Rose’--” 

“Step on a snake, Alexis!”

With a poise that could defuse a hostage situation, Johnny steps between them, resting a hand on a shoulder of each child. “Kids, please. David - this could be good for you. For us,” he modifies quickly, off David’s look. “We’ve never had a chance to really work together before. What a neat opportunity this could be!” 

“Mmkay, if I were to have that position it would require, like, zero input from you, but. I guess the sentiment is...appreciated.” He squeezes his eyes shut in contemplation, then groans. “Fine. Fine! I’ll do your stupid David Rose Image Rehabilitation Effort thing, and when it’s over-”

“-when you’ve convinced us all-”

“- when it’s over , I’ll... I’ll take this Arts and Culture Position. And I get a trip to Japan after the election! And I’m skipping the Christmas gala.” 

All three of them are smiling at him far too fondly and eagerly when he finally opens his eyes. It makes him want to take it all back and tweet some terrible things about Patrick Brewer and hook up with his dad’s opponent’s daughter. 

“I accept your terms,” Moira announces, as if he’d had any say in the matter. She rises and bows her head to David in lieu of a handshake. “You leave tomorrow.” 

“So,” Stevie asks later that night, lounging on the couch in the West Bedroom with a bottle of whiskey. “Regretting moving into the White House yet?” 

“Every day for the last three years,” he bemoans. “But I mean, what choice did I have? The food is free, and incredible , like truly world-class, and luxury apartments in New York can only dream of the perks we have here.” 

“Uh-huh.” Stevie, who’d leveraged her Aunt Maureen’s vice presidency to secure herself a similarly cushy room-and-board situation down the street, seems unconvinced. “It’s just that, and maybe this is obvious but, you’re in your mid-30s and you love your independence more than I love sarcasm.And it seems like a drain of taxpayer money.” 

He stops refolding one of the sweaters he’s packing for his trip to glare at her. “You know, for someone who’s so allergic to emotion and truth-telling, you really love stirring the pot. As you well know, Alexis needed me to be here!” 

It’s not not true. In a historic first, the Secret Service, CIA, and FBI had all agreed that Alexis was too severe of a security risk to live independently and had requested-slash-demanded that she move into the White House, despite it going against tradition for adult children to do so. And David, remembering all too well what it had been like to live with their parents, had known how badly Alexis would need company and reinforcement and distraction and had offered to move in as well. To help her. And for the food and perks. 

“David, Ronnie gave me this funny little paper for you,” Alexis trills as she enters his room without knocking. “The Patrick Brewer Fact Sheet. Isn’t that the cutest thing?” 

He glares at her - he’d tried to shred that paper; Ronnie must’ve found out and sent another copy - then at Stevie, who makes a my-lips-are-sealed pantomime and goes back to the whiskey. She’ll leave the conversation there, both because she knows not to bring it up in front of Alexis and because she knows the answer, the third, deeper, truer reason David chose to move in. And she knows that if he admits it, she’ll have to as well. That they’re a pair of almost-middle-aged black sheep, drifting as life happens around them. That moving in with family who challenge them and grate at them had seemed like the only way to survive, at the time. It’s a truth that drew them together on the campaign trail.

“You should maybe pack a few more things, don’t you think, David?” Alexis nudges his ankle with her bare foot and he growls at her. “What if you, like, spill beer on a sweater and have to borrow a shirt from Patrick?” 

“That would be kind of hot, actually,” Stevie muses. David stares at her, and she smirks. “For you, I mean. To be wearing his shirt. I bet he smells like old books and crisp winter days.” 

This is Stevie’s favorite little joke, to act as if David is into Patrick. Which, admittedly, would match up with his history of falling for the worst possible people and committing acts of self-sabotage. But he can’t imagine being less into someone. 

“First of all, you’re a gremlin,” he informs Stevie. “And second, under no circumstances will I be drinking beer. And even if my entire wardrobe were to be consumed by a tragic fire, I’d sooner buy something from the discount rack at Neiman Marcus than wear one of those over-starched button-ups.” 

“Your ideas of slumming it really help me keep things in perspective,” Stevie says earnestly, raising the bottle to him in a toast. 

“Actually, David, according to this cute little cheat sheet, Patrick’s favorite drink is Molson, so...” The paper dangles from Alexis’s fingers as she blinks pityingly at him. 

“So he can drown himself in that that while I savor a 2007 Cabernet,” David huffs. “What - what else is on that sheet?” 

He turns so his back is to them as Stevie scoots over to look at the list with his sister. His hands hover over his travel case, again . He’s packed a few of his designer t-shirts and a couple of his older cardigans, but that feels too comfortable . Which, if he and Patrick were really friends, would be the idea: that’s the image he’s trying to sell, that he’s comfortable in Patrick’s presence. But he’s not. The prospect of spending a weekend by Patrick’s side makes him want to wear a turtle-neck under a sweater under a leather poncho. He wants to armor himself.

When David was in high school, his dad had learned that one of the other students at his ultra-posh private school was Senator Jackson’s youngest son. Johnny had decided that Eric, and by necessity David, could therefore be his way into getting Shondra to sign on to the landmark infrastructure bill. It had been abundantly clear from the moment Eric arrived at the Roses’ for dinner that he didn’t have a clue who David was, despite sitting two rows from him in Fundamentals of Physics. David had previously done all he could to avoid being noticed by the popular kids, and here his dad was, telling the captain of the football team about how David used to wet the bed. This Patrick thing feels like that all over again, sitting at the dining room table, face burning in shame, wooing someone he knows will make his life miserable. 

Plus, now that he has something to hope for - that this Arts and Culture position could be what he’s been looking for; that he could create something new, and beautiful, and meaningful, after the disaster that was his galleries - fake-friending Patrick feels even more dangerous. He knows his parents only dangled the prospect of the position because they don’t believe he’ll do it. They think he’ll fail, that he’ll reach a breaking point and slip up and reveal the farce to the world. They’d never have entrusted him with a public position otherwise. But he wants it - he wants it so badly , Patrick Brewer be damned. 

He forces himself to unclench his hands from the sleep shirt he’s packed. 

“Childhood nickname: Pat,” Alexis reads from behind him.

“We’re not doing Pat,” David snorts. 

“Favorite flavor of ice cream: chocolate,” Stevie supplies. “You love chocolate, David, you can’t possibly find anything wrong with that.” 

“It’s so basic!” he protests.

“He majored in business, graduated third in his class, and took a year off afterwards to help the Small Business Bureau in rural Regina,” Alexis continues. “What a smartie.” 

“Business is also basic,” Stevie says, before David can. “And he apparently plays more sports than I even knew existed. Also - you’re gonna love this, David - his favorite book is-”

Moneyball , I know.” David gives up on packing and turns around, sliding to the floor so he’s sitting with his back to the bed. “Math and sports. Could he be any more of a straight white man?” 

Stevie takes the paper from Alexis and begins to carefully fold it into a paper airplane. “Just because he’s boring doesn’t mean he’s straight.” 

“Well.” David fiddles with the hem of his sweatpants. “He’s certainly boring. And I have to go and pretend to be tickled pink by his every word.” 

He knows he could be honest with Alexis and Stevie, probably more than with anyone else in the world. He could tell them he keeps running through the lyrics of Beyonce’s eponymous album just to keep himself grounded in the maelstrom of anxiety threatening to pull him away. He brought this on himself. He wishes he could just be annoyed by this circus sideshow instead of dreading it and blaming himself for causing it and anticipating the violent stomach aches he’ll get all weekend as he tries to act fun and happy for the cameras. But he doesn’t want Alexis to worry, and Stevie would understand just a bit too well, and he wants to seem normal, and stable, and okay, even to them. 

So instead, he sprawls on his stomach across the carpet and gestures for the whiskey. It burns in his throat like retribution. 

Ray Butani, head of Patrick’s security detail, meets David and Ronnie and the rest of his Secret Service team on the tarmac and, alarmingly (given David’s hangover), drives them not towards the city and the nap David had hoped would be waiting at 24 Sussex Drive but to a sprawling complex of modern, official-looking buildings. David hastily begins trying to rearrange his plane-flattened hair. 

“Are we going directly to a press event?” he asks Ronnie semi-frantically. 

“It was on the schedule,” she drawls. 

“I didn’t-” He lets off pinching his cheeks to scowl at her. “Ronnie, you know I didn’t read the schedule. You couldn’t have told me?” 

“Sorry, your highness.”

David has long suspected that Ronnie was assigned to his detail as some sort of specific punishment for the both of them. “I should’ve included moving you to a different team in my bargaining points for this nonsense.” 

“Wish you would’ve,” she sighs.

Across the pristine lawn and around the back of one of the buildings, where David had expected to find a garden party or some other cliche photo op in mid-swing, they come instead to a chain-link fence separating a few paparazzi on metal benches from a baseball field. Ray leads them around the fence to the edge of the dirt and waves enthusiastically at one of the figures standing in the equivalent of stage wings. The person waves back, pausing to smoothly catch a ball lobbed by another performer before hurling it in the other direction at a velocity David can only assume is steroid-enabled. 

Then the person - Patrick - starts jogging towards them, and David understands why this is his preferred platform to preen for the cameras. He’s grinning, lit from behind by early-afternoon autumn sun, his chest and arms and thighs straining the thin material of his baseball outfit as he runs. He’s on their little group quickly, far more quickly than his stocky build would suggest he could move. 

“Hi, David,” Patrick says breathlessly, reaching a hand out in greeting. It’s sweaty and warm as David takes it, and then Patrick is pulling him in for a one-armed hug, the kind bros and jocks and other macho types share to prevent direct groin-to-groin contact. Startled, David pats Patrick awkwardly on the back, wrinkling his nose at the scent of grass and old leather and exertion. Old books and winter days my ass.

“H-hi,” he returns, and Patrick releases him, holding his hand a beat longer as he continues to grin into David’s face. Cameras click behind them, and oh, Patrick’s good. 

Patrick whips his sports hat off and wipes his hairline and his cheeks with his sleeve; his shirt comes untucked but he doesn’t bother fixing it. “I’m glad you could make it up today, man. It’s a shame you weren’t here an hour earlier, we really could’ve used another body on the field.” 

“Oh god,” David says without thinking, his shoulders riding up to his ears. 

Patrick laughs and claps him on the shoulder. “I’m just kidding. Though you’re always welcome. We play every Friday.” 

“Wh - why?” David demands, remembering to school his face into a friendly grimace because that’s what they are, in this little production, they’re friends . “Why do you -” He waves his hand helplessly towards the field.

“Because they banned me from playing hockey once my dad was elected.” Patrick’s still grinning, his breathing evening out. His gaze hasn’t moved from David’s face this whole conversation, and if there’s anything that will alert the press to the reality of this farce it’s that: Patrick’s attention, his focus, his interest. “Hockey was deemed too dangerous, so I was relegated to baseball. It’s probably for the best, though. My hockey teammates had to hold back but these guys don’t let me win, so it’s a real challenge.” He rubs his hands together cheerfully. 

“Mm.” David raises his eyebrows in an approximation of fascination. “Sounds like a great way to spend an hour.” 

“Oh, a game lasts much longer than that.” Patrick finally takes notice of the other people around them and tips his hat exaggeratedly - what a prick - to Ronnie. “Wanna take some buddy shots? Unless you’d like to try a few swings.” 

“God, no, definitely shots,” David says quickly.

Buddy shots, devastatingly, do not end up being alcohol. They turn out to mean posing for photographs with Patrick’s arm around his shoulder, his armpit warm against David’s back as the photographers crowd in, heckling them for certain poses or smiles or answers to inane questions about their alleged friendship. 

“Hey David?” Patrick murmurs, looking up at him, his eyes a different, darker brown in the shade under his cap brim.

“Yes, Patrick?” 

“Please try to look a little less like you’re gritting your teeth.” 

David catches the rejoinder before it can shoot off his tongue. His jaw is clenched, but he’s standing next to the sunniest, happiest, brightest, most open little politician’s son he’s ever met, so how can he be expected to be anything but a rain cloud in comparison? 

“You two looked pretty cozy at the restaurant, anyway.” 

“Angles,” David sniffs, rifling through the seemingly bottomless freezer with his phone held to his ear with his shoulder. “Angles and the promise of poutine. Ah-ha!” 

It’s just past midnight, and despite the lack of time difference between here and D.C., David’s awake, and restless, and scrounging for carbs. Stevie had answered on the fourth ring and, aided by the joint she’d been having, is humoring David by listening to how the rest of his first day as Patrick Brewer’s BFF had gone. 

“And he smirked at my coffee order, Stevie. He smirked .” 

He shuffles over to the oven, which looks downright Victorian compared to what they have at the White House. He’s grateful to have his own wing of the residence for this trip, including his own kitchen, but it’ll take forever for the frozen cinnamon buns to heat up in this contraption. The microwave feels like sacrilege, but the sooner the buns are ready, the sooner he can get back between the luscious sheets of his guest room. He settles on the microwave.

“Did he have black coffee, no sugar no cream, like the fact sheet said?” Stevie asks around a yawn. 

“No. He got green tea, just to emphasize the stark difference between us, I’m sure.” David straightens and leans back against the marble countertop, kneading the nervous tension at the bottom of his skull. “I don’t know. It was fine, I guess. Not as bad as I expected. Weird, for sure, but not exactly uncomfortable? He was very polite.” 

“Did you expect something different?” Stevie’s voice is amused, but he’s grateful she’s mostly keeping her comments to herself. 

“Yes? I don’t know. I just can’t believe this is my fucking life, you know? I should’ve just moved to Australia with you when we had the chance.” 

The microwave pings, and he pulls out the tray of cinnamon buns without thinking, instantly scalding both hands. Cursing, he spins back to the island to deposit the tray there and finds Patrick standing in the doorway, barefoot and rubbing his eyes sleepily. 

“Fuck,” David says flatly. He flaps his hands in the air to try to cool them, then flushes as Patrick frowns at the movement. “I gotta go, Stevie. No, I - I’m not gonna - okay, byeeeee! Hi,” he breathes as he slides his phone into the pocket of his robe. “I thought I was shame-eating in private. I didn’t, um, didn’t wake you, did I?” 

“No, no,” Patrick reassures him, finally entering the room and moving past David to get to the freezer. “Couldn’t sleep. Lots on my mind.” 

David slides along the tiles so he’s farther from Patrick’s flannel-clad form. “Not to be rude, or anything, but don’t you have your own kitchen? I was under the impression I was alone in this wing.” 

“It’s my house, David,” Patrick reminds him, standing up with a colorful box in his hands. “But, uh, I didn’t think you’d be up, and I know they always stock the good ice cream when there are guests staying. So...” He shrugs sheepishly. “I, uh, I didn’t know you wear glasses.” 

“Oh.” He pushes the frames up his nose self-consciously. “I normally do contacts? But when I’m up late reading it kind of makes sense to do glasses, in case I fall asleep.” He tests the side of the tray, hoping it’ll be cool enough to carry back to his room, but it still burns to the touch. 

Patrick is nodding. “They make you look...” He shrugs again, and his fingers fumble with the flap of the ice cream box. 

“What?” David demands, hackles rising. 

Patrick glances up at him, then back to the task at hand. “I don’t know. Soft. Approachable.” 

“Do I normally not look approachable? You know what,” he says quickly, as Patrick smooshes his lips together to contain a smile, “don’t answer that. Just eat your fucking ice cream.” 

Patrick withdraws an ice cream cone - it’s chocolate, like the fact sheet had said, but it’s also got chopped nuts and swirls of caramel on top - and puts the box neatly back in the freezer drawer before he unpacks the treat. “I didn’t mean to overhear your phone call - was that-”

“Stevie,” David supplies. “My real best friend.” 

“Ah.” Something like contrition flits across Patrick’s face but David will not feel sorry for him, he will not . “Isn’t she also your - well - I thought I remembered something from a couple years ago about you two-” He waggles his head back and forth. 

“Oh, god, no,” David huffs, and Patrick nods quickly, apologetically. “I mean, yes, we had a thing on the campaign trail, like, ages ago, but that was more to get it out of the way, it was kind of inevitable, you know? But we’re better as friends. Or I needed us to be friends, anyway, which sounds really selfish, and oh god, I don’t know why I’m telling you this.” 

Patrick’s eyes are kind, and there are no cameras here, so it makes David feel squirmy. He’s just standing there, holding the cone as it starts to soften and melt, listening to David’s word-vomit like it means something. “I’m impressed that you and Stevie stayed friends. That sounds - from my experience, that’s really tricky.” 

David doesn’t want to talk about this to Patrick and his kind eyes, had only started to talk about it to have something to say, wants to stuff it back in the box in his chest and retreat from the room. “I mean, it was tricky, at first. Messy.” His fingers flit over the tray, arranging the buns into even-more-perfect rows. He doesn’t like messy. Stevie had been worth it. 

"I bet." Patrick looks like he wants to say more. He’s rubbing his thumb distractedly over the texture of the sugar cone, and David waits, the moment stretching. But Patrick just exhales gently through his nose and murmurs, “Well. Goodnight, David,” and leaves, as if he hadn’t pried David open and let him spill all over the marble countertop. 

Chapter Text

On Saturday morning of his trip to Canada, David is forced to get up early, because he’s on Patrick’s turf and Patrick is apparently a morning person. And anyway, Ronnie probably told them the direct opposite of David’s preferences, just to fuck with him. In any event, by 9AM they’ve flown far north in a helicopter, out into a lonesome part of the countryside already flattened by autumn snow.  David hasn’t had coffee, and he’s wearing a parka and hat that Ray has lent him because his own, far cuter winter outfit was deemed “too flimsy”, and Patrick’s still smiling, the jackass.  

“You really do this all the time?” David asks, picking his way gingerly across the ice after Patrick, who’s carrying a cooler and a few unwieldy fishing sticks and isn’t even wearing gloves. “I thought it was, I don’t know, kind of a Canadian stereotype.” 

Patrick turns and walks backwards, his cheeks becomingly pink against his navy beanie and the monochrome landscape. “Oh, no, I’ve never gone ice-fishing in my life. I just thought you might enjoy it.” 

David stops walking because he needs a minute to restrain himself from chucking Patrick through the hole in the ice. 

“Yeah,” Patrick continues, leaning over to look down into the water and oh it would be so easy to plant his boot on Patrick’s ass and send him tumbling - “I figure nothing screams David Rose quite like sitting out in nature for several hours chewing the fat and waiting for something that might never come.” 

David laughs breathily and bares what he hopes is a winsome smile at the cluster of photographers watching from the perimeter of the lake. “Hah! Yeah. You’re lucky we’re in public.” 

“Is it luck, or is it cunning? I’m cheeky, David, but I’m not an idiot. Think you can set this up yourself?” He hands David one of the sticks and some assorted other baubles, not waiting for an answer as he begins preparing his own equipment. 

“We both know I can’t.” David watches, reluctantly mesmerized, as Patrick’s hands deftly slide along the wires and down the length of the thick pole. “I thought you said you haven’t done this before.” 

“I watched a Youtube video last night. Here, give me yours.” 

David can’t tell if Patrick is joking about the video or not, but it’s annoyingly impressive either way. 

Ice fishing is about as terrible as David expects: his toes have already lost feeling, they sit on tiny little chairs that might as well be old-timey milk crates for all the comfort they offer, and oh yeah, absolutely nothing happens the whole time . Patrick studies the ice, his fingers fiddling with seemingly no purpose on the little metal wheel on the pole, and for once he doesn’t seem to feel the need to chat David’s ear off. It’s the first time, he thinks, when he’s seen Patrick be in public without hamming it up. It’s almost unsettling. Patrick’s good at schmoozing, not unlike David’s dad, and his silence now isn’t exactly comfortable. David had thought they were making progress, but, well, maybe his early impressions of Patrick were true, and he’s here to play the role and get on with his life, eager to never have anything to do with David again.

And okay, David can imagine it could be nice, almost meditative, if it weren’t for the cold and the company and the blatant stupidity of the activity itself. At one point Patrick wordlessly hands David a thermos of coffee, made how he likes it, and that’s pretty nice too. But mostly it’s terrible. 

Their last official event of the weekend is a visit to a pediatric ward in a hospital overlooking the river. It’s probably standard to bring foreign guests here - great optics - but David watches Patrick closely for any hint that he’s selected this, too, to mess with David, children and diseases being two of his least favorite things. Patrick probably loves children. Patrick probably volunteers to help vaccinate children and finger-paint with them and wipe off their grimy hands. 

He fights the urge to pull his shirt up over his face or request a mask and instead trails Patrick through the bright hallways. He feels like Patrick’s shadow again, with the way Patrick greets the staff and laughs loudly with the journalists and crouches next to a kid wrapped in a purple blanket and whispers something that makes the kid giggle. He hands out baseballs signed by different Canadian pitchers and donated children’s books and plastic toys while David creeps behind him like the Grinch. The kids look at Patrick like he’s an actual prince. 

David drifts away at the first opportunity. He knows Ronnie is following him, and Ivan and Bob are probably at either end of the hallway, but he needs space from Patrick and the crowds and the patients. He slips into the first empty room he finds and squeezes into one of the chairs set out for visiting family. And then he just sits there, rubbing his hands over his ripped jeans, wishing he’d worn something more respectful, wishing he weren’t such a pathetic mess that he can’t be present for five seconds to smile at suffering children. 

Something about the light in the hospital makes him want to draw. He wishes he’d brought his sketchbook. There’s a starkness to the furniture and a contrast between the care and the sterility... He hasn’t been alone in a hospital room since his panic attack on the campaign trail four years ago, and he’d had plenty of time for sketching then, so maybe it’s just muscle memory or association at this point. Still. It makes him eager to get back to Washington. He should start planning what this Arts and Culture position could entail. 

A noise from behind the curtain dividing the room makes him jump. Fuck . The room’s not empty after all. He glances frantically at the door, but he sees only the edge of Ronnie’s arm, and she’s certainly not going to be much help. Fuck . What would Patrick do? 

Trying to make himself as small as possible, he peeks around the curtain. A tiny girl, clearly mid-cough, stares at him, her eyes going wide as Cartier hoop earrings. 

“Hiiii,” David breathes out, waving awkwardly. “What’s - what’s up?” 

“Are you David Rose?” the girl squeaks. 

“I am,” David admits apologetically. 

“President Rose’s son?”



David tilts his head, closing one eye - he’d been hoping for a bit more of a reaction than that. “Um, yeah, just - stopping in to say hi.” 

The only response he gets is a confused wrinkle in her pale forehead. 

“What’s your name?” 


“Hi Madison. I’m David. Oh, you know that already. Um. Hmm.” 

He glances around her spare space, desperate for anything personal, or remotely interesting, or at least unrelated to her illness, to discuss. Hanging next to her bed is a corkboard criss-crossed with green ribbons and a medley of buttons, stickers, letters, and photos, including one signed picture of - 

Holy f- Is that - is that RuPaul?” he demands. 

Madison follows his pointing finger and breaks into an absolute whopper of a grin. “The tall man! He was so funny.” 

“Okay,” David chuckles, “so you have, like, no idea who RuPaul is?” When she shrugs, he shakes his head. “The abject unfairness of this life. I’m finally, woefully famous and I still can’t get him to return my calls, while you’re out here taking selfies and getting them signed. He’s been on, like, five sitcoms this year, but god forbid he visit the White House!” 

Madison giggles. David’s heart feels funny, a little warm. He doesn’t have Patrick’s looks or easy charm but David knows how to make a fool of himself for other people’s enjoyment. And while he’d normally prefer to avoid that, Madison deserves a little light-hearted secondhand embarrassment. He assumes she deserves it, anyway, since she’s, like, five and can’t possibly have done any terrible things yet, other than being a child, which is categorically terrible.

“You have to watch his show, though, seriously,” he advises her. “Ask one of the nurses to pull it up. It’s like-” He waves his hand and shimmies his shoulders as he hears the opening bars of the theme song in his head. “ Da-da-DA-da, show me what you got, are you a winner...” 

Madison leans over to muffle her laughter in her blanket. 

Encouraged, he starts to really get into it. “I admittedly don’t know all the words, don’t tell RuPaul, but it’s like - da da da da-

“Take it to the top, make it pop, let’s race-”

David whirls around. Patrick is standing just inside the curtain, grinning at the blush inflaming David’s face. 

Still singing ( he knows all the words), Patrick squeezes in next to David to greet Madison, in the process sliding a hand across David’s lower back where his sweater has ridden up a bit. David shivers at the contact but straightens and begins to back away; he recognizes a dismissal when he sees one. Good Sir Patrick is here now, and David is no longer needed. The sliver of unfettered silliness he’d let out for Madison locks back up inside. He smiles at her one last time before leaving the room. 

Ronnie gives him a weird look when he comes out, like there’s too much emotion playing across his face. He rolls his eyes at her and paces down the hallway in the other direction, wringing his hands and taking deep breaths like six therapists and three apps had tried to teach him.

Patrick emerges from Madison’s room a few minutes later. He annoyingly makes a beeline for David, slumped against the wall in the darkness between two overhead lights. 

“Didn’t want to stay and harmonize?” Patrick teases. 

“Oh.” David waves the suggestion away. “No. You were way better. Um, thank you for rescuing me. Or rescuing Madison, I guess? Rescuing her from me.” 

“What? That’s not - David, you were doing fine without me. I just came looking for you and thought it was sweet, that you were singing to her. I wanted to join in.” 

I just came looking for you - 

Patrick’s leaning against the opposite wall now, hands deep in his pockets, studying the floor tiles in a bashful, inscrutable way, much like he’d watched the ice for hours that morning. 

“I can’t believe you know the Drag Race theme song.” 

This prompts Patrick to look up, a little smile twitching on his lips. “Well, after the first twelve hours or so of bingeing it, it becomes hard to forget.” 

David thinks of the green tea, and the chocolate ice cream with caramel and nuts, and Drag Race , and wonders what else the Patrick Brewer Fact Sheet had gotten wrong. 

“Besides, doesn’t everybody like Drag Race these days?” 

“Sure, but. It’s specifically you ,” David clarifies, waving a hand to take in Patrick’s perfectly-cuffed, starch-stiff sleeves and his thick forearms and heavy boots, “ you liking it that’s a bit of a surprise.” 

Patrick pushes off the wall, stepping towards David as if drawn to his gesticulating fingertips. His face is flitting between annoyance and amusement. “What is that supposed to mean?” 

As David smirks and starts to answer, he hears a noise he’s prayed - every day since he was six and his dad got elected to the Senate - he’d never hear. A sharp crack like a car backfiring, then a cascade of screams. 

Ronnie and Ray are on them in milliseconds, not bothering with orders or explanations, just shoving them towards the nearest door and bundling them into what turns out to be, of fucking course, a supply closet. David gets one wide-eyed look at the grubby insides of a space smaller than his refrigerator in New York before the door shuts and audibly locks behind them. He huffs indignantly, tries to take a step forward to get some room, and promptly tangles his ankles with Patrick’s, sending them both tumbling painfully to the floor. David lands on his side with a bucket upended over his head and a broom handle digging into his thigh. He’s very grateful there’s no light in here. 

“Fuck,” he groans. 

“What is it with you and knocking me down?” Patrick asks blandly from beside him in the dark. “That’s how all this started, remember?”

“Har har. Budge up, would you? My legs will cramp in this position.” 

The warmth of Patrick behind him lessens, so he rolls over onto his back. The cool bite of tile hits his neck and he hisses, arching into Patrick a bit. 

“David, your elbow-” 

“I know, I’m getting there -”

“Just let me-” 

They rearrange themselves around each other on the floor, but there’s as little space as David had perceived, and they end up in positions almost identical to those in which they’d started. The wall and various unidentifiable tools press into David from one side, Patrick’s arm firm and tense on his other, and it’s only the expanse of open air above his face that keeps him from suffocating under claustrophobia. 

The hallway outside is silent. David’s not sure if that’s a good sign. He lowers his voice just in case. 

“I haven’t been in a closet since middle school.” 

A second too late, he wonders how this sounds to Patrick, who probably played Seven Minutes in Heaven at middle school pizza parties, who might think David is coming onto him between the detergent and the mops. But Patrick’s arm shakes with a little snort of laughter. 

Back to silence. David presses his lips in between his teeth. If he lifts his right hip up a bit, he might be able to squeeze his phone out of his pocket, but then Patrick will be able to see him by the glow from the screen -

“Hey David?” 


“Um - never mind.” 

David tries to throw his hands up and just ends up smacking the wall. “What, Patrick? Need me to pass you a wet wipe?” 

Patrick doesn’t speak for another moment, and David hopes he’s scared whatever deep conversation they’d been about to have back down Patrick’s throat. Then -

“Why exactly do you hate me so much?” 

Fuck . David thinks briefly that he’d rather face the gunman, but no, he can see Alexis and Stevie and his parents being really fucking pissed at him for a thought like that. But still. 

“Really? You want to talk about this now ?” 

“Do you have somewhere better to be?” 

Always ,” David exhales vehemently. 

Patrick waits. 

“I don’t know if I’d say hate -” 

David . You’re about as subtle as a gun to the head.” 

“Okay, do we really need to be making gun jokes right now? Or, like, ever ?” He huffs and squirms and yes, maybe Patrick was smart to bring this up now, when David can’t run away, because he really, really wants to run away. “Fine. Fine! It’s not - it’s not one specific thing, really, it’s kind of you in general-” 

“Sounds rational-” 

But ,” he plows on, because Patrick asked for it, “if you must know, I’ve had an issue with you since Rio.” 

The beat of confused silence tells him everything. “Rio?” 

“The 2016 Summer Olympics, when we met ?” 

Patrick’s arm is doing something funny against his, and for the first time ever he wishes he could see Patrick’s face. “I’m sorry, David, I’m not following-” 

“You said ‘ can’t you make him leave’ to your bodyguard!” David snaps, the memory still embarrassingly raw. “I went over to say hi to you because your dad had gotten elected the year before and I thought, oh, hey, he seems like a nice, normal guy, and he also might be one of the only people in the world who understands what I’m going through, and then you gave me this - this - withering look like I was goose shit on the bottom of your boot and you said to your bodyguard, ‘Can’t you make him leave?’” 

He pants shallowly in the wake of this rush of what he’s been clinging to. It feels good to say it all, finally, but good in the way that a shot of vodka feels, a painful rush you know you shouldn’t enjoy. 

He expects Patrick to deny it. Instead, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way.” 

I don’t want your apologies . “Yeah, well.” 

“And, um, not to be a contrarian or anything but I’m pretty sure what I said was, ‘I can’t do this right now.'” 

“What? No.” David’s been cradling this humiliation-soaked memory for three years; he wouldn’t have gotten a crucial detail like that wrong. Although, it does sound much more like Patrick...

“Yeah, I, uh-” Patrick clears his throat, and David has that rushing sense of terror again that Patrick’s about to be very honest. “I do remember meeting you, actually. For a few reasons, one of them being that I felt like a real jerk, afterwards. The other being that it - well, it wasn’t a great day for me. Or a great time, in general. I...” 

David finds he can picture Patrick’s face after all, eyes wide, lips stretched thin. 

“It sounds so pathetic, honestly,” Patrick sighs. “The bottom line is that I’d tried to break up with my girlfriend that morning. It’s - it was complicated.” Patrick’s shoulder shrugs into David’s bicep. “I couldn’t do it. I called her that morning and then I was just filled with such disgust - and that’s when you met me,” he finishes abruptly, dully, his voice laced with a loathing David recognizes. “Balls-deep in pathetic self-pity.” 

“Gross,” David responds half-heartedly. He remembers something about this in the news, Canada’s golden couple breaking up a half dozen times, and then finally, apparently, making the separation stick. A recent image tickles his memory - Patrick’s face in the kitchen of the guest wing, expressions rippling with a shadowy sadness as David talks about remaining friends with Stevie. 

“My dad,” Patrick chuckles darkly, “is one of the most powerful men in the world. Every day he makes decisions that affect starving children and war refugees and endangered indigenous populations but this is the great tragedy of my life, that I couldn’t break up with a girl.” 

Patrick is right, it does sound pathetic. But pathetic is kind of David’s wheelhouse. And he’d meant what he said about originally approaching Patrick in Rio because their lives had set them on similar paths. Who better than David to understand how the press and the world - and David, apparently - can take one bad day and make it a personality. Patrick has found a way to power through that unbearable pressure, while David has generally responded by retreating, hiding, pretending he doesn’t exist.

“Um, firstly, I think your apology to me got lost in there somewhere? But we can come back to that,” he says hurriedly at the noise Patrick makes. “I think...I think I understand, though. That kind of stuff is hard enough to do without the world watching. And then I came along and probably seemed like a rabid fan, which is embarrassing and gross-” 

“I’m not excusing myself for how I dismissed you, David, I want to be clear. Just...situating it in context.”

David’s skin feels itchy with sitting in this sincerity. He’s - he’s glad , really, that they had this conversation, but it’s a lot, for one day, for one weekend, and he wants to teleport to a cute little hammam spa right about now. 

“The real tragedy here,” he ventures, to steer them back towards familiar territory, “is that I’m having to rapidly rewrite what I accepted as my undeniably true, traumatic personal history.” 

Patrick’s head tilts towards him on the floor; it’s bizarre, how he can feel Patrick looking at him, or looking in his general direction, anyway. “I really have wanted to apologize over the last few years. But now that I know that this hate-obsession with me has been such a powerful motivating force in your life, I can’t say I regret never getting the chance. Really, if anything, you should be thanking me.” 

“Mmkay, I can still think you’re a dick even if my original reason for hating you was wrong.” But he’s smiling, smiling stupidly up at the unseen ceiling of the closet and hoping Patrick can’t hear it in his voice. “Do you think we should go check that they haven’t forgotten about us?” 

“It’s been-” There’s a tiny flash of light from somewhere around Patrick’s waist. “Five minutes, David.” 

“Oh my god, ew, do you have a watch that lights up ?” 

“It’s very practical!” 

“I bet it’s very durable too, oh my god, I need to get out of this closet before I’m contaminated by the stench of incorrect clothing-” 

“My fashion choices-” 

“Don’t you dare call it fashion!” 

It feels like they’re back to what they do best, but it lands differently now, the snarky give-and-take zinging along David’s spine. 

It also feels a little bit like regret when Ronnie opens the door and helps them to their feet, informing them that it was a false alarm, that a few balloons had burst and caused a panic but it’s all clear. David smiles sheepishly at Patrick in the grey light of the hallway before turning away to dust off the back of his clothes. And when he waits for Patrick to go ahead, he doesn’t comment on the way Patrick lingers and lets David draw even with him before starting off. 

On Sunday morning, when David should still be sleeping and Patrick should, judging from everything David knows about him, be at church or paragliding with a quarterback or something, they are instead on the tarmac for David’s flight home.  There aren’t any cameras around, so David’s not sure why Patrick felt the need to come, but he supposes you never know where the paps are hiding. 

As he climbs the steps of the jet, Patrick comes to stand beside the railing, his barely-there curls fluffing in the wind. 

“I should give you my number. You might need it.” 

“Why?” David asks blankly. “Ronnie will call Ray if we need to set something up.” 

Patrick shrugs. “It might just be easier if we could contact each other directly. If we’re going to pretend to be friends, and all.” 

“Fine. But if you text me before 10AM I’ll get my dad to tax all maple products.” 

They swap phones. When Patrick hands David’s back, David sees that that Patrick has entered his full name, the P and B capitalized all proper. It’s cute, but it also feels like a business transaction. Which it essentially is, he reminds himself. 

“Bye, David,” Patrick says, and though they may not be parting as actual friends, there’s no denying that something - a lot of things - have changed. 

Chapter Text

Patrick Brewer: Hey David, it’s Patrick. Gwen (my dad’s press liaison) asked if you and I could coordinate on a couple of social media posts this weekend.

david: on it

Patrick Brewer: Should I help in any way, or...?

david: no offense but i’ve seen your instagram

david: best leave this to me

Patrick Brewer: Trying to find a way to NOT be offended by that. 


david: here’s what i put together - lmn if it’s okay with you and gwen

Patrick Brewer: Gwen says that looks really good. 

Patrick Brewer: Thanks for doing that. 


david: alexis is asking if she can come to the marathon

david: you can definitely say no

david: i know the tickets for your lil VIP corner are $$$

david: i think she only wants to go so she can see all those sweaty men in small shorts

Patrick Brewer: She can definitely come! The more the merrier. 

david: you’re no help

david: see you tomorrow

david: also you text like a grandpa


Patrick Brewer: Hey David, it’s Patrick. Here’s the article I mentioned earlier. (🔗Link)

Patrick Brewer: It doesn’t answer all the questions you had but it’s a good overview. 

david: this has seven charts

david: i’m not reading it

Patrick Brewer: Aren’t the charts easier to read than the words? 

david: it’s kind of a principle thing? 

Patrick Brewer: Ah.

david: okay i’m reading it but only because the alternative is listening to my dad rehearse another speech

Patrick Brewer: Let me know if you have any questions or if you want to discuss further!

david: okay, 🤓


david: k that article was more interesting than i expected

david: BUT

david: if you ever mention in public that i voluntarily read an economics paper

david: i will deny it and then send stevie to deal with you

Patrick: Would we say voluntarily? 


david: hey i saw you have a speech coming up at the rennie

david: i know you have speechwriters and whatever

david: but if you wanted another person to look over your remarks

david: i have some time

Patrick Brewer: David!  

david: forget i said anything!! 

Patrick Brewer: Was that your way of offering to help me? 

david: NO! 

david: ...

david: fine, yes. it’s just that art is kind of my thing? 

david: so if my “best friend” sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about

david: it reflects poorly on me? 

Patrick Brewer: Oh, so this is actually completely selfish? 

david: you know what??? screw you

Patrick Brewer: Thank you, David. I’m still working on the speech but I’ll send you the draft when I have it. 

david: if you want. it’s whatever. 


Patrick Brewer: Hey David. It’s Patrick. Thank you for your feedback. 

david: 👍

Patrick Brewer: You weren’t exaggerating about art being your thing. 

david: yeah well

Patrick Brewer: Have you considered trying to parlay that into an active role in your dad’s administration? Like a cultural attache, or ambassador for the arts? 


David hasn’t told Patrick about the Arts and Culture position. He’s not sure why. It’s not like it would be jinxing anything, even if he reveals his roughly-defined one, two, and five year plans. His dad is considered a shoo-in for reelection, so he wouldn’t be jinxing that either. He just keeps thinking about mentioning it to Patrick, and then he keeps finding reasons not to.


david: yeah maybe

Patrick Brewer: An ambassador for the arts could probably get on the guest list for this event. 

david: i used to hook up with the curator for the rennie so i think i’m good

Patrick Brewer: Okay David. 


Patrick Brewer: Hey David, It’s Patrick. Do you want to come anyway?

david: yes i’d like that very much


david: thank you.


Patrick Brewer: Hey David, it’s Patrick. Have you seen the Medium article “David Rose’s Best Looks of 2017”? It was a riveting read. 

david: you don’t need to tell me it’s you every time you text me

david: i have your number in my phone

david: you literally put it there yourself

david: also why are you reading stuff from two years ago?? 


Patrick Brewer: David. I have a serious question.

david: ...

david: can this wait until i have another coffee, or maybe a shot

Patrick Brewer: Are you colorblind? 

David: the fuck?

Patrick Brewer: I noticed you mostly wear black and white. I thought maybe it was because you’re colorblind and limiting yourself in this way protects you. Your mom does it too; did you know color vision deficiency is hereditary? And as your new best friend, this seems like a thing I should know about you. 

david: i am NOT colorblind, thanks very much, neither is my mom, and i think you know that perfectly well

david: if anyone’s fashion demonstrates a visual impairment, it’s YOURS

david : 🖕


It unnerves David to think that Patrick is rooting through the internet looking at search results for David Rose . Most of his sleazier, more humiliating past can’t be found there, but - well, maybe he should ask Stevie to do a deep dive, just in case. Just so he can mentally prepare himself for what Patrick might know. Patrick probably gets Google Alerts for himself, something David forced himself to stop doing long ago. 

Come to think of it-


david: hey you actually own a nice shirt

Patrick Brewer: Hello David, good morning to you too. 

david: the shirt you wore to the ribbon-snipping event thing yesterday

david: did my eyes deceive me or was that a dvn 

Patrick Brewer: Is that the guy from Queer Eye? 

david: uggghhhh

david: they’re YOUR clothes

david: that you’re putting on YOUR body 

david: you should know what they are

Patrick Brewer: ...

david: dries van noten

david: dvn stands for dries van noten

Patrick Brewer: Ah. 

