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It doesn’t occur to Patrick to change out of his dark wash jeans and pale blue button down. He’s going to a bar to have a drink with Michelle from work and maybe see if he can talk to a guy. Maybe get a number. Maybe? Patrick doesn’t know. He splashes water on his face and sniffs his armpits to see if he needs to change his shirt. It’s fine. He’s fine. Right? He studies his reflection. Patrick knows he’s not unattractive. He knows that certain women are really into his type. He fervently hopes that there are men that will be into him too.

Michelle is his favorite work friend. She’s whip smart and funny and kind, and when he told her that he was gay she smiled at him and said, “Okay. Want some?” And held out the bag of grapes from her lunch like it was nothing. Then two weeks later she convinced him to go to a bar to look at boys together. Patrick shrugs at his reflection in the mirror. Let’s go look at boys then.

*

David slides into his black jeans with the ripped knees. He checks his ass in the mirror but he already knows how it looks. He wears these jeans precisely because of how his ass looks in them. Next is the slim-fit black tee and, of course, his leather jacket that probably should come with some sort of warning for all the head it’s gotten him. Honestly.

He and Stevie are going to a new place to find some randoms. She is picking him up in a few minutes. He’s showered and moisturized and worked his hair into its signature upward sweep. He puts some cologne on his pulse points. A few eye drops to brighten his eyes. One more look in the mirror. Yep. Ready.

*

Patrick is putting his car in park when he sees Michelle pull in a few spaces away. He’s waiting by the trunk when she gets out of the car.

“Hey!” she says brightly, “You ready to look at cute boys?”

Patrick smiles broadly at her. “Yes. Absolutely ready to look at cute boys.” Looking was safe, right? Looking was easy, no pressure. He could do that.

“Maybe ask one to dance?” she nudges him with an elbow as they walked toward the entrance.

Patrick’s shoulders creep up in an exaggerated shrug. “Maaaaybeeee?” He grimaces.

They both laugh. Patrick is glad he came out with Michelle. This might be fun. The bar doors are open and music bubbles out.

(Oh Devil by Electric Guest)

Patrick looks around as he follows Michelle though the bar. It’s a lively place. There are a lot of people dancing. The happy song has everyone on the dance floor bouncing in unison. It makes Patrick smile.

The bar is a good size, with high ceilings and plentiful seating. Good crowd too, diverse groups of people drinking and dancing, laughing. It feels light, it feels good. A few guys look at him approvingly as he passes by. It gives him a little thrill. There are a few he could maybe see himself buying a drink for, or asking to dance. Patrick feels a pleasant flutter in his belly. All of it makes him feel hopeful and buoyant.

They settle into seats at a hightop table between the bar and the dance floor. Both of them with a good, cold beer in hand.

“Let the boy watching commence!” Michelle says with a smile, clinking her bottle against Patrick’s. He laughs and takes a long drink. Okay, here we go.

*

David casts his eyes around the parking lot as he unbuckled his seatbelt. “It looks kind of busy.” Thank god, more randoms...

“More randoms to choose from.” Stevie says, finishing his thought. “Or…” Stevie lets the word drag out.

David frowns at her. “Or what? What do you mean?”

Stevie grins slyly at him. “Or maybe you can slow dance with someone.”

David rolls his eyes hard. “Oh for fuck’s sake. See if I ever tell you another one of my dreams. Lady Gaga was a lovely dance partner in that dream.”

“Wasn’t she like seven feet tall or something?”

“Yes she was. She was seven feet tall. I felt very safe.” David looks at her haughtily. Stevie snorts and David twists his smile. They get out of the car.

As they cross the parking lot they can hear the music pouring out of the bar.

(Smokescreen by Willis)

David takes note of the song and says, “It’s your turn to get drinks, I’m going to do a circuit.”

The song is a good one for taking a lap around a crowded bar. David likes how it makes him feel, hot and a little dangerous. It makes him feel like he is prowling. It’s a good look for him and he does not go unnoticed. He rarely goes unnoticed, truth be told. David knows what he looks like. In his life before it had been capital, a tool, a protective barrier. Back then his looks felt like something separate from himself, like something to be managed. Now that he’s older, it’s easier for him to carry, and it shows.

*

Patrick is starting his second beer when he sees a striking man moving around the bar. To Patrick, he looks kind of like a wild animal. Lean and dark. Barely contained, like something that vibrates against the restraints of polite society. The thought makes Patrick catch his breath. Damn. And that song, good lord, it’s like he came with a soundtrack or something. Patrick can’t stop staring. He is fucking gorgeous.

Michelle sees his eyes widen and she says, “What?”

She turns to follow his gaze. She blurts “Holy shit, Patrick that dude is fucking gorgeous!”

Patrick laughs at that. But then he scoffs and says, “Kind of out of my league though don’t you think?”

Michelle looks at him like he’s crazy. “What? Why do you say that?”

“Oh come on Shel, LOOK at him and look at…” Patrick just points at his face.

She shakes her head at him. “Patrick, you have no idea what a snack you are.”

Patrick just rolls his eyes at her. “Yeah, sure. I’m a snack. That guy? That guy is a 7 course meal!”

Patrick flushes a bit with that. Because he’s imagining putting his mouth on the back of that guy’s neck, or between his shoulder blades, or just inside his hip-bone. So, yeah, he can imagine, a little too well, relishing every course of that particular feast. Damn.

*

Stevie has gotten their drinks and they settle into one of the low tables between the dance floor and the front door. David sighs. Several guys have given him fairly eager signals, but he just isn’t feeling it. He’s been thinking, for a while now, about putting the leather into retirement. Maybe he’s getting too old for randoms. It’s a game he is growing tired of playing.

“Well, what about that guy, second high-top over? Stevie asks, nodding across the corner of the dance floor.

David glances over then says, “Who? BabyBlueShirt? I saw him. Very cute, but I was thinking maybe you’d like to take that lil cherub apart. I don’t imagine he’d be into me, or men in general.”

“Ugh, gross, too clean cut for me. I bet he’s— polite.” Stevie sneers around the word like she’s describing something rancid. “Besides, he’s been staring at you since we sat down.”

Has he now. David looks across the bar and, yep, sure enough BabyBlueShirt is looking at him, looking straight at him and not breaking eye contact as he takes a pull from his beer bottle. Well damn, that’s pretty hot.

“Really? Huh…” David contemplates. Maybe his farm boy looks belie a dirty little treat. “Maybe after a few more polar bear shots I’ll see if I can debauch that fresh face.” David and Stevie toast to debauchery.

*

(Let’s dance by David Bowie)

Michelle nudges Patrick when HotGuy stands up. “Hey here he comes. Patrick, he’s looking at you!”

Patrick thinks that can’t be right though. He’s keenly aware that he’s still in his clothes from work. He hadn’t even put on more deodorant before coming out. What was he thinking? HotGuy is dressed to kill, like dick-murder. Whatever that means. Killing my dick or killing me with his? Either way, I fucking volunteer. And that was a weird thought to have when he should be paying attention to the HotGuy. The HotGuy who is maybe looking at him, and maybe heading in his direction. He’s not though, right?

Patrick can’t look. He knows that he’s been caught staring so he doesn’t want to watch him approach. If that’s what he’s doing. Probably not though. He watches the dancers instead.

Michelle nudges him again. “I bet he’s going to ask you to dance!”

Holy shit! Patrick’s heart leaps as his stomach drops. It hadn’t even entered his mind that someone might ask him to dance. HotGuy has his pick of virtually anybody in this place. He’s not going to ask Patrick to dance. Is he? Oh my god oh my god.

