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Termites of Endearment

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Patrick was pacing the kitchen, phone pressed to his ear. “This is exactly why you should have been the one to stay home and deal with Ronnie.”

Over the years, Patrick had learned to interpret every single one of David’s noises, and the scoff he heard next would probably fall into the category of indignant outrage. “Was it not you, Patrick Brewer, who said to me last night that I shouldn’t be the one to deal with this because I, and I quote, ‘always tell Ronnie that whatever she wants to do is fine’?”

David had a point. “Yes, but I wasn’t thinking about having to deal with her myself, when I said that.” Patrick heard a thump from the direction of the office, where Ronnie was, and flinched.

“I’m sure you can handle it, honey,” David said, back to a reasonable tone of voice that was setting Patrick’s teeth on edge. Or, more on edge. “I’ve got customers; call me when she figures out what’s wrong?”

“Will do,” Patrick said, because what else could he really say?

“Love you,” David said absently before he ended the call.

Patrick sat down at the kitchen table, then immediately stood back up again to put the kettle on for tea. His eyes fixed on the tiled backsplash, which David had designed and shopped for and which Patrick had spent a weekend laboriously installing. It was the way things often worked at the store, and it was the way things worked now that they owned a home: David was the creative director and Patrick was the manual labor. Unless it was a task beyond Patrick’s skills, and then someone they hired was the manual labor. Like Ronnie.

He was always a little bit antsy when there was someone in the house specifically to do a job, but the fact that it was Ronnie made it worse. He supposed he and Ronnie had settled into an uneasy truce, given that they attended most of the same social events in town, that they ran into each other at least weekly in the café, and that she shopped at his store. But the fact that she was in their office-slash-guest room right now, trying to figure out where water was getting in and making the paint peel, brought up all of Patrick’s old insecurities. Deep down, he worried that the peeling paint was a sign that he was a bad homeowner, specifically a bad homeowner of David’s dream cottage, and that now Ronnie of all people would know it.

As if summoned by his thoughts, Ronnie ambled into the kitchen. “It’s not water damage,” she said.

Patrick frowned. “Are you sure? It looks like water damage.”

As soon as he said it, he knew it was the wrong thing. Somehow, he always managed to put his foot wrong with Ronnie. She fixed him with a withering stare and said with exaggerated patience, “I know that, but it’s not. It’s termite damage.”

His heart sank. Dammit. He really was a terrible homeowner. And David was going to flip his shit.

“If you don’t believe me—”

“It’s not that I don’t believe you, Ronnie, I’m just gaming out the best way to tell David that this involves insects so that he doesn’t immediately suggest burning the entire house to the ground.”

He got a small laugh out of Ronnie for that, which was something. “I don’t think the damage is extensive. First step is to bring in a fumigator and take care of the termites themselves. Then I can really dig into that wall and see what needs to be done. Most likely I’ll just need to reinforce the struts. Don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world.” She reached out and actually patted his shoulder, and that was somehow even more infuriating than her disdain would have been. Which she probably knew.

Patrick’s jaw clenched. “I know it’s not.” He took a deep breath and let it out. One step at a time, Brewer, his high school baseball coach used to say to him, and that’s how he tried to approach problems ever since. “Do you have an exterminator you recommend?” he asked.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. “Sure. I’ll send you and David the contact information.”

“No!” Patrick said. “Don’t… send it to David. I’m going to need to break this news to him gently.”

After Ronnie left, Patrick called and booked an appointment with the exterminator. Then he headed back to the store, a baggie containing three chocolate chip cookies in hand for David. He didn’t hold out a lot of hope that the chocolate chip cookies would soften the blow he was going to have to deliver about the house, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do.

He felt a pang, thinking of the house David had so painstakingly and lovingly designed. The placement of every piece of furniture, the arrangement of every color scheme. Patrick couldn’t help feeling he had failed David personally. He’d promised David a dream house when they didn’t move to New York. He’d promised to make him happy.

This was not going to make David happy.

His husband was behind the counter when Patrick arrived, and David greeted him with a hesitant smile. “How’d it go with Ronnie?”

“It went fine.” He held out the bag to David, his eyes straying over to the two customers browsing by the back wall.

David took the bag and looked inside and immediately his expression got suspicious. “What’s wrong with the house? Is it bad? You wouldn’t have brought me three cookies if it wasn’t bad. How expensive is it going to be?”

“Our emergency fund can cover it,” Patrick said, keeping his voice level and calm. He needed to wait until the customers were gone before he broke the news, so he went over to ask if they needed help. David stayed behind the register and distrustfully ate the cookies.

“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” David said after the customers left. “You didn’t want to talk until we were alone. How bad is it? Are we going to have to move?”

Patrick forced a smile and went over to put his hands on David’s shoulders. “We aren’t going to have to move.”

“Then what?”

“It’s just a small issue of some… termites in the wall.”

The horror that overtook David’s face was entirely predictable. “Oh my God. We are going to have to move.”

“We aren’t, David, I promise. At most we’ll have to spend one night away from home while they fumigate the house. Then Ronnie is going to reinforce the struts in that wall and it’ll be good as new.”

“But what if they’ve spread all over the house? The whole place is going to collapse on us, and there I’ll be, in our bed, covered with digested wood bits and insects.” He gave a full body shudder. Patrick stroked his hands down David’s arms to take his hands.

“Well, at least I’ll be there with you in our collapsed house,” Patrick couldn’t resist saying, but then he quickly added, “Ronnie said it was likely localized to that corner of the ground floor. We caught it before too much damage was done. Okay?” He squeezed David’s hands.

David sighed. “When is the exterminator coming?”

With a wince, Patrick admitted, “They’ll be sending someone to take a look tomorrow, but the earliest they can do a fumigation is next Thursday.”

David’s head reared back, his face in a grimace. “So what you’re saying is, that I have to live with bugs in the walls of my home until next Thursday.”

Tilting his head, Patrick said, “Well, if it helps, you could just remember that you’ve been living with bugs in the walls for at least a few months.”

“Why would you think that would help?”

“Think of them as your little tiny roommates, David.”

“Patrick! Ugh!” David shook out his hands.

“Sorry, sorry,” Patrick said. He slid his arms around his waist. “We’ll get through it together, David. In termites and in health, right?"

David batted at Patrick’s shoulders and then wrapped his arms around him and buried his face against his neck. “Okay,” he said, his voice muffled. “Just know it’s going to take a lot of cookies to make it to next Thursday.”

*

It did take a lot of cookies.

This was all very upsetting. This cottage was supposed to be their refuge, was the thing. David had invested a lot of time, and more money than he should have, in creating the perfect space for them. He complained to Patrick that the termites had so many other options—right here on their block!—for houses they could have destroyed that would mean no loss to the architectural aesthetic of this town. David had a few suggestions, even.

“I’m not sure we should sic termites on our neighbors, David.”

“Mmkay, I didn’t mean that,” David said, annoyed. “I’m just saying that with so many houses to choose from, the termites have a lot of nerve selecting this house as the one to—to devour.”

Patrick said, “So, would you say the termites have a lot of… temerity?”

“Excuse me, am I married to Ted now?” David said, which opened up a whole new avenue of teasing which eventually landed them in the bedroom. David was fine with that. He could use all the distractions he could get.

Patrick seemed very inclined to pamper him, and David was inclined to let him. Patrick drove out to David’s favorite bakery in Elmdale and got three of every kind of cookie they had, which was a nice distraction and got him through a couple of days. Then he sent Patrick back for the greatest hits of the first round and that helped, too.