Patrick Brewer: I think my aunt bought me that one. 

Patrick Brewer: How could you POSSIBLY identify it? It’s just a blue sweater. 

david: i know quality when i see it

david: next time tho wear it with this belt ( 📎 image attached)

Patrick Brewer: That belt is $400! 

david: and it will LOOK like $400 when you wear it! 

david: also that’s in USD - i think in your money it’s more like 500

david: plus if you take care of it it’ll last for years so 

david: an investment

Patrick Brewer: I thought you didn’t like durable clothing. 

david: there’s a difference between something that will LITERALLY never decompose and something that’s well-made

david: that’s all i’m saying

Patrick Brewer: Your feud with Ashley Tisdale is making so much more sense now. 

david: k you need to stop googling me


Patrick Brewer: Hey David, why does your Wikipedia page have your age listed as “30-35”? 



Patrick Brewer: Hey David, why does MY Wikipedia page now say I majored in Historical Reenactment? 


david: is weed legal in 🇨🇦? asking for a friend

Patrick Brewer: jimfromtheoffice.gif 

david: surprisingly well-played, brewer

david: also i’m realizing you ARE jim

david: jimothy

david: patrickothy

Patrick Brewer: Are you high right this moment? 

david: ugh i wish

david: i’m just bored 

david: in a meeting

david: ronnie’s weekly safety briefing

Patrick Brewer: At least Ronnie seems like she’d get right to the point. Ray really likes to chat. 

david: okay see you’d THINK ronnie’s meetings would be painless

david: but she has such a low opinion of us

david: that she feels the need to go over the same info week after week after week

Patrick Brewer: It must be so difficult to have someone care about your life and want you to stay safe. 

david: listen

david: i’m well aware i’m being a whiny little b right now

david: this meeting is just really ducking long

david: ducking

david: DUCKING

david: is2g

Patrick Brewer: 🦆

David can admit - to himself, at least - that he looks forward to these conversations with Patrick. They’re a pleasant distraction from the hyper-surveillance he seems to be under these days, from White House staff and the press alike. And it’s always nice to have something legitimate to do on his phone at cocktail parties and press junkets; he looks like he’s busy texting cool, interesting people, instead of just refreshing Instagram like he used to. 

Patrick’s texting style is, ironically, part of what works for David. He’d thought it conveyed very little tone, but he finds over time that he’s actually able to discern when Patrick is being genuine or sassy or grumpy. That kind of clarity is usually hard to attain. It makes texting with Patrick much less stressful than communicating with most people. 

It doesn’t make their conversations harmless, though: he gets kicked out of two of Ronnie’s briefings for hiccuping with laughter after Patrick sent him unsolicited memes about several world leaders, including each of their fathers. He tells Patrick what had happened, intending it as a reprimand, but it seems to only goad Patrick on, to incite him to send increasingly bizarre and carefully targeted content to David. It niggles a bit at him that Patrick already seems to understand his sense of humor, while David feels like Patrick remains a smiling enigma. David’s managed to verify the accuracy of the contents of the Patrick Brewer Fact Sheet (he likes beer, but not Molson; his favorite writer is Dionne Brand) enough to recognize that Patrick’s not as vanilla as he’d seemed - or maybe he is mostly vanilla, but in a not-all-bad way? And he’s funny. Which is unexpected. 

Texting Patrick all the time is also a risk because of Stevie, who suddenly finds David as interesting as the sudoku app on her phone. 

What ?” he demands the third time he catches her smirking at him during one of their weekly self-care home-spa sessions. 

“Who are you texting?” 

“I’m not-” He glances down at the message he’d been composing to berate Patrick for his very incorrect opinion on the latest Drag Race episode. “No one. Stop doing that with your face.” 


P’rick: Stevie informs me you changed my name in your phone to prick

david: why does stevie have your number??? 


“You’re a traitor,” he tells Stevie. 

“I like this for you,” she replies. 

“Like what?! There’s nothing to like.” 

“It’s good for you to have friends other than me.” 

“He’s not my friend!” 

He maintains that stance, even as Patrick becomes a part of their in-jokes, even as he acquires Alexis’s number, and in late November there’s suddenly a group chat, and he and Patrick are texting even when they don’t need to be, even when there are no boring meetings to escape or events to plan. 


david: congrats on being an only sibling, must be nice

Patrick: I always wanted a sibling, actually. What did Alexis do this time? 

david: she broke my straightener

david: which would be fine but freddie prinz jr gave it to me? 

david: and he and i aren’t on speaking terms anymore

Patrick: Aw, so you wanted something to remember him by.

david: no! it was just

david: a nice straightener

david: did you really want siblings?

Patrick: Kind of. In that way we all have of thinking other people’s lives are more interesting, more exciting, happier. 

david: life with alexis has certainly always been interesting

Patrick: You love her. 

david: shut up

david: i’m sure she’d rather be your sister, if you’re still looking

Patrick: Thanks, David. 

david: ...

david: if you ever want to talk about stuff

david: like life not feeling interesting or exciting or happy

david: you can


david: i was trying to be nice

Patrick: That’s exactly why I felt the need to ask.

david: i’m a nice person! 


david: patrick

david: tell me i’m nice


david: paaaatriiiicccck

Patrick: [image attached]

david: is that supposed to be a selfie

david: i can see, like, one ear

Patrick: @ the gym can’t talk

david: omg who are you and what did you do to patrick


But that opens the floodgates for pictures - stupid selfies and “look at this weird carrot” and “I took a sneaky picture of a nude statue in this museum” and “this cute dog came to visit isn’t she cute” and lots of Stevie flipping the camera off. With the holidays coming up, both of them are too busy to get together for any joint events, but it feels like David still knows what’s going on in Patrick’s life. They cobble together a few social media posts to meet the quota set by their press teams and even make it onto Buzzfeed’s “Best Celebrity Friendships of 2019”. David smirks at the screen for that one and sends it to Patrick with the caption, “Where are our Daytime Emmys?” Patrick responds with a laughing emoji, but David keeps checking the chat the rest of the day, feeling weird about having sent that message. Stevie tells him it’s because he and Patrick are actually friends now. He tells her to fall on a rake. 


david: weird q but

david: why don’t you sing more

Patrick: I sing in the shower plenty.

david: you know what i mean

david: i heard you sing at the hospital and you were like

david: good

david: you could sing professionally if you wanted to

david: and unlike whoever told ScarJo that she should make an album, i actually mean it

Patrick: That’s sweet. 

david: and i’m deeply uncomfortable with this level of sincerity so please just answer my question

Patrick: Well, if I had to sum it up, I’d say that music is really important to me. 

Patrick: And I want it to be as fully mine as it can be.

Patrick: It’s hard to do that with much in our lives, given who we are.


David stares at his phone. Patrick is right - it’s a strong echo of how David feels, but it’s distinct as well. Still, he’s never heard someone express what it’s like to be a First Child in a way that resonates so much with him. He thinks about Patrick’s ex, and Patrick’s favorite writer being a queer black Canadian poet, and how few candid photos he’s ever seen of Patrick before they started exchanging selfies, and he wonders how else this role affects Patrick. 


david: i feel like that was a really personal thing to share

david: i’m sorry if i pressured you into sharing it

Patrick: That’s okay. I’m an adult - I can say no if I want to.


David’s mouth twists as he reads that, an unfamiliar little frisson zinging behind his ribcage. 


Patrick: Besides, I’d like to think we’re friends, and friends share that kind of stuff. 


Stevie doesn’t say anything when he shows her that message, but her grin says it all. 


david: okay, friend

Patrick: goldengirlshugging.gif

david: that is probably the only gif you could’ve sent me right now that wouldn’t make me block you

david: good job

David only realizes three rings into the phone call that he’s never actually spoken to Patrick on the phone before. 

Patrick seems to know it too, from the hesitant way he says, “David?” as he answers. 

“Yes, obviously .” 

“David, it’s 1AM.” 

“I know, and I’m really sorry if I woke you, but I am standing in the middle of the hallway on a very expensive antique rug trying to figure out how to take off the giant camo prison jumpsuit monstrosity I’m wearing without getting mud and ticks and poison ivy onto my skin, and everyone else is asleep or gone.” 

There’s a long, heavy pause, and David wonders if Patrick’s fallen back asleep. He probably has one of those chunky, uncomfortable pillows even though he could afford better, and it probably leaves his hair sticking up and funny little red imprints on his fair skin. 

“Are you in jail?” Patrick finally manages to ask. 

No , do you really think you’d be my one phone call? Stevie took me on a turkey shoot and I had to wear this hideous outfit that I think might’ve been a joke but it’s covered in gross stuff and it smells like the memories of dying turkeys’ beady stares and I’m feeling very vulnerable and maybe a little bit paralyzed.” 

“Okay, why don’t you send me a picture so I know what we’re working with.” 

He does, and then regrets it immediately as Patrick begins to laugh, a sleep-thickened chuckle that rumbles in David’s ear. 

“Oh, you were not doing justice to this, David! And a hat too! Can we put this one on Twitter?” 

“You know what, fuck you!” 

“They trusted you with a gun?” 

“I think it might’ve been a fake but it made very convincing noises,” he sniffs. 

“Oh, boy,” Patrick sighs, sounding immensely pleased. “Thank you so much for waking me up, David. This is the best early Christmas present I could ask for.” 

“You’re a terrible person.” 

“Probably.” He doesn’t sound remotely remorseful. “But really, David, you’re right to be concerned about things still being on your clothes, but it’s okay if you touch them as long as you check your skin carefully for ticks once you’re, uh, undressed and then take a hot shower immediately.” 

“Do I have to use anything specific in the shower? And I think I read something about ticks preferring, like, dark moist places? Which, ew .” 

“No, no, your normal shower products are fine. Yeah - just be - just be thorough, with the tick check?” Patrick’s voice gives out at the end of the sentence, so he clears his throat. “You can do a visual check and a, uh, like, check with your hands, too. They like to hide in body hair too. So- just - check your head, obviously, and your - your chest, I guess, and-” 

David plucks distastefully at the top button of his jumpsuit. “And then I can burn this fucking thing, right?” 

“You have my permission.” 

“What about my shoes?” 

“You can burn those, too.” 

“PATRICK. These are Rick Owens. ” 

“Why did you wear designer shoes to go hunting?” 

“Okay, first of all, I’m very proud that you know now that Rick Owens is a designer. But what was I going to do, borrow a pair of yours? Those fugly little mountaineering boots, maybe?” He wishes they were having this conversation in person because he can hear in the silence that Patrick is grinning at him. No one has ever enjoyed being insulted by him before. It could be addicting. 

“Go shower, David. I’m going back to bed.” 

“Fine! Bye!” 

“Goodnight, David.” 

“And Patrick?” 

Patrick exhales through his nose; there’s another noise, too, like he’s sat down heavily on his bed. “Yes, David?” 

“Um, thank you. For taking my call at 1AM. And for helping me. I know I was...panicking and being irrational. And stuff.” 

“Anytime, David.” 

“Goodnight, Patrick.” 

After he showers and pulls on his pajama bottoms, he sends Patrick a selfie from bed, his freshly-scrubbed shoulders pink against the sheets, his wet hair just out of frame. “All clean, no ticks ;) ;),” he writes. Patrick doesn’t answer, but he assumes he’s probably fallen asleep already. 

It’s easier to call than to text, sometimes, so they do. David has grown used to talking with Patrick every day; Patrick’s voice is deeper than David had realized - almost soothing? And now that they’ve established that they’re friends, David feels like a wall has been breached inside of him. He can admit he enjoys talking to Patrick, that he even looks forward to their calls, that they might be the best part of his day. That’s how friendship works, right? He doesn’t have a lot of experience to go on.

It’s a giddiness somewhat familiar from the early days of recognizing Stevie as a kindred soul, but the friendship is different. Stevie was always guarded - still is, even now. David can respect and relate to that. But while Patrick presents as guarded to so much of the world, David recognizes now that with the right people, Patrick is more than willing to let himself be known. He just prefers to do it on his terms, releasing insight into himself in manageable doses. 

So comfortable does David become with this new element in their friendship that he answers the phone one day without thinking, when he’s still sweaty and breathless from yoga. He sees that it’s a video call and has just enough time to say, “Shit!” before Patrick’s round, not-sweaty face fills the screen. 


“What do you want?” David demands. He can hear the unfair harshness in his greeting and feel badly about it while also feeling entirely unable to muster anything kinder. 

“Were you-” Patrick leans forward until just the bridge of his nose is visible, filling the screen like a senior citizen on their first Skype session. “David, were you exercising?” 

“If you must know,” David huffs, glancing around for something to use to wipe his forehead that is not made of polyester, “I was doing yoga.” 

“I think that counts,” Patrick chuckles, normal-sized again, smile far too fond for a tone that teasing. 

“It doesn’t count as exercise if you’re doing it to control panic attacks!” 

His lips scrunch in as if to retract the statement. He doesn’t regret it, exactly, isn’t ashamed per se, but, well - he knows he doesn’t exactly project calm on a good day. Telling people he regularly full-on loses control of his mind and body seems like asking for too much understanding. 

Patrick’s smile twitches in a funny way but - that’s it. There’s no long silence or pitying look. Instead, he just says, “Whatever the reason, David, you’re sweating like a pig, so I think it’s exercise.” 

David hates the rush of warm gratitude Patrick’s easy teasing elicits in him in this moment. He pouts and puts on his Alexis voice. “Is that really the definition of exercise we’re going with? It seems a little reductive. Did you want to propose that to the IOC, or-”

“No, no, I’ll leave that to you.” With the slight offness of video calls, Patrick’s eyes are focused somewhere in the middle distance, and he’s so close to the screen that David can see the thin skin of his eyelids, almost blue in shadow. “You know, my friend Twyla teaches yoga for anxiety. I think she’s got a few videos on Youtube. I could send them to you.” 

“That’s - sure,” David says, because this is a thing they talk about now. 

“You’d like Twyla.” 

Would she like me, though? he bites back. “Is she - did you two ever-” Because this is a thing they do now, ask each other personal questions with every other breath. 

“Oh no,” Patrick laughs. “Twyla’s like a sister to me.” 

“Right. Cool.” Patrick is still just looking at him, or looking-but-not-looking, and if they were texting it wouldn’t feel like this, David wouldn’t feel like this. “Well. I should go shower. I know my physique doesn’t show it at all, but I’ve been working very hard in my yoga classes.” 

“Haven’t you made those Sexiest Men Alive lists every year since you were 18?” 

“That’s hardly relevant.” He’s pleased Patrick knows, though. “That’s mostly about the face.” 

“Is it?” Patrick glances down, off-screen, probably at his stupid ugly shoes that take half an hour to lace. “I just wish you weren’t so hard on yourself. I wish you could see yourself the way other people see you.” 

“Oh god,” David blanches, doing his best to convey his full-body convulsion in the confines of the phone screen. “That sounds abjectly terrible.” 

“Not from where I’m standing,” Patrick says, and David loves Stevie with all his heart but she’s never been the kind of friend to say something like that, to say something so simple and so cliche and so utterly what he needs to hear. 

When they hang up an hour later, David realizes he’d never asked why Patrick called in the first place.

Chapter Text

david: merry christmas!! 🎅

Patrick: I thought you were Jewish? 

david: i’m actually a delightful half-half situation

david: so

Patrick: Then Happy Hanukkamas! 

david: no

david: patrick no

Patrick: Patrick yes. 

david: god

david: on this holy day can you not for once behave

Patrick: 😈

david: ur a weirdo

david: what are you + clint + marcy doing today

Patrick: We just got back from volunteering at a shelter in the city

david: wow canadians really ARE better people than us

Patrick: We stopped doing the big state events a couple years ago and are putting the money towards food pantries, shelters, etc., so we’ll have a small family dinner later.

david: this would be the point to reassure me that americans can be nice and good too

david: rather than just bulldozing through my insecurities

Patrick: What time is the Christmas Eve gala? 

david: 8

david: but! 

david: i don’t have to go 🎉

Patrick: Are you sick? 

david: aw that’s sweet of you to care

Patrick: I don’t think I expressed any particular opinion about you being sick.

david: but no, i included not having to go the gala as one of the terms for my involvement in the little ruse you and i have going on

david: where we pretend to be friends

Patrick: Ah.

david: brilliant thinking on my part, really

david: i get to drink mulled wine and watch six holiday movies in a row and fall asleep with cookie crumbs all over my face

Patrick: The dream, really. 

david: it is 

david: we’ll have a family dinner tomorrow too but that’s just us

david: i think my dad would move the dining room table into my bedroom if i tried to get out of that one

Patrick: Haha

Patrick: I could see him doing that. 

david: anyway

david: just wanted to say i’ll be unavailable for the next 24-48 hours

Patrick: Aw, were you expecting a holiday call from me, David? 

david: ew no

david: just making sure renee and keira and kate et al and i aren’t interrupted

Patrick: Are you going to be watching Die Hard? 


david: no

david: and if you try to start that conversation again i’m not talking to you until next year

Patrick: Next year being eight days from now? 

david: well i couldn’t very well not talk to you longer than that

david: because of this whole pretending to be friends thing

Patrick: Right

david: anyway

david: my best to clint and marcy

Patrick: Mom said thank you for the recipe box.

Patrick: She called it “sublime” which makes me think you two have been texting too much.

david: tell marcy SHE’S sublime

david: okay i really gotta go now byeeee

“You didn’t have to call me,” David sighs, letting his head thunk back against the wall. 

“Well, your text seemed kind of urgent-” 

“What part of ‘trapped on balcony, send alcohol’ seemed urgent?” 

“...All of it?” Which, okay, fair. 

“I’m not physically trapped on a balcony. I mean, I am, but it’s - it’s a prison of my own making. I’m more trapped by the humiliation and burnt bridges. It’s a little cold, and I wish I’d had more to drink, but - I’m fine. You didn’t need to call. Go back to Christmas.” 

Patrick is quiet for so long that David thinks he’s hung up, but of course he hasn’t. And of course he called David upon seeing that text. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” 

“Now you sound like my therapist.” 

Patrick laughs, and there’s something loose about it that makes David wonder if he’s been drinking too. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just, you’re trapped on a balcony on Christmas, and rather than trying to get off the balcony you’re talking to me, so. You might as well talk to me.” 

“I’m sorry for ruining your Christmas,” David grumbles. He’s already got this weighty shame in his stomach and it’s swelling into something more suffocating as he thinks about how annoyed Patrick must be, how Patrick probably hoped this would be his one day off from having to babysit David-

“Honestly, David, it wouldn’t have felt like Christmas without a call from you.” 

You called me.

“Under duress. Your duress, specifically.” David wishes there were enough light out here to do a video call; he’d like to see the smile Patrick reserves for teasing him. “So. Are we gonna talk about it?” 

“It’s-” Stupid. It’s really stupid. He knows it’ll sound even stupider said out loud, to another person, into the frosty air behind the White House. “Just typical family dynamics.” 

“Ah, yes. No one knows normal families like us. The sons of two of the most powerful men in the world. Totally normal family dynamics.” 

“Okay,” David says, his mouth twisting, “you have been spending far too much time with me, Patrick Brewer. That was a lot of sarcasm.” 

“You’re avoiding the subject.” 

“You distracted me! Okay. Fine. Ugh.” He pulls his sleeves over his knuckles, which would otherwise be a strong sartorial no-no but it’s cold and it’s Christmas and he’s in turmoil. “I was - I was kind of looking forward to Christmas dinner. To it just being the four of us. I, um, I wore this ugly combo Hanukkah-Christmas sweater my dad gave me, like, seven years ago? And then I showed up and there were many people. Like, some of my dad’s old business contacts, and a couple people from Congress and their spouses, and that actor from the car commercials? And I just felt - I thought -”

“How did you feel, David?” Patrick’s voice is a plumb-line straight to his soft underbelly. 

“Oh my god, can I go stick my head in one of this building’s many historic fireplaces and you and I never talk about this again?” 

“David, please don’t hang up.” 

“I felt betrayed!” he snaps, and he should apologize, but Patrick knows, he thinks, that he’s not snapping at Patrick. “I fucking... We never used to have these dinners, just the four of us, because honestly? Before we moved in here? We weren’t close. My dad would trot us out for campaign events to show what a normal, stable, happy American family we were, but they didn’t know what I was studying, or who I was sleeping with, or what drugs I was using to get through the night. They definitely didn’t care about Alexis’s escapades until they threatened to cost my dad his Senate seat. And we moved in here, and it felt - and I thought - maybe, for the first time, we actually could be a normal, stable, healthy American family. Maybe I’d go to bed at night knowing where my sister was. Maybe my mom would, like, fucking hug us for once. Fuck.” 

He’s crying, and he’s sure Patrick can hear it, and this is reaching a new level of desperate and pathetic.  

“And I know that’s asking a lot-” 

“You think it’s a lot to ask for your parents to notice you? To love you?” Patrick’s sharp interruption surprises him. 

“No - I don’t - not that , exactly, but - I know who my dad is, I’ve always known that. I know I can’t ask them to change. But I thought we were changing. The last two years, we had Christmas dinner just the four of us, and it -” David squeezes his eyes shut, because today’s new Christmas memory has added an ache to the lining of the joy he’d been carrying. “It was awkward, we were awkward, but it felt like everyone was trying. We’ve continued it during the year too - we can’t all always make it, but - Dad asks how my day was. Alexis and I watch TV together sometimes. I’ve never had that before. And coming to dinner tonight and finding all those people-” 

“That’s a pretty nasty surprise party.” 

“Yeah,” David chuckles. He’s suddenly, fiercely grateful for Patrick. “I don’t know what annoys me more, that they didn’t tell me it would be like that, or, you know, just that it was like that. Or that I reacted like I did.” He thinks it's the last one, honestly, but he can't tell Patrick, who will probably tell him his feelings are valid or whatever.

“You should talk to them about it.” 

“Ew! No.” David pushes off from the wall in favor of leaning on the balcony railing. He can see a few security agents standing in the yard below; he hopes they haven’t been able to hear him. “Can you imagine how uncomfortable we would all be, talking about our feelings?” He shudders. 

“Maybe you should lure them out onto the veranda and then break the door handle.” 

David laughs wetly. He feels immensely better. A half hour ago he’d expected to cry himself to sleep, and now he feels - a little wrung out, but better. 

“Do you have any current or past family trauma you’d like to discuss?” he offers, because his therapist had told him he could sometimes be too selfish. 

“Ah - no,” Patrick chortles. “I think that’s enough for today.” 

“I’m sure life with Clint and Marcy isn’t this complicated,” he sighs, wistfully. 

Patrick hums. 

“Speaking of which,” David says, craning to look through the window behind him, “I should let you get back to them. And I’ll - I’ll text Alexis and find out if it’s safe to come out.”

“Hey, David?” 

“Yes, Patrick?” 

“I - uh - I wanted to tell you something. As a kind of Chrismukkah present.” 

David rolls his eyes at the portmanteau, but the slight shyness in Patrick’s voice has him heavily intrigued. 

“Okay,” he breathes. 

“I...I worked at a Rose Video when I was a teenager.” 

David learns his mouth is capable of being fully open and smiling at the same time. “Oh. Okay.” 

“Yeah. My parents wanted me to be normal? My dad was already in politics and I think they worried life would be too comfortable for me, so they made me get a job.” 

“At the local franchise of a video empire founded by a prominent US Senator?” 

“Yeah.” Patrick’s ears are definitely red - David can hear it. 

“Oh my god, did you wear one of those little polos?” he gasps, delighted. “With the red collars and the yellow rose stitched on the breast pocket?” 

“Yes,” Patrick groans, and oh, this is delicious. “And the white sailor’s cap on local movie nights.” 

“Oh sweet sweet Patrick,” David crows. “You’re absolutely right, this is the best gift you could possibly give me. Are there pictures?” 

“Do not text my mom, David,” Patrick says, confirming what he’d already suspected and hoped. “If you care about me at all-” 

“You can’t give me this information and then ask me to move on with my life!” 

“I will send you one picture-” 

“Can I post it on Instagram?” This feels like a dance more than a negotiation, like flirting with each other’s boundaries, like - like flirting. “A cute lil throwback Thursday of my BFF?” 

Patrick huffs, “It can go in your story,” but David can hear his smile, knows he’s enjoying this, knows he likes being teased by David as much as he likes teasing David. 

“Bless you. Bless you and your generous Canadian heart.” 

The warm bubble swells around him, the drama of the evening momentarily forgotten. 

David goes to bed with a couple bottles of Smirnoff Ice from Alexis. It’s no eggnog in a chalet, but it’s also not an ex he’s called up in a moment of self-pity, so - not his best Christmas, but not his worst, either. 

Kept up by a funny tension he can’t chase, he pokes around on the internet until he finds himself at a porn site. He hesitates, but the idea of masturbating on a high holiday in a house built for some men who would be offended he even exists...well, that idea alone is kind of doing it for him. 

People always comment on his vivid imagination, or offer some slur-hidden-in-a-compliment about how he must not need porn anymore, given his wide experiences. He’s learned to smile and take it. They don’t deserve to know that his head isn’t always a safe place for him, especially not where sex is concerned. He’ll let the actors tell the story and just follow along with his fingers. 

There’s a promoted video on the home page today, a holiday-themed production, two elves at a shopping mall Santa station getting it on after hours. It’s outlandish and garish; it’s exactly what David needs right now. 

He watches for a while, mimicking what the taller performer does with his hands, palming himself over his pajamas, then over his briefs, then - ah - gliding down the length of his cock with light fingertips. He’s not aiming for earth-shattering tonight. His eyes slip shut and he focuses on the sounds coming from his computer. Those hideous striped candy-cane shirts are burned on his retinas anyway, so he doesn’t need to look. It feels like the tension of the day has been rerouted to a spot deep within him, and each stroke is a delicious tease, stretching that tension out.

The elves are giggling over festive innuendos, but the wet sounds of their kisses are enough. He can take it from here - maybe make those shirts a little less offensive - a sharp twist of his wrist - get rid of the stripes, definitely, and short sleeves so he can lick up their arms. He’s slick with precome, he should have taken off his pants - the elves are getting feverish with desire, and his own pace picks up, and the shifting fashion of the mysterious star of his mental porno resolves itself into a polo, a polo with a red collar and a yellow rose on the breast pocket, a few buttons undone, and above the polo, owner of the thick neck and the amazing forearms --

Fuck ,” David gasps, and he comes with Patrick Brewer’s face emblazoned across his eyelids.

Chapter Text

“Who invited Patrick to our party?” David demands, tugging the guest list from Alexis’s grasp. 

“Um, our party, David?” she repeats, making grabby hands at the clipboard as he scowls down the length of the list. “You haven’t helped at all since we finished choosing the hors d’oeuvres.” 

“Well, that’s the most important part. And Stevie votes with you on everything, not because she agrees with you but because she hates me, so I know it’s not worth my time,” he sniffs. 

“I invited Patrick,” Stevie chimes in. “Since you never make a list.” 

“I just don’t have that kind of time!” 

If Stevie and Alexis know the real reason he’s never contributed to the guest list for the annual Young Americans New Year’s Eve Extravaganza - that they’re the only two he’d invite anyway - they don’t let on. And yes, this year he has Patrick - he doesn’t have Patrick, but Patrick has joined the very small tier of people David generally doesn’t hate, and thus it would make sense for him to come to the party, but-

“Is there a problem with Patrick coming to the party, David?” Stevie asks innocently. Behind her, Alexis’s eyes get wide with that scent-of-blood instinct she has. “I just figured, with your budding bromance-” 

“It’s barely a friendship, and it’s fine,” he says as evenly as he can manage. Losing his cool will only egg them on. “Patrick can come. Just know that I won’t spend the whole night babysitting him if he doesn’t have any other friends!” 

Alexis snags the clipboard back as he gestures with it and props it under her chin to look at him gleefully. “Oh, I think Patrick will be fine, David.” 

“Yeah, Patrick is a very eligible bachelor,” Stevie agrees, nodding thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he emerges from YANYE with, like, thirty people’s numbers and ten people’s underwear. Pat-rick .” 

“We’re still not doing YANYE!” 

“Only YANYE committee members can weigh in on the name,” Alexis reminds him. “Come on, Stevie, let’s go choose the color scheme for the evening. I’m thinking navy and, like, a creamy brown.” 

Stevie, who hates color schemes but loves goading David, walks away backwards, grinning and waving at him.

“I founded the committee! And if you use creamy brown I will never speak to either of you again! Fuck .” 

He stops just short of actually stomping his foot on the hall’s marble floor. He wants to tell Stevie about his realization about Patrick, his realization that he’s into Patrick, he really does, but - well, Stevie and Patrick are kind of the only real friends he’s ever had. He already went down the being-into-his-friend route with Stevie. What if he tells her he has feelings for Patrick and she thinks that this is just a thing that David does whenever he gets close to someone, that it wasn’t anything specific about her, that she wasn’t special, that Patrick isn’t special? 

Because she is, and Patrick is, in different ways, in ways David isn’t sure he’s ready to dissect yet, or ever. In ways he worries will make Stevie retreat into that melancholy she’d carried after they’d ended their friends-with-benefits arrangement. 

He loves Stevie dearly, but their little fling had brought out the worst in both of them. He remembers the sex being really good and the guilt and regret and anxiety after each hook-up being deep and cutting. He remembers wanting to talk about it with someone and realizing that Stevie would be the person he’d want to talk about it with, and, well, that wasn’t part of the arrangement. He wants to talk to her now, but how can he do that without pointing out all the ways Patrick is different from Stevie? “I’m attracted to my friend who’s unlike you in almost every way, so thanks for being just a stepping stone in my trek towards happiness”???

There’s also the fact that there may not be anything worth talking to Stevie about. One little masturbatory fantasy - okay, five, plus one unintentional but very inspiring sex dream - doesn’t have to mean anything. David’s just horny and bored and lonely, maybe, and Patrick’s the nearest attractive new thing he’s latched onto. There’s no way Patrick would even be into him, if David were to want to pursue anything. And anyway, he’s fairly sure ‘banging the Canadian First Son’ wouldn’t qualify as success in his parents’ vision of this image rehabilitation campaign.

Tomorrow’s party could be the perfect opportunity to find a hot B-list celebrity with whom to hook up and wipe the slate clean. Get it out of his system, go back to having a new, uncomplicated friendship with a nice guy who gets along well with his best friend and his sister. 

So. Act normal. Hook up with a random. Don’t tell Stevie. Definitely don’t tell Alexis, who’d be super happy for him but whose six million followers would know within ten minutes. Act normal. Act. Normal. 

He pushes his shoulders back and stalks after Alexis and Stevie, determined to make his aesthetic opinions heard, if not appreciated. 

On New Year’s Eve, David is already half a bottle of prosecco in before the party even starts. They’d agreed on a classic black and gold theme, and he and Stevie wander the ballroom taking selfies they’ll never post and throwing confetti at each other while Alexis greets the guests who were nervous enough to show up early. He’d expected Patrick to be among them - punctuality seems to be in line with everything that Patrick is - but he’s not, and David directs his energy towards getting loose and sloppy and forgetting that Patrick is coming at all and that it’ll be the first time they’re seeing each other in weeks.

David knows he looks good - in general, but especially tonight. He’d let someone else - a professional - coiffe his hair even higher than usual, and his suit pants are a skinny cut that shows off his gold high tops. Alexis had dusted his cheekbones and the dip of his throat with glitter, dragging the eye down into the little tease of chest hair visible at the open top of his black dress shirt. He’s come to be seen. 

Stiff, grandiose state events like the Christmas Eve gala have never been his scene, but this - attention-thirsty, drunk, somewhat-famous twenty- and thirty-somethings squeezed into a lavishly decorated room with bottomless alcohol - well, this is his forte. As the room gets louder and more packed, David gets more tipsy and confident. He’s past the point of caring if people are flirting with him because he’s the president’s son or because he’s rich or because he’s one of tonight’s hosts. It’s the last night of the decade and he’s going to be flirted with and he’s going to find someone hot and forgettable to kiss at midnight. 

Stevie, in her on-the-prowl little black dress, appears out of the crowd with a new glass of champagne for him. “Incoming,” she murmurs, and he’s so grateful he has the forethought to wait to sip the drink until he’s followed her gaze. 

Patrick is easing his way along the bar, another man - a date? a vicious voice taunts - at his elbow. They’re both wearing honest-to-god suits, and next to the former Disney Channel stars around them, they look like they belong at a tax conference or in the cast of 21 Jump Street . And okay, maybe David’s not totally mad about that. Maybe his tastes have matured. 

“Stevie! David!” Patrick calls, and David tries not to be bitter that he said Stevie’s name first. “Happy New Year, guys!” 

He pulls Stevie into a hug, then seems to hesitate in front of David. David rolls his eyes, because he’s still in that safe space where his anxieties are lowered but his inhibitions are not, and uses Patrick’s extended hand to initiate the same kind of shoulder-to-shoulder we’re-just-bros hug they’d shared on the baseball field a month and a half ago. Patrick’s free hand rubs briefly across the top of his shoulder, the nape of his neck. 

“It’s good to see you, man.” 

“You too, man ,” David teases, easing backwards, then gasps and tugs Patrick closer again. “Are you wearing eye shadow?” 

There’s a dark golden dusting across Patrick’s lids; David thinks it’s a shade that appears in the arcs of Patrick’s curls in late afternoon sunlight.

“I’ve been told it brings out my eyes,” Patrick replies, turning said eyes up at David with feigned innocence, as if for approval. God, David wants to bend him over the bar. 

“Alexis accosted us by the entrance and told Patrick he looked too bland!” the other man chimes in cheerfully. “And then she did that to his face. She said I was pretty enough as I am, which is just about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me! Hi! I’m Ted.” 

Ted, judging by the way he keeps talking about Alexis, is not Patrick’s date. David does not have strong feelings about that, and he does not smile to himself as Patrick takes a deep breath and rubs his hands on his suit pants and asks what David is drinking, and he does not preen when a Sports Illustrated model asks Patrick to dance and he turns her down. 

It’s a slip-slide into joyful chaos from there. David has his own bottle of champagne now, and Patrick startles a delighted laugh out of him by chugging two glasses of whiskey to ‘get on his level’. Ted plies everyone with water but joins them for shots. Alexis whispers, “What happened to not babysitting Patrick?”, but David likes the feeling of Patrick at his elbow. Stevie’s fortunately too plastered to make too many insinuations right now, and David is so glad. Because he just wants to enjoy this, enjoy New Year’s Eve with his friends, wants to laugh at Ted’s stupid puns and agree begrudgingly to take pictures with randoms and above all to feel the invisible tethers that seem to hold them together, him and Stevie and Ted and Alexis and Patrick, orbiting each other like this party is for them, like the other guests are just background actors. 

They make their way into the pulsating crowd and form a dance circle, nebulous enough to let other warm, eager bodies in. They’re beautiful tonight, David knows. Everyone can see it. 

Being near Patrick is intoxicating in a way it hadn’t been before the accidental conjunction of a Rose Video polo and an excellent orgasm. David feels like he’s blooming under Patrick’s gaze. He doesn’t know how he didn’t notice this before, how every brush of Patrick’s arm against his sends goosebumps up his back, how Patrick’s eyes smile a half-second before his lips. Sometimes his laughter seems to transform into something sharper and hungrier as he watches David dance. 

At one point he stumbles towards David and, grinning, yells, “Your sparkles are getting everywhere!”, and then he drags his hand down David’s neck and holds it up in demonstration, glitter and sweat shining on his palm. David, in an impulse he will claim as childish but which comes from a much dirtier place, seizes Patrick’s wrist and pushes that hand against Patrick’s own face. In a long, slow pull, he drags the hand down Patrick’s face, smudging Patrick’s eyeshadow and leaving a patternless cascade of used-up glitter across his features. They’re matching now, in a deconstructed way that feels like it belongs to a dirty blowjob in a dance club bathroom, and his dick is sharply aware that he has essentially just marked Patrick. It’s definitely not a look that should inspire affection to pour thick like honey into his veins. 

Patrick just laughs and licks his lips, probably salty now from David’s sweat.

A part of him, some tiny ventricle of his pathetic romantic heart, thinks that Patrick feels the shift too. He knows it’s just a fantasy he’s built up, aided by the passion of his previous hatred for Patrick and a month of semi-flirtatious texting. Still, David feels electric in this imagined shared attraction. Not ready for reality, he takes each twinge of desire - Patrick’s lips curling around a bottle, Patrick laughing when David tries to show him how to dance with his hips, Patrick tossing his jacket away and rolling up his shirtsleeves - and he drowns it in more champagne. 

But Patrick’s definitely watching him as he dances, and maybe this is actually the grand opportunity of the night - not to seduce Patrick, not to hook up with a random, but to so thoroughly embarrass himself in front of Patrick that any whisper of desire is firmly silenced. It’s worked before. 

He shimmies up on an Adonis in gold spandex. The guy reaches back to grip David’s hips and they grind together. David catches Patrick’s eye, because Patrick is still looking. But if anything, the cut of Patrick’s mouth is amused, says I know what you’re doing , says you look ridiculous but I like it . David rolls his eyes, at himself or Patrick he’s not sure, and tries to focus on the random’s cute, tight butt. 

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssss, David, get ittttttttttttt,” Stevie shouts behind him, thoroughly into her droopy-eyed, overly touchy phase of drunkenness. She stumbles up behind him and tries to dance with him the way he’s dancing with the random, but they’re all three gyrating at different tempos. It’s ridiculous and messy and not at all sexy, and David loves it. He wants to live in these wild, carefree moments with his friends. He wants to spend all next year dancing with his best friend and his sister and Patrick - 

Patrick, who has disappeared. 

“Patrick?” he says out loud. 

“No, I’m Jake,” the random calls over his shoulder, but David’s already squeezing out from between him and Stevie, standing on tiptoe to try to spot Patrick’s head in the crowd. 

“Hey Ted, have you seen Patrick?” he yells over the throb of the bass. 

“He went out that way, bud!” Ted points towards the eastern hallway. “But you’re going to miss the countdown!” 

“Thanks,” David replies distractedly, and he pushes through the grabbing hands and whirling bodies and couples sticking their tongues down each other’s throats. People call out to him - people he doesn’t even know - but the song in his head pulsing with the latest pop hit is Patrick Patrick Patrick -

The eastern hallway is empty. Maybe Patrick’s already gone to bed? Now that David’s out of the feedback loop of the party, he finds the idea tempting himself. He should exercise his New Year’s resolution of Patrick-related-restraint. He could slip away - no one would notice -

From the ballroom, the countdown to midnight begins, a few hundred drunk, happy people yelling, “ TEN! NINE! EIGHT- ” David wobbles in indecision for a minute, wavering in the hallway before turning back towards the party. As he passes the wall of windows out to the courtyard, though, he sees him. 

“Did you come out here to puke?” David calls the second he’s out the door. A bush that was definitely not there yesterday gets in his way and he nearly trips over it, but he catches himself on an ornamental sculpture and follows Patrick’s footprints through the light snow that fell last night. “I told you I could hold my liquor better than you can.” 

Patrick’s underneath a scraggly fir, the knot of his tie loosened, looking seasonal and Canadian and so scrumptious. David hates himself for wanting Patrick. Innocent Patrick. Sweet Patrick. Patrick who could out-party and out-charm any of them but who’s out here getting his dress shoes dirty. Only skeevy David could take such a lovely friendship and fuck it up with feelings. 

“No, no, I was just looking at the stars,” Patrick says, putting out a hand for David to catch as he stumbles once again. His grip is steady, and then it’s gone. 

It’s cloudy, David thinks as he looks up, and even on a good night the glow of the metropolis fades any stars to insignificance, but - maybe that’s not the point. 

“It’s one of the things I didn’t realize I’d miss, when my dad started getting attention,” Patrick continues. “We almost never get to go somewhere where we can see the stars. Really see them, you know. Pick out the constellations.” 

It’s quiet in the courtyard, like someone took the party and inverted everything about it, leaving just the two of them in cold and calm and stillness. The buzz in David’s head is taking a minute to adjust, every sense seeming heightened and sensitive with the shift. It’s like his lungs have spilled out across the frozen ground with the sudden openness. 

Patrick ducks his head to look shyly over at him. “What, no teasing about what a Boy Scout I am?”

