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It’s almost four in the morning by the time they leave Orphan Andy’s and head for the trains. The streets are empty and quiet, but the Castro’s lit up no matter what the time of night.

Patrick’s exhaustion is a little dizzying when combined with the pure relief of his fingers tangled in Richie’s—but his heart’s still thumping in his chest, he’s still giddy and teary-eyed at the same time. He laughs as Richie wipes under his eyes with his thumbs, while the others say goodbye a little ways down the sidewalk. Patrick leans into Richie’s hands, kisses his soft smile.

“I wanna come with you to Texas.”

“You sure?”

Patrick nods, grins back at him. “San Antonio, preferably, but I’m sure I can make whatever work.”

“Pato, you...” Richie trails off and sighs. “I can’t think straight with you looking at me like that.”

“What way am I looking at you?” Patrick asks, biting his lip, holding the smile because he knows it’s driving Richie crazy.

“Like you’re all in. Like... you mean it, and I’m about to...” Richie groans, scrubbing a hand over his face. “Fuck, Patrick, I feel like I’m about to hand my entire life to you.”

Patrick’s face falls. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I know, but I feel like I will. You... I gave you the power to hurt me a long time ago, and you’ve still got it.”

“Richie—”

He looks away. Their friends are jaywalking toward the Castro Station, Doris’ laughter setting the rest off.

When Richie turns back to him, he’s shaking his head. “What I mean is, I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my whole life, Pato.”

Patrick feels his eyes well up again as he’s lifting his hand to Richie’s cheek, and he kisses Richie once more, sinks into his mouth. “I love you too,” he says, a bit breathless, with their foreheads pressed together.

“Yo, Richie! Maid of Dishonor! Get the fuck over here!” Agustín calls from across the street, and Patrick looks over, waves to him.

“I just—” Patrick sighs and wipes his eyes. “I know I don’t have a great track record, but please don’t be afraid of me. I know what I want,” he says softly, tugging on the sleeve of Richie’s jacket and moving in the direction of the crosswalk.

Richie cracks a smile. “Chicken-fried steak and Tex-Mex?”

Patrick’s brows furrow, and he nods. “How’d you know?”

They catch up with everybody on the train platform, and Agustín looks up, grinning from under Eddie’s arm. “I’m already so happy tonight, but like, you guys. Please tell me this is really happening and it’s not the moonrocks talking.”

Patrick sniffs and smiles at his feet, and then at Richie. “I think so. Yes.”

“Honestly, oh my god, fellas,” Doris says, over Eddie’s drawn-out ‘Whaaaaat.’ “It’s time. It’s meant to be.”

“So I guess that means we’re not getting coffee at Philz tomorrow,” Dom says, eyebrows raised. “In fact, Patty, I won’t expect you back at the apartment until it’s time to pick up your bag and go to the airport.”

Richie chuckles, elbowing Patrick. “Sounds about right.”

They hug everyone, ride inbound with Eddie and Agustín for two stops, and then get off and take the J line to Richie’s. If they get four hours of sleep, Patrick’ll have six left in San Francisco before his flight back to Denver.

They’ll have to make every second count.

 

When Patrick wakes up the next morning, he can’t move half of his body. Richie’s tucked along his side, one leg between his, and his face buried in Patrick’s neck. His cock hard against Patrick’s hip.

All in all, it’s a great problem to have.

But he can’t see the clock, and his phone is in his pants on the floor. And he has to pee.

Patrick slides his hand into Richie’s hair, feels him wake on an inhale and smile against Patrick’s neck. Richie grumbles a bit, nipping at Patrick’s jaw, and rolls over.

“How long do we have?”

Patrick can turn to the clock now—it’s just after nine. “Not long enough.” He sits up.

He’s not sure how they managed to not have sex the night before. They’d come back from the night’s festivities, fallen into bed, made out like fuckin’ hetero teenagers until all the clothing was removed—until the adrenaline had worn off, and their eyelids were drooping.