David spent most of his time in their bedroom, which was as far as you could get from the termite room and still be in the house, while Patrick dealt with Ronnie and the exterminators and double-checked what they were telling him by doing internet research and talking to his contractor uncle.

As the week wore on, Patrick joked less and less about the whole thing. David felt faintly guilty about making Patrick handle all the arrangements, but it was a very faint feeling and easily overcome. If he was honest, David felt that sometimes Patrick had a tendency to be a little too conscientious about these things. There was being knowledgeable and prepared, but there was also driving yourself nuts (and, incidentally, anyone who happened to be around you). But David had found that trying to argue him out of it was a pointless exercise, so he held his tongue.

Patrick came in one night and announced, “So it looks like Ronnie is right about the termite damage. My uncle says that once the termites are gone, the repair work should be straightforward.”

“All right, honey,” David said, and then couldn’t help adding, “I did say we could just trust her. You could have saved yourself all that bother.”

Patrick went on, ignoring that, “So we’ll stay at the motel. Can you text Stevie, let her know we need a room Thursday night?”

“Sure,” David said. “Now, can we not talk about it anymore?” He patted the bed beside him, and Patrick sat down with a sigh and leaned against him. David rubbed his shoulders, which he could feel were tense. Well, he was tense too. The sooner this was over, the better.

Finally Thursday came. In the morning, David packed an overnight bag in their bedroom and came down to see Patrick loading up food into grocery bags.

“What are you doing?”

“We need to take all the food out of the house. And can you run up to our bedroom and strip the bed?”

“Wait, what? We have to empty out our kitchen? And our bedding? Why?”

“So we don’t get poisoned? And so the bed doesn’t end up smelling like chemicals?”

David felt his breath speeding up. He said, “You mean—are you telling me they aren’t just going to spray in the—the infested room? All our things—my things—my clothes—are going to be marinating in fumes? For days?”

“I mean, not days, but… what did you expect?"

“Why didn’t you tell me?” David asked, hearing his voice go higher and higher.

“I assumed you knew what fumigation meant, David,” Patrick said, a tad impatiently. Which just proved what a brute he was, what an unsympathetic block of stone. How could he not see how intolerable this was?

David clapped his hands on his cheeks. “I only have a few hours to figure out how to move my entire wardrobe out of here. How could you not tell me!”

“I have the list of what to remove!” Patrick went over to the counter and picked up a piece of paper. He pointed at it and said, “Straight from the exterminator! Clothes are not on this list, so I think they’ll be fine!”

“Maybe your clothes would be fine,” David said. “But my clothes would not. Obviously.”

Patrick sighed. He said evenly, “Sorry, David. I should have told you, I guess. I’ve just had my hands full the last few days.”

I’ve had my hands full with your dramatic ass, is what that meant. David said icily, “I would love to stay here and keep arguing. But I have”—he pulled out his phone—“only two hours and thirteen minutes to perform a very extensive and very exacting task. So I will see you later.”

He swept out.

*

David managed to get his clothes boxed up and into the back room of the store while their part-timer dealt with the customers. But he still had to handle a vendor drop-off and a few customers who insisted on talking to David personally about their skin care regimens. Patrick stayed back at the house to get it ready for the exterminators. When Patrick finally got to the store he looked harassed and annoyed, and David wasn’t feeling much better himself. They communicated with each other in short, clipped sentences for the rest of the afternoon.

The most irritating thing was that David knew exactly why Patrick was annoyed—it was because his perfectly laid plans had gone awry, that there was something he hadn’t anticipated. David also knew that if he went up to Patrick to make up with him, leaned into him and stroked his shoulders, that Patrick would melt and slip his arms around him and everything would be okay. But David was still too annoyed, himself, to do it. Let him make the first move, he thought, and kept his hands stubbornly to himself.

They closed up the store and drove to the motel in near silence.

“What are you two doing here?” Stevie said when they walked into the office.

“Hello to you too,” David said.

Patrick said, “Didn’t David text you?”

“About what?” Stevie asked.

“You didn’t make a reservation?” The one thing I asked you to do? was what Patrick didn’t say, but it was clearly implied.

“Okay, I guess I forgot,” David said. “But, in my defense, when has this motel ever been full?"

“Actually, that happens pretty often now,” Stevie said, a shade brusquely. Apparently David was pissing everyone off today. She went on, “But we do have one room left.”

“See?” David said to Patrick. “It’s fine.”

Stevie turned and took the only key hanging from the hooks behind her. “Room seven,” she said.

“Oh, no,” David said. “No.”

“We can stay in your old room,” Patrick said, his tone annoyingly logical. “Why not?”

“It doesn’t even have a queen bed!”

Patrick plucked the key from Stevie’s hand. “It’s fine, David. We can handle sleeping in separate beds for one night.”

David shut his mouth tight. Patrick didn’t have to say it like that. Like it didn’t bother him at all. Besides, this place had memories and Patrick should be more sensitive.

Patrick picked up his bag and strode out of the office. David looked at Stevie and flapped his hand at the door. “You see?” he said.

“Trouble in paradise?”

“Our house has been infested, Stevie. Termites. It’s being fumigated. And Patrick’s annoyed because I insisted on moving all my clothes out of there this morning.”

“Ah,” she said. “Well, give Patrick my sympathies.”

“You know, you’re supposed to be my best friend. Why do you never take my side?”

She grinned and said, “Because it’s usually a safe assumption that you’re the one who’s wrong.”

David scowled. “That’s very rude.”

“Well, I’m sure it won’t be any time at all before you two are annoying me with your PDA again.”

“Hmph.”

Stevie waved him away. “Fuck off and go make up with your husband.”

“Is this the kind of language you use with your guests? And here I thought you were a professional,” he said, picking up his bag.

She flipped him off.

He flipped her off in return, then he walked to where the door to room seven stood open.

He took a deep breath and went inside.

Patrick was unpacking. He looked up and said, “I don’t want to fight.”

“I don’t either.” David felt his annoyance melting. Patrick was making the first move.

“Let’s not fight, then. It was nothing. I was just irritable. I’m sorry. That’s it.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

David reached out his arms tentatively and Patrick went into them for a hug. David was just relaxing into it, into the feel of Patrick’s arms, Patrick’s solid body, Patrick’s comforting Patrick-smell, when Patrick patted him briskly on the back and drew away.

“Pizza?” he asked.

*

While Patrick was in the bathroom brushing his teeth, David crawled under the covers of his old bed. It no longer had his high thread count sheets and comforter, but it wasn’t the old puke-colored blanket and scratchy sheets either. The mattress had been upgraded too. Stevie and Roland and his dad had made a lot of improvements here. It was a decent midrange motel now.

Patrick came out of the bathroom. He came over and leaned down and gave David a quick kiss. “Good night,” he said.

“Good night,” David said.

Patrick went over to the other bed. Alexis’s bed. He got under the covers and switched off the bedside lamp.

David settled on his back. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw one thing hadn’t changed, anyway—the ceiling. The crack he used to stare at when he couldn’t sleep, that was exactly the same. He thought about the many nights he had spent here, looking at this ceiling. His first miserable night here, stunned and furious at so much loss; his last night here, joyfully anticipating his wedding day. All the nights in between.

But now it was Patrick in the bed next to him instead of Alexis.

David’s mind drifted back to the first time Patrick had come here and stayed longer than it took to pick David up or drop him off. They’d just started dating and David was embarrassed for him to see this ugly, dingy room. But Patrick had seemed happy to be here, just because he was with David—which is not something David had ever experienced before.

