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Patrick and the Flim-Flam Man

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Patrick had never been to a science fiction convention before. He hadn't even known there were such things until Marilyn said, "the money's good, and Ryan loves giving autographs, so we're going. Get your things." He'd protested, saying that he didn't really like new places, but she'd just given him the stare and he'd caved like a flooded mole hole. They'd had to leave Mars behind, but the fickle fiend hadn't cared, happily trotting off, tail wagging, to his personal dog house at the boarding ranch.

"We were lucky to get the place," Marilyn said as they headed back to the car. "The rumor mill on the show says it's the best place in the area to board a dog."

Patrick didn't care. Face pressed against the back window of the car, he had tried to catch one last glimpse of Mars, but Mars had never looked back. Patrick's vision tunneled down to a small thin hole in time and space, the world whirling past them as they drove. It was like he was entering a whole new galaxy, and Patrick despaired of ever finding his way back.

----

The hotel was massive: three buildings, twelve stories, and acres of parking garages. Patrick seriously considered holing up in the bedroom for the entire event, but Marilyn and Ryan took over that part of the suite for themselves, leaving him a pull-out couch which a) wasn't terribly comfortable and b) squeaked whenever he rolled over, resulting in c) lying awake in bed all night worrying about what might happen the next day. He might be smothered by a guy in a Wookie outfit or be impaled by an imitation light saber.

Despite his therapist's confidence that Patrick was ready, he really wasn't sure that he could do this.

----

"It's this way." Marilyn looked at the little convention booklet she held, and then glanced down the halls filled with people. "Yes, I'm sure of it."

"Can't you just leave me in the elevator?" Patrick liked the elevator. It was all glass on the outside of the building, and he could ride up and down the central tower, watching the city grow and shrink below him. "I can stay there until you get back."

"Let me think." She artfully tapped her gloved hands to her lips as people in T-shirts, Jedi robes, and cat ears flowed around her, like she was a rock in the middle of a fast-running stream, the kind of stream that might drag you under. "Uh, no. There is no way I want you wandering the halls without some kind of escort."

"If we'd brought Mars, I'd have an escort." Someone bumped him, and Patrick looked over to see a huge guy in dreadlocks, a leather coat, and a pith helmet pass by. "I bought him one of those 'I am working' harnesses and everything, because they said they'd let service dogs in, and you know that Mars takes really good care of me--"

"Oh, please. He would have ditched you at the first opportunity." She grabbed his hand and towed him down the hall to one of the larger conference rooms. A hand-lettered sign said 'Green Room', and there were about a dozen people inside, all of them in normal, very boring business casual wear.

Patrick really didn't want to go in there. He turned to Marilyn, feeling his heart start to pound. "I don't think I should go in there, do you? They look very quiet, and you know I tend to talk, and I'm not sure they'll like that. I could get thrown out, like happened at the library when I was seven, and then I'd have to wander the halls looking for you, and what would happen if I got kidnapped or impressed into some alien mercenary unit or something?"

"You'll be fine." Marilyn adjusted his coat, then grabbed it and pulled it down his shoulders and off, folding it over her arm.

"Hey, give that back." That coat was his good luck charm, his orange parka of snuggliness. Elise had given him the parka, the Christmas before they broke up.

"You look like Kenny from South Park in this thing."

"Oh. South Park's a TV show, so that's...cool, right?" He grabbed at it, but she jerked it away.

"No, it's not cool, Patrick. It's kinda creepy, and we're working on reducing the creepy vibes, remember?" Marilyn gave a heavy sigh. "I told you that Ryan has a panel to go to, and it's my turn to watch the prop table."

"I could sit with you!" He tried to snag the coat again, but Marilyn glared at him mid-reach, and his hand just kind of dropped of its own accord.

"You're not authorized. Besides, you need to meet other people, Patrick. You can't live with Ryan and me for the rest of your life."

"Are you sure?"

She smiled and shook her head. "You just sit in the green room and talk to some of the people in there. They'll like you. You'll see."

Patrick looked at the room again. "It's a blue room. Why do you call it a green room if it's blue?"

"It's an actor thing," Marilyn said, and gave a Patrick a slight shove. She gave a little wave at someone, and then pointed at Patrick. "You'll be fine."