Patrick keeps his eyes on the dance floor, only looking up as HotGuy draws near. Heat flashes up his spine and he has to keep himself from arching his back with it. Fuck! Patrick takes a drink of his beer right as HotGuy gets close.

HotGuy makes direct eye contact, lifts his chin slightly and subtly tilts his head. Patrick chokes on his beer as HotGuy passes by him without stopping.

“What. Was. THAT??” Michelle asks, wide-eyed.

Patrick is sputtering and blushing hotly. “I believe, um. I think that was an, um… invitation?”

It takes her a second. “An invit—” Michelle’s mouth drops open.“Oh my god, are you serious?” She shoves his shoulder, a big smile on her face. “Patrick! Are you...?”

Patrick is aghast. “What?! NO! That is not my… not what I… no, just no!”

Patrick shakes his head no in exaggerated sweeps and tries to suppress the huge smile that wants to split his face. He is trying not to freak out. Is he supposed to feel offended? Because he does not. He feels flattered. He’s not going to do anything about it but he’s thrilled that he’d even made it onto HotGuy’s radar. Patrick has never even kissed a man before. Michelle doesn’t know that though or anything much about who he is, not really. She can’t know how Patrick rolls. Patrick hardly knows how Patrick rolls.

He does feel pretty clear that he is not someone who follows a guy into the bathroom or whatever. Probably not, anyway. Yeah. No. It’s a thought though, fuck, yes it is. A thought that Patrick will explore when he gets into bed that night.

*

They’re heading home. David is livid. His hands fly around his head. “I mean what the fuck was that?”

Stevie can’t stop laughing. She hadn’t scored either but somehow this particular fail of David’s is deliciously funny.

Stevie wheezes, “He choked on his beer David! He totally knew what you were doing and he choked on his beer! AND he didn’t follow you!” Tears squeeze out of the corners of her eyes. This is too fucking funny.

“I KNOW! This is NOT a good bar for randoms Stevie, never again!” He crosses his arms over his chest and pouts out the window. Fucking cherubic fresh-faced jackass. UGH!

David is mad and embarrassed. What he’s not telling Stevie, what he will never tell Stevie, is that as he approached that beautiful boy he thought about asking him to dance instead. But the boy’s eyes were too pretty and Stevie had teased him about slow dancing and he got too in his head so he did the thing. The random thing. He is seething with regret.

*

“Well, thanks for coming out with me Patrick!” Michelle hugs him in the parking lot.

“I had fun looking at cute guys with you, Shel. We should do it again sometime.”

“Even though we’re awful wing-people for one another?”

“Yup. It’s all good though. It’s a cool place.”

Patrick drives home and thinks of HotGuy. He gets ready for bed and thinks of HotGuy. Patrick is pretty sure HotGuy was inviting him to the bathroom or back room or out to a car for a blow job. Or something. HotGuy had a really gorgeous mouth. Patrick puts his hands on himself and comes really hard thinking of HotGuy’s gorgeous mouth.

*

David is still a little tipsy when he gets into bed. He can’t stop thinking about BabyBlueShirt. Who did he think he was anyway? Staring at him like that. Then not following David and sucking his cock. Honestly! Who does that? David had thought he was cute from across the room, but up close he noticed his broad shoulders and his strong-looking hands, and his big, brown eyes. Fuck. Stop it. He was laughing at you. Fuck him. Fuck BabyBlueShirt with his fucking shoulders and his big, stupid eyes. David wonders if he smells good. He probably does. Fuck.

*

Patrick can’t stay away from the bar any longer. It has been three weeks and he hasn’t stopped thinking about HotGuy. He wants to see if he’s a regular at the bar. He doesn’t tell Michelle he’s going, though. Maybe if he’s on his own he’ll be bolder? Not that he’d ever get a blow job from a random stranger. But Patrick wants to know his name. He wants to hear the sound of his voice. He’ll just stop in after work. Just one beer. It’s too early. HotGuy won’t be there.

*

David had a late lunch meeting with a vendor and is passing the bar on his way home. What could it hurt to stop in? Have a single drink to celebrate getting the contract and then just be on his way. It’s a nice bar. It’s early. BabyBlueShirt most definitely won’t be there. So David doesn’t need to worry about being laughed at again. Right?

David orders his drink and sits in one of the booths opposite the bar. It seems like a happy hour situation is starting but it’s pretty low-key. He gets out his journal and starts sketching.

*

Patrick scans the room as he makes his way to the bar. His stomach flips. Was that..? All the butterflies take off at once. HotGuy is here. Way back at the last booth in the corner. He looks deeply involved in writing in a notebook. Patrick takes a seat at the bar, not allowing himself to find HotGuy in the mirror behind the bar until he has a beer in his hand. But yeah, there he is, still writing, chewing his lip in concentration. Holy shit, he’s so good-looking.

*

David finally looks up from his sketch to take a drink. His eyes wander the room. Not looking for anyone in particular, though, just looking around is all. But, oh hey. There’s a different shade of blue shirt on some vaguely familiar shoulders. It’s hard to see his face in the mirror. It can’t be BabyBlueShirt. That’d be impossible right? Whoever it is moves to stand. Fuck. Shit, is he getting up? David wants to hide.

Just in case it’s him. It certainly isn’t, but just in case, David looks down into his journal and presses his pen against the page. He’s blanking though. Can he wiggle the pen and make it look like he’s doing something? He wiggles the pen and frowns in faux concentration.

*

Patrick decides half way through his beer that he is going to be bold and just go over there. HotGuy probably doesn’t even remember him. He probably misinterpreted things anyway. Patrick gets up.

*

David is trying not to panic. He can not, can not, fucking will NOT look up to see where definitely-not-BabyBlueShirt is going. He’s probably leaving. Or going to the restroom. He probably didn’t see David at all. All the way back here. With his face in a book. David frowns at the page and wiggles his pen some more.

“Hi.”

David looks up. Broad shoulders. Big eyes.

Fuck.

Say something back.

Now.

“Hey,” David barely squeaks out.

*

“Can I buy you a drink?” Patrick is trying to keep his voice from shaking. It came to Patrick as he crossed the bar that he’d never, not once, ever, pursued any woman he’d ever dated. He’d always been set up by friends or the women had made their interest so clear that he just did what was expected of him.

He is, right now, making the first move. His first first move. On his first man. Patrick is suddenly terrified. Adrenaline shoots up his spine and makes his scalp tingle. And holy shit HotGuy is really hot, way hotter than Patrick remembers and his whole—vibe— is really intense.

*

David is suddenly mortified. Why the fuck is he here? Why does he want to see the guy that laughed at him? Okay, fuck, do I have a humiliation kink now? No, I definitely do not. And now this infuriating man is offering to buy him a drink? Is he expecting to score? After laughing at him before? Fuck you, BabyBlue. Fuck. You. David stands up quickly and tips back the last of his drink.

“No, I’m leaving now. Thanks though.” He is trying to be icily polite. Why is his heart beating so fast?

*

Patrick’s eyes widen when HotGuy stands up. Oh no. He overstepped. Or something. He wonders if there are rules for this stuff that he doesn’t know about? Probably! God, what an idiot. But HotGuy is just standing there. Looking at him.

*

David stands there for a minute too long. He can’t help it. He is dragging his eyes all over BabyBlue. Nice. He has a nice fucking body, with a trim waist and thick thighs. How dare this asshole be hot. Goddammit. David wants to just breeze coldly past him and get the hell out. But his dumb hand betrays him by reaching out on his way by and giving BabyBlue’s arm a quick squeeze. David curses his dumb hand. Fuck!