Silence from the bed next to him. Was Patrick asleep already? David was tired, knew he was tired, but his brain wouldn’t turn off. He felt unsettled from their fight.

Patrick was right. It was nothing, really. They were just tired and stressed out and had a bad day with each other, like other bad days they’d had, many times, and like they’d probably have many more times in the future.

But other rough days had ended with them in the same bed, their bodies naturally gravitating toward each other, sometimes for sex, but not always; sometimes it was just to touch, to cuddle and hold each other, and that’s how a bad day would turn into a good night and a better day tomorrow.

Not like today. Patrick was over there, totally unbothered that they were sleeping apart.

“Are you still awake?” David said.

“Yes,” Patrick said. There was a lisp to the word as he spoke around his mouth guard.

“I was thinking about the first time we hung out here together.”

Patrick made an indistinct noise. “I remember.”

~~~~~

David was standing outside his room, huddled under the eave as the rain poured down around him, his phone pressed to his ear. He was feeling very aggrieved, okay, maybe even a little desperate. Patrick was telling him that the Greater Elms Area Realtors Association meeting he’d thought Ray was going to that day was actually being held at Ray’s house. Since their night at Stevie’s a week ago, they were both very eager for more alone time, but opportunities had proven to be elusive.

“He did say we’re both invited,” Patrick said.

“No, thank you,” David said. He stared gloomily at the rain. “I guess there’s—never mind.”

“What?”

“I mean, there’s my room? You could—”

“I’d love to,” Patrick said, interrupting.

David wasn’t sure how to take this level of enthusiasm. He felt sure Patrick was misunderstanding the situation. He said, “Maybe I wasn’t clear. My family is here? We won’t be able to be alone.”

Patrick laughed. “I know, David. I like being with you, you know, even if other people are around. And I like your family. ”

I like being with you. David wasn’t going to touch that, but he filed it away carefully in his mind where he kept all the unbearably nice things Patrick said and did. The things he planned to remember, long after this was over. Instead he addressed Patrick’s equally unbelievable statement that he liked his family. “That’s very sweet, but if you want to keep liking them, it’s best to keep a safe distance.”

Patrick laughed, even though David hadn’t been joking. “I’ll be over in fifteen minutes.”

When Patrick arrived, drops of rain clung to his hair, and he kissed David softly with lips that were cold and and a little damp, holding the rest of his body back so his wet jacket didn’t touch David. “Hi,” he said softly. He looked past David. “Hi, Alexis.”

“Hi, Patrick,” Alexis said. She was paging through a magazine on her bed. She had resisted all of David’s attempts to get her to go out somewhere, anywhere.

Patrick took off his coat and hung it by the door, and then seemed to think he should give David another kiss hello, this time sliding his arms around him and kissing him a little longer.

David hovered uncertainly. He felt self-conscious, Patrick coming to see him here, in this dingy old room with his sister in the next bed. And where should they sit? The bed? At the table? On the ratty couch that he tried to forget even existed?

Patrick said, “Okay if I sit here?” He propped up a pillow so he could sit down at the head of the bed and lean back against the headboard. He slipped off his shoes and stretched out his legs. He patted the space next to him.

David sat down, and Patrick took David’s hand and held it. It was so innocent, but it was also a little erotic—feeling Patrick stroking his hand with fingers that had touched him all over just a few nights ago, and a few times since then. Only stolen moments, unfortunately, at the store or in the back of Patrick’s car.

The connecting door opened and his father came in, saying, “Can one of you help your mother?” He stopped when he saw Patrick. “Oh. Hello, Patrick. I didn’t know you were coming over.” His voice was genial and a bit false, overdoing it.

“Hello, Mr. Rose,” Patrick said, smiling.

All of this felt very much like David was a teenager, having a boyfriend over. Just like high school.

Except he’d never done that in high school, or really maybe ever.

His dad kept standing there with his strained, company smile. “Did you want something?” David said.

“Your mother is trying to load something down from the internet,” his father said. “I was trying to help her, but I’m not sure—I thought maybe one of you kids could…” He looked at them hopefully.

David felt Patrick stirring beside him, probably to offer to help like the Boy Scout he undoubtedly had been, and he clamped down on his hand to stop him. “Alexis will help you,” he said. “Right, Alexis?”

Alexis shot him a dirty look. She threw down her magazine. “Fine. It isn’t porn, is it?” she said.

Johnny looked shocked. “Alexis, of course it isn’t.” He followed Alexis as she walked out of the room. “Moira? It isn’t, is it?”

His mother’s voice floated over. “Of course not, John. The art direction in pornography has so sadly declined.”

“Oh my God, ew!” Alexis said, and then the door shut behind them.

The instant the door closed, Patrick scooted down and pulled David down too, so they were laying flat on the bed. His hand clamped on the back of David’s neck as he pulled him in and kissed him like a starving person.

“Mmph,” David said, surprised but very willing to go along for the ride. His arms snaked around Patrick, pulling him closer.

When Patrick paused for breath, David said, “You don’t waste any time, do you?”

Patrick nuzzled against his neck, his lips ghosting over the sensitive skin there. “I want to make the most of whatever privacy we have,” he breathed. His hand stroked over David’s face, down his arm, up his chest. He hand rested on David’s pec, over his sweater. His thumb ran over David’s nipple.

“Ah, copping feels, I see,” David said.

Patrick looked abashed. He removed his hand. “Sorry.”

David scooted closer. “I didn’t say stop.”

Patrick put his hand back, his fingers rubbing lightly. He let out a breath. “David,” he said. “I thought once we—once I knew, I thought maybe I would want you less. But—”

“What?” David whispered.

Patrick’s voice shook a little when he responded. “Somehow—I want you even more. And I wouldn’t have thought that was possible. But now I’ve seen you. I’ve touched you.” His eyes were hot, running up and down over David’s body, as though he was imagining him naked. Patrick's thumb flicked over David’s nipple again, and David felt like he was burning up just from this: Patrick’s voice, Patrick’s eyes on him, Patrick touching him with this simple touch.

Patrick leaned in, his eyes dark and intense, and David held his breath. But Patrick just kissed him gently, and then started to pull back. David pressed closer, chasing his lips, opening his mouth, wordlessly asking Patrick to deepen the kiss.

Patrick said against his mouth, “David. We should stop. Alexis could come back in any second.”

David turned his head, listening. “They’re still talking,” he said. “Kiss me.”

Patrick didn’t hesitate. He kissed him.

David’s world narrowed to the feel of Patrick’s lips moving on his, his tongue licking his mouth, the feel of his body and his scent filling his brain—some generic bar soap, probably, but still intoxicating. Patrick pressed David back onto the bed, changing the angle so he could keep kissing him with those devouring, desperate kisses, as he climbed half on top of him, his thigh sliding between his.

The door opened. “Oh my God!” Alexis exclaimed. “I was gone for, like, two minutes!”

Patrick jerked himself abruptly away, so abruptly he started to fall off the bed. David’s hand shot out and managed to catch him and pull him back before he fell.

“You okay?” David said to him.

“Fine,” Patrick said. He scooted back onto the bed, back into David’s arms, ducking his head a little. “Sorry,” he said in Alexis’s direction, not looking at her. His eyes were cast down, his cheeks adorably pink. “It was my fault.”

David felt a rush of protectiveness. It was an unfamiliar feeling, tender and precious. He tucked Patrick more securely in his arms and glared at Alexis.

“You’re sweet to take the blame, Patrick,” Alexis said, looking pointedly at David. “But we all know who the rude one is here.”

“No, really—” Patrick began, at the same time David said, “You’re one to talk! After what you and Shia Lebeouf were doing on the dining room table at that party in Majorca."

“That was an E party, David,” Alexis said, flopping back onto her bed and picking up her magazine. “It’s practically a requirement.”