David shrugs magnanimously, unable to suppress the easy smile that Patrick provokes. “I guess the champagne makes me soft.” 

Patrick snorts. 


Patrick just tips his head, squinching his teeny eyebrows upwards and giving David a minute, and - oh, he hears it now. “Okay, so that’s a thing I just said to you.” 

Patrick’s lips are poorly containing a smile. He doesn’t say anything, though; just when David wants him to tease, he’s earnest. 

They lean back against the tree, shoulders brushing, the back of Patrick’s hand tickling the hair on David’s. It’s so quiet in this courtyard, so loud in David’s head. He wonders if it’s the new year yet. 

“Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be normal?” 

So it’s not really about the stars. David’s face twists. “I mean, yeah, but. It’s hard to imagine. My mom was already acting before I was born, my dad’s been a politician now as long as he was a CEO - I’ve never really known normal. You can remember it, I guess?” 

“Yeah.” Patrick’s eyes flick pensively from the sky, to David, to the courtyard, to the sky. “I think I’d have a small business.” 

He tries not to smile at the quaintness of it all. A whole universe of dreams, and Patrick wants a small business. “Can’t you do that anyway?” 

“Not really. Not the way I’d want to do it. I’d never know if my success was really mine, you know, or just a by-product of who my parents are.” 

David thinks about his galleries and hums. 

“I’d probably date more, too.” 

It’s David’s turn for a startled laugh. “Because it must be so hard , as Canada’s sweetheart, to get a date. Poor Patrick Brewer.” 

Patrick’s affected scowl is slipping; David loves that, that he can have this effect on Patrick, that he can push away the morose clouds. 

“You’d be surprised,” Patrick says lightly. 

“Please,” David scoffs. “I’ve seen the comments on your posts, the thirst tweets. Literally everyone wants to date you. You’re basically a Canadian Prince Charming.” 

“But it’s not-” Patrick’s hands clench so that his knuckles rub against David’s hand. “It’s not that simple.” 

Something important is trying to clarify itself in David’s mind. “Why can’t it be? You could have, like, a third of the people in that party right now if you just asked.” 

Patrick shifts so he’s facing David; he looks more frustrated than David has ever seen him, even more than when arguing next to a giant pumpkin cake, even more than when a storm alert had interrupted the livestream performance of his hockey troupe and he’d felt the need to FaceTime David about it. “I don’t want a third of the people in that party right now,” he huffs. “There are - there are people I’m - there are specific people I’m interested in - but - I’m pretty sure it’s impossible.” 

A lancing ache strikes through David’s chest for how much this echoes his own predicament. 

“And I’m a take-charge guy, normally,” Patrick is saying, and David nods, and wishes this weren’t the best friendship he’s ever had, outside of Stevie, wishes he knew Patrick’s preferences, “and if I could - if I felt even - even sixty percent sure - because I’ve weighed the potential ramifications-”

He might still be talking but David’s eyes are riveted by the way Patrick’s lips curled around the word ramifications, which Patrick has just used to talk about dating, and oh he’s still looking at Patrick’s lips, and are they closer than they were a second ago? And David is really drunker than he thought, fuck, because he can’t see Patrick’s lips anymore, and he can’t see Patrick’s lips anymore because he’s kissing them, his hand is pressed to the back of Patrick’s neck and he’s kissing Patrick Brewer under the fir tree in the White House courtyard. It’s his first kiss of the new year and he thinks if December comes again while he’s still kissing Patrick, it’ll be too soon.

Patrick’s breath hitches, his lips opening against David’s. His fingertips come up to ghost across David’s stubble and cheek, his calluses rough while his lips are the smoothest fucking thing David’s ever had the privilege to touch. 

But fuck , these fingers feel an awful lot like wait stop what are you doing . Patrick hadn’t asked for this. Patrick has a crush on someone else. Patrick is David’s friend and the Special Advisor for Arts and Culture shouldn’t be kissing a foreign national and also what was it Jocelyn had said about the appearance of backroom deals? Fuck

He tears himself away, literally physically yanks himself back from Patrick. For a horrible second, he stands there, Patrick’s stunned face in his hands. Then he mutters, “Oh my god,” and flees.

Chapter Text

This might be the longest David has ever gone without checking his phone, and he includes the time Alexis sent him an SOS from Bora Bora and then made him stay for the last six days of that technology-free, total-silence retreat. (She still refuses to admit that she’d already broken the retreat’s rules by texting him in the first place, but.)

His phone is shoved into his cedar chest, because he can’t look at it. He can’t use it ever again. He’ll eventually have to get around to replacing it and getting a new number and maybe a new name and maybe a new nose, again, just for good measure, but for now it will stay there as a reminder of what an idiot he is. 

Patrick called him, twice, on New Year’s Day, then sent a text, Hey David, can we talk ? that made David want to vomit. He’d thrown the phone across the room and spent the next hour shaking in bed, running over their courtyard kiss in his mind, the replays getting darker and more twisted with each loop. He did, eventually, vomit. Happy fucking new year. 

There’s no indecision attached to any of this, which somehow makes it easier to finally get out of bed. His socks feel different in his hands. He stands in front of his open closet for five minutes, lips parted, truly at a loss, because he genuinely keeps forgetting what he’s come here to pick out. He’s in a fog, but it’s - it’s a clear fog, or - well, that doesn’t make any sense, but it’s a decisive fog. He’s miserable, but there’s not any question about the next steps. The next steps include going downstairs, having breakfast, pretending like nothing’s happened, never speaking to Patrick again, maybe enlisting in the military or becoming a park ranger or signing up for the first, preferably highly risky tourist cruise to the moon. Then lunch. 

He gets a lot of reading done, that first week of the new decade. He also wanders down to the White House’s art storage vault - precious, historical pieces they’ve chosen not to put out for now - and helps the curator catalog and dust and photograph. The vault is quiet as a crypt and surprisingly clean and the repetitive work sets up a hum like white noise in his mind, the only time he has peace from the litany that’s repeating there otherwise: Patrick’s breath catching, a hum of surprise in the back of Patrick’s throat as David kissed him, the moist sound of their lips separating. 

He tries to draw, but his fingers conjure a sketch of thick fingers and warm eyes. He blasts music until Alexis storms across the hallway, yanks his speakers out of the wall, and carries one under each arm to hide god knows where. He tries to get drunk with Stevie but the first taste of alcohol reminds him of whiskey on Patrick’s lips. 

Stevie has stopped asking what’s wrong - quicker than he’d expected, so quickly he’s actually a bit disappointed. Because - because she’s still the one she wants to talk to about this, since he can’t talk to Patrick. He’s been trying to drown it out, to push past it, to power through the self-loathing and inquietude that’s curdling his stomach, but denying the tiger inside him is just making it hungrier. 

So one day it roars. One day, about a week and a half after he’d fucked up his friendship with Patrick, he’s flipping through one of the magazines Alexis has finished reading and he can’t take it anymore. 

Stevie’s watching a stand-up comedy special in the in-house cinema, frowning at it like it’s a documentary on the horrors of the meat industry. She takes her feet down from the velvet-covered seat in front of her as the door opens, then, seeing it’s him, puts them right back up. 

“Hi, so good to see you. Um, please know that I’m coming here humbly and with strong reservations and in deep anguish and I hope you’ll, like, be kind and honest and remember what a great and precious thing our friendship is?” David half-pleads, dropping into the seat beside her and sliding down so their heads are level. 

She looks at him suspiciously, taking a piece of popcorn apart with her teeth. “What have you done?” 

Nothing! Okay, that’s a big fucking lie, it’s pretty bad, but nothing that concerns you , directly. Nothing I have to apologize to you for. I think. It’s complicated. I didn’t, like, burn all your flannels or anything, though god knows someone should.” 

“Are you actively trying to ensure I’m as irritated as possible before you even get to the point?” 

“You know who I am, Stevie,” he says in defense, and then, fuck , he thinks about how true that is and his lower lip suddenly feels like it’s made of jelly. 

“Oh shit,” Stevie mutters, her Converse hitting the floor in her shock. “This is serious.” She lifts her hand indecisively, and he watches her watch it in consternation before it settles on his shoulder, making what she probably thinks are soothing motions. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. “Are you - are you, like, dying, or something?” 

“I appreciate your lack of concern, thanks so much,” he sniffs. It does feel like dying, but Stevie’s not one for emotional theatrics, so. 

“I’m just saying,” she persists, “it must be really bad, since you’re here-”

“Talking about it with you? Yes, I’m being made increasingly aware of what a misguided decision this was.” 

“I may be the only one as ill-equipped at handling - well, fuck, anything , as you are.” 

“We’re hopeless,” he agrees. “But you - you can bring a certain - um - perspective , to this, my - um - my issue. And you’re also-”

“Don’t say it,” she threatens, retracting her hand. 

“The only person I can-” She shivers and pretends to cover her ears, so he grabs her wrists and hisses the last word in her ear. “ Trust .” 

“Eugh.” Her whole body convulses, and the audience in the still-playing comedy special laughs, as if prompted. “Gross.” 

“I know. You can go post vicious lies about me on Reddit later, I promise.” 

She scowls but seems to accept his terms. “So what is it?” 

“I -” Saying it will make it true. Saying it will transform it from the repressed fever-dream he keeps hoping it was into a fact that exists beyond his mind - his mind and Patrick’s lips. “I-” 

“Do you want to write it down? Or mime it?” 

“I hate you,” he snaps, but the amused little provocation in her raised eyebrows does its job, as he huffs and blurts out, “IkissedPatrick. On New Year’s.” 

And shit, he wishes he’d told Alexis instead, because she’d make him feel appropriately terrible about, whereas Stevie’s got this wicked grin, and of course the first thing she says is, “How was it? On a scale of 1 to 10?” 

“Fuck you,” he says, thinking off the charts , thinking, try the Richter scale instead, thinking invented a new tool of measurement

“Was there tongue?” she asks, like that’s important. 

“There was not tongue, it lasted, like, half a second. Can we focus?” 

“Are these not pertinent questions?” She’s leaning over into his space now, delighted, and he’d been so afraid she’d react badly, because of their history, and he’s - okay, he’s touched, that she’s happy for him, or enjoying his discomfort, at the very least, but-

“The quality of the kiss does not matter at the moment,” he explains carefully, “because I am more concerned that it was a huge mistake.” 

Stevie stares at him for too long, deciphering. “You didn’t like it?” she asks slowly. 

“I didn’t - that’s not - I didn’t not like it,” he admits. 

“Okay,” she says, with the voice she uses when talking to reporters from Fox News, “did Patrick not like it?” 

“I...don’t think he did.” 

“He told you that?” 

“Told me what?” 

“He told you he didn’t like it.” 

David can tell that she’s already mapped out the entire scenario, in that annoying way she has of divining his most embarrassing truths. She understands, and she’s going to make him say it. “He...didn’t say that.” 

“What did he say, then, David?” 

“He didn’t-” He frowns at her. “He didn’t say anything.” 

“And when you talked to him about it afterwards-” 

“Funny thing?” he interrupts, smiling against his will, because she’s being such a smug little prick but she’s doing it to help him. “I didn’t actually do that.” 

“So you have no idea how he feels about the kiss.” 

“That would be correct.”

“Okay.” Stevie nods knowingly. “So you kissed him, and panicked, and have been incommunicado for the last ten days even though Patrick is probably also panicking and probably just wants to talk to you?” 

“Oh my god,” David bursts out, “do you want me to feel worse than I already do?” 

“I’m just trying to figure out which part of this is the big mistake you mentioned. If it wasn’t the kiss, was it the panicking part? Or the not talking to him part? Or the-” 

“What if I fucked everything up? What if he never wants to talk to me again? What if I ruined one of the only two friendships I’ve ever had? Even if he were interested in me - which he’s not - we can’t, like, hook up. It would be a disaster. It’s a bad idea. It’s probably illegal? And. What if I - what if he and I - try it, and it - it’s a repeat of you and me?” It’s the last bit he’s been dreading. He can’t look at her. 

She’s quiet for a moment, then he feels her hand on his arm again. “It worked out okay for us, didn’t it?” 

“Yes,” he mutters.

“Do you want to kiss him again?” 

He pouts a little, because she’s pressing him on the questions he doesn’t want her to ask, the questions he came to her to be asked. He clears his throat. “I would...I would like that very much,” he whispers. 

“And do you really think what you and Patrick have is anything like what you and I were like, before we started hooking up?” 

He can look at her now, he decides, because she gets it. Fuck , Stevie gets it. She may be insincere and emotionally stunted most of the time, but when it matters... A knowing sadness weighs at her lips, and he wishes he could make it disappear, but they’d reached an understanding a long time ago that they’re no longer responsible for making each other whole.  

“It’s different,” he says, and she rolls her eyes, like hello idiot, no duh . “He’s - he’s different. He’s nice . You and I aren’t nice. He doesn’t - we insult each other a lot, but - I feel -” He clears his throat again, wondering if he’s allergic to the fake butter on her popcorn. “I didn’t even realize I was attracted to him until a couple weeks ago. With you-” 

“You were only into my smokin’ bod, I know.” 

“Yeah,” he chuckles. “Something like that. It was physical first, and then-” 

“I was there, I remember,” she cuts him off acerbically. “We discovered that we liked each other too much to like each other.” 

“Yeah.” For maybe the first time in his life he wishes his clothes were a little less expensive, just so he could wipe fucking snot on his sleeve like a normal pathetic person. 

A long silence settles over them; it’s blessedly empty for David, finally drained of the tension and wondering and despair that’s been possessing him, but he feels its weight in Stevie. She’s not done yet. She’s considering. 

“Based on our history, lord knows why I’m not telling you to run in the opposite direction. But I think,” she says finally, carefully, “that there will always be a risk to any new relationship, or any change in an existing relationship, but wanting to kiss someone whom you also consider one of your best friends is...not nothing? It means that you like them a lot, and that’s scary, believe me, I know, but. It also may be worth exploring.” 

“I don’t even know how he feels.” 

“Correct,” she says drolly, and he’s in awe of her, that she can make him feel judged and loved all at once. “So really you’re getting ahead of yourself. But, and I know I’m not an authority on this shit, but maybe you should ask him.” 

David gnaws at his lower lip, trying to ignore the hopeful flurry the idea stirs up. “Do you think he’s gay?” 

“I definitely think he’s not straight,” Stevie replies, with an assuredness that makes him think she’s thought about this before. “Anyone with, like, five brain cells can see how much you two want to dick each other down.” 

A complicated series of twitches transform David’s face. “How many brain cells do I have, then?!” Before she can answer, he demands, with sudden indignation, “Hang on, how long have you suspected he’s into me? How long have you suspected I was into him?

“Are you serious?” Stevie tosses back her hair with the kind of genuine laugh he can so rarely coax out of her. “Why do you think I’ve been teasing you about him for years?” 

A veritable PowerPoint presentation of moments cascades through David’s memory - Stevie pointing out how hot Patrick is, Stevie asking why David is texting Patrick so much, Stevie inviting Patrick to YANYE. “I thought you enjoyed how much I hated him!” 

“Did you hate him, though?” she smirks. “Was it really hate ? Or...another strong emotion, perhaps?” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he groans, his life-altering revelation suddenly feeling very cheap. 

Over the next week, aided by Stevie’s pep talk, David just about gets himself to a place where he would be willing to check his phone. He’s maybe three or four days away from that, which suggests he’s about a week out from drafting an initial text to Patrick, which is progress, certainly. He can handle this maturely, diplomatically, responsibly. 

He never gets the chance. 

Patrick turns up at a state dinner in late January and the bottom of David’s stomach drops away. He has about five seconds to take in Patrick’s fitted blue suit and that he looks paler than normal and about seven hundred times hotter than the last time they’d been face to face ( oh my god, literally face to face ). The expression on Stevie’s face suggests she’d seen the guest list for this dinner and didn’t tell him, and Patrick is climbing up on the dais next to him, shaking his hand like they’re back to the beginning of their fake friendship, smiling for the cameras.

David feels like - like he’s hyperventilating, inside his body, because he can’t panic now, in front of everyone. But Patrick’s still holding his hand, using it to tug him closer. “We need to talk.” 

“Oh,” David says, brilliantly, as Ronnie grabs him from the left and hauls him off so the next people in line can take their pictures. Patrick is already headed off to his seat at the far end of the room, and David wants to flee, wants to snap at Patrick, wants to tear his stupid not-$400-belt off his very grippable hips. He’s realizing he’s played out hypothetical scenarios on the spectrum of Patrick detests the very sight of my lips to he wants to kiss me too but he’s forgotten to consider other possibilities, such as Patrick wanting to murder him. 

David can barely eat. He tries, but the food keeps falling off his fork as he watches Patrick, hoping to ascertain what kind of conversation he should be preparing himself for. The fact that Patrick wants to speak to him at all is - probably good. His whole body is coiled with tension, and he’s adding all kinds of new worry lines to his face, which he really can’t afford at his age. 

“Hey,” Stevie says at his shoulder, and he spins from his entree with relief. “Alexis needs you. Something about a Peruvian dance instructor?”

David is out of his seat before she finishes speaking, a hard-wired reflex from years of Alexis needs you . “Thank god,” he mutters as she leads him to the back of the room. “I need a distraction, or a joint, I’m about to blow a fuse thinking about-” 

He falters, verbally and literally, scuffing the toe of his shoe as he sees who’s waiting for them at the door to the Red Room. 

“You’re not my sister,” he blurts out. 

“No, and I’m really glad about that right now,” Patrick replies. “Stevie, would you watch the door for us? I’m sure Ray will be looking for me.” 

“Ronnie’s going to-” David starts to protest as Patrick grabs his elbow and marches him into the empty Red Room, set up for the after-dinner cocktails. 

“Shut up, David,” Patrick commands. 

“You should really wash your hands before you touch this suit, I got it in a boutique in Thailand that’s only open three days in the year-” 

“Oh my god , David, stop talking for five seconds, I'm begging you,” Patrick groans, and as they reach the far wall he spins David and pushes him up against it. For a wild second David thinks he’s about to be kissed, and he experiences the emotional equivalent of his bowels giving out. 

Instead he bumps into an ornamental table - he actually ends up half-sitting on it, the way Patrick crowds him - and Patrick grabs his face with both hands, and then just - stands there, considering him.

David’s skin is on fire. This close he can see that Patrick’s mouth is darkened from wine; as he watches, his lips part and the tip of his tongue slides across his lower lip, leaving it moist and inviting. David fumbles back a groan and tries to move towards the wall, but Patrick’s grip is unyielding. 

“David,” Patrick murmurs, “we really need to talk.” 

“Uh-huh,” David squeaks out. 

“And we’re going to. We’re going to talk. We’re going to have a very thorough conversation about this. But-” 

A ferocious hope roars in David, and his body arches forward, drawn to Patrick. 

“I just really need to kiss you again,” Patrick admits, voice pained. “Is that okay? Can I kiss you, David?” 

If he weren’t so turned on and scared that this will all shatter in a moment, David would find this cute, maybe even romantic. As it is, it goes straight to his crotch, and he growls and grabs Patrick’s collar with both hands and crushes their mouths together. 

It’s - fuck, it’s something entirely else from the courtyard, now that they’re both participating, now that Patrick is kissing him back. It’s a white-hot scramble, a messy, belligerent battle for control. Patrick moans against his lips and presses into him so he has to slide fully onto the table to keep from toppling over. David’s legs part readily and Patrick slides between them, kissing David like he wants to consume him. He can’t believe his luck, can’t believe the misery of the last few weeks has culminated in this, being nearly dry-humped against a portrait of Alexander Hamilton. 

Patrick releases David’s face in favor of wrapping his arms around his broad shoulders. It lets David steer more, tilting his head above Patrick, nipping at his tongue when he tries to work it into David’s mouth. It earns him a frustrated whine, and he draws back with a smirk. 

“Shut up,” Patrick says, for the third time that night, every inch of visible skin the shade of a poppy. 

“I’m sorry, is this not what you had in mind when you dragged the First Son out of dinner to maul him?” he asks innocently, dancing his fingertips along Patrick’s shoulders. 

“Is this not what you had in mind?” Patrick volleys back, voice gravelly, and ooh that works for David. Everything about Patrick works for David. He holds David’s gaze as he leans in, veering at the last second to press his lips, warm and open, to the column of David’s neck. David doesn’t voice his surprise but he knows Patrick can feel it in the trembly whimper that shivers in his throat at the slide of Patrick’s mouth up and over his stubble. “Did I misinterpret that kiss in the courtyard? Since, you know, I’ve had a lot of time to interpret it.” 

David gets a hand around Patrick’s chin and drags him back up. “You’re cheeky,” he scolds. 

“You already knew that about me.” Patrick’s jaw juts, testing David’s hold; the muscles working beneath his fingertips make David want to get fucked into a mattress as soon as possible. 

“I did,” he agrees. Patrick’s eyes are fire, a steady, heavy burn. David wants to drink it down like whiskey, let Patrick sear him all the way down. “Seems like we’re both making bad decisions tonight.” 

He hooks a knee around Patrick’s legs, as much for leverage as for the way it makes Patrick’s eyes bug out. Years of frustration at Patrick, at not understanding how to provoke a reaction or get any show of personality from him at all, and now he has the guidebook in his hands. Or maybe he’s the one writing it.

“Nothing about you is a bad decision,” Patrick whispers, and David whimpers, his hips giving a little involuntary twitch just as the door swings open and Ray - fucking Ray?! - calls out, “Time’s up, gentlemen!” 

Patrick stumbles back onto his heels. The space between them feels cavernous. And Patrick looks - well, his pants hide very little, and soon the room will be filled with dignitaries and leaders and David’s family. He hastily begins to try to pat down Patrick’s hair, which has gone fluffy and spiky from wandering hands. 

“Okay, okay, I got it,” Patrick says, batting him away, but David can see - knows how to see, already - that the stress pulling Patrick’s mouth tight has everything to do with wanting David and nothing to do with wanting him to stop. 

“Alright. So.” David smoothes the front of his jacket and tries to think of this as a business transaction at his gallery. “You’re going to need to stay at least a hundred feet away from me for the rest of the night, so I don’t do something stupid.” 

“Uh-huh,” Patrick chuckles, like he isn’t just as liable to stumble into horny idiocy. 

“And then,” David continues, allowing his grin to get crooked in a way that he knows will drive Patrick to distraction, “you’re going to come see me tonight, so we can... talk .” 

“Talk. Right,” Patrick agrees, looking directly at David’s lips. 

“Eleven o’clock. I’ll text you directions. Don’t keep me waiting.” He pats Patrick’s chest and wanders back to the main hall, shoulders back with a confidence he doesn’t even have to fake. If he has his way, the talking will be decidedly minimal. To be wanted, to seduce, to ignite - that he knows how to do. And if he does it right, they’ll never have to actually talk about what this is.   

David is sober by 10 and panicking by 10:05. 

This is a patently terrible idea. He wonders if Stevie only encouraged him to pursue this because she’d get some good laughs out of it. Not only is the son of one of the most important men in the world going to be sneaking around one of the most highly patrolled buildings in the world tonight in order to sleep with talk with another son of a different country’s president - he’s also banking a lot on this, personally speaking. His tentatively improving relationship with his parents, his own hopes for future opportunities. Patrick could ruin him, with a leaked screenshot of their text messages or an anonymous sale of nudes or cruel words whispered over a pillow. Patrick would never, and David’s more the jerk for even considering him capable of it, but still. He’s vibrating out of his skin and he doesn’t know how to make sense of that, since his body and his reputation aren’t really in danger here. 

There’s a knock on the door at 10:50, sparing David ten minutes of further self-torture but plunging him into something else, something akin and worse in its laceration. Because Patrick comes in, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt now, and his arms flex as he closes the door behind him, and in the dim light of David’s bedside lamp he - he kisses David on the cheek, lingeringly, familiarly. 

“Hi,” Patrick whispers, his breath lush on David’s skin.

The room feels too small to contain this. The electricity from earlier has settled into something else; David still wants him, badly , but here, in this privacy, in this quiet, just the two of them, he’s not dancing around an international intrigue or a racy hookup. He’s facing one of his best friends, and the desire drawing them together is softer and bigger than whatever had possessed them earlier. 

Patrick draws him in by the waist, doing that - that considering thing again, his gaze going fuzzy with the proximity of David’s face, before he kisses him. He’s backing David towards the bed, toeing his shoes off as he goes, and David feels the panic stirring. This isn’t what he’d expected. A plan, a vision had formed as he’d waited for Patrick. Making out on the couch on the side of the room, foreplay as they scatter their clothes across the carpet, culminating in something mind-blowing on the bed, an abbreviated recovery, a second round. Patrick’s determination to pass go and collect $200 feels like... not a snub, exactly, but a recognition of this for what it is: a clandestine tryst. 

Patrick’s forefinger slips under the hem of David’s sweater and really, maybe he’s got the right idea. Maybe three years of unintentional foreplay is quite enough. 

Decided, David settles in to taking charge. He goes straight for Patrick’s belt buckle and smirks at the muffled squawk Patrick makes against his lips. 

“I’m sorry, do you need me to go slower?” he teases Patrick. He immediately regrets it, regrets joking about it. Because he would - he’d go slower, or stop, and he lets go of the metal clasp to make that clear. 

“Oh,” Patrick says, and he lifts his arm and tugs his t-shirt by the back of the collar, slides it off his back, tosses it to the side without looking. “I appreciate the offer, David, but remember what I said about having lots of time to interpret that kiss? Slow is the last thing I want right now.” 

Well, David’s certainly going to need more information on that when Patrick’s not actively undressing in front of him. He gives in to something inside him and swoops towards Patrick, gingerly holding his ribcage on either side as he mouths at Patrick’s chest, leaping over the canyon between their soft greeting at the door and the tickle of Patrick’s sparse chest hair against his lips. Patrick grunts and claws uselessly at the back of David’s waistband. 

David hasn’t let himself consider that Patrick’s body would feel as steady as his presence always has, and now he just might succumb to the heft of the feeling. Like Patrick is a shore he can crash into and still find there each time, undeterred, uneroded. 

“Sit back,” he whispers, and is surprised when Patrick does without question. Someone’s going to have to get Patrick’s socks off at some point, he notices, and then wash their hands before they do anything else, but - Patrick’s working his jeans down, and David hurries to match him. 

Pants off, sweater discarded, he crowds into Patrick’s space and kisses him with both hands on his jaw. He likes this gesture - they both do, he thinks, reflecting on earlier - this sense of surrounding and being surrounded, taking and giving control. Patrick’s hands settle light but sure on David’s hips again and stay there as David begins to crawl on the bed, a knee on either side of Patrick. They slide up along the covers as best they can, still kissing, chests brushing in a way that makes Patrick’s breath catch. He doesn’t seem to mind David’s body hair - seems to go out of his way to touch it, in fact. 

David props himself above Patrick, both arms straining. He doesn’t miss the way Patrick’s eyelashes flutter a little when his gaze slips over David’s shoulders and biceps. 

“Hi,” David murmurs, echoing Patrick’s earlier greeting, and he carefully lets his hips down, his warm weight finding Patrick below him. 

“Oh - oh god, David,” Patrick groans, barely above a whisper, but everything seems amplified. His hands fly up to grip David’s biceps. David is terribly, terribly flattered that Patrick is this sensitive to him, so he gives Patrick more, a small slide of his length against Patrick’s. 

He presses a crushing kiss to Patrick’s gasping lips and then slides down, smiling reassuringly. “I’ll be right back,” he assures Patrick when he gropes for him, seemingly missing his presence already.

He noses along the thick vein of Patrick’s underarm, kisses the softest part of his stomach, nuzzles his hip through the fabric of his boxers. Patrick’s nearly whining now, and David pauses with his fingertips on the elastic waistband.

“What?” Patrick demands, looking embarrassed but pleased and definitely anticipatory, like he’s about to open a lovely present and has been caught in his excitement. 

“Nothing,” David lies, ignoring the shiver he feels at having Patrick here, open and loose and wanting in his bed. Wanting David. Scuffling into a giant pumpkin cake now feels a lot more erotic, in retrospect. 

And then Patrick is naked, and David’s disbelief at his own luck ticks upwards. He shoots Patrick a saucy smirk, tongue poking out between his teeth. Patrick laughs through a groan and tosses his head back, covering his eyes. 

“You’re going to make me regret this, aren’t you,” he says. 

People usually do . David kisses the thought - with a little teeth - into Patrick’s hipbone and doesn’t answer. 

Half-watching Patrick for reactions, David ghosts his breath along the exposed skin. Patrick seems afraid to twitch; he’s holding himself completely still, studying David’s movements, and that just won’t do. David dips his head and, beginning at the base, he runs the tip of his nose along the side of Patrick’s swollen cock so that his stubble scratches at Patrick’s inner thighs. The sensation makes Patrick’s thighs tremble, squeeze David’s sides, and finally fall heavy on his shoulders, the strength and tension in his muscles offset beautifully by a breathy little exhalation from up above. David wants that contradiction. He wants to slowly unravel Patrick until his voice goes high-pitched and pleading, but he also wants Patrick to ride him with those thick thighs pumping, taking. 

At the top of Patrick’s cock he noses under the head before wrapping the whole thing in his hand. Making sure Patrick’s watching, he kisses his own knuckles, centimeters from the heat of Patrick’s skin. 

“Do you want me to?” he asks, though he thinks he knows the answer. 

“Um- I don’t - whatever you want?” Patrick stutters, as if his fingers and toes aren’t flexing in the fabric of the covers. 

“Nuh-uh,” David shakes his head impatiently. He rubs his free hand up and down Patrick’s thigh, hoping to soothe him, if he needs soothing. “I’m asking if you want it. Do you want me to suck your dick, Patrick?” 

Patrick’s head shoots up. “Well, David, it doesn’t sound very sexy when you say it like that!” 

David loosens his grip and looks at him blankly. “What, dick? Do you not like the word? Would you prefer cock? I can suck your cock. Or penis? Keep it clinical? Prick? Length? Hard throbbing-”

“Dick is fine!” Patrick practically shouts, and David will have to get that on a t-shirt for him. “I didn’t mean - I just - the way you said it, it sounded like a chore,” he finishes lamely. “I don’t want it to be a chore for you.” 

“Mmm,” David hums in understanding, pressing his cheek to Patrick’s cock, half for the way it startles Patrick’s hips off the bed, half for himself. “I see. You’re that type. You want me to enjoy it too. You want me to get off on getting you off. How very Canadian of you.” 

“Yes - no - I don’t-” Patrick groans and covers his face with both his hands. 

“Oooh baby,” David purrs, dropping his voice into a pornographic register, shimmying his shoulders between the grip of Patrick’s thighs. “I just love sucking your dick, gets me so hard and dripping-” 

And he’s been in bed with Patrick for nearly ten minutes now and he hasn’t gotten past carefully holding Patrick’s cock, and Patrick’s laughing behind his hands and the bed is shaking with both of their laughter. Laughs in bed , he wants to add to the Patrick Brewer Fact Sheet. Still sexy when he does it

And then Patrick is smiling down at him, tears of mirth shining in the private corners of his eyes, and the same strangling closeness from when he’d first arrived settles over David. It’s too much. “For real though,” he says, panting a little from the laughter, “if it’s okay with you, I’m gonna start now.” 

Patrick nods and gets halfway through a vocalized yes before David swallows him down. The word changes into a garbled, choked exclamation. 

“Oh, David,” he huffs out. “Oh - oh, yes, David, that’s - that’s good.” 

David isn’t prepared for Patrick to be such a talker. Not a dirty talker, either, though David feels a rush of heat through his belly at the idea of coaxing that out. Patrick plows about as far in the opposite direction as possible, burying David in a cascade of praise and pleas and affirmations, clutching alternately at his own sides, his hair, David’s hair, the pillows.  At one point David reaches up a hand to stroke Patrick’s cheek, gentling him, and Patrick grabs it, pins it there, so David can feel every gasp and groan and expletive. 

When David sinks low enough on Patrick’s cock, he can feel Patrick’s ass cheeks clench near his chin, and he slides his free hand underneath Patrick, gripping the smooth, cool skin. The contact makes Patrick buck, and in surprise David swallows around Patrick’s tip. And then David has another Patrick fact to add, comes with a smile, turns his face to come with a disbelieving little huff against his lover’s palm.

“Fuck,” Patrick groans, when David pops off of him. 

“A real chore,” David snorts, rising up on his knees so Patrick can see how hard he is. 

“If it was that bad for you, maybe I should just leave?” Patrick squints up at David, his whole body languid, his eyes impossibly hungry on David’s nakedness. 

“Yeah,” David says, stretching himself overtop of Patrick, kissing him, slipping a hand under his head. “Yeah, you should just leave.” 

Patrick slides a hand over his own softening cock, still slick with David’s saliva, and uses that hand to start jacking David off. He wants to be grossed out by this, wants to pull Patrick off and mock him about bedroom etiquette, because it shouldn’t work for him. It also shouldn’t work for Patrick to whisper encouragement into David’s shoulder, his voice getting softer as his hand gets quicker.

He comes embarrassingly quickly. 

After, when they’ve cleaned up and Patrick has watched David walk naked across the room and David has tried to tease him for it and Patrick hasn’t been the least bit ashamed, they lay in silence, side by side, looking up at the ceiling. 

“You’ve got a mouth on you,” David says finally, nudging Patrick’s bare hip with the back of his hand. “Where was that when we went ice-fishing?” 

“What?” Patrick laughs. 

“You didn’t talk to me, like, at all ,” he reminds him. He can’t be the only one who’s reexamining their moments together. “I felt like you couldn’t stand to be there with me.” 

He’d meant it off-handedly, something to break the potent post-sex silence, but the way Patrick cringes and pinkens tips him off. 

“Oh my god, Patrick ,” he gasps, shoving him nearly off the side of the bed. “Did you hate me that much?” 

“No!” Patrick protests, wiggling his way back towards David, making plaintive little puppy eyes in his direction. “It wasn’t like that. Honestly, at first I was messing with you. I wanted to see how long it would take for the silence to drive you crazy. Then it... it was kind of surprisingly nice, to be there. To be there with you.” 

David hopes the way his mouth is scrunching can be mistaken for disdain, instead of the hopeless torn-open feeling it’s really betraying. By the way Patrick’s eyes track his fondly, he doesn’t think he’s been successful. He buries half his face in a pillow and nods. 

Patrick looks away and begins running the flat of his hand over the side of David’s body nearest to him. There’s nothing innately sexual about it - it feels like a study - but an alertness spreads in David’s groin and nipples and even his tongue. 

“I’m really glad you kissed me, David,” Patrick says softly. His hand is trembling minutely. “I was working up the nerve myself, but-”

“Oh, is that what you were doing?” David prods. “It looked a lot like floundering to me. So. Just wanted to be clear on that. On what that was.” 

“Okay,” Patrick says, and smacks David’s thigh lightly. “So much for being honest with you.” 

“I’m sorry,” David says, not sorry at all, not for the way Patrick is touching him, or the slap, or the teasing. “Please continue.” 

“That was it.” Patrick locates the groove between David’s leg and hip that seems to stay smooth even without moisturizer and ripples his fingertips over it. “That and, well. I know this is very new-” 

It is, and it’s not, and David’s been readying his counterargument about going public since the Red Room, since he’d let himself think they might become a them. Even aside from the international relations complications of it all, it’s new and precious and fragile, and he can recognize that he’s far too invested in it already to want to share it with anyone else. It feels - more real than he’s used to, and maybe that’s more reason to be comfortable sharing it with friends and family and Instagram, but it makes him want to covet it, hoard it in the recesses of his chest. 

“So I was wondering if we could keep this between us, for now, at least,” Patrick is saying. 

Oh. Oh . Maybe he doesn’t need cruel words whispered over pillows; maybe neutral ones are enough to ruin him. 

“Oh,” he says. 

“Yeah,” Patrick continues, apparently not noticing David’s distressed attempts at recalibration. “I’m not ashamed of you, David, I want to be clear, because I know you’ve had issues with that in the past, with people not - that’s not what this is. But I need some time, and I think it’d be good for both of us to take some time, to figure out what this will be.” 

David has the absurd clarity to wonder if this is how Stevie felt, when he’d suggested they stop sleeping together and just be friends. She’s much stronger than he realizes, if she’d felt this disintegration and carried on. He remembers how she’d responded: she’d gotten ahead of the thing. 

“Of course,” he says, because of course he does. “We don’t need it to be anything.” 

“We - we don’t?” Patrick’s hand tightens on his hip - in relief, David assumes. 

“We don’t,” he assures him, smiling his best for-the-cameras smile. “It’s probably for the best, given how people would react, if we keep it simple. We can just take it day by day, booty call by booty call-”

“Oh, is that was this was?” Patrick murmurs, reaching across David to squeeze the side of his ass. 

David knows this script from the many times it’s been read to him. “Keep it casual. I know both of our lives are, like, non-stop, so why complicate things?”

“Uh-huh. Right.” Patrick ducks his face into the pillow to mirror David, watching him with one eye. “Uncomplicated.” 

“Physical,” David suggests lightly. “Easy-breezy.” 

“Right,” Patrick repeats. “I mean, it won’t be a total secret, since Ray already knows-” 

“I cannot believe -”

“And Stevie, apparently-” 

“I’m not telling Ronnie,” David announces, smacking his hands down onto the bed in finality. “That’s where I draw the line. She’d flay me alive. I’ll find a way to work around her.” 

Patrick grins. “Is she really that bad?” 

“Don’t look at me like that,” David scoffs, trying to turn away; Patrick stops him with a bare foot on his calf. He has to keep his body pinned to the bed to stop himself from rising into that little touch. “You have Ray , who’s like the polar antithesis of Ronnie.” 

“I don’t know, David,” Patrick smirks, “people tell me I’m very charming. I’m sure Ronnie and I would get along just fine.” 

“Ugh!” David gives up on trying not to touch Patrick during this attempt at a serious conversation. He slides over and hooks Patrick’s top leg over his own hip, bringing them suddenly flush. “You’re not charming. You’re insufferable.” 

“I’m so sorry you have to suffer,” Patrick murmurs, and what is David supposed to do but shut him up. 

They agree it’s best for Patrick to not spend the night, so as to forestall a manhunt with a frenzied Ray at the helm. David knows it’ll be best for him as well, to maintain this clear separation. 

“Hey David,” Patrick says as he pulls on his pants. 


“You know what I should’ve gotten you for Chrismukkah?” 

“What, Patrick?” 

David’s treated to Patrick’s pleased grin for a second before it disappears into his t-shirt. David rolls his eyes but waits. When Patrick’s head reemerges, he tucks both hands into his pockets and says, “A subscription to Foreign Affairs .” 

David stares at him for a full ten seconds, then says flatly, “Get the fuck out, Brewer.” 

Patrick laughs, and David thinks everything will be okay between them, and then Patrick crosses the room to kiss David gently, and he knows nothing will be okay ever again. 

“Good night, David,” Patrick murmurs. He checks that Alexis’s door across the hall is still closed, winks, or tries to, and slips out. 

David flops back onto the bed and says to the empty room, “Sweet fucking dreams, Patrick.”

Chapter Text

david: i can’t stop thinking about you

david: specifically your cock

david: and all the ways i could be making you moan right now

Patrick: Hi David, this is Ray. Patrick can’t come to the phone right now. 


Patrick: Just kidding. 

david: jesus fuck patrick don’t do that

david: my life flashed before my eyes

Patrick: I am actually in a meeting with Ray right now, though, so maybe we can pick this back up later? 

david: oh so this would be a bad time to send you this huh

david: rimming.gif

Patrick: David.

Patrick: I’m begging you.

david: we can work begging into the scenario, sure

Patrick: I’d really rather not get hard while talking to Ray. 

Patrick: I only want to get hard for you.

david: k but that implies you’re getting hard for ray? so

Patrick: Please never talk about my dick and Ray in the same sentence again. 

david: what if i talk about ray AROUND your dick

david: like while doing this? 

david: deepthroat.gif

Patrick: You can talk while you do that? 

david: you can’t?

Patrick: I’ve never tried. Or thought of trying. Or thought of it at all. 

david: adding it to the list

david: tho i agree that maybe we should do it without ray being involved

Patrick: There’s a list?

david: there could be

david: you’re the one who masturbated about me for almost a month after i gave you one tiny kiss

david: so if anyone has a list it’s probably you

Patrick: Is that what I said I did after the kiss? 