*

Patrick blows out the breath he didn’t know he was holding. He’s still standing by the now empty table. Ok. That was interesting. HotGuy’s voice sounded good but kind of angry? Maybe? Patrick doesn’t know. He did know that his arm got squeezed and HotGuy definitely looked Patrick’s whole body up and down and fuck wasn’t that hot? He also knows that HotGuy smells like smoke and cedar and wild horses running over green hills. Patrick shivers. Horses? Don’t be weird. Still didn’t get his name though. Damn.

*

David fumes. Well, he can never go back to that bar again. It’s too risky. Another thing BabyBlue has taken from him. First his dignity, now this cool little bar that’s so conveniently close to so many vendors. He smelled clean, like ivory soap, and his arm was nice though. Firm. Definitely muscley. David wills himself to be a stronger person.

*

Two weeks later Michelle is inviting him out again. “Come on Patrick, a bunch of us are going. It doesn’t have to be about cute boys this time.”

Patrick hadn’t told her about seeing HotGuy again. It doesn’t feel like he has enough of him to share anyway. He is also vaguely embarrassed that he has put so much thought into two very brief encounters.

But Patrick can’t really pretend that he doesn’t want to go. Honestly, what are the chances of running into HotGuy a third time? Very low, he imagines. Next to no chance at all. And if he does happen to be there what could it hurt to try to talk to him? Patrick really wants to know HotGuy’s name.

*

Stevie is getting irritated. “It’s been long enough David, we’re going. BabyBlueShirt is not going to be there!” She’s been teasing him mercilessly about him for weeks.

David pouts a little. He’s mad at himself for having so many thoughts about a person he doesn’t like at all. Because David most definitely does not like BabyBlue’s eyes or muscles or his sweet voice saying, “Hi,” like a dick or something.

“Ok FINE! But if he’s there I. Am. Leaving.”

“Sure David. Will that be before or after you invite him to suck your cock?”

David glares at her and makes a frustrated sound while flapping a hand at her.

Stevie flaps her hand back at him. “Go get ready!”

So David gets ready. He decides against his leather jacket this time. No need to be seen twice in the same thing, if BabyBlue happens to be there. Even though he won’t be there. David will be cooly casual. Not trying too hard. So BabyBlue (who absolutely won’t be there) will see that David doesn’t care what he thinks. David puts on his slim black pants and his white t-shirt with the vampire lips on it, heart shaped blood dripping from the teeth.

*

Patrick decides to make an effort at preparing for a night out. He showers after work and puts on a bit of cologne. He dresses in grey slacks and a thin black sweater that clings to his chest and shoulders. HotGuy had on black both times he saw him. Maybe he’ll notice. If he is even there. He won’t be there though. There’s no chance of that. It feels kind of good to wear something different. He likes how he looks in the sweater. The shallow V neck shows off his throat. The color brings out the paleness of his skin, making it glow. It makes Patrick feel sort of sexy. He decides to lean into that.

Michelle wolf-whistles at him when he approaches the table his workmates occupy. That gets them all a little riled up and they start happily shouting at him.

“Nice Pat!”

“Look at you, hotty!”

“On the prowl tonight!”

“Whoo, damn dude!”

Patrick is blushing as he sits down. “You have to stop. Please!”

However, he’s waving his hand at them, a rolling motion with his wrist, encouraging them to bring it on. They all laugh then. Michelle pours him a glass of beer from the pitcher. Patrick takes a seat next to her and starts to relax. He hasn’t seen HotGuy but his work friends are cool. It doesn’t matter if he meets anyone tonight. It doesn’t matter if HotGuy doesn’t show up. He’ll never see HotGuy again anyway. Probably.

*

“You’re not going to make a circuit?” Stevie asks him, looking puzzled.

They are tucked into the booth David had occupied a few weeks before. Stevie doesn’t know about that. She doesn’t have to know about that, or that a part of David hopes BabyBlue might look for him there. A part of David is hiding that information from all the other parts of David.

“No, I just want to chill, have a few drinks…”

“David.”

“What?! You can random if you want. I’m not gonna random tonight.”

Stevie cuts her eyes at him. “WHAT?!” David shouts, throwing his hands up. “Are you afraid he’s here?”

“Who? NO!” Hands still flying.

“You ARE afraid he’s here!”

“Take another shot and stop being a dick, Stevie.”

Stevie knocks back her shot and stands up. “Well, I’m gonna make a circuit.”

She starts to walk away and calls back over her shoulder, “I’ll let you know if I see him!”

David snarls at her and fiddles with his glass.

*

Patrick is pouring his second beer from the pitcher when he sees her. The dark haired woman who had been with HotGuy the first time. If she’s here, chances are he’s here too. Right? Patrick’s heart skips.

The woman makes eye contact with him. She suppresses a smile and keeps moving. Patrick watches her, unblinking, as she makes her way back to her table and sits down. Oh, holy shit. He’s here. Patrick takes in the sight. He is wearing white. His arms are bare. Oh, my.

*

“He’s here.” Stevie announces casually, as she sits back down. Her eyes are already drifting past David’s shoulder to check out the guys behind him.

David blanches. “The fuck he is.”

“No seriously. Look. The six-top over there.” She jerks her head. “He’s in black, David, and he looks like a fucking snack.”

David can’t bear to look. “Nope. I don’t believe you.”

He isn’t going to fall for that. Stevie is punking him, has to be. “Not gonna look, just gonna drink.” David sasses but he feels a little zing of excitement.

He is just sipping on his shot. He doesn’t want to get drunk. It feels like too much is at stake now. And god he is pissed that he thinks that! Why is anything at stake? Stupid BabyBlueJerk just wants to harass him anyway. Who cares about him and his dumb stupid gorgeous body. God he probably looks really good in black. Fuck.

*

“Patrick!” Michelle whisper-yells in his ear. “HotGuy is HERE!” She shakes his shoulder gleefully. “Go say something!”

Patrick’s brain is still processing. How the hell does this keep happening? “I know!” he hisses.

He looks at her pleadingly then. He really does not want his co-workers to catch on. They’ll all get loud and overly encouraging and he would not be able to do what he really, really wants to do.

Luckily Michelle is as quick as she is kind. She just squeezes his arm and says quietly, “He’s looking at you.” Patrick takes a breath and turns.

*

David takes another sip of his drink and casually looks over at BabyBlue. BabyBlue is looking at the woman beside him. Then he looks right at David. Oh my god. He does look damn good in black. When BabyBlue stands up, David gasps lightly. His stomach does a dip-swirl-dip. Get a hold of yourself for fuck’s sake. Christ.

*

Patrick has a kaleidoscope of butterflies sweeping through his belly. He can’t believe he is doing this. Again. Why can’t he leave this alone? Because there’s something. He gave me the nod. He squeezed my arm. He looked my body like he was trying to decide where to begin taking me apart. Patrick shivers. There is something, and for now, he is going to pretend that HotGuy thinks there’s something too.

He walks up to the table and looks down at HotGuy. Patrick shoves his hands in his pockets.

“Hi. Again.”

“Hello.” HotGuy answers. His face is unreadable to Patrick.

They look at each other for a long minute. A slow song starts to play.

(Come Rain or Come Shine by Eric Clapton, BB King)

*

BabyBlue draws a deep breath and holds out his hand. “Dance with me?”

Stevie’s jaw drops.

David presses his lips together. “Um, no?” barely a whisper.

BabyBlue sits down. Right next to David. The fucking nerve! There’s no room here! David is not very far into the booth and BabyBlue’s fucking thigh, oh god, his thigh is right up against David’s. Oh. God. It’s. Warm. Oh, what the..?