~~~~~

David chuckled into the darkness, and Patrick could just make out in the dim light the way his husband’s chest shook with his laughter.

“I was so embarrassed,” Patrick said. He’d taken out his mouth guard as they reminisced, and now he set it on the bedside table, figuring they were going to be talking for a while. “Caught humping your leg by your sister.”

“You weren’t exactly humping my leg—”

“Pretty close to it, David.” He sighed, the memories of that time swirling in his brain. “I was so besotted with you back then.”

“Oh, so you’re not besotted with me anymore?” David asked. It almost sounded like a genuine question, which made Patrick’s heart drop.

“Of course I am, but I do now manage to think about other things during the day other than how I’m going to get you into bed. Good thing, too, or our business would have failed a long time ago.” He rolled onto his side, looking at the outline of David’s body in the other bed. “Are you still besotted with me?”

“Most of the time,” David said airily.

“Oh, most of the time.”

“When you don’t forget how important my clothes are to me,” David said.

“And I’m besotted with you when you don’t make tough days tougher with your very exacting demands,” Patrick said.

“I know,” David replied, sounding forlorn.

“I am sorry that I didn’t think about your clothes, David.” He sighed, tucking a hand under his cheek. “I really am.”

“I’m sorry I was a nightmare this week, and that I didn’t do more to help. I didn’t sleep well, knowing there were bugs in the walls.”

Patrick grimaced. He should have done more to accommodate David’s phobias and not just dismissed them as illogical. Knowing something was illogical (like, for example, not coming out to one’s parents when one is in a serious relationship with one’s business partner for over a year) didn’t always help anything.

“You weren’t a nightmare.”

“I mean, I kind of was.”

Patrick felt like the best thing to do would be to change the subject. They’d both apologized; they knew what each other’s faults and weaknesses were—rehashing them didn’t help. “Do you remember the time we were having sex in here because everyone was out, and your parents came home in the middle of it?”

“Oh my God.” David laughed. “How could I forget? I think there’s still a scar on my palm from your teeth.”

~~~~~

Their error, in retrospect, was not fucking first.

It was the one day each week that Patrick worked alone in the store while David had the day off, and it had been a very dull day, a steady snowfall keeping most of their customers away. As a result, he’d been particularly excited to see a text notification from David waiting when he finished closing up. He was even more excited when he saw what the text said.

David: My entire family is out tonight. Come over.

Patrick didn’t waste time with any pleasantries, or even with asking why good fortune was smiling on them tonight to give them this precious privacy. On my way, he texted back, but then thought about the fact that it was already past six p.m. and texted, Should I pick up dinner at the cafe?

David: yes please

“So where is everyone?” Patrick asked when David opened the door for him. It was still snowing, and Patrick hurried into the room, handing over the take-out containers so that he could take his boots off by the door.

“Alexis is at a movie with Ted and plans to spend the night at his place, and my parents are at Roland and Jocelyn’s.”

Patrick frowned as he took his coat off and shook the snowflakes off of it. “Can we really count on them staying long at the Schitts’ house?”

David waved a dismissive hand. “They like to say that they hate socializing with the Schitts, but whenever they go over they come back late, drunk on too much wine.”

Joining David at the little table, Patrick was nodding. “That explains the visit I had from Jocelyn today. She bought four bottles of wine, plus some cheese and crackers and tapenade.”

“I take full credit for improving Jocelyn’s taste in appetizers a thousand fold over when we first moved here,” David said, pouring dressing over his salad from the little plastic cup that was tucked into the styrofoam container.

“As well you should.” Patrick didn’t know what Jocelyn’s appetizer game had looked like before, but it wasn’t hard to believe that what David was saying was true.

Once they’d finished eating, Patrick couldn’t help letting his eyes stray over to David’s bed. He was obvious about it, and of course David noticed.

“Got something on your mind, honey?”

Patrick smirked. Time was, that kind of suggestive question from David would make him blush, but that rarely happened anymore. “Just trying to decide what positions will work in that bed of yours.”

Again, in hindsight, if they had just gone with blow jobs, everything would have been fine. But when they stood up from the table and started kissing, and David’s hands landed on Patrick’s ass, fingers pressing against the seam of his jeans, suddenly all he wanted was to get David’s dick inside of him. That meant there was a pause in the proceedings so that Patrick could take a shower before they made their way to bed.

There was barely enough room to lie side-by-side, and Patrick found himself on his back with David half on top of him, kissing and sucking at his neck intently enough to leave a mark, and while that was strictly speaking against the rules, Patrick couldn’t find it in himself to care at that moment. David’s hand slid over Patrick’s abdomen and down to his cock, stroking lazily as their mouths came together in a messy kiss. Patrick felt a nagging sense that they should hurry, that there was a chance that, say, Alexis and Ted would get in an argument and Alexis would come home early. But it wasn’t nagging loudly enough for Patrick to say anything, because he loved slow foreplay with David. He loved the way their arousal could ramp up and up and up until he was so desperate to fuck that it completely consumed him.

Finally David got the lube from his bedside table drawer and began working Patrick open, gentle and efficient as always. Patrick kept kissing him, moaning into his mouth at the sensation of being stretched, at the delicious burn of it. He loved when David took his time with this, but the not-quite-loud-enough nagging voice was telling him they should get to the main event. Patrick reached down between his own legs and gripped David’s wrist. “Come on. Fuck me, David.”

He took the condom that David retrieved from the same drawer and opened it with his teeth, rolling it onto David’s dick and giving him a few strokes of his fist. While David got more lube, Patrick grabbed David’s decorative pillow to put under his hips, but the grimace on David’s face stopped him. Patrick rolled his eyes.

“You don’t have any other pillows.”

David’s eyes strayed to Alexis’s bed.

“No, David.”

“No, you’re right.” He guided him to put his ankles on David’s shoulders, then reached down and hoisted Patrick’s hips up.

Patrick blinked. “You’re stronger than you look.”

David rolled his eyes even as he positioned his cock at Patrick’s hole. “That’s rude.”

“It was meant to be a compliment,” Patrick said with a laugh that trailed off into a groan as David pushed inside him.

The noise Patrick made seemed to make David want to laugh too, and Patrick could see him suppressing it, his lips pressed together and his mouth quirked up on one side in what had become Patrick’s favorite of David’s many facial expressions. The mixture of giddiness and amusement and happiness and lust was just about more than he could handle all at once.

David must have read some of that on Patrick’s face. “You okay?” He’d stopped moving.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he said softly, pushing back against David to take him deeper. “I’m always good with you like this,” he added, and he wasn’t sure if that quite made sense, but David seemed to like him saying it.

They found their rhythm quickly, and Patrick let his legs fall, knees bending deeper as David leaned over and fucked him harder. Patrick’s head dropped back, eyes slipping closed as he lost himself to the sensation of it.

“The indignity of Roland appointing himself ex post facto story editor was bad enough, but then to have you take his side?”

Mrs. Rose’s voice carried clearly through the wall.

“Fuck,” David hissed. He stilled, buried deep inside Patrick.

“Moira, all I said was that if you worked backward, Vivian’s long lost daughter had to have been born when she was in the full body cast. Don’t you think that’s a little—”

The rest of the sentence was unintelligible.

“You said they’d be out late!” Patrick whispered.

“I thought they would be!” David whispered back. He pulled out a little.

Patrick couldn’t stop himself from making a whimpering noise, and David stopped.

“We should stop,” Patrick gasped out. But his body was screaming to keep going, his cock between them hard and leaking and throbbing with need.

David hesitated. He was biting his lip. He looked like Patrick felt—desperate. “Do you want to stop?” he whispered.

“God, no,” Patrick blurted, too loud.

David made a sound and pushed back in again, pressing Patrick down against the mattress and burying himself deep again. Patrick almost sobbed with relief.

David’s hand came up behind Patrick’s head to grip the false headboard, giving himself better leverage. That changed the angle so the next thrust hit against the spot that made Patrick light up inside. Patrick bit down hard on his lips. Be quiet.

The mattress springs were squeaking with every thrust—too loud—but Patrick couldn’t focus on the noise. His whole body was yearning for one thing only, for David to keep thrusting just like this, to not stop, to never stop. He snuck his hand down between them and wrapped his fingers around his aching cock. David had his eyes squeezed shut, his breath coming in sharp gasps. He had Patrick folded practically in half, but Patrick barely felt the pain in his hips from the stretch.

Patrick’s fist moved rapidly on his cock. He was so close. “God, oh God—”

David let go of the headboard and slapped his hand down over Patrick’s mouth. Patrick bit into the meat of David’s palm, but he still couldn’t hold back a muffled groaning sound as he spilled between them. As soon as he’d calmed, David began thrusting again, hard and desperate. Patrick felt stretched and sensitive now, but he didn’t want David to stop. He held his breath and clutched David’s hips and kept his eyes on his face as his rhythm faltered, as he gave one last desperate thrust and came, shuddering, impressively quiet, with his head thrown back.

David collapsed, and Patrick wrapped his arms around him. Patrick’s heart was beating wildly. He almost couldn’t believe what just happened. Never, not once, would old Patrick, pre-David Patrick, have been so driven towards his orgasm that he would take a chance like this; never would he have been so out of control that he couldn’t stop from being loud when his partner’s parents were in the next room.

David raised his head and propped himself on his hands. They looked at each other. David’s eyes were wide and his cheeks were flushed. He looked a little disbelieving too.

In the silence, Mrs. Rose’s voice drifted over: “Really, John, it’s crystal clear. Vivian’s brother was the one who blackmailed their father into changing the will. Her sister had no motive to steal the little zygote!”

Patrick started laughing helplessly, quietly. David dropped his head on Patrick’s shoulder. “I’m in hell,” he groaned. Then he sat back and reached down to grip the condom and pull out. “Bathroom, quick,” he whispered, sliding off the bed and standing up. Patrick unfolded himself and managed to stand on wobbly legs. He tried to move quickly but his muscles weren’t responding correctly after his legs had been bent back so far. He shuffled after David as fast as he could. He made it to the bathroom and David shut the door quietly behind them, locking it and leaning against it. He was laughing. Patrick laughed too, as he grabbed a washcloth to wipe the come dripping down his torso.

David wrapped the condom in layers of tissue. He bent down to shove it down deep into the trash.

“Is that really necessary?” Patrick asked. He would have said there was nothing in the world that would induce David to put his hand in garbage.

“My dad empties the trash sometimes,” David said.

“Got it,” Patrick said, even though he really didn’t.

David drew his hand out, grimacing. “Ugh.” He straightened up, turned on the faucet and began scrubbing his hands in the sink.

When he reached for a towel, he caught Patrick’s eye. “Sorry for the lack of romance,” he said, his mouth twisting into an ironic smile.

Patrick dropped the washcloth he’d been using into the tub. He slid his arms around David from behind and planted a kiss on the side of his neck, feeling their bodies pressed together, skin to skin. He said, “I don’t mind. I like this. I like everything, with you.”

David dried his hands and then put them over Patrick’s. His eyes were soft as they met his in the mirror. “Well,” he said. “I could do without more adventures like tonight, but—me too.” He turned in Patrick’s arms and gave him a quick kiss. “Now let’s get dressed before any other disasters can happen.”