He gets up and goes to the bathroom. There’s a pretty dark hickey on his neck when he looks in the mirror—he hasn’t had one of those in a while. There are products in the counter that he can tell aren’t Richie’s.

When Patrick comes back after finger-brushing his teeth, Richie’s propped up against the pillows, the sheet and blanket shoved down to the foot of the mattress, one hand around his cock.

Patrick snorts. “You need some help with that?”

Richie smiles, arches his back. “Please.”

They roll out of bed some twenty minutes later, get dressed—Patrick borrows one of Richie’s t-shirts—and head down the street for breakfast.

 

The St. Francis Fountain is exactly the way he remembers it—bright, beat-up, and extremely charming—except Sean Astin’s smiling braceface has been replaced with New Kids On The Block and pro wrestling cards.

They grab seats at the bar, and order buttermilk pancakes with fruit cups.

“So, my flight’s at 4:15,” Patrick says, as they dig into their food. “I should probably get there by 2:30.”

Richie nods. “You need a ride?”

“Really?”

He shrugs his shoulders, cutting his short stack up with the edge of his fork. “What good’s a driver’s license if I can’t take you to the airport?”

Patrick’s face lights up, mid-chew. “Oh my gosh, that’s right! Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Richie says. “Fuckin’ parallel parking, though—I failed the test the first time.”

Patrick’s eyebrows shoot toward the ceiling. “That’s kind of important for a mobile barbershop.”

“Yeah, you got that right.”

“Don’t feel bad,” Patrick says, nudging him. “I’m pretty sure I failed mine twice before I got it.”

Richie smiles and drizzles the last of his maple syrup over his plate. “We can go see it after this if you want. It’s parked around the corner.”

“I would love that.”

 

Patrick slides his hand into Richie’s as they leave the diner and head down the block. “I’ve been so excited for you.”

“It’s been fun. Really fuckin’ stressful, though. I went in like, oh, I get to pick my own hours, be my own boss,” Richie says, gesturing with his other hand. “But getting all the permits was a nightmare, so many fucking hoops to jump through. It’s a lot more work than I thought it’d be.”

“I bet,” Patrick replies, as Richie leads them off the sidewalk and down an alley.

“It’s all street parking around here, so I made a deal with this landlord, who’ll let me park back here—it’s cheaper than the meter.” Richie smiles, and points—the alley opens up into a tiny gravel lot, with three spaces. “There she is.”

Patrick takes it in. Besides the paint job, the truck itself isn’t all that different from the one with the creepy chimes that they brought back from San Leandro. It’s white like that one, but several inches taller, so Richie can stand up in the back. They circle the truck once.

On each side, Mission Scissors & Shaves is painted in flowing black script, overlaying an illustration of a pair of scissors and a straight razor—Patrick can tell it’s Agustín’s style. In print below it is a phone number, as well as the twitter handle @missionscissors.

“I drew the line at a cartoon of my face, Agustín wanted to do some kind of skull-and-crossbones thing,” Richie says. “What do you think?”

“It looks incredible,” Patrick says, and kisses Richie’s cheek. “I’ll have to ask for his mock-ups. Did you and Ceci supe it up?”

“Yeah, the engine and the inside needed a lot of work, but check it out,” he says, unlocking the back and swinging open the doors, revealing full-length mirrors on the inside of both. Bolted to the floor, facing out, is a vintage, maroon-and-chrome barber chair, and behind it, all of Richie’s supplies, organized on a rack.

“This is awesome. I’m assuming you take walk-ins.”

Richie makes a face—walk-ins are the point—but then his phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out. “Speak of la diabla,” he says, winking at Patrick, and answers it. “Ey, prima!”

“Hi, Ceci!” Patrick says. Richie smiles and puts his phone on speaker.

“Who’s that, cuz?”

Richie chuckles. “You’re on speaker with Patrick.”

“What?” she shrieks. “What’re you doing in town?”

“I’m here for Agustín’s wedding,” he says. “Richie took me to see the truck, it looks great.”

Ceci gasps through the phone. “I know huh, but I’m still bitter I didn’t get to paint it, the stinkin’ cabrón.”