A very attractive woman with short blond hair and nice breasts came up to the two of them. "I'm Amanda," she said, extending her hand. "Amanda Carter. I'm the guest liaison." Her blue eyes sparked with interest as her gaze swept down and caught the name on Marilyn's badge. "How'd your 'Creating Aliens on Starcrossed' panel go? I know the A/V equipment was late, but were you able to display your behind the scenes clips from the show?"

Marilyn nodded, her curls bouncing around her head, reminding Patrick of those 1950s illustrations of what a housewife should look like. "It was great! The clips were fine, and a couple of kids showed up in what they had done, so I was able to use them for examples," Marilyn said. "Listen, do you mind if Patrick hangs for a bit? He doesn't like crowds, and it would just be until Ryan is done with his panel."

A prickle of sweat formed on the back of Patrick's neck as he glanced at Amanda, and he tried to surreptitiously rub it away. Why did beautiful women make him feel so awkward? His first crush, Amy, had been more athletic than curvy, the tall and lean type, and she'd been his constant companion until her family had moved away. But Elsie had been stunning, and she'd dumped him, leading to that whole 'you need to talk to someone NOW' thing. While therapy itself was working out, Patrick wasn't sure he was ready to trust attractive women just yet.

Amanda frowned as she thought, and even her frown was pretty. It was nice, but it made Patrick sweat even more. "We don't have any babysitting services, I'm afraid. But the hotel can make arrangements--"

"Oh, no, nothing like that. No kids yet." Marilyn gave a big smile, resting her hand on her stomach.

"There's one on the way, though. She's not fat, just pregnant." Patrick said.

Marilyn hit him in the shoulder, then turned back to Amanda. "This is my brother, Patrick."

"Oh!" Amanda gave a huge sigh of relief, her mouth turning up in a bright smile. "No problem. We have a lot of adults that hang out here when the crowds get to them." She shrugged, and gestured toward the far side of the room. "There's food on the back table if you want it."

"Thanks." Marilyn straightened the collar of Patrick's shirt, making him shift uncomfortably. He hated when she did things like that. "Make yourself useful. I'll be back in a couple of hours."

Patrick rolled his eyes. Marilyn had been hovering over him ever since his break-up with Elsie, and her mother-hen routine was getting old. He could take care of himself, no matter how eccentric he seemed. He was a free spirit, a rebel who liked to sort his fruit loops by color, and he didn't need his younger sister telling him what he could do. "What if I don't want to wait here? What if I want to go do something else, like go to the poetry jam session, or the Starcrossed stunt show, or something?"

"If you want to go to an event, you can." Marilyn flicked her hand at the open door. "Just don't wander the hallways, or get sucked into any of the gaming areas where we might never see you. And be sure to be back here in a couple of hours. Ryan wants to do dinner in the rotating restaurant tonight."

Hmm. That sounded nice. Patrick had never been in a rotating restaurant before, and he loved looking down on things. He accepted it as the peace offering he knew it was. "Okay." He gave her a little wave as she headed out into the hall, watching her disappear into the crowds.

The world seemed smaller and more quiet all of a sudden. He really missed Mars.

"So, you're Ryan's brother-in-law, huh?" Amanda said, dragging his attention back to her. She tilted her head slightly, looking at him. "What's he like?"

"He's, uh, Ryan. He's pretty funny, a terrible practical joker. Oh, and he wears a dress sometimes, when he's pretending to be somebody else. Like his aunt."

"Oooh-kay." Amanda scribbled something down on her clipboard. "I can see why they didn't want you wandering around. Is this your first convention?"

"Does it show?" he asked anxiously.

"A little."

"I knew I should have stayed home, but Marilyn was worried that if it was just Mars and me at home that we might set something on fire. It's not like we intended to do that the first time." His voice turned up at the end, making it sound like a question. Patrick mentally shook himself. Marilyn had been trying to make him sound more confident; she said people were attracted to confident people. But the only thing that Patrick felt confident with were spiders and cleaning supplies. "Do you need any help? I'm really good with furniture polish."

"Sounds like a great idea." Amanda said brightly, clutching her clipboard so hard her fingers turned white. "Go ahead and throw away all of the paper plates and plastic cups, then we'll see what else we can find you to do." Her radio crackled and she responded, "Just a minute, Hank." She aimed Patrick toward a woman sitting behind a table in the back. "Talk to Katie, she'll set you up. Tell her I said to give you a blue badge. That's for volunteers."

"Okay." Patrick gave her a little smile and headed to where she had pointed, with a detour to the buffet table first. There was a lot of good-looking food, but he really liked the butter crackers; when no one was looking he grabbed a fistful and headed over to the badge person.