~~~~~

David bit his lip, glancing over at Patrick before looking up at the ceiling. “There’s something I never told you about that night,” he said, wincing and squinting one of his eyes closed.

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” Patrick’s voice out of the darkness didn’t sound concerned, and maybe all these years later he wouldn’t care.

David cleared his throat. “My parents did hear us that night.”

There was a second or two of silence. Then Patrick croaked out, “What?”

“Yeah, my Dad said that getting bed frames that didn’t squeak so badly wouldn’t be in the motel budget for a while, a fact I might want to keep in mind if you were going to be visiting me in the motel more often.”

“Oh my God.”

“Mom just said she was pleased that we had a sexually fulfilling relationship, which was sort of nice of her, if you think about it.” Silence from the other bed. “Sorry I didn’t tell you.”

Patrick laughed but it ended on a groan. “No, I’m glad you didn’t. Now that we’ve been married for a few years, I think I can probably manage to show my face in front of your parents the next time they visit. If I’d known at the time…” David could just make out his shudder in the darkness. “I wasn’t even out to my parents yet, and meanwhile yours had heard us having sex. It’s good you didn’t tell me back then.”

“Okay. I mean, my parents have always loved you.”

Patrick snorted. “They didn’t love me after the Rachel barbecue.” That’s what they’d come to refer to that day as, several years and several barbecues later. David had even called it that in front of Rachel once, which had sent all of them, Rachel included, into marijuana-fueled giggles.

David said, “My parents got over it. They saw how happy you made me. That week was a blip.”