Patrick crosses his arms, grinning. “I thought you might be, actually.”

“Honestly, that Coral Gables otter over his own flesh and blood,” she says, but he can hear the smile in her voice. “How’s Denver?”

“It’s good. I’ll probably be leaving soon, though.” He looks up, meets Richie’s eyes, who nods. “I... might be moving with Richie to Texas, actually,” Patrick says, a little tentatively.

The line is quiet for a few beats. “You guys got back together?”

“Yeah, prima,” Richie says.

“You got back together and now you’re leaving?” She makes a noise like she might cry. “Oh, fuck. I mean, how dare you, but oh, that’s so romantic.”

Richie laughs. “Shut up.”

You shut up! When did this happen?”

“Last night.”

“And what about Brady?” she asks, carefully, like she’s making a face.

Richie scratches the back of his neck. “Yeah, I broke up with Brady.”

She just launches in. “¿Cuándo? ¿Que pasó? ¿Qué te dijo? ¿Fue por Patrick? La semana pasada, tú me dijiste—”

Richie huffs, exasperated, and cuts her off. “Look, Ceci, can we talk about it later? I need to get him to the airport.”

She groans. “Fine, but we’re having a party before you guys move.”

Claro, Ceci,” Richie says, rolling his eyes. “Adiós.” Richie hangs up, and slides his phone into his back pocket. “She uh, she never liked me with Brady much.”

“Regardless,” Patrick says, shaking his head. “It was messed up. I’m sorry for the way this happened.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Pato. It was mine,” he says, turning to the back doors of the truck and swinging them closed. “I should have broken up with him a long time ago, and he knew it. I... you were gone and I just—”

“You didn’t want to be alone,” Patrick finishes, frowning, and Richie nods. Sliding his hands up Richie’s arm, Patrick sighs. “We can hash this all out later. Just—take me back to your place. We have approximately three more hours and I want you to fuck me before I leave.”

It takes him a second, and then Richie’s eyes widen. “We... we never did that.”

Patrick nods, wincing. “I know. I want you to, though.”

“Yeah. Yeah, absolutely, Pato,” he says, and kisses him.

 

Patrick strips his borrowed shirt off as soon as they pass through the front door. “Come take a shower with me,” he says over his shoulder, and Richie has no choice but to follow, leaving more clothes to join Patrick’s on the hardwood.

California was always in a drought, after all.

They tumble back into Richie’s bed buck naked and damp—Patrick’s fingers wrap around Richie’s dick as they kiss, stroke him until Richie’s thick and unforgiving in his hand.

There’s KY, condoms and a box of tissues in the nightstand, and Patrick doesn’t think about how Brady’s been using them for the past several months, he just watches Richie lube up his fingers.

Richie stretches him gently, Patrick straddling Richie’s waist, hands braced on his chest.

He smiles as Patrick grinds down into his hand. “Always knew you’d like this,” he says softly, squeezing Patrick’s thigh.

“Oh yeah?”

Richie nods, planting his feet firmer on the sheets and wrapping his other hand around Patrick’s cock. “Wanted to make you beg for me.”

Blunt fingertips brush over his prostate then, in just the right way, and his eyes flutter shut. “Oh, my god,” he says on a sigh, and fucks forward into Richie’s fist. “Bit more of that and you might just get your wish.”

Richie snickers, licking his lips, and Patrick leans in to kiss him—but it’s little more than a sloppy peck before he’s pulling back.

“That all you got?” Patrick teases, sitting up again. “Gimme another.”

Richie works his ring finger in alongside his middle and pointer, and Patrick winces a little, and then rocks down on him, reaching back to grasp Richie’s cock.

Curling his fingers, Richie groans, and he clenches his eyes shut. “Fuck.”

Patrick smiles down at him, pressing Richie’s cock against the cleft of his ass, and lifts up. “I want you so bad,” Patrick says, softly. “M’ready, want you inside me, please.”

Richie nods, sliding his fingers out and reaching for a tissue. “Condom?”