Patrick: For the record I did, though. 

Patrick: I did masturbate about you

Patrick: A lot

Patrick: But the fantasy doesn’t hold a candle to the reality of being touched by you

Patrick: And now that I know what it’s like to really be touched by you

Patrick: I’m parched for it.

david: are you still in that meeting

Patrick: I am.

david: fuck

david: call me when you’re out

Patrick: Okay so I’m a little ashamed of this but

david: i’m salivating already, tell me more

Patrick: I went down a rabbit hole after that last gif you sent me.

david: yes yes yes

Patrick: Is this even possible??? 

Patrick: barnacrobatics.gif

david: lmaaaooo

david: i remember when people were really into that

david: but yes it is

david: stretching is encouraged 

Patrick: I guess it’s a good thing you do yoga, then. 

david: patrick brewer! 😳


Patrick: Da vi d

david: you rang? 

Patrick: Answer your phgoine

david: excuse me? 


david: r u drunk

david: im at dinner w my parents, what’s up? 

Patrick: I want you

david: how do you want me, baby

Patrick: duck i want your s munch

david: mm hot

Patrick: i wait you to duck my fave

Patrick: my face

Patrick: i want

Patrick: i want you to duck my face

david: that can be arranged

Patrick: NOW

david: you’re so far away ☹️

Patrick: answer you phognre

Patrick: then its lime your close

david: i don’t think mr and mrs president would enjoy that as much as i would

david: just touch yourself patrick

david: touch yourself for me

david: start nice and slow

david: see if you can last until i finish this salad

david: salad.jpg

david: now all i can think is that this dressing looks like cum

Patrick: lolllll it does davie it does

david: ew davie no

david: are you touching yourself

Patrick: your hand feeps so food on me

david: that’s right baby that’s right

david: don’t think about the fact that our phones are technically government property

david: don’t think about my dad watching me text this to you so it’s like he’s watching you jerk off

Patrick: DAVID

david: just keep touching yourself

Patrick: well noe im not hars

david: ☹️

Patrick: youre a dicl

david: 😘

david: here’s a favorite video of mine. use it for inspiration until i’m alone and can help you

david: ( 🔗link)

Patrick: oh DUCK

Several weeks pass before David is able to see Patrick in person again, and he’s ravenous. He’s never wanted someone this badly. He’s started to develop an alarming chafed patch on the heel of his hand from masturbating so much and has to take drastic preventative measures using a thorough and thoroughly embarrassing series of Google searches. 

In their frantic text exchanges they talk about everything, every conceivable body part connecting with every other conceivable body part, gently or punishingly, slowly or in a fast needy messy fuck in a supply closet. But when they have a chance to FaceTime, things seem to narrow, to simplify, and they’re just two men touching themselves, their dirty talk bizarrely earnest. 

David finds he pities Patrick a bit, for the way he exposes himself in passion. People like David could take that and use that and tear it apart. David should know. But David also loves it, god. Patrick will be playing into whatever fantasy they’ve stumbled on and then suddenly something raw and real will tumble out of him and David’s abs and throat and cock will seize up with the lightning strike of Patrick’s exposure. 

In February, unable to stand it anymore, unable to wait for a state-sanctioned reason to get his mouth back on Patrick’s body, David takes the situation into his own hands (ha). If his parents are suspicious as to why he’s invited Patrick to come for a tour of the White House, if they wonder why he’s suddenly so engaged with the fake-friends facade, they don’t let on. (He’s fairly sure they have no idea. They’ve come a long way since they spent two months not noticing he was hooking up with the pool boy, but they haven’t changed that much.) 

In his lusty haze, David doesn’t actually prepare to give Patrick a tour of the building, so the history he shares is fake and some of the room names he makes up on the spot. The theme of the tour ends up being art and decor, because that David knows without studying. The White House collection isn’t anything like what he’d had in his galleries - he would’ve been ostracized, or, well, more transparently ostracized, if he’d hung this sort of work - but he likes it, in a way he can’t tell anyone, in a way Patrick seems to pick up on anyway. 

In whispers, they assess the past presidents’ hotness and bicker about whether someone’s terrible personality can ever drown out their objective physical attractiveness. Patrick pretends to be as moved as David by the antique benchware in the East Room. David offers to sell, or let Patrick steal, the busts of Columbus and Vespucci. He shows Patrick the chandelier in the Cross Hall that his mother has coveted since before his father even had presidential aspirations. “She’d love to take it apart and use the pieces for her own jewelry,” he confides, and Patrick laughs, as he’d hoped. 

They linger by some of the more modern art. David finds he can’t stop himself from babbling about shadows and the aching communicativeness of open space and the hidden passion of a pastoral landscape and the demographics of the portraits hung in the historic building. He glances at Patrick in front of a portrait of Jackie O and he wants to make a joke about the heat in Patrick’s gaze, that’s what Jackie does to me too , but Patrick is looking at him , not the portrait. He’s doing that attentive thing he’d done at the baseball field that first day of this whole farce. It had been for the cameras then (hadn’t it?), but they’re alone now, and Patrick is looking at him, and listening to his trivial, useless knowledge about sculptures and beading, and asking thoughtful questions and standing too close to him the whole time. 

“The Red Room you’ve already visited,” David smirks as they pass it, and Patrick chokes and trips on the edge of a rug. 

It’s a Saturday, so the curator isn’t around, but David has had the key to the storage room since he’d hid his post-New Year’s misery in inventory and dust. He unlocks the door and then presses his back to it, holding it closed. 

“I probably shouldn’t be doing this,” he confides. “They don’t let just anyone in here, you know. Very precious, very fragile pieces in here.” 

“So this is an exclusive, VIP tour, and I can never tell anyone what I see?” 

“That’s correct,” David grins. “Thank you for appreciating the gravity of this moment. No flash photography, please.” 

Patrick is on him the moment they’re inside with the door closed. “Are we alone here?” he asks, crowding David against the curator’s desk, the only space not covered in canvas and marble. “God, when you talk about art-”

“Too much?” David guesses immediately, wincing. “I thought about suggesting we do a vineyard tour or something instead, but it’s February-”

“What? David, no. Not too much.” Patrick tangles his fingers with David’s where they’re resting at Patrick’s waist and guides David’s hand down. “It was amazing. Feel what you do to me?” 

“Oh hello,” David murmurs, lightly stroking Patrick’s erection, each kiss Patrick sears against his jaw and throat and chin pulling him out of the self-deprecating spiral he’d started down. 

“You sound so smart and passionate and just so fucking sexy,” Patrick swears. David wants to tease him for it, for being so horny that a little Art History 101 will do it for him, but he’s fumbling with the tie on David’s pants. “And that was hot enough, but then I started imagining you talking about - about me like that, talking about my body like a painting, or something - which is ridiculous but honestly kind of worked for me?”

“Oh,” David hums. Patrick coming undone, Patrick turned on and confused and rambling and wanting is everything. “You want me to paint you like one of my French girls?” 

There’s a rebuke in Patrick’s eyes but he’s smiling even as he shakes his head. “Yeah, sure. But later. I’ve got something to do now.” 

And he drops to his knees, and they’ll need to check his jeans later to make sure it doesn’t show. David grips the edge of the desk. He doesn’t know where to look. It’s his first blow job from Patrick, and that’s nothing, literally nothing in the spectrum of things David has done with other people, nothing even in the range of dirty acts he and Patrick have bandied about in their text messages. But it’s possessing his entire body and mind and life and universe right now. Patrick’s mouth is hot and eager and sloppy and he’s got a hand behind David’s knee, which was never an erogenous zone before now. David is determined to stay quiet - the door is locked but anyone could come into the next room - but he hiccups when Patrick swallows. And when he comes his eyes catch on the exposed edge of an original Demuth, and how is any of this real? 

That was a work of art,” he gasps as he drags Patrick to his feet, kissing him fervently despite his wet and softening dick still hanging over his waistband. “An instant classic. A masterful exhibition. One for the books.” 

“That’s just the orgasm talking,” Patrick chuckles, but he’s flushed with pride and desire, and David’s continuing words of praise have him choking on moans long before David’s tongue curls around Patrick’s balls and his shaft and his tip and the bitter spurts of his release. “You’re the most valuable thing in this room,” he gasps, and David has to kiss him to make him stop. 

Patrick: Come to Montreal this weekend. 

david: excuse you i have a life

david: it’s not just ‘patrick’s dick 24/7’


(That’s a lie; it absolutely is.)


Patrick: Please come. I have to headline a fundraiser at a curling tournament and I think I’ll only survive if I can see you. 

david: i have a thing this weekend

Patrick: Everyone there will be boring. 

david: so you’ll fit right in

Patrick: I believe you recently said I was the least boring person you’d ever met? 

david: you were fellating my nipple at the time

david: so i can’t be held accountable

Patrick: I’ve been practicing that trick you showed me. 

Patrick: Was kind of hoping I could put it to use this weekend. 

Patrick: Plus I think you’ve mentioned that you like cheese and wine.

Patrick: And I know a discreet little bistro.

david: booking my tix nowwwww

david: we should maybe set up an interview or something so there’s a legitimate reason for us to be seen together? 

Patrick: So you ARE your mother’s son. 

Patrick: I can make that happen. I’ll send you details later. 

When David spots Patrick, standing outside the bistro in a suave peacoat and a grey scarf, he feels like he’s meeting a lover in Paris, and it takes everything in him not to kiss Patrick on the cheek. 

“Have you gotten a stylist or something?” he whispers instead, his ear burning with the heat of Patrick’s neck as they hug. “You look incredible.”

“That would be fiscally irresponsible,” Patrick replies, stepping back and gesturing to the restaurant, “when I know you’ll just be taking my clothes off the minute we’re alone.” 

David is sure the smile on his face reveals everything, to anyone who cares to look. 

They share a few bottles of red wine and a cheese platter, and then another, and yet another, over a sputtering candle at a tiny corner table. Their feet keep nudging under the table, and several times Patrick tucks his hands into his lap as if to keep himself from reaching for David. They each have a small coffee before they go, but they’re still pretty drunk when Patrick walks David back to his hotel. Patrick pretends to go back down the street, then slips in the side of the building and into David’s room while Ray distracts Ronnie. Then he’s there, and David reels Patrick in, even though they’ve had too much alcohol to really get hard. 

They’d agreed to never sleep in each other’s beds, as a way to keep the lines clear, but somewhere between the wine and the sleepy way Patrick paws at the vulnerable curve of David’s side, they forget. 

David wakes around 2AM to the jut of Patrick’s spine in the moonlight. He wants to touch it, to sketch it, to immortalize it in a new Mount Rushmore. 

Pillowing his hands under his head, he lets his breathing match Patrick’s and thinks about affection. A certain amount of it was bound to make its way into this. It’s probably impossible to keep affection out of a set-up like this, when you’re exposing yourself - in every sense - on a regular basis to another person. It’s impossible for David, at least. He’s sure it heightens their physical connection, anyway; there’s probably something chemical, biological, happening there. So he should embrace it, within reason. And maybe when they go back to being just friends, it’ll bring a different level of meaning to their friendship, to have let this affection in. 

He falls back asleep with his nose tucked into Patrick’s hair. 

David’s first thought on waking again is to wonder whether room service would judge them very much if they asked for just bread and wine for breakfast. His second thought, or cascade of thoughts, is that he’s never woken up with Patrick before, and Patrick smells a bit like a private beach in the morning sunlight. He’s so hard, and Patrick’s right there, ass smooth and cool against him. 

“Morning,” Patrick groans groggily. “I think I’m still a little drunk.” 

“I’m not,” David hums, shifting his hips in demonstration. 

Oh .” Patrick’s head arches back. “Mm. Do that again.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Don’t-” Patrick laughs, but it cuts off into a moan as David thrusts against him. “Fuck. It’s too early to be thinking about all the places you could rub your cock against me.” 

David’s not sure if it’s the edge-of-waking looseness that makes these things spill from Patrick, or just the way trust seems to stretch and burgeon the more they do this. “Anywhere,” he promises. “I’d put it anywhere you want it.” 

Patrick tries to reach behind himself and huffs in frustration when the angle’s too awkward. “My thighs,” he suggests, half-pleading. “Can you - I’ve been thinking about-” 

“Yes,” David hisses. Keeping a hand on Patrick’s slightly-trembling hip so as not to lose contact, he squirms around until he can reach his bag of toiletries on the nightstand. 

Patrick laughs out loud when he sees what David’s grabbed. 

“I didn’t even know they made travel-sized lube.” 

“Perfect for an illicit international rendezvous.” 

“The marketing pitches write themselves.” 

“Okay, if you want to do a business-based roleplay scenario we’re really gonna have to negotiate that some other time,” David says, and then without warning he pulls Patrick flush against his chest, surrounding him in a way that yanks a little whine from Patrick’s throat. “This can be whatever you want it to be, so you’ll need to tell me what you want, okay?” 

“Start slow?” Patrick’s chin hits his chest as he watches David’s slicked-up tip emerge from between Patrick’s thighs. “Wake me up a bit before you - get into it.” 

“I can do that.” He nuzzles at Patrick’s shoulder as he sets up a lazy slide of his cock against Patrick’s skin. Patrick covers David’s hand on his hip with his own, encouraging him to grip more tightly. “How’s this?” 

“Y-yeah,” Patrick sighs. His balls are rubbing against David’s cock with the contact, his ass tensing against David’s stomach. David wishes he had a few dozen more hands, to encompass Patrick. “It’s good.” 

Good ?” David snorts, with a little reprimanding nip into Patrick’s shoulder blade. “You know how much I’ve wanted to try this? Your thighs, Patrick-” 

“You’ve mentioned them before,” Patrick chuckles. He tenses them, testing, around David’s thrusts. 

“They’re fucking magical.” Patrick’s hips are starting to try to match David’s movements, so he picks up speed, seeking, provoking, pushing. “I can already tell you’re going to be so fucking good at fucking me, with those thighs - if you - if you wanted -”

“I do,” Patrick gasps. “Faster, David, please - I do - I want to do that so badly - I bet you’d take it so well-” 

David had meant to tease Patrick more, lean into the business roleplay joke, maybe fuck a couple fingers into Patrick’s mouth and work him up to the edge a few times, but Patrick’s steering this, without even realizing. David doesn’t feel in control at all, even though he’s bigger, even though he’s physically holding Patrick in place as he slams his hips against him. 

“Fuck me, David, fuck me-” 


“That’s it, David, you’re doing so well-”

David kisses Patrick’s jaw, for want of being able to reach his mouth. Seemingly going on instinct, Patrick grabs David’s top thigh and drags it up, changing the angle and friction. Then Patrick’s fingers are between David’s legs, behind his cock, featherlight against his perineum, and David comes with an ungainly squawk, body tensing and unfurling against Patrick’s back. 

“Jesus H-” 

He slides back onto the pillows. He needs to help Patrick get off, could feel his desperation, but his body won’t - he can’t - Patrick is flipping over now, hovering above David. His cock is thick and hot against David’s sweat-slick stomach, but instead of tending to it immediately, Patrick leans down and licks around David’s nipples, avoiding the sensitive tips. Like he wants to make David feel good, even if there’s no end game, even if he’s already come and won’t be able to again. 

It’s the first time they’ve been able to do this without hurrying, and Patrick seems to recognize that too. He ignores his own erection in favor of rubbing up and down David’s trembly limbs, kissing his weak lips, tangling their fingers together into the sheets. 

“Fu’ m’ th’,” David tries to say. 


“Fuck my thigh,” he manages to croak. “My dick hurts just looking at yours, please, get yourself off, use my leg-” 

Patrick glances down between them, seeming hesitant, before lowering himself so that the underside of his erection rubs against David’s thigh and hip. It’s - perfect, it’s perfect, it’s so basic and Patrick’s rutting gracelessly but the head of his cock keeps hitting David’s hipbone and he grunts each time. As feeling starts to come back to David’s extremities, he grips Patrick’s hips and urges him on. 

“If we didn’t have that fucking interview we could do this all day,” David whispers. “I’d take you apart so well, barely give you time to recover - I wonder how long you could go without coming, with my hands and mouth on you-” 

“Not long,” Patrick moan-laughs. David can just see his ass over his shoulder, clenching deliciously with each thrust.

“Mm, maybe you should try a cock ring, string out that pleasure, so that we could keep playing-” 

“Fuck, David-” 

Hooking his heels on the end of the mattress, David drags his body down until his mouth is level with Patrick’s helplessly thrusting pelvis and takes his cock smoothly into his mouth. Patrick shouts, fucking shouts, hands fumbling for purchase on the sheets. A few slides along David’s tongue and he comes, barely managing to catch himself on his elbows so he doesn’t totally flatten David.

“Some breakfast, huh?” David pants, smirking, when he’s rolled Patrick to the side. 

Patrick pouts. “I didn’t get any.” 

David laughs, startled, delighted. “Next time, baby.” He’d meant it in jest, mostly, but Patrick’s eyes light up and he’ll clearly never hear the end of this. “I’m going to order room service. Please hide in the bathroom and pretend to have a skincare regimen until they’re gone.” 

Back in David’s hotel room at the end of the day - they’d agreed without discussing it that Patrick would spend the night again, and poor, sweet, long-suffering Ray had agreed to help them - David paces in front of the curtains, chewing his thumbnail. Patrick is watching a replay of their interview from the frozen-over Montreal Botanical Gardens where they’d discussed bilateral efforts to address climate change. David winces as he hears himself say it again. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Patrick asks without looking up. 

“What? No,” David says quickly. “It’s nothing.” 

“Uh-huh.” Patrick mutes the TV - David can still see his own face though, which doesn’t really help? - and crosses the room to stop David in his anxious strides. “Well, if you change your mind, I’m all ears. Even if it’s nothing.” 

David knows Patrick won’t let this go until he gets an answer - he’ll pretend to, but he’ll wear David down with those understanding eyes and his gentle fingertips, dirty play all around. “It’s just, I said bi lateral efforts,” David winces. 

“Okay?” Patrick chuckles. “I mean, it is two countries, so bi would be the right prefix there.” 

“I know that, thanks,” David tries to snap, but he still feels bad, so it comes out soft. “It just felt a little - on the nose? Bi, as in bisexual, which you...hmm.”

He clamps his lips down on the rest of that sentence. In the less-than-half-a-second it takes for Patrick to process what David had been about to say, David realizes he’s been assuming Patrick is bi, just as he’d previously assumed he was straight. Not that it’s any of his business. Okay, it’s a little bit his business, insofar as he likes having Patrick’s mouth on his mouth and touching Patrick’s dick and body and having Patrick touch him, so he hopes those activities continue to be compatible with whatever identity Patrick feels is correct for him.

He doesn’t think Patrick will be the type to use “jk I’m straight, thanks for the experiment” as an excuse to get out of this. Not that he wouldn’t be entitled to! Sexuality can be confusing and complicated, David certainly knows that firsthand, and some people need to try things out before they know. Patrick could decide he’s not actually attracted to men, or he could decide he is attracted to men, just not David. That’s not only permissible, it’s also highly likely, based on David’s past experience. It might even make this easier, to go back to being friends. Not that two gay - or pan, or bi, or whatever - friends can’t have a perfectly complication-free platonic friendship. He just hasn’t imagined a future in which a gay-or-pan-or-bi-or-whatever David and Patrick can have a perfectly complication-free platonic friendship. 

His inner Stevie-voice stops him there, reminding him he’s done it again, jumping miles ahead of where they actually are. He focuses back in on Patrick. 

“Oh,” Patrick says, face blooming with delight, which isn’t where David saw this going. “I hardly think anyone’s going to read into that, David.” 

“Mmkay, you’ve clearly never been on Tumblr,” David says darkly. 

“And for the record,” Patrick continues, sliding his arms around David’s waist in a way that brings them chest-to-chest and toe-to-toe and makes it very difficult for David to focus or keep a straight face, “I’m not bisexual. I’m gay.” 

“Hmm.” David nods, trying not to go cross-eyed as he watches Patrick’s face. “Okay. Thank you for...sharing that with me.” 

“Yeah, that’s-” Patrick shakes his head, smiling at the stars looping around the collar of David’s sweater. “That’s the first time I’ve actually said that out loud.” 

“Oh!” Is that momentous? He doesn’t remember, from his own experience; he’s used to being mislabeled or misidentified, and sometimes he snaps back at people about it, but generally either people know, or if they don’t he doesn’t care enough about them to clarify, and it’s all so long ago... Patrick. “How are you... feeling about that?” 

“I mean, I’ve known for a while,” Patrick shrugs. David likes the way their bodies rise together with the movement. “Or suspected, at least. It’s part of why I felt I had to - wanted to - break up with Rachel, back in Rio, when you and I met. And for a bit before that.” 

David’s fingers press along Patrick’s spine in reaction. Every time he thinks Patrick has unfolded to the most vulnerable, open, secret layer possible, he finds there’s more. And here Patrick is, gathering him close, wanting to have this conversation where neither of them can escape, where their every facial tic will be visible.

“That’s a long time to spend thinking you’re gay but not saying it,” he murmurs, hoping Patrick can hear it the way he means it. “Not that you need to explain anything to me, or anyone. Just. Since we’re already talking about it.” 

“It is a long time. I mean...” His mouth does a funny little half-embarrassed, half-proud twitch, and David shimmies in his hold, intrigued, encouraging. “It wasn’t...totally theoretical. I was pretty sure. I had this stupid notion that I should get, I don’t know, proof or something, before I said it. Sometimes I’d travel to other provinces or other countries, for official visits or just personal travel, and I’d consider finding a hookup with someone who didn’t know who I was, just to try, just to know, but I always chickened out.” 

David opens his mouth to say that’s not stupid , or that was your journey and that’s fine , to say who were these randoms you were going to fuck in a European night club and why am I jealous of them . Instead, “Wait. Wait wait wait. Are you saying - Before you and I, that first time-” 

“It had been a few years since I had sex, yeah,” Patrick says. 

Okay, that too, but- “And you’d never had any sexual contact with a man before that?” 

“That’s correct, David.” Patrick’s mouth is starting to turn down, not in the way that means he’s fighting a smile. David knows this isn’t the most pressing thing right now, but he can’t stop the track his thoughts are barreling along. 

“You should’ve told me I was your first time!” he splutters, unwinding himself from Patrick and pressing his hands to his face. He’s playing back that first blow job he gave Patrick, in his dimly lit bedroom in the White House, trying to read it objectively. 

“Why?” Patrick demands, hands on his hips now, unusually defensive. “So you could pity me?” 

“No!” David says sharply. “No, so that I - I could’ve-” He doesn’t know what to say, or he does, but it’s too true to say out loud. He should’ve known this about Patrick, somehow. “You should’ve asked me to be gentle with you,” he finishes finally, strangled, ashamed, regretting. 

The tension disappears from Patrick’s body. He eases back into David’s space and lifts a hand to his cheek. His thumb is trembling slightly as it traces David’s cheekbone, but his gaze is steady. 

“I didn’t need to ask,” he whispers. “I knew you’d be gentle with me anyway.” 

David whimpers. 

“Why do you think you’re the first person I’ve said I’m gay to?” Patrick actually seems to expect a response, but David just twitches, unable to speak. “Because you let me,” Patrick goes on. “You created a space for me to step into, if I wanted to. And I wanted to.” 

David doesn’t think any of that is even half true, thinks Patrick’s done it all on his own, thinks David’s been a hindrance, if anything, but - but Patrick’s looking at him like that, and saying how glad he is to have claimed a word that feels right for him, and David finds he doesn’t need to say anything particularly profound to make this feel momentous. 

“Where are your glasses?” 

They’ve been feeding each other chocolate and grapes on the hotel bed in some kind of lethargic bacchanalia. Patrick had wanted to get dried apricots; when David told him he was allergic to pitted fruits, Patrick’s mouth did one of its many minute, inscrutable twitches, and he’d turned back to the display in the Couche-Tard around the corner from David’s hotel, smiling stupidly at the nut mixes. 

Now they’re laying top-to-tail, as if this is a sleepover. A late morning flight is taking David back to Washington but they’re not talking about it, choosing to stretch this day into the night. Patrick’s been kneading the mound at the base of David’s thumb for what feels like hours. David wishes he were high, though he might as well be, the way lazy pleasure spreads out from his palm. 

“I don’t really...wear them in front of people,” David says hazily. 

“I’m not people,” Patrick replies, which is something David would only want to parse when high. 

“That one time was an accident. You were stealing my ice cream.” 

“Pretty sure it was still my ice cream, by virtue of it being in my house.” He pinches David’s hand; David tries to grab the tips of his fingers but he’s too slow. “Will you put them on after I’ve fallen asleep?”

“If you’re asking if I’ll get out of bed and sneak around like some kind of pervert just so I can put my glasses on, no, I won’t be doing that.” Patrick’s sliding his strong hand up and down David’s inner forearm now; it’s beyond distracting. “I’ll just take out my contacts and go straight to bed like a normal person.” 

His glasses are in his toiletries bag, close at hand. He hadn’t thought much about it when he’d packed them, but - wearing them now would feel too intimate, somehow. 

“Who even knows if I’d have realized I’m gay, if it weren’t for you,” Patrick muses, some time later.

David snorts from Patrick’s lap, where he’s snuggled his head to watch a French-language detective show so he doesn’t have to see how Patrick is looking at him. “I think you’d have managed.” 

“No, I mean...” Patrick’s voice has the same timbre it had when he’d revealed he’d worked for Rose Video, so this David needs to see. Patrick’s eyes are still unbearably soft - they’ve seemed even deeper today, like this new level of honesty between them has physically opened his face to David - but his gaze keeps flickering away, like he’s embarrassed. “Even before this whole thing with you. You were... kind of my gay awakening, as I believe the kids say.” 

David’s jaw drops. Not-dating Patrick is turning out to be the gift that keeps on giving. He pushes himself up on one elbow and smacks Patrick’s knee. “The kids do say, and please, do tell!” 

“It was one of those People’s Sexiest lists you pretend to not be ridiculously proud about,” Patrick - rudely - explains. He’s curling his fingers around David’s ear, which isn’t sexy, but also really is. “You had a whole page to yourself-”

“Yeah, that happened a few times, you’ll have to be more specific,” David teases, because he’s enjoying this so much, he enjoys Patrick so much. “What year was it?” 

“I don’t know what year, David,” Patrick sighs. He pinches David’s earlobe and slumps back onto the pillows. “You looked very pretty.” 

“I’m sure I did.” David crawls up to lay next to Patrick, poorly fighting a wicked grin. “And it worked for you, huh?” 

“I mean, I jerked off to it later that night, if that’s what you mean,” Patrick says, deadpan. This may sustain David for the rest of his life. “I convinced myself it was because Minka Kelly was in another section of the magazine and all my friends were really into her at that time. But.” He looks at David, and on taking in David’s transparent glee, Patrick looks like he’s the one receiving a gift instead of David. “I couldn’t understand why I kept flipping back to your page. You captivated me.” 

“I could get you signed copies of those spreads, you know,” David offers benevolently. “A little...inspiration, for when we’re apart.” 

“I use your speech at the 2016 National Convention for that.” 

“How dare you!” David cries, and he tries to grapple his way on top of Patrick, but they’re both shaking with laughter and their fingers slip and fumble. “Hmm, bet that made it pretty awkward when you met me in Rio, given how you were popping a long-term boner for me.” 

“I’m really going to regret telling you that, aren’t I,” Patrick chuckles, fighting David off with his knees, drawing him closer with his fingertips under his sweater. 

“Yes,” David murmurs. “But also-” And he cradles Patrick’s head in both hands and kisses him, long and hard until they need to separate for air, because sexuality can also be fun and joyous. “I’m going to make sure you don’t regret it at all.” 

It feels, dangerously, like they aren’t going to have sex, like they’ll kiss and kiss and whisper together until they fall asleep. David can’t have that, for a few reasons. So he coaxes Patrick into undressing each other. But then Patrick just - just touches David’s still-soft dick like he’s studying it, inhales sharply in reaction to its changes, tries touching it in different ways and different places. He’s looking at it very seriously, and David realizes it might be the first time Patrick’s ever actually seen another man’s penis fill up like this, and it shouldn’t - this shouldn’t make David want to cry. 

Eventually Patrick crawls up his body and asks David to eat him out, licking into David’s mouth as if to demonstrate, and it’s almost worse than not having sex at all. 

“So things are going well with Patrick, huh?”

“Why would you say that?” David asks loftily. He examines his hand carefully before throwing a wild card onto the pile on the ground in front of him. “Yellow.” 

Stevie’s been spending more time than usual at the White House this week; Aunt Maureen and her wife are off on Vice Presidential duties in Serbia, or maybe Senegal, and so Stevie’s here instead. David isn’t even sure she’s realized how predictable and, frankly, adorable this behavior is: that she wants to be near her aunt when she’s around, that she feels lonely and needy and comes over to visit the Roses when Maureen’s away. It’s cute, and he should tell her that, because she’d hate it. 

“Because this is the first time I’m seeing you for more than ten minutes in the last three months,” Stevie smirks. 

“I’m sorry, was that your soft but affirmative way of saying you’ve missed me? Fuck you,” he adds, as she lays down a draw-four. “And things are...going fine, thank you.” 

“Must be,” she says, eyebrows raised in what passes for enthusiasm with her. “Based on that mouth-shaped sunburn on his neck that’s got everyone speculating.” 

What ?” He drops his cards and falls onto his side so he can extract his phone from his pocket.  Stevie shamelessly leans over to look at his discarded hand, but he doesn’t care. 

Sure enough, he has six fresh news mentions for the search term “patrick brewer” - he’d set that up back when Patrick wouldn’t stop Googling David - and they’re all variations on ‘Who is Patrick Brewer’s Secret Lover??’ or ‘Mystery Babe Gives Canada’s First Son Massive Hickey’. 

“Oh my god,” he breathes, covering his mouth with his hand so Stevie won’t see his smile. Because this is bad, objectively; Patrick’s parents and Gwen and ET Canada are all probably grilling poor Patrick right now, and maybe they’ve gotten careless, but - he can’t help but be a little proud. 

david: sorry? ( 🔗 Link: “All of Canada Now Jealous of Patrick Brewer’s Sex Life”)

“Don’t even start,”  he warns Stevie as he waits for Patrick’s response. 

“What?” she asks innocently. 

“Don’t say it.” 

“Say what? I’m not going to say anything. Do I want to say that I was 100% right about taking this risk and how good you guys would be together? Absolutely. Do I want to say you owe me a four-figure gift certificate to Wines & More? Sure. Am I actually going to say any of that? Well-” 

“You kind of just did,” David reminds her. His phone buzzes. 


Patrick: Holy shit

Patrick:  Is it bad that I can’t stop laughing? 

david: i for one am delighted to be a Mystery Babe 💃

Patrick: Maybe I’ll change your contact name in my phone. 


“I like this for you,” Stevie says. The little beflanneled devil’s grin means she knows she’s got his number. 

“Like what? There’s nothing to like,” he avows, biting the inside of his cheek to fight the smile that’s threatening to eat his face off. 

“I can see that,” Stevie replies drily. “Just - and I’m way too sober to be saying this, but - I think you’re genuinely happier than I’ve ever seen you.” 

“Um-” He squeezes his eyes shut and brushes at his eyebrow. “It’s the endorphins? And hormones, and stuff. Because of all the sex we’re having. Because that’s what our arrangement is. Lots” 

“Well, clearly.” She’s got that studying-him face that never bodes well. “You’re being careful, right?” 

He rears back. “If you try to fucking talk to me about condoms-” 

“Ew, gross!” she cries, flinging the Uno deck at him, as if she hadn’t once showed up to his hotel room on the campaign trail with a big box of Trojans. “I don’t mean like that. I mean-” She gestures vaguely at her own chest. 

“Let’s not have whatever this conversation is,” he says sharply. The beginnings of a tension headache are making themselves known just at the prospect of talking about this. “Can we raid my dad’s liquor cabinet and prank call members of the NRA instead?” 

“Oh yeah, I like your thing better,” Stevie nods, already scrambling to her feet. “Fuck feelings.” 

“Cheers to that.”

Hickeygate is really only a scandal for about ten minutes before a giraffe steps on a kitten, but David and Patrick agree that it’s a good time to take some space, or slow things down, or whatever two people who aren’t dating can say about their totally sexual, entirely secret not-relationship.

“We’ve been getting careless,” Patrick says on the phone, which David thinks is ironic, since the last thing they’re supposed to be doing is caring. “Let’s just...focus on the other things we have going on, and I’ll see you when I see you.” 

It’s probably for the best. David had honestly started to forget there were other people in, well, the world. Alexis has been taking some online classes, he discovers, and they actually have a surprisingly informative chat about ancient Egyptian textile production. Stevie’s willing to keep him company, though she regularly has to wallop him over the head with a couch cushion for smiling at his phone. On a whim, he sits in on a few sessions in the House, partly for the entertainment of watching his favorite reps drag old white men kicking and screaming into the 21st century, partly because AOC will always take him out to lunch and give him the good Congressional gossip. Patrick somehow gets wind of these visits and uses a pseudonym to make a Buzzfeed listicle of the “12 Best Faces FSOTUS David Rose Made While Watching Yesterday’s Debate in the House”. 

Because okay, they’re trying to cool their non-relationship off by not seeing each other, but they’re still talking all the time . They try phone sex again, after having initially written it off when they’d first started hooking up, when Patrick was too easily amused by the whole thing and David huffed each time Patrick giggled. It’s a different animal now, their knowledge of and yearning for each other’s bodies translating to pretty excellent orgasms even within the confines of telecommunications. 

Sometimes their phone calls really are just calls. It makes David itchy at first, because it’s harmless but important in the way it was right before he’d realized he’s attracted to Patrick, and he wants to keep things in their appropriate compartments: friends before, sex-friends now, friends again, later, whenever this has to end. But some days he doesn’t want to have phone sex, or Patrick doesn’t, or they do but they’re too tired or don’t have enough time. Some days they’re just craving something else. David hopes, at least, that Patrick feels it too, that the need to talk to David tugs at Patrick in the same way. 

It’s one of those nights. It’s not late, exactly, and David is lazily skating his fingertips over his abdomen, enjoying the contrast between the fabric of his sweater, the hard edge of his jeans, the cool smoothness of his skin. It’s sensual and with Patrick’s voice in his ear, it could so easily slip into a slow, burning build until they’re rutting and gasping and coming for each other, across the continent. But it’s...nice, like this. To just be together, in this liminal space, of wanting but not needing. 

He can feel Patrick’s absence as strongly as his presence. He can imagine him here on the bed, socked feet tangled with David’s ankles, toes probing the jut of his heel. He wants Patrick cuddled against him as much as he ever craves Patrick’s cock. His head on David’s breastbone, his arm flung across David’s stomach rising and falling with each breath, his eyes lazy and unfocused. He would laugh and press kisses against David’s ribcage and nip at his collarbone, as befitted whatever they were talking about. 

“Can I tell you a secret?” Patrick whispers, on this particular night. 

David shivers and smiles at the ceiling, at Patrick wanting to share himself. “Of course.” 

“I wasn’t dressed as Michael Lewis on Halloween.” 

David is momentarily distracted by memories of that night, Patrick pushing himself up off the floor, covered in orange frosting and vanilla sheet cake. He wonders if Patrick would be amenable to recreating that vision. “Oh?” 

“Yeah. I, uh, I said that when you asked me, because I panicked, but. That wasn’t my costume.” 

“Mm. You were flustered by me.” 

“I was,” Patrick chuckles. David wishes he could feel that laughter against his mouth, along his spine. “I was having a lovely conversation with an attractive alcoholic beverage and then you were there, in that bedazzled blue suit-”

“It was not bedazzled-” 

“Being all pushy and righteous and insulting, and I panicked.” 

You liked it, David wants to say, because he can now, because he’s sure Patrick did. “Who were you, then? Who did you dress as?” 

“Will Thacker.” 

David sits bolt upright, the hazy, sensual bubble dissipating. “As in, Hugh Grant’s character, from-”

Notting Hill , yeah.” 

A vertiginous yank through David’s gut accompanies this revelation. It cascades through his recollections, clarifying the image of Patrick in loose slacks and a rumpled button-up with the collar open, his hair messy. It was a perfect match, really, given Patrick’s earnest eyes, his craving for privacy, his kissability. This means something. 

“You - what-” David’s hands are flailing. “You told me you’d never seen Notting Hill .” 

“I hadn’t, until you made me watch it.”

“Excuse you, until I shared that life-altering experience with you. But why would - if you’d never seen it - why dress as-” 

“I’d read somewhere, in one of those profiles in a dumb celebrity magazine,” Patrick cuts him off, saving him, “that Notting Hill was a certain president’s son’s favorite movie.” 

“You-” Why does Patrick keep doing this to him, rewriting what he thinks he knows to be true about the past? “You dressed as Will Thacker - for me ?” 

“I did.” Patrick’s voice is calm, like he knows exactly what this is doing to David, like he can picture the way David’s scrunched face tilts to the ceiling and can hear the undignified noises he’s repressing. 

“That’s - I -”  Maybe he should reconsider making this a phone sex session, maybe Patrick will do an English accent and talk about books to him while David touches himself and whimpers. He’s just not sure he’ll be able to get hard around this hefty feeling tugging him back down to the pillows, filling his throat. “ Why ?” 

“I’ve wanted you for a long time, David. I was hoping you’d notice. That’s my second secret tonight, I guess.” 

Fuck .” He can’t handle the honest emphases Patrick places on the words wanted and you , like they’re equally important. He’s known since Patrick told him about the magazine and his gay awakening that he’s harbored a flame for David for some time, but every intimation of this enduring crush gets right to the vulnerable, needy creature that lives between David’s lungs. “I wish you were here.” 

“I wish I was too.” This is the moment when one of them should make it sexual. David should ask how long, exactly, have you wanted me or tell me how you wanted me . Patrick should describe what he’d do if he were with David. Instead, he says, “I miss you.” 

David muffles his disbelieving, choked laugh in his hand. He tries not to think about the first time Patrick came under him, when he’d gasped a laugh against David’s palm, his lips seeking and open. “I miss you too,” he whispers back, because he can’t help it, because it’s true. 

Chapter Text

The radio silence from Patrick that follows their late night call about Moneyball and Notting Hill and missing each other shouldn’t surprise David. He’s done this to other people, and certainly he’s had other people pull this on him. They draw him out, tease him with gentle fingertips into turning towards the sun, peeking out of his carefully constructed fortress, and then they get a bit too much. They get too much David Rose - there’s always a threshold, always a point when they’re saturated - and they decide it’s time to skip town. He’d once dated someone just to see if he could correctly predict the exact moment in time at which they would dump him. 

So Patrick’s silence shouldn’t surprise him. But it not only does that, it cuts him deep and fierce. The first day in which Patrick doesn’t respond to his texts, he manages to write it off as a busy schedule. The second day he convinces Stevie to text Patrick to make sure he hasn’t been in an accident or something. By the third day he’s nauseous and chewing his nails. Is this Patrick’s idea of a joke? Or retribution for the way David had ignored him in January, after their kiss? But that was different , David had needed to isolate himself because he was convinced Patrick would never want to speak to him again. Now, months later, Patrick knows - he must know - 

Should he apologize? He’s not sure for what, is the thing, but he’s sure he can come up with something. Maybe he should send Patrick a gift or make a grand gesture. That’s probably what he would want, if he felt slighted in a relationship, if he were ever the person in a relationship not in the wrong. It’s maybe, possibly, almost definitely the first time he’s considered fighting for someone when they were pulling back from him. He wonders if it’s the new meds he’s on, or Stevie’s obnoxious influence, or just the way Patrick has weaseled his way into the spaces between David’s breaths. 

He’s about three hours away from throwing his hands up at this whole confusing ordeal, buying seven Tamagotchi on EBay, and going into hibernation with his new pixelated children when there’s a knock on his bedroom door and Patrick is there. David’s stomach does a horrifying clenching thing and he leans back in his desk chair, trying to be unmoved by the contrite, soft way Patrick is looking at him. 

“Hi,” Patrick says, quietly, like there’s a sleeping elephant in the room he’s afraid to wake. 

“Hello,” David says coolly. “Good to know you’re alive.” 

Patrick huffs and sits on the edge of the bed, a few feet from David, a few feet from where he’d had his first blow job from a guy, from David. “I deserve that.” 