"Oh, hi!" Katie had red hair and reading glasses, and looked up smiling from her knitting. "May I help you?"

"Amanda said I should come over here to get a blue badge." He twisted his head around, trying to see what she was making, but it looked like a lot of green vines. "I'm a volunteer."

"A volunteer, huh? That's great!" She plucked a badge out of the pile in front of her and held it out to Patrick. "What do you want to do?"

Shoving all of the crackers in his mouth, he clutched at the clipboard, skimming through the list of jobs, but he didn't know what most of them were. Security, audio visual support he understood, but Con Suite dogsbody? What was that?

"We're shy of people to check badges at the moment." Setting the blue badge down, she stood up from behind the table and walked around it to pull a bunch of clipboards over, tapping at one of them. "The Flim-Flam man is going to be on pretty soon, and we need someone to check badges for the show." She tapped the paper again. "The guy that signed up for it broke his arm and had to go home. Slot's open if you want it."

"What's the Flim-Flam man?

"Are you sure you're a Starcrossed fan?" She snorted derisively. "He's the stunt coordinator of the show, and he's bringing in some of his team for a performance today."

"I thought the stunt coordinator was John Flanigan."

"His nickname is Flim-Flam."

"Why's that?" Patrick bumped the table and one of the pens escaped its clipboard, falling on the floor, so he leaned over to pick it up, only to find himself looking at a pair of scuffed cowboy boots.

"My first job, the coordinator kept calling me Flim-Flanigan, since he couldn't remember my name. Flim-Flam stuck." Patrick looked up to see a very attractive man lounging against the table, his eyes sparkling with laughter. "I'm John Flanigan, and I think I'm supposed to sign in somewhere."

"Yes, right here, just one moment, I'm Katie." Katie tossed a green badge holder at Patrick, all of her attention now focused on John. She asked him to sign a form and handed him a black badge holder with his name on it, then gave him a schedule of events he was supposed to attend. "Your show should last an hour and a half, then you're free to do autographs in the main room as part of a Q&A session."

"What time is the bar open again?" John ran his hand through his hair and made it stand up on end, which was a really good look on him. John-- No, Flim-Flam. Patrick was here to learn how to interact with strangers, and he really should go with the local lingo. Flim-Flam looked really good in general, from the boots and black jeans to the black T-shirt with a Panda head and crossed bamboo that looked kinda like a skull and crossbones. He wore a second plaid shirt over the top, unbuttoned like a cardigan, and he looked as attractive as fresh cupcakes at the grocery store. He reminded Patrick of the cool kids from high school, back when he'd attended high school. The ones that had snubbed him at lunch every day.

Patrick swapped his old badge holder for the new one and looked around the room. The place was pretty messy, and he wished he'd brought gloves. Picking up a couple of clean napkins, he used them to help him grab the plates. As he moved around the sign-in table picking up beer bottles and cans of diet coke, he tried not to pay attention to what Katie was saying to Flim-Flam--Marilyn had been pretty upset the last time he listened at the door to her bedroom--but it was useless. Patrick heard everything anyway.

"Now, you're going to the Sunset ballroom. That's--"

"The big ballroom on the first floor, right across from the elevator." Flim-Flam--oh, no. Patrick couldn't do it. No one that attractive should have to go by a name that sounded like it belonged to Flipper's less useful cousin. John flashed her a quick smile. "I can find my way to the show. It's not far."

"Mr. Flanigan--"

"Call me John. Or Flim-Flam. I'll answer to either."

"John, it's not for you, it's for the fans." Katie said. "Sometimes they get a little boisterous, and it's tough to keep to a schedule if you're being grabbed in the hallways and asked for an autograph. Patrick's on door duty, so he can go with you to the stunt show. If any of the fans get too close and need to be told to back off, he's the one that can do it. That way everyone will blame him for your having to leave."

Both of them turned to look at him, and Patrick stopped sorting the garbage into piles for recycling. Katie did something complicated with her eyebrows, which Patrick assumed meant that this was a great gig, and he'd be crazy not to do it.

"Oh, ah, yes?" He guessed that was supposed to be his response. He cleared his throat, as he still didn't sound confident. "I'll walk you to the...ballroom. Can we use the elevator, though?"

"Only if we go all the way to the top first."

Patrick mulled that over. It seemed like a great idea to him, so he nodded his acceptance.

John smiled. "You are pretty darn cool."