Patrick finds it, behind him on the sheets, and tears it open. “How do you want me?”

“On your back,” Richie says, and when Patrick leans down to kiss him again, Richie flips them over.

Patrick hasn’t had sex in missionary for a while. His one-night stands didn’t usually go for it—the whole gauzy-lighting Harlequin Romance connotation could be a bit of an antithesis to one-time hookups on Grindr. It’s harder to fantasize about someone else when you’re looking right into a stranger’s face.

Luckily he has absolutely no intention of doing that now—he wants to absorb every bit of this, take it back to Denver with him, jack off to it, repeat it to Richie during phone sex for the next few months.

He grins as he hits the pillows, and hands Richie the condom. Richie takes it and pushes him down into the mattress, kisses down his neck and chest—Patrick bares his throat to offer him more access, and slides both hands into Richie’s hair as he tugs at a nipple with his teeth, and then moves lower, toward Patrick’s belly button.

He feels Richie look up, and then sit back on his heels, Patrick’s hands falling away. He watches Richie stroke himself twice before rolling the condom down his cock.

“Richie,” Patrick says, touching his chest. “Before I don’t know what’s coming out of my mouth—I want you to know, or I want to say it again, I—”

Richie tilts his head a little. “What, Pato?”

Patrick’s eyes soften. “I love you.”

The corner of Richie’s mouth curls up, and he leans down, grins into a kiss that’s a little off-center, with too much teeth, but is still perfect.

“I love you back,” he says, wrapping a hand around Patrick’s cock. “Gonna let me fuck you now?”

Patrick nods, gets another kiss, and then feels the thick head of Richie’s dick press up against his entrance.

Richie guides himself in slow, on his knees. He lets out a long groan, cursing under his breath, his eyes flashing to Patrick’s as he pulls back halfway.  

“You alright?” Richie asks, gripping Patrick’s hips.

Patrick nods quickly, and after a few of strokes, after Patrick’s legs have wrapped around him and he can really sink inside, Richie leans in, rests on his elbows.

Patrick’s arms come up around him, hands raking gently down his shoulders as he thrusts forward. Patrick’s hard between their stomachs—he leans up and kisses Richie again, tugs on his lower lip with his teeth.

They’re finally doing this. He felt so fucking guilty after his first time with Kevin, but at least Richie doesn’t have to deal with his buttsex phobia anymore.

They’ll have so many more options to explore, now.

Groaning, Richie breaks the kiss. “Been wanting to be inside you since the day we met.” He trails his mouth across Patrick’s cheek, kisses below his ear when Patrick leans into his touch.

“You kinda freaked me out, to be honest,” Patrick says, smiling, and wraps his arms around Richie’s neck. “It worked, though, you’re so goddamn cute.”

Richie leans back and grins, bashful—and Patrick’s breath catches in his throat.

He’s fucking beautiful.

If they weren’t about to start their lives together, Patrick would say his could end right now.

He wants to say that he’s sorry he wasted so much time, but Richie was right to break up with him when he did—Patrick needed that. He would never have let go of his mother’s image of the ideal man without rejecting a guy who fit the profile.

But the detour was probably necessary for both of them.

And now they’re going away together, Richie loves him and is inside him, he’d even used the wedding word the night before, and instead of any part of that scaring the shit out of him, he just knows he can handle it.

He closes his eyes into another kiss, and when he opens them—fuck, he’s tearing up.

“None of that, babe,” Richie says softly, shaking his head. “Save it for the airport.”

Patrick laughs, covers his eyes with one hand. “I’m sorry, I’m just so happy, and overwhelmed, and—ugh, fuck, just—”

Richie shushes him. “You want out of your head?” he asks, pulling back to his knees and slamming into Patrick.

Patrick groans like he’s been punched in the stomach, and brings his hands up, braces himself on the wall behind him. “Please,” he pants, nodding. “Yes.”

Richie chuckles, pulling one of Patrick’s legs up over his shoulder, and fucks into him again.

It has the desired result—Patrick tilts his head back, and his eyes flutter shut. “Holy shit,” he says. “Faster.”