A dozen barbed comments line up along David’s tongue, but he doesn’t want to give Patrick the satisfaction. It’s only now, with Patrick back in his space, that he realizes how far he’s been spiralling towards wanting to put his walls back up.

“I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch,” Patrick continues. “It was rash and very unfair to you.” 

David hates this. He hates how Patrick says what he means, says what’s true, more maturely than any of the septuagenarian Congresspeople David’s met. 

“Was it?” he replies. 

This provokes a flash of annoyance across Patrick’s face, but he just says, “Yeah, it was. It would’ve been unfair to anyone, to act like that, but especially to you, with your...knowing that you...”

“Knowing that I’ve been trampled on, chewed up, and left for dead by everyone I’ve ever slept with?” 

Patrick looks like he’s choking on something, and not in a sexy way. “Yes. Though I think Stevie would take umbrage at that generalization.”

David drags his gaze down from the edge of the ceiling to fix Patrick with his best are you fucking kidding me glare. “Do you really want to talk about Stevie right now?” 

“I kind of do, because she threatened to chop my balls off if I was here to break up with you?” Patrick admits, voice rising. 

David smothers a smile. “So you only came back because you’re scared of Stevie.” 

“No. No , David,” Patrick reiterates, correctly catching the disbelief on David’s face. “I’m here because I - I didn’t think what I needed to say would come across right over text, or even a phone call.” 

“So you are here to break up with me.” They’re using this language very casually, as if you can break something that’s never been officially put together. They’re a - a fucking NORDKISA wardrobe from Ikea, pieces scattered on the floor, deconstructed, unconstructed. 

Patrick lets out a strangled growl and leans into his hands, his shoulders tense and curling in. David’s legs uncross themselves in his body’s conditioned response before he catches himself, doesn’t go over to comfort Patrick. He’s never seen him like this. 

“Do you know how much I hate even hearing you guys suggest that?” Patrick demands, and when he lifts his head, his lips are white where he’s been biting them. “I needed to stop contacting you for a few days because I was afraid of scaring you away, of being too much, of coming on too strong-” 

“That’s ridiculous,” David scoffs. These are his lines. 

“Is it?” Patrick demands. David likes that his voice gets a little high-pitched when he’s stressed; he hates that he likes it. “I told you that you were my gay awakening, David. I told you I dressed as your favorite rom com protagonist just to try to get you to like me. That’s a lot, David.” 

“Okay,” David wheedles, “I don’t know if we’d call Will Thacker my favorite rom com protagonist-”

“I scared myself,” Patrick exhales, and David shuts up quickly. This isn’t quite the same as we should slow things down or we should see other people or I’m moving to Bruges with my assistant , but he’s catching the echoes. “I needed to dial things back. For both of our sakes.” 

Extra gravity seems to have taken hold around just David’s chair, but he forces himself up despite it and moves to sit next to Patrick. Patrick, who seems confused by all of this. Patrick, who’s never been with a man before and now is having a secret affair with one. Patrick, who’s sheepishly rubbing his chin and waiting for David to say something. 

“That’s okay,” is all he manages. He tentatively rubs a hand across Patrick’s back, and god , he’s missed the feeling of these fucking polyester shirts and Patrick’s spine beneath them. “We both know what this is. It was probably responsible, to do that. Even if you could’ve, like, told me? Instead of just ghosting me.”

“I really am sorry, David,” Patrick whispers. 

“I know.” 

“No, but I-” He looks frustrated again, clenching and unclenching his hands on his knees. “I want to be very clear - I think you deserve for me to be clear with you - I know we said this was just physical, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s morphed into something a little less... straightforward-”

“Oh god,” David mutters.

Patrick glances at him and laughs. “And I can tell that’s not a conversation you want to have right now, or maybe ever, and that’s okay. We’re...keeping it simple. But I need you to know...” 

It seems like Patrick can’t look at him head-on for this, and that’s unlike him, and David doesn’t know what to make of it. He curls his fingers and scratches across Patrick’s back in nonsense swirls and circles. 

“I’m not sleeping with you because you’re the first guy who said yes,” Patrick says carefully. “I mean, okay, you are the first guy who said yes, but only because everyone else thinks I’m straight, and I haven’t asked any other guys-”  

“This is going really well,” David hums. “This is really fun for me.” 

“Would you just-” Patrick’s face is warring between frustration and fond amusement; it feels more right than anything has, these last few days. “This isn’t a...a general, accidental, experimental thing. You’re not an experiment. It’s specifically you that makes this work for me. I-” He swallows, and flushes, and looks up at David. “I like you on purpose, David.” 

David can feel the things his face is doing and is powerless to stop them. He withdraws his hand - he can’t be touching Patrick right now, or he won’t be able to stop - and slides his palms up and down his neck nervously. “Mm. Mhm. That’s - hm. I see why you needed to step back a bit.” 

“Yeah.” Patrick chuckles and doesn’t even have the decency to look embarrassed by all the lovely things he’s just said. “Needed to just - slow my roll.”

“Uh-huh. Well,” he says bracingly, “Stevie will be pleased to hear that she can put her knife away, for now.” 

“I’m so scared of her,” Patrick admits in a rush. 

“I know, honey. I know.” He pats Patrick’s knee supportively, then finds he can’t make himself move his hand and leaves it there, rubbing back and forth across his jeans. 

Patrick watches the movement. “I really am sorry, David.” 

“Shhh,” David murmurs, and because he can, because they’re still...people who do this, he turns Patrick’s head with the forefinger of his free hand and kisses him, soft and sweet like they usually reserve for post-coital hazes. “You said that already. We’re past that.”

“Okay,” Patrick mumbles against David’s lips. 

For a second, David forgets he and Patrick were ever - ever - not together. 

“There’s something else,” Patrick says eventually, his eyes closed as David presses guileless kisses to the meat of Patrick’s cheeks. 

“Oh goodie,” David says darkly. 

“Rachel’s here.” 

David drops Patrick’s face like he’s been burned. “ Rachel ? Your ex, Rachel?” 

“Yeah. And Ted and Twyla.” 

He’s grasping for something constructive to say, but all that comes out is, “ Rachel ?” 

“I can give you a minute, if you need-”

“Don’t act like you didn’t know this would blindside me,” he snaps. “I’m just - an explanation? Maybe? Would help?” 

“I’ve been trying to reconcile with her over the last few months.” 

Something cracks loudly in David’s neck as he rears his head back. “Last few months ?” 

“As friends,” Patrick goes on calmly. “Remember, I’m gay. And currently... doing this, with you. So even if I weren’t gay, which I am-” 

“I appreciate the reminder,” David says snidely, though he does appreciate it, knows Patrick is reassuring both of them. “Why didn’t you - I’m surprised,” he course-corrects carefully. Because they’ve just finished going over how not-together they are, and someone who’s not Patrick’s boyfriend doesn’t really have a right to demand total honesty from him. Even if it kind of felt like that’s what they’d been doing anyway. There’s no contractual obligation for Patrick to share something like this with David. “So you two are...are good now?” 

“Yeah,” Patrick says, and David tries not to be jealous of his smile. “We’re getting there.”  

“Does she know about us?” 

Patrick shrugs apologetically and answers simply, “She’s my Stevie.” 

David nods, looking out into the middle distance for a moment. It’s ridiculous to envy someone who doesn’t share Patrick’s bed and Patrick’s late-night phone calls and Patrick’s CBC Gem account. ( Does Rachel have Patrick’s CBC Gem password??) He wonders if the comparison to Stevie extends to drunken chats about not-boyfriends. Maybe he should befriend Rachel himself and find out. Hmm. Does Patrick ever get jealous of Stevie ?

“I think you inspired me.” Patrick slips his hand into David’s lap and begins toying with his rings; he’s got on that puppy dog look that they both know turns David to putty. “Seeing how you and Stevie forged this great friendship after what you had, and how things ended, it’s... I needed to know it was possible.” 

David rolls his eyes; his allergies to feelings are flaring up, but he knows an antidote. “If Rachel’s your Stevie,” he murmurs, and he slides Patrick’s hand down to cup David’s crotch, “do I need to worry about my balls being cut off?” 

Patrick’s entire bottom lip disappears in a bashful, bitten smile as he looks down at where they’re both gripping David. “Don’t worry,” he whispers, squeezing gently, “the Secret Service confiscated her knife when we came in.” 

“I happen to like my balls,” David protests vainly, leaning in for another kiss. 

“You know, they’ve grown on me too.” 

David swerves at the last second, his lips just ghosting over Patrick’s nose, as he remembers. “Hold up, did you say Ted and Twyla were here too?” 

Patrick beams, the fucker. “I did. I wondered when we’d get around to that.” 

“Do they also know-” He flicks a hand between them. 

“No, no. Just Rachel.” 

“Hmm. So,” David persists, wiggling into a half-hearted body roll just to feel the friction of Patrick’s hand against him. “Any reason you brought the Canadian Rat Pack to my house?” 

“I think we should go out,” Patrick says, a little bit proud, a little bit excited, an elementary school teacher announcing a field trip. “You, me, Ted, Twyla, Rachel, Stevie, Alexis.” 

“And our assorted security teams, of course.” 

“Of course. We can’t very well leave Ronnie at home.” 

David’s lips twist to the side. “Are you sure?” he asks, gently thumbing the spot on Patrick’s neck where the infamous hickey used to be. 

Patrick nods so his chin bumps David’s wrist. “We’ve done our time, kept low for a while. We deserve to have some fun with our friends. We’ll still be careful.” 

David’s head wobbles back and forth before he finally pinches the skin of Patrick’s neck and sighs. “Alright, what did you have in mind?” 


“Um, didn’t you say this was the best karaoke in the city?” The urge to dance his fingers along Patrick’s shoulders is nearly irresistible, so David instead uses his hands to gesture to the tiny room and half-broken equipment. 

“I think I said the best karaoke place that I could afford without using government funds, ” Patrick clarifies. 

“Ah! Explains a lot.” 

“I’m getting everyone polar bear shots,” Stevie announces as she squeezes past them to get out of their private booth and back to the bar area. “I’m not paying for them, I’m just getting them, physically. Just to be clear.” 

Ted and Alexis and Twyla are already flipping through the song book, chattering excitedly like they’ve known each other for years. It really is a tiny fucking room, but it’s theirs for the night, and they can get sloppy and ridiculous and know it won’t end up on Instagram unless they want it to. 

“Hey David,” Rachel says, appearing at his elbow like a ginger Tinkerbell, “wanna duet with me on something Mariah?” 

“Oh,” David laughs, “I won’t be singing.” 

Patrick and Rachel exchange a look. “You’ll be singing,” they reply in eerie unison and with alarming certainty. 

David presses a hand to his own chest in mock indignation. “Excuse you,” he directs at Rachel, “we just met.” 

“With the amount Patty talks about you, I feel like I know you.” She bumps his hip with hers and wanders off after Stevie, leaving that bomb fizzling between them. 

Patty ?” David crows gleefully, rounding on Patrick. 

Rachel, David discovered on the ride over here, is nice . Of course, it’s hard to imagine anyone Patrick loves being not-nice, but she’s really nice. Not in an oppressive or performative way, just - kind of effortlessly? Like, she still joined in on their banter and their jokes. And she’d hugged David when they’d been introduced, but she hadn’t treated him any differently from any of the others, so he thinks their secret is safe with her. He likes her, he thinks. And even if he didn’t, the little glow Patrick gets when he watches the two of them interact would be incentive enough to play nice. 

Twyla’s up and singing something - a jazz arrangement of what Patrick identifies as a Bon Jovi song, whatever the fuck that is, it sounds like a faux Italian-French fusion fast casual chain restaurant - before Stevie’s even back with the first round. Ted joins in, and the resulting performance causes Stevie to down three of the shots the moment she’s through the door. “I’ll be right back,” she sighs, resigned, as she pivots and beelines to the bar again. 

Patrick waits a full twenty minutes before he sings his first song, even though he’s clearly the best of all of them. Twyla’s a close but untrained second; what Ted lacks in skill he makes up for with enthusiasm; and Alexis can’t stop talking about her hit single. Of course when Patrick does sing, it’s to Rascal fucking Flatts , which is incorrect. 

“Careful, David, your heart eyes are showing,” Stevie teases around the lip of her glass of rum and coke. 

“Shut up! This is terrible,” he insists, waving at the not-at-all-charming massacre Patrick is undertaking. 

“Tell that to your face.” 

“Tell that to your face!” 

Rachel and Twyla do a truly lovely Alanis Morissette duet which almost makes Stevie cry. The drinks are flowing freely, with the unspoken agreement that whoever just finished singing gets refills if needed. Ted keeps coming in with armsful of glasses of water, begging them all to hydrate between rounds; he gets genuinely pissed when he discovers Stevie has been hydrating with vodka instead of water. Alexis has to take him for a walk down the hallway to cool down, and when they get back Ted’s face is a little dopey and a lot covered in pink lipstick. 

The more he drinks, the more David wants to be touching Patrick. Not even sexually, though the way he drops to his knees as he croons “One and Only” would’ve made teenagers in the 1950s lose their goddamn minds. When Patrick returns from singing, panting a little bit and smiling crookedly at David, David nearly crawls into his lap and is only saved by Rachel sliding into the space between them. “Thank me later,” she shouts into his ear. He pouts but squeezes her hand. 

The actual karaoke devolves into a shouty, heartfelt, impassioned affair as they enter hour three. They all join in on “Bohemian Rhapsody” , because duh; Twyla keeps choosing Disney standards which everyone groans about but then belts as the chorus hits; a brief Canada vs. US war arises, featuring Celine and Sheryl and Avril and Nikki and Kelly and Shania. 

Several times randoms from the other rooms glance through the tiny window pane in the door; David knows how it must look, to see five of the most famous people in the world screaming their faces off to “Love on Top”. (He doesn’t think Ted and Twyla are famous, though those lines are blurring along with his count of how many drinks he’s had. Because Ted and Twyla are great . They should be famous. He announces this out loud and Ted beams and yells, “Aw, thanks, bud!” and shoves a glass of water in his face.) 

And fuck it, Rachel was right, because he’s done not one but three Mariah songs with her. He’d nearly busted his vocal cords striving for the high notes in “Emotions”, but everyone had been very complimentary anyway. Now he and Rachel are flipping through the Carly Rae section of the songbook and then he remembers Lizzo and fuck he needs to do some Lizzo too! Maybe with the aid of alcohol he’ll finally be able to do all the rappity-rap parts. 

He grins around the straw he’s fumbling to catch with his tongue and looks up to find Patrick watching him with some kind of wide-eyed wonder. Alexis is saying something to Patrick, talking across him to Twyla, and Patrick nods, but he’s still watching David, who wiggles the tip of his tongue against the opening of the straw. 

Rachel clears her throat and David yelps and spills half of his mojito on himself. 

“Please don’t cut my testicles off,” he blurts out. Rachel laughs for a full minute. 

At one point, in a lull between songs, David looks around the room at his friends. At Stevie, eyes crinkling as she laughs at Ted, her raven hair shining with the pulsing disco ball above them. At Twyla, all earnest smiles and gorgeous freckles. Ted with his tight t-shirt and terrible puns, Rachel with her delicate fingers and sharp wit. And Patrick. Patrick’s bottom lip white for a flash of a second as he releases it from his teeth. The long stretch of muscle up Patrick’s neck. The unbelievably delicate way with which Patrick nudges drinks away from the edge of the table. 

Fucking beautiful, every one of them.

“Pansexuality,” David announces, leaning across Alexis, “is a rich and complex tapestry.” 

“Ew, David, oh my god!” Alexis shrieks, shoving him away, but Stevie bursts out laughing in that way she almost never does, and it’s worth it, and it’s true. 

He totters to the bathroom while Ted oscillates between *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. A near-stranger keeps smiling at him in the mirror; he can’t make it stop. He feels filled all the way up and is grateful the ceiling is there to keep him from floating off with this buoyant joy. 

As he opens the door back to the hallway, he nearly runs into Patrick, who grabs him by both hips to steady him. David’s eyes bug out but the hallway is empty. 

“I want,” Patrick intones, in the same steady, polite way he orders take-out sushi. “To suck tequila. Out of. Your belly button.” 

Oh ,” David gasps, high and pleased. “I’m sure you say that to all the boys.” 

“Nope,” Patrick replies, popping the ‘p’. “No one’s got a belly button like you, babe. Belly button babe. Hehe.” 

“Oh my god,” David says, but then Patrick is moving him aside and tumbling into the bathroom and leaving him dazed and glowing and smitten in the hallway. 

When it’s nearing 2AM and they’re all nursing waters or sodas and the atmosphere is less like a rave and more like a campfire singalong, Patrick gets up on stage and clasps the microphone in both hands. 

“I’d like to dedicate this next song to a very special someone in my life.” 

Alexis, the ignorant traitor, leans over to swat at Rachel’s knee with a limp wrist. Rachel, to her credit, slips a hand under David’s elbow and applies the slightest pressure, a little affirmation that threatens to completely wreck the neutral amusement David has been trying to project. 

Except then Patrick, who David thought was much drunker than this, launches into the most beautiful rendition of David’s favorite Tina Turner song, a favorite Patrick has no business knowing, a tidbit David doesn’t remember ever mentioning. Patrick’s fighting the tempo of the karaoke machine, imbuing the song with the passion it deserves and staring, unabashed, into their corner of the room. 

David’s mouth is hanging open, his hands on either side of his face; he’s too drunk for this, too drunk to pretend the inflection of take my heart and make it strong isn’t doing things to him. Someone - maybe Ted? - is crying, but David can’t look away. The truth of it licks him like fire. He’s falling for Patrick - has fallen for him, so far beyond what they’d agreed upon, what he’d promised himself. He has to pull back, he thinks, secret tears burning the inside of his throat as Patrick ends in a near-whisper and they all applaud. He has to save himself from the car wreck that will be his heart at the end of this. Just - not yet, he pleads with himself. Soon

Even if it’s a lie, he needs to think it. Needs something to tame the wings of the doves that take flight in his chest as Patrick sneaks a pleased glance at him and gets down from the stage. 


In the time it takes for Patrick to go back to his hotel with Rachel, Ted, and Twyla and then sneak out a service entrance and get to the White House, David’s phone has blown up. 

FSOC Spotted with Former Fiancee!’

‘PM’s Son Enjoys Karaoke with Ex, Friends’

‘Patrick Brewer Serenades Ex Rachel Fare’

“That was my serenade,” David gripes to the empty room. He zooms in on the picture they’ve used, clearly taken covertly by one of the other patrons through the little window in the door: Rachel beaming up at Patrick on the stage, David’s shoulder cropped from the image, his presence an afterthought. 

The articles - mostly fluff pieces, though a few reputable papers have cobbled together enough content to make something speculative and vaguely journalistic - barely even mention David. In one write-up, Alexis gets higher billing than he does. Apparently certain corners of the internet have been positing a Patrick-Alexis relationship and are now bombulating with rumors of a cat fight between Rachel and Alexis outside the karaoke bar.

And all the articles pivot on the same general premise: that Patrick is getting back together with Rachel. 

“David,” Patrick pleads, the second he’s in the door. 

“I’m fine!” David lies, chucking his phone onto his desk, wishing for the second or tenth time this year that he could chuck it into the sea instead. 

“You’re clearly not.” Patrick stops short of touching him, as if unsure if he’s allowed. The drunken, vibrating eroticism of the night is gone. “And why should you be? It’s beyond shitty. But I swear to you, David, none of that is true.” 

“I know! I know it’s not.” He crosses his arms, then lets them hang, then clenches his fists at his sides. “That’s what I hate about it. That we know it’s not true but we have to just...take it.” 

Patrick bows his head. 

Taking a tentative step closer, David says, voice shaking, “Maybe we should... tell them it’s not true? Go public?” 

When Patrick looks up, his face says it all. 

“Oh.” David sits heavily on the bed. “Okay.” 

“No, David, please,” Patrick groans, and he drops to his knees on the rug in front of David, bracing himself with a hand on either side of David’s legs. “It’s not like that-” 

“I’m just,” David waves his hands through the air, wishing he could stop suffocating, “struggling to understand in what way it’s not exactly that. I’ve been people’s dirty little secret before, Patrick, I get it.” 

A truly animal sound arises from Patrick’s chest. “David,” he whispers, face absolutely stricken, eyes bloodshot. “I’m not even out to my parents.” 

Fuck . He hadn’t thought - Drown me in a vat of boiling goo, honestly. Why did he think - David wishes he could cram the last few minutes back into the time vortex. He vaguely remembers saying something to Patrick at Christmas about how nice life must be with Clint and Marcy, how pleasant that relationship must be. How uncomplicated. Fuck . And David’s just suggested he come out to the whole fucking world. 

“Patrick,” he says, and then stops, because none of the words will come out right. He settles for taking Patrick’s hands off the edge of the mattress and pulling him up to sit next to David on the bed. “I shouldn’t have pushed.” 

“No, you have every right.” Patrick sounds furious at himself, and miserable, and desperate. “I’ve been meaning to - to tell them, for years, but I just-”

“That’s not-” He wraps an arm around Patrick’s shoulders and strokes his other hand over his chest, because Patrick looks like he might splinter apart at any second, and David wants him to stay in one piece. Shattered and broken and scared and vulnerable maybe, but one piece. “There’s no rush. This is a - a very personal thing, that you should do in your own time, when you want, how you want-” 

When Patrick speaks next, his voice is so strangled that David’s hands tighten on Patrick’s arm. “I know my parents are good people, David, but what if they-” 

David’s shaking his head, not because what Patrick’s saying isn’t very real, but because he wishes it weren’t. He kisses Patrick’s temple and holds him close. 

“And I’d understand if you don’t want to deal with all this, with me,” Patrick presses on. David’s heart clenches; he wonders if Patrick can feel it against his bicep. “You’re not a dirty little secret, David. I’m not ashamed of you - that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I just - I don’t know that I’m ready for that, and that’s not - that’s not fair to you.” 

There have been too many are we breaking up s today for David to let this go on any longer. He’s known since the beginning that he and Patrick will need to end this at some point, but he’s let himself envision a summer together, maybe, before the convention and the fall campaign madness. 

“As if you could get rid of me after that stellar Tina performance,” David scoffs, gratified when Patrick laughs wetly. 

“You really liked it?” 

David rolls his eyes and shrugs, tugging Patrick closer to soften the sarcasm. “It was okay. You’re lucky you’re cute.” 

Patrick wipes his eyes with the back of his hand and seems to visibly try to straighten himself, his spine, his shirt, his emotions. David wishes he wouldn’t. “You’ll tell me, though,” Patrick murmurs, sliding a hand up to grip David’s wrist. “If it gets to be too much. Being a - being my-” 

“Mhm. I’ll tell you.” He won’t. Because it won’t. 

That night, Patrick fucks David for the first time. He kisses him wantonly and fingers him open and then fucks him, forcing gasping breaths out of David with each snap of his hips. Patrick is distant, focused, quiet, a little wrinkle on his forehead that gathers sweat as they writhe. He’s thrusting a little too hard, pushing David’s knees up farther than maybe they can physically go so that his hamstrings burn in counterpoint to the build of his orgasm. David begs for it the whole time, wants it so fucking much, pleads for Patrick’s dick even while it’s wearing David’s prostate like a hat. 

And maybe David should feel used, by all of this, but he knows what used feels like, and this isn’t that. He feels useful . He’s never felt more useful, more needed. Like no one could be here for Patrick in this moment, in this way, like he can.  Like it’s not just a body but David’s body that Patrick needs. 

David squeezes his eyes shut, sinking into the pleasure and the pain, but a second later Patrick’s hand is wrapping around David’s cock. He opens his eyes to find the fuzziness gone from Patrick’s gaze. He’s fully focused on David. On wringing him clean with powerful thrusts and steady pumps. Because of course he is. Of course making David feel good makes Patrick feel good and grounded in this tumult. Of course that’s his priority right now. 

And he hopes the summer never comes. He wants this forever. He wants Patrick forever. He feels forever about Patrick. He shudders and comes so hard his abs tremble afterwards and he clings to Patrick, feeling forever about his no-strings-attached, super-casual-hookups, best friend-with-benefits, not-boyfriend. 

Chapter Text

Over coffee a few mornings after karaoke, sitting in the hallway between their bedrooms and half-watching last night’s Correspondents Dinner on David’s laptop, Alexis says, “So when were you going to tell me that you’re sleeping with Patrick?” 

David chokes on the pain au chocolat he’d been midway through inhaling. 

“God, Alexis, couldn’t you have waited until I didn’t have something hot and flaky and perilous in my mouth before making such - such - wild and frankly offensive aspersions?” 

She looks pleased by his reaction, the she-devil. Her eyes dance as she takes another sip from her mug. “So you’re not sleeping with him.” 

“No,” David replies loftily, turning his gaze back to the laptop and hoping his anguish isn’t writ large on his face. “I’m not.” 

“Oh my god, David, you’re such a bad liar,” she gasps, leaning halfway across the table towards him. “It’s a miracle you’ve kept it a secret this long.” 

“There’s nothing going on!” he protests. 

Her as-yet-unmascaraed eyelashes flutter as she tries to wink at him. “Sure, David. It’s okay, you don’t have to confirm or deny.” 

“I am denying it, though.” 

She smiles at him, all coy, conspiratorial affection, and he thinks he’s in the clear. He should know better: Alexis has changed since she was a pre-teen model, but she’s not a totally different person. “Why didn’t you tell me, David?” Her tone is still playful, but she’s tugging at one of her earlobes, and he knows her tells. 

With a groan, he crumples the napkin on his lap and abandons his delicious, underappreciated pastry. “I’m sorry, okay?” he admits. “I wanted to, but - it’s not serious, and it’s not, like, fully my secret to share?” 

Not serious ?” 

“Don’t even start,” he pleads, waving his hands at her, used to getting this from Stevie. “Yes, Patrick and I are friends, and yes, we’re...hooking up, from time to time. But that’s all it can be,  for a myriad of reasons. It’s just, like, a temporary thing. To blow off steam, or whatever.” 

Her eyes widen in delight at getting confirmation, but she doesn’t press that point. “You still could have talked to me about it, David. I’m your sister . I literally live across the hall from you. I could’ve helped sweet little Patrick sneak in and out.” 

“Um, no , thank you.” David blanches at the idea of involving his sister in their late night rendezvous. “This is exactly why I didn’t want to tell you.” 

“This also makes so much sense,” she continues as if he hasn’t said anything at all. “Why you’ve seemed to be both really, really happy and also very lost? For, like, months .” 

David recoils. “Excuse you! I’m not lost.” 

“Not when you’re with Patrick, obviously.” 

“I’m not lost,” David mutters. She’s not - wrong , exactly, that his happiness has been tempered by something else. It’s just not... that . He’s still working it out himself, or avoiding working it out, rather. “How did you figure it out, anyway?” 

“Oh!” She flaps a hand as if to dismiss the question. “I’ve had my suspicions for ages. You’ve been different, and you’ve been spending a lot of time with Patrick, and I always thought there was, like, a vibe between you two.” 

David is, again, annoyed that everyone around them seemed to know their animosity - okay, his animosity - was shrouding a mutual attraction. 

“He’s never tried to flirt with me, which in my experience usually means someone is either newly married or gay. Then Rachel showed up for karaoke and I thought, oh, okay, this explains it, he’s just been hung up on her, that’s why he’s not interested in me. But the way you looked at him when he was singing that fun little Whitney song-” 

“It was Tina,” he corrects her, automatically, despite the way his heart is twisting. 

“Yes, exactly,” she nods sagely. “And the way he looked at you .” She clasps her hands together in front of her chest and scrunches her whole face up; he’s seen her make the same expression about baby chinchillas and the Jonas Brothers. 

“I don’t - I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His face is out of control again. He doesn’t want to be having feelings in front of Alexis, especially not before noon. 

“You don’t have to pretend for me, David. Not anymore.” She shifts back to face the laptop, de facto releasing him from this torturous conversation. “I’m just happy for you if you’re happy, okay?”

He looks at her a beat longer, wishing he knew how to initiate a hug, wishing he had the vocabulary to thank her. 

“For what it’s worth,” he settles on, unable to keep the aloof sniff from his voice, “I’m glad you know.” 

david: heads up alexis knows about us

david: i didn’t tell her

david: she figured it out for herself

david: which is kind of concerning? we might need to be more careful

Patrick: Good morning, David. 

Patrick: Honestly, I kind of assumed Alexis knew already. 

david: is that

david: um

david: okay? for you? 

Patrick: I’m okay if you’re okay. 

Patrick: I trust Alexis.

David bites down his smile. He shows the conversation to Alexis, who coos and whips out her phone and begins furiously texting - probably Patrick, which is...terrifying, and also heart-warming in a way David is not okay with. 


david: me too

Patrick: 👫

david: that looks more like you and alexis holding hands tho? 

david: i’d never wear a blue t-shirt

david: alexis is also not big into red

Patrick: Sorry about that, what ever was I thinking? 

Patrick: Let me just go call my friends at Apple and see if they’ll fix it for you. 

“That!” Alexis exclaims, and when he looks up she’s pointing directly at his face. “ That is what has made you super obvious about this whole thing.” 

“Uuuuggggh! Drown in the Reflecting Pool!”

Their parents choose this lovely sibling moment to arrive, berobed in tailored silk and wool despite it being a Sunday. David clutches his phone against his chest and widens his eyes at Alexis. She makes a very blatant ‘my lips are sealed motion’, complete with dropping the invisible key to the floor and crushing it beneath her heel, which isn’t even - that doesn’t even - ugh. 

“Morning, kids,” Johnny says brightly, gravitating immediately to the image of himself on the computer screen. 

“Salutations!” Moira chirps. David winces, grateful he doesn’t have a hangover. 

“How are-” Alexis starts to ask, but Johnny giggles - giggles - and points excitedly to the screen. 

“Oh, this was excellent - I wrote this myself, too! Miguel wrote most of the jokes - don’t tell anyone that - but this one was all me. Wait for it-” 

David and Alexis exchange a look. It’s quaint, that he still thinks anyone doesn’t know Miguel writes most of Johnny’s best speeches, including ( especially ) his roasts and comedy bits. 

“Ha ha!” Johnny cries, delighted, clapping his hands together at his own performance. The joke is getting a laugh at the dinner; people don’t even look pained, or forced, in their laughter. David grins into his coffee. 

“You were marvelous, dear,” Moira murmurs, pecking Johnny gently on the lips. Alexis pretends to gag and David snorts. “Like George Carlin with the sartorial dignity of the young Mr. Mulaney.” 

“Thank you, Moira.” Most powerful man in the world and he still lights up like that at praise from his wife. “Well, David, how’s the project going?” 

David, who’d decided to have a second go at the pain au chocolat and has been caught, again , with it squarely between his teeth, looks up frantically. “Pro’ec’?” 

“Yeah, how’s the scheming? The planning? Got anything exciting to tell me?” 

He glances at Alexis, even though - she literally just found out, or just had it confirmed for her, anyway, there’s no way she could’ve- “What - what project?” 

“The Arts and Culture position!” Johnny’s still beaming, as if he hasn’t noticed David’s entire brain going off-line in panic. “I know it’s still early, but I’m sure you’ve been up to something!” 

“Oh! Ha. That project!” The chocolate filling smeared across his teeth gives him a moment to collect himself. He hasn’t forgotten about the Arts and Culture position, exactly. But he’s been distracted . “Um, I have some thoughts, in my notebook, but it’s still very - it’s all very preliminary, at this point? I can, uh, I can buckle down on that, though, if you-” 

“That’s alright, son. Take your time.” Johnny doesn’t seem disappointed or surprised that David doesn’t have anything to show him, which is maybe an insult? “In the meanwhile, though, your mother and I were wondering if you’d like to come help out on the campaign trail a bit. Both of you.” 

What ?” David demands, as Alexis squeals, “Ooh, yay!” 

“We’ve been very proud of the way you’ve been handling the press appearances with Patrick,” Moira goes on. Behind her, Alexis looks like her face is eating itself as she tries to contain her reactions. “Very mature, very professional, very suave.” 

“Thanks so much,” David mutters. He wishes his brain didn’t react to the mention of Patrick’s name with a slideshow of their least professional moments together. 

“And to thank you, and to encourage you to keep reaching for these lofty - but achievable - heights, we would be honored if you’d do us the favor of supporting your father at a few rallies and fairs and other charming little gatherings across the fruited plains of this great land.” 


“The celebrity endorsements and appearances are shaping up to be really something!” Johnny rubs his hands together, looking back and forth between his children. “Mariska Hargitay, Terry Crews-”

“Indya Moore, Susan Lucci, Lily Singh-” 

“If you’re good,” Johnny says, clapping David’s shoulder, “we might even let you introduce Little Nas.” 

“Okay, it’s Lil ,” David corrects him, “ Lil Nas. And your tone is sounding very condescending.” They’re watching him expectantly, his mother with that barely-there smile that means her extra-sensory ability to get him is annoyingly active today. “But. I do not... hate ... the idea of getting involved. I don’t want to be anywhere near a microphone,” he adds hastily. “Or babies. I’m not kissing anyone’s babies.” 

Over the next few weeks, David joins his father at events in Wisconsin, Oregon, Vermont, Georgia, and Kansas. Even after their years together in the White House, even after the ways their relationship and their understanding have grown, David feels mistrustful about the whole thing. He’s not sure if Johnny is using him - the queer, artsy, culturally fluent son who can bring in a different demographic, or at least donors with money - or if he genuinely wants David here. Maybe both? 

His cuticles are a mess with this particular line of worry, but otherwise, he, well, he likes it. He likes being involved. When he can manage to look past their terrifying outfits and pitiful dye jobs, the voters have stories and hopes that are actually moving and not always that distant from his own. People flirt with him, even in the middle of the country where he’s sometimes afraid to walk alone; women as old as his mother ask him for advice on getting back into the dating world; a group of business owners ensnare him in a conversation about the economy that makes him wish he could call Patrick in for reinforcement. 

So he’s learning a lot. And the food . Everywhere they go, the home-baked, locally-raised, hand-rolled, smoked, aged, brewed, curated nibblies are divine . He takes notes in his phone; he wishes he could start a blog about all this. He wonders if this could fall under Arts and Culture, thinks it probably can, speculates on how he could develop it. 

Sometimes he oversees the interns - some, especially Eric and Dane and Klair, make him seriously concerned for the success of his father’s campaign; Blaire has attitude, but he’s at least mostly competent. Sometimes he scouts for good locations ahead of a big speech or rally, then helps the team set up decorations. He does a lot of research into the communities and finds he has a knack for this: it’s not unlike learning an art piece, its history, the biography of its creator, the deep and entirely subjective way it speaks to different people. Sometimes Alexis joins them, and the two of them will visit college campuses or shopping malls. 

And sometimes he catches his dad watching from the far side of the room. Pen in hand, three advisors fluttering around him like moths, merely passing through between a national security briefing and dinner with the Obamas, and watching. Watching him . Watching him with something like pride. 

With the not-unpleasant whirlwind of thrice-weekly campaign events, April slips into May which blossoms into June. An unseasonably warm late-spring afternoon finds David nearly bouncing on his toes outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Ottawa, waiting for Patrick to come downstairs. 

“David?” Patrick emerges onto the front stoop and shades his hand to take in what’s before him. “What’s going on?” 

David pushes off from the side of the limo and meets Patrick on the bottom step, enfolding him in a platonic hug. “Happy birthday, Patrick.” 

When they separate, Patrick’s looking at him with outsized joy. “You remembered.” 

David rolls his eyes and tugs at the bottom hem of his sweater. “It was on the fact sheet. Come on, we don’t want to be late. I had to practically beg my dad for a day off from the campaign.” 

Patrick’s birthday was on the fact sheet, but that’s not why David remembered. David remembered because he’s had the date in his notebook for months, circled and underlined and surrounded with doodles as he tried to think of an appropriate gesture. He remembered because he’s made more phone calls and cashed in more favors than he cares to admit. 

“Where are we going? I should tell Ray-” Patrick turns and laughs, finding Ray already at his side, Patrick’s windbreaker in hand. 

“I’ll tell you in the car. And I know you don’t have plans, because I asked your mom weeks ago to make you keep the evening clear. And don’t pretend like you have a different, more chic outfit you want to change into, because I’ve seen all your outfits and I know you don’t.” 

The effervescence of Patrick’s smile falters. “You - you asked my mom?” 

They slide into the back of the limo before David answers. “She does think I’m your friend, Patrick. I’m allowed to hang out with you.” 

“Yeah, I -” Even under the dim lights, Patrick’s shamed blush is rich as raspberries. “Of course. I’m sorry. Knee-jerk reaction. I’m working on it.” 

“Mhm. I know.” David draws one leg under him so he can scoot over towards Patrick, supporting himself on the leather seat as the car begins to move. “Now that we’re alone, let’s see what other knee-jerk reactions we can get out of you.” He slides his hands up Patrick’s chest, nuzzles under his jaw, sorts through the catalog of what Patrick likes best. “Happy birthday, baby,” he whispers against the flushed skin of Patrick’s neck and is instantly gratified with the way that almost-never-used moniker provokes a rough bob of Patrick’s Adam’s apple. 

“Are you gonna sing for me?” Patrick’s legs widen, accustomed as they are to taking David in. 

David snorts and skims his nose down the ridge of Patrick’s throat. “I think there are better ways I could celebrate you.” 

Both of Patrick’s arms are spread across the back of the seat now, his entire body angled and open for David’s exploration. “I’d love to hear what some of those are.” 

“Hmm.” David’s fingertips scratch lightly up under the edge of Patrick’s t-shirt sleeve, tickling the soft skin that stretches towards his underarm. “I could buy a star for you.” He tries to clamber up on his knees for leverage, but Patrick loops his ankle around David’s and brings him tumbling fully into Patrick’s lap, the artifice and the distance immediately vanishing. “I could get a scientist to name a new species of worm for you.” His thighs, either side of Patrick’s, squeeze just a little, meeting resistance, testing it. “Maybe one of those floating advertisements on the Hudson? Happy bday PBrew ?”

“All great ideas,” Patrick nods, his eyes all business-like while his hips lift up off the seat, raising David too. It’s a seemingly effortless and very effective demonstration of the true strength behind those tree-trunk thighs. “I was hoping for something a bit...well...immediate? Closer to here, and now?” 

“Ah.” David grips either side of Patrick’s chest, his thumbs grazing close to his nipples, and pouts sympathetically at Patrick as he lifts himself off and to the side, back to his own seat. “I could see why you might’ve wanted that. Unfortunately, we’re almost there.” 

Patrick huffs and drops his head back against the seat. “So you’re telling me I’m not getting a blowjob in the backseat of this limo.” 

“No,” David says curtly, unapologetically, straightening his own clothes. “That would be wildly unsafe, Patrick. Great way to get a few incisors to the dick when the driver has to brake suddenly. Have tried, would not recommend.” 

“You, David Rose,” Patrick murmurs, smoothing the full extent of one of his brilliantly large hands across David’s shoulders, “are a tease .” 

The combination of Patrick’s end-of-day smell and his blunt fingers fluttering at the back of David’s neck are almost enough to get him to cave, but they really are almost there. “Later,” he promises, patting Patrick’s knee. He’s too nervous to get properly turned on anyway, or give Patrick the attention he deserves. Too hopeful this will make Patrick happy.

Patrick harumphs but settles in next to David, no sign of making a further seductive move. “So when do I find out where we’re going? Or will you be blindfolding me when we get there?” 

Later ,” David teases, and Patrick pinches his side. “I suppose you’ll see in a minute anyway, so I might as well tell you-” He’s been fighting a smile all the way from DC, and now he gives up, gives in, revels in the way Patrick’s grin stretches in response. “We are going to the special Raptors/Skyhawks charity game.”

What ?” Patrick lets out a ridiculous little whoop and nearly scoops David off the seat. “David, that game’s been sold out for months!” 

“As if you’d have any trouble getting in,” David scoffs, face burning, hoping Patrick won’t think about David buying tickets months ago, because that’s humiliating. 

“Still-” Patrick’s eyebrows scrunch with affection and he presses a quick, fervent kiss to David’s lips. “That’s amazing. You’re amazing.” 

“I just thought it’d be a fun little treat.” David’s trying to keep this light - an airy, breezy, bros-who-have-sex super casual hang. “And if the kiss cam happens to land on us-” 

David ,” Patrick groans, emotions warring on his face. 