----

The trip up to the top of the central tower was just as thrilling as Patrick had hoped. He couldn't see any spiders, but by plastering himself against the glass, he managed to give himself that queasy sensation of being disconnected from the ground. Usually that only happened when he used the ladder and crawled out on the roof.

John joined him in flattening himself against the glass and watching the world fall away. They shared a grin as they got a good run where they skimmed through five floors and managed to feel just a hint of acceleration, and Patrick told John about how it felt just like falling when someone flipped him in Aikido class. If it weren't for the dozen or so people in the elevator with them, it would have been perfect. As it was, John ignored them, talking to Patrick and telling him stories of some of his other adventures, until they finally had to turn around and leave the elevator for the lobby floor.

"--so that's when I realized that I really shouldn't go mountain climbing if I didn't have a good pair of sunglasses." John's fingers twitched like he wished he were wearing them now. "I can't stand the glare."

"Oooh, that sounds like when I tried ice skating on the pond in back of my house. The sun hit the water just right and I couldn't see where I was going, so Mars had to drag me out of the hole I fell in."

"That Mars is quite a guy."

"Yes, he is," Patrick said smugly. "He's incredibly intelligent. And strong, too. For a mutt."

"I used to have a schnauzer that loved to go swimming-- Oh, hey. There's Evan and Ronon." He waved, and the shorter guy trotted over to them.

"Glad to see you made it. Ronon and I were getting worried." He raised an eyebrow as he looked at Patrick. "Who's this?"

"Patrick, my fan handler. Patrick, this is Evan and that's Ronon. They're my stunt team."

"Good to meet you." Evan shook Patrick's hand.

"You look really familiar." Patrick snapped his fingers. "You're Ryan's stunt double."

"And Marine number three. Or am I number two now?" He flashed a grin at John, who muttered, "I am not a number, I am a free man," in response.

Patrick didn't get what that was about.

"You gonna stand there talking all day?" Ronon bellowed from the stage area. "Come on and check that the mats are okay."

John thumped a fist lightly on Patrick's shoulder. "See you after the show."

Patrick took a chair in the back of the hall, so he could glance at people as they walked in, checking their badges. After a while, though, the people weren't nearly as interesting as what was happening on stage. The actors recreated several different stunts, including one that sent Ronon flying off the stage to land in large mats on the floor. Patrick had never seen anything like it, and he was amazed by what they could do. He wished he could be up there with John, showing off his skill and cracking jokes the way John did with Ronon and Evan. Patrick sighed wistfully, completely oblivious to the people around him. John was just so good at everything. He was amazing.

When John started calling people from out of the audience to be on stage with them, the show got even better. First this tiny pre-teen girl took down Ronon, then this paramilitary guy held off all three of the guys, armed with only a feather duster. Patrick felt like John glowed up on stage, and his attention narrowed down to watching only John's movements, the fluid grace of his muscles as he faked taking a blow. He couldn't imagine anything better in the world right now than to be up there playing with John.

"And now I want to ask Patrick to come on up here for a second." John reached out his hand and beckoned to Patrick across the room. "Come on, buddy. Don't be shy."

Immediately, Patrick bolted across the room and climbed up the metal stairs to the main stage, not really conscious of the cameras clicking around him. When he got up there, John turned them both slightly so the audience couldn't see what he said and whispered. "Hope you don't mind, but you're gonna end up on someone's Myspace. You're in Aikido, right? Can you take a fall?"

Patrick was good at falling. Once he was on the floor, though, he wasn't sure he wanted to get up. Wood hurt a lot more than mud.

"I think you killed him." Ronon leaned over Patrick and plucked his eyelids open. "Nope. Normal. And he's still breathing."

"Hey, buddy? You okay?" John squatted down next to Patrick. "How many fingers am I holding up?" He waved one of his hands in front of Patrick's face.

Patrick tracked the hand back and forth. "Three?"

"Close enough." John patted him on the shoulder. "He's okay!" he yelled to the assembled crowd, while flashbulbs went off and people whooped and hollered and laughed. "All part of the show." He gave Patrick a thumb's up, which made Patrick's insides feel all squishy. He hadn't felt this happy since...well, before his parents died.

---

Patrick hadn't given a second's thought to how much time had passed until Ryan and Marilyn showed up.

"Are you having fun?" Marilyn asked, darting a glance at John. "You were supposed to meet us a half hour ago."