Richie complies, gripping Patrick’s thigh. His other leg is bent loosely around Richie’s waist now, like he’s given up trying to hold on with it, so Richie grabs that one too, slings it up—and Patrick’s ankles lock together behind his head.

Richie’s hands curl around the front of his thighs as he continues to thrust—and Richie’s face is all red from the effort, his loose hair bouncing against his forehead with every movement.

He’s breathing hard. He’s making the bed shake.

And Patrick’s just gasping below him, precome dribbling across his belly—he’s not any less overwhelmed, but he’s the subject of Richie’s focus now, and he needs to remember this, the way it feels to get fucked by him, the way Richie looks when he’s inside him, sweat breaking out on his skin, his face saying there’s no place he’d rather be.

Richie adjusts the angle, makes Patrick cry out.

“Oh, my god,” he says through a moan, his hand taking over on his cock. “Right there.”

It doesn’t take long after that. Patrick comes in spurts over his stomach, and Richie drops forward onto his elbows, bending Patrick in half, fucking him deep through it.

Patrick’s hands dig back into Richie’s hair, tug a little as he babbles—“C’mon Richie, come for me, fuck me so good, I—”

And he does.

 

They lay sated and sticky in the sheets afterward, facing each other, and it’s so stupid and romantic and like they’ve gotta be missing something, but Patrick’s cheeks are starting to hurt from smiling.

Richie sweeps his thumb over the scar on Patrick’s chest, above his right nipple. “You never told me what happened here.”

“It’s not a very good story,” Patrick says, closing his eyes. “I didn’t get stabbed or anything.”

Richie just smiles. “Tell me.”

He opens his eyes, runs his fingers up Richie’s arm. “Well, it was the summer between ninth and tenth grade, and I was on that boring brown bike that my dad got me, and I swerved to avoid a car, and ran right into a mailbox.”

Richie looks confused, so Patrick elaborates.

“It was one of those wooden things that they stick a row of mailboxes on, with a roof—they had to pull splinters out of me in the emergency room.”

“Oh, shit,” Richie says, and Patrick yawns, burrowing into Richie’s chest. Richie hums at him, adjusts his arm so Patrick can use it as a pillow. He presses his lips to Patrick’s forehead. “We can’t fall asleep, you still have to go to the airport.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Patrick groans. “I’m not even packed, fuck—what time is it?”

Richie cranes his neck to look at the clock. “Relax, it’s not even 12:30. We could probably still go again.”

Patrick smiles, but shakes his head. “I really need to go get my bag. I can just get the boarding pass on my phone but—”

“Yeah, alright,” Richie says, sitting up and collecting his clothes.

 

They clean up and make it to Dom’s within an hour. Dom isn’t there, he’s at the chicken window, but Patrick gets in with a spare key.

Richie follows him inside, the barber truck parked down the block, and folds the blankets from the couch while Patrick packs up his suit carefully and tucks it into his carry-on. He listens to Patrick talk to himself as he collects his phone charger, and socks from the floor, and his stuff from the bathroom.

Patrick’s still a worrywart about regular things, even if he’s loosened up sexually.

Richie walks into the kitchen and stops, staring at the things that are different now that Dom lives here—pictures on the wall, dishes in the sink, the kitchen table—but for a second he’s drinking awkward tea, or making enfrijoladas for his boyfriend, or—

“Okay, I think that’s everything,” Patrick says with a great sigh from the other room, and zips up his bag. “And we’re good on time, too. This time of day it shouldn’t take more than a half hour to get to SFO. Richie?”

Patrick finds him in the kitchen, and leans his shoulder against the doorway.

“It’s different,” Richie says, turning to him.

“Yeah, it is,” Patrick says, smiling. “I’ve missed this apartment.”

Richie smiles back and crosses the kitchen to kiss him. “You all set?”