“It didn’t feel like it at the time. Remember the first time I saw them after we got back together? Just me and all of the Roses, without you there as a buffer. I was terrified they were going to arrange a firing squad at dawn."

~~~~~

Patrick knocked on the door to room seven. No one answered, and he resigned himself to going back and waiting in the car. He was supposed to meet David here. He knocked one more time, a little bit louder, just in case David was in the bathroom.

The door opened, but it wasn’t David. It was his mother.

“Oh, um, hello, Mrs. Rose,” he said. He hadn’t seen any of the Roses since that humiliating barbecue the week before. He’d been dreading seeing them, if he was honest.

“Hello, Patrick,” she said, and he thought her tone was cool. “David’s not here.”

“I know—I mean, I know that, yes, he went to a meeting with a vendor. We were going to meet up here and then go get dinner. I guess he’s not back yet,” Patrick explained, cursing himself for how awkward he sounded.

Mrs. Rose gave him a long look, and then opened the door wider. “You can wait here, I suppose. I was just searching for a missing pair of my footwear in my recalcitrant daughter’s closet.”

Patrick tried not to visibly cringe, and resisted the urge to say no, he’d just wait in his car. He hated that he’d caused a scene in front of everyone and ruined their barbecue. Patrick didn’t actually mind scenes, or drama in general—in fact, as long as they involved other people, he was realizing he had far more appetite for it than he’d ever thought.

But when he was the cause of the drama? Totally different story.

He sat down at the table while Mrs. Rose knelt down and stuck her head back into Alexis’s closet. Patrick pulled out his phone and saw that if he’d just checked his texts, he could have avoided this awkwardness. Running late. Finally leaving Brenda’s now, a text from David read. Based on when it was sent, David was at least fifteen minutes away.

“Aha!” Moira said, holding aloft a sandal with an insanely high heel. “I knew Alexis had absconded with them.” She set the shoe on the table and dove back in, presumably for the other. Patrick browsed through instagram, not really seeing anything, hoping that by the time Mrs. Rose found the other shoe, David would arrive.

No such luck; she emerged with a second sandal a moment later.

“Success!” Patrick said, forcing a smile.

“Mm,” Mrs. Rose agreed. She stood up from the floor with impressive grace and swayed over to him at the table, a pensive expression on her face. “So you and David have reconciled.”

Patrick said, “We have. I’m… uh, really sorry that I ruined the barbecue.”

He realized as she continued to regard him that he was hoping she’d deny that, that she’d say, you didn’t ruin anything, Patrick; it wasn’t your fault. She didn’t say that, which he took to mean that she did think it was his fault. Which was fair, he had to admit. If he’d been honest with David, Rachel’s arrival wouldn’t have been the atomic explosion that it was. If he’d been honest with Rachel sooner, she wouldn’t have come at all.

Moira perched on the other chair and finally spoke. “While I appreciate your concern for the fact that our alfresco fete ended like an episode of Sunrise Bay, I was more concerned by my first born’s heartbreak.”

Patrick shrank still further, feeling chastised. “I know. I… I didn’t want that either. Obviously.” Understatement of the century. He thought about trying to explain, to tell her that he didn’t want anything of Rachel and his old life to infect his life here, but he was afraid that would make him sound more pathetic. Less worthy of David.

Mrs. Rose fixed him with her formidable gaze. “David has often been drawn toward the wrong sort of person, romantically. Perhaps you are cognizant of that. I had hoped you were not the wrong sort of person for David.”

“I’m not,” Patrick said, feeling stupid for saying it. It was just what the wrong sort of person would say, probably. His mind fumbled for how to prove to Mrs. Rose that he wouldn’t hurt David again, and he drew a blank. There wasn’t any way to prove that.

“Moira?” came a voice from the other room. Mr. Rose. Great.

“In here, John,” Mrs. Rose called in a lilting voice.

Mr. Rose appeared in the doorway between the rooms, and his prodigious eyebrows went up when he saw Patrick. “Oh! Hello, Patrick. I haven’t seen you since, ah—” Mr. Rose scrubbed his hands together as he stumbled to a halt.

“Hi, Mr. Rose,” Patrick said, smiling gamely, even though he wanted to sink into the carpet. “Just waiting for David.”

Moira was looking at Patrick with her head tilted, a slight smile on her lips. “Patrick,” she said.

“Yes?” he said when she didn’t go on.

“I do believe you care about my son, and considering all these tokens of affection”—her arm swept in an arc, indicating the flowers and the chocolate box and the jewelry box on the table at the side of the room—“that you are attempting to make amends.”

“I do—I am,” he said quickly, rushing toward this opening. Moira held up her hand. She looked up at Mr. Rose, who was still hovering awkwardly. “Come here, John.” She patted the chair next to him.

He sat down next to his wife, and now they were both looking at Patrick.

Mrs. Rose said, “Patrick, John and I, in our forty years of marriage, have had our share of turbulent times. In fact, there was one instance early in our marriage that brought us to the very precipice of dissolution.”

“Oh, I don’t think Patrick needs to hear that story, Moira,” Mr. Rose said.

“I disagree, John. I think it’s exactly what he needs to hear,” she said. “Let Patrick profit by what we almost lost.”

Mr. Rose sighed and made a go-ahead gesture. “All right, Moira.”

Mrs. Rose put her hand over her husband’s. “Back when we were first wed, I was between projects, and the loss to the viewing public was to the gain of my new husband. So when I started my tenure at Sunrise Bay a few years later, and suddenly my time was no longer my own, well, let us just say that John had grown accustomed to my frequent presence, and he found himself perhaps a little bit lost without it.”

Mr. Rose said, “More than a little bit, Moira.”

She gave him a smile and went on, “So he arranged for me to shoot a series of videos for Rose Video. A chance to practice my craft and spend time with my darling inamorato? I was over the moon, I can assure you.”

Mr. Rose smiled, but he looked tense. “I was too, Moira. Too much.”

She patted his hand. “All is forgiven, John. So, when the day of shooting arrived—”

She was interrupted by the door opening. Patrick turned, hoping for David, but it was Alexis. She was in coordinated work-out clothes, wireless earbuds wrapped around the back of her neck, evidently coming straight in from a run.

Pulling her earbuds out, she took them all in and then bared her teeth in a wide fake smile, a summation of the awkward tableau they probably made. “Hey, Patrick.”

“Hi, Alexis,” Patrick said cautiously. He wasn’t sure how Alexis felt about him anymore either.

“What’s going on?” she said.

Patrick said, “Oh, your mom was just telling me about, um—”

Mrs. Rose said, “I was just sharing a tale of marital stress and strife for young Patrick’s edification.”

“Ugh, Mom,” Alexis interrupted, plopping herself down on her bed. “Are you telling the story of Dad not telling you about an audition for Xanadu, because it was the same day you were scheduled to shoot those Rose Video infomercials?”

Patrick looked at Mr. Rose. He shook his head sorrowfully at his younger self. “I’ll always regret it.”

Mrs. Rose said to Alexis, “They weren’t infomercials, dear. They were legally mandated compliance tutorials for the workplace.”

Alexis said, “Okay, but why are you telling that story now?”

“Well, based on this recent contretemps regarding the appearance of Patrick’s affianced, I felt it only right to—”

“Ew, seriously?” Alexis turned to Patrick and grimaced, as if in sympathy.

“It’s perfectly fine,” he said.

“Your mother is just looking out for David,” Mr. Rose said, meeting Patrick’s eyes meaningfully.

“Be nice if she’d ever looked out for me like that,” Alexis grumbled.

“Alexis!” Mrs. Rose said, her voice rising in indignation. “Whatever does that mean?”

“Umm, what about the fact that you let me date Sean Penn when he’s, like, old enough to be my father?”

“You dated Sean Penn?” Patrick asked, horrified and fascinated, and glad to divert the topic of conversation away from himself.

“I mean, dated is sort of the wrong word, but—” Alexis began.

The door opened then to admit the final of the four Roses. David pulled his sunglasses off and looked around at them. “What’s going on here?” His voice was high and tight with tension.

“Hey,” Patrick said, getting up from the table and going over to greet him. He leaned in and kissed David, aware that everyone was watching them. It was brief but soft, David’s lips pliable beneath his own. “How was Brenda?”

David looked from Patrick to his family, and then back to Patrick. “Good. She’s fine with the adjustments to her contract.”

“That’s good news!” Patrick said and kissed him again. A lifeline.

“Mm hm,” David said, his mind clearly not on Brenda. “What’ve… what have you guys been talking about?”

“The usual,” Alexis said. “The fact that Mom loves you best.”

“Alexis,” Mrs. Rose said reproachfully. “Jealousy is the basest of human emotions. No, David, I was just telling Patrick how—”

“She was telling him how to be a better boyfriend!” Alexis said, her earlier anger turning into something that looked more like glee. “Isn’t that the nicest thing, David? Aren’t you just, so glad that Mom is taking an interest?”

David glared at his mother. “What?” he said, hitting the final T with the force of his indignation.

“Alexis, what a mischaracterization!” Mrs. Rose said. “Patrick and I were having a most fruitful confabulation regarding matters of the heart—”

“And what made you think I would want you to do that?” David shouted.

“David, your mother is trying to help,” Mr. Rose said.

“I don’t need help! From either of you! You’ll only make things worse!” David said. At the same time, Alexis caught Patrick’s eye. She gave him a little eyebrow waggle, smiling conspiratorially. Patrick smiled back gratefully.

“David,” Mrs. Rose said reproachfully. “Your habit of perpetual mistrust is exactly why I felt I must say something.”

“David, it’s fine,” Patrick said. “I don’t mind.” And he didn’t, he really didn’t mind. Because he was realizing that maybe, somehow, the Roses weren’t warning him away; they were telling him these things because they genuinely wanted to help.

“It’s not fine.” David’s hands came down on Patrick’s shoulders, rubbing quickly, nervously. He peered at Patrick’s face, as if afraid of what he was going to see there.

Patrick said, more confidently, “Your mother and I were discussing—um, matters of the heart, just like she said. She was sharing the wisdom of her experience. And Mr. Rose, too.” He nodded at them. “I’m grateful.”

“You see, David,” Mrs. Rose said triumphantly.

David's face relaxed a little, and he rubbed Patrick’s shoulders again, caressingly this time. “Okay, well. Are you ready to go? I’m starving.”

“I’m ready,” Patrick said. He turned back to the Roses, where the conversation had already moved on to Olivia Newton-John’s “tragic” performance in Xanadu. “You know they were eventually compelled to procure a body double for the roller skating sequences,” Mrs. Rose said.

“We know,” Alexis said, rolling her eyes.

“Goodbye,” Patrick offered in their general direction.

Without pausing their conversation, Mr. Rose nodded and smiled, Alexis gave him a squinty eyed grin, and Mrs. Rose raised a regal hand, like a queen giving him benediction.