Patrick cocked his head as he looked at her, thinking about it. "Yeah, I guess I am."

Marilyn glared at John. "He's my brother, so no stupid tricks, got it?"

"Ah, Marilyn. You know I never play tricks."

"Right. And you have no idea how those squeaky toys got in Ryan's trailer, either."

John raised his eyebrows and looked over at Patrick. "He got goosed one day on the set and let out a really big squeak."

"And who was the guy who goosed him, huh?" Marilyn folded her arms over her chest and glared at him. "I swear, John, you're worse than a ten year old." She fluttered a hand at Patrick. "You can see why I don't want the two of you spending time together. Who knows what you'll get up to. And don't give me that sweet look! I won't take it off my brother, so there's no way I'll take it from you."

"You know I've always had a crush on you. I always say nice things to you when you do my make-up"

"That's just fear talking." Marilyn looked at him again. "You're afraid I'll screw something up, and the image will get posted on the internet."

"Okay, maybe." John's forehead wrinkled. "I complimented you just last week though, when we all went out for drinks at the gold bar." He smirked up at Patrick. "I told her she had nice breasts."

"Ew!" Patrick held his hands up over his ears. "She's my sister!"

John brayed loudly, or maybe laughed.

Marilyn patted his shoulder, looking like she was wondering if the Heimlich maneuver was required. "That's okay. If I hadn't known you were gay, and if you hadn't been drunk at the time, I might have believed you."

Patrick blurted out, "You're gay?"

"Aren't you?" John said, his eyebrows slightly raised.

Marilyn snorted. "Duh."

This required some thought. In Patrick's limited experience, none of the cool kids were gay. Statistically, he knew it was probable. If he drew from a large enough sample, or the right skewed sample, some of the cool kids were certain to be gay, but personal experience said.... Well, not a whole heck of a lot, as he didn't have that much personal experience to begin with.

Maybe Marilyn was right. Maybe he was gay. Except that didn't sound right either, given that he'd been attracted to both Amy and Elsie. Well, his therapist had encouraged him to stand up for himself. Taking a deep breath, Patrick proudly declared, "I'm bi."

Marilyn looked at him in shock. "I think that's the first time I have ever heard you say that you were anything other than straight."

Patrick rocked back and forth on his heels. "It's something I've been working on."

"Congratulations," John said, bumping his shoulder. "Feels good, don't it?"

"A little weird, actually."

"You'll get used to it."

"La, la, la, I think I'll go get Ryan and go to dinner." Marilyn gave him a quick peck on the cheek and quietly said, "Listen, John's the type of guy who fools around with a fan at every convention he goes to. Don't mistake anything he says for eternal, mythical love, got it?"

"I understand," he whispered. "I won't make the same mistake I made with Elsie."

"Good." She patted his shoulder fondly. "Oh, and since we're sharing a suite, don't bring him back. Ryan would probably have a heart attack if he heard anything from you two. Either that, or he'd want to join you."

Patrick threw his hands over his face. "Double ick," he yelled, as Marilyn sashayed away and John laughed.

"She's a spitfire, that one."

"She's my sister. I think the term 'evil harpy' might apply."

"I thought you were close."

"Only recently. I had to move in with them after my house got flooded. It developed toxic mold."

John laid his hand on Patrick's arm. "You're pretty funny, you know?"

Patrick wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not. "Is that a good thing? Being funny?"

"Oh, yeah. It's a very good thing." John slid his hand further up Patrick's arm, making his stomach feel quivery in an incredibly pleasant way.

Patrick tried to sound casual, even though his heart was pounding and his hands were sweating. "Is this a pick-up?"

"If you want it to be."

No one had tried to pick him up before; it was a heady experience and deserved the 5.3 seconds it took for Patrick to think about it. "Okay."

John grinned at him. "Cool."

---

They rode up and down in the elevator several times, then had dinner in the rotating restaurant. Patrick stuck to strawberry lemonades at first, but John talked him into trying a milkshake made with Bailey's to go with his hamburger.

It was really, really good. He blissfully closed his eyes, sucking down the last of it until the straw gave a hiccupping squelch. Pushing it aside, Patrick opened his eyes and gazed at John. "Yum."

"Very vanilla-y?" John said, his foot lightly stroking against Patrick's ankle.