“Yeah, but, uh, before we go, there’s something we haven’t discussed,” Patrick says, twining their fingers together, and Richie raises his eyebrows at Patrick’s nervous tone. “And I’m gonna be a total lesbian about this, but I’ve learned my lesson about making assumptions, and I’d rather we talk about it now, in person, so—” He pauses then, he’s rambling, and squeezes Richie’s hand. “How do you want to classify this, you and me, until we see each other again? It might be a few months.”

Patrick must have sounded too open to any option, because there’s a flash of fear in Richie’s eyes, like everything he’d hoped for might very well come crashing down around him.

Patrick knows that look—he made it that last night with Kevin, in that concrete hellhole of a parking garage.

“Whoa, whoa, hey,” Patrick says, and he reaches for Richie’s cheek. “I am one hundred percent on board for being monogamous with you, for the six months or a year or however long it takes for us to be in the same place. If that’s what you want, I’m in.”

The insecurity on his face softens as he leans into Patrick’s hand.

“I need you to trust me if this is gonna work,” Patrick says softly, bringing his other hand up to curl into Richie’s hair. “Doing long distance right off the bat is gonna be hard.”

Richie’s jaw unclenches, and he nods. “I do trust you.”

“Then, believe that I want this so badly, I would do anything. I would move with you to Texas and make small talk with Republican computer nerds, and be the weird gringo at your family functions. I won’t fuck anybody else. I’m super fucking busy, anyway.”

Slowly, Richie smiles again, until all his teeth are showing. “Pato.”

“Say you’ll be my boyfriend.”

“You’ll be my boyfriend.”

Patrick snorts. “Yes, I will.”

Richie nods. “Okay.”

 

Richie pulls his truck up to the Delta unloading zone at SFO, and looks over at Patrick in the passenger seat. There isn’t a ton of traffic, so they won’t get badgered as quickly if they stay in the car.

He doesn’t know when they’ll see each other next. The flight’s only an hour and a half, maybe $200 roundtrip, tops—they could probably swing another weekend in a couple of months. But he’ll damn well stretch this goodbye as long as he can.

“This is it, Pato.”

Patrick nods, and opens his door, stepping out onto the sidewalk.

Richie checks his mirrors and meets him around the back, pulls his bag out for him, but leaves the handle down.

“Pato,” he starts, but Patrick’s arms are around him in the next second, he’s hugging Richie so tight that when he returns it, when he holds on and presses closer, he can feel Patrick’s pulse racing against his forehead.

“Pato,” he says, again, this time into Patrick’s skin, and Patrick sniffs. Richie pulls back, his own eyes welling up. “Hey, now, didn’t I tell you to wait until we’re at the airport?”

Patrick laughs, lets Richie push him up against the back of the truck, hold him there with his hips.

“I’m stealing this shirt,” Patrick says, looking down at himself.

Richie smiles, sliding a hand over Patrick’s hip. “It looks good on you.”

Patrick pulls him in for another kiss, and sighs into it, tilting his head as he slides his tongue into Richie’s mouth.

When he leans back, Richie’s eyes flick down to Patrick’s neck—the bruise has faded a little, but it’s definitely still there—and Richie brushes the backs of his fingers over it.

Patrick smirks. “You just gonna stare at it, or you gonna make it last longer?”

Richie looks startled for a second, but then he ducks his face under Patrick’s jaw, worries at it some more with his teeth until Patrick whimpers.

“Oh my god, Richie, you gotta stop,” he says finally, and Richie groans, moving up to nuzzle his cheek. “I—I don’t want to, but I have to go, and I can’t be the gross guy at security with a stiffy.”

Richie steps back with his hands up, lets Patrick grab his luggage and move onto the curb. Patrick’s eyes are still shining and he’s not faring much better.

This sadness now will be so worth it when they can ride off into the sunset.

Gripping the handle of his bag, Patrick heaves a sigh. “Let’s not say goodbye. Let’s just say, see ya later.”

Richie chokes on a laugh. “You’re ridiculous.”

 

Late that night, after his ‘home safe’ text, Patrick sends Richie a picture of his hickey, with the escapulario around his neck.

He receives roughly fifteen heart emojis in return, and an eggplant.