BabyBlue pushes up the sleeves of his soft looking sweater and says, “I’m sorry I can’t hear you.”

He is leaning further into David’s space, elbow on the table, turning his ear toward David. Oh my god. His beautiful neck, his forearm. David imagines climbing into his lap. He feels sweaty. He has to lean in to be heard though right? David leans close to speak right into BabyBlue’s ear.

Well. David’s voice simply can’t be trusted. It comes out all gravely and intimate and it sounds more like ‘fuck me’ than what he actually says, which is, “No, I won’t dance with you.”

Stevie kicks him under the table and says firmly “David!”

*

Patrick lights up. First of all, goddamn. His voice. This man just literally purred in Patrick’s ear and all of his nerves are crackling with the sound, his arms pebbled with goosebumps. Second of all, his name is David! David. David. And third, David may have said the word no but his voice and his eyes say something else and this is confusing so he is going to try one more time. If Hot— David says no again, Patrick will be done. Maybe then he’ll be able to get the man out of his head. Patrick stands back up and holds out his hand.

*

BabyBlue stands then and smiles at him while maintaining some gorgeously heated eye contact and David knows he’s fucked.

BabyBlue asks again. “Please. David. Dance with me?”

The weight of the silky pauses between please and David and dance drop through David’s belly and land heavily in his lap. Oh no, oh no, this is not fair. David’s hand betrays him again because before he knows what’s happening he is taking BabyBlue’s hand and standing up. BabyBlue threads his fingers through David’s like they’ve done it a thousand times and leads him to the dance floor.

*

Patrick’s heart is pounding. HotGuy— David takes his hand and stands up. David’s hands are bigger than his. He’s taller. Height doesn’t matter when you’re laying down, his brain supplies helpfully. Christ. Patrick reminds himself to breathe as he turns to lead David...David...David to the dance floor.

*

When they reach the edge of the floor BabyBlue turns around and walks backwards into the crowd of dancers, watching David’s face, still leading him by the hand. What the hell is this? Walking backwards like that. He’s not even bumping into anyone. David is getting madder by the minute. This ASS is maddeningly, impressively smooth.

When BabyBlue finally stops he gently tugs on David’s hand, reeling him in. Then he has the nerve to kind of place David’s hand high on his shoulder. One of David’s fingers lay against the luminous skin of his neck. David can’t take his eyes off it for a minute. He shifts it ever so slightly to slip it just under his collar. Then Patrick puts his hands low on David’s waist and starts swaying to the music. David will never forgive his arms for draping themselves so easily over BabyBlue’s shoulders.

David is so mad. He snips, “I’m not dancing with you.”

They sway in a circle. BabyBlue’s hands are warm on David’s waist.

*

Patrick is smiling. He can feel the heat radiating off of David’s chest. He can smell his good scent and see his stubble, his lips, his eyes, his everything, all up close and it’s so much. Patrick has never seen anything so beautiful.

*

David doesn’t know why this boy is smiling like that. It’s a sweet smile. His eyes are— they’re a lot. Fuck.

David repeats himself as if he’s trying to make himself believe it. “I’m not dancing with you!”

*

Patrick catches his lower lip with his teeth for a second then says, “Aw. I really wish you would reconsider.”

There’s something there, that Patrick can see, or feel. David’s prickly layer is vapor thin. Underneath there’s something softer. It’s his eyes. There’s such warmth there. A sweet energy buzzes beneath David’s skin and Patrick wants to live there.

*

David’s dumb hands really like BabyBlue’s shoulders. He’s nice and solid, and not just the feel of his body. David can feel that this man is grounded. Sturdy. And open, my god the openness of him! David could just swim in it. His fucking eyes are so big they’re like a ridiculous cliche. Windows to the soul. For fuck’s sake. It’s awful.

But his sweater is so soft. The hands on his waist are firm and confident. And did he just bite his lip?! God! David hates him. So much. David is pulling his mouth to the side to suppress the smile that threatens to give away the fact that David does not hate BabyBlue. At all. It’s turning out to be quite the opposite. Fuck.

*

They stare at each other dopily for kind of a long time so Patrick repeats himself, looking up from under his lashes. He knows he can’t match David’s purr, but he lets his voice go gravely.

“I wish you’d reconsider your stance on not dancing with me.”

Warmth pours off of him. Patrick has never flirted so blatantly in his life.

“I’m not going to though.”

“Why David? Why won’t you dance with me?” Patrick can’t stop saying his name. He slides one hand up from David’s waist to run his thumb across his bottom rib then back down again. David shivers.

“Because I don’t like you!” David snaps but his eyes are filled with warmth.

“Oh you don’t? So you didn’t… the other night…”

David glares at him so hard that Patrick changes course. “Why don’t you like me David?”

David just looks in his eyes for a long moment. God, there’s so much going on in there. Patrick waits.

“You laughed at me.” David finally says softly.

It’s almost too low to hear, but Patrick is listening very closely.

Patrick leans up and presses his cheek to David’s, his mouth close to his ear. “I didn’t laugh at you David. I would never… I was, you were so...beautiful... I was just surprised.”

Patrick speaks slowly and clearly. He wants to be understood.

*

Beautiful. David shivers again goddammit and he simply can NOT with this level of sincerity. He does not like the liquid warmth spreading in his chest. It’s terrible. He switches gears.

“What’s your name anyway?” David snaps, but it’s really losing its edge.

Patrick smiles softly. “Patrick.”

A secret smile pulls at one corner of David’s mouth. “PatricK” David says, hitting the K hard.

It clicks in his throat. Patrick. Patrick. The P pops, the ticklish T rolls into the R, and then the hard K. It’s a delectable mouthful. David likes it. David doesn’t want to stop saying it. He says it again. “Patrick.”

*

Patrick swallows hard. He’s never heard his name said quite like that before. Wow. He likes it. So much. He likes his name in David’s mouth. He’s looking at David’s mouth now, slowly drawing his eyes back up to meet his gaze. Something. Wow. Something is happening.

*

“David.” Patrick draws it out just a bit.

Somehow he’s taken that nasal A and sharp V and sanded them down so it sounded like a soft, rounded thing.

David’s heart knocks noisily against his ribs. He thinks he should be mad at his heart for responding like that. But he’s not mad. At this moment, David is profoundly glad that Patrick hadn’t followed him into the bathroom that night. Something is happening here.

This sturdy man with the luminous skin is flirting so beautifully. Just standing all strong against the onslaught of David’s brattiness. He feels so good under David’s hands and up against his body. His eyes are so lovely and warm. Patrick says his name like he warmed it in his mouth first, melting away all it’s edges. All of it was moving into David’s body and curling up like it planned to stay. It was doing things to him. Astonishing things.

David does not know what to do with any of it. Not at all. The hands on his waist slide around to his lower back and, oh so gently, coax him closer. David tightens his arms around Patrick’s shoulders, one hand caressing the back of his neck. They are connected now, from chest to hip and David’s eyes threaten to roll back in his head at the pleasure of it.

*

Patrick is blissing out. Their flirtation is so damn good. Just saying their names causes a hot electric current to zing back and forth between them. David’s soft vulnerability split Patrick’s chest open and he just wants to wrap this man up and tuck him under his ribs for safe keeping.

And oh, holding David this close feels incredible. His body is firm and masculine. He’s bigger than Patrick and that makes him wonder what it would feel like to be under him. That thought makes Patrick gasp softly. The sensation of their bodies pressing together is dizzying. Patrick thinks he might faint. He can’t stop looking at David’s lips. He’s going to kiss him. He will die if he doesn’t kiss him.