"Smooth and creamy," Patrick said contentedly. He'd never had a night where he felt this good, at least not that he could remember. He shifted closer to John, tipping over the salt shaker in the process. He quickly righted it and threw some salt over his left shoulder, just in case the superstition about spilled salt leading to bad luck was true. Then he organized the salt and pepper shakers, along with the sugar container, into an equilateral triangle with John's help, their fingers brushing each other as they got everything arranged.

When it was perfect, Patrick felt hot and he knew his ears were glowing; he needed a little space, a chance to get his breathing back under control before he triggered a panic attack. After gulping down some water, he asked the first question that came to him, "So how'd you end up as a stuntman?"

John shrugged, looking down at his drink; his face was also flushed, and his voice trembled. Maybe he needed a moment, too. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be Batman: the Batmobile, the Batarang, the jumping off buildings... It was awesome." He picked up his scotch and took a sip. "My dad, though, thought I spent too much time reading comic books, so he signed me up for a martial arts class, since I wanted to be Batman so bad." He gave a crooked grin. "Best thing he ever did for me. I was teaching at that dojo when a guy called up, looking for someone with my height and build to do stunt double work." He set down his drink and slid his hand over Patrick's. "The rest is pretty much history." Leaning forward, his breath ghosted over Patrick's cheek as he whispered, "You want to come up to my room?"

Patrick's hands trembled, so he clasped them tightly around each other. This was it, the big deal, the whole enchilada. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the romance of a lifetime, but the offer was real. "Can we go slow?"

"Slow as you want. Slower than iced molasses." John's voice was a long drawl, and it made Patrick toes curl. John sat back in his chair, his hands curled around his glass, his eyes seductive.

Patrick licked his lips. If this was his chance, he didn't want to risk losing it. "That might be too slow."

"I'm good with faster, too." John's eyes hinted at laughter, his lips crinkled up at the corners, appreciation evident.

Patrick wrapped his hand around John's and squeezed, flattered and dizzy with the attention. It felt so good to have someone want him for a change. He hated being rejected. "I'd like that."

It was tough to sign for the bill one-handed, but John managed it, and they rode the elevator together up to John's room.

---

Sex, Patrick decided, was pretty cool too.

---

There was a weird weight across Patrick's stomach, making it hard to breathe, a situation that had occurred several times before. Groaning, Patrick shoved at Mars, only as soon as his hands touched what he expected to be Mars's head, he jerked his hand away; that wasn't the type of fur he was expecting. Memories spilled over him, and Patrick couldn't help but thread his hands into John's messy, incredibly silky hair.

It was weird. He'd taken a long time to warm up to the idea of being theoretically bisexual. But once he was confronted by an amazingly good-looking man who seemed to think that Patrick was funny in an attractive, rather than a creepy, fashion, he'd jumped immediately from theory into practice. Several times. And really enjoyed it.

"Are you petting my head?" John pressed his face against Patrick's neck and gave him a kiss, then he blew a raspberry on Patrick's shoulder.

"Ah, yes?"

"Cool. It feels nice." John snuggled down against Patrick, who migrated from petting his head to stroking his back and arms. "Uhm, very nice."

Patrick thought about freaking out, but as John seemed content to lie with his head on Patrick's bare chest, there didn't seem to be a lot of need for that. John seemed quite happy this morning, content to hang out with him in bed. But Patrick had promised to make sure John got to all his panels, so before they did anything--and boy, did Patrick want to do something--he needed to make sure they had the time. "Do you have a panel this morning?"

"I hope not." John reached across Patrick to fumble for the schedule on the dresser. "Nope, nothing till ten." He tossed the paper back on the dresser and squirmed around on top of Patrick, pressing him into the mattress. "How about we fool around a bit and order in breakfast?" John grinned dorkily at him. "Waffles sound good?"

"With blueberries, and pecans if they have them."

"You got it."

John picked up the phone and laid his hand on Patrick's stomach as Patrick sprawled back on the bed, feeling warm and content as John ordered for the two of them. He couldn't think of a better way to start the day.

The rest of the weekend was a big blur. Patrick was either with John, or finding himself something to do at the convention; he spent much less time with Marilyn and Ryan than any of them had expected. Instead, he and John made origami dragons together, which they then used to attack one another. Patrick learned about making chain mail while John did his main Q&A session, and after they got back together, they completely avoided the guest cabaret by ordering room service and going back to bed. The masquerade was on closed-circuit cable in all of the hotel rooms, so John and Payrick watched it from the privacy of their bed, and John made horrible, horrible jokes about most of the costumes.