“I’m kidding!” His hands soothe up and down Patrick’s back. He’s still holding him, still being held, in the back of this limo. “I, um, I actually got us one of those private boxes.”

The delight already shining from Patrick’s face is bubbling towards disbelief. David tries to inhale his smile; he wishes he could do this for Patrick more, longer, forever, keep giving him that kind of joy. 

“You know, David,” Patrick says, and by his tone David knows he’s about to be teased, and it shouldn’t have the effect on his dick that it does. “Those boxes are awfully far from the action.” 

Oh my god, ” David cries, shoving Patrick away from him. “You ungrateful b-” 

Patrick’s laughing against the door, stretched out along the seat, the whole length of him luscious and lovely and happy. “I’m joking,” he placates David fondly. The tip of his sneaker nudges David’s leg; David pretends to squirm away in disgust, but he’s so pathetic he even loves letting Patrick’s filthy department store shoes touch him. “This was incredibly thoughtful, David.”

“Well,” David winces, “before you get too excited-”

“Ha!” Patrick crows. “I knew there was a catch!”

“Okay, rude -” He weakly fights off Patrick’s attempts to reel him in, to cuddle him on the very seat where he’d moments ago whined about getting no birthday oral. He fights him for the appearance . “But as I was saying, before you get too excited. I also invited Stevie and Rachel.” 

The limo slides to a halt just as Patrick closes one eye, tilting his head at David. “But the private box,” he says, with a little pout. “You and me alone in a private box, David.” 

“While your disappointment is very flattering, I thought it would be asking a lot of the wait staff to not sell their stories to the press if every time they came in to serve us a - a - a salmon crudite or whatever, they found your hand in my pants.” 

Patrick presses his lips together the way he does when David’s said something unintentionally funny. “I think it would be asking a lot of the wait staff just to have to walk in on that in the first place.” 

“Sure, fine, my point still stands. You ready to go?” He pets Patrick’s hair with the semblance of getting it in order but mostly just because he wants to, wants to feel it against his fingers. 

Patrick sighs and finally releases David. “Yeah. But now I’m gonna spend the whole game thinking about my hand not being in your pants.” He frowns down at his hands. “They’re going to be so sad and lonely, David.” 

“Remind me to never let you get high,” David mutters and opens the door. 

“So that was a... five yard foul?”

Rachel, wearing a cute little basketball jersey that’s been distressed to look vintage, chuckles and bumps David with her hip. “Close. It’s a three-point field goal.” 

“No, wait, field goals are in football!” David whirls around, looking for support from Stevie, the other American in the room, but she’s up to her elbows in cheese puffs at the snack table. “Field goals are definitely football.” 

“Believe it or not,” Patrick grins, “sometimes different sports share the same terminology. It’s like... ‘keyboard’ meaning both an electric piano and the typing component of a computer. Same idea, two different fields.” 

David squints at him. “I’m not sure you’re helping, babe.” 

“Have you ever watched basketball before, David?” Rachel asks. She’s standing between them again, their necessary buffer. They’ve been...doing this for almost five months and they still need chaperones, apparently. Patrick’s spent most of the first act of the game with his hands plunged into his pockets as if to keep himself from touching David. 

“Well, that answer is a bit complicated,” David admits. “My dad gave me a basketball court for my bar mitzvah-”

“Oof,” Patrick puffs out. 

“Correct. I was even less of a Sporty Spice back then, and it took literally breaking my nose to get him to see the error of his ways. Of course, then I actually got the nose job I’d been asking for, so.” 

“And a beautiful nose it is.” 

“Oh my god, Stevie was right, you guys are disgusting,” Rachel mutters. 

“Speaking of the Spice Girls, though! Mel B is kind of our godmother? And she used to take me and Alexis to NBA games. Though that was mostly right after the group broke up, and she was trying to get over it, not very successfully. Most of my memories of those games are of wondering where she got her amazing waterproof eyeliner, honestly. I can see the appeal, though.” 

“You can?” Patrick asks, far too excitedly. He’d been watching the game with a stupid grin on his face as he listened to David, but now he whips around to look at David like Christmas has come eight months early. 

“Of course, I’m not blind.” 

“Ah. So you’d ditch me for OG Anunoby?” 

“I don’t know who that is.” He likes it, though, that they can joke about breaking up. That must mean it’s not in consideration, right? If they’re joking about it? 

Patrick sighs and turns back to the game in time to see one of the players careen into the audience. (Does that count as breaking the fourth wall, David wonders?) “Someday,” Patrick sighs, his breath misting on the glass. 

Hours later - how long is this fucking game? - David pulls himself away from the righteously-appointed snack table and drifts back over to where Patrick is watching the action through the tinted glass. He’s got a contemplative set to his shoulders - which shouldn’t even be a thing David can recognize, but it is - and David stupidly wants to know everything Patrick thinks about. 

“You okay?” he asks quietly. 

Patrick glances up and smiles at the plateful of nachos David holds out to him. “Thank you. Yeah, I’m good. Really,” he insists with a small laugh as David raises an eyebrow. “This is easily one of my top five birthdays. I’m just-” 

Wishing you were spending it with someone different? Fantasizing about one of the players? Feeling tired and you want to leave and then never call me again?

“I hope,” Patrick is saying, staring resolutely out at the crowd, his voice trembling a little, “that someday I’ll be sitting out there, courtside - okay, it doesn’t have to be courtside, just - out there, with my - with the guy I’m seeing-” 

David inhales the charged we’re-not-talking-about-this in the air, inhales it and shoves it deep deep down inside him.

“...I just hope I can sit out there with... him, and... I’ll kiss him.” He blinks up at David, his face a question. A plea David doesn’t fully understand. “And it’ll be okay.” 

In answer, David turns the plate until he finds a chip with an acceptable ratio of cheese and other toppings. He extracts it like a Jenga block and extends it to Patrick, who catches it between two fingers and takes a careful nibble. 

“You will,” David assures him. Basketball doesn’t deserve to have anyone cry over it, so he won’t cry. Even if he’s picturing Patrick with his arm around another guy, someone who wears high-end athleisure outfits and yells at the ref and is capable of expressing complex emotions. “You will have that. You have lots of time.” 

Patrick hums and looks up at David, a dribble of queso on his lower lip. “How do you always know what to say?” 

“Oh gosh,” David titters. He hadn’t expected to be grateful to be in public with Patrick, when it means he can’t touch him or kiss him or hold his hand or cuddle into his neck, but he is grateful. Grateful that they’re forced to maintain this space between them. “Literally no one has ever said that about me. I just - have this uncontrollable need to... untangle things. To make everything okay.” 

A buzzer sounds from the court; there are cheers and even Stevie is shouting something, but David’s held by Patrick’s look. “You do, David,” Patrick murmurs. His hand glides over David’s elbow, the simplest, most platonic, most electric touch. “You do make everything okay.” 

Late in the night, David sneaks from the guest wing of the Prime Minister’s residence and into Patrick’s. It’s the first time they’ve done it this way, the first time their tryst has carried into Patrick’s own home. 

So David isn’t really prepared for the unbearable intimacy of being in Patrick’s bedroom. It’s ornately decorated, the furniture a bit formal, the curtains more floral than he thinks Patrick would have chosen for himself, but it feels like Patrick as surely as if it smelled like him. There’s a calculator on his nightstand, as if he does math in bed, as if he doesn’t have a calculator on his phone. There’s a framed picture of his parents on a dresser, a poster of fit, sweaty Hall of Famers for some sport on the inside of his closet door. (“It’s not supposed to be a metaphor,” Patrick chuckles, but, well, it is.) The window that looks out on the back garden is framed by a soft little sofa and a stack of books. 

Patrick takes out his guitar - “At least it’s not a ukelele, David” - and putters away on it as David wanders the suite. He hopes Patrick isn’t watching him, but somehow he knows he is, his gaze following him like the soft melodies resolving themselves from Patrick’s fingertips. He wants to breathe in whatever he can learn about Patrick from this space. Does he wear house slippers? What kind of cheap-ass conditioner - if any - is stocked in his shower? Which way will the sun slant in in the morning, and how will it taste against the soft curve of Patrick’s lips? 

Patrick doesn’t have a TV in his bedroom, so there’s no barrier between them when they lay on top of the covers, Patrick’s fingers carding through David’s hair, undoing its curated swoops. 

“Do you ever worry about who you’d be without all this?” David whispers into the fabric of Patrick’s shirt. 

A blunt nail finds his scalp and scratches gently. “Without all what?” 

“This,” he elaborates, waving to the small chandelier, the tall windows, the bouquets of flowers which are probably replaced daily. “All the...accoutrements that come with our lives. With our parents’ lives.” 

Patrick waits; he likely knows that David’s not really asking, that it’s his way of easing into answering himself. 

“I just think...” David’s fingers tense and Patrick’s, in turn, find the hairline just behind his temple, massaging, soothing. “I’ll never know, I guess, but I...suspect... that I’m weak? Like, fundamentally? And without all this, I’d be nothing. Really, truly nothing. I probably wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t know how people do it.” 

“Hmm.” The kiss that drops to David’s crown vibrates with Patrick’s hum. “I don’t think so. I think you’d find a way to adapt. I think you already have.” 

They plan to shower before bed, but instead they fuck in the ensuite bathroom. David’s beginning to suspect he’s developed a Pavlovian response to emotional intimacy with Patrick. He wants the bruises from the cold white tiles to stay on his knees like tattoos. Patrick gets half of his birthday blowjob before he bends David over the sink, and then he’s panting into David’s shoulder, “So good, David, god, so good ,” as if Patrick were the one being plowed into so forcefully that his toes lift off the floor. And after Patrick comes, David sits on the edge of the sink, his used ass against the porcelain, as Patrick finishes him off with his mouth. The shower that follows - just one, for the both of them - is rushed and abbreviated, but David memorizes the smell of Patrick’s conditioner and falls asleep the minute they crawl, naked, into bed together. 

“I wish you could stay another day,” Patrick grumbles the next morning.

David smiles at him over his omelet, forestalled only by Stevie’s presence from asking if Patrick’s disappointment has anything to do with Patrick’s whispers this morning - during a frantic one-hand-two-cocks jerkoff - that he wants David to fuck him next time, deep and slow and hard. 

“I know,” he pouts, nudging Patrick’s leg under the table with his toes. “We would if we could. My dad wants me to meet him in Arizona, though.” 

“And Aunt Maureen wants me with her in the Berkshires,” Stevie adds, miming a robust vomiting into her cereal. “I think she might actually make me wear a bra.” 

“Unfortunately still generally expected when meeting donors,” David smirks at her. “I for one would love to be doing events with Madame Vice President instead of my dad. Maureen’s a hoot. ” 

“Well, when I’m president, I’m banning all underwear,” Stevie mutters. 

“Oh god,” David gasps, but Patrick just laughs and pours Stevie more orange juice. “No, honey, don’t encourage her.” 

“So it really sounds like you’re both leaving me to go on vacation,” Patrick says, leaning back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. Something about that serious posture, here in the sitting room in Patrick’s suite, makes David want to straddle him and get an official telling-off. 

“As if,” Stevie snorts. “It’s hell.” 

When David doesn’t immediately concur, she smacks the back of his hand with her spoon. 


“Back me up!” 

“I-” Speared between her terrifying gaze and Patrick’s inquisitive one, he wilts a little. “I don’t actually hate it? I don’t hate it. I think I might... like? Doing the campaign events? It’s not a vacation,” he rushes to say, and Stevie retracts the spoon before she can make a second strike. “It’s just... nice to have purpose, or whatever.” 

“Ugh.” Stevie pushes her bowl away from her. “I hate it when you’re sincere. This is all your fault,” she snarks at Patrick. “You’re a terrible influence.” 

“Me?!” he laughs. 

“I actually think,” David says, because the thought is ripe on his tongue and if he doesn’t say it now he never will, and he lo- he values these two people so much, “I think I was depressed for a while. When we first got to the White House.” 

The ticking of the antique clock by the window is the only sound in the room for a moment. Patrick’s expression is all wrong for this context, all pride and fondness. 

“You think ?” Stevie says at last, and oh no, she looks fond too, fuck .

“What do you think changed?” Patrick prods gently. 

“It wasn’t you ,” David says quickly, defensively, “you didn’t, like, cure my depression, if that’s what you’re thinking-”

“It wasn’t, but now it is-” 

“Do you know what he told me once?” Stevie interrupts abruptly, pointing at Patrick, suddenly overcome with giggles. She reaches over to clasp one of David’s hands, which is a bad sign . “David said, ‘The size of Patrick’s ego is only exceeded by the size of his d-’”

“I did not !” David screeches, as Patrick buries his face in his hands, red to the tips of his ears but also shaking with laughter. “I did not, and even if I had , that would’ve been something I shared with you in complete confidentiality -”

“Do you really think my ego is that big?” Patrick asks through his fingers, sounding slightly legitimately concerned. 

“Out of that sentence, that’s the part you want to focus on?!”

They never actually get back to what changed for David, what made him feel less like hiding in the dark day in and day out. These two people are part of it, surely. The way his relationship has grown with Alexis can’t be discounted either. Even the way his parents now check in on him sometimes, that might have played a role. Maybe he just needed time. Maybe, as Patrick said last night, he really has adapted. 

David makes sure to be conveniently occupied with a campaign event on his own birthday. He doesn’t want Patrick to try to do anything to recognize the day; Patrick already does too much, and tradition dictates that his birthday should go by largely unrecognized. No need to upend tradition. He’ll just help make sure that his dad does not do his horrifying, offensive Texan accent and that the makeup team keeps everyone well-powdered against the San Antonio heat, and then he can order room service, pop a pill, and sleep into his new year. 

It goes off the rails from the start. San Antonio chooses this one day in July to be wet and chilly - and their opponents still don’t believe in climate change! - so everyone’s off-kilter and unprepared and flustered. The supporters who’ve shown up don’t really look like they want to be there, and David helps hand out fugly Rose 2020 rain ponchos with a mixture of pity and disdain. His hair is wilting in the moist air. He’s calculating the damage of pulling on a branded campaign hat to save a bit of his dignity when his dad says his name, into the microphone, to the cameras, to the audience standing out on the grass. 

“Today’s my son David’s birthday,” Johnny’s voice booms from the stage. There’s a smattering of applause, a soundtrack to the way David’s stomach is plummeting. “Yes, yes, thank you. I know how old he is, but I won’t tell you - he likes to play that close to the vest. Like denying it will keep him young. If we’ve learned anything from my opponent, it’s that denial gets you nowhere!” 

There’s a big laugh, some raucous cheers. Maybe this is okay - maybe he’s just using David’s birthday as a setpiece for a joke or a lead-in to a sweet domestic story that will show why Johnny Rose is still the man for the job. 

“... When I became your president,” his dad is saying, “it felt a bit like adopting 300 million children. Suddenly all of your families, their dinners, their jobs, their happiness, all of it was in my care. But I was prepared for that. What I didn’t expect was how this job would also bring me closer to my own children.” 

Oh no oh no oh no. Johnny’s turning from the podium, looking at David standing in the wings. David widens his eyes and shakes his head, but Johnny’s smiling. Fuck

“Having Alexis and David back under my roof, seeing them every day, seeing them involve themselves in the concerns of our great nation, has been the greatest joy of my first term.” 

“Can you punch me?” David asks Blaire in desperation as he passes with a clipboard. “Just - just really deck me. So I pass out, or at the very least lose a few teeth and get a black eye and cannot go out on that stage ?” 

“And I’m so delighted,” Johnny’s still fucking talking , and the crowd’s rumbling with approval, “to have David here with me today, on his birthday. And I feel like it’s the right moment to announce that as of today, and going forward into our second term, David will be stepping into a new role as our Special Advisor for Arts and Culture! David Rose, everyone! Come on out here, David!” 

Hands are shoving him up the rickety steps because he can’t move on his own. The lights the local station brought are blinding. He’s not ready for this, he hasn’t prepared, what the fuck was his dad thinking, he hasn’t even had a chance to tell Patrick about this-

He makes it through, somehow, despite not having a speech, despite not having a single thought in his head, despite wanting to vomit all over the eager faces in the front row. The crowd doesn’t respond to him like they do for Johnny, but they applaud and cheer nonetheless, and he doesn’t die. 

He does drink about it, though. In the hotel bar that night, the space cleared by his security team, he has a glass of rye to take the edge off, hoping it’ll keep his hands from shaking and his stomach from churning. Then he needs another glass for the headache. Then a third just for the taste.

“A Cosmopolitan, please.” 

Oh good, he’s now conjuring hallucinations of Patrick. Understandable, given the alcohol and the itching anxiety of why did this happen and what will Patrick say and have I had my last kiss with him forever

“You’re a shit hallucination,” he slurs, twisting sideways on his stool to confront not-Patrick. “Why the fuck are you ordering my drink?” 

“Because you’re drinking mine,” hallucination Patrick says calmly. He reaches to take David’s glass, his fingers rubbing David’s as he does so. 

Fuck . “You’re actually here.” 

“I am.” Patrick’s lips are shining with his sip of rye. David wants to taste it. David wants it to be his last meal. 


Patrick shrugs. He looks too damn good in the pale yellow light of the bar; it shouldn’t be flattering for anyone. “It’s your birthday.” 

As if that’s an explanation. “It’s not,” he grumps. “It’s not, and I’d like to be alone right now.” 

“Okay.” Patrick glances around; the bartender is respectfully wiping glasses at the far end of the bar, out of earshot. “Let’s go up to your room then.” 

No ,” David says emphatically. He sets the glass down too hard, missing the coaster; the sharp clink digs a furrow between Patrick’s pretty pale eyebrows. “Not alone with you. Alone .” 

“Ah.” Patrick bows his head and looks down at his hands, which David realizes are holding some kind of pink box, like a take-out container from a tea party. “If that’s what you really want-” 

“It’s not.” Fuck the whiskey. “Wanna be with you.” Fuck the fucking whiskey and all its fucking honesty-lubrication. 


Up in the room, David tries to crowd Patrick up against the door. Annoyingly, Patrick guides David’s questing hands away from the tantalizing juncture of Patrick’s pants and leads him over to the bed. That could still hold promise - except that he leaves David there to fill a glass with water and then insists he drink it, stroking David’s hair coaxingly with each sip. 

“Did I do something wrong?” Patrick finally murmurs. 

David snorts. “My dad.” 

The fingers on David’s earlobe still. “I...did your dad?” 

“Ew! Fuck.” He tries to set the half-full glass on the bed; Patrick swipes it away before it can fall. “My dad. Everything wrong. Me wrong, but. What’s new.” 

“Your dad’s speech today?” 

“Mm!” David points up at Patrick in confirmation, catching his chin with a fingertip. “That’s the one.” 

“I gathered from your owl-in-headlights expression at the podium that it wasn’t planned, but-” 

“Oh goodie, you watched it,” David mutters darkly. 

“Yeah, Ray pulled it up for me on the plane down here, seemed to think I’d get a kick out of it-” 

Fuck ,” David groans, falling backwards, tumbling onto his side, trying to curl up so tightly that he’ll disappear. 

“Not yet, honey.” Patrick’s strong hands are back, squeezing his shoulders, supporting him back to a seated position. David hangs his head and pouts at the gross hotel carpet. “Why did your dad bring you out if you didn’t discuss it beforehand?” 

“The hell should I know?” David exclaims. “He was all it’s his birthday and this is so exciting and it’s a reward but you know what I think it really was?” He narrows his eyes and makes a grab for Patrick’s shirt to pull him in; he gets the tough muscle of his forearm instead. “Fucking poll numbers. They got a bunch of numbers showing that he’s down, and he panicked, and thought fuck it, might as well see if my fucking son can do something about this. As if!” He blew a raspberry against the palm of his hand. 

“Your dad’s poll numbers are down?” 

“It’s fine.” David’s sweater suddenly feels too itchy; he wriggles out of Patrick’s steadying grip to work it up and over his head. “Half of those things are fake. The media needs the excitement, the compelling fucking narrative or whatever fucking shit. It’ll all be fine in a day or two.” His shoulder gets stuck in the neck of his sweater and he gives up. He can’t afford to stretch the fabric. “You know the worst part?” he chuckles darkly at Patrick, because maybe it’ll hurt less if he laughs as he says it. “There’s a part of me that thinks at least I’m useful . Isn’t that pathetic? My dad twisted my birthday and my contribution to serve his own fucking purposes but there’s a part of me that’s grateful to be needed.” 

Patrick squats now, running his hands up and down David’s tense thighs. Looking down at him, David feels powerful and listened to; he doesn’t like it. 

“That’s not pathetic, first of all,” Patrick murmurs. “And what if - do you think it’s possible that your dad is just... proud of you? And he wanted to celebrate and acknowledge you on your birthday?”

“With public humiliation? ” 

Patrick’s lips tip sideways, all amused affection. “By giving you the gift he would want to receive,” he suggests gently. 

Well fuck.

“Ew,” he says half-heartedly, feeling more sober already.

“I think the syllable you’re looking for is oh ,” Patrick provides. He reaches up to tweak David’s nose and it’s - it’s too much like Alexis’s boops, too comfortable. “Followed by wow Patrick, you’re so right and wise and smart -” 

“Okay,” David groans, shoving Patrick’s shoulder so he topples backwards onto his ass. “It’s still my birthday, you big jerk. I don’t deserve to be teased.” 

“You deserve to have people be proud of you, though.” It’s like he was created for an after school special. “Including me.” 

“Ew!” David repeats. 

Laughing, Patrick makes a lunge for David, who squirms sideways, rolling off the bed and onto the carpet. Patrick crawls over to him, pinning his already-acquiescent arms to the rug, trapping his legs with his own. 

“You do,” he says, and he finally kisses David. David arches off the floor into it. “And I am.” 

“Why?” David asks breathlessly, because the alcohol is still making him stupid. “Why are you proud? I - this Arts and Culture thing, it’s - I used you to get it, I’m only getting it because I agreed to the whole - fake-friends thing, with you, and then I didn’t even tell you-” 

“So what?” Patrick’s partially-unbuttoned shirt is falling open directly in David’s eyeline; he’s never appreciated male cleavage quite as much as he does with Patrick. “So you made the best of a challenging situation. So you got something you wanted. You’re not hurting anyone in that.” 

“But shouldn’t you be mad?” He’d been drinking about this too, in the hotel bar. Drinking to drown the expectation of Patrick’s anger. “Why are you so - so -”

Patrick scoots backwards off David’s legs until he’s sitting on his butt again. Like he doesn’t want to overpower David for this next bit. “I think,” he says carefully, “that you’re used to people reacting badly when you advocate for yourself.” 

Of course , he wants to say. Because I’m selfish , he wants to tell the stain on the ceiling, which is easier to look at than Patrick. Because asking for things means taking things

“Sometimes I wish I could be mad at you, David,” Patrick admits. “Sometimes I am mad at you, of course, for real stuff or for totally irrational stuff. But this is not one of those times. I’m proud of you. I think it’s great that you have something you care about. If our one-sided enmity turned fake friendship helped you move towards that something, I’m glad I could be of help.” 

David stares at the ceiling a while longer, the rye filtering out of his head, Patrick sitting silently at his feet. He feels a little distorted by the lack of a fight, which he’s spent the afternoon anticipating; he feels both discombobulated and strangely settled by the way Patrick has reordered his worst-case-scenario thoughts. He also feels a little guilty for the way he’d yelled at his dad in the car after they’d left the venue. Fuck, the come-down from a good drinking binge is the worst. 

Eventually Patrick rubs his ankle and stands. “C’mon, I only have - fifteen minutes left of your birthday. I want to celebrate.” 

The pink box, it turns out, contains an oversized cupcake - “Isn’t that just a cake, then?” - from the best bakery in downtown San Antonio. Patrick lights a candle - “Just one, because you won’t tell me how old you really are” - and sings “Happy Birthday” to David, low and throaty and a little twangy, and it shouldn’t turn David on but of course it does. He makes David sit there, wildly uncomfortable and aroused and emotional, for the full performance. 

The cupcake is one of the best David has ever had. This is due in large part to the fact that he licks most of the icing off of Patrick’s body, but it’s also just a really fucking good dessert. 

They wake the next morning to a pounding. Not the type David would like - though after the previous night, his dick might require a week to recuperate - or the type he expects and was planning to take aspirin for, but rather someone knocking urgently on the door. 

“Rose, you better get your ass up and out of that bed-” 

 “Is she allowed to talk to you that way?” Patrick mumbles into David’s neck, seemingly unconcerned that Ronnie’s on the other side of the very thin door. 

“Technically, no, but I’ve been told I’m a handful and Ronnie’s the only one who can put up with me, so-” 

“Mm, you sure are a handful,” Patrick chuckles, groping under the covers. 

“David Rose, you have thirty seconds to get some clothes on and open this door for me or I’m using my copy of the keycard-” 

“Shit,” they say in unison, scrambling out of opposite sides of the bed. In all their months of doing this, they’ve managed to keep Ronnie in the dark, mainly through Ray’s cooperation. They’ve had creative ways to explain their meetings and appearances, but it would be a bit hard to deny the glaring truth of Patrick naked in David’s bed. 

David flings Patrick’s boxers at his head, grabbing the rest of their abandoned clothes and shoving them into the open wardrobe. For good measure, he shoves Patrick in there too, ignoring his indignant expression. He’s only just managed to wrap the hotel bathrobe around himself before there’s a whoosh and a click and Ronnie’s barging in. 

“You’re already thirty minutes late for your morning briefing, your majesty,” she barks. She draws up short in the middle of the room and frowns around. “This place is a mess, even for you. Did you have someone here last night, Rose?” 

“No!” David squeaks. 

“Then why are you smiling like that?” 

“I’m not smiling! Nothing about this is funny,” he assures her. 

“Hmmph.” Her eyes dart to every corner, but she thankfully doesn’t investigate the trash can, where she’d find a suspicious number of condoms, or the bathroom, where two glasses and two toothbrushes and two sets of towels have clearly been used. “You know I gotta get anyone to sign an NDA before anything happens.” 

“Nothing happened, Ronnie. I - I swear.” 

“Fine. But now that you’re up, you got five minutes to make yourself presentable.” 

“You know I can’t-”

Five minutes .” 

She turns to go and nearly runs into the edge of the wardrobe door, which has been creeping open. She shoves it shut, which provokes a conspicuous oof

David winces; Ronnie freezes. She turns painfully slowly to look at him, her eyes wide. 

“David. Rose. I swear to god-” 

Patrick chooses this moment to tumble out of the wardrobe, clad only in low-slung boxers and a vivid flush all down his chest. 

Ronnie tilts her head to the ceiling, hands clasped before her. “Queen Beyonce, give me strength.” 

“I can - I can explain!” David chokes out, forcing a laugh. “You’re gonna laugh yourself right out of Texas on this one. It’s not at all what it looks like-” 

“Really?” Ronnie demands. “Because it looks like you’re having sexual relations with a foreign national who also happens to be the son of a foreign leader.” 

David thinks about denying it, he really does. Maybe they were working out together? Or David was giving Patrick fashion advice, doing some fittings, hence Patrick’s state of undress. But - honestly, who are they kidding. Patrick has no good reason to be in the country, let alone in David’s wardrobe. “I - okay, yes. It’s exactly what it looks like.” 

Patrick edges carefully around Ronnie to move closer to David. He wants so badly to grab Patrick’s arm, pull him against his side for comfort and solidarity. But Ronnie looks like she might combust if either of them so much as twitch, so he twines his fingers in the low-quality material of the bathrobe and waits for the hammer. 

“How long?” 

David doesn’t need to ask for clarification. “Um. Six months.” Happy anniversary, he wants to say to Patrick. 

“Six-” The veins around Ronnie’s eyes are popping out. “You mean to tell me- Ooooh, Rose, I just might have to kill you for this one.” 

“Wouldn’t that require you to, like, tackle yourself? Eliminate the threat?” he asks, because he apparently has a death wish. 

Ronnie takes a few deep breaths, then yanks out her phone and begins typing furiously. “Okay, we don’t have time to deal with this right now. You have to be at a junket in an hour and traffic’s hell. Just-” She looks up at the both of them, and for maybe the first time David sees her as intensely human, behind all her professional duties. He doesn’t pity her, exactly, but he feels for her nonetheless. “Just one question, kid. Because I have to ask. Would it make any difference if I told you not to see him again?” 

David looks at Patrick, who’s looking back at him all bare and vulnerable. “No,” he whispers. 

After a quick one-on-one with Ronnie - who seems determined to hate Patrick, which David would find hilarious under any other circumstances - he manages to convince her not to say anything to the Brewers or the rest of the Canadian delegation. She looks like she’s having a silent conniption when she learns Ray has known all along, but she still agrees. 

He can do nothing, though, to restrain her from telling the President and First Lady. His parents. 

So he says a rueful, hurried goodbye to Patrick, moves mechanically through the rest of his events for the day, and then flies back to Washington for the second most awkward family meeting of his life. 


“I thought you hated Patrick!” his dad exclaims, for probably the third time. 

“I thought so too.” 

“But David, weren’t you dating the lead from Hamilton ?” his mother breaks in. 

“Okay, I’d hardly call King George the lead , and that was like six years ago . Even my fling with Halle was more recent than that.” 

Amidst the inane and honestly largely irrelevant questions that are occupying his parents, they don’t seem to notice that Alexis is quiet, that she’d chosen to sit next to David, that she hasn’t looked at her phone once in the whole conversation. He’d asked for her to be there for this, which they should probably find strange too, but there are enough crises to distract them. 

“Well,” Moira sighs, “I suppose I’d best call Marcy and request a tete-a-tete. Best to get ahead of this.” 

“You can’t do that,” David says quickly. 

“Why? Has it already leaked?” Johnny demands, pulling out his phone, as if he has any idea where to look for that kind of gossip. 

“Has it already ended, dear?” Moira asks confidentially, leaning across the table. 

No ,” David growls; is it possible for a hangover to hit twenty-four hours after drinking, or is this just the pain of interacting with his family? “None of that. You can’t call Marcy and you can’t get ahead of this because... Patrick’s not out to his parents.” 

A beat. Then, “Oh, son,” Johnny says, full of a pity that wounds and moves David all at once. 

“No,” he says hastily, rearing his head back, waving his hands, wanting everything to slow down. “It’s not like that, it’s not anything like that, thanks so much. That’s not what this is.” 

“But-” Johnny exchanges a look with his wife. “David, you’ve been seeing Patrick for six months and he hasn’t told his parents about you? That seems awfully-” 

“It’s not about me,” David insists, surprised to find he believes it deeply. “It’s about Patrick, and his family, and him taking the time he needs to figure stuff out. Would I prefer that we didn’t have to keep it a secret? Sure. But we’re not even, like, together together? And I’m more concerned about him feeling, like... safe.” 

Johnny’s silent again, and David’s afraid to look up. 

“I’m sorry, David,” his dad says at last. 

“You don’t have to-” he starts. He’s so over this, can they move to the part where he has consequences, where they treat him like an adult-

“No, I’m sorry, truly. Of course you know more about this than I do. I’ll follow your lead on how to handle this.” 

That’s - that’s really not what David expected. 

“Oh,” he says helplessly. 

Alexis nudges him; her small, pleased smile threatens to undo him. 

“Thank - thank you,” he manages delicately. 

Moira, of all people, looks as if she’s about to cry, which is really a sign that they need to move on. 

“Um. As for the, uh, the other stuff.” David twists his rings, wanting them to burn his skin. “I know this could be a danger to the campaign. Me and Patrick. Not because - well. If it came out, there might be, um, a liability, an issue of national security or favoritism or whatever-”

“Oh, it’s all of that,” Johnny chuckles. “Believe me, Jocelyn and I will be having a lengthy planning session later this afternoon to figure out legality and whatnot. My brain hurts just thinking about it.” 

“You’ll - you’ll figure it out?” 

“We will,” Moira says. Here they are, the President and the First Lady, a united front. The way the world sees them. Just - softer. Looking at him with something suspiciously warm in their eyes. “That’s our job, David. To figure things out for this government and this country, but also, first and foremost, to protect our children’s happiness.” 

“And we’re happy you’re happy,” Johnny adds. 

And fuck, he hates how much that means to him. He doesn’t know what to do with their empathy and their awkward hugs and the way things keep...working out. And he can’t very well tell them that he and Patrick are just fuckbuddies and this will all come crashing down soon. He can’t tell them that. He can barely tell himself. 

“Okay. Well.” This all feels very unsettled and unfinished to him. “Are you sure you don’t want to, like, ground me, or something? Give me some kind of consequence. Or, like, penance, or something.” 

“David,” his mother declares, drawing herself up to her full height, “ go to your room !” 

She and Johnny laugh; maybe the stress of the last few years really has done them in. 

“Okay, thanks so much,” he simpers. “I was going there anyway, so.”

Chapter Text

“So I think this is the year,” Alexis gushes from the passenger seat. 

From the bit of Stevie’s profile that David can see from back here, she looks immensely grateful to have the excuse of driving for not engaging with Alexis. As if Alexis has ever needed a conversation partner to have a conversation. 

“I really think this is it,” she persists, twisting a bit in her seat to look back at David and Patrick. She’s probably texting Ted in the car behind them, not even looking at the screen as she texts and talks and beams. Thank god he hadn’t let her drive. “I’m pretty sure I’ve perfected the balance between getting the optimal tan without damaging my skin. It’s like a six-part process, but Gwyneth sounded open to featuring it in the newsletter.” 

David smirks and looks out over the water. Someone else can take this one. 

They’re streaming down the causeway in a Jeep convertible with the top down. He’d protested that it would fuck up his hair, but the other three had shouted, “VACATION TIME,” over him and started blasting obnoxious, forgettable, summery pop, and well, he doesn’t hate it. He can always redo his hair when they get to the house. 

The national convention is next week, the official kickoff of the final, non-stop, buckle-down phase of the reelection campaign. Whatever remains of summer after that will be eaten up by speeches and crisis meetings, so David’s taking them all to the Roses’ beach house on an island in the Caribbean for a week. Okay, it’s not technically in the Caribbean: it belongs to Florida, Johnny’s concession to the legal issues of an American president owning foreign property. But Florida being incorrect in every way David can enumerate, they all pretend it’s in the Caribbean instead of the Gulf of Mexico. And it’s not really an island, either. They’re driving over the peninsular bit of it now, deliciously salty breezes from either direction, the swell of land on the end making the whole thing look like an oversized old-fashioned thermometer. 

But fuck, it doesn’t matter, because it’s theirs, just theirs, for a whole fucking week. Them and their security teams, including Ronnie, who hates Patrick and is barely speaking to David, in the most professional way possible. But it’s the most alone and anonymous and relaxed and normal any of them will probably get to be for a long time. 

He pulls out his phone to take a surreptitious video - Stevie’s hair rippling back through the headrest, Alexis’s hand waving outside the car in an approximation of the tempo of the music, Patrick beside him, already looking sunkissed. Before he can put the phone away, he gets distracted and clicks into his email, but Patrick smacks his hand. 

“Vacation time, David,” he growls. 

David smooshes his lips together and considers making a business call, just to see what Patrick will do. But Patrick’s right. They’ve all been working too hard. David’s been receiving inquiries and suggestions, hundreds of them, since his dad surprise-announced the Arts and Culture position. Many of them are easy, outright nos; some are more reluctant rejections, like the partnership that would highlight the importance of quality journalism but which Jocelyn had felt would seem too much like a conflict of interest. The rest David has to sort through, one, two, ten times to find the pearls. There are more ideas than they’ll be able to use, which he’d never expected, which is such a good problem to have. 

Alexis, meanwhile, has recently passed her online college courses. The classes being over hasn’t stopped her from speaking in faux-academic babble half the time. Patrick’s been drowning in paperwork for some foundation he’s hoping to set up, and Stevie has proven to be so good at managing her aunt’s schedule and travel that she’s muttered, reluctantly, about doing something like that full-time in the future. 

They’re all on the precipice of something great, he can feel it. The ocean air swells with it. He wishes he could shake the sense that there’s also a tinge of ending to all of it, but. He’s used to a certain creeping unsettledness in his everyday. 

The sight of the house nearly serves to banish that malaise. They haven’t been here in years , but Shannon’s clearly been maintaining it. It’s stunning, a long, low villa in the local Spanish style, the outside walls a pink so pale as to be inoffensive. Bougainvillea and palm trees and dark green ferns make the house pop, the red of its roof and accents and the blue of the infinity pool almost technicolor. Mere feet from the edge of the pool is their own private beach, the ocean stretched out, waiting for them. 

Patrick slides across the whole bench so he can get out on the same side of the car as David. “Well, I’ll be,” he says, in that understated way Patrick has of being overwhelmed. He grins and claps David on the shoulder. “This is stunning.” 

“You get used to it,” Stevie snarks, already lugging her bag into the house to claim the best bedroom. David doesn’t mind; the second-best bedroom has a bigger bed, which he needs now, having someone with whom to share it. 

The others arrive mere minutes later. The security teams spread out to surreptitiously stand guard at perimeters and corners and in shadows. Twyla and Rachel run down to the surf in their flip-flops and sundresses; Ted plucks a flower from a vine and offers it to Alexis, explaining something about stamen and pollen and other nerdy stuff that shouldn’t make Alexis glow like that. David envies her: Ted’s Canadian, but no one will care, if this goes anywhere. They’ll just be two people dating. No conflict of interest. No secrets. 

“I can’t wait to kiss you all over this place,” Patrick whispers, sliding his hand into David’s back pocket now that no one’s watching. “I’m going to kiss you in the pool. On the deck chairs. Up against the side of the house. In the outdoor shower. I’m going to kiss you as the waves break over us and the sand gets in your toes.” 

Someday we’ll come back here, just the two of us, David stops himself from saying. Even if he can’t quite stop himself from thinking it. We’ll come back just the two of us and we can spend the whole day in our swim trunks and you can do more than kiss me. Everywhere, anytime. And no one will care . He can’t say it, because it can never happen. 



For the sake of appearances, Patrick drops his luggage in a bedroom on the first floor, while David continues upstairs. Ted and Twyla are the only people on this trip who technically don’t know about their ongoing dalliance, but David’s not convinced even Ted and Twyla are that oblivious. Still, for the sake of appearances. 

Patrick joins him in the second-best bedroom having changed into what David believes are called board shorts and a loose short-sleeved button-up over a white tank top. He looks like he goes fishing with his crew and owns a jetski and hits on girls in the local dive bar over cheap beer and peanuts. But he doesn’t. Because he’s too busy hitting on David. 

Pushing open the French doors to the balcony, Patrick blows out a hefty breath. “This is amazing, David. Truly.” 

“Mm.” Midway through changing into his own, markedly less frat bro beach outfit, he sidles up behind Patrick and slides an arm around his waist. “In the morning we can watch the sunrise over the ocean from bed.” 

Patrick twists to capture his lips so that David isn’t sure who’s holding whom. He wants Patrick to throw him roughly on the neatly-made bed; he also wants to keep kissing forever, just like this, Patrick’s fingers gentle as the breeze stirring the curtains. He’s been filled with these competing impulses lately. Wanting every incompatible thing at once. 

“C’mon,” Patrick murmurs, tapping David’s hip lightly with the towel he’d brought. “Finish getting dressed so we can join the others.” 

“Don’t wanna join the others,” David gripes. He knows his pouts aren’t nearly as effective as Patrick’s, but he tries anyway, toying with the buttons on Patrick’s shirt for good measure. “Wanna stay in here with you. Put that bed to use.” 

“Soon,” Patrick whispers with a kiss to David’s nose. “Ted said something about margaritas.” 

That gets David moving, and it ends up not only being true but being a major underselling of the actual situation. When they get down to the cool, tiled kitchen, Ted’s making ginger hibiscus margaritas, Rachel’s been inspired to try her hand at aperol spritzes, and Stevie’s ‘contributing’ by mixing beer and lemonade in a pitcher and calling it shandy. Twyla shows them some pouring tricks she’d picked up in her days in food service - “How is this different from normal pouring?” David mutters to Patrick and gets an elbow in the ribs - and tries to drop a few raisins in a bottle of wine Alexis has opened but is fortunately thwarted. 

They carry all the drinks, plus pitchers of water and bowls of chips, down to the pool. Patrick sprawls in one of the deck chairs like a fucking teenage dream, the shadowed underside of his bent knee taunting David. David perches carefully on a nearby woven straw pouf and sips - okay, inhales - his drink, promising himself he’ll lick the sweat from Patrick’s tantalizingly exposed biceps later. 