*

Holy shit Patrick is going to kiss him! David’s eyes jump from Patrick’s eyes to his lips and back. David is leaning in though. He can’t stop himself and he doesn’t try. David slowly tips his head forward. Patrick is still looking into his eyes, leaning up, closing his eyes right at the last second. And then.

It happens.

*

Patrick’s whole world slows and grows quiet when their lips touch. He can feel David’s breaths, quick and shallow, in his chest. One of David’s big hands is cupping his jaw and neck, the other is pressed firmly between his shoulder blades. Every molecule of Patrick’s body is glittering like a star. He’s a galaxy. He’s an infinite field of hot, bright sparks. There is nothing else.

*

David’s head is spinning. Sparks are skittering up his back and down his arms and he feels lighter than air. Patrick’s lips against his own are soft and firm and, god, they feel like they were made for David. David’s chest feels weird. Maybe he’s dying? What the fuck? Patrick’s hands move up his back and he’s holding David so so close and David is drowning in him.

How can a kiss feel like this? It feels so. Right. It’s the most right David thinks he’s ever felt and no seriously, what the actual fuck? This can’t be real.

David breaks the kiss and stares at Patrick. Patrick’s eyes are still closed, thank whoever, because David knows his own face is doing gymnastics right now. He cannot let this boy see that. His face would tell on him. It would tell him that this was his best kiss since maybe forever. This brief, no-tongue kiss. He’d had filthier kisses in high school.

*

It takes Patrick a second to register that David is no longer kissing him. He’s still lost in the kiss. Patrick’s eyes aren’t ready to open quite yet. He’s still blissfully rotating with the universe’s inevitable spin. When Patrick finally opens his eyes, David is staring at him with wide eyes. They speak at the same time.

“What was…” David is still trying valiantly to school his features.

“Wow…” Patrick can’t control his face at all. He’s fucking gobsmacked and it shows.

*

Oh, my god, the look on Patrick’s face. It takes David’s breath away. It’s so open and so obvious. David is freaking out. He hopes he looks fairly rational, but he’s freaking the fuck out. His mind, his heart, are telling him this could be something. Like, a real thing with this guy. With BabyBlue. With Patrick.

That can’t be a thing though, right? Real doesn’t start with an invitation to a blowjob that was REJECTED for fuck’s sake. No. This is not a thing. His malnourished heart isn’t allowed to weigh in. This is nothing. This amazing kiss, Patrick’s warmth and sweet, solid energy is nothing. Nothing.

*

Patrick is freaking out. Mostly in a good way. Because he just kissed a man. His first. And he’s kissed this man. HotGuy. David, with all that dark, predatory heat. David, who smells sublime and looks like a terrifying erotic fever dream but has the softest eyes he’s ever seen. Patrick has kissed David.

But now David looks...freaked out? Maybe? Is he mad that Patrick kissed him? No, that can’t be! He participated didn’t he? Oh, god, what if it was terrible? What if it was an awful kiss?! Patrick has been told that he’s a very good kisser. More than one person said so. Maybe kissing men was different? How can that be though?

Now David is pulling away from him. After the kiss they stood there holding each other’s arms at the elbow and now David’s hands are sliding down Patrick’s forearms to his wrists, then gripping his fingers.

*

David is looking into Patrick’s big, expressive eyes. Something is still happening. The air sizzles between them. And he can’t take it. Any of it. He has to GO. Their brief, chaste kiss has short-circuited David’s brain. His lips want more kisses and his hands itch to touch Patrick again. But his fear is loud and bossy and it says there’s a fucking emergency right now and he needs to get the fuck OUT. It says to run. So he does.

“I have to go.” David can barely say it.

He squeezes Patrick’s hands and turns and walks away. Away, and out the door. His heart is hammering in his chest. He’ll text Stevie from the car. He can’t be here anymore. His whole body is being ridiculous and it’s not allowed to make decisions for a while. He should’ve never danced with Patrick. He should’ve never kissed him. And he should have never, ever let himself like it. Not like this. Not this much.

*

Patrick is stunned. He watches David walk away and right out the door. What the fuck just happened? He desperately wants to chase him. But he can’t move. David surely felt what Patrick had felt with that kiss. Right? Or Not? Maybe the kiss told David that Patrick is an inexperienced dummy that had gotten to age thirty before he figured out that he was gay. That’s probably it. Who on earth would want to be with someone like that? Certainly not David, the hot guy that had prowled around the bar that first night like he was looking to steal someone’s soul.

*

David is slouched way down in the passenger’s seat when Stevie opens the car door.

“Are you ok?” She’s concerned. Stevie knows randoms can go bad. “Hey, look at me.”

David looks. He’s still unsettled but he takes in the state of his friend. Her face is relaxed and her hair is a little mussed. Her lips are a little red.

“Okay. I’m fine,” he says, forcing a smile. “Looks like you got yours, Stevie. Look. At you. Go!”

“David, you’re not fine.” She waits, but when David doesn’t speak she continues, “But if you don’t want to talk about it that’s okay. As long as you’re not hurt or roofied or something.”

“It’s nothing like that.” David stares through the windshield.

“What happened with BabyBlue?”

“Nothing. Stevie, you should let me drive.”

“Good call.” They switch sides and David turns on the radio. David’s chest feels tight all the way home.

(Darlin’ by Houndmouth)

*

Michelle walks Patrick out to his car. He came back to the table looking lost and told her he needed to go. He won’t accept a ride home so Michelle makes him stay for thirty minutes, drinking water and staring blankly at nothing.

Out by his car Michelle touches his arm and says, “Patrick, I saw him kiss you. Then you came back to the table looking like you’d been hit by a truck. What happened?”

Patrick wants to be embarrassed or tease her about being a voyeur but he doesn’t have it in him.

“I honestly don’t know Shel. Being close to him, that kiss was—” he puts his hand to his chest. “—fucking amazing. It felt like. Something.” Patrick heaves a sigh. “But then he just said ‘I have to go’ and he was gone. I don’t know what I did wrong.”

Michelle rubs his upper arm warmly. “I don’t think you did anything wrong, Patrick. Didn’t you see his face before he took off? Because I did.”

Patrick thinks about it. He had kept his eyes closed for a beat after he felt David move away. Maybe he missed something. “Not really no. I was. Still, sort of, in it, I guess.” He blushes, embarrassed now.

He raises his eyes hopefully to meet his friend’s. “What do you think you saw?” he asks her.

Michelle draws in a breath and casts her eyes around the lot, thinking of what to say.

“Ok, at first he just looked surprised. Then his whole face just did this. Thing. He smiled really big, then he twisted his mouth to the side and frowned like he was trying to hide it. His eyes were wide. To me, he looked pretty happy. Then his face shut down and he took off. I thought you must have said something.”

“I may have said ‘wow’ but that’s it. Maybe he was just shocked at how terrible the kiss was…”

Patrick is now fully feeling sorry for himself.

Michelle laughs gently and pats his arm again. “Yeah, I don’t think that’s it.”

Patrick gratefully accepts her hug and gets in his car. He can’t bear to listen to music so he turns off the playlist that starts. His chest feels tight all the way home.

                                                                                                                    ***

Patrick has been out with Caesar several times in the past three weeks. He knows Caesar expects him to want more, to give more. Patrick is trying, he really is. But he just can’t.

He won’t admit to himself that it’s Caesar’s thick hair, so like David’s, swept up off his forehead, shiny and dark, that made him ask him out to begin with. Caesar is beautiful in so many ways. He’s funny and kind and has lovely olive skin and full lips that are great for kissing. He really is just the sweetest man. But he is not someone Patrick longs for.