~~~~~

“I was so sure they were going to hate me forever,” Patrick said. “Instead they made me feel like, even though I’d screwed up, they wanted to help. They were rooting for me to show I was worthy of you.”

“But you know what a low bar you had to clear there, right? Compared to the other people I’d dated.”

“I wasn’t trying to clear the bar of other people you’d dated. I was trying to clear the bar of what you deserved,” Patrick said in his oh-so-earnest voice.

“You did,” David said, a catch in his voice from a sudden surge of emotion. “You do.”

“Okay,” Patrick said, sounding equally emotional. “I just—I was so worried I’d lost my chance.”

David said, “I was worried too.”

“Really?”

“Yes, you know I was worried all the time, back then. Right then I was worried if I didn’t scare you away myself, my family would do it for me.”

“I’d like to see anybody try,” Patrick said softly.

David curled his body so he was facing Patrick. He wished, again, they could be in the same bed.

“Besides, I like your family,” Patrick said. “I always have.”

“I know you do,” David said. “It’s insane, but I’ve learned to accept it.”

Patrick laughed. “It must be weird for you, being back here,” he said. “It must make you miss them even more.”

“Oh well,” David scoffed. He flopped over onto his back.

“Come on, David, you can admit you miss them. This is a safe space.”

“Fine. Maybe a little.”

“There’s a lot of memories here for you, of your family.”

“Yeah,” David said. “But also of you. Wanting you. Falling in love with you. Planning a wedding, planning our life together.”

They were both silent.

Patrick said, “Remember how we used to sleep in that bed together all the time? It was so cramped.”

“So uncomfortable.”

“Definitely.”

David thought of their house, their king-sized bed, how he got to sleep with Patrick by his side every night, how empty it was when he was gone. Sleeping with Patrick had come to be like breathing—the natural order of things, vital and necessary.

“David,” Patrick whispered. “Can I come over there?”

“Yes, please.”

He heard Patrick slip out of the other bed and come around to the far side of his. He lifted the covers. “Do you want to be the big spoon or the little spoon?” he whispered.

“Little,” David said immediately. Patrick gave him a quick kiss and lay down behind him, curling his body behind David’s and sliding an arm around to lay his hand on his chest. David put his hand over his.

“I never want to take this for granted,” Patrick said.

“I don’t either,” David said. “I never thought—I never thought I’d get to have this. You.”

“Same.” Patrick’s arms tightened around him. “I’m sorry about today,” he said.

“Me too.” David burrowed more securely into Patrick’s arms, feeling the warmth of his body against his back. He felt the remaining tension drain out of him.

Patrick kissed the back of David’s neck and ran his hand up and down his arm.

“You know something else I remember?” David said.

“What?”

He wiggled his ass a little against Patrick. “Waking up with your morning wood against me and not being able to do anything about it because my sister was in the next bed.”

Patrick pressed his hips forward. “Oh really? That must have been very frustrating.”

“It was. Very.”

Patrick’s hand drifted down and stroked over David’s hip. He said, low in his ear, “God, David. I remember wanting you all the time, so much I couldn’t think, and having you so tantalizingly close drove me crazy. I swear I walked around in a cloud of hormones for a year.”

“But those days are over, huh?”

Patrick’s teeth caught David’s earlobe. “Absolutely. Now I’m basically immune to you.”

“I can tell,” David said, as Patrick shifted his hips forward again, and David felt he was fully hard now, pressing against him.

“You’re not too tired?” Patrick said, his hand sliding from David’s hip to the front of his pajama pants.

“Well, I might not be up for something extremely energetic, but—”

“Some nice, leisurely, middle-aged sex would be acceptable?”

“That kind of talk is not going to get you laid.”

Patrick’s hand closed over David’s cock, over his sleep pants. He stroked up and down. “Wanna bet?”

David groaned a little. He turned in Patrick’s arms so he could kiss him properly. “You are so obnoxious.”

“I just know what I want.” Patrick got his hands up under David’s sleep sweater.

“Mm,” David said, pressing closer, enjoying the feel of Patrick’s nimble fingers, stroking his chest and teasing his nipples into stiff peaks. Then Patrick tugged on his sweatshirt, and David held up his arms for Patrick to pull it off. Patrick’s hands tangled in his chest hair as he scooted down to put his mouth on David’s nipple. David rested his hand on the back of Patrick’s head to pull him closer.

Patrick lifted his head and put his fingers back where his mouth had been. He said, “I just remembered—no lube in the nightstand anymore.”

“Ugh, you’re right.” David tried to think, which was hard with Patrick’s hands roaming all over him. “I think I—there might be some in my bag. What do you have in mind?” He was pretty sure Patrick wasn’t talking about surprise, middle-of-the-night anal, but he was known to get inspired sometimes.

“I want to fuck your thighs,” Patrick said, his hands settling on David’s hips. “If that’s okay.”

David gave a pleased hum and kissed him thoroughly, sliding in his tongue and biting his lower lip, kissing him until they were both breathless. “That is very okay,” he said.

Patrick’s hands wandered down to David’s thighs and plucked at his sleep pants. “You need to take these off.”

“Right,” David said, and lifted himself up awkwardly to pull his sleep pants off. He tossed them on the floor. He rolled on his side, facing away from Patrick. “Okay, ready.”

Patrick laughed. “Okay, David. But I still have my pants on. And we don’t have the lube.”

David waved a hand. “I can’t solve all your problems.” He yawned and tucked his hands under his cheek. “Take off your own pants and wake me when you find the lube.”

Patrick laughed again and gave him a kiss on the back of the neck. He slid out of bed and David heard him rummaging in his bag. “Any idea where?” he said.

“Try the side pocket,” he said. “And don’t mess up my clothes. I have them folded a certain way.”

“Obviously,” Patrick said. “Don’t worry, I’m being careful. Aha!”

He stood back up, holding something up triumphantly.

“Make sure it’s not, like, undereye concealer or something,” David said. “That would be a big disappointment.”

“It’s lube, I can see the flower even in the dark.” Patrick came back to the bed and pressed the lube and a towel in David’s hand.

David spread the towel in front of him but didn’t open the lube. Instead he turned around to watch as Patrick pulled off his sleep pants and shirt.

Patrick saw him looking. “What?” he said.