The whole day --both days--were magical, as far as Patrick was concerned. It was as if there had an instant connection, something that united them across space and time. Patrick was tempted to tell John they were soulmates, but he was afraid John would hit him with a pillow and laugh, so he never mentioned it aloud. But privately, in the back of his mind, Patrick warmed himself with the thought that he had finally found someone where the pieces just fit, even though he knew it wouldn't last.

It was more than just finding John, though; this whole place was phenomenal. He didn't have to worry about stumbling over himself here, as everyone at the convention seemed to be used to people that rambled a bit. It fit the way John fit, like finding a new home. Maybe he wasn't destined to always be alone.

When Monday rolled around, leaving the convention hurt a lot more than Patrick expected. John walked him out to the car and threw Patrick's bag in the trunk while Marilyn and Ryan waited for Patrick to get in.

"I guess this is goodbye." Patrick really didn't want to get into the car, even though John held the door open for him. Once he was in, that was it; he'd never see John again. He already felt like his heart was breaking.

"Yeah, buddy. I guess so." John looked down at the ground, then up at the sky; he didn't actually look at Patrick until the car behind them started blowing its horn. "Maybe we'll run into each other again someday."

"I'd really like that," Patrick said, his lower lip trembling. He quickly dashed into the car and slammed the door behind him. He refused to look back to see if John was watching him as they pulled away.

Marilyn and Ryan kept their eyes focused on the road as Patrick sniffled to himself in the back of the car, parka pulled over his head. No one found their soulmate at a science fiction convention; he'd been stupid to build it up in his head, just like he'd been stupid with Elsie. Now he had to buck up and return to the regular world, and face reality once again.

----

When Patrick took out his wallet to pay for Mars's stay, guilt wrapped hold of him. He'd completely forgotten about Mars while he was at the convention--at least, after he and John started hanging out together. It had been the best weekend of Patrick's life, and he hadn't called Mars, not even once.

"I am so sorry, Mars!" Patrick crouched down next to him and scritched at his head. "I hope you didn't miss me too much."

"Oh, he had a great time." The attendant's name tag read "Chuck." "He played a lot, and really enjoyed the lake. He and Lucy got to be really good friends."

"Really?" Patrick stood up and grinned down at Mars. "So you were a bit of a lady killer, were you? Just like your old man."

"I wouldn't say you were a lady killer..."

Patrick jerked up. He knew that drawl, had just listened to it a few hours ago, thinking he'd never hear it again. "John?"

"The same." John was still wearing the same shirt and jeans that Patrick had seen him dress in this morning, the one that had the coffee stain on the pocket from breakfast.

Patrick tried to smooth out his hair, which he knew had to be sticking up in all directions after traveling all day. "How'd you know where to find me?"

"I didn't." John looked as stunned as Patrick felt. "I told Evan I'd pick up Lucy for him. Weird, huh?"

"Yeah. Weird." Patrick couldn't help smiling, and John smiled back.

They stared at each other moment, and Patrick could feel his heart beating rapidly; he wondered if he was going to pass out from the stress of not doing or saying anything that might break the moment. Finally, Mars whimpered at him, and Patrick shook himself. He needed to get Mars back home, even though he didn't want to leave. "I guess I better--"

"Listen, Patrick. I, uh..." John paused a moment, and ran his hand through his hair. "Do you like Xbox?"

"Never played it." He had an old Nintendo 64 he'd bought off eBay in storage, and Ryan and Marilyn owned a Wii. The closest he'd been to an Xbox was seeing them in online advertisements.

"Well, I've got a beta copy of the new Starcrossed game, and I was wondering if you might be interested in trying it. They say it needs a lot of play testing." John stared up at the ceiling, not meeting Patrick's gaze. He looked nervous for some reason, but Patrick couldn't imagine why.

Unless...wait. "You're asking me out?"

"Yeah." John heaved a huge sigh, and finally met Patrick's eyes. "I liked hanging out with you, and thought it might be nice to try it outside a convention."

That sounded great to Patrick, too. "Can Mars join us? I promise he won't be any trouble."

John looked down at the dog and laughed. "Sure. You're welcome to bring him along." He slung his arm around Patrick shoulders and gave him a squeeze, before pressing a card into his hand. "That's my private number," he whispered. "Give me a call tomorrow."

"Cool." A bright glow kindled deep inside Patrick, rushing through him and breaking out as a large grin as he watched John walk away.

Maybe he'd found his soulmate after all.

The End