(Lover please stay-by Nothing but thieves)

The music is playing softly and they are making out on Caesar’s couch. Patrick’s eyes are closed tight and his hands are in Caesar’s hair. He does that a lot.

Without breaking the kiss, Caesar unbuttons Patrick’s shirt and slides his hand inside. He thumbs over Patrick’s nipple. He runs his hand over his ribs, down Patrick’s belly, and then slips just the tips of his fingers under the waistband of his jeans.

Last weekend they’d given each other hand jobs for the first time. It’s the farthest Patrick has ever gone with a man. The past several months have been confusing for Patrick. He’s happy he’s figured himself out. He loves men’s bodies and is thrilled by how readily his own body responds now. That part is so different from before. But it’s felt so oddly shallow. His body is definitely interested but his heart and his mind are holding out.

Caesar is clearly ready for more. He’s expecting more. Patrick knows he could give it to him. He knows Caesar would be great for getting all of his firsts out of the way. But that is the most fucked up thing that’s ever crossed his mind and he knows he can’t. He just can’t.

Caesar is kissing down Patrick’s chest now and inching towards the edge of the couch. He’s angling his body in such a way that Patrick knows Caesar’s going to get on his knees. Patrick’s dick is starting to get hard and maybe he can just let it happen. Maybe it’ll be so good it’ll erase David from his mind. Maybe he can finally get a dick in his own mouth too, and damn, wouldn’t that be good? Get some experience. Caesar is great. He’s kind and sexy. And if he was on his knees between Patrick’s legs he could look down at that hair and pretend…

“Caesar, wait.”

Caesar stops and looks up at him, his eyes are soft and lustful. He sits up and touches Patrick’s face, drawing his thumb across his bottom lip.

“What is it, sweetheart?”

My god, he’s so dear. So gentle. It could be so good. Caesar is really into him. Patrick wants to run.

“I can’t. Do this. I don’t think…”

He watches Caesar’s face fall and it’s like getting punched in the gut.

“What’s wrong, Patrick, what do you mean?”

Patrick closes his eyes and takes a breath. Goddammit why is he so fucked up? He’s so weary of this. He’s bitterly angry at himself and exquisitely tired of getting it wrong. His whole damn life he’s felt wrong. Except for those moments with David. The thought makes his heart ache so fiercely that when he opens his eyes they’re burning with tears.

“I can’t give you what you want, Caesar, I can’t…”

“It’s okay Patrick, we can wait. I don’t mind going slow. I like you so much…”

Caesar reaches out to button up Patrick’s shirt and, god, he’s making this so difficult. Patrick covers his hands with his own.

“I like you too, I do…but I can’t do this with you...you deserve... better.”

Caesar jerks his hands away then, and drops his eyes. It’s so awful and so goddamn familiar that Patrick wants to throw up. Patrick buttons his shirt back up and leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He rubs his face with both hands.

“I’m sorry Cee. You’re great. It’s not you…”

“Fuck you, calling me Cee right now.” He says it softly.

Patrick rears back in surprise but there’s no real anger in Caesar’s face. Just hurt. It’d be better if he were angry. He reaches out to touch him but Caesar jerks away. He won’t look at Patrick.

“Just go, Patrick. It’s fine.”

Patrick goes. God, he’s such an asshole. He feels gross. He feels angry and sad and heartsick. Maybe he’s just broken. Maybe what he wants just doesn’t come in his size. Maybe he’s broken. He’s broken. Why can’t I fucking fix this?  When he gets in his car, he rests his forehead on the steering wheel and cries.

*

(Gravity by Sara Bareilles)

David is driving away from a successful vendor meeting. He’s happy. He guesses? Sure. The store is thriving. The vendor signed another contract, for a year this time. The vendor that doesn’t live far from the bar. David has driven by the bar dozens of times over the past several months. At first, it makes him feel so full of regret that he’d drive down a neighboring street to avoid looking at the place. Now it’s just a bar where he kissed a guy once. He thinks he should go back there today. The song on the radio is about wanting to be released. David thinks he’s almost there.

Since running from the bar that night David has only gone out for randoms twice. Once with Stevie and once alone. The night with Stevie had been fruitless but the night on his own was not. He’d gotten pretty drunk. The blow job he received was forgettable. He remembers leaning against the bathroom wall, his arms over his head, clutching the top of the stall. He remembers staring up at the ceiling, while the guy on his knees awkwardly scrabbled at his crotch.

What he remembers most is the profound loneliness he felt at that moment. He was too in his head, too out of place, and too fucking weary. The morning after, he puts the leather jacket in the back of his closet. He’s done with the jacket. He’s done with randoms. He’s done.

David has had a lot of practice compartmentalizing in his life. So it isn’t hard to shove all the sparks and joy of those moments with Patrick out of his head. Well, it is hard, actually. Really hard. But David manages. He just keeps reminding himself that that kind of stuff isn’t for him. He isn’t meant for anything that feels like that. He is damaged goods after all. But not unhappy. Life is good, if a little lonely.

The bar is only, like, twenty minutes away. It feels like a full circle thing to stop there again after getting the contract signed. He’ll decide how he feels about it when he gets there. He’ll just order a drink and sit and draw in his journal for a while. Maybe it’ll be like pressing a restart button or something. He won’t run into BabyBlue again. David never says his name. Stevie even stops teasing him about it.

*

One week after ending things with Caesar, six months after kissing David, Patrick is sitting in the parking lot of the bar. The song on the radio is about wanting to be released. Patrick wants to be released.

It’d been a long day at work. Michelle is talking about leaving the company and it makes Patrick sad. Just one beer. Just a little time somewhere that wasn’t work or the gym or his apartment.

He tries to convince himself that the kiss with David had been powerful only because it was his first with a guy and that it could’ve been any guy. That the right guy or even the next guy will light him up like that. At least light him up a little. So far it hasn’t held true.

He’s enjoyed the men he’s gone out with and has gained confidence from his experiences with them. But it simply never felt right. It is a disturbing reflection of his reactions with women.

In order to have sex with a woman, Patrick needed connection and trust. All that had been built in with Rachel, they’d known each other for years. When he dated other women he actively worked to establish a connection and the women all loved it. They loved Patrick. He was a gentleman. He was sensitive. He wanted to know them. They unfurled like flowers for him. Open, trusting and warm.

Within that warmth, Patrick could get it up. Most of the time. When he couldn’t, because they had a connection, they didn’t shame him. Plus he became a goddamn savant with his hands and his mouth. It wasn’t great for him, but he liked being good at things. All of it made the break-ups excruciating.

With men it was like being in a completely different body. He wanted to fuck all the men. His stomach would flip at a glance from a man. Flirting set off a vibration under his skin that more often than not, sent him home to jerk off. And making out? Fuck. Patrick had never had his hips thrust forward involuntarily before. It was a revelation. Feeling lust for the first time in his life was intoxicating.

But Patrick learned fast that letting his body lead was a mistake. Like with Paul, who’d been really hot but mostly dumb. Paul was very polite and gentlemanly until the lights went down in the theater and he started whispering filthy things in Patrick’s ear and trying to fondle his dick through his jeans. Patrick walked out before the previews ended and took a Lyft home. Then there was Mike, who didn’t listen when Patrick asked him to stop. Mike, who’d said “You want this.” over and over until finally Patrick had to shove him away and then physically haul him to the door and push him out.

Then he met Caesar. Sweet, kind, sexy Caesar. It is with him that Patrick realizes that fucking Caesar to force a connection is no better than forcing connection in order to fuck. It’s all half wrong. He cared for Caesar. But not the way he should.