“Just enjoying the view,” David said. It was true. Patrick’s body in the dim light was a work of art, his pale, perfect skin faintly luminous in the moonlight from the window, his solid frame, the muscles of his arms and his thick legs, his cock still half-hard and gorgeous.

Patrick smiled at him, looking bashful, then slipped back into the bed. “I love you,” he whispered as he cuddled up behind him.

“I love you,” David said.

Patrick said, “Now get that lube open so I can fuck you senseless.”

The words went straight to David’s cock. “That’s not very leisurely of you,” he said, even as he hastened to obey. He poured a generous amount of lube in his hand and reached down between his thighs. Patrick’s hand was there, too, helping to spread the lube all around, over David’s thighs and ass and perineum and balls.

Patrick groaned a little as his hand slid over David’s ass, stroking him with a sure touch. “You’re so gorgeous, David,” he said.

David hummed at the compliment. Patrick leaned over him to dry his hand on the towel. Then he lined himself up behind David and paused, his cock pressing hard and insistent against his ass.

“God, fuck me already,” David said.

“Impatient,” Patrick murmured, but he slid his cock between David’s thighs. His hand went to David’s hip to brace himself as he pulled back slowly and thrust again.

David reveled in the feeling of being in this room, in this bed, and yet able to take their time, take as long as they wanted. Patrick wasn’t in a hurry either—he’d obviously taken the idea of leisurely sex seriously—and David gave himself over to the slow, sure rhythm of it. David closed his lubed hand over his own cock, not stroking himself yet, just holding himself loosely, focusing on the lush slide of Patrick’s cock along his hole, his perineum, the nudge against his balls as Patrick pushed out between his thighs. David always loved sex that let them be pressed together like this, body to body, skin to skin; he lost himself in the feel of their bodies moving together, his husband’s hand pressing his hip, his husband’s cock moving between his legs, the gorgeous sounds that he was making—

Wait. They weren’t in their house here. “Shhhh,” he said, breathless. “Patrick—there’s still—ah, people—”

Patrick groaned, but he seemed to get it. He pressed his face against David’s shoulder and was quiet as he continued to move. Then there was nothing but the hitching of their breathing, the squeaking of the bedsprings, and the slick sound of flesh on flesh.

When Patrick’s thrusts began to grow faster and more erratic, David closed his hand around his cock and began stroking himself in the same rhythm. He felt himself spiraling up and up; his hand tightened, chasing the feeling; but then he felt Patrick deliberately slow down, and David forced himself to slow down too, gentling his touch, drawing it out, feeling the ache build up again in his own body, and knowing it was building up for Patrick too. After a long eternity of this exquisite torture, Patrick gasped and cried out as he started to come; he bit down on David’s shoulder to muffle the sound, and the sudden pain was like a thunderbolt through David’s body that hurled him over the edge. He bit down on his lips and turned his face to the pillow as he came

“God,” Patrick murmured against David’s skin. “That was… wow.”

David blinked the spots out of his eyes. His whole body felt trembly, wrung out from exhaustion and emotion and an incredible orgasm. “Yeah.”

Patrick peeled away from David’s back and a shock of air cooled the sweat there. David wiped his hand off on the towel and began judging the best way to gracefully get out of a bed this low to the ground without getting come all over everything.

“Maybe we should be renting a room for this more often,” Patrick said.

David whipped around, affronted. “Are you dissatisfied with the sex we have at home?”

Patrick reached out and stroked David’s arm. “No; I’m joking. Although not about how amazing that sex was.”

David scooted off the bed, then picked up the towel to get the worst of the lube and come off of his thighs before walking over to the bathroom to finish cleaning up. “Make-up sex is always amazing,” he called back over his shoulder. “That doesn’t mean the fighting before it is worth it.”

Patrick followed him to the bathroom and he flicked on the light switch, making David squint in the sudden brightness.

“No, you’re right,” Patrick said, meeting David’s eyes in the mirror, his face earnest and solemn. “But nothing ever makes me doubt that we will make up.”

David’s eyes drifted to his own reflection. There were lines around his eyes that weren’t there when he looked in this mirror every day, and a handful of gray hairs that he’d given up on plucking out now that they were beginning to multiply. Then his eyes found Patrick’s in the mirror. “I know. Me too,” he said softly.

They finished cleaning up and went back into the bedroom.

“Hey, David?” Patrick said, picking his discarded pajamas up to put back on.

“Hmm?” David pulled his sweatshirt over his head.

Patrick caught David around the waist and kissed him on the cheek as soon as his head appeared above the collar of his sweatshirt. He said, “Will it ruin the fragile emotional place we’re in if I don’t sleep the whole night in this bed with you? I’m not sure my back can take it.”

David got his arms through the sleeves so he could wind his arms around Patrick’s shoulders. “All right, old man,” he said. “You can make it up to me tomorrow when we’re home.”

Patrick said, “I really do hate sleeping apart from you, though. It might be worth the bad back.”

“No, you need to save your back to fix the termite damage, remember?”

“Ronnie’s doing that.”

“Then you need to be at one hundred percent to deal with Ronnie.”

“Okay, fair point.” Patrick pulled David against him and buried his face in the crook of his neck.

“What are you doing?” David asked.

“Smelling you.”

“Mm, how creepy.”

Patrick laughed, his voice muffled. “It’s just—it’s one of the things I like most about sleeping beside you. Being able to smell you.”

David frowned, waiting for the punchline. When Patrick didn’t say anything else, David said, “Wait, really?"

Patrick finally lifted his head, “Yes. You smell very—”

“What?”

“You smell like home.”

David stroked along his shoulders. “Okay, that’s not fair. You took something creepy and made it unbearably sweet.”

“It’s a gift,” Patrick said, giving his little upside-down smile. Then he got serious. “I’m sorry your dream house got termites, David. I’ve been thinking about that all week. How to make it up to you.”

“Make it up to me? What does that mean?”

Patrick looked embarrassed. He mumbled, “It’s just that—I wanted to keep my promise.”

“Your promise? What promise?”

Patrick looked shifty-eyed, and then David remembered. David, I’m going to make you so happy here. He should have known that Patrick would take those words to his beautiful, generous, literal heart.

“Patrick, I love our house. You know I do. But—it’s not the house. It’s the fact that you got it for us. I’d still be happy even if I still lived in this motel room. As long as I was with you.” He stroked his hands on Patrick’s shoulders, searching for the words to make him understand. Finally he said, “I mean—you smell like home to me, too.”

Patrick was searching his face anxiously. Then his face relaxed into a smile. “Wow, what a creepy thing to say.”

“Right?”

Patrick looked around. “We made some nice memories here, didn’t we? Even though it wasn’t ours.”

David hummed in agreement. “We did.”

They got back in their separate beds, sliding under the covers. It had been a long, long day. David was so tired, beyond tired.

Patrick said from the other bed, “I believe you when you say you’d be happy anywhere, as long as we’re together. But can I say I’m glad we have our house? You’ve made it very beautiful.”

“Mm. We both have.”

“But mostly you.”

“Mostly me,” David agreed, and Patrick huffed a quiet laugh.

“Good night, David. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

He heard Patrick slip in his mouth guard and burrow down under the covers, settling in. David listened as his husband’s breathing slowed and evened out as he fell asleep. He felt pleasantly cozy, curled up in this bed where he’d spent so many nights, his husband in the next bed instead of Alexis.

He thought of their house, that they would be going back to tomorrow, hopefully termite-free. It was true what Patrick said. David had worked hard and it had paid off. The house was beautiful.

But Patrick was the one who made it home.