When Stevie tugs off her sheer wrap to apply sunscreen, Patrick chuckles. 

“What?” Stevie demands, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“I just realized,” he says hastily, “that I’ve been expecting your bathing suit to be flannel. Or at the very least plaid.” 

Everybody laughs, even Stevie, who dips a foot in the pool to splash in Patrick’s general direction. David grins over at Patrick, who’s looking pleased with himself, pink with attention and alcohol and sun. 

“I lo-” David starts to say, on instinct, an instinct he shouldn’t have, has never had before. He catches the words on his tongue. It’s the first time they’ve made it into his mouth. He knows he can’t keep them from appearing from time to time, in his mind, but he’s never tasted them like this before. 

Patrick’s eyes are a little wider than normal. David turns the words into “I...’ll go refill this pitcher” and dashes back to the house as Rachel and Alexis start a game of pool volleyball. 

In the safety of the kitchen, he presses his heated forehead to the refrigerator. He needs to keep it together. He doesn’t actually feel any of that. It’s just all this, the environment, the romantic, erotic, sensual embrace of the island and the house and the ocean. Who wouldn’t be a little bit in love, given all that, in love with everyone and everything? 

“Hey David,” Twyla says from the doorway. 

He jumps and nearly cracks his brow on the refrigerator door handle. “Oh! Hey! It’s me,” he chuckles, swerving awkwardly to open the freezer and pretend like he hasn’t been having a small meltdown. 

“Everything okay?” she asks breezily. She knows it’s not, he knows that, they both know that, but she doesn’t make him feel like he has to do anything about it. 

“Yeah,” he lies. “Mhm. Just - water. Hydration.” 

“Very responsible of you,” she smiles. She’s taken a handful of oranges from the bowl on the counter and is peeling them and putting the wedges onto a plate. There’s a meditative evenness to her movements that he envies. He hesitates a moment to watch her, and so he can only blame himself when she adds, “You’re good for him, you know.” 

“Um - what?” He twists to look behind him. “Who?” 

That same gentle smile, not pitying, but understanding. “You know who. We all know who.” 

“Um.” He clutches the now-filled pitcher in both hands so he can’t feel his palms sweating. “Th- thank you?” 

He’s not used to this. At every turn he expects disaster, and each person who finds out, or figures it out, or asks him, they’re all reacting like this. It’s good. It’s healthy. We’re happy for you

“I’ve never seen him like this.” Twyla still wants to talk about this, apparently. “He kinda glows, you know? Since you two have been together.” 

“We’re not - we’re not together together,” he repeats, from habit, from necessity. 

Twyla considers him, smiles, offers him an orange wedge. “I know. But still.” 

He walks back to the pool in a bit of a daze. The four in the pool have moved onto a game of very shrieky chicken, and Patrick’s stripped off his top, looking ready to jump in. He holds his cup up plaintively to David for a refill, but when David takes it, he sets it aside, sets the pitcher down. Patrick looks up at him, face startled, as David climbs onto the deck chair and grips his face and kisses him, hard and sure. 

“David,” Patrick croaks when they separate. 

“Twyla knows,” David says immediately, like that’s a reasonable explanation for attacking his boyfriend’s innocent mouth. “Which means Ted’s the only one who doesn’t know, if he really doesn’t know yet. And that doesn’t seem fair, to leave him out. So. Fuck it. You looked so kissable and I wanted to kiss you.” 

Patrick glances down at David’s lips, up at his eyes, over at the pool where, judging from the splash and the silence, Ted has fallen off of Rachel’s shoulders in shock. Then Patrick begins to laugh. 

“Yeah,” he beams, and he kisses David the same way, with jarring force, with need. “Fuck it.” 

They somehow cobble dinner together, despite being well past tipsy and collectively not very self-sufficient when it comes to basic life skills. Patrick and Stevie are handy with the grill, Ted’s filled with creative ideas for what to put on the grill, Rachel makes a killer corn salad that Patrick teases is the only dish she knows how to make. They eat on blankets spread on the beach, the tide lapping at their toes. The sun goes down a bit sooner than in Washington, but the evening still seems to stretch, the sky fading into peach skin and lavender before it’s fully dark.  It’s a night David knows he’ll remember forever. 

“Hey,” he says, tugging on Patrick’s shirtsleeve. 

“Yeah, babe?” Patrick hums lazily. David doesn’t know if he’s drunk or just happy, the way he says babe

“Look up.” 

They tip backwards onto the sand with echoed grunts of impact, and Patrick gasps. 


“This is, like, 87% of why I wanted to bring everyone here. Why I wanted to bring you here. On New Year’s Eve, before - before I kissed you, you mentioned-” 

“The stars,” Patrick breathes. “I didn’t think you’d-” 

“I did. Maybe you can tell me what they all are?” 

At some point the others get up and go to bed; Alexis steps over David’s ankle with a wink and a smile. He and Patrick are much slower in bringing the day to an end, and when they do, it’s too late for anything frisky, they’re too tired to do anything but shower together, very platonically, and slip beneath the clean white sheets. Patrick’s body feels warmer than it ever has before, like he’s taken the sun inside and now it’s easing out of him for David to lap up.  

David wakes before Patrick the next morning, which he doesn’t think has happened, ever, with any partner. He hates that it’s so early and that they didn’t have sex last night, but it’s hard to hate anything else about this moment. He’d insisted on closing the doors to the balcony last night, because “ bugs, Patrick! ”, but with the curtains drawn to the side he can still see the first ripples of the sunrise on the grey horizon. And he wants this moment to be perfect, so he slips out from under Patrick’s arm and goes to open the doors. There’s a wind chime somewhere nearby, tinkling prettily in the breeze, more soothing than any ambient noise app he’s ever tried. 

“Hungh?” Patrick grumbles, rolling towards and onto David when he gets back under the sheets. 

“Shhh, go back to sleep, honey,” he whispers, petting Patrick’s hair. 

“Nnnn,” Patrick protests coherently. “Sunrise.” 

“There’ll be another one tomorrow.” 

Patrick tilts his head up for a kiss before nuzzling back into David’s neck. David does fall back asleep eventually, he thinks, but it’s against his will; he’s afraid, maybe for the first time, of falling asleep, because he doesn’t want to sleep this dream away. 

When he wakes again, the world has righted itself, at least in the respect that Patrick is laying beside him, head resting on his bicep, watching David. 

“Creeper,” he mumbles. He tries to tweak Patrick’s nipple but ends up loosely thumbing at his chest instead. 

“I’m just not used to this. Still .” Patrick shakes his head; it looks funny, incorrect, sideways like this. 

“What exactly?” David asks tentatively. 

“Being close to you like this. Being allowed to be this close to you. The way you-” He grins and suddenly dips under David’s jaw, inhaling. “The way you smell, first thing in the morning.” 

“Creeper,” he repeats weakly. 

They make up for the lack of sex the night before; they make up for it in excessive, glorious fashion. Patrick kisses him into the pillows with his whole body wrapped around David like an octopus. And when Patrick asks for it, David fucks him, with fingers and tongue and then buried deep in him, Patrick on his back, glistening with sweat already, his sparse chest hair matted and his throat gulping for air.

And at some point David can’t do it like that anymore. Patrick’s too far away. He shifts backwards, falling out of Patrick, who protests, but then David is pulling him down the bed by his thighs, pulling him right into David’s lap. And they fuck like that, Patrick practically bouncing on David’s thighs, both of them grunting, slick chests slipping against each other. They nearly tumble off the end of the bed at one point but neither of them laughs. That’s different too. They’re different here. They’re more naked in every sense of the word. 

Unbelievably, they not only both recover quickly enough to have sex again , in record time, but David agrees to it, despite not having an ounce of breakfast or coffee in him. It helps that Patrick’s apparently come prepared with a litany of suggestions. He pushes David to his knees and circles the base of his cock with his fingers like a cock ring and then he eats David out until David’s screaming into a pillow, which is the only thing keeping their friends from hearing just how good Patrick has gotten at this. 

When they finally stumble downstairs, recently showered and giggly and sore, everyone else seems to be in a similar state. They’re sprawled on seats in the living room and kitchen and it’s unclear who slept where or with whom. David grins into Patrick’s shoulder and doesn’t tease anyone, though he wants to. He’s just - he’s just really fucking happy. 

After a slapdash breakfast, the others announce they’re going on a day trip to one of the nearby actual islands. David assumes Patrick will want to go and steels himself for the motion sickness he knows he’ll get on the boat, but Patrick says he’s looking for another lazy day. What that means becomes clear the moment the boat has left the dock and Patrick hustles David upstairs and fucks him standing up, like some kind of Canadian energizer bunny. (Is that a vibrator David can patent? He’ll need a pseudonym.) He feels like they’re on some reality dating show and everyone else has left for a group date but he’s secretly won, because he gets to have the whole island alone with the hottest contestant. 

Apparently private paradise is an aphrodisiac for Patrick. That’s not new, precisely; David is used to people being turned on by his wealth and what it can offer them. What’s new is the way they bring cheese and crackers and jam and celery upstairs and have lunch like that on the balcony before falling back into bed together. What’s new is the way they try to bake a fruit pie before the others get home but just end up covered in flour and juice and the smell of smoke. What’s new is the way they fall laughing over each other when Stevie and Ted grimace at the smell of the burning pie, the way Patrick kisses him delightedly despite their failure, the way they all eat the terrible fucking pie anyway. 

“With enough ice cream you can ‘ardly tell,” Rachel says around a mouthful. 

Patrick snorts; Stevie says sagely, “A good approach to life.” 

They all cheers to that. 

He and Patrick do join the others for a few outings, including a nature walk that Ted usurps from the park ranger and a surfing lesson that’s largely a flop because the waters are too calm. David doesn’t recognize himself. Okay, that’s a stretch - he still complains the whole time, and Alexis nearly makes him leave the nature walk because of his whining, but he still goes on these little trips and even enjoys some of them. 

Most of their sex is electric. Some of it comes from some unhinged part of Patrick’s mind, like when he’s not even drunk and yet he spends their whole hookup making cartoonish sound effects. David wants to kick him out of bed for that, but, fuck, maybe Patrick’s never felt comfortable being such an embarrassing goofball during sex. Neither of them ends up coming that time, but. Well. David’s ideas of good sex are changing too. Another time Patrick starts singing a Miley Cyrus original and dares David to make him stop; Patrick lasts surprisingly long into the resultant blowjob before his voice gives out entirely. 

He sings a lot, actually, when David thinks about it. He hums in the outdoor shower after he’s been swimming in the ocean. He sings a wordless melody when he charges into the room after a good run and plants a messy kiss to David’s forehead. He fucking belts when they sing Youtube karaoke on the porch one evening, but then again, they all do. 

Between all the sex and these small adventures, everything is quietly domestic. On just the second night that they’re there, David puts on his glasses after dinner without even thinking about it. Patrick freezes with a popsicle halfway to his lips but shakes his head when David asks what’s wrong; it takes David a full hour to realize what he’s done. He probably wouldn’t have realized at all except that Patrick’s fingertips, curling through David’s hair as they read side by side, bump the edge of David’s frames. Oh , he thinks, fighting the frisson of panic, fighting its sister frisson of calm. 

Patrick works out by the pool most mornings, lifting water bottles he’s filled with sand in lieu of actual weights and doing exercises David thinks would be classified as calisthenics. Even Ted comes out to ogle him sometimes. Patrick also apparently knows how to sew, at least well enough to darn his own socks, which he does one day while David argues with Rachel and Twyla about something he promptly forgets when he sees Patrick’s tongue sticking out and the tiny needle between his thick fingers. 

(“Why the fuck did you bring your sewing kit on vacation?” 

“You never know when you’ll need it!” 

“You’re such a fucking Boy Scout.”

“How many different pairs of shoes did you pack, David?”

“That’s different . That’s preparing for reasonable eventualities.”

“Ooh. Talk eventualities to me, David.”) 


David’s never been the biggest fan of swimming. He knows that partially comes from the judgemental performance art it had been with some of his former friends, as well as a healthy dose of fear of drowning. But they only have two days left and he’s only worn one of his three cutest pairs of swim trunks. So when Patrick sloshes up from the beach on their second-to-last night and stands at the foot of the porch steps, glistening in the moonlight and pulling David away from the others, he goes with only the required minimum protests. 

“See how the water’s still warm?” Patrick grins, sinking down into the shallows so the small waves are almost up to his neck. 

“Are you sure you didn’t just pee?” David crosses his arms over his chest and looks down at his - at Patrick. He wants a little more coaxing, wheedling, wooing. 

“No, I did that over there.” Patrick gestures to somewhere further down the beach, grinning when David rolls his eyes. “C’mon, I miss you.” 

I miss you . He wants to say I’m standing right here , but he knows what Patrick means. 

Hesitantly, he steps out until Patrick can curl his fingers around one of David’s ankles. It feels - god, it shouldn’t make him want to explode the way that it does. The air’s heavy, inexplicably, and he wonders if it’s just him. It bears him down as he carefully lowers himself to sit in the shallows with Patrick. 

“Float with me? Ray will rescue us if we go out too far.” 

“Why do I not find that comforting?” David grumbles. Still, he lets Patrick guide him out into the dark water. He hasn’t told Patrick he’s not a big fan of swimming. He thinks Patrick knows, somehow; something about his gentle hands suggests he knows. Maybe Patrick doesn’t even know what he knows, but he knows it. 

Their lips are wet and salty when they kiss, Patrick supporting them both. A wave of that yes, this, forever washes over him again and he nearly sobs into the kiss, he wants forever so badly, and he can’t have it. And this time the words are fully formed, sitting there on his tongue, bitter and swollen. I love you

Because he does. He’s in love with Patrick. And it’s too much. He has to save them both from this. Even if they tried this, even if it did work for a while, even if Patrick felt the same, eventually Patrick would lose interest, or fall out of love, and it would hurt him as much as David. It would hurt him so much to have to hurt David. It was always going to hurt me , he thinks, even as Patrick carries him in the water, even as he tucks his face into Patrick’s wet neck. It was always going to hurt me, but it doesn’t have to hurt him too. 

David knows he wouldn’t survive the heartbreak and humiliation of a public break-up with Patrick. Better to do it now, before a million tabloids capture the fucking obvious love in his eyes. Before Patrick has another chance to be overwhelmed and withdraw. Before David has a chance to fuck this up with all his unwelcome feelings.

Maybe this has always been the plan. He’s always viewed the national convention as the unofficial expiration date of their fake friendship anyway; maybe he’d chosen this particular week for this vacation as a farewell of sorts. 

He’s spiraling, he knows that, and he knows he should count back from one hundred or take some deep breaths but Patrick’s looking at him with concern and all he can do is get through the rest of the night without giving anything away. Because he loves Patrick, but he’s also a coward who can’t end this to Patrick’s face. 

Instead, he slips away in the morning. Patrick wakes as David is getting out of bed, but David whispers, “I’m just going for a walk,” and sleep-addled Patrick apparently accepts that as an activity David would ever willingly do alone at the ass-crack of dawn. 

He grabs only a few necessities. Alexis or Stevie or someone will make sure the rest of his belongings get back to the White House. He can’t risk Patrick waking up. He knows he’s doing to Patrick what dozens of people have done to him, to David, for years, running away in the grey light of mornings after. 

What he hasn’t factored in is Ted. 

“Hey bud!” Ted greets him eagerly, stretching his arms above his head as he prepares for a run. “Where are you off to?” 

“The - the store,” David manages. “The grocery store, yeah. Gonna get us some more supplies. For. Things.” 

“Oh! Do you want me to come? I could jog ahead and then back to you-” 

“Thanks, Ted,” David says desperately, glancing back at the house. If Patrick were to come out now, bleary-eyed and hair ruffled and feet bare, David doesn’t think he could go through with it. Please come downstairs, Patrick . No, don’t come downstairs. Do please come downstairs . Fuck. “I got it, though. I’ll see you when I get back.” 

In the end, he’s grateful it’s just Ted he runs into. Any of the others would’ve felt that something was off. Rachel would’ve shouted at him, maybe. Stevie would’ve punched him in the balls, if he were lucky. Alexis probably would’ve fucking hugged him. Strangely, he wishes Twyla had been out there. Fuck. Breaking up with Patrick means ruining all of this as well. 

Ronnie doesn’t ask any follow-up questions when he begs her to drive him to the airport. She’s silent, and he doesn’t cry, and maybe if she keeps driving for a few more days, his world will stop ending.

Chapter Text

David doesn’t make it to the national convention. 

The whole point of viewing it as the end date of his not-quite-a-relationship with Patrick was to make himself available, emotionally and temporally, for the convention and all the campaign events to follow. And he hasn’t even managed to do that right. He’s walked out on Patrick and, apparently, somehow, himself. Like the version of himself he’d become was really just his shadow all along, and it’s gone, and he’s a disjointed, incomplete person now. 

He doesn’t want to spend a week moping. He really doesn’t. He loathes himself for every second that he stares at the wall from his blanket cocoon. He misses being excited for meals. He knows how pathetic it is that he doesn’t even want to watch TV. He doesn’t even feel like taking pills or drinking this away. Fuck, the last thing he’d ever want is to lose his center, his personal axis, over a fucking ex again. He makes a point of rebounding hard when people fuck him over. But this is - Don’t you dare say different , he warns himself. This is your own fucking fault.

He doesn’t know if Patrick has been trying to contact him. Unlike in January, after that first kiss - if only I never kissed him , he thinks wistfully, not meaning it one bit - he doesn’t check his phone at all. Not for phone calls, not the news, not the auction sites he usually peruses for art just to make himself feel better. He turned his phone off on the way back from Florida. Or maybe it had died and he never charged it. He doesn’t remember. It doesn’t matter much anyway. 

Unable to pull from his phone’s music library, he listlessly spins the dial on the retro radio he still keeps around until he finds a local station that’s appropriately morose. Who listens to this regularly, he wonders? Who’s sitting in their cubicle in downtown Arlington or Reston or, like, Quantico, tuning in to these ballads and not immediately walking into traffic? 

Maybe he hopes Alexis will steal his speakers, like last time. In his more lucid moments, he can recognize that he wants someone to care that he’s spiralling beyond a salvageable point. And Alexis is not only physically closer than ever before, she’s - he thinks she’s - they’re - fuck, they’re genuinely closer, as people, emotionally, than ever before. So maybe he wants her to notice. Maybe he plays the music a little louder than even he’s comfortable with. Nothing more pathetic than asking for help, right? And he’s definitely pathetic. 

When Alexis finally shows up, midway through the chorus of “I Will Always Love You” that usually gets David up on his feet to belt along, she doesn’t take his speakers away. She doesn’t touch them, or the radio dial. She doesn’t throw a shoe at his head, which he’d kind of been hoping for. And she’s brought Stevie. 

“Oh no,” he says flatly when they’ve reached the side of his bed and are standing over him. “What do you two bridge trolls want?” 

He knows what they should tell him. That he’s an embarrassment. That he should get a grip. Grow up. Move on. This happens, it’s life, he’s young, anyone could’ve seen this coming, blah blah blah. Plenty of fish in the goddamn sea. He should go out and rebound. Forget about Patrick. Forget about who David was with Patrick. 

He waits for them to say any of this. They don’t. They just stand there, looking at him.

“What am I, a fucking panda in the zoo?” he demands. “Have you brought me my noontime bamboo?” 

They glance at each other, and oh no, they’ve rehearsed this. It’s an intervention. Fuck. 

He’s about to burrow more deeply into the covers, so that maybe they won’t be able to see him and will therefore forget he’s here, but then the song changes. It’s a bit more upbeat, but it’s so much worse.  

There’s a pale moon in the sky

The kind you make your wishes on

Oh, like the light in your eyes

The one I built my dreams on-

“No!” he shouts, sitting upright. Stevie and Alexis take a step back. “ No! Make it stop!” 

It's not there any longer

Something happened somewhere and we both know why

But me, I'm getting stronger

We must stop pretending

I can't live this life-

Alexis scurries over to the radio and hits a bunch of buttons until she manages to find the power switch, leaving the room in blessed silence except for David’s angry breathing. They’re both looking at him differently now, with less pity, which is something. They seem to think he has four heads, but still, an improvement. 

“I can never listen to Tina again,” he spits out. 

Alexis’s mouth scrunches. “Um...?”

“You know ,” he exhales, feeling the very personification of exasperation . “When you listen to a certain song or album with an ex, or you get really into a new artist purely because your crush likes them? And then when things go south you can never listen to that music again because it’s tainted? Pa - he’s ruined Tina for me. Forever.” 

“Okay, well, I can’t say I do know that experience,” Alexis replies, pinching David’s bedspread and squinting at him. “Because if I lived my life that way I literally wouldn’t be able to listen to any music ever again?” 

David holds himself back from eviscerating her because Stevie looks like she understands what David was saying. And that’s - he almost wishes she didn’t. What he’s feeling is too singular to be understood by another human. 

“Um, we just came to check on you,” Stevie announces. The words come out as stiffly as she’s holding herself. 

“Cool, thanks so much, you did that, mission accomplished, byyyeeee.” But he doesn’t lay back down, he doesn’t turn his back to them. And they don’t leave. 

“Have you talked to P-” 

“I’m not going to.” He has to cut her off. “This isn’t a - please don’t try to reason with me. There’s no version of this which ends well. I just need... time, to go through this, to suffer .” 

“I don’t see why you want to make both of you miserable apart when you’re so happy together !” Alexis exclaims, flinging her hands into the air. 

She says it like it’s that straightforward. She also says both of you miserable , and he wonders what she knows, if she’s been talking to him . He spends a few seconds filtering through his feelings, trying to decide if he wants Patrick to be miserable too. Trying to decide if that feels good, or terrible. 

“Okay, no one’s miserable ,” he huffs, ignoring Stevie’s raised eyebrows and her pointed glances at the clothes on the floor, the drawn curtains, the tubs of skin cream he’s left open on his dresser. “This is just a transition period. We had a fun run, we did our little booty call and datey-dates thing, but we knew it was temporary. This is just the readjustment.” 

“Right, right,” Alexis nods, her entire face disbelieving. 

“So you’d be totally okay if Patrick starts dating someone else?” Stevie asks. 

“Of course,” David sniffs. 

“You wouldn’t feel anything if he, like, married someone else?” Alexis presses. 

“Oh my god! I hope he does!” David bursts out. “I hope he finds a cute little boyf named - fucking Ken, or something. I hope they get an apartment in the Village and listen to Frank Ocean and go ice fishing-” His voice catches on a hiccup and he claps his hands over his mouth. 

Alexis and Stevie don’t look fooled for a second, bless them, curse them. The pity is back, but Stevie looks kind of angry, too, now, like her eyes are maybe genuinely wet with angry tears? Which he can’t handle. 

“You don’t have to give up on good things, David,” Alexis says gently. “It’s not, like, selfish to want to be happy.” 

Fuck . For the barest second, he considers explaining his rationale to them. He needs their support. But he also thinks Stevie will poke holes in everything he’s constructed, and he can’t afford that. It’s easy to think you can fix these things when you’re outside of them, not feeling them in every nerve ending. 

“Of course I want to be happy,” he mutters. “It’s complicated.” 

“Except it’s really fucking not!” Stevie snaps. “You love him, and -”

“Oh my god, please stop!” He claps his hands over his ears, not caring if it looks childish. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do for me, I think, but I can’t - this isn’t -” 

His breath is starting to come short, he feels his face flush with panic, and then Alexis is beside him, kneeling on the bed, saying something; when had she learned how to respond to panic attacks? 

When he comes down from the spiral, Stevie’s still there, but she won’t look him in the eye, or maybe he won’t look at her, or maybe they keep taking it in turns and missing each other. He knows she knows this is different from what had happened with them. But it’s also, devastatingly, not different at all. 

A few days later, nearly a week and a half since Florida, things are better. Well, they're not worse. It’s really just a lateral move. He’s changed the radio station; it’s all Ray LaMontagne and Rachael Yamagata and other artists who are still fucking depressing but who also feel a bit like Patrick. Hence the lateral move. 

He makes it downstairs for dinner. Only his mom is home; they talk about the convention, and the endorsements, and the press engagements, and which shoes she should wear in which states. Some public schools in North Carolina are doing their mock elections using her wigs; instead of pretending to choose the president, the elementary school kids will cast votes for Charlotte and Meredith and Esmerelda. So they talk about that over pasta primavera and pretend like the ground hasn’t fallen out from under David. 

He could blame his parents, he thinks, taking the stairs back up to his bedroom. He won’t, he can’t, but he entertains the thought for a minute, just to feel the righteous sting of not having fucked this all up himself. He could blame them for everything that’s happened with Patrick. They were the ones who forced them to be friends in the first place. They were the ones who put him in the social stratosphere where he has to interact with Patrick; if not for his dad’s career, he’d never have gotten drunk and shoved Patrick into a cake and then fallen in love with him. 

There’s a commotion from the east entrance, the visitors’ entrance, the kind of commotion usually reserved for tours and state events. He’s gotten so used to having this place feel like a mausoleum lately, with his family so often out on the campaign trail, that he stops on the stairs, just to see what’s going on. 

Someone’s outside, it seems, and - shouting? The Secret Service nearby don’t seem particularly concerned, which they should be if it’s an assassin or a disgruntled former employee. 

He can just see the back of the agent standing in the doorway. He thinks it’s Ronnie, which is weird; she’s supposed to be off-duty for now, since he’s been generally not needing much of a security detail for the last week and a half. 

With equal parts dread and fascination, he moves back down the stairs a few steps, and from here he can hear him. 

“DAVID! David, please , I know you’re in there-” 

Jesus fucking Christ

“Go home, Brewer-” 

“Ronnie, please , I’ll do anything. Anything . I just need to talk to him.” 

David’s frozen in place, his lungs collapsing on themselves, his heart charging out of his chest and across the foyer and right out the door, to where Patrick is. 

Ronnie twists in place, catches sight of David on the stairs. “Can you come tell him to go home?” she calls to David. “I don’t think the kid will listen to me.” 

“Is he right there?” comes Patick’s plaintive voice. Forget Tina and Whitney and Celine; this is morose and depressing. “ David! Please-” 

“Okay, I’m about to tase you, Brewer, so if you don’t wanna look more like a thumb than you already do-” 

“Stand down, Ronnie,” David says hastily. “Don’t - don’t fucking tase the PM’s son. Please.” 

“Are you gonna come deal with this then?” she demands. “CNN and TMZ are gonna be here any minute at this rate.” 

At one point he might’ve enjoyed the idea of having an ex-lover’s desperate attempts to win him back plastered all over the morning news. It’s not how these things normally go, for him. People want me , he might’ve been delighted to prove to everyone. People want me so badly they’ll stand outside screaming for me- He feels dull and empty as he thinks it, as he descends the stairs and crosses the hall. He wishes he were back in bed. How is it possible to feel nothing and also simultaneously feel like every cell is exploding? 

It’s raining, because of fucking course it is, and Patrick’s there, on the cobblestones outside the doorway, hair plastered to his forehead, raindrops dripping down his nose and sallow cheeks and shimmering on his t-shirt - he’s not even wearing a coat, or a hat; he looks like he walked right out of his house and onto the plane. He looks nearly as wrecked as David feels. 

As he sees David, Patrick’s eyes widen and his lips tremble. He swipes a hand up and through his hair, pushing it back so he looks frankly Victorian. 

Ray is sitting in the car parked in the drive, so there’s hope that he can convince Patrick to just leave right now. 

“What do you want, Patrick?” 

“You,” Patick breathes, there in front of Ronnie and the night shift and David’s rattiest designer sweatpants. “Only ever you.”

David’s too tired to scoff. He’s been too tired to cry for days. “Go home, Patrick,” he sighs. 

The muscle in Patrick’s jaw that pulsed the first time David fingered Patrick twitches now, tightening with Patrick’s resolve. 

“I will,” he says, low and steady; David is disappointed, relieved. “I will go home. But only once you hear me out. And we can do it out here, in front of everyone, in front of CNN and TMZ when they show up, or-” 

It’ll be faster this way, he tells himself, as he rolls his eyes and tilts his head and invites Patrick in. They’ll do this properly - what he’d so hoped to avoid - and then he can know it’s over, for good, forever. 

Ronnie looks like she wants to bodycheck Patrick as he slips past her, but she resists, somehow. He’ll have to ask her later if she cares about David’s feelings or if she just hates Patrick that much. 

“David,” Patrick starts again, the second the main door closes and they have the foyer mostly to themselves. He’s dripping all over the antique rugs, David thinks hazily.

“Just - wait until we’re alone, okay?” 

To his credit, he does. He trails David in complete silence, like a puppy. A fucking puppy who’s already been kicked once and whom David is about to have to crush again, in person, completely and brutally. He doesn’t see any other way to do this. Patrick’s going to apologize, even though he’s done nothing wrong, and he’s going to beg David to get back together, and he’s going to act like they’re normal people having a normal, mutually beneficial sexual relationship. And David can’t entertain any of that. 

Some of the fight seems to go out of Patrick when David has closed his bedroom door. With a shiver, David realizes it’s just like when he’d first invited Patrick up here, and up close he’d been able to see that Patrick was soft and emotional and not nearly as confident as he tried to be. There’s nowhere to hide here, for either of them. 

“So?” he says, crossing his arms. He means it to sound bitchy. It just sounds sad. “Why are you disturbing my beauty sleep?” 

He can see every cut his words make on Patrick. 

Patrick takes a deep breath, obviously steeling himself. “I’m not here to beg you to get back together with me.” 


“I know that’s not fair to you.” 


“I know I have no right to ask anything of you, especially when I haven’t even told my parents about us.” 

Wait. What?

“Patrick, that’s not - you don’t have to-” David’s admittedly been a bit fuzzy all week, but he’s really not following. 

“No, it’s true,” Patrick persists, apparently determined to flagellate them both. “You have been so great about how much time I’ve needed to feel comfortable with my identity. I’ve done nothing to earn that care from you, but you’ve given it to me, and so I know I’m coming to you already well in your debt.” 

“That’s not-” Fucking god. He doesn’t know where to start with any of that. “There’s no debt!” 

“That’s the wrong way to phrase it,” Patrick admits. “I - I’ve run through a few different versions of this conversation but now that I’m here I’m a little - I can’t really... My point is,” he presses on, fists clenching, “I’m excited to tell my parents about you, and how you make me feel, and how you’ve changed everything.” 

“No.” David’s shaking his head, his whole body is shaking. “Don’t-” 

“And I don’t mean that as pressure.” Patrick probably did actually practice this conversation, judging by the way he keeps interrupting David and word-vomiting all over the place like he needs to get it out. “I know we’re not...together. I got that message loud and clear. But I need to...speak my truth.” 

“But my truth,” David blurts out, because he can’t contain it anymore, “is that I am damaged goods . And I know you wouldn’t ever hurt me intentionally, but-”

“I wouldn’t,” Patrick says, pleads . “And if I did, we should talk about that. And I know I have no right to tell you what to do with your life or what decision to make right now, if there’s even a decision to be made anymore, but.” 

He physically reels himself in, tries to steady himself. God, David wants to go to him and hold him through this; how can that be, how can he want to hold the person who is hurting him, whom he is hurting? 

“But I want to make sure you have all the relevant information before moving forward,” Patrick continues. “And what I know is this.” He looks David dead in the eye, and he couldn’t have revealed more of himself if he’d torn open his shirt and spread his ribs and plucked out his heart. “I love you. I’m in love with you.” 

“You don’t,” David says automatically. 

“David,” Patrick chuckles, a fat tear mingling with the rain still slick on his cheeks. “When have I ever pretended to be anything but in love with you?” 

David experiences yet another of those unsettling realignments of everything he’s experienced, everything he’s taken to be true. A cascade of memories, interactions with Patrick, the most minute and the most all-consuming, all recolored with the concept that Patrick has been in love with him the whole damn time .

The way his throat is eating itself keeps him from answering Patrick in time to stop the onslaught.

“I think I’ve loved you for longer than even I knew,” Patrick admits. “I miss you even when we’re in the same room. If we - if this - if this ends, I will spend the rest of my life comparing other people to you. I think I already do.” 

David tips his head back, trying to pray the tears away. “We agreed this was temporary,” he whispers. 

“I think that stopped working a long time ago, David.” 

“Why didn’t you stop it from happening, if you could see that we’d - that it-”

“Because I didn’t want it to stop. I don’t want to stop loving you.” 

If only Patrick would yell and rage. He’s too steady. It makes David feel like he’s spinning out in comparison. It’s only serving to make the impossible incompatibility of the two of them even more pronounced.

“But you deserve-”

Patrick scoffs and takes a few steps back, like he needs the space. “Please don’t tell me what I deserve, David. You have made me happier than I thought was possible. That - don’t I deserve that ? Don’t we both?” 

“It’s not-” David’s not sure why he’s fighting Patrick on this, when Patrick is trying to give him everything he wants. He has vague memories of knowing it would destroy him to lose Patrick, of knowing that was inevitable, of wanting to get out ahead of that. He clings to that. “We have a responsibility, Patrick. We knew that from the start. Responsibility to our countries and our parents. There are lines we can’t cross, rules we can’t break, things we have to uphold-”

“But what is the point of that,” Patrick whispers, starting forward, coming so close to grabbing David’s hands, “what is the point of any of that, if we can’t love each other?” 

A dozen fictional variations on I will give up my empire for you, I will burn it all down for you reverberate through David’s bones. The man before him is offering him the same. 

Rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms, David walks over to the fireplace and begins removing his rings one by one, just to give his hands something to do. Patrick follows, still well removed from David's space, for which he's neither grateful nor regretful. Patrick's eyes track the movement as David sets each ring on the mantelpiece with a little clink. 

“Even if that’s true.” The words are robotic as he says them. “It’s pretty obvious that my insecurities - my baggage - just all my shit is overwhelming and would always undermine this and never let it work. You’ve give me a million reasons to trust you and I’m still - I’m still fucking scared, Patrick.” 

Because that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Hiding behind all of his excuses. At its base, David is just feeling too much, and he’s terrified of it. 

"I - I hear that," Patrick says slowly. He looks defeated, and despite all he's said, despite all he's promised himself, David thinks desperately please don't stop fighting for us . "That kind of thing takes time, to overcome trauma and fear. But I will spend - I will spend as long as you let me, chipping away at all your insecurities, earning your trust. Invalidating all the things other people taught you about love."

David wrings his hands. His resistance is hanging by a thread. He loves Patrick so much , but - 

"I don't know that it's healthy to have my self-confidence predicated on another person," he says delicately. As if being aloof right now is at all the right decision.

"Bullshit." Patrick smiles sadly at David's shocked look. "I'm sorry, David, but that's bullshit. Yes, absolutely, you should love yourself. But you don't have to do it alone."

David whimpers, strangled, and something breaks, and he rushes at Patrick, unable or unwilling to no longer be kissing him. Who can blame him for being powerless when Patrick is talking like this? When David believes all of it, against his instincts? If he'd known he believes all this, if he'd known when he was fleeing the villa at dawn -

Their aggressive makeout carries them towards the bed. They're both gripping each other's faces, like they always have, dominance and possession and treasuring and a disbelieving need to be touching each other. David doesn't know, still can't be sure, whether it's a goodbye or a resolution. 

But then Patrick pulls back, his hands gentling on David's face, cradling him. "David, David, sweetheart," he murmurs, and David realizes the person whose tears are turning their kiss salty is him . He's crying and Patrick's trying to wipe his tears away but he can't stop and he kisses Patrick again, needs to kiss him to breathe. 

David thought he would need angry sex, after all of that. Whether this is their last time or a first time of something new, he expects it to be rough and frenetic and imbued with the adrenaline of their argument. Instead, it's devastatingly gentle. Patrick sucks his fingertips and nuzzles against his belly and fucks into him long and slow, his lips at David's ear, a kind of lovemaking David thought he'd lost forever. 

After Patrick has come, he turns over and coaxes David up the bed until he's kneeling either side of Patrick's neck. "Like this?" Patrick offers and asks, guiding David into his mouth. Looking down at him, David knows what he's doing: he's trying to give David control in his pleasure, assuring David this can be on his terms. Like at every step in their misadventure of a relationship, they are both giving and taking in equal measure. 

He works Patrick's mouth as gently as he can, too glad to be there to hurry towards completion. He wishes he could see Patrick like this, stretched above him, the reddish brown hair of his underarms matted with sweat, his strong arms stretched taut to grip the bed frame. As it is, Patrick's hands are supporting him, spread across the backs of his legs, fingers digging into the soft private skin of his inner thighs. 

Before much longer, the stimulation of the velvet of Patrick's tongue and the drag of his more-than-normal stubble on David's balls and the feel of being seen and held and loved becomes too much, and he shoots down Patrick's throat, his back arching, his legs giving out. 

The boneless moment that follows is endless. The silence presses on him, the rain on the windows the only sound. And then Patrick curls sideways, tucking into David, and David knows Patrick won't leave unless he asks him to. The conviction that accompanies this realization feels like it rearranges his cell structure. 

After they've cleaned up and crawled under the blankets, Patrick picks at a loose thread on David's sleep shirt, a sure tell he's thinking too much. 

"What is it?" David murmurs. 

"Um. I'm almost afraid to ask this, but." He looks so serious, David hopes he's about to reveal a spectacular kink or something. But alas. "I'm still not really clear on where we've fallen on the whole being together discussion." 

"Mhm." David presses his lips together and waits for a panic that doesn't come. "I guess I'm weak in the face of your charms," he shrugs with his trusty cheeky smirk. 

Patrick frowns, like he's suddenly impervious to all of David's charms. "I'd like to think you're actually strong for choosing to try this with me."

David could skitter away from this and keep hiding. Well-worn patterns beg him to follow that path, to find a way to be with Patrick without giving all. But Patrick's bared so much of himself today, and every day before this, honestly, and David does want to try, does want this to work. 

So he nods and says - voice small, but trying, nonetheless, "I like that. I like that much better."

Another silence follows, but he can feel that Patrick is breathing differently than he had been a moment before. He slides an arm over Patrick's waist and keeps going.

"I think it helped," he says tentatively, working it out out loud, "that it didn't feel like you assumed to know what was best for me? Like you set the tone from the beginning that it was my choice."

Patrick huffs against his neck. "Well, that's what I intended, but then I kind of clobbered you over the head with my love. Sorry about that."

"It's fine." David grins, since Patrick can't see it, though he can probably tell anyway. "I think I needed that too. But just - I've been taken advantage of and ordered around and dismissed as inexperienced or naive or flighty or unreliable, I've had my own galleries co-opted out from under me, and - here you are, trusting me to do what's right."

Patrick tilts his head up to watch David partway through this little speech, face open and fond. But when David finishes speaking and smiles gently, the reaction it provokes is unexpected. Patrick’s mouth scrunches, his eyes suddenly moist. 

“I told myself,” Patrick says, voice catching, “on the flight over here, that if you wanted to break up for good, I’d - I’d accept that and try to move on. But David-” And he’s so close to whining, to gasping, to breaking down completely that David gathers him closer, trying to hug away the pain of the last days. “David, I had no idea how I could ever do that, how I could ever get over you-” 

“Shhhh,” David soothes, petting Patrick’s hair. “Now you’ll never have to find out.” 

They haven’t talked about forever. All they’ve talked about is let’s try and let’s be together and I love you . That’s different from forever, or it could be. He doesn’t think it will be. 

“Um, for the record,” he says delicately, and Patrick sniffles and looks up at him again, “I didn’t really want to break up at all.” 

He can practically see the self-control required as Patrick takes a moment to process and then asks levelly, “You didn’t?” 

“Uh-uh. I, um. Might have panicked? Because I realized I was in love with you? Which I’m realizing I haven’t actually said to you yet. So. Now you know.” 

Patrick rolls away from him, out of his arms, which - no , he wants to whine, come back

“David,” Patrick sighs. 

“Okay, I only panicked about it because it was supposed to be casual! It was only ever supposed to be a casual thing!” 

“You’re the one who wanted casual!” Patrick exclaims. 

“What?! No! I only said it should be casual because you said you wanted casual.” 

Patrick laughs now, a full laugh that shakes the hands resting on his stomach, which must mean - all of this is okay, all of this painful history is okay now? He turns onto his side, propping his head in his palm to regard David with equal amusement and annoyance, a standard combination at this point. “I never said I wanted casual, David. I said I wanted to keep it private, at least at first. And I only said that because I wasn’t out.” He pauses, wobbles his head a bit, blushes a brilliant deep pink that David wants to lick. “And because I was already in love with you and didn’t know how to handle that or if you’d, you know, be into that. Or whatever.” 