Through all of it, one thing was absolutely clear. Not one man had made Patrick feel the way David did. Patrick knows it’s possible, even probable, that he felt that way because it was his first kiss with a man. So it’s reasonable to think that if he kisses David again, maybe he won’t feel that enormous expansion in his chest. Then he’d know. So all he has to do is kiss David again. So here he is, in the bar parking lot listening to a sad love song. He’s not ready to let it go.

He punches the radio off and growls at it. “Fuck off Sara.”

Patrick sits at the bar and nurses a beer. When he walked in the door, his eyes went immediately to the booth in the back. Empty. Maybe it was time to really move on. Michelle is thinking about leaving the company because rumor says it’s failing. Maybe he can change jobs, move to a new town. A fresh fresh start. Patrick has done it before, he can do it again.

Maybe there’s a new job and a new guy for him. Just somewhere else. Patrick hangs his head and presses his thumbs into the corners of his eyes. He is so tired of aching. Tired of thinking about a man with whom he’d spent a grand total of ten minutes. It seems unlikely that he’ll get to kiss him again to see, just to see if it’s the same. He wishes he knew how to stop wanting.

*

David pulls into the parking lot. It’s time to stop all of this pining. Honestly. David sighs heavily and gets out of the car. He can go in and sit in the same booth and have the same drink and draw in the same journal and it can be the start of a new cycle. Right? Then he can come back here next weekend with Stevie and dance and be charming and maybe meet someone who doesn’t wear baby blue button downs and have caramel colored eyes. Someone to dance with and talk to, and not do the other thing. The random thing.

David walks through the door and immediately looks to the dance floor. As if their moment had burned so bright he’d be able to see an after-image of himself and Pa— BabyBlue seared into the air. Looking at each other like they’d been struck by lightning.

David scans the bar. Nope. He isn’t here. Of course he isn’t. That would be crazy. David is relieved, really. What in the world would he do? Or say? Hey, guy, do you believe in love at first sight? Because kissing you that one time blew my mind and I just want to kiss you until the sun burns out? Yeah, not smooth. Not attractive. It doesn’t matter.

He’s not here anyway. He’ll never be here. David really wishes he were though. He’s heartsick from wishing. He’s also intensely angry at himself for running away that night. Well, cowards don’t get to have love. Love. For fuck’s sake, it was one kiss.

David stands at the bar and orders his drink. While he waits he leans a hand on the bar stool next to him. It’s warm. There’s a half empty beer bottle on the bar. It’s the same brand he saw BabyBlue drink that first night. His heart squeezes painfully. God, he’s so tired of this.

The bartender gives him his drink and David goes to his booth. He opens his journal and starts sketching new label designs.

*

Patrick walks back to his seat after using the restroom and orders another beer. Why not? It seems like Happy Hour is over and they’ve turned the music up a bit. He likes the song that’s playing. It sounds both sad and hopeful and it resonates with him.

(This Feeling by Alabama Shakes)

Maybe if he stays a bit longer David will show up. Patrick shakes himself. It really has to be time to let all that go right? For Christ’s sake. Enough. Patrick sits down and takes a deep breath. Letting it expand his chest. If he can’t have David, at least he’s had a taste of what right feels like. So he’ll just chase that fucking feeling, that unbelievable, enormous feeling, until he finds it again. Patrick draws in another deep breath through his nose and frowns.

Wait.

It’s faint but unmistakable. Smoke, cedar, wild horses. Patrick spins around and looks at the booth.

There he is.

David.

David is here.

Patrick clutches his heart. He literally grabs his chest with his hand and presses down hard. He’s breathless. David is here. For a fraction of a second Patrick knows nothing at all. His mind is a white blank.

Then relief floods through him. David had become an apparition. A not-real thing. A dream. But there he is, real. Frowning down at his book, pen flying. Patrick’s legs move of their own volition, lifting him off the bar stool and towards David. David who kissed him once and sparked a fire that burned away any doubt he had about himself. David, who hasn’t seen him yet.

*

David finished exactly one new label design. He’s doodling absently, sketching someone’s eyes from memory. His drink is almost gone and he knows he should go soon. He will. He’s trying to process this moment. He thought it’d be a reset but everything feels the same. His heart still aches. He closes his eyes and closes his journal. Using the fingers from both hands he rubs his forehead and the space between his eyebrows, trying to ease the tension there. Okay. He’s going to finish this drink and get home.

*

Patrick feels like he’s walking under water as he moves across the bar. He watches as David closes his eyes and puts his book down. Patrick is standing by the table now. David. David. David is right here. His eyes are still closed. He is so beautiful it makes Patrick ache.

Patrick slides into the booth across from David. He’s surprised that David still has his hands on his face, still doesn’t know he’s there, and somehow can’t hear Patrick’s heart thundering in his chest. He can’t wait any longer. But he doesn’t trust his voice. Patrick knocks gently on the table.

David drops his hands and jerks back in his seat with a gasp. “Jesus fucking Christ you scared the shit out of me!”

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry David! Fuck! I didn’t mean to scare you! Shit! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

His eyes, my god his eyes.

Patrick reaches both hands across the table. He looks like he’s patting the air, trying to soothe David. Finally he drops his hands to the table and just stares, looking horrified

*

David is trying to recover. He’s pressing a hand over his heart, trying to slow it down. Patrick had actually startled him, but not enough to warrant the crazy drumbeat in his chest. His heart is still galloping along like it has no plans to slow down. Apparently it has places to go. Like right across the table and into the hands of the big-eyed boy that sits there. Fuck.

David thinks about being mad. Mad will at least distract him from the intense fluttering in his belly. He can act mad if he wants to. That scare was so unnecessary. And maybe weird. That could give him the energy to be haughty and sassy and aloof. But maybe, along with randoms and leather jackets, he can put that falseness away. David longs to be real. He wants to try. But not so real that he doesn’t try to control the grin that wants to spread across his face. He quirks his mouth to the left and finally finds his voice.

“Patrick.” It’s all he can think of to say right now. The mouthful of consonants still feels good on David’s tongue. The smile continues to press into his cheeks so he allows it. A little bit.

“David.” Patrick says. It comes out soft. Round. Loved. Patrick can’t hide his smile right now to save his life.

David wonders briefly if this pretty man has even an ounce of self-preservation in him. If you look up wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve there would be a picture of Patrick looking like a big heart eyes emoji. The leather clad version of David whispers, I bet he would let me do anything to him right now. But no, no. That would be taking advantage. That’s not what real David wants. David is a little surprised at how easy it is to not want that anymore.

*

Patrick could swoon. Nobody says his name the way David does. His head is spinning. Too many questions crowd his throat. Like, ‘why did you run away before’ and ‘did you feel what I felt when we kissed’ and ‘can I kiss you right now?’

What finally comes out is, “I’m glad I ran into you again.”

Good, that’s a good start. It’s a little bland but he’s happy with it. It’s certainly better than asking him if he believes in love at first sight. He watches David’s face, waiting for him to reply. There seems to be a lot happening inside David’s head because his eyes are bright and his face is doing things and it takes a second for him to speak.

*

Dammit. Too many sassy replies threaten to fly out of David’s mouth. It’s going to take practice to not act like a dick all the time. Being dickish is good protection. Huh. It didn’t occur to David until this moment that even though he wondered about Patrick’s lack of self-preservation, he hadn’t acknowledged his own overabundance of it.

Finally he manages to say, “I’m glad too.”

*

Okay so he isn’t going to make this easy is he? Damn. Patrick is done with any sort of pretense of being smooth. He never has difficulty expressing how he feels. It’s who he is, and who he is feels a great deal right now so he’s just going to talk.

“Okay, David, listen. I’m, I’m not smooth or cool or anything like that, so I’m not going to pretend to be. It seems to me that you’d see right through that anyway so I’m just going to talk for a minute if that’s okay.” He pauses then, waiting to see if David wants him to talk.

*

“I’m listening.” And fuck, that sounds kind of dickish. David thinks, I’m the one who ran away, I should at least apologize.

David throws up his hands to keep Patrick from speaking. “No, wait. I mean, yes, I want you to say whatever you want. I just want to say that I’m. That I’m sorry. I’m sorry for running away that night.”

David can see the tension ebb out of Patrick’s face and shoulders. And that’s nice. David feels good that he can do that for Patrick. David thinks that if he can make this easier for Patrick then Patrick will tell him why he has big heart eyes right now. David is interested in hearing that.

*

He’s sorry for running away. Patrick breathes in. Breathes out.

“I’m sorry I didn’t chase you.” Patrick says. He rubs the back of his neck and looks down and away. “I thought I did something wrong. I thought you thought the kiss was, I don’t know. Bad.”

David kind of gapes at Patrick and starts shaking his head back and forth. Like over and over and over and he’s squeezing his eyes closed and pressing his lips together, trying not to smile and Patrick’s heart lights up, because now he thinks that David might have felt what he felt that night.

Just above a whisper, David says “No Patrick. That kiss. Was not bad. At all.”

Patrick can’t resist. “So, just ‘not bad’?” He’s grinning now.

*

David is delighted. The flirty guy was back. David likes FlirtyGuy. David knows how to be with FlirtyGuy. You wanna play, FlirtyGuy? David starts off easy.

David leans forward a little, making very warm, pointed eye contact with Patrick and says, “It was not bad. I mean, I think it was okay. But honestly, I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.” He blinks slowly, then licks his bottom lip.

David hopes Patrick will take the bait. He hopes Patrick will offer to remind him. It is the perfect set up. It’s a lob really, an easy pitch.

*

Patrick warms at the obvious set up. David clearly wants him to follow through. The lip lick. Fuck. But he really does have things he needs to say. He also wants to shake David up. So he delivers a stunning one-two punch.

The first thing Patrick says is “I remember it like it was yesterday.” Completely genuine.

David’s playful body language melts and his eyes get soft. Patrick gives him a minute.

*

David sees that Patrick gets the set up and he waits for him to bat it back. But what Patrick does is return a completely different ball. What he says is so incredibly earnest and sweet that it briefly offlines David’s brain. As easily as the kiss had. The kiss that he also remembers like it was yesterday. Honestly. To counter flirtation with that kind of sincerity? Goddamn this guy is good. David flails for a response. Maybe offer to blow him like right now? Nope. Not gonna say that.

David still doesn’t know what to say, but he opens his mouth anyway. Before anything comes out, Patrick says “David, that was my first kiss, with a guy.”

David is completely disarmed.

*

Patrick waits. David’s body language hasn’t changed so running may be off the table. He does look a little stunned. Patrick waits.

“Oh, uh, okay. Are you..I’m sorry, you surprised me. Do you. Do you think you’re gay or…?” David is sort of squinting at him with one eye, looking pained.

Patrick chuckles, “Um, No, no. I do not think I’m gay. I’m absolutely, 100%, positive that I’m gay, David.”

David smiles and says, “Okay good. That’s good.”

Patrick feels his shoulders relax and he smiles back, “Yeah, that’s good.”

*

Well, David has just never. He doesn’t know where to start. This beautiful boy has bowled him over with his ability to be so direct. David doesn’t know how to meet him there. David doesn’t know how to be that open and real. It’s too scary. He’s too flawed.

David wishes they were still flirting so he could just trick Patrick into kissing him. That’s the easy part. This part is hard. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe he can just leave space for Patrick to continue being Patrick and it’ll be ok. Then David can figure out who David is and then be that.

David smiles warmly at Patrick then, tilts his head a little and says “What else?”

*

Patrick is grateful for the question. David’s face is so open and his eyes are so warm that Patrick thinks the next part won’t be so hard after all. He’s been nothing but blatantly sincere so far. No turning back now.

Patrick clears his throat and says “I know it’s a lot. You don’t have to say anything.”

David just nods. Patrick can’t believe what he’s about to say. It’s all true of course but it’s so much. He does more throat clearing and neck rubbing and looking around the bar as if someone will jump out and stop him or maybe tell him what to say.

“Okay, here it is, David. Kissing you, that was— it felt like no kiss ever has. I’ve kissed a couple of guys since then and it hasn’t been the same. At all. So, one part of me that thinks that, of course it felt amazing, it was my first kiss with a man. The other part of me thinks that it felt that way because it was you.”

*

David’s brain races in circles around the the words “I’ve kissed a couple of guys…” and the relief David feels— probably not an experiment!— allows him to reach out to Patrick. He remembers he can help him. Because Patrick is actually telling him why he has big heart eyes right now.

*

David is just staring at him. Patrick swallows hard. Then David reaches out and lays his hand, palm up, on the table. Patrick puts his hand in David’s and immediately feels calmer.

Patrick takes a deep breath and continues. “I just need to see if it’ll feel the same. If it doesn’t, that means it was just— first time sparks—if it does, it’s you. So I have to— I need to kiss you again David. I need—.”

David is suddenly on his feet. For a minute Patrick thinks he’s going to run away again but he reaches out and tugs on Patrick’s sleeve, just once. David’s eyes are big and serious. Patrick’s heart leaps into his throat. He feels himself float up out of the seat to stand in front of David.

Patrick stammers, “I just want, I just, I just need—”

David whispers, “Okay.”

David moves then. He slips one hand over Patrick’s shoulder and the other cups his jaw, long fingers wrapping around his neck. He tilts Patrick’s head and kisses him. It’s slow and lush and long.

Patrick’s eyes are tightly closed, his forehead creased. He splays his hands against David’s shoulder blades and pulls him close, as if he could press him right through his skin, into his chest, into his heart, into his life. He inhales David’s scent and absorbs his warmth and David is holding him and kissing him and it’s everything. It’s everything. Patrick loses himself in the soft warmth of David’s mouth

*

David is getting lost in this spectacular kiss. It’s so good, like before, with sparks flaring and sizzling all through David’s body. But he wants to know the answer to Patrick’s question. He wants to know if it’s him or first-time-sparks. He thinks he knows. This kiss is everything. Everything. But he wants to know for sure. He needs to hear Patrick say it. David breaks the kiss and pulls away.

He doesn’t have a chance to speak before Patrick grabs David’s face with both hands and hauls him back whispering, “It’s you, it’s you, it’s you.” against David’s lips before kissing him again, warm and urgent.

In his whole adult life, David has only rarely experienced true joy. It’s a big feeling for him. It makes him feel wide open, airy and expansive. It makes it seem as if suddenly, there’s enough. That he is enough. Like there are good things in the world. In fact, the world is so overflowing with good things that David is allowed to have some of them.

*

“It’s you, it’s you, it’s you.”

Patrick’s mind is spinning out and his body is lighting up. Every molecule in his body glitters back to life and he’s a vast starscape once again. A galaxy that pulses David. David. David.

(Bloom by The paper Kites-bonus track)

The music changes and they break the kiss. They stand looking at each other for a long moment. Patrick takes David’s hands and walks backwards, leading him onto the empty dance floor. They wrap their arms around each other, and their bodies slot back together as easily as coming home. They dance.

 

                                                                                                                    *****