“So we could’ve been together - like actually, seriously together - this whole time ?” David groans. He dives into the pillow beside Patrick’s head, wanting to bury his shame and disappointment and regret. 

Patrick’s laughing again; none of this should be funny, except that the way he loops an arm over David’s back and nuzzles into his ear certainly does do funny warm things to David’s stomach. “It sounds like it, yeah.” 

David turns his head so they’re nose-to-nose in the depths of the pillow canyon. “Were you really in love with me in January already?” he whispers. 

Patrick smiles and sneaks a quick kiss. “I really was. Are you really in love with me now?” 

David tries to hide his lips, hide the smile blossoming there. He settles for stealing a kiss in return. “I really am,” he breathes. “I-” He hasn’t said it, hasn’t fully said it. Patrick will probably never force him to. And therefore, somehow, it comes out easily. “I love you.” 

It’s too dark in the space between their bodies to fully appreciate the way Patrick’s face blooms, but David can feel it against his lips a moment later. 

It’s late - it’s beyond late, into early, now - but they can’t seem to go to sleep. They put on a hockey game, and David behaves a full twenty minutes before climbing into Patrick’s lap and thoroughly distracting him. They brush their teeth, side by side at David’s sink, but then they spend longer than necessary leaving the bathroom. They finally turn off the lights and snuggle into each other, and David’s almost halfway to sleepy when Patrick begins talking, like there’s still something he needs to get out. 

“I was annoyed, you know. When I first realized I had a crush on you.” 

David pinches Patrick’s chest through his borrowed sleep shirt and mumbles, “This sounds like it’s going to be a fun conversation for me.” 

“I was annoyed ,” Patrick persists, his smile evident even in the darkness, “because all I wanted was to be invisible. Or, not invisible, but transparent. So that I could be whatever people wanted me to be. Malleable. Useful but forgettable. And then I saw you, and I felt... And I knew that I’d never hope to catch the attention of the most unique, beautiful man in the world by being transparent and forgettable.” 

There’s so much David wants to linger on. Tell me more about how unique and beautiful I am. Tell me more about how you felt when you first saw me. Tell me more about wanting to be whatever people wanted you to be . But Patrick, as ever, has a plan, has a direction he wants these thoughts to go.

“And because of who my dad is, I think a lot about legacy. People are always asking what I think his legacy will be, and that naturally makes me wonder what my legacy will be. For a while there, I didn’t want one. I didn’t want to leave a mark.” 

“A real shrinking violet, hmm?” David wishes he were more awake, wishes he could see Patrick’s microexpressions. He remembers thinking that Patrick seemed so comfortable with the spotlight. His entire internal Patrick Brewer Fact Sheet has been rewritten. 

You ,” Patrick says, pressing a blind hand into David’s side. “You turned all that upside down. You make me want to be seen. You make me want to leave a legacy, like a - like an exploding star on the retina of history.” 

David breathes through this outsized praise, lets it settle over him like an extra blanket instead of immediately scoffing it off. He doesn’t believe it, for himself anyway, doesn’t believe he could have that effect on anyone, but - if Patrick says he did, if that’s how Patrick feels, well. An effective placebo is still effective. 

“What do you want your legacy to be?” he whispers, tucking his nose into Patrick’s neck so he can feel the vibrations of his voice. 

Patrick’s fingers tighten around him again. “I think I’d like it,” he murmurs, “if my legacy was to show a - a queer kid in... Saskatechwan, or Regina, or wherever, that... that sometimes it does work out.” 

Sleep suddenly seems very unimportant. 

He feels a little differently, two or three hours later, when he wakes to Patrick koalaed around him, nuzzling and kissing the back of his neck. 

“Nggh,” he croaks. “Go ba’ to slee’.” 

“You kept the newspaper,” Patrick whispers into David’s shoulder. 


Patrick reaches across David, pressing tantalizingly all along his back, and snags something from the nightstand. “You kept the newspaper. From that weekend in Montreal.” 

“Oh.” David feels like his body is on fire, and not only from last night’s memories and this morning’s physical proximity. “Um, did I?” 

Patrick unfolds the newspaper in front of David, to the sports section, of fucking course. “You did. I distinctly remember reading this article about Carey Price to you. You had a lot of questions.” 

“The main one being,” David gruffs, snagging the newspaper and flinging it to the floor, because who needs mementos when you have the real thing close at hand, “whether you actually speak a word of French.” 

Patrick laughs and lets himself be bowled over onto his back. “Mais oui oui!” he trills, wiggling beneath David.

“Ew,” David says half-heartedly, and kisses him in punishment. 

My question,” Patrick says, sliding his hands onto David’s ass under his pajama bottoms, with an expression that usually spells trouble for David’s dignity, “is why you broke up with me but kept that newspaper on your nightstand.” 

“I didn’t want to break up with you!” he exclaims. “I was going through some shit, okay!” 

“Mhm,” Patrick nods sympathetically, squeezing the flesh of David’s cheeks, his hands warm and capable and teasing. “Because you love me.” 

“You’re damn right I do,” David snarls, and he sets about showing him.

And okay, they could have used that time to sleep, but David doesn’t really consider it wasted, in the end. 

“Hey David?” Patrick calls from the bathroom, some time later, when they’ve reluctantly agreed they should emerge into the world. “Can I borrow some clothes for breakfast? I kind of came here to win you back spur of the moment and didn’t pack a change of outfits.” 

“Just one more way we’re very different people,” David says fondly, wandering over to lean against the doorframe. Even Patrick’s reflection, half-covered in shaving cream, makes him swoon. “Um, only problem is, today’s Sunday.” 

Patrick shakes out the razor he’s borrowed from David - a spare; David does not share hygiene products, not even with the man he loves - and raises his eyebrows in the mirror. “Okay?” 

“And one of the few traditions my dad insists on,” he continues slowly, “is Sunday morning family breakfast.” 

“Okay,” Patrick repeats, smiling now. David remembers whining at Christmas about wanting more time with his family, and he knows Patrick hasn’t forgotten that either. 

“Yeah, so. It’s just. We’re about to go have breakfast. With my parents. The president and first lady. Johnny and Moira Rose. And you want to show up in my clothes .” 

“Um.” Patrick tilts his head, mouth small with the effort not to laugh. “Yes? It’s either that or nudity.” 

“Ugh! Fine. But you’ve been warned. They’re going to be insufferable. Dad will try to talk about anything other than the fact that we’re having sex but he’ll end up complimenting your hands or asking us if we’re using dental dams or something else completely incorrect. Mom will probably tell you your physique is great and must come in handy when we’re making ‘the beast with two baaacks,’” he says, stretching the words in an imitation of his mother.

“No need to sound so excited, David,” Patrick teases. 

“Ugh!” He storms away, but, okay, the idea of his family knowing the person he’s dating - knowing them, liking them, making them squirm at breakfast - it’s not the worst thing he’s ever heard. 

And when Patrick tugs on one of David’s oldest, most out-of-fashion sweaters, David thinks about Stevie and Alexis teasing him about needing to borrow a shirt from Patrick, way back when he’d been packing for their first weekend together, and he very determinedly does not cry. 

“Nice sweater, Patrick,” Alexis says, the moment they get downstairs, the bitch. 

“Ah! An Oscar de la Renta original, I believe,” Moira hums, coming literally all the way around the table to finger the hem as Patrick stands there, blushing but grinning at David like a troll. “For David’s sweet sixteen?” 

“My twenty-first, actually,” David says primly and pushes Patrick towards a seat. 

“So that was, what, three years ago?” Patrick asks innocently. 

“That’s correct,” David sniffs. 

“I’m so glad you could join us,” Johnny says, too cheerfully, too loudly. His parents don’t know the full extent of what happened in the last couple of weeks; Alexis had promised David to fill in some gaps for them without getting too gory. Still, from the way they’re no longer tip-toeing around, he can tell they feel the big change as well. “I’m sure you two were very busy, ah, reconnecting-” 

“Oh my god!” David snarls, and he tries to clap his hands over Patrick’s ears, but Patrick just laughs and pours himself some orange juice and thanks the server who’s just delivered a plate of blueberry waffles. 

Moira smiles beneficently, unaffected by the small chaos around her. “I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of you, Pat, dear.” 

“I imagine we would be seeing a lot more of him, if David hadn’t given him one of his sweaters!” Alexis points out. 

“Oh my godddddd. Choke on an eggshell!” 

But Alexis winks at Patrick, with both eyes, and he does kind of a half-blink wink in response, and David has to bury his face in his omelet to pretend he’s not filled to the brim with affection for all of them. 

It’s mostly campaign talk, which David guesses is fine since the Canadians are unlikely to try to interfere with American elections, though his dad’s chief of staff, Jocelyn, comes in with a memo and looks like she’s shitting pop rocks at all of it. Patrick asks informed, thoughtful questions and touches David’s thigh under the table and David allows himself a moment of regret that they haven’t been doing this for months. 

When the plates are cleared and Patrick is neatly folding his napkin, Moira steers them back towards familiar, uncomfortable territory. 

“Well, we should do this again soon, I’m sure, Patrick, dear.” 

“Thank you, Mrs. Rose,” he grins. “I’d like that a lot.” 

“And for what it merits,” she adds, rising with more grace than two Bloody Marys should allow, “I’ve known Clint and Marcy for some span, and I can’t conjecture they’ll be anything but proud of you, and cock-a-hoop you’ve found someone who makes you so happy.” 

“Cock-a-hoop means glad,” David whispers to Patrick, through the full-body flush of being called someone who makes Patrick happy. 

“Thank you, Mrs. Rose,” Patrick says steadily, squeezing David’s hand tightly. 

“And son,” Johnny adds, and David groans a little, but son , god, his family have taken to Patrick quickly- “If you ever need support from me, just know that I’m more than happy to threaten to withhold my signature on a trade deal or something.” 

Jocelyn, still lingering by the door, whimpers. 

They run into Stevie in the hallway after breakfast. She claims to be there to see Alexis, but from the way her eyes widen at David’s hand in Patrick’s, she’s here to rubberneck. David wonders who told her. She and Ronnie have always gotten along suspiciously well. Fuck, Patrick might’ve texted her himself, because that’s what this is, apparently, a relationship where all of their friends know and care. Gross.

“Good to see you, Patrick,” Stevie says coolly. 

“Good to see you, Stevie,” Patrick grins. 

“Okay, that’s enough, thanks,” David mutters, trying to tug Patrick away. “We have to leave now before literally everyone we know shows up to congratulate us.” 

“Oh, I’m sure Ted and Twyla and Rachel are on their way,” Patrick offers helpfully, the jackass. David loves him so much. 

“I don’t know that I congratulated you, though,” Stevie calls after them. “Would we really call this something to celebrate?” 

“Yes, we would!” David snaps over his shoulder, and then regrets it, because she’d been fishing for that, and she and Patrick both look far too pleased. 

Patrick has to leave a few days later, unable to convincingly put off his parents or the Canadian press for much longer. On the tarmac, David stops him, like Patrick had months ago, innocently offering David his phone number. 

“Um. Here,” he says, skin crawling with nerves and hope as he clasps Patrick’s hand. “This isn’t, like, a declaration, or anything, so don’t read into it too much, but. I’d like you to have it.” 

Patrick cups his hand and looks down at the single silver ring David’s pressed into his palm. 

“Oh, David,” he breathes. “This is- I can’t-”

“You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want it,” David says hastily, reaching to take it back. “It probably won’t even fit your fingers, they’re so big-” 

“Of course I want it,” Patrick cuts him off quickly, closing his hand so David’s fingers brush Patrick’s knuckles. “I just don’t understand - I’ve always thought of your rings as a... an extension of you, I guess.” 

David’s eyes are watering; allergies, definitely. So much pollen. “Exactly,” he says softly. “It kind of feels like...the least I can do. To show you. That everything you’ve said - that everything you’ve done - I’m not going to run away again,” he finishes in a rush. It’s a promise he’s making to himself, too. A commitment he believes. 

“I love you,” Patrick murmurs, a little desperately, for the thousandth time in the last seventy-two hours. 

David rocks towards him slightly, onto his toes. There could be cameras poking through the fence at the edge of the lawn, and they’ve figured a lot out but not everything , so for now- “I love you ,” he replies. 

When Patrick waves from the door of the plane, the sun glints off the ring wound tight around his thumb.

Chapter Text

Patrick comes out to his parents on a Wednesday in mid-September. After all the conversations they’ve had about his worries and how he could approach it and when he might want to do it, he ends up just... doing it. 

“It felt right, in the moment,” he says breathlessly through the phone when he calls David afterwards. “I felt ready.” 

David blinks into the end-of-summer northern Michigan sunlight. He can’t cry, here at a fucking state fair. Like, yes, okay, everyone should be crying about fried Pixie Stix, which are apparently a thing now, but. 

“Patrick,” he manages, finally. He wonders if he should just get in a car or on a plane or onto a rowboat and just hightail it to Patrick. Michigan is basically Canada; he could be there in no time.

But Patrick’s laughing. His voice sounds light . “It was such a non-event,” he chuckles, disbelieving. “I’m almost annoyed! Not that I wanted them to react in any way other than they did, but-” 

“How did they react?” David hums. He hands his clipboard off to Shannon and winds his way through the crowd of volunteers, all of whom Ronnie looks like she’d like to interrogate. They have an election to win, for the good of the world, but his world needs him right now. 

“They were-” Patrick’s breath sputters out, still a laugh but also a surprised little exhale. “They were amazing. I don’t know why I thought they’d ever be anything but. I think maybe my mom knew, or suspected. They couldn’t stop smiling, David. Like they’re happy for me.” 

Part of David wants to say I told you so , but - that’s not fair. Because he’d been nervous too, even knowing Marcy and Clint, even knowing their politics and seeing them interact with diverse colleagues and constituents every day. It’s different, sometimes, for some people, when it’s their own kid. The human heart can be unknowable, unpredictable. And when it’s someone’s life and identity and love all wrapped up in one revelation-

“Of course they’re happy for you,” he says, because he really doesn’t want to cry around all this gingham. Not a good look. There are cameras everywhere. 

“They’re happy for you too,” Patrick adds, and David has to lean his head against the corner pole of a nearby tent. “Once I told them I’m gay, they asked the natural follow up question of whether I’m seeing anyone, and I, well, admittedly I kind of couldn’t stop talking about you, and they’re - they’re just really happy, David. This is - it’s better than I ever imagined. My dad wants to have a beer tonight and talk about logistics, of course, because you’re still kind of a problematic choice for a first gay relationship, but.” He exhales again, all shaky excitement, his voice practically bouncing. “For just this moment, I feel like everything’s okay.” 

David suppresses the inhuman noise that wants to wriggle out of him and settles for a full-body shimmy that earns him a look of pure disgust from Ronnie, standing guard a few feet away. He flips her off and spins a full 360, grinning. 

“Patrick, I’m so glad. I’m so-” There aren’t words enough for what he’s feeling. “I love you,” he says helplessly. 

“They want to have you over for dinner,” Patrick’s still gushing. David’s not sure he’s ever heard him this excited about anything, not even fucking sportsball. “I know we might have to wait until after the election-”

“I think I can make time for the Prime Minister and his wife. Oh and my boyfriend,” he adds flippantly. 

Because they do that now. Call each other boyfriend . The first time had been an accident, David too worked up about the suit Patrick wanted to wear to the Toronto International Film Festival to filter himself. Patrick had lit up like a neon Open sign and thrown the proposed suit over a chair and kissed the word against David’s lips over and over, “Boyfriend, boyfriend, you’re my boyfriend.” David had asked hesitantly if it was okay, and Patrick had replied, “Well, the man I love is a bit hefty to say every time, so yeah. I think it’s perfect.” 

Things are good, David thinks, when he’s hung up the call and is taking a moment to collect himself before going back to the campaign event. Suspiciously good, he sometimes feels. Things don’t work out for him, historically. But he and Patrick are a month into officially dating and his parents have been alarmingly supportive, going out of their way to make sure everything’s up to speed and no taxpayer dollars are being spent on weekend escapes or condoms, as his dad had so mortifyingly suggested. And now Patrick’s parents know, and it sounds like they’re fully on board as well. 

David’s even been getting some small praise for his contributions on the campaign trail and his first foray into the Arts and Culture advisory role. It had been a nationwide What American Means to Me art contest for K-12, with the winners invited to the White House to discuss or perform their work, as applicable. He hadn’t shied from highlighting works which were critical, either, which led to some ire from certain corners of the media but which was largely applauded. Stevie had assisted with travel logistics, like she’s been doing for her aunt, Vice President Budd, and Alexis had admittedly crushed it when David asked her to organize the culminatory event with less than a month’s advance notice. One of the winners had come up to David at the end of the night and asked him to be her mentor, which was fucking wild. He’d said yes. 

Given the success of that first attempt and the subsequent, albeit minimal, press attention, David’s not surprised when he gets a call from Heather Warner in mid-October. Heather and her partner, Tennessee, run one of the biggest newspaper-cum-online media empires in the country and had been among the reluctant declinations he’d had to make when the Arts and Culture position was first announced, as a partnership with journalists seemed to be too much of a conflict of interest. He’s made sure to maintain a cordial professional connection with them, though, and he can see it paying off when Heather asks him to stop by for a meeting. He’s in New York for a campaign event anyway, so he can squeeze it in before going back to DC for a few much needed days of decompression.

“We thought it might be better to do this is person,” Tennessee dives right in, when they’re settled in Heather’s office.

“Oh god,” David chuckles, sipping from his tiny mug of espresso, “what kind of dirt do you have on my father?” 

The two women exchange a look. “Well...” Heather sighs. 

“Oh god,” David repeats, seriously this time, feeling his whole body blanch. “What dirt do you have? I didn’t even know there was dirt!” 

“It’s not dirt,” Heather says hastily. “It’s - someone’s trying to make it dirt. And out of respect for you as a person and as a professional, we wanted to let you know before it could become dirt.” 

“This is a lot more discussion of dirt than I’m generally comfortable with,” David says. “I feel like my throat’s closing up.” 

“David,” Tennessee says firmly, scooting her chair closer so she can force him to maintain eye contact. “It’s not bad. Probably.” Recognizing that this is not helping, she goes on, clearly determined to yank the bandage off in one go. “One of the cheap rags downtown wants to run a story claiming that you and Patrick Brewer are an item.” 

Whatever they’d been expecting, it probably wasn’t for David to smile. 

Oh, sure, he’s definitely still tempted to dissociate right in the middle of the conversation, but. Things are a bit different than they were six months ago, or even one month ago. So he smiles. “Ah. I see.” 

“Now, we don’t know whether that’s true,” Heather says. Her hands are splayed on a folder in front of her; David wants to see the contents but thinks he might burst a blood vessel if he does. “We don’t really think it’s any of our business.” 

“Or anyone’s,” Tennessee chimes in. 

“Or anyone’s,” Heather nods. “Unless you want it to be.” 

David’s quiet for a moment. It’s a fiercely uncomfortable silence, but he knows he deserves this, deserves to take a second to mull this through. He should’ve brought Alexis; she’s good in a crisis, however much he denies it. 

“So, you want...what, exactly?” he finally asks, channeling his best Moira Rose. “To get an exclusive from me? To get the hot goss?” 

“No. Definitely not.” Heather shakes her head with obvious distaste. “Outing people for shock value is very 2010. We’re not looking to benefit from this, David. We truly just wanted you to know, so you can prepare or respond as you see fit.” 

“It borders on a breach of journalist principles, but.” Tennessee shrugs, looking not at all apologetic. “We’ll stand by it, if pressed.” 

David feels oddly warm towards these two near-strangers. He’s been experiencing that a lot more this year. He generally attributes it to being broken open by his love for Patrick and to forced exposure to thousands of fundamentally kind, hopeful people among the electorate. 

“You’re right, it is very 2010,” he smiles, feeling better, if still fragile. “I like you guys.” 

He FaceTimes Patrick as soon as he’s back at his hotel. He’s never wished to be physically with Patrick as much as he does now, though he thinks that every single day, so. Maybe that’s just the state of being in love with Patrick. 

“Okay,” Patrick replies calmly, when David’s caught him up on his earlier meeting. “So it’s time.” 

“Are you sure?” He’s opened and closed the minibar about six times, restraining himself from using the miniature vodka bottles as a sedative. “This is...kind of a big deal.” 

“It’s sooner than we planned, obviously, but...I think we’re ready, David.” 

They have talked about this, about their formal debut as a couple, because they’re both aware that their relationship will never be normal and unnoticed and they’ll have to come out eventually. They’ve been discussing doing it after the election, not making any big announcement but just sort of casually slipping into the public eye hand-in-hand, trading kisses outside a restaurant. Alexis has reams of plans for how to execute a PR stunt without making it seem like a PR stunt. And David does like the idea of not having to keep this a secret anymore. He’s been keeping the secret of his love for Patrick for most of the year - even from himself - and some days it feels so bright and powerful he wants to burst. 

So maybe they are ready. 

“It’ll still be on our terms,” he says slowly. “We can nab the spotlight out from under those assholes who want to use us to sell papers.” 

There’s my diplomatic and altruistic boyfriend,” Patrick chuckles, getting so close to the camera David wants to kiss his phone in proxy. “Any ideas on how you want to do it?” 

David bites his lip, grinning. “I do have one, yeah.” 

Heather arranges them on a paisley couch in front of clashing floral wallpaper. She must see that David wants to protest, because she explains, “It’ll give people When Harry Met Sally vibes. Those long-established, loving partnerships. People will eat it up.” 

They’d decided to give Heather and Tennessee the much-coveted profile precisely because they hadn’t wanted it. It’s only twenty-four hours later, since they want to get this piece out - on their terms - ahead of whatever gross spin the tabloid was going to try to make. David still doesn’t even know what evidence or story someone thinks they have. He doesn’t need to know. Nothing anyone says about their relationship really matters, next to the truth. 

 Alexis has done their make-up, a light dusting of a few different products to get them camera-ready. “First time’s pro bono,” she’d winked at David, like she isn’t his fucking sister and hasn’t been practicing her contouring technique on him for two decades. She’s hanging out behind the cameras now and keeps giving them an eager thumbs-up. 

He and Patrick had downed a shot of tequila each to take the edge off, and David can smell it on his boyfriend as they sit thigh to thigh, shoulder to shoulder on the ugly couch. The tense little lines around Patrick’s mouth have relaxed, though, so the shot did its job. He rubs a hand up and down Patrick’s arm and gets a smile - a genuine, not-for-cameras smile - in return. 

“Okay,” Tennessee grins, settling into an armchair opposite them. “Last chance to bail on this. I would totally understand if you want to do that.” 

Patrick looks at him again, but they both know. They’re ready. 

“We’re sure.” 

“Okay then. And - action!” 

“David, tell me when this all started.” 

“Okay, well, at the beginning, Patrick hated me-” 

“That is NOT how this story goes, David! Please, no one believe a word he says.” 

“You can cut this out later, right, Heather?” 


“Alright, maybe I just thought he hated me? There was some animosity, in any event. Or so we thought. So I thought.” 

“Thank you for that correction. I was smitten with David from the start. I wasn’t out, even to myself, so I didn’t recognize it for what it was at first, but, yeah. I was a goner from the first time I saw David Rose in a magazine.” 

“Well how am I supposed to follow that ? He has this terrible habit of saying the most lovely things and just reducing me to an undignified puddle of a human, as you can see.” 

“Whereas David has a terrible habit of taking hour-long showers.” 

“I do not! I’m well aware we have a global water shortage. Also I’ve been avoiding almonds, so. That has to balance out, right?” 

“We all have our flaws, babe.” 

“No. I have none.” 


“Don’t smile at me like that. You’re distracting.” 

“Anyway, back to your question. It took some time, but David and I slowly became friends, bonding over RuPaul and food and the ways in which our roles as First Sons can be pretty stressful, or unique, at the very least.” 

“Definitely unique.” 

“For a while I told myself I could be content with that. With being David Rose’s friend. I’d been pining after him for so long that even just getting to share that with him felt pretty monumental.”

“And then I kissed him! On New Year’s Eve. Because I’m a very generous person.” 

“Okay, but then you literally ran away and didn’t answer your phone for a week-” 

“Doesn’t matter. It all worked out in the end.” 

“Yeah.” [A long pause as they look into each other’s eyes] “It did, didn’t it?” 

[clears throat] “I feel very lucky. Honestly. Life can be really [bleep]ing hard, sometimes, and getting to share it with someone who makes the bad days survivable and the good days golden? I feel...just really, really lucky.” 

“And I think it’s time we, uh, well, that we love out loud. I know not everyone has that option, but we do, and we want to.”


The interview is uploaded late that night, after rounds of editing and approval. David and Patrick watch it in David’s bed back at the White House, laughing at themselves, surprised by their own jokes. 

“They did a great job,” Patrick murmurs, when David restarts the video for the third time. “It us.” 

David hums. “I thought it would be so uncomfortable, but I...I felt like I was just talking to you.” 

There’s a lot neither of them are saying. Neither of them have gotten to see something like this before, to see the ways they interact with each other, and it’s glaringly obvious just how far gone they both are. If David had been unsure of the depth of Patrick’s love before, there’s no way he can doubt it now. It’s etched into Patrick’s every microexpression and gesture in the video, the way he turns towards David, the way his fingers twitch at certain statements. This video was meant for the rest of the world, but David’s seeing Patrick, and himself, with a new clarity. 

They’re also not talking about the comments section. They’ve been avoiding that and have turned off all push notifications on both of their phones. “I’m sure the reaction will be entirely positive,” Alexis had reassured them when she’d offered to take on the burden of sorting through the feedback. “Okay, like, 97% positive,” she’d amended, at David’s skeptical look. 

Gwen and Miguel are helping her, because David is still Alexis’s brother, and if any of the feedback is not positive, she’s liable to go slightly she-wolf on random people on the internet. They’ve promised to provide an executive summary of sorts in the next few days. 

“What now?” Patrick asks, when he finally pries David’s phone away (“enough, David, it’s bedtime”) and coaxes him down into the sheets. 

There’s still an election, and another four years if all goes as the polls are predicting, and the whole Arts and Culture position to figure out in full. They’ve released the records of the trips they’ve taken to see each other to prove there was no misuse of government funds and the White House lawyers are fielding various legal concerns; the explaining-their-relationship phase certainly isn’t over. 


“Now,” David sighs, “I’m going to take a very long nap with my boyfriend.” 

The polls are wrong. All the statistical models and cultural analyses and man-in-the-street interviews and the polls are wrong. Early in the morning of November 4th, they get the final word: Johnny has lost his reelection. 

Patrick had flown down for what was supposed to be a celebration. Now they all sit, shell-shocked, in the empty hotel ballroom that should’ve been littered with confetti and drunk campaign volunteers by now. His dad has already made his concession speech, and he and Moira have retired to their hotel room. They have 77 days to move out of the White House; David googled it. 

“I feel like crap,” Stevie announces to the table. 

David feels like crap too. He also feels a bit of relief, and a bit of guilt for feeling relieved. It’s been a hard four years. He’s grateful, of course, for what it gave him. For Patrick, and the ways his family has grown closer. But his dad looks a full decade older and his mom recently forgot to pack any wigs for a weekend trip and he just thinks they all deserve some time to stop trying to help the world for, like, a second. Literally just a second. 

“I can’t help thinking it’s a little bit my fault,” he sighs, turning his face into Patrick’s shoulder. 

“David, no ,” Alexis snaps from the other side of the table. “We can’t think like that.” 

“I mean, what am I supposed to think?” he demands, flinging his hands up, his voice breaking on the exhaustion and devastation of the last few hours. “I announced I have a secret, foreign boyfriend and like a week later Dad loses?” 

“You’re an idiot,” Stevie snorts, as Patrick buries his face in his hands with a huff, but Alexis’s resolve only seems to strengthen. 

“Okay, look,” she says, grabbing her phone and stalking around the table to shove it in his face. “I was saving all this until after the election because I didn’t want to steal Dad’s spotlight, but honestly, David? If anything, you and Patrick brought more people to Dad’s ticket.” 

“What?” David asks, not following. There’s an album of photos open on her phone, screenshots from Twitter and Instagram and news stories. Patrick leans into his side to look at it with him. 

The first photo is of a group of people outside the White House fence, clad in pink and yellow and blue t-shirts, all decorated with the words Love out loud , a phrase he remembers Patrick saying in their interview. 

In the next photo, someone’s taken a still from their interview and plastered it with cartoon hearts, and this fucking Microsoft Paint-ass creation got - “Fifty fucking thousand likes on Instagram?” he screeches. 

There are about twenty tweets or posts along the line of “lol totally thought they were already publicly dating whoops”. Britney Spears has apparently shared their video with the caption “Relationship Goals”; there are already sixteen Facebook fan pages dedicated to Davrick, which, awful; universities and libraries in Connecticut and Iowa and Montana are hosting talks on queer representation and on the ongoing threats against trans and queer people in America, using David and Patrick’s relationship as a jumping-off point. 

Someone from Patrick’s favorite baseball team announced he’s asexual, stating that Patrick made him feel like it was okay; David glances over to find Patrick crying silently. Amazon and Netflix are bidding for the rights to their love story. “I hope Megan Fox plays me,” Stevie chimes in. “We’re basically twins.” 

There’s also a mural at one of US-Canadian border crossings. David has to turn the phone sideways to get the full effect, and when he does he starts crying too. 

Someone has painted him and Patrick, twenty feet high on a scraggy grey wall, dressed head to toe in drag. Patrick’s draped in an elegant blue gown, his normally close-trimmed hair drawn out into reddish-brown messy curls. Drag-David is in a tight black and white number that he honestly wishes he owns, or could pull off. 

“I think my mom has those shoes,” he notes, and everyone laughs. “And that wig!” Beneath it all is a quote he recognizes: “ When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.

“Donations to LGTBQ+ organizations in North America are up 300% this week,” Alexis says, and David covers his mouth with his hand. “ Pansexual was trending on Twitter for days. Buzzfeed’s done an actually impressively accurate breakdown of different terms for different identities with links to lots of resources. I also have, like, fifty interview requests for the two of you. Just let me know when you’re ready.” 

“Alexis,” David says helplessly. 

“Honestly, I’m just dying for this all to be over,” she sniffs, snatching the phone back from him. “You’re getting all this attention, and for what? For banging a cute guy? What a yawn.” But she winks at him, and he’d hug her, if that was a thing they did. 

Oh, fuck it, he thinks, and he stands, and he does hug her. Someone - Stevie, he thinks - blows their nose loudly in the background. 

“So don’t you dare say you had anything to do with Dad losing,” Alexis says firmly when they release each other. “America was just having an off day. Like all they went and took mushrooms with James Franco and decided to go vote while still high out of their minds. We’ve all been there. And tomorrow they’ll probably wake up and regret it, but. We did what we could.” 

“None of that should have made any sense,” David chuckles as he sits back down, dragging Patrick towards him, “and yet.” 

Patrick’s tiny answering smile engulfs David’s world for a moment, reestablishing equilibrium. “And yet,” Patrick murmurs. Then, loudly, “Anyone up for breakfast?” 

Not being the First Son will certainly make dating Patrick marginally easier, but there’s another implication the election results have which David doesn’t recognize until a few days later, at lunch with his parents. 

“Oh,” he says, around a mouthful of caprese salad. “Fuck.” 

“I know it’s good, David, but language, please,” Johnny frowns. 

“No, I-” He rolls his eyes and finishes chewing. He’s surprised they haven’t brought it up yet themselves. “I’m just realizing - I guess I can stop thinking about all the Arts and Culture stuff now. There’s not a lot I can do in two months.” 

“Tell that to the outgoing members of Congress,” his dad chortles. He’s been working all hours to negotiate a few final deals, determined not to rely on last-minute executive orders, nor to become a lame duck. 

“No, I mean - that position only had any, like, meaning to it when you thought you’d have another term. Now-” 

“That position was also only proffered to you under the presumption that you would deliver on your pledge to remediate your image,” Moira cuts in, “and as I recall, you diverted the effort in favor of fraternizing with sweet Pat.” 

“And as I recall,” David shoots back, “I did end up remediating my image, though? I mean, probably now in the way you intended, but.” 

Moira smiles and extends her glass to David’s, clinking their Caesars, which Patrick has taught the White House chef to make. “That you did.” 

“Well, David,” Johnny sighs, setting down his cutlery and leaning back in a way that either means business or terrible idea of which he’s nonetheless proud and sometimes both, “you’re right that I can no longer offer you any kind of position. Heck, I don’t even know what I’m doing next! Which is great, if a little unnerving. I haven’t been unemployed in forty years. And really-”

“Yeah, Dad, the position?” 

“Right. So I can’t make that happen for you. But I had a different idea. It was Patrick’s proposal, actually.” 

David’s not sure he likes the words Patrick and proposal coming out of his dad’s mouth; he and Patrick haven’t even been seeing each other for a full year yet, which doesn’t mean David hasn’t thought about their future, two years or five years or ten years down the line, but-

“It seems Patrick’s been developing a foundation up in Canada, and he suggested that the two of you could make it a joint venture. With a little capital investment from your old mom and dad.” Johnny reaches out to link hands with Moira. “Consider it compensation for the position that should’ve been yours.” 

The old instincts in David haven’t yet been totally eradicated, so he flashes to his parents’ meddling in his galleries, and their former lack of trust in his capabilities; he wonders why Patrick hasn’t talked to him directly about this; he dreads the amount of responsibility running a fucking foundation would require. 

But instinct isn’t behavior. So he takes another bite of his focaccia, and he chews, and he thinks, and then he says, “Thank you. I’ll consider your investment offer.” 

Patrick has spreadsheets and diagrams and pivot tables and Powerpoints, all ready for David’s perusal. David doesn’t want to read a single one of them, and he asks Patrick to do his elevator pitch while also doing a strip tease. 

“David, I know for a fact that you can not only survive reading all of this but you can actually understand it,” Patrick grins, grappling with David on the couch in Patrick’s bedroom, the laptop forgotten. 

“I should’ve never let on that I’m smart,” David groans. 

Through a system of incentives which definitely cannot be reported as tax write-offs, Patrick eventually coaxes David into understanding the full scope of the foundation proposal. Patrick’s thorough and dogged and organized, so of course it’s all there. And David’s still got a little swell of nerves about this, but he says yes, and Patrick tries to kiss him even though both of their faces are stretched wide with smiles. 

“What should we call it?” David muses, sprawled diagonally off the side of Patrick’s bed. He’s already moved most of his belongings out of the White House and has been spending more and more time here. The other day his mom called to ask when he’d be home for dinner; he’d laughed, but after he’d hung up, he’d turned to Patrick and started unexplainably weeping. 

“Hmm.” Patrick’s sitting on the floor with his back to the bed and playing Words with Friends against Rachel on his phone (and losing badly). “Bi-Lateral Arts Foundation?” 

“Ew. BLAF? Also, too artsy-fartsy. We want this to feel inclusive.”

“Remember when you said bilateral in an interview and then got worried for me?” Patrick turns to kiss David’s ear, his voice annoyingly fond, not the least bit teasing. 

“Mm. I do. I do. So would you rather call it the Gay-Lateral Arts Foundation, then?” 

“I’ll gay-lateral you,” Patrick snorts, tossing the phone aside and climbing up onto the bed with David. 

Some time later, David hums, “Maybe, sticking with the theme, we could go with the Pan-American Arts Foundation. Bring Mexico in on it.” 

Though meant largely in jest, it ends up being one of his better ideas. Adelina, the Mexican president’s daughter and herself nearly David’s parents’ age, is a renowned philanthropist and activist and immediately agrees to come on board as the fledgling foundation’s president. 

She also brings their first programming idea. The Three First Children, as the press takes to calling them, even though David’s no longer a first anything, spend most of 2021 and the first half of 2022 touring the continent for a celebration of queer and Two-Spirit indigenous art. It’s nothing like David’s ever done before; it consumes his life, between the networking and the planning and the traveling, but Patrick’s there beside him, and there seem to be friends and family at every stop on the tour. Even Ronnie, who’s not part of David’s post-White House security detail, turns up to their inaugural event in DC and only briefly looks murderous when David and Patrick go over to greet her. 

By the time this first, truly successful foray into foundation management has concluded, the Pan-American Arts Foundation has hired enough staff that David and Patrick are able to take a sabbatical, leaving the organization in Adelina’s very capable hands. They’re still able to stay with Patrick’s parents in Ottawa, or David’s in California, but they’ve also started renting a house at the edge of the suburbs in North Carolina. A place all their own. It’s got a yard, and they’re talking about getting a dog, and they throw a Halloween party and Patrick dresses like Will Thacker again, seemingly just for the way David nearly swoons. And on the weekends, they can drive out a bit into the country and see the stars. 


“I’m just saying ,” David complains around his hot dog, “if the players also danced and sang, they could charge way more for tickets.” 

“This isn’t High School Musical 2 , David.” 

“Maybe it should be .”

It’s Patrick’s 35th birthday and they’re at a Blue Jays game. Going to sports performances for Patrick’s birthday has become something of a tradition. They have those, now, in their relationship - annual traditions. Later, everyone they love will gather at their house for a surprise party, which isn’t much of a surprise because it had to be cleared by everyone’s security teams, but Patrick has promised he’ll gasp and cry anyway. 

“You can’t tell me this isn’t all extremely erotic anyway,” David insists, gesturing to the field. “Balls and sticks and men staring each other down.” 

Patrick’s ears and cheeks flush a flattering pink, though he might just need more sunscreen; his backwards hat is protecting nothing , least of all David’s libido. “David, please, we’re in public,” he mutters, looking affronted and delighted. 

Because they are. Patrick’s wearing a sleeveless team jersey that makes David want to wrap both hands around his biceps and David’s double-fisting a gross warm beer and an overpriced hot dog and they’re in public. It would be easier, for security reasons, if they had gotten a private box, like they used to, but it’s important to Patrick that they be out here with the plebes. 

“I thought you’d be happy that I find your little baseball game erotic,” David grins, shimmying his shoulders. 

“Oh, I’m very happy,” Patrick chuckles, and the crowd roars around them, jumping up to celebrate an out or an in or whatever. “I just don’t believe for a second you find this remotely interesting.” 

David pouts. “I’m very sweaty, Patrick.” 

But in the seventh-inning stretch - David had needed to learn that term, for logistical reasons - the words Happy bday PBrew scroll across the scoreboard and the kiss cam settles on them and Patrick lights the fuck up. 

“You’re a home run, David Rose,” he whispers. 

“Oh, okay,” David laughs, and he lets his boyfriend kiss him in front of twenty thousand people. 

There’s almost nothing extraordinary about this Sunday in August, nearly two years exactly since Patrick had stood his ground outside the White House in the rain. There’s a late summer storm crackling outside when David wakes. He’d been scared of thunderstorms once. Now he snuggles into the way it swells the feeling of safety in their bedroom. 

Patrick promised last night that he’ll make waffles if David brings him tea in bed. (David had suggested a few ways he could bring Patrick tea in bed without leaving the bed, but the euphemisms had gone entirely over Patrick’s head.) The waffles, in turn, are a bribe to make David sit still long enough for a conversation about next steps. The foundation is thriving, largely without them, and they need to think about new projects and sources of income. David’s been ruminating on a little paper goods store, sourcing locally-produced stationery and stickers and artwork and maybe making some of his own for sale. He could probably include some candles and scarves and soap too. Neither of them have the capital for this undertaking, but Patrick’s always had a bit of a hard-on for paperwork, and there must be grants for this sort of thing. 

Their lives aren’t normal . They might never be. Clint still has a year in office and Moira was recently cast in what people are calling a primetime soap opera and normal people just don’t have security teams following them around. But as David pushes the sheets down and works on mentally preparing himself to get out of bed, he thinks it’s normal enough

So he’ll get up and make Patrick tea and bring it to him in bed and cuddle back up with him. And they’ll chat about future plans and about where to take Rachel and Twyla for dinner when they visit next weekend. And maybe... David’s gaze catches on the silver rings set on his bedside table. Four of them, still, though Patrick will sometimes snag one to wear for a day, a little bit of David to carry with him. 

Maybe soon, they’ll talk about adding a ring or two to that collection.